Posted:October 11, 2011

Structured Dynamics The Need to Enforce Periodic Checkups on Web Properties

Face it, we all get busy and begin to overlook our own needs while we work for others on our jobs. The parable of the cobbler’s children going without shoes says it all.  It means that the shoemaker spends so much time looking after his customers’ needs that he neglects the needs of his own children.

We see the same phenomena in relation to our own personal assets, home repairs and cleaning, and a myriad of chores and background requirements. One way we can overcome these neglects is by scheduling annual or periodic checkups or activities. Spring cleaning is one such effort, as is annual asset portfolio re-balancing or doctor’s appointments or 10,000 mile vehicle servicing.

One of the cobbler’s chores for Structured Dynamics is the periodic care and feeding of our various Web sites. This has actually proven to be a non-trivial exercise, as our properties have grown to exceed 1400 static Web pages across some 30 diverse Web addresses and properties. As our client and code base expands, this exercise is increasingly demanding.

Taking advantage of a small break in the action, we have just completed another one of these reviews and revisions. Interestingly, as I was going through the various sites, I saw that date stamps for prior revisions tended to all occur in the September and October time frame. Last September, for example, SD went through a major redesign and new logo. Apparently, without consciously realizing it, we have been doing our own Web attic cleaning in the Fall.

Thus, as a way to formalize this process for us internally, I thought I’d briefly outline the Web site changes that we have cobbled together for this year. I suspect we’ll be doing another spiffing come Fall 2012.

Rationalizing the Properties

It is kind of frightening to realize that we have allowed our Web properties to grow to about 30 individual sites. This accretion happens gradually: a new initiative or capability arises that seems to warrant its own Web site. Yet each site carries with it a need to develop and maintain, as well as to explain its role and use in the Structured Dynamics information space.

Exclusive of internal development sites or ones dedicated to specific customers, here is the roster of existing SD properties that we have needed to rationalize:

Note that all properties with strike outs have now either been retired or consolidated with other properties. We have reduced the property count by 10, or by a third. Additional consolidations will be forthcoming.

Providing a Consistent Entry to the Various Properties

With the growth of our various Web properties and the diversity of the initiatives behind them, Fred and I have grown increasingly frustrated that our site visitors lacked a consistent way to access and understand these projects. Across all properties, Structured Dynamics has about 6,000 daily visitors or RSS tracking feeds.

Providing a consistent context of what these properties mean and their relation to one another is further compounded by the sheer size of our properties. Excluding dynamically generated pages (such as from search, demonstration of our semantic components, or use of the relation browser), we have on the order of 1400 static Web pages across all properties and blogs. Users may enter our information space via any of these entry points.

The answer to how to provide a consistent context on any Web page throughout our properties resides in the nifty JavaScript popup Fred recently described for his own blog. What we realized is that we could adapt this widget to provide a single overview of SD’s resources, and then add that widget to all of our properties such that it appears as a small tab at the bottom (sometimes side) of all property pages.

Then, when the tab SD Resource tab is clicked, the following popup appears:

So, whenever you are on one of our properties, look for the tab (generally) at the lower right corner of every Web page. That will take you to the common entry point across Structured Dynamics’ Web properties.

Updating the Properties

In this process we also went through some of our existing sites and made content, narrative and navigation changes consistent with this rationalization and consistent entry point. These updates were not nearly as extensive as the full re-designs from one year ago.

New Shoe Designs

With a constant stream of new initiatives and new understandings, it will remain a challenge for us to describe our various products and services. An even greater challenge will be to provide coherent descriptions of how all of these initiatives fit together consistent with our overall vision. One attempt at that is our new Overview page. Meanwhile, of course, we will occasionally be offering new Web goodies and sites as developments warrant. These will need to get integrated into this picture as well.

We think we have taken an itty-bitty step to improving this process with the SD Resources tab widget. Nonetheless, I’m sure that we will continue to craft new shoes to try to find ones that are still yet more comfortable and attractive. Thing is, we may have to wait another year before we get around to it again.

Posted by AI3's author, Mike Bergman Posted on October 11, 2011 at 3:26 am in Structured Dynamics | Comments (4)
The URI link reference to this post is: http://www.mkbergman.com/979/the-cobblers-shoes/
The URI to trackback this post is: http://www.mkbergman.com/979/the-cobblers-shoes/trackback/