Tag Archives: content

Content Organization: Like Cleaning a Digital Room

Sometimes, when you’re developing a website, the sections of your website just fall into place. Say, if you’re creating a business site: you’d likely have a page called “About Us,” plus a page about each of your products and services, a page of affiliated businesses and links to their homepages, and a contact page. Fairly simple, straightforward page creation, which leads to simple, straightforward (and compact) navigation.

Unfortunately, dividing up your site’s content into pages and sections is not always that easy. Take my City of Heroes fansite–I’ve mucked around with the navigational sections for so long and tried so many different organizational styles, and I still haven’t gotten it where I want it. In my case, there are so many sections, and some of the sections kindasortamaybe overlap…not to mention that some pages that seemed like they’d be better as huge conglomerations of subject matter now seem like they need to be separated out into 4 or 5 different pages.

To try to fix this problem, I delved into the concepts of making individual pages and dividing up your navigation into understandable (and user-friendly) sections. Here is the step-by-step process I have come up with for fixing navigation and page division:

Look at Your Site as a User Would

This is very difficult for web developers and designers to do–looking at the site as if you’re not the one who made it is unsettling, at the least. But you need to have a fresh perspective on your site if you’re having trouble developing intuitive and understandable navigation for your users.

To gain some insight into this process, try browsing a site you’ve never been to. Doesn’t matter what it is, just browse it. While you do this, note any frustrations with the site’s organization. Does the navigation make sense? Is it easy to find individual pages just by clicking through the navigation, or have you already had to resort to the search box (if there is one provided)? Are the pages arranged into logical sections, or do the sections seem to have arbitrary labels?

Experiencing a new site like this forces you into a user’s perspective–for a short while, you have to navigate a site you’re not intimately familiar with. Now, go back to your own site, and explore the exact same way you just did. Does the navigation you’ve crafted, the sections you’ve devised, really make sense, or does it only make sense to you because you developed it? Be honest with yourself here.

In the case of my City of Heroes site, I have much of my navigation sorted by topic, but then I have a couple of non-topic labels (“New Players”, etc), which doesn’t fit the rest of the site’s organization. It makes it difficult to know which sections are most appropriate for pages to reside in–isn’t everything I publish more for new players, after all? If I want to fix this navigation problem, this content section problem, I need to take away the New Players section and make a more topical section (or sections) for all the pages that are currently within it. (This would be me practicin’ what I’m preachin’.)

Look at All Your Content, All Together

Sounds like a huge, time-consuming job, but trust me, it really, really works. Copy-paste all your written content into one large, simply-text file. (If you have photos as most of your content, congregate them all into one folder, and it works just as well–any place where you can look at all your content as a whole instead of in navigational pieces is the goal.)

Why do this? Because it will enable you to see what all your site encompasses in terms of content. In my case, even though I have 70+ pages of content on my City of Heroes fansite, copy-pasting it all into one file can show me where my articles for new players overlap themselves, and what articles don’t really fit the purpose of my site (like the “Humor” section, which, according to some users, isn’t very funny at all).

Doing this for your site can help you weed out what content doesn’t really “go” with the rest of your site, as well as figure out how it could be grouped better. Maybe those 3 tiny pages of useful links could be grouped together on one page instead; maybe that huge page featuring several novella-length articles could be broken apart and made into a section instead of a single page.

This exercise is especially helpful for figuring out where you have duplicated content on your site without realizing it. For instance, I had a fansite back in 2005 that I was trying to fix up, and I discovered during this very process of copy-pasting and scanning my content that I had 3 pages of almost exactly the same information. I don’t know how this escaped my attention, but it had, and so I could actually delete two of the pages and fix up the remaining one. Not only can this help you with your content, but it keeps you from doing unnecessary work later on pages that don’t need to exist!

Start Fixing

Combining pages together or breaking them apart can be time-consuming as well, but if you’ve got all your content in one file like the last step suggested, it makes this task a lot easier. Rearrange, rewrite, delete, or add content as necessary, and if you need to, break your content into totally-new sections. Yes, this will take some time, but if you can make your site better and more efficient by doing this, then you need to do it–better and more efficient sites are more visited and enjoyed sites.

