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I'll talk about my specific case (problem), but I suppose the same answer can be applied to anything similar. Also, I'm trying to focus on first impressions, since it's fairly new site, and still doesn't have a large audience to ask for an opinion.

A website is aimed at education about Internet and dangers/security, mainly for the younger audience(i.e. t(w)eens). Now, if I'd put some offtopic content, e.g. music charts, movies, other tech stuff or anything else that might interest the audience on the separate page would it make a new user more interested? Possibly annoyed? Or just wouldn't care altogether and make my work irrelevant? Also, since mentioned things are fairly subjective, would some disagreements cause online arguments, and draw more attention than the main content (I wouldn't like to see 'fun page' having more comments than the 'security' page)? I still don't have such a large audience to ask, I guess if it becomes at least somewhat popular (in my town/region) I could open a forum for stuff like that.

Sorry for overloading you with questions. Feel free to generalise.

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    This is entirely subjective and depends entirely on your audience, your specific website, your goals, etc. Why don't you ask your users instead of people who've never seen your site? – Kevin Workman Feb 4 '14 at 15:13
  • @KevinWorkman I'm trying to make a good first impression when a user enters my site. If it gets any more popular, I'd be sure to do that, but it's still quite young and I'm trying to attract the audience. I could give you a link, but it's localized so I don't know how much of a help would it be (and, I don't really want to make it case-specific, if that's even possible). – Luke Feb 4 '14 at 15:29
  • Well, that's the whole problem- this question is inherently case-specific. It's going to depend more on your specific users than it will on general usability principles. Any answer you get here will be opinions, and worse still, they'll be opinions of people outside of your target audience. I personally don't mind a little off-topic banter, and in fact I think it gives smaller websites more character. Plenty of websites have a blog or a forum for discussions outside of the main focus of the website. Whether that's good for your site is up to you and your users. – Kevin Workman Feb 4 '14 at 15:32
  • Why are people visiting your site? Is it to look for content unrelated to what your site is about? I would doubt that. – DA01 Mar 6 '14 at 16:30
  • Is this a forum or website ? – Mervin Johnsingh Mar 6 '14 at 16:56
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It's annoying.

I would think a better solution than presenting off-topic content would be to present your primary content in a fashion that your intended audience can relate to. For example, instead of having an essay on the dangers of the internet and then having "Cool music! New Movies!" as other options on your site, you might have "What to watch out for when you're surfing the internet". This is obviously rough, but you you get the idea.

Users aren't dumb (even tweens :D); I don't think they're going to get distracted by extraneous content and somehow absorb your intended content better - they're just going to find your organization weird.

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The other day I was driving and it was raining a lot. The drivers around me were swerving like they had never seen rain before. I began to worry for my life, wondering why didn't I just stay home.

Sorry... a little off topic...

...annoying isn't it?

My two cents is that a website should serve it's user. The user came to your website for a specific purpose. Having to wade through non-related junk does not benefit the user. For example, does ESPN.com show any information about knitting? No, they show articles about sports.

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    While knitting and ESPN aren't really the best illustration what I'm talking about (the offtopic should still be useful to the average person from the target audience, like pictures of women in bikinis on some special section in ESPN, assuming most visitors are males), I do agree with you. If majority of target audience would be interested in the topic, is it good to have some offtopic? Or still annoying? To make it clear - I'm not intending to put it together with all the other content, but on a special page, just to find out to make it as little distracting as possible. – Luke Feb 4 '14 at 15:40
  • Hmm... Maybe I took off topic as meaning literally or extremely off topic. I could see your point of being a gray area if the content is closely related. The easy thing to say, but maybe not easily identifiable is "does the content add value?" This is not to say is the content valuable, but is is the content valuable here? (I hope that makes sense.) – Brian Feb 4 '14 at 17:04
  • Yeah, if I understood right. Are there any practices, advice, experience with that? Or it's purely subjective and situational(I've put a general situation: offtopic content that majority of targeted users should find useful or interesting)? – Luke Feb 4 '14 at 21:03
  • A better analogy would be: Does ESPN have hot-dog recipes? – Darrick Herwehe Feb 5 '14 at 15:58
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Because it is a fairly new site, begin by focusing your content within the engagement lifecycle.

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Right now you are just starting to attract specific demographic to your site, so keep the information relevant.

If you are at the point where you already have what you consider to be a decent sized target audience, but need to keep them engaged and growing, then you can consider secondary content and do Test posts to see how they react to it.

People respond better when they find what they want first.
If the secondary content is also placed as a secondary priority on the screen, that will work too but keep an eye on the metrics to ensure the site doesn't lose its primary focus. Your demographic may change if it's too much about the secondary stuff and not enough meat in the burger.

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tl;dr: put your personal off-topic content on another site.


Community content

Your off-topic content is one thing - and a minor detail for off-topic content created by your community.

If you get a community going - which is nowadays probably a goal for most sites - you will need a place where you can direct off topic content to.

Most technical forums have a "Lounge" or "General discussion" area which serves as a sink for the desire of off-topic exchange, and keeps the technical areas on topic. Usually, your pwoer users will help you "police" the technical areas - having or not having a "Lounge" area is the difference between "your jokes are not welcome here" and "not here please, join the fun at /lounge".

However, this is as much a risk as a chance: the rules you enforce (or don't enforce) there will shape the community. You do have to deal with the legal swamp of unreviewed user content being publicly visible. It still helps to keep the "dirt" in one place, though.


Your content

Anyway, I would strongly, sternly and repeatedly recommend against posting your personal off-topic content anywhere on a site you have any community administration rights.

Reason:

  • Step 1: You as an admin, you will have to remove certain posts, e.g. in the interest of the community or for legal reasons. You will have set rules, and enforce them.

  • Step 2: You, as an admin, will - by error, naivety or ethanol poisoning - post content that's borderline inappropriate. No matter how you deal with this

  • Step 3: you will be dragged into a discussion about censorship, entitlement, and abuse of power. You will face discussions that are "you removed X, but did not remove Y".

I've seen a few power users rise into the rank of desperately needed community moderators, only to fail with a conflict between their moderaiton respnsibilities and their own content. Result: A lot of pointless shit hitting fans, disgruntled users, a lot of time wasted, disillusions.


So:

  • keep your personal content off-site. Domains are cheap, blogs are free
  • if you have a community: allow (some of) your users to advertise a link to their "personal page" e.g. in their profile page. Use this to link to your personal page, where you keep your personal stuff.
  • without a community, put that link somewhere where curious people find it - e.g. the "about" section
  • keep all discussion about your personal content away from the site you mod.

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