9.24.2010

Asking "what if."

One of the things I do at Arc90 is to help clients with the strategy behind a website. Businesses and organizations tend to redesign their websites very infrequently, the result of which is that the navigation of a website gets long and unwieldy as they try to fit more options for their users as time goes on. When they approach our company, it means it's time for spring cleaning.

Imagining a new site map is sort of like rearranging a cluttered room. What are the largest pieces of furniture? We should move those first. These are primary actions to users- the main tabs on a home page, for example.

Then, what are the secondary pieces, the lamps and the nightstands and the shelves in a room, the sub-navigation on a site. Finally, what are the accents and accessories and how do they fit in the conversation?

Information architecture is pretty fascinating. It's a lot like writing or solving logic puzzles and when you really nail a new site map, it's a proud moment. It means that you understood what the organization is about and how their values and desires play out, priority-wise. This is the work I spent much of my week doing and that's an important thing to know because it was on my mind tonight. Information architecture and redesigning dreams was fresh on the brain while I was laying on the couch reading the Internets and suddenly my life kind of shifted.

Something relatively significant dawned on me, the kind of thing that you're not sure how big it is until you sleep on it and see how much sticks the next morning. At one point I asked myself, if I were a website, what would my main navigation be? What would my site map look like? What are my priorities and the most fundamental aspects of my life?

And all of a sudden, I realized that I can't do everything. Just as a home page is useless with a million main tabs, a person spins her wheels when she tries to accomplish every possible hobby that exists. That's what my 20s have been about; I've explored learning several languages, cooking, exercise classes, various career options and many living locations. It's time to start specializing.

This blog has never become larger than it is because it was never a priority. This blog has been a secondary action in my life, a hobby that I get to when I'm not too tired and something that I avoid promoting for fear of being considered arrogant. There's a big chunk of French-ness in me, one that looks down upon using the Internet for social interaction, but working at Arc has really pushed back on those beliefs. (Side note: the fiction writers of the world also tend to frown on the Internet and technology as well... a fact that has contributed to my hesitation to invest more here.)

What happened tonight was I considered this: what if this blog were a top-level nav item? What if it became something that contributed to something larger than myself? I don't know how or why yet, but that's not important. What's important is that I got a tiny flash of what it could look like in a year, with some TLC and a business plan.

It's kind of amazing how these storms of inspiration come upon us, isn't it?

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