Dissecting the monster

This year, March follows the warmest February on record, which follows the previous 9 months of the warmest on record. Yet still we live in a world where the fossil fuel industry can argue the existence of global warming, or at least hold the financial clout to try and weave a different narrative.

If there’s any doubt in your mind then you can see the data below, and find out how to #showyourstripes.

I grimace at the joke from those who suggest it might bring them warmer summers, without the foresight to see the unpredictability of extreme events or a future desert for the next generation.

At the same time, in the UK, we can bury our head in the sand and avoid the global picture, because we aren’t experiencing the recoil of it, yet. Hawaii (now managing frequent wildfires and tsunamis)  is trying to work out how to protect itself from the impact of climate change when 6 times its population flock to its beaches for their holidays.

I admire their creativity with the climate fee, to shift our thinking towards the cost of the impact and not the price of the commodity.

And on that note, tearing up the script is what this month’s digital challenge is all about, unlike the last couple of monthly challenges that encouraged us to try something new and step out your comfort zone, this month I am encouraging introspection and re-architecturing (if that’s a word).

As ever, websites will form my metaphor for wherever your mind chooses to settle upon reading this, but I think it may have a place outside of digital. It starts with an excellent business audiobook I heard a decade ago, it changed my thinking in two ways.

Firstly, when managing projects, it encouraged me to hold the next actionable task only. In the face of multiple projects that may span several months, my strategic mind was easy to overwhelm. I learned to treat my list every day as the one thing I had to do to move it forward, pass that to the next person, then let it go.

Secondly, it encouraged me to create a series of buckets. Take your mailbox (an easy one to relate to), we all have one, it can rule us or we can create some rules, this is a distraction to be prioritised.

Defining a series of places that you will frequently look avoids distraction. For example, a weekly ops meeting is a bucket full of top-level project processeyness, take the one actionable thing away for your list, then protect your list from distractions by adding any distraction to the same list, review and prioritise – this was termed, a bucket. 

Whatever the context and the distractions, I think we all have buckets to manage, we just might not have stepped back and put them into a process. We may see it as a bucket to fill up with important work or a bucket of things we must do. 

Either way, much like our seas, we can’t continue to blindly dump into it without consequence, we must review the buckets and occasionally, we must step back, look at the process for managing them and tear it all up.

Back to websites.

The majority of our digital projects are redesigns, businesses that have grown, bolted on this, taped on that and balanced on top of something that didn’t quite fit. Eventually, the Frankenstien aesthetic, the mixed messaging or the impossible user experience comes up to the top of the pile, and a new website is declared the highest priority.


Of course, the fundamental underpinning of the old website is often fine if it has been well maintained. And asking for a “new” website may leave the organisation somewhat agast as this project is now 10 times the size (and budget) of the original.

It’s tempting to throw it out and start again, a satisfying cleanse. But I would urge, just for a moment, a little discovery time to understand why this particular bucket became full.

Websites can be many things to an organisation. The brand message, the lead generation machine, the operational booking system or the client training portal, they will grow and evolve just as a business will.

To start again is like that feeling at the end of the summer holidays, a new pencil case and the smell of a fresh, clean writing pad. However to start again is to ignore the various uses of the pad, and it will have pages ripped and scribbles on it again by Christmas. 

Instead of rewriting pads every year, make a folder, build a filing system.

If the Frankenstein website had developed a growing lump for a kind of content that couldn’t be squeezed, then instead of throwing it away (only for it to return), we could explore its meaning and create a bucket for it.

If you’ve spent any time with me over the last few years you’ll know there’s very few situations that I think can’t be resolved with an array of recyclable pastel post it notes. This is no different.

Lay your Frankenstein gently down, and begin to dissect those growing lumps. Put every page on an individual post it, and begin to group them together by context, here’s an example, spot the odd one out…

  • Bread
  • Cheese
  • Mayo
  • Beach

You will find the process just as satisfying as discovering your sandwich and then heading to the beach. 

It will actually be slightly more challenging than that, when you have hundreds of content types and themes, add multiple stakeholders to the mix and you will be having constructive conversations about content planning. Buckets upon buckets!

When you have a delightful array of groups, name them:


  • Sandwich
    • Bread
    • Cheese
    • Mayo
  • Places
    • Beach

This delightfully simple exercise is essential for retaining the Search Engine Optimisation rankings of an existing site, helps you understand the important sections of the website for your navigation and UX, and helps you scope out the look of a “final” website – even if you choose not to keep all the content for this version of the website.

For example, a typical website may look like the below, we can now begin to attach templates to our content fragments like so:

Our ProductsLocationsAbout UsWho We Serve


Pork Pies




Our Story

Our Values

Local Suppliers



End Users

Template: Landing pageTemplate: Location pageTemplate: Info pageTemplate: Case study

When an agency like us is pricing a project, we are looking for how many different templates we will need to build. If the demand is a site that just wants to lay out 100 products that’s mostly a content job rather than a development one. However, a content mix is far more complex, a location page is different to a product page, and so too is a case study or blog.

And if you need help working out the various templates you can choose from then this article is for you, though if we pan back out, I appreciate that this page probably won’t solve your metaphorical bucket labelling, but the principal may help.

Much like our websites, life gets messy, not always wrong, or broken, just cluttered.

Setting out some buckets, prioritising the important things and doing our best to avoid the distractions can be a cathartic exercise, and help us not only find valuable head space now but in the future too.

And just like our buckets, the best people to have around aren’t necessarily those who take things away for us, (we may become dependent on them doing that), they are the ones who help us organise the chaos so that we can see what’s valuable.

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