Constraints

Constraints

I have, lately, been feeling constrained by the existing structure of this web site, which has been bothering me for a long time. The main problem is the lack of navigation; it’s basically one giant scrolling chain of articles, with some slapped-on navigation at the bottom of the page. The user experience is quite awful for the casual visitor.

Despite knowing all this, and having an idea of what I need to do to fix it, I’ve been kind of stuck on it, because the number of options I have in making changes is incredibly broad. I’m thinking of splitting the site into multiple blogs, one each for Productivity, Design, Personal, and Making. Also, a general article area will become the new repository for content like The Printable CEO, so there’s always ONE updated location for every tool. To enable all these changes, I’m going to use the Expression Engine content management system; the main reason is that the integration with the forum and wiki modules with multiple blogs will make it easier to start deploying software products that need user authentication. However, this new arrangement will require me to handle all the old incoming links (pointing to the old blog) so they’re pointed at the new one or ones.

As a result, I have not been feeling like blogging. The ideas are still here, but the thought of putting them into the existing blog structure makes me feel a bit ill. I am actually forcing myself to finish this post, because I think I need to write it.

Breaking Free

Normally, when I’m in this situation, I redefine the rules such that victory is achievable through some other means. For example, I am thinking that the new structure will be a big pain in the butt to create (recall that I don’t particularly enjoy working with CSS). It probably isn’t, if I define a smaller subset of features that absolutely need to come over.

Another approach I’ve taken is to whittle away at the problem by doing a Q & A with myself. Right now, I am not sure how to move everything from WordPress to Expression Engine…I just know it’s going to be a pain in the butt. If I ask myself a single question at a time and write down the answer, I can maintain the focus and eventually get to the point where I run out of questions.

Yet a third approach is to apply time blocking and just work on the site for an hour at a time, just fixing whatever I see here and there. This is not a particularly focused way of working, but sometimes that’s the mood I’m in. I figure anything is better than nothing.

There comes a time, however, where you just got to make the big push. The last major thing I need to find out is how to create multiple forum installations and to transfer existing users to the new structure. Sigh.

Next Steps

The main problem, I think, is that I’m feeling the weight of the existing content and registered users, and I have to figure out a way of making sure everything merges neatly together. While I think this is a necessary step, I’m not particularly excited about implementing it. Having written that, though, I think I’m probably overestimating the difficulty involved.

Anyway, perhaps this weekend I’ll make some progress on this. The website may be acting a little flakier than usual over the next week.

10 Comments

  1. steve 14 years ago

    Dave…you have a website…look at that.  I read your feed so never see your site.  Good luck with the migration.  I use Drupal and it has a module called Search404 that I like that will take a bad incoming link and do a search on the site for similar content.  Works quite well.  Perhaps Expression engine has something similar?

    Good luck!  Hope your working out is progressing well too.

    ——-

  2. Bill Busen 14 years ago

    Impressions, ignore if not to your taste:

    <ul>
    <li>I’d much rather see searching on tags than separate blogs.</li>
    <li>Most of us might conceptualize an area for the articles that contain tools as the Tool Area rather than an Article Area.</li>
    <li>Putting the Site Areas links at the top would be a quick win, and is something you will do anyway.</li>
    </ul>

    Good luck, I hate it when architectural entropy creeps into my programs, too!

  3. kangmi 14 years ago

    Have you thought of outsourcing your CSS?

  4. Mark 14 years ago

    Dave, thanks for the insight into the technology you are using on your blog. How did you choose Expression Engine? What are the particular issues that are making you want to move away from WordPress in the first place?

    Lastly, I assume you’ve searched the Net for advice from others on moving from WordPress to Expression Engine?

  5. Ricahrd 14 years ago

    Dave, Expression Engine should work very well for your situation.  I did some research on it for a client project and ended up putting together a very functional site relatively quickly.  My concern was with the Admin portion being too complicated for a non-technical end user—but that would not be a problem in your situation.  I believe they are working on version 2.0 that should have some major improvements.  Veele’s Blog (http://veerle.duoh.com/) is a good reference example.  I believe she posted an ExpressionEngine migration article series a while back.

    @Bill: In Expression Engine blogs actually function similarly to containers of web content.  Your templates typically merge content from multiple blogs into one page via EE Template Tags.

  6. Lynn O'Connor 14 years ago

    Dave: It is interesting how technical problems appear across disciplines and manage to stop us from moving ahead fearlessly. I have been super productive recently, finished two articles to be sent out for publication in scientific journals. I’m on the third, and have been stalling. Last night I realized the stall is because of a technical problem with one of the data sets I’m reporting on. I spoke to my data manager (who is my husband right now) about the problem and began to work out a solution. I will also bring in my statistician to work on it. It may take a week or two to resolve, and I will have to be on top of both of them, to make the thing that has to happen, happen. At least now I know why I was stalling. I love technical problems because they have technical solutions. I wish I could resolve them myself, but I can’t do and know everything, and so I work with a team of experts. Now I can go back to writing a first draft, knowing there is a solution to the problem in sight. So it goes with knowledge work, mine, yours, everyone’s. I have been using time blocking for another task I’ve been stalling on (reading/editing a student’s dissertation proposal) and overcoming my procrastination that way. I need multiple tricks in operation a lot of the time. Thanks as usual for sharing your process with us. It makes me feel more comfortable with my own blocks, enough so to admit them here.

  7. ed costello 14 years ago

    I’d really encourage you not to split the site up.  When I first started publishing on my personal site I split it into three sections (a “journal”, a blog, and a long form articles/essays section).  Seemed like a good idea but the software I was using really didn’t support running the three sections as one site (each was a Movabletype blog).  More and more I was deferring working on the site because of the pain in keeping the styles consistent.  And linking ‘across’ my own site became a pain since each blog/section was in its own silo.

    Eventually I just consolidated everything back into one site (the blog), with one feed.

    You might consider offering separate sub-feeds for the PCEO series and your other projects (actually you seem to be doing this already).

    Much as I appreciate the tastes in the banner graphic, you might consider trimming it down.

  8. beth 14 years ago

    I like being able to go to a single page and read a variety of kinds of posts, but I’m looking forward to seeing what you try :)

  9. Jeremy Ricketts 14 years ago

    Hey Dave.  I’m a reader via RSS and saw this post.  I’m not sure what you’re planning in regards to separating content and creating “registered user” sections but… definitely have a look at Expression Engine. I recently used this for a freelance project and I have to say it is one of the most wonderful CMS’s I have ever used. I was able to make a fully original template that offered a registration system with three membership types, blogs with “pretty URL’s” and all sorts of stuff!  I’m a designer by trade and the templating engine for EE is quite extensive- so much so that I was able to add in all kinda of functionality without having to get down and dirty with PHP.  I thought that WordPress was sort of “best of breed” when it came to blogging, but now I think EE is just mich more extendable our of the box.

    Just a suggestion.

  10. kangmi 14 years ago

    Few users will notice if you set up separate sections for your site using EE…probably only us fellow EE users will notice. It can be a great way to manage your content (although not the only way), but it’s a bigger step, so you’ll want to check in with other EE users who’ve set up their sites that way.