By May 15, 2010 Read More →

More Spring Cleanup on Sources of Insight – Simplifying the Experience

More Spring Cleaning

If it’s not working, fix it.  That’s my take.

I had made some changes recently as part of my Spring cleaning for Sources of Insight.   The problem is, while I think some of the changes were good, I think some of the changes were less effective and actually exposed other problems.

With that in mind, I set out to simplify the experience and make some more improvements where I could.

I’m also a fan of reducing the gap between what’s in my mind, and what actually exists.  It’s an ongoing process of bridging the gap and hacking away at Sources of Insight and learning and responding until it’s closer to my vision.

3 Key Changes
Here are some of the key changes I made today:

  1. Sidebar Changes – To improve the sidebar, I sliced my Popular Posts lists in half, got rid of my tag cloud, and bumped up my Sources of Insight Amazon Shop (I’m always getting asked for book recommendations, and this is where I keep lists of my best book recommendations.)  While the tag cloud was great for first impressions, it created a few problems.  On my end, I had to remember categories and tags and I had to split hairs some times.  On your end, it created two places to look instead of one simple list.
  2. Categories Sweep – It’s a longer list now, but it’s consolidated, and now I can fill each bucket with more value.  It’s also easier to find lost gems now.   I took a quick stroll down memory lane through my Life category and quickly found some long, lost pearls of insight.  I need these nuggets at my finger tips because I frequently share these with the people I mentor.  I test my categories list against actually use, both my own use and I get feedback from people that use my site on a regular basis.
  3. Vision   and Mission -  The vision in my head was always “world’s best insight” but I didn’t really spell this out on the site.  I also didn’t clearly spell out that the focus is cross-cutting skills for life and work: mind, body, emotions, career, financial, relationships and fun.  I added this to the description below the “welcome” and it feels better already.

With that in mind, here’s a quick recap of why Sources of Insight exists and what it’s all about …

The Mission
The job is –

Empower you with skills – to improve your mind, body, emotions, career, financial, relationships, and fun.

The Vision
The vision is –

World’s best insight and action for work and life!

The Approach
The how is –

Stand on the shoulder’s of giants — draw from books, people, and quotes.

That’s mostly the how.  I also have best-selling authors stop by now and then, as well as unsung heroes and people with some amazing super skills.

Sources of Insight is a Mash Up of Real World Experience and Wisdom of the Ages …
I also share my experience and lessons learned from my day job at Microsoft, where I write guides that change the world in the technical space, and I lead high-performance teams. It’s a high-stakes, highly-competitive, highly-collaborative, highly-challenging environment … and It’s my stomping ground.  I regularly  test and explore patterns and practices for improving personal effectiveness, thinking skills, interpersonal skills, project management, etc. against impact and real-world results.  I also coach people and teams around Microsoft, especially on my latest book, Getting Results the Agile Way.

My Door is Always Open …
If you have suggestions for me on how to improve Sources of Insight, please send them my way.  Either use the contact form or leave a comment or email me at jdmeieronline “at” gmail.com.

Thank you

Photo by notsogoodphotography.

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18 Comments on "More Spring Cleanup on Sources of Insight – Simplifying the Experience"

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  1. Jenn says:

    J.D. – Compliment: I really like the Welcome and subscribe that stands out to me right away as I enter your site!!! a great simple addition!

    I have a few suggestions that you might like. My strength is in atmosphere creating. I like to make a person feel at home right away.
    I know you are being generous to put your works before yourself.

    Tip 1:
    I think that it would be appropriate and nice to see your About Me with photo under the Welcome slot, otherwise it sorta falls on the wayside. And everyone wants to see a face, which speaks connection.

    Tip 2:
    I did not know that you had amazon recommendations.. even with the new layout, I found I only knew because you said so. Maybe find a way to make this more well known. I am not sure if it would be too wordy to say Resources & Recommendations as a tab or not? rather than Books Recommendations maybe you can put My Amazon List or Best Choices on Amazon (something shorter and let the header speak)

    Tip 3:
    I think your categories most intrigues me, not sure from others’ perspective.. but I think your golden nuggets are certainly your archive. As I am scanning it feels like the categories to the far right might look nicer to the left since the list is so long.. and the shorter list drops off. I think you’ll get more clicks this way for that. With the shorter list switched, it will still capture attention immediately after.

    I hope this is helpful from one perspective. Either way I love coming here for insight and that won’t change ;) I know it helps to bounce ideas off one another. I just did that this week with a synopsis and found it to be so helpful!

    I love how you constantly adapt and are not afraid to say this works, and the rest is in progress. All the best in your spring organization ;)

    much luv, Jenn

  2. JD says:

    @ Jenn — Wow – you’re a gem – you made my day. I tested your tips and they worked out well. On tip #1, Jannie and a few others had mentioned to me before, but I thought I couldn’t fit it. I tested again, and it’s good enough for now. On tip #2, I changed the heading (note – I have a book recommendations page under Resources.) On tip #3, I switched them and it looks like it’s better balanced now. Thank you!

  3. Alik Levin says:

    I love the lightness that feels everywhere. Navigation is easy too. But leanness is what i appreciate the most on your blog [beside the content ;)].

