Year 2 at Sarah Going: A New Look and Better Organization

In the midst of the craziness of these past three months (which included visits to two new countries, a rough month of May and my birthday), one particular milestone went largely unmentioned… the Sarah Going blog turned One! My baby blog is now a toddler, and in some ways, I feel like I’m just now hitting a stride with content creation.

While I did write a reflection post about the first year of blogging back in March, I wanted to talk about one particular aspect of this blog turning One that took me a bit by surprise. All of the sudden, I found myself with a year’s worth of largely unorganized content… and I got massively overwhelmed trying to figure out how to make it easier for readers to find info on certain topics.

Where do I even begin???

That moment when you realize you are no longer just a blogger

Starting a new blog is exciting.

In the beginning, it's all about choosing templates, making design decisions, deciding what exactly you want your site to say about yourself and writing those first blog posts. After you've settled on an overall look and feel, running your blog becomes all about creating and publicizing content. As anyone who has written a blog before knows, consistently creating content that is true to your brand, is unique and adds value to the discussion on your chosen topic(s) is not easy. This tends to be the part of the blogging life cycle where many people (including myself on past blog projects) lose momentum.

However, if you can get over that initial content-creating hump and just keep writing, you'll suddenly find yourself with enough content to start identifying what you like to write about the most. This may seem a bit counter-intuitive, because I've read a lot of blog advice over the years that is pretty adamant about the fact that you shouldn't start a blog project until you've decided what your niche is.

As an experiential learner, that advice has never worked for me.

How do you know you'll like writing about a particular niche within a topic if you aren't writing anything yet? Maybe I'm going a bit against the grain with this advice, but it has always worked better for me to start writing with a wide idea in mind. Then when I have a large enough sample of content written that I can identify what it is I love to write about most, I focus on establishing that as my "niche" or value-add.

While it's great to have gotten to the point where I have enough written content to start making decisions on where my blog fits into the travel/work/lifestyle blogging sphere, having this much content has left me with a new problem on my hands: organization.

From blogger to content curator

Right about the time that my blog celebrated its first birthday in April 2017, I realized I had a problem. If I was a reader who was visiting Sarah Going for the first time, and I was looking for information on Sarah Going's niche/value-add topics (specifically balancing work with travel) how would I find those topics?

Well... I could scroll through the whole blog archive looking for posts on those topics.

And that was about the only option.

Not good.

Design vs. Organization: Some insight into my personal blog style

One of the reasons I ended up with an organization problem on my hands in the first place is that there's an internal war waging in my head virtually all the time when it comes to the design of this blog: minimalism vs. ease of use. If you're reading this blog, you've likely also visited other travel blogs in the past... so you'll understand what I mean when I say that travel blogs tend to be busy. They tend to have sliders, ads, sidebars, multiple pages, content organized by both topic and destination, a strong focus on photography and video (obviously), loud color schemes and multi-level menus.

The core of my design conundrum is this: most travel blogs are designed in such a way that photography is at the core of the experience. Photos and videos in full color are a large part of the design, because they are a large part of travel blogging (showcasing destinations). While I have always loved photography and love incorporating travel photos into my posts, I've always wanted the written content at Sarah Going to be at the core of the design. For showcasing written content, minimalist design tends to be the best choice: white backgrounds, black text, clean lines.

While I intend to stick to my minimalist design aesthetic going forward, I will also be the first to admit that my written content wasn't always well-organized.

I made some immediate improvements this summer by adding more robust top-level menu options and a new theme, but stay tuned for some more organizational improvements in the near future!