I already discussed the fall of my website and the hit I took on the mental health side before I could commit to rebuilding my website. It’s just too important to me to simply let it go, and honestly, as much as I pretended it was a real choice, it never likely was an actual option. But if I’m going to rebuild, might I revisit some earlier decisions that I had made in the previous version?
Bifurcation is a lovely word
I have had a dual online personality for quite some time. PolyWogg vs. ThePolyBlog. It is a regular conundrum…I had my initial website as PolyWogg.ca for almost ten years and my personal email was ThePolyBlog for almost the same length of time. About seven years ago, I tried separating all of the content into two sites — PolyWogg.ca and ThePolyBlog.ca — thinking it would somehow improve my blogging approach. But at the time, I was blogging sporadically and the division itself never made a lot of sense. I couldn’t really picture in my head what the real difference between the two sites was…and honestly? I could go either way on just about every topic.
Take something about mental health for instance. I am PolyWogg, and I’m writing about mental health, shouldn’t it BE on the PolyWogg site? But I’m BLOGGING, shouldn’t it be on the ThePolyBlog site instead?
Eventually I gave up due mainly to the large overhead of running both sites without a clear delineation between them, and rerouted ThePolyBlog to PolyWogg. Either website would take you to PolyWogg. I’ve debated over the years letting ThePolyBlog.ca domain lapse, but something always held me back a bit. A niggling thought somewhere in my head that maybe I just didn’t separate things out right the first time.
So here I am again. A giant site of 1.6M words that is really quite large for a site. With a TON of pages and posts and photos, oh my.
Could I split the load between two domains?
The wisdom of the crowd
If I was going to separate the two, then there were two giant questions to ask myself:
- Which elements would go to which site?
- Would I brand the sites differently (and how)?
I reached out to friends on FaceBook, and I had trouble articulating the questions in a meaningful way to get much useful feedback. One overwhelming suggestion was to make PolyWogg just about my HR guide (under the rubric of my “professional” side), but that is peanuts of the whole. Sure, it’s popular, I’ve gotten a lot of hits over the years, but in terms of content, my HR guide takes up about 10 pages, perhaps 30K words. A drop in the proverbial bucket. And if I’m honest, as great a niche as it is, once I retire, it will be of diminishing relevance over time as I get more and more removed from the working world.
I was hoping for guidance from the crowd on branding, but it didn’t go too far, and I had trouble articulating what I meant. I have about 10-12 different areas that I blog about, but I can’t run them all as separate sites, I’m not THAT squirrelly.
In the end, I went back to basics. And instead of focusing on content per se, I thought of the division more as a question of products. Which opened a productive thread of brainstorming with myself.
I do, in fact, have generally two types of products.
The first are what I consider writing products. I have my HR guide, of course, that’s the biggest. And it is associated with PolyWogg, so that is easy to put on that site. I also have a bunch of “reviews” that I do … movies, books, music, TV premieres and seasons, and even podcasts of late. They tend to be “stand-alone” items, very formulaic in layout, a consistent product that I “produce”. I’m also working on a guide for astronomy, I have trivia games underway, a small but increasing collection of recipes, and a report from a 2002 HR conference. All of these are finite products.
The only thing they DON’T have is much in common with each other. So I found a way to have about six different areas on the same site, all linked from the main page, but once you get into the sub-areas, all of the sub-areas have their own menus and their own headers. All completely different but shared under the same site. I had considered trying to do this a long time ago with my old site when it came to the Photo Gallery, but it never quite worked right, and with another 6-8 possible additional areas, it was way too much work previously.
I designed a bunch of different headers using Canva, uploaded them to the site, assigned conditional menus and headers, and voila, six sub-areas within the same site, yet totally different branding for each of them.
My second “set” of products are my blog posts. Most of them are a bunch of little areas, nothing too huge on their own, nor are they necessarily “products” like the stand-alone ones in the first batch. Instead, these are more running commentaries or musings about a variety of topics. I threw them all into the ThePolyBlog site, updated some of the categories to collapse a bunch together, and then grouped them into a few small menu collections. I’m not 100% sold on them yet, so I may make some tweaks in future weeks, but it works for now.
The first group I call simply “Life”. I started to call it “Lighter Fare” as it tends to be a bit more about my life in general, experiences of different types, maybe some family trips. I also have jokes of the day / humour posts in there. But when I added “computers” (which includes all the website drama) as well as “family” which includes my posts about my son, some mental health stuff, my parents, etc., it no longer seemed entirely “lite”. So I grouped it under a general heading just called “life” — which has posts about jokes, websites, experiences and my family. All big chunks of who I am.
