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  1. #1
    SitePoint Wizard DoubleDee's Avatar
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    Too Much Content!! What Do I Do??

    Just when I thought v2.0 of my website was done, it looks like I have stumbled across a pretty big *crisis* dealing with my website and "Information Architecture"...

    The problem is that I have TOO MUCH CONTENT to fit into my website's current design, and I can't seem to figure out what to do with everything!!


    How to describe all of this???


    Background:
    When I first started working on v2.0 of my website back maybe 18-24 months ago, I wanted to make my website more "dynamic" and "interactive". Instead of just having 20 static HTML pages, I wanted to make it so Content would be a.) Easy to move around, b.) Database Driven, and c.) Easily Cross-Referenced/Cross-Linked. I also wanted to add a "Social Media" aspect to my site allowing people to create accounts and talk amongst themselves. (Sorta like SitePoint.)

    After a lot of hard work - and thanks to hundreds of people on SitePoint - I think I accomplished most, if not all of these goals for v2.0

    But there always seems to be a "catch"...


    A week or so ago, I was preparing to take my new v2.0 website "Template" and start merging it together with all of my *actual* "Content".

    And herein lies the dilemma that I have discovered...

    Back when I started re-designing my website in the Summer of 2011, I just had a handful of "Sections" and "Topics" to cover, and as such, I hand-coded my website to match THAT 2011/2012 Content.

    Well, unfortunately, my mind never stops going! And since I started re-designing my website, I have had a million new ideas, and so what originally was just a few "Sections" has exploded into over 30 Sections!!

    Put another way, "I have TOO MUCH CONTENT and don't know where to put it on my website?!"


    If my website was just simple, hard-coded HTML pages, this wouldn't be that big of a deal. However, the process of making my website more "interactive" meant that I made a lot of architectural decisions that can't easily be changed as far as I know. (e.g. Apache mod_rewrites and PHP)


    If I can't figure this out, then I have basically broken 18-24 months of work re-designing my website!!


    And before someone starts lecturing me on, "Well, you should have thought all of this out before you started coding!!" let me stress, that Businesses and Business Models change and evolve. And to me the only thing worse than having a website that doesn't appear to handle all of this new Content, would be throwing away the additional 25-30 Section of *awesome* Content that I have thought up in the past two years?! (Good "Content" should always trump Website and Database Design!!)


    Like nearly everything in life, I am sure there is a reasonable solution, however I am currently STUMPED and could sure use some help figuring out a workaround...


    Before I stop yapping, here is a brief description of what I currently have...


    My website currently has a simple horizontal Navigation Bar with 5 "Tabs", and there is room for maybe 10. (Originally this seemed like all of the room I needed to grow?!) When you click on a "Tab" (i.e. "Section"), you get a listing of Article Summaries like this screenshot...

    Attachment 61863


    This design works great as long as I only ever have maybe 6-8 Sections. But as I discovered this week, it crumbles when I have even just 20 Sections?! (I guess I thought my Content would grow WITHIN each Section, versus needing all of these NEW Sections...)

    Because I spent a lot of time designing my Fixed-Width, Fluid-Center, Sticky-Footer, so on and so on 3-Column Layout - with lots of kudos to Paul O'Brien!! - and because I have spent even more time setting up my Apache mod_rewrites and PHP to work a certain way, I can't easily just change things like if all of my Content was static HTML pages.


    Hopefully all of the SitePoint "Content Gods" have some suggestions to help me out of this crisis...

    And in the mean-time, I am sitting here at the library racking my brains, trying to figure out different ways to combine/collapse all of the new Content I have into my current website framework.

    Thanks in advance, and here is hoping my website can be saved... *worried look*

    Sincerely,


    Debbie

    P.S. If it would help, I can post real-life examples of all of these new Sections I have dreamt up, but I figure I have posted more than enough for now.

    P.P.S. Take a look at the NY Times or LA Times and all of the disparate Sections they have to deal with, and that is a good example of the same challenge that I am facing. Oh, and BTW, I think most online newspapers look very unorganized and gaudy - which as a SitePoint member - I want to avoid!!

  2. #2
    Word Painter silver trophy Shyflower's Avatar
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    Debbie, can you post a screenshot of your home page?
    Linda Jenkinson
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    SitePoint Wizard DoubleDee's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Shyflower View Post
    Debbie, can you post a screenshot of your home page?
    Hi Linda!

