This is one of the articles in a series about how I fine tuned my Pelican+Elegant web site to make it “more mine”. For other articles in the series, click on the title of the article under the heading “Fine Tuning Pelican” on the right side of the webpage.
Unlike my series on Choosing and Setting Up Pelican, these articles are intended to be byte sized, addressing specific fine tunings I made to my own website. As such, the first article in this series contains a Disclaimer section with generic information for each of the articles in the series.
Through the previous 11 articles, I have detailed the various fine tuning that I have done on my website as I get it ready to publish. Having completed and tested most of the preparations to get the website ready for a soft-launch, it was time to think long and hard about what categories and tags to use, and the rules going forward for both. For me, having those two concepts right is going to help me shape the voice of my website and really dial in the content I want to deliver. This article details the steps I took to take those final steps towards publishing.
Write Some Starter Articles¶
To make sure that I was not presenting a blank website to any prospective readers, I made sure to write a number of articles to have preloaded for the website’s soft launch. I am not sure if others would make the same decision, but my reasoning was this: how can I invite readers to my website if there is nothing to read?
I am aware that my writing skill is passable and I am frequently reminded that I am somewhat stubborn. Between these two concepts, it took me a long while to find my voice and come up with some ideas on what I wanted to write. For each of the articles published on this website before this date, there were probably 2-3 times as many articles that “died” before they were finished, and another 2-3 times that died before the first sentence was written.
At first I thought this was a bit of a failure, but then I remembered some words from a talk on photography that encouraged people to take 100 pictures, just to find the 1 or 2 pictures that were good. The speaker went on to mention that as he gained more experience, he still took 100 pictures, but the number of good pictures increased to the point where his “good picture percentage” is now about 20%… and he is happy with that. He went on to say that the most important things he learned were to take better pictures and to not waste time on the picture that were not going to turn out.
How Does That Relate To Article Writing?¶
Relating that back to my article writing, I believe that I am getting better in writing the articles for three main reasons. And when I say three main reasons, I am not really talking about first, second, and third place – I am talking about three reasons that I feel are almost equal in importance.
The first reason is that like the photographer, I needed experience to grow as a writer and gain confidence with my writing. If I waited until after the soft-launch of the website, then all of my learning through articles would be laid out for everyone to see. From my experience, you only get one chance to make a good first impression… after that, the good impression have less and less impact. By gaining that experience before the launch, it enabled me to make all of the failures I wanted to without worrying about any first impressions being lost.
The second reason is that I noticed that the more passionate I was about the subject matter, the more passionate I was about writing the article. By reducing the scope of categories and subjects to the ones that I was most passionate about, my drive to write a good article, start to finish, was more intense. While that passion also caused me to take more time to write the articles (and fuss over them like crazy), when each article was done, I sincerely feel like I have done my best. No regrets, no what-ifs, but a strong feeling that I did my best in writing the article the way I did.
Properly Scoping My Categories¶
Stemming in part from the second reason above, the third reason that I think I got better with the articles was that I narrowed the scope of the article topics from “anything I want to say” to a small number of categories. By focusing on a smaller and more focused number of categories, I can afford to be more passionate about them. I know that these categories may change over time, but I am going to keep it to 5 categories or less.
This part was not as easy as I thought, but also not as difficult. As I wrote the articles, I started noticing trends on which articles were making it further along and kept notes and ideas for new articles. If the category was a good one, I was picking up speed in writing the articles. Another good indicator was how easy it was to come up with new articles for that category, along with a 3-4 sentence “sketch” on what the article should be about. It did take me a bit of time to recognize it, but in retrospect, it was obvious what the categories should have been from the start.
Determining Good Rules for Tags¶
The last thing I needed to figure out before a soft-launch was the tags. Unlike the categories where I have a number of preset categories to create articles in, the tags are present to allow for better identification of what topics or concepts are in an article. This in turn allows a reader to click on one of the tags displayed for an article and see what other articles are listed there.
Whereas for my website the categories are more or less fixed, the first rule I came up with is that the tags should be fluid and truly represent the article. If I want readers to be able to find similar articles, I want to build trust that if I say an article is tagged with a given word or phrase, it will directly reference that tag. On my travels through the internet, there is nothing more disappointing that following a link about something you are researching, only to find that that the data you were promised is only 1 sentence in an article. I don’t want that for my website.
The second rule that I wrote for myself might seem stupid or silly, but a tag should not be the same or similar to an existing category. Before going through my articles for my soft-launch, there were a number of times where that duplication existed. Now, often that was due to me not having the first rule in place when authoring those articles, but it still happened. This should be an easy one to follow.
Finally, the last rule that I came up in preparation for the soft-launch was that tags will be descriptive without being too verbose. When I picture this rule in my mind, what I usually think of is 2 words, where one is an adjective and the other is a noun. While this can sometimes get to 3 words, I don’t want it to extend past there as that is descending quickly into the verbose category. As an example, “website” is a bad tag as it does not describe what kind of website I am talking about. On the other side, “how to write a better website” is too verbose, practically being it’s own sentence. In between is “writing better websites” which seems to strike a good balance between the two for me.
What Was Accomplished¶
Using the other articles in this series as a jumping off point, this article focuses on getting the categories and tags right across the articles. I talked briefly about my philosophy about preloading the site with articles, both to gain experience in writing articles and to determine which articles were the right articles for me to write about. As a natural result of that work, I was able to determine a good initial set of categories for my website, encompassing the topics that I am most passionate about, hopefully ensuring that my best work will be put forward. Finally, I came up with a number of initial rules about tags to help readers of my website find related content on my website with a minimum of effort.
So what do you think? Did I miss something? Is any part unclear? Leave your comments below.