Breathing new life into an old website, input on new name and content
May 22, 2013 7:10 PM   Subscribe

I created an online, open source academic journal website several years ago and it may be near the end of its first life. I'd love to get feedback on what folks here think might work best. I want to reinvent it and breathe new life into old content. Help me, MetaFilter, rebuild something that doesn't have to die into something new and beautiful!

I created this website several years ago
Journal of Men, Masculinities and Spirituality (JMMS) is an online, scholarly, peer-reviewed, interdisciplinary journal. JMMS is published twice a year with provision for other special editions. JMMS seeks to be as inclusive as possible in its area of inquiry. Papers address the full spectrum of masculinities and sexualities, particularly those which are seldom heard. Similarly, JMMS addresses not only monotheistic religions and spiritualities but also Eastern, indigenous, new religious movements and other spiritualities which resist categorization. JMMS papers address historical and contemporary phenomena as well as speculative essays about future spiritualities. The academic interests of the editorial board reflect these diverse positions.
The site has done pretty well, but submission rates have dropped this past year. The executive editor is now thinking considering pulling the plug (we had a good run, we both agreed), but I talked him into letting me do something with the content. I'd love to get feedback on what folks here think might work best, or reasons why this might not be worthwhile.

The changes I'm considering include a fresh, new theme (less minimalist), a new website name and domain name, and some new content areas. Perhaps even a public forum and public blogs.

Help me breathe new life into something that doesn't have to die!
posted by christopherious to Writing & Language (13 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
I'd keep the minimalism, quite frankly.

Also: turn the home page into something that features weekly posts expanding on the bi-annual content (while also linking people to the bi-anual content). In other words, find a way to highlight the content you've got in order to prevent the site from being dead. This will also create more pages for google to link to, thus leading more people to your site via searches.
posted by 2oh1 at 7:31 PM on May 22, 2013 [1 favorite]

It'd be really helpful if you could provide an actual link to the site (though I'm not sure if that's against the rules here. I think it is, but this seems like an obvious exception).
posted by 2oh1 at 7:32 PM on May 22, 2013

Response by poster: I swear I had a link in there, unsure what happened:

(Spam flag maybe -- the missing colon I had before the link and the blockquote is a giveaway methinks. The link is also now in my profile.)
posted by christopherious at 7:43 PM on May 22, 2013

This is such a niche topic that you'll probably get the best feedback by putting this question to your audience, on the site itself.
posted by ella wren at 7:50 PM on May 22, 2013

Response by poster: Niche, totally. Frankly, I'm skeptical that the site is currently receiving enough traffic at the moment to ensure that such a thing would lead to many responses but that is a good suggestion, Ella. Related idea: launch a new domain and invite feedback there before completing its rollout.
posted by christopherious at 8:09 PM on May 22, 2013

Best answer: I mentioned and linked to the Annotum Word Press theme elsewhere on AskMe tonight. It might be something to look at to see if it meets your needs for this.

The name for your site is pretty meaningless to me. I get told a lot that my websites are "very niche," which annoys the fool out of me. Clearly, I am failing to convey something. I think that idea also applies to this site of yours. Men and sexuality and spirituality are not "niche" topics. There are an awful lot of men on the planet. An awful lot of them have a sexuality and/or spirituality. How can that be dismissed as "niche"?

I kind of want to semi flippantly say that you should watch some old Madonna music videos. Some of them are rife with both sexuality and religious stuff. Some of what she did was very controversial but no one said "Oh, Madonna, your music is so NICHE. It will never have much audience."

Perhaps you can get more interest by trying to make each journal themed in some manner. Perhaps you can include references to more popular depictions of the topic. That might help you break out of perception that you are so very niche. Perhaps do something on an old Madonna video, like "Oh Father" or "Papa don't preach." I am not even religious and I love the rich Catholic imagery and double meanings, etc. in some of her work plus the strong juxtaposition of sexuality and spirituality, struggling to find real world answers that are at peace with both.

