I draw boxesA blog on user experience & design

July 9, 2008

Structuring my presence on the web

Since I started I draw boxes I’ve realised that I’d like to have more on my website than just information architecture resources. Which leads me to wonder what the best way to structure my site is.

I’ve started to think about resurrecting my old site that died about a year ago

It’s great having an IA blog – it works for me because I like having a place to write very specifically about my work. Blogging is quite a personal thing and if you’re not motivated to write, then the blog dies. I am mostly motivated to write about IA, but occasionally would like to write about other things I enjoy, such as personal geeky projects, music festivals or nights out with friends.

So I’ve started to think about resurrecting Sainsbury.org – my old site that died about a year ago following a server crash. I’ve had a portfolio website since 1999 when I started my degree course, and it might be good to start Sainsbury.org again in a new format, to compliment I draw boxes.

Do I integrate the two sites or have 2 separate ‘sister’ sites?

In the past I’ve always just had one site, and I started I draw boxes because I’ve made the decision to specialise in IA and want a site that represents that. But I’m now beginning to wonder whether this is the right decision. Maybe I should bring I draw boxes into Sainsbury.org as a site section? That way I just have one site, but with a couple of different audiences.

So the question is, do I integrate I draw boxes into Sainsbury.org or, instead, have 2 separate ‘sister’ sites?

I’ve summarised the options in the following diagram (click the image for a larger version):

Diagram showing structure of I draw boxes and Sainsbury.org

Although I like the neatness of the 1 site option – it gives me a single place on the web and a consistent look and feel – I also like having all my IA stuff in one place. I don’t want my friends reading about information architecture or IA people reading about my latest night out. Well, I don’t mind if they do, I just want it to be a concious choice by them rather than accidentally stumbling across inappropriate content. And that, in essence, is the main argument for keeping the two separate.

I don’t want my friends reading about information architecture or IA people reading about my latest night out

The downside with the 2 sites option is that the user will occasionally be transported to the other site – the portfolio section is particularly problematic. This bothers me because transporting the user to another site (i.e. URL, navigation, look-and-feel) can be disorientating, particularly if they’re not expecting it.

The thing is that my interests do not necessarily fit into neat site sections or categories. My professional life is not just limited to information architecture. I enjoy and have experience of loads of other aspects of making web sites too. Also I’m lucky enough to do a job I enjoy, so business and personal interstst often overlap as well.

I’ve tried to represent all this in the following Venn diagram, annotated with example content from each sphere of interest. Click the image for a larger version.

Venn diagram representing my interests

The 1 site solution mentioned above essentially groups everything within the information architecture sphere on the I draw boxes site, and everything else on Sainsbury.org, which could work. Although I draw boxes could include all the professional sphere – which is what I need to decide.

Audiences

Another factor I’ve not yet considered is target audiences. They can be summarised as follows:

  • Information architecture/user experience professionals
  • Web designers and developers
  • Employers/potential employers
  • Colleagues
  • University students (I was at uni for 8 years as both a student and a teaching assistant)
  • Friends

The top 5 (all except for ‘Friends’) are really the target audience for I draw boxes. Which makes me wonder if I even need a second site. Do I even care about a site for friends when I have Facebook?.

Maybe the answer is to beef-up I draw boxes with a bit of additional non-IA content and use Facebook for everything friend-related.

Conclusion

For now I’m going to continue building I draw boxes, and see how it develops. I need to get my full portfolio of work up online soon, and whether I add that to the IA portfolio on I draw boxes or set it up on Sainsbury.org remains to be seen.

I’m definitely leaning towards the 2 site solution shown in the diagram above, I just need to give some thought to ways of cross-linking (clear signposting etc.), and also to designing the look-and-feel so the user still feels they are within my site, even though there are 2 sites with different URLs.

Update 16th July

It seems this essay has a lot to do with my own grapplings with personal knowledge management, which is being discussed by a few bloggers around the place. In particular Gene Smith in Personal information architecture and Peter Merholz in The Tension between the Personal and the Public.

Although this issues are slightly different (flickr and del.ico.us rather than personal web sites) the underlying problem is the same. The tension between personal and public is something that I have not fully resolved in my own online presence.

1 Comment »

  1. Thanks soooo much for this post. I am (have been) grappling with this same issue, and feel like I am drowning in possibilities and simply don’t know HOW to structure it all. But pressing on. Your comments have certainly helped.

    Comment by claire — September 20, 2011 @ 7:31 am

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