For my City of Heroes site, breaking the New Player section into possibly two or three sections based on topics is the big concern. But along the way, I could also tighten up content that needs a rewrite, and delete some places where I’ve accidentally duplicated content. There are also some places in the site where I need to update my information to make it current with the game environment.

Upload Your New Content and Navigation

I’d advise not to debut your new content organization until you’ve warned your users about it. It would be very disconcerting for a user to be browsing and suddenly–whoops!–that page they were just viewing isn’t there anymore!

Instead, give notice a week ahead of time that you will be scheduling “site downtime” for the reorganization process, and make the site inaccessible for the time that you’re going to need to upload everything. You can put up a temporary index page that tells the users what’s going on and what date/time you expect to have everything done, without any links to any content yet. (Don’t forget to edit the index page back to the way it was at the end of the process!)


When you have a site, be it a large informational site, a small business site, or anything in-between, you need to have a good sense of how content is divided up and how it is accessed. If it’s too confusing for users, they won’t return. Reorganizing your site, just like reorganizing your room, is key to helping your site function better and be more welcoming!

WordPress: Doing Pages versus Posts

On a typical WordPress blog (and possibly other blogging software as well), you have the option of doing Posts or Pages for your content. But what’s the real difference?

Many beginning bloggers do not know, and I was confused when I first started using WordPress. “My posts are going to appear on web pages, so why do I need to bother using something called a ‘Page’ with a capital ‘P?'” I wondered.

So I set about learning the differences for myself. Here is what I discovered:


Pages are static–they occur outside “the Loop,” or the time-sensitive code that produces the Posts. Because they’re outside the normal blog post structure, they have to be accessed through the “Pages” links and sidebar modules instead of falling in chronological order with Posts.

Because they’re not in “the Loop,” Pages look kind of silly with a date on them. After all, you can’t find them by searching through the date-sensitive archive anyway. Also, Pages don’t usually have a need for the comments template, unlike Posts. If and when you design a custom blog theme, don’t just copy-paste your Posts template as your Page template–if you don’t want a date to show, and don’t want comments to be allowed on your Pages, remember to take out those bits of code before you publish.

I find that Pages are better for static information that isn’t time-sensitive like Posts tend to be. Content like your “About Me” page, a links page, an FAQ, or product information looks better on a Page and can be more easily accessed from anywhere on the site.


Unlike Pages, Posts happen within the time-sensitive framework of “the Loop,” at least in WordPress. Because they happen in “real time,” so to speak, having the date included as part of your Post template makes it possible to search for Posts through the Archives pages of your WordPress site. Apart from needing the date included, Posts also more than likely need a Comments template so that visitors can post replies.

Posts seem to be best for regular blog entries and time-sensitive information like site updates, rather than general site information like “About the Author,” or more static information like “Product Specs.” Also, since Posts are more searchable through the Archives pages, Posts are better for your main blog content.

Making the Choice

If you’re still confused about which format to put a certain block of content in, ask yourself the following questions about the content you’re working with:

“Does this content need to be readily available to users no matter how long it’s been since I published it?”
If yes, you likely need to put this content on a Page.

“Is this content only going to be relevant for a little while, and then fade into old news?”
If yes, you likely need to make it into a Post.


I hope this quick rundown of using Pages versus Posts has helped you figure out what type you need more of for your site. WordPress offers this diverse functionality as a way to help us bloggers and webmasters publish content–we just have to know how to make use of it!

Research: The Dreaded “R” Word

Don’t glare at your screen like that! Research is necessary for any good web content, whether it be photos, videos, sound clips, and especially written articles. If you don’t want to just rehash ideas that someone else has already presented, you must research and then come up with new ideas that are exciting and interesting to read.

On the Internet, it can feel like everything that could be said about your chosen topic has already been said…but that’s not the case. Doing searches about your chosen topic will show you what’s been said, and then you can add your own unique viewpoint to it, making the “old” topic new again. You can also compare/contrast others’ opinions and beliefs with your own, creating a much richer and deeper article. Like serving last night’s roast chicken as today’s chicken salad sandwich, this is the best way to make fresh content.

Three Styles of Blog Research

Internet Search: What Are People Saying Now?

Do an Internet search on your selected topic, and browse through some of the most recent and most reputable (read: objectively-written) articles about it. Are there any articles that bolster your opinion? Are there any that challenge your stance? How about any articles or websites that further inform readers about your topic?

