At some point, you look at your blog and wonder “Is any of this still useful?” The answer is yes, yes it is. Through the process of determining the usefulness of my various posts, I rediscovered thought patterns and found a lot of useful, still relevant writing. So I spent some of my time lately reorganizing and redesigning my blog. I was asked to do a quick write up, so in the spirit of writing useful things, here’s a step by step guide on how to make your blog more useful.
Step 1: Get Inspired
That’s step one for doing any thing, isn’t it? Look around at the sites from people in your field, and notice how other people are presenting themselves. I was careful to look at sites of people outside of my immediate circle as well. Taking a look at how independent thinkers and makers are presenting themselves will give you loads of ideas on how you want to present yourself, so get some inspiration first.
Step 2: Determining Content: Categories
You already have loads of blog posts and ideas, so there’s no shortage of things to categorize. The question is, what’s the thread that pulls everything together? I’ve written about participation, engagement, contribution. I’ve written about strategizing, meta-organization frameworks, conceptual structures. I’ve written about leadership development, facilitation, event management, speaking and experiential learning design… For me “Learning, Technology, Community” are the three overarching themes found across my hundreds of posts. Those are still pretty broad, so I narrowed them down further into my new WordPress categories:
If you click into each category, you’ll see a description at the top of the page. Make sure you give your categories descriptions, they will help set expectations so that people can find what they want, and it helps with SEO (search engine optimization).
Try not to have more than 8 Categories, it gets overwhelming. If you’ve been using the proper categories all along, good for you! I had about 20 different categories and some had only a single post. Then I had “Techie” and “Education”, both had way too many posts. It will take some time to reorganize and reassign all the posts you have (if you’ve been blogging for a while), but coming up with a taxonomy that represents your work will help people get to know you.
Step 3: Determining Content: Pages
Once you’ve organized your posts, you’ll likely realize you have more to say about particular categories. I set up Programs & Materials so I could include some portfolio pieces and funnel posts from the Concepts & Models and Learning Materials categories to a page. This page is in the menu, as well as under the Production Learn More button.
Creating pages like these gave me a way to talk about what I actually DO, showcase places I’ve DONE those things and collate posts I wrote while I was DOING them. Hopefully, this will help people understand what my work is all about, while inviting them to read and review some of the processes that go into it.
You’re going to want an overview page with your contact details (I also stuck my face on it), and you might find you need an extra page to talk about your process (mine is in the menu and under Strategy). At least, that’s how I felt, but plenty of my colleagues simply have contact details and a short-short blurb.
Step 4: Make an Archive (or two)
My Useful Writing page is a partial archive. Instead of funneling in blog posts that are in the Writing category, I selected a few from each year (I stole the idea from Doug), so people could get a quick read of great posts. I then made a full archive page. The default WordPress archive is kind of…psychotic and ugly, so I followed the advice in this article.
I also linked out to some random writing (see the submenu under Writing at the top), that are “archived” elsewhere on the site (my thesis) and across the web (my books).
Step 5: Find a template
I don’t have a ton of advice on this one, just that you should find something you like that can serve as a starting off place (make sure it’s a responsive theme). I always end up hacking my WordPress templates because pre-programmed templates are always missing something or designed slightly un-Laura like. When I’m looking for themes, I look for layout and lite style definitions – if a theme is overly styled or complicated, they take more time to remix. Definitely read up on Child Themes (they’re easy!) and go bananas making a theme your own. I looked for several days, so don’t be discouraged when you don’t find something you like right away.
Once you’ve found your template, install it and change the options and menus. Don’t start hacking around with the CSS or internal page templates until your content is “hooked up”. You’ll want to see what your content looks like as you remix the template.
Step 0 – 6: SHARE
Share your work, talk about your process, ask for help, ask people what they think. If you’re using WordPress, rediscover what Jetpack can do for you. Give users multiple ways to follow and subscribe to your content (I just built in an email alert sign up).
And don’t forget to ask for feedback!
Hey folks, I reorganized and redesigned Zythepsary! I’d love to have your feedback, so leave a comment, send me a note (laura [at] this domain) or get in touch. Do you think it’s better like this? Any criticisms? Do you think it represents me/my work well? Was this post helpful?