    The font is small for me, or maybe i need another pair of eyeglasses ;)

  4. JD says:

    @ Alik — I’m a fan of light over heavy — like a big canvas with plenty of room for thoughts on a page, a page at a time. I get what you mean about the font being too small — I would prefer to use Verdana — it suits me more — but when I test it with this theme, I haven’t found a way to make it work well (yet). Thank you.
    .

  5. Alik Levin says:

    Regarding the font… there is magic Ctrl and + shortcut that works for me fine ;)

  6. Loving your photo up top, J.D.! Yay, new we get to see the person behind the magic immediately!

    Is it possible to change “My Amazon List” to “My Amazon Remcommendations” ? Just a thought.

    Font size is good for me — now that I wear reading glasses for all computering. But if you do want it bigger, I know in my CSS I get these bits of code like, say… { font-size: 100%; } So if you had that, you could maybe try to up it to between 105 to 110. Or whatever desired.

    You are obviously doing something right, J.D.! Well, many things right, I’m sure! I have the Alexa toolbar installed on my computer and I can’t help but notice your rank has whittled steadily down. Did you know that?! You just keep moving on up and forward based on good things, and it’s fun to be a part of your success!

    whoo-hoo!!

    xo

  7. JD says:

    @ Alik — You always have a workaround — way to go ;)

    @ Jannie — Fixed. I think with the font, I’m just used to Verdana because it’s my default in my email and it feels less stiff. I haven’t followed Alexa, but it’s great to hear I’m climbing the stack. Thank you!

  8. Cath Lawson says:

    Hi JD – I love your tagline. And getting rid of your tag clouds was a smart move (I think I may copy you). The categories section definitely makes it easier to find stuff. I would love to do something like that but if I had to many categories they also show up in the category bars at the top of the page.

    I think you could probably fit more ads, recommendations down the sidebar because the space to the right of the comments section is blank and some people might click instead of leaving a comment.

  9. JD says:

    @ Cath — What surprised me is how each little move I made, really changed things. I didn’t exactly know where I was going to end up, but I like how it ended up. I also like the whitespace and room for growth. It feels spacious now :)

  10. Kim says:

    Hi JD

    As I make my rounds I’ve noticed a lot of improvements in the personal development community. It’s inspiring for me to witness. Like Alik, I use ctrl + and everything is great. Your most notable improvement is clarity — clarity in your layout/design and clarity in knowing who’s behind the blog.

  11. Michael Yanakiev says:

    I don’t feel that competent in blog design, but it feels great and there is a lot of substance incorporated.Applying the art of simplifying
    is always a wise policy. The quick recap is definitely very useful and reassuring, to learn that we are standing on the shoulders of giants.
    Somehow in the : Mission – Vision -The Approach, paradigm, The Heart is omitted and is well to be added ! Without the active participation of the heart many rationalizations can turn out to be counter-intuitive and vague.
    Once I stumbled into something that struck me as the most enlightening poem I have ever read:
    When the wild bird cries its
    melody from the treetops,
    Its voice carries the message
    of the Patriarch.
    When the mountain flowers are in bloom,
    Their full meaning comes with their scent.
    I read this to a friend of mine, who said that this poem helped him understand another one: He got the point!
    I read the same poem to another friend,who said:”I think that seeing the point is the wrong approach.” There is much in what he says.
    Therefore I might add:
    To see the point
    Is to miss it completely!

  12. Jenn says:

    J.D. You have a Great Welcome center! ;) I love it!
    your feedburner is an effective add-in also! This really draws the eye, and certainly speaks readership!

    from the outside of your page, it looks full, and yet smooth for the eyes, definitely speaks of substance at first glance of your homepage!

    ***You will like these genuine compliments!
    The atmosphere results I am gathering now as a “feeler” type person. I am sensitive to environment and so when its good, it is good! ;) I feel the Guinness Book and Ripleys feeling here now! You really did capture it! This is great because as soon as this came to me, I remembered your vision for the “world insights” –very great news for you I am sure! ;)

    The two columns speak “balance” … we all seek that, so it is beautiful! Also, it is more pleasing to the eye in that it flows better from one side to the other.

    only one more suggestion:
    Book recommendations looks great in that spot.. It is however, a *label preference but I would say that if all of your recommendations are to take your visitor to Amazon, then I would put this extremely powerful word in the heading. like “Leading Books on Amazon”
    (Since you claim world’s best insights then I would trust you on the leading books factor.. according to you.. and since you’ve earned that trust and I love Amazon for browsing books then I would go there immediately!) The downfall of saying “books” anymore on its own draws one immediately to “traditional book stores”.. while I am one who still loves that for the weekend sometimes, digital and everything online has us all thinking “online stuff while online”.. I’m sure you know what I mean.. so once again, totally preference, it looks great! But if you want more clicks, I’d add in “Amazon” in the label.. it seems to say more *BING! Amazon lovers, click me! or digital or quick order from a great list! Amazon will love you too! haha,..

