We are in a brand new year, so I think it’s time for a brand new Armchair Theorist as well.
I only started blogging last year (April 2008), and just like any other thing you do for the first time, you make mistakes and figure things out along the way. This new Armchair Theorist (v2.0 if you will) incorporates some of my personal best practices which I learned from the past year.
I started thinking in earnest about revamping my blog since early November 2008, but the whole process took a couple months and really only got done this week. I guess the advantage of blogging for fun and personal fulfillment instead of money is that you can relax and take your time to make things happen.
So here are the five steps which I did to revamp my blog:
Step 1 – Choose a new theme
I used the wonderful and customizable K2 theme last year, but I decided to go in a new direction this year.
For my fans out there (all 3 of you) who have visited my landing page in the past couple months may have seen me try out the brilliant WP-iStalker theme (created by the equally brilliant Avice De’véreux). However, at the end I decided that WP-iStalker, while full of integrated features, was just a tad too advanced and intimidating for me. A theme gives your readers a very important first impression, and what I really wanted was something bold, yet simple and easy for readers to navigate and use.
Step 2 – Streamline my blog and page design
- Break down longer pages into separate pages to ease navigation – i.e. my contact information is now separated from my main “About” page and each of my projects now has its own page instead of lumping everything together under a single “Projects” page.
- Remove all of the unnecessary blog widgets that didn’t value add to the readers.
- Remove underused functionality and plugins such as Similar Posts, WP-Print, and Joost de Valk’s CrunchBase widget. They may resurface again later on, but not for now.
- Create a text widget (which only shows up on the front page) that provides readers a teaser as to who I am, as well as point readers to the five most important links which define my online presence:
- My blog’s About page
- LinkedIn profile – Just because my entire business network is there
- Facebook profile – Just because everyone else is there
- Twitter – Just because that’s where I generate all my day-to-day content
- My tumblelog on Posterous (NEW) – I’ll talk about this later
Step 3 – Adopt a consistent policy for capitalizing post titles
Prior to the revamp, the way I wrote my blog post titles were a mess.
Moving forward, my post title policy is simple:
- First letter of first word is capitalized.
- First letter of subsequent words are capitalized if they play the role of either a noun, verb, adjective, or adverb in the post title.
- All other words are not capitalized.
Inconsequential, some may say. Regardless, it still had to be done.
Step 4 – Reorganize my blog content
Moving forward with the new Armchair Theorist, I plan to focus on only two kinds of blog posts: articles and link dumps. Frivolous content such as my regular Wordless Wednesday feature, I have decided to migrate it off of my blog into a tumblelog.
So here is what I did:
- Created a brand new tumblelog with Posterous. I was originally debating between using Tumblr or Posterous, but at the end, the simplicity and feature set of the Posterous service won me over.
- I migrated all of my old Wordless Wednesday photos and posts onto Posterous. Using email, this was a reasonably easy task that took no more than 15 minutes. Once they were migrated, I deleted the posts from WordPress.
- I consolidated all of my WordPress categories into just two: Articles and Links.
- What about all of the broken permalinks and missing category links? No problem. Using Urban Giraffe’s awesome Redirection plugin, I was able to configure all of the old (and missing URLs) to redirect to either my Posterous tumblelog or my new category URLs.
Step 5 – Reorganize my blog taxonomy
If you ever need a reason to be skeptical of so-called “expert advice” on the Internet, you don’t have to look further than here.
Eight months ago, I wrote an article about the best practices of tagging. Although most of those rules still apply for me today, I’ll be breaking at least 50% of those rules for my blog moving forward.
My views on tagging has changed a fair bit since I penned that masterpiece, and the bottom line is that in my opinion, categories and tags do not work very well for blogs. The main reason is of course the challenge of consistency in both the granularity of the tags and the tags itself, as well as the challenge of keeping the number of tags to a manageable number that doesn’t spiral out of control. Not to mention, based on Google Analytics data, tag and category links don’t get clicked a lot (less than 5%), relative to the overall traffic. I believe readers today rather use a blog search tool to discover relevant content on a blog instead of using tags and categories.
Therefore, this is what I did:
- As mentioned above, eliminate all categories except for Articles and Links – essentially de-emphasizing the use of categories.
- Integrate Google Custom Search into my blog and prominently displaying it at the top of every page to emphasize the use of search for navigation.
- Tags will continue to be used. However, here are a few important changes to my tagging best practices last time:
- Use a singular base instead of a plural base – I struggled greatly over this during the past few months. At the end, I just feel a singular base works better.
- Strict cap of no more than five tags per article – This forces me to only tag main ideas, and not to over-tag everything under the sun. What I had been doing previously was that if an article mentions Google, I will tag it as such. That’s creating an index, not a taxonomy. If the readers need an index, they are better off using the search function instead.
Like most other things in life, my blog will perpetually be a work in progress. What you see today is just an accumulation of my best practices and philosophies on personal information architecture as manifested through blogging and maintaining my social media presence.
That, and the fact that I’m a tinkerer, and feel the urge to tinker with things from time to time.
Anyway, I hope you like how my blog looks after the revamp.
And please feel free to adopt any of these best practices for your own blog. That is, if you still trust this self-proclaimed Internet expert idiot.