Site Refactoring

Freshness Warning
This blog post is over 19 years old. It's possible that the information you read below isn't current and the links no longer work.

The process of creating a structure for this site is a real-world case study for dealing with moved pages, dead links, categorizing content, and more.

When I created this site, I really didn’t have any concrete plans for it. I had some photos to share with family and friends. I posted the notes and assignments for a class I taught. What I had was content that put up in a haphazard fashion with no real structure.

The process of creating a structure for this site is a real-world case study for dealing with moved pages, dead links, categorizing content, and more.

Card sorting

How do you determine where pages go in a Web site? My site, like most personal Web sites, has rather diverse content. There’s some photos from trips and parties, a martini recipe, a weblog, some longer writings, and a couple of applications that I have written.

Unfortunately, the manner in which this site grew meant that the early content that I had created was usually just stuck in random places. The newer content was placed in a hastily organized structure that wasn’t very flexible.

What I needed was a way to categorize everything and create a site structure that could be extended to support future growth of the site. To determine a structure, I used a technique called card sorting. I cut out slips of paper for every item on my site and went through them, placing similar items in piles. I did this several times until I had all of the content organized into a few categories.

For an in-depth look at card sorting, you can read articles in Intranet Journal or developerWorks.

Moved Pages

Once my card sorting exercise was complete, I had a logical structure for the site that should be able to support the addition of new stuff without the need of a complete reorganization. But to place all of my existing content into the new structure meant moving files.

In the past, when I placed something on this site, it stayed where it was. When things get moved around, it makes life difficult on people. Owners of other sites that have linked to me now have dead links. People with bookmarks have bookmarks to missing pages. It’s a bad deal all around. So I never moved anything.

But now I had a solid reason for moving my files around. Placing everything into the new structure would make it easier to manage in the future. I made the decision to move everything into the new structure, but also decided to minimize the problems created by doing so. I modified the page that comes up when you request a file that is not found to check if the page that was requested had moved. If so, the user is automatically redirected to the new location without any interruption. So now people won’t suddenly have broken links and bookmarks just because I decided to rearrange things around here.

If you would like to do the same thing to your site, you’ll need a little knowledge of regular expressions and the bit of JavaScript code found below. You can learn more about regular expressions in JavaScript from Webreference.

<script language="JavaScript">

var url = location.href
var reg

// Redirect requests for the old Yosemite URL to the new one
reg = /\/yosemite(.*)/i
if (reg.test(url))

// Redirect requests for all pages in /foo/ to the new
// location in /articles/foo/

reg = /\/foo/(.*)/i
if (reg.test(url))
location.replace("/articles/foo/" + RegExp.$1)

// Keep adding your own.



Over at Elegant Hack, Christina had the clever idea of applying the software engineering concept of refactoring to Web site maintenance and improvement. Refactoring is the process of making small changes to a program that improve the overall execution without introducing new features (and hopefully no new bugs). The basic idea is to leave things better than you found them.

Over the last few days, I’ve been engaging in the refactoring of this web site. I took 20 minutes to clean up some of my CSS. I spent an hour standardizing the TITLE tags on all my pages.

With a little planning and some work, I have created a solid structure for my site that shoals support anything I would like to add in the future. A flexible architecture is key to growing while avoiding having to reorganize things again later.

Every day, I can pick something off my to-do list and spend a few minutes cleaning things up. By doing it this way, I don’t have to wait until I can spend a large block of time making changes all at once.

February 17, 2002 5:06 PM

Kalsey, just for curiosity, what kind of "todo" list do you use? a webbased? Thanks, Pablo.

Adam Kalsey
February 17, 2002 11:11 PM

I keep my to do list on my Palm and I use ToDo Plus and MegaWiki to categorize items into groups. MegaWiki is freeware and can be found at ToDo Plus costs $20 and can be found at In the past I used AnyDay for online calendar and task management, but Palm has bought them and converted it to a service for Palm Net subscribers only. I'm not thrilled with the task list that is part of Yahoo Calendar, although the calendar itself is pretty strong.

August 5, 2003 2:53 PM

Of course you could do it /right/ and use server side redirects rather than client side ones that 1) are not useable by users without Javascript 2) break the functionality of the back button. for Apache: add text similar to the following to your .htaccess file. Redirect permanent /images/rayne.jpg Redirect permanent /images/rayne2.jpg

Adam Kalsey
August 5, 2003 2:57 PM

This site uses server-side redirects (using Apache's mod_rewrite), but not everyone has access to that sort of technology. The JavaScript solution will work on any server. The JavaScript above does not break the back button, since it uses location.replace instead of location.href.

This discussion has been closed.

Recently Written

The Trap of The Sales-Led Product (Dec 10)
It’s not a winning way to build a product company.
The Hidden Cost of Custom Customer Features (Dec 7)
One-off features will cost you more than you think and make your customers unhappy.
Domain expertise in Product Management (Nov 16)
When you're hiring software product managers, hire for product management skills. Looking for domain experts will reduce the pool of people you can hire and might just be worse for your product.
Strategy Means Saying No (Oct 27)
An oft-overlooked aspect of strategy is to define what you are not doing. There are lots of adjacent problems you can attack. Strategy means defining which ones you will ignore.
Understanding vision, strategy, and execution (Oct 24)
Vision is what you're trying to do. Strategy is broad strokes on how you'll get there. Execution is the tasks you complete to complete the strategy.
How to advance your Product Market Fit KPI (Oct 21)
Finding the gaps in your product that will unlock the next round of growth.
Developer Relations as Developer Success (Oct 19)
Outreach, marketing, and developer evangelism are a part of Developer Relations. But the companies that are most successful with developers spend most of their time on something else.
Developer Experience Principle 6: Easy to Maintain (Oct 17)
Keeping your product Easy to Maintain will improve the lives of your team and your customers. It will help keep your docs up to date. Your SDKs and APIs will be released in sync. Your tooling and overall experience will shine.


What I'm Reading


Adam Kalsey

+1 916 600 2497


Public Key

© 1999-2021 Adam Kalsey.