    Sure, I can do that, although my Home Page isn't really developed. You see, when I originally was creating my website, even v1.0, my plan was mainly to just write Articles on "Small Business". Well, since then two things have come up...

    1.) It occurred to me that the topic of "Small Business" is much more complex than just Local/National/Sports/Weather/Want-Ads, if you follow me?!

    2.) It also occurred to me, that while 80% of my Content can fall under the Sections I have, there are lots of "Odds-N-Ends" that don't easily fit under a broad topic like "Legal", and thus the need for a new "Section".

    Anyways, here is a screen-shot of my very modest Home Page...

    Attachment 61864


    Sincerely,


    Debbie

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    Debbie,

    I'm not sure I completely understand all the ramifications of the problem (which is no reflection on your ability to explain it). However, my first thought is that what you really need is some sort of hierarchy in your structure.

    You started planning for six to eight sections, and now you are expecting 20 sections or more. Have you considered instead having six to eight sections, which in turn will lead to some larger number of sub-sections? I don't know if there is any constraint on your design that prevents your doing that, but it does seem a promising route to consider.

    I won't go any further with this suggestion for now, because it could be that you have a good reason not to agree with it. But we can certainly discuss it in more detail if you think it would be useful.

    I'd also urge you not to despair. I can't tell you how many times I've had what seemed to be an intractible problem like this, only to find the right solution came along when I shared the prolem with other people.

    Mike



  5. #5
    SitePoint Wizard DoubleDee's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Mikl View Post
    Debbie,

    I'm not sure I completely understand all the ramifications of the problem (which is no reflection on your ability to explain it).
    Many might disagree here! (I do ramble a lot!!)


    However, my first thought is that what you really need is some sort of hierarchy in your structure.

    You started planning for six to eight sections, and now you are expecting 20 sections or more. Have you considered instead having six to eight sections, which in turn will lead to some larger number of sub-sections? I don't know if there is any constraint on your design that prevents your doing that, but it does seem a promising route to consider.

    I won't go any further with this suggestion for now, because it could be that you have a good reason not to agree with it. But we can certainly discuss it in more detail if you think it would be useful.
    I'm going to stay "hushed" for a while, and let some of the SitePoint gurus respond first. (Trying to be a good *listener* in the beginning!!)

    Also don't want to *bias* the conversation, since I already have my opinions.


    I'd also urge you not to despair. I can't tell you how many times I've had what seemed to be an intractible problem like this, only to find the right solution came along when I shared the problem with other people.

    Mike
    Well, Mike, I hope you are right about this one, because I had a good cry last night!! (seriously)

    You cannot believe how frustrating it is to have spent the last 18-24 months revamping a website, only to find out that your data doesn't fit in it?!

    And like I said, I don't think I'm to blame for "poor planning".

    In a twisted kind of way, the fact that my Business Plan has grown, expanded, and matured so much in the last year should be a "good thing"!! (From a purely "business" standpoint it is.)

    However, now I need to figure out how to make this website - in which I invested so much time - work out for me.

    (You know, in my "day job" as a Business Systems Analyst, I often fault my clients for generally having a lack of "foresight". Well, this time, it looks like the shoe is on the other foot, and it is Debbie who screwed up?!)


    BTW, after others share their thoughts, I can provide real-life examples of "Sections" and "Topics" which might help.

    Thanks,


    Debbie

  6. #6
    Word Painter silver trophy Shyflower's Avatar
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    Do you have a site diagram that outlines your navigation structure? A site diagram can give you a visual on how to add on to your basic plan.
    Linda Jenkinson
    "Say what you mean. Mean what you say. But don't say it mean." ~Unknown

  7. #7
    SitePoint Wizard DoubleDee's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Shyflower View Post
    Do you have a site diagram that outlines your navigation structure? A site diagram can give you a visual on how to add on to your basic plan.
    No.

    But I do have a notebook where I keep all of my Content Ideas, and am in the process of figuring out whether I need to change my Site Design or somehow change my Content Structure.

    Sincerely,


    Debbie

  8. #8
    Word Painter silver trophy Shyflower's Avatar
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    You can do a site diagram either using a tree structure or an actual diagram. Start with your original structure and it will help you decide where and how to best add sections and sub-sections to your plan.
    Linda Jenkinson
    "Say what you mean. Mean what you say. But don't say it mean." ~Unknown

  9. #9
    SitePoint Wizard DoubleDee's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Shyflower View Post
    You can do a site diagram either using a tree structure or an actual diagram. Start with your original structure and it will help you decide where and how to best add sections and sub-sections to your plan.
    You're missing the entire point in my OP!

