Are you struggling with existential questions as you develop your online presence? You are not alone.  In my previous post about starting a new website, I shared a bullet list of the key milestones involved in getting a new website up and running. I know many people, myself included, who start things they don’t finish because there is not a sufficient plan or developed concept to see through to conclusion. This post will cover a little bit of website concepting and strategy.

As I’ve grown more responsible in my professional career and have read more business books, I came across a gem of a strategic concept from Harvard Business School’s Clayton Christensen in his excellent How Will You Measure Your Life? The concept splits strategy into two types: deliberate strategy and emergent strategy.

What is deliberate strategy?

Deliberate strategy is the plan or roadmap that you layout in advance and then follow. These are often meticulously researched, top-down led visions that guide individuals and organizations towards achieving their goals. I think of deliberate strategy as the plan that exists, academically, in your head. This is very different from emergent strategy.

What is emergent strategy?

Emergent strategy is the plan that emerges as time goes on. As you execute against your deliberate strategy (or just go through your daily motions), new variables appear. New opportunities arise. New choices and directions reveal themselves. Emergent strategy can be seen as the choices made along the way that give shape and purpose to your endeavor.

This website is very much an exercise in emergent strategy as my mind map below will illustrate.

What is a mind map?

A mind map is a visual representation of associated topics around a central idea. As I want my website to be a public representation of my creative and professional passions, I started with the central idea of this website being and then began drawing lines and words that I think could be associated with the site.

Mind map for

Should this website be about my love of music?

As I ask myself, “What should my website be about?” my brain teems with ideas and opportunities. In my late teens / early 20’s I aspired to be an electronic dance producer or musician like one of my musical heroes, BT. Ever since I was a kid with a computer I loved playing with sound. I’d make my own mashups of audio from movies to create a new auditory story (Barney the Dinosaur vs. the space marines from the film Aliens was a particular favorite).

As consumer audio editing software became more affordable, I then went on to play with loops and samples and synthesizers on my computer to create music under the names DJ Killian, Project Noone, and Last Man on Mars. I turned these skills into a fun side business for over 10 years editing pieces of music for choreographers and dance teams.

In my 20’s I really took guitar-driven music more seriously and recorded a bunch of breathy Elliott Smith-esque home recordings. One possible deliberate strategy for this website could be to kickstart my interest in production and showcase my skills in music.

Here is a close up of this node on the mind map.

Mind map detail on the music node for

Should this website be about my love of marketing?

As I am working for a living and currently in a role that I love, this website should probably include some material on marketing – particularly my areas of expertise – and also discuss a bit of useful theory as well.

Here’s a close up of this node of the mind map.

Mind map detail of "marketing" node for

Should this website be about my love of family and relationships?

While I will plan to muse on different aspects of being a family man, I am reluctant to share the explicit details of my private life out of respect for my wife, children, and extended family and friends.

Here’s what this area of the mind map looks like.

Mind map detail of the "domestic lifestyle" section of

Should this website be about my love of school?

If you know me well, you know I spent a lot of time in college. Partially due to existential drift, but also because I loved learning and didn’t really want to leave an environment in which exploring interesting ideas was a daily reality.

I completed my Master of Liberal Studies at Lake Forest College and considered finding a PhD program, but pretty soon the demands of repaying student loans in earnest became a harsh reality. I needed to spend more time doing and less time thinking.

Here’s a close up of the “academia” node of my mind map.

Mind map close up of the "academia" node of

Should this website be about my love of drawing comics?

I have a vivid memory of walking home from grade school one day after showing a classmate some drawings I made. He suggested I should be a cartoonist when I grew up. That or a comedian.

I’ve kept with drawing and doodling throughout my whole life, and I would absolutely love to create some comics on this website. Here’s a closeup of this part of the mind map.

Mind map closeup of the "drawing comics" node of

Should this website be about my photography?

For a while in college and throughout my first real job, photography was a real passion of mine. As camera phones became more prevalent – and I became a parent – I began spending less and less time honing my skills as a photographer. However, I have taken several shots and done numerous photo manipulations I am still proud of and it would fun to have part of this website be a photography portfolio.

Here is a close up of this node of the mind map.

Mind map closeup of the "photography" node of

Should this website be about my love of writing?

I also used to write a lot. I began with short stories written during summers between school years in high school. When my father died in 1998, I dove headlong into poetry for a few years. I also volunteered and contributed articles to my different schools’ student newspapers and explored becoming a journalist.

After graduating college at age 23, I finished writing my first novel, Human Resources, which I then self published 2 years later after unsuccessfully shopping it around to agents and publishers. It was a great learning experience, and I am still an avid reader if not an avid writer to this day.

Perhaps this website could showcase some past work I am proud of – and allow me to pursue my love of writing?

Here’s a close up of this node of the mind map.

Mind map node detail of "writing" for

Should this website be about my love of reading?

I can recall two early memories involving reading and storytelling: my Mom teaching me to read at home as a kindergartner and my dad telling me old world folk takes and original stories he’d make up on the fly to help me fall asleep. As an adult, I try to average reading 50 books a year. These books span a variety of genres across fiction, non-fiction, poetry, and comics. Seeing as I read (or listen to audiobooks) so much, I would love to be able to talk about my favorites on my site.

Here’s a close up of this node of the mind map.

Mind map closeup of the "reading" node of

What a mind map can do for your website

So there you have it: a personal, detailed mind map for my website. What good is this for? Site architecture for one thing. As I begin to think of the types of content I want to share, this rubric will provide me with a list of the categories in which I will want to plan. Additionally, as I begin examining design and themes, I now have a good idea of the content types I want these things to handle.

It’s also a great mental exercise for any of us to do when evaluating the chaos that swirls in our brains to try to make some kind of sense of what our priorities should be.

I hope this post has been interesting and useful. Thanks for reading!