Like different recipes for the same basic dish, varying articles and websites can expose you to different perspectives on your topic. (Just like chicken salad can be made with celery or grapes, and both types are still called chicken salad–though why you’d ever want to eat grapes, chicken, and mayonnaise all mushed together, I’ll never know. #pickyeaterproblems)

Copy/paste the URLs of any articles you find enlightening or challenging, so that you can point your readers to them later (and also so you can refer to them while composing your own, individual blog article).

Library Search: What Have People Said in the Past?

I know, it sounds weird to do a search at the library in these days of finding everything online. But whether you’re searching an online library or a brick-and-mortar one, be sure to find older books and newsjournal articles about your topic, just to inform yourself about what has been said 10, 20, 50, or even 100 years ago.

You might find, in the middle of your Internet searching, that there was a book published 40 years ago specifically about your topic; in that case, you could look that book up at your local library and read it for more information. Like adding different spices to your chicken salad, doing historical research on your topic gives your viewpoint more impact and depth.

Like with the Internet search, keep a list of the titles and authors of books or journal articles you find particularly useful, so you can point your readers to them when you do write your own article.

Anecdotal Research: What Do Your Friends and Family Say?

Especially if you’re writing about a hot-button topic, get some opinions from friends and family to further inform yourself on how a variety of people think about the topic. Anecdotal information like this can give your blog article more personality and more immediacy than just dry research, kind of like adding mayonnaise to dry chicken to make it into chicken salad.

You won’t necessarily have to cite Granny or Cousin Fred in your article sources, of course, but referencing them in the course of the article makes it more story-like and reader-friendly. (Change names or use only first names/initials as you see fit–sometimes it might be prudent to obscure identities.)

After Research, Stir It Up and Add Your Secret Ingredient

After you’re finished with research on what others have said, it’s time to write your own opinions about it. Some of the research you’ve done may have changed your opinion or refined it; make a note of that and talk about that to your readers. Other research you’ve done might have led you to debunk opinions or declare them unfounded. Just like refining a recipe in the kitchen, writing a well-thought-out blog article takes some time, some trial and error, and some mental stirring, but it’s worth it.

Your readers will be more engaged with an article which is both informed and full of your own writing style–your own blog’s “flavor,” if you will. Your “secret ingredient,” of course, is your own opinion, which is probably why you’re writing a blog in the first place. 😉


Research may not seem exciting, but if you do it and do it well, you may find yourself more enthusiastic about your topic than ever, and your readers will get a much better article because of it. (Also, I really shouldn’t write blog posts when I’m hungry. I come up with all kind of strange analogies. XD)

Why I Chose to Write a Multi-Topic Blog

When you think of “blogs” you generally think of personal writings, such as the writing about somebody’s day-to-day life, such as Jenn.nu and GeekyPosh.com. And if it’s not a blog about day-to-day life, then perhaps it’s a blogging-platform-driven website based on a topic, turning it into a one-topic blog, such as The Simple Dollar or WPCandy.com.

My blog, therefore, a blog about six different topics, is rather strange in comparison. Why, given these two other (somewhat easier-looking) styles of blogging, would I choose to create a blog this diverse?

Reason #1: Tried Personal Blogs and One-Topic Blogs Before–and Failed

Yes, you read that right. I actually have failed at doing blogs several times before Crooked Glasses came to be. And I have tried both types of blogging styles that I outlined above.

After trying to run a WindowsLive Space, a LiveJournal, and a personal site, I discovered that my personal life was just not interesting enough to warrant writing a post about every day. Some days, I literally thought, “If I post today, it’s going to have the same content as the post yesterday.” Seriously, nobody needs to read a whole week (or month) of posts along the lines of “Today I woke up. I ate something. Then I watched TV before going to meet my boyfriend and hang out. Then I came home and wrote this blog post, then went to bed.”

It bored me to tears to think about writing this drivel, so I had to come to the hard conclusion that it would also be boring for people to read. (I also never kept a steady diary during my childhood for the same reason–it bored me to write identical diary entries day after day.)

In between trying to make a personal blog work for me, I also tried a couple of topic blogs that are best left forgotten, basically about my favorite TV shows at the time. What frustrated me about writing one-topic blogs was that I quickly ran out of content–I ran out of things to say about the topic very quickly when I felt pressured to write about it every day. It wasn’t that I didn’t like the topic anymore or that I got tired of it; instead, I struggled week to week to try to find new nuggets of information that my visitors would like to read, and I ended up feeling like all I was writing was retreads of old articles.