    This isn't about how to "organize" things. It is about *physical* limitations in how my site is currently laid out.

    If it was as simple as "I wonder what new Sections I should add?" then I wouldn't be here asking for help.

    This is an issue of "Too Much Content" for my site's current design, which I have shown above via 2 screenshots.

    And, as also mentioned, I do NOT plan on chopping out a dozen or more "Sections" simply so my site doesn't overflow?!

    The task is, "How can I keep all of my excellent Content, and still make it fit into my current Website Design?"

    Sincerely,


    Debbie

  10. #10
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    ralph.m's Avatar
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    I don't understand why you can't add as many sections as you want. Do you have a fixed height or something? Web pages, by their nature, allow for lots of content. If your layout doesn't allow for a bit more text, it was probably ill-conceived, as that wouldn't account for the user having a larger text size—which would mean that the design would blow out anyway. I realize I may be misunderstanding, but ...

  11. #11
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    Quote Originally Posted by DoubleDee View Post
    You're missing the entire point in my OP!

    This isn't about how to "organize" things. It is about *physical* limitations in how my site is currently laid out.

    If it was as simple as "I wonder what new Sections I should add?" then I wouldn't be here asking for help.

    This is an issue of "Too Much Content" for my site's current design, which I have shown above via 2 screenshots.

    And, as also mentioned, I do NOT plan on chopping out a dozen or more "Sections" simply so my site doesn't overflow?!

    The task is, "How can I keep all of my excellent Content, and still make it fit into my current Website Design?"

    Sincerely,


    Debbie
    Based on your question, you can't. You'll either a) have to make design changes or b) make some structure changes.
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  12. #12
    SitePoint Wizard DoubleDee's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by ralph.m View Post
    I don't understand why you can't add as many sections as you want.
    Did you read my OP and look at the screen-shots I attached?

    If so, you will see that I choose horizontal Navigation Tabs, and that currently I have 5 Tabs.

    While I might be able to expand to 10 Tabs, that is about as far as I could go. (So there is not way to have 20, 30, or more "Sections".)


    Do you have a fixed height or something?
    No, my webpages can expand vertically all they want.

    Where I screwed up was not accounting for the fact that I would need many more Sections (i.e. Tabs) that what I have.

    By contrast, it is easy to do things like add more Article Summaries to a given Section, because they are displayed vertically, which as just stated, can expand. I think the screen-shots show it all...


    if I wanted to expand the number Web pages, by their nature, allow for lots of content. If your layout doesn't allow for a bit more text, it was probably ill-conceived, as that wouldn't account for the user having a larger text size—which would mean that the design would blow out anyway. I realize I may be misunderstanding, but ...
    See my OP...

    Sincerely,


    Debbie

  13. #13
    SitePoint Wizard DoubleDee's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by DaveMaxwell View Post
    Based on your question, you can't. You'll either a) have to make design changes or b) make some structure changes.
    I can think of some different options, but am curious to see what others think...


    Debbie

  14. #14
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    Quote Originally Posted by DoubleDee View Post
    While I might be able to expand to 10 Tabs, that is about as far as I could go. (So there is not way to have 20, 30, or more "Sections".)
    Meh, just go to extra rows, or style the tab links differently so that they don't take up so much space. Or consider dropdowns ... With or without dropdowns, consider placing a few generic topic areas in that menu, and then providing more detailed topics in each section.

  15. #15
    SitePoint Wizard DoubleDee's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by ralph.m View Post
    Meh, just go to extra rows,
    You don't think that having 2 or 3 rows of Navigation Tabs would look awkward?!


    or style the tab links differently so that they don't take up so much space.
    If you look at my screen-shots, they are pretty skinny now...


    Or consider dropdowns ...
    In the past, you told me you were vehemently opposed to dropdown menus...


    With or without dropdowns, consider placing a few generic topic areas in that menu, and then providing more detailed topics in each section.
    Did you mean that I should have a handful of "Sections", and then for each generic "Section", have a "Section Home Page" with more details, including maybe "Sub-Sections?


    BTW, can you think of any professional website that *successfully* incorporate one of more of these ideas?? (Seeing is believing!)