    Thank you also for letting me be a small part of this process in sharing tips, I have been reworking my own page lately and making it more community friendly, adding in some feeds and such. I did a bit more work on it also after some of the tips I left here. It is catchy! I love organizing and reworking processes, especially in terms of atmosphere. Any of your tips and comments are welcome over on my page too.. :)

    Amazing results in only a few days of your endeavor! really impressive!
    take care,
    many blessings and success, and here’s to the plentiful clicks! ;) *cheers
    ~Jenn

  13. Jenn says:

    p.s. I think the font looks fine, .. ctrl thingy works well too for those with preference. I’d say you’re still good here..

  14. Ahh, nothing like some spring cleaning. I need to do some on my blog.

    I like your vision, mission, and technique. Great way to stay focused. Time to apply lessons I’ve learned from you.

  15. Patricia says:

    Good stuff here JD – sorry it took me awhile to get here. I have been trying to get all my recommended reading under that category on my blog as for right now it is just under the table of context. I have listed now a substantial number of books.

    I wish I knew how to make all these kinds of changes and those that would help me get more readers to my page….I have come to a stagnation phase and I am not liking that at all. Working at learning the lessons provided by this opportunity.

    IT girl promises me a day to complete the reading list and make a few other changes, but so far I just have to wait until her classes are finished (I believe this week) I am editing her papers right now :)

    I so enjoy your ideas, and how they turn out….

  16. Hilary says:

    Hi JD .. I like the way it’s clean – a white background .. is so easy to read. The obvious icons are small – I can see them and don’t have to search for them .. sometimes I can spend a minute or two ‘running’ around someone’s front page as the RSS feed isn’t apparent. I like your thought .. that what’s in the mind is obvious – you’re not searching ‘aimlessly’ for an article, category, book etc

    Thanks .. you’ve set your thoughts out so clearly and really your thoughts are what we should be doing, but with our own subject .. and it’s great to know your door is always open .. that comes across too .. Thank you! Have a good rest of the week – Hilary

  17. JD says:

    @ Kim — I think you’re right — I finally just put on the blog, what’s floated around my mind. The gap between my mind and what’s on the blog is shrinking. Thank you.

    @ Michael — That’s a powerful poem you’ve got their and I like the multiple levels of meaning. You’re right. I need to lead with my “Why.” Although I’ve covered a lot in my post “Why do you do what you do” — I need to make it explicit here. I’m not sure how yet. Partly it’s because I want to give every underdog a chance at their best life. Partly it’s because I think my super skill is really turning insight into action in a way where people get results. I haven’t found a sticky way to put it yet. There is a lot behind my mantra of “Exponential results for the Under dog” and maybe a good story some day. Thank you.

    @ Jenn — Beautiful. I’m glad I passed the Guiness test ;) I’m a fan of balance. In fact, that’s why my banner is empty. When I tested a colorful banner, it becamse top-heavy. I want to think in beautiful pages … a page at a time, as if paining insight on canvas. I tested a few more headings for my Amazon shop and I think the most accurate is “MUST READ BOOKS on AMAZON” — they are the books I have on my bookshelf and recommend to the people I mentor. Thank you for your insightful and actionable recommendations.

    @ Karl — Focus ends up inspiring me. I used to think focus was about channeling my time and energy (which it is) … but now I realize it actually inspires me because it’s easier to feel on path and to get a sense of progress on a mission.

    @ Patricia — One thing that helps me grow my readership is simply focusing on really giving great value to my tribe and testing myself. I plan to do a few eBooks that will rock the world and a few posts that will change people’s lives. For me, growing readership is a by-product of doing great things … I simply test myself against doing more great things for the tribe, and valuing the tribe I’ve got. It’s about making the tribe great.

    @ Hilary — Thank you! Thinking back, I remember analyzing a lot of blogs and looking for common patterns, such as where to put the search, how to use categories and tags, where to put the about and the archives, … etc. I was surprised by how many common patterns there are that make browsing easier, and there are definite patterns that really get in the way. I tried to model the best and I test against scenarios (how quickly can you browse archives, search for an article, subscribe to the blog, see signs of life … etc.)

    I treat it as a work in progress, and I hope that by exposing the thought process and decisions that it helps fellow bloggers learn from my good, bad, and ugly.

  18. Michael Yanakiev says:

    Hi J.D !…Since you are responding with such great questions in the context of “Exponential results for the Under dog”, I decided to drop an answer as an add on:
    Should One Worry ?
    – If one worries a lot, one is obviously unhappy, since worry itself is one of the most painful things in life. If one fails to worry enough, then (at least so I have been told) one may be even worse off because one may fail to take the precautions necessary to ward off even greater catastrophes than worry.
    Who is really better off, the happy –go –lucky who enjoys himself from day to day and lets tomorrow take care of itself, or the worrying, prudential person who takes all conceivable precautions for the future but is worrying that he is not taking enough precautions ?
    All my life, people have told me that my main trouble is that I do not worry enough. And I admit, that this thought has always worried me.

    A blade of grass does not quiver
    Unless there is a wind,
    Or someone pushes it,
    Rare is the blade
    Which quivers for no reason whatsoever.
    These blade are my favorite !
    They quiver only because they want to.

    Am I being mindful or I have a koan that quivers stuck up in my head ?