Tips on Personal Sites

Over the last six months or so, I've found myself spending a large amount of time working on personal websites. What is a personal site? Well, as a web developer I work on three broad categories of websites: fulltime-job websites that have to work within branding and technological constraints, freelance projects with some flexibility on design and implementation, and personal projects that I don't get paid for. They can range from blogs to resources, and there are a couple of things I'd like to keep in mind while I work on them.

There's still a client involved

And it's me! The website is a representation of me as opposed to a company or project. This is nice in some regards, as I have complete control over the design and implementation of the site, but can also lead to easier procrastination and more fickle design changes. I try to treat these types of projects like a paying one, setting up deadlines and some restrictions on how long to spend tinkering with the design and layout. While it's nice to launch the perfect website, sometimes its better just to tinker with it after its online.

Balance the promotion

No matter what kind of website I end up building, it's still a representation of me for the entire world to see. Depending on the site, though, I need to balance how much I'm promoted my expertise in the subject against the actual subject. For example, the message of a portfolio is the developer, and their name and branding should be the focus of the site. In contrast, if a developer launches a new plug-in or free code snippet on a separate site or web page, then the main subject should be the explanation and documentation of the code with the developer's name a side note. This brings me to the next point...

Brand all of your sites

This will differ a great deal depending on how you decide to implement your different sides. I use a consistent title name scheme, favicon, and always leave a link back to my home page on each one of my subdomains. In fact, my home page is little more than a collection of links to my subdomains, allowing a visitor to bookmark a single site to view all of my content. You could go as far as a consistent stylesheet or header design, but I've found that this limits the options for proper content display too much. By keeping the central link and favicon, it's obvious to visitors that my blog is related, in some ways, to my portfolio.

Remember your audience

While I'm working on my sites, it's easy to forget that I'm not the only visitor. After all, the personal sites that I make are often on topics that I enjoy (waterfalls and hiking, for example), and I often find myself browsing my images or reading a journal post from my site. However, other people use your site too, and it needs to cater to them (especially if they're possible employers). Make the site interactive, add comments, and embed little eggs in the code - anything to make users feel attached to your site.

Have fun!

Don't forget that you are the client. Design something fun and experiment a bit, and you'll end up with a site that you and your users will enjoy. I usually don't get much flexibility with my paid jobs, and making a new personal site or playing with some design/functionality is a refreshing change from working on a design you can't stand or within difficult technological constraints.

Side note: I'm currently in the process of redeveloping all of my websites and implementing these changes. Please don't judge this post based on my current subdomain layout!