Reason #2: Wanted One Site that Covered All My Favorite Things

Like Julie Andrews’ character in The Sound of Music, I have a lot of favorite things; I am interested in webdesign, Internet surfing, and creativity, but also in Biblical study, gaming, and a bit of philosophy and commentary here and there. I didn’t want to have six different blogs, though–I wanted one place, one login and one blogging platform installation, that allowed me to share about all the things I love.

I also wanted my blog to stand out, and I knew that a multi-topic blog would be a lot broader and more interesting to viewers, as well as providing them a window into topics they might have never thought of or heard of before.

Reason #3: Keeps Me Writing and Doesn’t Let Me Get Bored

The last reason I chose a multi-topic blog is because this keeps me writing. Every week, I challenge myself to write six new blog posts, six new examples of fresh and interesting content, and it helps me hone and trim my writing down to its essential basics instead of allowing my words to run amok. It doesn’t let me slack off or procrastinate (as I am so prone to do in other areas of my life)–this is a personal commitment to working on one of my best-loved crafts.

Writing about six different topics also keeps me from being bored or running out of content. I don’t drag myself through writing six posts about the same topic–I am energized by writing one post each about my favorite topics.


Blogging doesn’t have to be based in your personal life or in just one topic. Indeed, if you’re interested in many different topics, a multi-topic blog might be just the way to make your mark on the blogging community. (I don’t claim that Crooked Glasses is all that popular just yet, but you never know!)

Hits Don’t Really Matter


Uh oh! Unpopular opinion alert! I just said website hits don’t really matter!

Even though I get tons of spammy emails and comments telling me I need to “backlink” and “up my Google ranking” (which sounds uncomfortable and/or rude, LOL), I actually will dare to say that the sheer NUMBER of hits our sites get doesn’t matter.

Why? Well, there are a couple of major reasons:

#1: A Five-Second “Visit” is Not a Visit

Web statistics record every visit, even if somebody’s just on your site for a few seconds; this doesn’t mean that anybody’s actually staying around to really SEE your site and get meaning out of it. In fact, most quick visits are Web crawlers/robots anyway!

Instead of focusing on the number of hits, look at how long each visitor stays on your site(s). Long visits mean that someone out there is ENJOYING your content–which is what all us webdesigners want!

#2: No Comments and No Repeat Visitors is a Bad Sign

If you get a few longer-duration hits, but none from the same IP address, it can mean that people are visiting your site and finding no reason to come back. Likewise, if you’ve got no repeat commenters, your site is interesting, but not interesting enough to warrant a second comment.

Instead, look for the number of times an IP address pops up in your site statistics per month. If IPs show up more than once, you know you’ve got someone’s attention out there. Also, people who come back to comment a second or even third time are likely engaged with your content and are enjoying it.

How to Get Meaningful Visits and Keep People Returning

  • Don’t just post your link on random sites that have nothing to do with your content. Advertising in this spammy, selfish way will make people think your site is full of spam, too!
  • Affiliate or link-exchange with sites that are similar to yours, so that you drive traffic to each other’s sites.
  • Another great way to advertise: get active in forums and online communities that are relevant to your topic, and mention your site as something others in the community would like to visit.
  • Keep making content, and keep your site updated. Fresh content gives your visitors something to keep coming back for–update at least once a week and post the newest content prominently on your front page. (Plus, a layout/design update every six months to a year is a good idea!)


Don’t just chase after a certain number of “hits” to your website–instead, seek out meaningful connections with your users, and you’ll find your website being visited a lot more often. After all, numbers don’t mean everything in this business!

Feed Some RSS to Me

Aside from content widgets automatically generated by social media websites, RSS feeds are the easiest way to get content from other websites onto your pages. However, the process can be REALLY esoteric, especially if you’re new to the process of incorporating RSS feeds into your personal designs.

When I first started fiddling around with RSS, I had no idea what I was supposed to do with the RSS link…and then, I found a Web service that handled most of the backend code for me.

The Solution: Feed2JS.org

I literally stumbled across this site while aimlessly browsing StumbleUpon–best random search result ever! Feed2JS.org, or “feed to JavaScript,” turns any RSS feed into a block of JavaScript-ed content that can display on your web page.

