Clearly, a website needs a clear layout. And sometimes, I don't even know how my pages will look when I start typing them. I meant this page to be a blog post...and then it turned into a kind of how-to comparison for building clear navigation into learning management systems and websites.
Distraction and Improvisation
Sometimes, I get a little distracted when I start writing webpages. In my creative writing, that's a good thing, but for webpages it can be a serious impediment to progress. When I need to build a complete online resource — a whole series of pages with simple navigation and comprehensive information — then I need my planning to come together with a unified approach. But that doesn't always happen. Sometimes, I muddle my way through the challenge of grand website plans. Sure, I do my best to do backward planning when I work on websites and lesson plans. But really? It's easy to go off track.
The advantage of distraction, however, is that some of my best ideas come out when I least expect them. When I writing, I like to just follow the flow of freewriting. My writing generally comes out best when it's someone on the border between research and stream of consciousness. This is especially true when I'm teaching — the most rewarding days come when my students and I have genuine conversations that didn't show up on any lesson plan. Even when I lecture, I improvise — I continually ask my students for random topics just to show them that any topic can form the basis for a good research paper. Sometimes they come up with topics that leave me a little stumped, but that process of examining the topic helps me better share my strategies with my students.
Surfing the Waves of Ideas
Yes, that kind of creativity is fun and exciting, but it can feel inconvenient at times, especially if today's writing doesn't fit with anything from yesterday or any of the plans for tomorrow. Ideally, I think a good approach is to choose a general destination, and then to surf your way in that general direction, but knowing your words are at the mercy of whichever wave happens your way in the moment.
Now, will that work for a website? I don't know. At the moment, I'm still going through and reminding myself of all the material that's already here — and there is so much more material than I realized. I'm not even sure which materials are useful and which are outdated, it's been so long since I've looked over them. I'm often tempted to start from scratch...but then, so much of the work has already been done. For many of these pages, all I need are some navigation menus and an audience.
Either way, it's struggle — not just to write the pages, but to find that desire to keep going. And then to share everything on Facebook and YouTube and Threads and wherever else? It's a pain. It gives me a headache just thinking about it. But maybe it'll get easier with time? I mean, I've only been thinking this for the past fifteen years of web design. (Literally — I started my first real website in 2007. Plus I had a few others I started in 2000 or so. So...twenty years now? Ugh...)