Imagine having the choice of selling your products from your own shelf in a department store – or having your own flagship store. Which do you choose? A place where you can customize everything, from the interior design to the shopping experience? Or an outlet where someone else sets the rules?
Having your own flagship store sounds like the better deal, whichever way you cut it. Except… you need to build this store from nothing.
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Ever since the start of 2019, the call to “Own your content!” has been getting louder and louder. And it’s certainly something that resonated a lot with us and what we stand for at Jolocom – data sovereignty.
It resonated in our hearts and minds too. We wanted a flagship store for our articles. But looking at our product timeline and estimating what it takes to build a self-hosted blog, we barely saw a space for doing it (especially the degree to which we underestimated it!). Taking on a mantra of “Let’s leave it at that but only for a while” we kept publishing on Medium.
“For a while” lasted till late November 2019, when… no, the workload didn’t get smaller, but our internal content revolution started nonetheless.
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“Write the book you want to read.” Or so they say.
I wrote this article because I wish it existed when we were starting our blog redesign. Having a guide like this would have made the relaunch happen so much sooner.
Today, publishing it as a reflection and summary of our process, I have packed it with all the tools and resources we used, in the hope these will help anyone who wants to relaunch their blog too.
If this is you, and you find something in what follows that could be better or more fully explained, let me know – shoot me a line at iryna (at) jolocom (dot) io.
And now, let’s get to work!
Step 1. Organizing the content
Before moving our content over, we needed to revise all the Jolocom stories on Medium and design our future content architecture. We conducted a card-sorting workshop to group published posts into the future categories. We added a short description to each category and up to three options for its label: Recaps/Flashbacks, Ideas/Opinions, etc.
Naturally, a re-think tends to be followed by a big clean up. So we then deleted a good quarter of the old posts.
If you’d like to try card sorting with your team, here are two helpful links. For a soft start, try this very detailed but easy to follow guide by Smashing Magazine. And if you want a deep dive for designers, try this book by Donna Spencer and a ton of advice on the Rosenfeld Media blog.
Step 2. Designing the reader experience (RX)
Research from Baymard University shows that the optimal line length should be 60-75 characters, including spaces. After conducting our own research, we decided to slightly increase the number and, on desktop layouts, our Logbook lines vary from 60 to 78 characters.
Next, we decided to leave giving an estimated read-time as a manually added value. This was for two reasons. Firstly, algorithms can measure text reading time, but what about heavy graphics or short posts packed with videos? Secondly, with a manual input we saw the potential to add some humor and personality:
Then, the Recommended Reading section has two parts – tag-based suggestions and a manually picked Author’s Pick.
To make the Author’s Pick stand out we gave it its own section, with a bigger cover, titles of the higher rank and another composition. This seemed logical and UX-safe. But we felt there was a lack of soul in this solution, Logbook definitely needed more details for the devil to be in.
So, we simplified the layout, merging two sections into one horizontal feed and gave the Author’s Pick not a badge, but a hex sticker!
If you have been hanging around among an open source dev community, you can easily guess the response. “We want them on our laptops!” We’re very much hoping that the Logbook stickers are on their way to becoming another part of open source sticker culture.
There’s much more to tell about RX that could make this article TL;DR. So instead, let’s continue to the next step!
Step 3. Naming
“Wait, do we really need a name?”
“Let’s think. If you had a dog, would you call it Dog (“Dogge” might be an option) or would you give it a name? Or could you imagine Captain Kirk flying not the USS Enterprise but just a spacecraft? Or Jack Sparrow trying to regain not the Black Pearl but a pirate ship?“
But for all the fancy metaphors, what I really needed to bring to the table was hard data. Are there any companies who invested in the naming of their blogs? How can the name be a part of the internal narrative and help us to share stories in a different way?
We didn’t simply brainstorm the names. We did a complete naming exercise, much as branding agencies do, but with a few adjustments to fit the vibe of our team. In the next article of this series, coming soon, I will guide you step by step through the naming process.
Jolocom is a small team, so it took us just two weeks to get from “the blog” to Logbook. Though this, of course, was not two solid weeks of hands-on deliberation.
Step 4. Experimenting with a new visual style
The initial thought when designing a corporate blog is to apply the company’s visual identity to it. By doing so, you are applying the brand consistency that’s hyper-important for young companies still striving to create seamless image recall in the people’s minds. Most companies follow this advice.
Now let me ask you: did you notice that Logbook doesn’t look 100% Jolocom-ish? In fact, it has only 30% of our style. That’s not very much for a corporate blog.
There’s an exception to the brand-building rule mentioned above when you can – and should – abandon the brand consistency and make a shift toward visual flexibility. It depends on what kind of blog you are launching and what emotional values form the foundation of a company’s visual identity.
Jolocom’s primary brand reflects our bigger vision and how we believe self-sovereign identity should feel to people outside the crypto-bubble. During the Logbook’s naming workshops, we realised that we wanted our blog to have a different personality. It should be more about the diversity of views in our team, and more about the (occasionally nerdy) vibe of the open source dev community.
This decision became the main argument for stepping outside a tightly defined lane of brand consistency. We started experimenting with the tension of two visual styles and designed the Logbook as a sub-brand – with its own visual atmosphere that has a broad overlap with Jolocom’s primary brand identity.
As a deeper dive into what has happened to Logbook at this step, I have published a separate case study, Design and art direction of the Logbook. It’s packed with all the pretty visuals that didn’t fit into this article.
Step 5. Working on SEO
No doubt about it: this is the step where we learned the most!
1. targeting long-tail keywords. These are four- or five-word queries that are less popular search terms but convert better, as they bring more valuable traffic. This is because people searching long phrases are more likely to visit your website.
2. backlinking to the external resources and not only internally within the Logbook. First of all, it shows appreciation for the resource that helped you. Secondly, it’s all about sharing meaningful content. The next part of the backlinking tactic is to earn or build backlinks to your blog from elsewhere.
3. using meta-description tags. These will help you create a valuable thumbnail that accompanies your post in search results. This tactic doesn’t help you rank higher, instead, it lets people looking for a particular phrase know that your post will give them the answer. Writing such meta-descriptions with the Yoast SEO plugin turned out to be a great exercise in training our web copy muscles. Imagine you need to condense your post into a Twitter-size snippet that must work as a micro landing page for your article. Sounds easy, doesn’t it?
Along with the continuous design iterations of the Logbook, we will keep logging more posts as we move the unexplored edges of decentralization forward.
Expect more guides, more tech dives from our dev team and more use cases. More design too, of course.
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