To test this, I went to their Build Your Feed page, plugged in the URL of the RSS feed I wanted (the first one I did was Last.fm), and then I was given the chance to consider the following options.

  1. Show or hide info about the feed publisher (the website you’re getting the feed from)
  2. Number of items to show in the feed
  3. Show or hide item descriptions
  4. Show item author (if applicable) or not
  5. Use HTML in the item display, or format it with CSS
  6. Show posted date or not
  7. Show the time of post according to your specific time zone or not
  8. Open links in new window or not
  9. Choose UTF-8 character encoding or not
  10. Podcast enclosures or not (link directly to media file)
  11. Create a custom CSS class for your feed or not

An Example of a Built Feed

In the case of my Last.fm RSS feed, I didn’t want a title (because I was going to title it myself with the words “Last Played”). I also didn’t want any descriptions of each song, just the title of the song. I wanted the 10 last played songs to display, and I wanted their info to pop up in a new window so that people didn’t just lose my page.

I also didn’t bother with including the date, time, or author of the post because I felt that would unnecessarily clutter the look of the feed. I wanted it to look as much like a WordPress widget as possible. Lastly, I added the custom CSS class of “lastfm” so that I could style my Last.fm feed just like I wanted it.

So, my Last.fm feed’s Javascript turned out looking something like this in Javascript:

<script language=”JavaScript” src=”http://feed2js.org//feed2js.php?src=http%3A%2F%2Fws.audioscrobbler.com%2F1.0%2Fuser%2F__MYUSERNAME__
%2Frecenttracks.rss&num=10&targ=y&utf=y&css=lastfm”  charset=”UTF-8″ type=”text/javascript”></script>

And this is what it ended up looking like on the actual test page:

I added the Last.fm icon and “Last Played” text myself, but the rest of the info is all Javascript-ed in! Neat, huh?

WARNING! Don’t Forget to Style The Feed!

The last thing about Feed2JS feeds? Remember to style them, otherwise they look pretty yucky on the page–just basic Times New Roman size 12 font, and default link colors (oh, the horror!).

Even though I had specified a custom CSS class using the “Build Your Feed” page, I had no luck styling my Last.fm feed with the class. I even went to the Style Your Feed page and read up on how to construct the CSS classes that my feed ostensibly needed, but it didn’t work for me at all. (Not sure if it was a browser issue or user error–somehow, I suspect the latter. LOL)

So, instead, I styled the display and the links by specifying the link styles of the div with the id “lfm” that contained my Last.fm feed, using code like the following:

#lfm {
background-color: #abb461;
color: #FFFFFF;
border-radius: 10px;
padding: 3px;
list-style-type: none;
font-size: 11px;
font-family: “Arial”, sans-serif;

#lfm a {
color: #fbfcf3;

This worked beautifully (aside from the silly list bullets that won’t go away despite putting “list-style-type: none;” in my code), so I’m not worrying about the custom CSS class unless I have to. The less headaches I encounter while coding, the better. 🙂


RSS feeds are great ways to put interactive, live-updating content on your page, even in this age of WordPress widgets and little automatically-generated boxes that do it all for you. Feed2JS provides a quick way to put the RSS feed on your page using Javascript, and through their generated code, you can learn how to code the Javascript yourself one day!

Blog Content, Ahoy!

Each week on this very blog, I’ve been challenging myself each week to write good content for my blog posts, so that people will want to read more of my writing.

But what does “good blog content” mean? How do you write an article that people actually want to read? Here’s what I think makes a great article:

It’s Well-Informed and Well-Researched

Good blog content is the result of study AND experience with the subject matter. When you include not only your own thoughts, but reference the thoughts of others, you have a much more interesting article, no matter how long it is. (In fact, a concise, well-thought-out article is MUCH better than a long-winded one!)

It’s Thoughtful and Respectful

A good article is balanced, not biased. It shows that you’ve taken time to explore your subject matter from many angles, and you’re not disparaging any one opinion just because you personally don’t like it. (This is especially key in religious or political posts, but any article benefits from a respectful tone.)

It’s Personally Connected

Articles without some sort of emotional/personal investment in the subject matter also lack one other thing: READERS. We all write more compellingly when we care about a topic, and that kind of attitude toward a topic will draw people in to read what you have to say.

