cheryllowry.com: portfolio design analysis

I’m changing the focus of my basic online portfolio site from online resume (my former goal, successfully met, was to find a new employer) to thought leadership blog about technical writing and professional content creation and management (my field of employment for 14 years). My goals are to create quality content around technical writing and content management themes on a regular basis, and use social media channels to socialize the information and make new connections.

Criteria for effectiveness of design

Aesthetics

  • Personally created header image that incorporates a diagrammatic illustration and is visually compelling so the site does not look out of the box
  • Incorporation of personal photo to create connection and identity
  • Clear sidebar information about who I am, and the intentions of the site
  • Subtle incorporation of social media elements incl. Twitter feed

Functionality:

  • It is clear who I am and what the site is about — you don’t have to scroll or dig around to figure this out
  • There are links to related resources
  • Categories appear in the sidebar — it’s important that information be easy to find by topic and not just date
  • Content in posts uses subheads, bullets, and other techniques to be maximally scannable
  • The site is simple to use, not overloaded with widgets or vague groupings of  information all weighted the same

Three potential audiences

  • Technical writers. Technical writers are people tasked with explaining technical processes, producing content using software tools, and sometimes with creating user interface (UI) text for software applications. There are not a lot of resources for this particular profession online, comparatively speaking, and there is an opportunity to reach out to this audience and build community. Particularly people wanting to start in the profession lack basic information about how to break into the field.
  • People who write or manage web content for companies. Web content needs a deliberate strategy, but is often either an afterthought of visual design, or reflects the mindset of its creators – not its audience. People in the position of creating and managing content are a good potential audience for the information I’ve learned in my 14 year career.
  • Writers interested in infographics and visual thinking. With the advent of HTML5 and other visual content display technologies, content will become increasingly visual, and writers will need to understand how to create and translate written information into visuals. This isn’t just for artists, and I’ve done a lot of research into this field that would benefit writers specifically.

3 competing sites

Note: I would define the following sites not as competition but as inspiration.

http://www.austinkleon.com/

Austin Kleon is a copywriter, visual thinker, and creative consultant who effectively shares his expertise with others via his blog and social media

Like: It’s clear who he is and what he does– and his personality shines through. His site has a wealth of information for people trying to learn the visual notetaking and information design craft, and there is always something new.

Avoid: The home page of his site is not as clear as his About or Blog pages– I usually skip that page and go straight to his blog.

blog.nathanbransford.com

Like: Great depth of content and expertise, wonderful personality, incredibly personable, completely engaged with his audience

Avoid: I don’t generally like the out-of-the-box Blogger look to his template.

sunnibrown.com

Like: Engaging writing style, sense of author¹s personality, great posts buried in the site

Avoid: Too much unclear promotional information above the fold, no obvious social media engagement

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