Backlog Refinement

Now that the first iteration of timeboxed.org is online the logical question is: “what now?”.

After reviewing the backlog (“write Definitions”, “write ‘about me’ page”) it becomes obvious that there is no proper path yet layed out on how the vision can be actually made a reality. Intermediate goals had to be defined, something that can be achieved. Just like most web projects, timeboxed consists out of content and features. The content side is something every milestone needs to expand; it’s mandatory and only needs to be refined in regards to topics and general direction. As I am willing to invest into a R&D phase in regards to the content the question at hand is: Which features are missing for a good user experience?

In this context, I define a feature non-traditionally as “everything a blog offers outside their regular content posts” – voluntarily including static content (e.g. ‘about me’ is purely content but in this context described as a feature as the requirements in terms of layout, placing, design and optimization are closer to a planned feature than to a content post).

Research

To answer this question a bit of research is neccessary. First step is to look at blogs from other genres on what features are commonly used. My goal is to create a feature breakdown for the google top results on various topics (see below). To keep the result as objective as possible no assumptions were made on potential impact on features – this is supposed to be a purely quantitative research.

Due to the amount of pages I timeboxed it: Maximum 10 minutes per page, giving me a total of 140min of research time for the features.

I  went ahead and created a full high level breakdown of features for each blog. The systematic was simple:

  • Map all resources in one row
  • whenever a blog had a feature another page did not yet have, add it as a new row
  • Make an 1 in every section when a blog has a feature
  • Sort by the sum to get a quantitative breakdown

The raw data can be found in a google sheet. The result show many expected topics but also some surpsises for me:

  • RSS feeds are still highly popular
  • Not every page uses social media
  • Monetization is straight forward: “buy this from me” or “buy this through me”
  • Twitter is way less popular in this sample than Facebook

Conclusion

  • Many items that came up where already implemented (search)
  • Social Media is a must (surprised!)
  • E-Mail newsletter is a must (non-sarcastic: surprised!)
  • So are RSS feeds
  • Many ideas came up which I’m not sure if they ever will be realised

All items which I hvae an idea on how and if to realize are being put into the backlog. The new product backlog items (PBIs) are repriorized and roughly mapped to the milestone plan. Next step: The newest highest-Priority item: Before creating any more content, I want to add a dictionary-feature to prevent content-debt: While writing this article, trying to link definitions (e.g. PBI) manually showed to be more work than neccessary at this time and age.

Search Queries & Results

When starting the search I found way too many references. To break the task down I chose five search queries and decided to go on with three two blogs per topic. In addition, I added the last 5 podcast sources I listened to as a personal touch.

Without priorisation I tried to cover different styles and themes of blogs to get a grasp of what is common and what is different. The focus was put on functionality, I chose the blogs based on first impression as well as search ranking, not content.

The below list is not a recommendation. In fact, I didn’t even take the time to make a judgement concerning their content – they were simply the first ones I found which stood out to me for some reason, meaning they do something right in terms of SEO.

Search query and specific blogs I looked at were:

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