The second group is harder to name, and I struggled even more with it. It is generally a collection of posts about more serious topics that I have tentatively named “The Little Grey Cells” (with a nod to Hercule Poirot). Learning is a huge area for me, with lots of posts about courses and non-fiction books, and I had another area about ideas (around governance or development, for instance), that I merged into “Learning and Ideas”. And just as with “Humour”, I have one that is more general in nature and called simply “Quotes”. Some are funny, most are more thoughtful. I merged a bunch of posts about health, mental health, philosophy, gratitude etc under “Health and Spiritualism” and then merged anything to do with writing, publishing, books, libraries, etc. under “Writing and Publishing”.
I maintained a third area for my posts about Goals. I have a LOT of posts on the site about goals, goal-setting, monitoring, tracking, bucket-lists, etc. as well as individual goals and how I’m doing on them. It seemed like an obvious grouping all on its own.
And finally, for a fourth area, I added one simply called Challenges. To be more precise, these are my Reading Challenges, with the materials for 2019, 2020, and 2021. I enjoy running them on FaceBook as a little book club, and I wanted to keep them somewhere. I considered putting them on PolyWogg.ca with the book reviews, but they’re not really “products” in the same sense and they didn’t really fit with the “reviews”.
Ease over perfection
I have already posted that I’m back up and running, but I confess I decided to cut a fairly large corner in my rebuild. (Well, it seemed like cutting corners at the time. Only time will tell if it was a cut corner or a brilliant tactical move.) I chose to NOT rebuild my photo gallery on the website.
For a very long time, I have wanted to be able to share my photos and videos online. I’ve tried standalone galleries, I’ve worked within WordPress, I ran separate installations on my website, I considered totally different software, and I even went with SmugMug for a couple of years. But the biggest irritant previously was that I was paying for other sites or running extra software when what I REALLY wanted was to embed my photos and videos WITHIN my regular website. And in the last year, as I said earlier, I spent a lot of time up until February of this year getting those photos and videos into the site. An enormous amount of work. And ultimately, fixing the uploading of photos was what triggered the error by the technical support people in the first place.
So when I looked at how much work it had been just to get it to where I was at in February, I couldn’t in good conscience think that was the right way to go a second (or seventh) time. It was just too much work.
I didn’t want to go back to SmugMug, Google Photos is dying, a few other big sites don’t handle video properly, and then I decided what I really wanted was to reduce my workload at the same time as I was trying to find a good working solution. I didn’t want perfection, I wanted something that worked well and cut my processing time. If I was going to pay for something new, I wanted easy.
I use Mylio already for managing my photos and videos. It isn’t perfect, but it doesn’t add all the overhead the way Adobe products do. Nor do I want to shell out the cost each month for the proper Adobe package I would need. And what does Mylio have built-in? Export options that let me send by email, export as pictures, save as a video, or…wait for it…upload directly to Flickr.
I already had a free Flickr account from back in the day that I’ve used sparingly over the years, trying out things here or there, or for sharing photos for a photography course that I took a few years ago. I spent an hour or two doing a deeper dive to try out a bunch of features and testing uploads, as well as finding ways to embed Flickr photos and galleries in my site. And then the kicker came. Flickr would let me upload small videos easily. No conversion of format, it would handle just about anything I threw at it, and then I could embed them into my website whenever and wherever I wanted.
Is it perfect? No. But it is WAY easier than the perfect solution of embedding directly within the website. And suddenly all of the rebuilding work looked a LOT more manageable. My “up to a year” projection was down to perhaps “six months”. So I upgraded my Flickr account to the paid “pro” version, and I’ve uploaded more in the last three weeks than I did in the last three years. It isn’t “embedded” in the site yet, it’s just on Flickr so far, but I’ve linked a few pages here and there. I will eventually add an “index” to the Flickr Gallery somehow and include it as an option on ThePolyBlog.ca. For now, I’ll settle with sharing albums to FaceBook.
A final question before I began the actual rebuild
Okay, step one — I committed to the rebuild. Step two — I decided how to divide up the content overall. Step three — I had a solution for my photos that would be a lot faster than the previous solution, if not as efficient, and about the same or a little less for effectiveness.
But if I’m going to “Build Back Better”, what exactly does “Better” mean? All of the above was mostly about building back “different”, not necessarily “better”. It was better for a bit of workflow, and some branding, but could I make it better in the way it WORKED too?
Continue reading at Rebuilding: Dumpster fire or opportunity? (part 4 / 4)