    Sincerely,


    Debbie

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    Quote Originally Posted by DoubleDee View Post
    In the past, you told me you were vehemently opposed to dropdown menus...
    Yes, but it's not my site.

    Did you mean that I should have a handful of "Sections", and then for each generic "Section", have a "Section Home Page" with more details, including maybe "Sub-Sections?
    Yep.

    BTW, can you think of any professional website that *successfully* incorporate one of more of these ideas?
    This is a pretty common pattern. Imagine a tech site with a few headings like Web Design, Computers, Printers ... Click on Computers and you get a Computers page with a sub list of Windows Computers, Macs and so on. (Whether you also have a drop list on the main site menu that also points to Macs, PCs etc. doesn't really mater. The important thing is to have an alternative to the drop list, in case it doesn't work—such as on mobiles.)

  17. #17
    SitePoint Wizard DoubleDee's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by ralph.m View Post
    Did you mean that I should have a handful of "Sections", and then for each generic "Section", have a "Section Home Page" with more details, including maybe "Sub-Sections?
    Yep.
    Okay, but one problem with that is forcing the user to have to navigate to an extra page.

    Image if you had to navigate through this to get to an article...

    Scenario #1:
    On Home Page
    >Click on Finance tab
    >Land on Finance home page
    Click on Taxes link
    Land on Taxes home page
    Click on "Why to Hire a CPA"
    Read Article


    Versus this...

    Scenario #2:
    On Home Page
    Click on Taxes tab
    Land on Taxes home page
    Click on "Why to Hire a CPA"
    Read Article


    BTW, can you think of any professional website that *successfully* incorporate one of more of these ideas?
    This is a pretty common pattern. Imagine a tech site with a few headings like Web Design, Computers, Printers ... Click on Computers and you get a Computers page with a sub list of Windows Computers, Macs and so on. (Whether you also have a drop list on the main site menu that also points to Macs, PCs etc. doesn't really mater. The important thing is to have an alternative to the drop list, in case it doesn't work—such as on mobiles.)
    Another down side with having a few "catch-all" Sections, is that it doesn't highlight content that users might read if they see it, but might not dig for if they don't... (Think "Above the Fold"...)

    Sincerely,


    Debbie

  18. #18
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    ralph.m's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by DoubleDee View Post
    Another down side with having a few "catch-all" Sections, is that it doesn't highlight content that users might read if they see it, but might not dig for if they don't... (Think "Above the Fold"...)e
    Yes, that's the dilemma for all sites with more than a little content on them. You can feature more content on the home and other landing pages, of course, with perhaps smaller boxes, or just headings, or have a content slider that presents more featured articles/sections.

  19. #19
    SitePoint Wizard DoubleDee's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by ralph.m View Post
    Yes, that's the dilemma for all sites with more than a little content on them. You can feature more content on the home and other landing pages, of course, with perhaps smaller boxes, or just headings, or have a content slider that presents more featured articles/sections.
    Another problem that I am running into is that my Content is "multi-dimensional".

    For example, "Dimension #1" might be...
    - Home
    - Finance
    - Legal
    - Management
    - Small Business

    And "Dimension #2" might be...
    - Student-owned
    - Female-owned
    - Minority-owned

    And "Dimension #3 might be...
    - Sole Proprietors
    - S-Corps
    - Family-Owned
    - Brick-and-Mortar
    - Online

    And "Dimension #4" might be...
    - News (Current)
    - News (Past)
    - Famous Entrepreneurs
    - Famous Business
    - Interviews

    And "Dimension #5" might be...
    - How-To Guides
    - Laws & Regulations
    - Glossary
    - Case-Studies

    See where the problem is??


    All of that Content can fall into several "dimensions" or "categories" or "Sections".

    For instance, I could have an article about an "Online", "Famous Business" that was "Female-owned", an "S-Corp" and which focuses on the "Legal" aspects of said business...

    That could go into FIVE different "Sections"...

    How in the world do I manage all of this Content effectively?? (Even if I started re-building things tomorrow with v3.0, I have no clue of where to begin, because the more I think about things, the more complex things seem to get...)

    Sincerely,


    Debbie

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    Quote Originally Posted by DoubleDee View Post
    How in the world do I manage all of this Content effectively?
    With a CMS. I vaguely remember us suggesting that to you in the first place, but you wanted to do it yourself, which is fair enough, but you are reinventing the wheel here. All this is done out of the box with a CMS like ExpressionEngine—with categories, relationships etc., and you can add tags into the mix as well.

