Project start: Updating my online presence (again)

I’ve decided it’s time to revamp the chuqui.com site again, even though I did some updates about a year ago when I started the sabbatical. It’s almost like spring cleaning, I guess, that over time I become very aware of the shortcomings and want to fix them.

The thing that triggered my thinking about this is Occam’s Fireaxe, the podcast I started. The existing site design really doesn’t allow me to tweak it to build in a good landing page and promotional space for the podcast, especially on the front page. When I did the last design I made the front page all about photography and set up the blog landing page as the front page for all of my writing, but I know believe the front page would better serve my needs if I could call out and feature multiple things on it.

One option would be to create some web presence specifically for Occam’s Fireaxe, but I want to keep everything consolidated and besides, that would mean I’d have yet another thing that would get me wondering if I need to redesign it to get away from whatever’s bothering me about it.

Having decided that this actually made sense and wasn’t just an excuse to do something fun to avoid real work, I’ve been spending the last week thinking about what I want to accomplish and evaluating how what I have fits into that (or doesn’t) and what I need to change to get to where I want to go. And so without further ado, the magic mind map:

Experts Say….

If you listen to The Experts they’ll tell you that to be successful in the online world, you need to choose a topic and specialize, become a thought leader and use that focus and expertise to drive your audience growth (using good social media and SEO practices, preferably by hiring The Expert to do it for you…). Of course, they also tell you things like needing to create content daily, which I’ve said more than once is rubbish, because lots of poor quality content merely conditions your audience to not value what you write so they aren’t looking forward to the good content when it appears (evidence for the prosecution: Daring Fireball).

I’ve tried the focus and thought leader thing, and basically, I hated it. First, I felt playing the whole thought leader role on my personal blog always felt artificial and definitely not me, and especially with photography, I just never convinced myself that the field needed another thought leader spouting stuff and people, and so I never really committed to it.

So the first decision to make was to decide that specialization sucks and to stop doing it, so moving forward, until I change my mind again, the topic of the site is whatever I’m interested in again. And get away from being thought leaderish and make sure when I write about things like photography, it’s writing about what I’m doing and what I care about, not trying to target some mythical audience.

That said, I’m planning on setting up some specialty areas for those that might care just about that type of content: photography is one, and the other is for reviews.

One thing I noticed when kicking off this review is that if I look in my “to be reviewed for the podcast” list, I already have enough material pending to fill the next year’s podcasts. That’s not a good thing, so I need to either increase the frequency of the podcast (which I may, if I know I have the time to do it reliably), or throw material out when it gets too stale, or use it in some other way. The obvious thing, since I’ve always done it to some degree or another, is ramp up and improve the review area on the site again. Firing up Occam’s Fireaxe really got my reviewing juices flowing again, so I’m looking forward to adding this back into the mix.

Don’t forget to subscribe….

I broadly break my online presence down into four areas: my web site and blog, my photography images, my podcast, and my social media presence. I’ve decided to bring back an email component again, which is a content medium I love to work with, but which I’ve struggled to find the right mix of content to make it work the way I want — plus, it’s another time commitment that hasn’t always panned out in my view.

I think I’ve found a way to structure things so I can create original (and hopefully interesting) content for the newsletter as well as make it a place people can track what I’m doing without needing to monitor the site closely, and still not be too time intensive. We’ll see how well it works.

On the social side of things, I’m only planning to promote two services: twitter and Instagram. I keep telling myself I need to use Instagram more, and one of these days, I actually well. I’m choosing to not promote other social systems I use, such as LinkedIn and Facebook, because there’s not a lot of original content from me there and I think pushing them would add clutter, not value. And Google+ is completely off the map at this point with me, which is fair, since the same could be said for Google.

This is going to make the front page a lot busier, but hopefully in a good way. I’m working on designs for it now. While I think 7 things is a lot to promote on a single page, I think I can do it without it turning into a chaotic mess. Not all of these have to be given the same emphasis, too.

The underlying bits and bytes

Much of this is already in place, fortunately. The big change will be on the main site, where I’m going to bring in a new WordPress theme. Some of the internal content pieces need to be restructured as I continue to integrate the remnants of a couple of projects that I terminated get turned into regular content or removed. But overall, I’m happy with the content structure and it won’t need nearly as much work as it did a year ago, I’m really building on a lot of the infrastructure cleanup I did a year ago. This is much more of a visual update, so it will (hopefully) go faster…

So, when?

Well, I’m starting serious work on it now. I’m fortunate I have no need to set a deadline on it, so I won’t. I’d rather have it not need another redesign in a year, even if I spend some extra time tweaking it. But… a month? six weeks? That feels possible, which means, of course, that we’re probably looking at July. We’ll see.

I’ve got a strong feel for the overall architecture and the more detailed set up of the data and I’m happy with both now, and I have an idea what I want for the new design and a WordPress Theme picked out to build that on. Now all I gotta do is roll up the sleeves and dig in..