I Assure You, We’re Open
In the opening scenes of Kevin Smith’s debut movie, “Clerks”, a hand painted signed is hung outside of the Quick Stop convenience store to let customers know that, despite the fact that the shutters are down and the store looks closed, they are, indeed, open for business. Lately, I have felt like I need to hang a similar sign on this website to let visitors know that, despite the fact that this place may look like a ghost town, I assure you, I am still here.
In The Beginning
When I first launched this version of my website a few years ago, the piece that I was the most excited about was the blog section. At the time, “art directed articles” were all the rage and I eagerly jumped on that bandwagon, posting at least one new, uniquely designed article per month for well over a year.
Eventually, the sexiness of art directed articles began to wear off, but I stuck with this approach to my blog. Why? Because following the latest trend was never my motivation. I began using this approach on my blog because I truly felt that it helped communicate and reinforce the ideas I hoped to convey with each article.
Of course, it also added a fair amount of work to the process since each entry required me to play the role of both author and designer. Still, I felt the value of this approach far exceeded the extra effort required for it, so I continued adding new, uniquely designed articles regularly. And then I stopped.
Signs of Life
I frequently speak with clients about the need to keep a website up to date and relevant. One of the main ways they hope to keep their site current is through a blog. Even though their blogs may not use the art directed approach and involve the amount of time mine does, they still require a substantial commitment to keep them updated with fresh content.
More often than not, those blogs, as well as other aspects of the new website, are given plenty of attention early on, but as the “new website smell” goes away, so does the push to add new content with any sort of regularity. After a while, signs of life begin to fade from the site and the most recent posts date back months, if not more. Kind of like my own website.
It's a Trap!
There is a certain amount of irony that, although I caution clients on the time needed to keep a website updated and try to help them make sure their pages do not become neglected, I have found myself in exactly that position here on Pumpkin-King.com.
The truth is that even if you are aware of the commitment needed to keep a site current, it is hard work, especially if you are trying to sustain a site over a period of time. For companies that do not have someone whose main responsibility is keeping a site updated, it is often a daunting task, because as soon as something else becomes a priority, the needs of the website get pushed aside.
Once you break the schedule of regular updates, it is easy to push the frequency of updates further and further apart, until you arrive at the point where I find myself now – without an update over the past few months. The irony in this situation is that, while the lack of updates on a website may make it seem like laziness is at play, it is often the exact opposite situation that is the cause. Often, websites get neglected because there is too much other work to do.
How It Started
I began slipping on my “once a month” schedule of posting some time ago. If I remember correctly, I was reworking my teaching materials for a new semester at the University of Rhode Island. As those preparations began to take more and more time, I let some time pass without adding a new article on the site.
Shortly after this, I began a particularly intense few months of planning for a big Envision event, designing materials for the show and helping contribute to various aspects of the day, including a short speaking engagement at the actual event. With the time that I was spending on event preparation, more months passed without new articles being added.
Finally, as my workload began to thin and I began to find some time to write again, I was given the opportunity to contribute to some others websites, such as Smashing Magazine. While I jumped at the chance to publish some articles on a great community like Smashing Magazine (and am happy I did so), one of the results was that, once again, Pumpkin-King.com was neglected.
A Lesson In Inertia
I remember learning about inertia, “the tendency of an object at rest to remain at rest or an element in motion to remain in motion”, in elementary school. The concept is aptly applied to the reality of keeping websites updated. If you keep to a schedule and publish according to that schedule, you will find it easier to continue down that path. The minute you break from that course, you risk “remaining at rest.” Once you stop, it is hard to start again. So once you have neglected your site for some time, as I have done with mine, how do you get started again? One suggestion I can offer, which is exactly what I am doing for myself, is to not just jump right back into publishing as soon as you have one new article. Instead, try to plan ahead a bit.
Your site has already gone without an update for quite some time, so taking an extra few weeks to add an update is a minor issue at this point. Rather than coming up with one new idea and adding a single new article, brainstorm a number of new article ideas to cover the next few months. Once you have those ideas ready, get started on writing. I would suggest having a few of those ideas pretty well fleshed out and almost ready to go before you post your first new entry on the site. What you want to avoid is adding a single new article, but then slipping back into a state of neglect because you don’t have a follow up piece. By having a few articles ready to go and staggering them over a period of time, you allow your inertia to kick in again.
In the end, it may have taken an article about how I have been neglecting this site, and how I have fallen into the same trap I caution my clients about, to get me started again, but at least I won't get to May with most recent blog post still being from the Christmas Holidays.
While I don’t expect that I will return to my rigorous “once a month” schedule of posting articles to the website, I do expect that this piece, and the few others than I have waiting in the wings, will at least get me back onto a semi-regular update schedule.
The ball is rolling again. I look forward to inertia taking over to keep it rolling because, I assure you, we are open and have been all this time.