What’s wrong with my site?

In late-2015, my now-wife and I decided to move away from the city we’d lived our whole lives in. I applied for tons of development jobs in London before the move but hardly heard back from any of them. I figured it was because I had nothing to show online and was 7000km away.

The history

So I went to WordPress and grabbed the first decent WordPress theme that I could find. I then published a handful of articles, including Using boost::bind and boost::signals2 to Automatically Propagate Signals. These early posts were a great exhibit of my technical knowledge. They also lulled all readers into a deep, restful slumber.

Not long after those two posts, I found a job. Coincidence? Yes. Because that was also around the time that I actually made the 7000km move to London. But my online presence couldn’t have hurt!

Since then I’ve written fifty more articles. These articles have shifted, along with my career, from engineering to design.

But I haven’t changed the design of this site at all.

A designer’s site should be designed

It’s bugging me more and more lately. C++ experts are almost expected to have hideous, unusable blogs. But a professional user experience designer? No. This will not suffice.

So now I’m going to commit to improving it… Actually “I” am not committing to it. “Future Shanes” are.

July Shane: Information Architecture

July Shane, you’re going to hate me for this, but you’re not here to defend yourself. I’m volunteering you to fix the Information Architecture (IA) of this site. If someone comes to ShaneG.ca and reads an interesting article, it’s difficult for them to explore. That’s a problem because there’s over fifty great articles that they might like.

Look at this main menu.

Screenshot of the main navigation of the site. 

Menu
    About Me & Contact
    Programming
        C++
        boost
    Consulting
        Google Apps Script
        Google Forms
        Google Sheets
        UX
    Oddly Specific: Various Notes and Collections of Links
    Getting Started in UX
    Portfolio
Search bar
The current site menu as of June 2019. There’s a lot more on this blog than the Programming and Consulting that I posted about in 2015.

So get out the post-it notes. Wrap your head around our content. Group it, tag it, categorize it. Then update this menu. By the end of the month, I want a coherent, usable hierarchy of content. It should highlight your recent work as well as the early stuff. And I want you to blog about it.

If anyone is reading this beyond July 2019 and the menu hasn’t changed, please shame July Shane. Use a tweet or get creative.

Update: July Shane did his job, just in time! See Fixing the Information Architecture of my Site

August Shane: Usability

I don’t know about you August Shane, but I don’t hate the hamburger menu. In certain cases, it can fine. This site is not one of those cases. Especially when you’re viewing on a big desktop web browser or even a tablet. Why bury July Shane’s beautiful categories of content under three boring lines?

The current site banner. It’s clean, but not intuitive or usable.

What I DO hate, though, is the align-right symbol floating opposite of the hamburger menu. Can you guess what’s under there? Align all the words on the page to the right for some reason? No. It’s to “follow” this blog.

Anyway, August Shane, all I want you to do is get rid of the hamburger and the right-align buttons. Use words instead. Then blog about it.

If anyone is reading this beyond August 2019 and the banner hasn’t changed, shame August Shane. Here’s a template tweet you can use.

September Shane: Have fun

I’m not always a jerk to my future self. September Shane, your job is to have fun improving this site. Maybe get into the code and make it so ShaneG.ca is the actual domain of the blog instead of a redirect. Maybe use IFTTT to post all articles to Twitter and LinkedIn automatically. Maybe add alt text to all images to make the content more accessible.

Whatever you choose to do, have fun and don’t forget to blog about it! Oh, and update this article with a nice happy ending for this three-month-mini-makeover.

Hey reader, are you from October 2019 or later? Is there a happy ending to this article? If not, shame that slacker September Shane s’il vous plaĆ®t.

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Two years of blogging- a retrospective

Have you ever heard a piece of advice over and over, yet still ignored it? Something that made sense but you just didn’t manage to get around to, so it felt like a monkey on your shoulder for months or even years?

That was like me and blogging.

Until I moved to London, that is. I wanted a way to show off my passion and skills to potential employers, so I started ShaneG.ca and put a few posts up.

My routine

Since those early days, I’ve settled into a routine that I find both enjoyable and sustainable. With a little work once a week and a bigger session once a month, I have an outlet for my ideas and a consistent rhythm of publishing.

My Thursday Tens: Rambling Once a Week

Every Thursday, I spend at least ten minutes writing. I call these my Thursday Tens.

Each week, I either create a draft article where I rant about some new idea I’ve had or I elaborate on previous rants. Sometimes I get in the zone and spend a bit longer than ten minutes. The idea is quantity over quality.

To reduce the friction of these Thursday Tens I’ve set up WordPress post by email. This is a custom email address that creates a post every time you send it a message. I always use [status draft] to tell WordPress not to publish my unedited thoughts, and I’ve saved the contact name in gmail as “Post to ShaneG.ca (don’t forget [status draft]!” so that I don’t forget this.

using post by email in gmail.png

Here’s how it looks when I want to quickly get in my Thursday Ten using gmail

Monthly Polishing and Publishing

Once a month, I take one of those drafts and shine it up. Sometimes I have fun with visuals, like my Match Debt article; other times, I just add a few headings, clean up the wording, and hit “Publish”.

The results

Blogging ended up being more than just something I do so that I have a web presence. It is now a therapeutic exercise. Writing and distilling my thoughts and ideas is really enjoyable. Even if no one were to ever read my posts (and, in reality, not a lot of people do), it would still be worth doing. I love documenting my progress and putting my experiences and ideas into cohesive paragraphs. It exposes flaws in my thinking.

Most popular posts

Looking at the most popular posts (again, I use the term ‘popular’ relative to my other posts. Not relative to sites with actual subscribers.), it’s funny.

In 2016 it was my “connecting Strava to Google Sheets” post, which I wrote because I hacked together something tedious and wanted to document my steps. It ended up helping a lot of other people! Sadly for my viewership stats, but fortunately for Strava users, this post became obsolete when Strava began supporting IFTTT!

So in 2017 to date, my most popular post wasn’t even an actual post. It was more of a “note to self”, a collection of related links, called “Best Practices for Data Tables“. That has supplied one third of my ‘traffic’ this year even though it isn’t really a post!

Connections

An unexpected benefit of my blogging habit has been that I’ve connected with my readers.

For example, a man named Ross Fisher commented on my aforementioned Strava/Google sheets post, asking for some help. I emailed him back and we eventually got him sorted. I then checked out his website. Turns out he’s a blogger too, but he’s also a surgeon, a cyclist, and an expert on presentations.

After reading his excellent “how to ‘do’ a presentation” blog post, I’ve become much more confident in my speaking, giving presentations on UX and even presentations on… presentations!

It’s strange, but I doubt that I would be where I am as a speaker today if it weren’t for my blog.

What’s next?

I’ve enjoyed blogging for myself for the last two years, but I am thinking of targeting my writing more. I want articles that are for an audience other than myself.

One thing that I’m passionate about is transforming organizations to be more user-centered, especially technical enterprise software companies. It doesn’t seem to get much press, but while consumer products like Airbnb are revolutionizing design and UX, there are still extremely successful (for now) companies that make niche enterprise software that are still in stage 2 or 3 out of 8 on the Nielsen Norman UX Maturity scale.

Stay tuned, successful but immature companies; you’re in for a treat!