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    SitePoint Wizard DoubleDee's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by ralph.m View Post
    With a CMS. I vaguely remember us suggesting that to you in the first place, but you wanted to do it yourself, which is fair enough, but you are reinventing the wheel here. All this is done out of the box with a CMS like ExpressionEngine—with categories, relationships etc., and you can add tags into the mix as well.
    If I thought COTS would do the job, I probably would have considered it. But, alas, it doesn't.

    There is no reason I can't make a "home rolled" solution work, I just need some advice on getting out of the corner I feel like I have painted myself into.


    Debbie

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    Quote Originally Posted by DoubleDee View Post
    If I thought COTS would do the job ...
    COTS?

    There is no reason I can't make a "home rolled" solution work, I just need some advice on getting out of the corner I feel like I have painted myself into.
    That wheel you have invented is kind of cool, but I recommend you chip off the corners to make it more round.

    I guess this process of getting out of corners is what CMS devs have gone through to get their finished product. But I admire your dedication to rolling your own, as it's no doubt a great learning experience. It does sound like you just need to tweak your navigation a bit to achieve what you want, but I don't know the whole picture.

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    Quote Originally Posted by ralph.m View Post
    COTS?
    Code Off The Shelf
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  24. #24
    SitePoint Wizard DoubleDee's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by ralph.m View Post
    COTS?
    Oh, sorry, I forgot they probably don't have that "Down Under" yet...

    Come on, Ralph, catch up with the times...

    Common (or Commercial) Off The Shelf (COTS) software


    That wheel you have invented is kind of cool, but I recommend you chip off the corners to make it more round.
    Ha ha.

    Actually, what I have built is superior to some pre-packed things, and it does nearly everything I wanted it to. Unfortunately, I kinda screwed up on not better merging my Web-Design with my Content. (And, once again, they did match back in 2011 and 2012. It is just that in the last 9 months my creativity has exploded and that is when everything went to hell?!)


    I guess this process of getting out of corners is what CMS devs have gone through to get their finished product. But I admire your dedication to rolling your own, as it's no doubt a great learning experience. It does sound like you just need to tweak your navigation a bit to achieve what you want, but I don't know the whole picture.
    I am wondering if my questions would have been better suited in the "Web Design" forum? (It seems like my problem is part "Web Design" considerations and part "Web Content" considerations?!)


    As far as Content goes, here are two questions that I have this morning...


    Topic #1:
    Is it better to have a website that is "Shallow" (i.e. Many Sections and Links available in broad daylight), OR which is "Deep" (Few broad Sections displayed, and then lots of "drilling-down" to get to the Specific Content)

    Like most things, it would see having a balance is the best.



    Topic #2:
    Another topic that I seem to be running into with Content is a lack of "uniformity" and "specificity".

    Some topics are very b-r-o-a-d (e.g. "Legal") and other topics are much more specific (e.g. "Famous Entrepreneurs" or "Online Businesses").

    The problem is that each of these are things I want to show people and catch their attention. It would make sense to have a navigation tab called "Legal" - along with "Management", "Operations", "Finance", but then there are specific topics that I want to advertise and get people's attention on such as "Entrepreneur Interviews" or "Tax Tips".

    If I insisted on having "symmetry", then I would have a few major Sections (e.g. Finance, Legal, Management, Operations, Misc), and then force people to drill down to...
    Code:
    Finance > Accounting > Taxes
    Code:
    Management > Famous People > Entrepreneurs > Interviews
    Code:
    Legal > Business Types > Online Businesses

    My argument is "Sometimes you need an 'Express Lane' to the 'Good Stuff'..."

    But then the questions becomes "How do you cut up the hog?!"

    Sincerely,


    Debbie
    Last edited by cpradio; Apr 4, 2013 at 10:31. Reason: added the "h"

  25. #25
    It's all Geek to me silver trophybronze trophy
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    Quote Originally Posted by DoubleDee View Post
    Common Off The Self software
    Yes, you definitely don't want it off yourself.

    Is it better to have a website that is "Shallow"
    Probably yes, but you have to be practical, I guess, as too many shallow links could be overwhelming. That's why I like the idea of grouping content into quite separate topics, so that a user can easily filter out a lot of irrelevant stuff in one click.

    As I said above, you can use the home page to feature a lot of inner content, even if with a kind of site map below the main menu, or feature boxes, perhaps in a slider.


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