Designing a website can be an abstract process, where it is difficult to know what is possible or what the space should look like until you start building. Using metaphors to describe your new space can help you articulate and pin down what you want to do, and support you to flex your creative thinking and problem solving skills.
Imagine your new web space is an empty plot of land. What would you build there? Who would be invited in? What would you want to keep there?
There are other metaphors that might help you think about how to best use your web hosting, or what kind of space or website you would like to build. Maybe your website is a cloud, a boat, a balloon, or a shed at the bottom of the garden. Check out the metaphors below to see other ways of imagining the potential of your space.
Think of your website as a house. Your website will consist of both content (your images, articles and other work) and the structure and style of the world you build for your content. The rooms of the house are the pages and spaces within your website. Think about the arrangement of rooms, the architecture, and the purpose of each room. What does each room look like? How do people move through the house? What are the spatial juxtapositions between each of the rooms?
Think of your website as a room. A room is cosy with finite space. But a room is also flexible: you can build temporary partitions, change the layout of furniture, and create new entrances to other rooms with links. You can change the content of the room depending on the occasion. You can live in the room, and once you get bored of the wallpaper you can redecorate.
Think of your website as a shelf. Maybe a shelf is easier to think about than a whole room or house. What do you want to place on the shelf? Think of a small number of things that you would like to place here (images, texts, interactive media). Think about the juxtapositions, combinations and ordering of the objects on the shelf. Do you want to take something off the shelf and replace it with something else? Will objects on the shelf become old and need to be replaced?
Think of your website as a plant. Plants are organic: they grow slowly and on their own. Your website can be the same, so long as you pick a good idea seed and nurture it. Different parts of the plant might grow at different rates or in different directions. In a couple of years, it may grow and bear fruit, if you are lucky. The fruit could be friends, reputation, work or something else.
Think of your website as a shed. A shed sits on its own, separate from a house that might share the same plot of land. It can be cobbled together out of old wood, and be as wonky or sturdy as you like. Sheds are great as an extra space where you can hide away at the bottom of the garden. You can use it as storage space or a workshop to make things and test ideas.
If this is your first time creating your own self-hosted website, instead of thinking “what is the biggest, shiniest website I can build?” (or feeling like you have to build something big and shiny!), start by planning towards a small prototype website. This could be a one page website introducing yourself or a project to the world, or it could be a small collection of pages and posts with a defined purpose. Once you have this small prototype you can tweak it and grow it further as you get more confident with the technology and ideas behind your website!