It’s Got Pictures

Photos, graphs, charts, or any other visual aids you can put in to accent your content is key. But I’m not advising you to fill your article full of pointless clipart–choose images that help explain your points, or mean something in the context of your article, especially if the article is long. This also helps visually break up your writing so your article doesn’t suffer from “Wall of Text” syndrome.

There Are Subheadings and Headings

Headings and subheadings, like the ones in this article, help break up long paragraphs just like visual aids do. Also, if you write your headings with summary words (like I’ve done in this article), readers can also scan your post for its content much more quickly.

You’ve Put Links In

Since we blog authors are writing for the Internet, linking to others’ opinions has never been easier. When you provide links, it’s clear that you’ve “done your homework” about this topic, and you can give readers a list of good sites to go if they want to know more. (Just make sure that your link text isn’t just “click here,” and you’re good!)


Blog content is part writing and part designing–you have to write content that IS interesting, but you need to make it LOOK interesting, too. These 6 tips will help you shape your own content so that readers will want to read and talk about what you’ve said…which is a blogger’s dream!

What’s a footer for?

Most are ignored altogether. Some are sparsely populated with a line or two of text. A rare few are overstuffed with information. What is a footer, technically, and what is it for in web designs?

A footer is simply the bottom of your web page. (In some PHP designs, the footer is actually in a separate file, called either “footer.inc” or “footer.php”, and included using the following code: <?php include(‘footer.php’); ?>)

Generally speaking, web designers won’t put a whole lot of stuff in the footer, since it’s at the bottom of the page and most users of your site aren’t going to scroll down that far. But lately, there’s been a trend in web design to stuff one’s footer section with content–anything from author information to a full sitemap, from a collection of photos to a selection of favorite links.

I took screenshots of various styles of footer-formatting to show what I’m talking about, going from smallest to largest:


(click image for larger version in new window)
This footer, from Infektia.net, has tiny text and just a few helpful links to the user. This matches with the overall minimalist vibe of the layout and doesn’t compete with the content for the user’s full attention.

Styled (But Still Small) Footer

(click image for larger version in new window)
PacificDusk.org’s footer contains a tone-on-tone world-map image (left-aligned), as well as a funky site slogan and a few well-chosen, helpful links. This gives a punchy, graphic finish to the end of the webpage without being overly detailed.

Bigger, Well-Spaced Footer

(click for larger version in new window)
Though this footer from Kloud-Nine.com is bigger vertically than the other two footers we’ve looked at thus far, it’s still simple because of all the white space around each of the elements. And, surprisingly, the bigger text size offers readability and simplicity as well!

Super-Detailed, Super-Organized Footer

(click for larger version in new window)
Detailed imagery and clearly-delineated content boxes makes this footer from a previous version of EvolvingOctopus.com lots less confusing than it could be. Even though there’s a lot of information present, it’s not overwhelming because it’s organized attractively.

My Personal Footer Style

I’m personally not a big fan of stuffing footers with lots of info, because I often find myself wondering, “How many people are actually going to look at this stuff in my footer?” I would rather put all that cool content into a sidebar where it is much more easily visible when a user first loads my page. But that’s a personal decision on my part, part of my style of building websites. As I get better with web design and better with content management, I find myself branching out into new styles, and one new style may just be a larger footer than I’m used to!

Footer Styling/Content Tips

If you like the idea of putting content in your footer, I would recommend making it simple–a small selection of links that are easily readable, for instance, or thumbnails of some photos that are significant to you. Crowding a footer full of information can be visually overwhelming, but an undesigned footer can be an unsatisfying end to an otherwise cool webpage. Keep it in balance!

If you’re not putting content in your footer, a “back to top” link in your footer can be very appropriate if you usually have long pages full of information. (I generally put a “Proudly part of WithinMyWorld.org” link in my footer, and perhaps a few other links, but I don’t add much else.)

Lastly, whatever you’re putting in your footer, be it links, pictures, content feeds, etc. make it clearly labeled and organized. Your users will thank you!


As the above screenshots show, footers can be anything you need them to be on your website. For taste purposes, I like a clean and uncluttered-looking footer, but they can be as big or as small as you like. Whatever you do, make it meaningful to your website and easy to read!