Perhaps you can add the equivalent of a political cartoon for the topic. That might give it broader appeal.
posted by Michele in California at 8:24 PM on May 22, 2013

Is your goal to get new content? And do you want that content to be similarly academic? Or is your goal to do something flashier to repurpose the content you have? Those are really different projects, and it's not clear to me which one you're considering.
posted by donnagirl at 8:37 PM on May 22, 2013

Also, I don't think adding in Madonna songs is a good idea for an academic journal. That's what it is, right, not a blog with multiple contributors? If you don't have the audience on your site currently to give you feedback, can you approach authors who submitted content previously? Surely they have a stake in what you do with their work, even under the umbrella of open access.
posted by donnagirl at 8:40 PM on May 22, 2013

People put up with the worst PHPbb sites in order to have a niche community, don't worry about the appearance or domain name. It's all about the content, and don't worry if you don't publish all that often. Have email notifications and RSS available for people to opt-in to.
posted by rhizome at 9:03 PM on May 22, 2013 [1 favorite]

Best answer: is a clearer domain name then

I agree about email and RSS.

The intro"squiggle JMMS" - subheader "The Intimate Connection" is a bit bad. Newcomers to the site don't initially know what JMMS means and ' Intimate Connection' sounds like a dating service.

I'd make it read: "squiggle Journal of Men, Masculinities and Spirituality", - subheader "an online, scholarly, peer-reviewed, interdisciplinary journal."

Newcomers to the site are probably skimming to find the new recent articles. That's at the bottom of the screen.

Skimming International Journal of Advanced Structural Engineering (IJASE) , as one does, it is pretty fast to find 'Current Issue' - I don't need to process lots of text about the journal's mission and how it is published to find the actual expletive content. As a newcomer to that site, I know that important stuff is findable, but the actual content, the articles, is about as easy to find as a youtube video. Ditto Open Biology.

Both of those pages have a picture of the cover of their journal as a jpeg or something so that you know "aha, this is a journal". I'd add the same to the JMMS page.

The big text-dump of colophon and context:

'Journal of Men, Masculinities and Spirituality (JMMS) is an online, scholarly, peer-reviewed, interdisciplinary journal. JMMS is published twice a year with provision for other special editions. JMMS seeks ... spiritualities. The academic interests of the editorial board reflect these diverse positions.

JMMS content is available ... indexed by Scopus.

could go on the right hand side where the list of editors is, freeing up space for 'this_is_a_journal.jpg' and fresh content, be it articles and/or blog posts.

I'd copy something like the format of Open Biology's webpage, after looking at a few other science jounals to see how they do stuff.

Do up some mockup of the format on post it notes or slips of paper - use scissors, tape, and pencil, not a computer program, while you are brainstorming.

Perhaps you can add the equivalent of a political cartoon for the topic. That might give it broader appeal.
The journal doesn't have the sort of momentum and community to support that yet. I know science journals that have cartoons, but they're not on the front page of the website, they're buried deep in the hard copy magazine.

public forum and public blogs.
A forum needs a den mother. If you're willing ...

Public blogs - I think this is may be a very good idea - the tail would wag the dog, meaning the bloggers would attract eyeballs and contributors for the journal, along with analyzing and digesting the articles . Don't bury the blog entries. That content should be immediately findable on the front page as a list of the blog entry titles.

In that case, this formatting works:
And you can wave it at the editors and old contributors you're scouting as bloggists as 'like this, but for Men, Masculinities and Spirituality rather than science'.

I'm not sure how to put together a front page which serves the purpose of both showing the recent journal articles and the recent blog entries. ... I'd have to hit the pencil and paper.
posted by sebastienbailard at 11:22 PM on May 22, 2013 [2 favorites]

How about spinning off some ebooks from existing content?
posted by LarryC at 7:14 AM on May 23, 2013

Oops, I see you have done a beer of book already. How about social media integration-- Facebook and Twitter abating buttons? And a Facebook page?
posted by LarryC at 7:19 AM on May 23, 2013

Response by poster: Fantastic advice, this is exactly what I was hoping for.

Much food for thought. I might PM one or two of you in a few weeks, if you don't mind.
posted by christopherious at 1:26 PM on May 23, 2013 [1 favorite]

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