5 Lists Every Website Owner Should Keep

A post about lists – life doesn’t get anymore exciting than that! Admittedly lists are not the most exciting of subjects but if you are a website owner they could make or break your website. Find out how.

I know, a list of important lists. With a post like this I could just tear the fabric of space time. However stay with me, it might be more interesting than it sounds.

To be honest with you I am obsessed by lists. I keep lists for everything. It’s a problem, I need help. However despite that, I have discovered that when it comes to running a website a few carefully selected lists can be incredibly helpful.

What follows is my list of lists that could make or break your website.

Reoccurring tasks

Let’s start with the most obvious list first – a reoccurring task list. This is a list of those tasks that you need to do on a regular basis to ensure your website is effective. What exactly those tasks are will depend on the type of website you run. However, my list for the sites I run include:

  • Participating in the forum daily
  • Posting blog posts regularly (see below)
  • Sending a monthly email newsletter
  • Recording my daily audioboo
  • Dealing with email enquiries
  • Reviewing site statistics

Your list will include other items. For example I advise that most websites do regularly usability testing (see below).

A reoccurring task list is important because it reminds you that a website needs constant attention. It prevents the site from slipping down your priorities or being pushed out by other work.

Blog subjects

Whether you call it a blog or a news section, most websites have some area dedicated to regularly updated content. However, these sections are often not updated. This is not because the website owner forgets, but because they struggle to generate ideas for content.

Its hard to think up blog posts on the spur of the moment. However ideas will come to you, if you are constantly keeping an eye out for them. That is where your blog subject list comes in.

Blog ideas occur to me all the time. When I am reading a book, watching TV or even in the shower. Rarely am I able to sit down and write a post there and then. That is why I keep a list of blog ideas. I know by the time I come to write something, all of those great ideas will have been forgotten.

My Blog Ideas List

For example this post came from my blog subject list. When I sat down to write this post I didn’t need to come up with an idea. It was already there.

You can make your life even easier by written a few notes on the ideas you have. Then you have even less thinking to do when it comes to writing the post. Again using this post as an example, I already had my 5 lists written down.

Feature ideas

One thing web designers complain about is scope creep. They hate the fact that website owners keep adding new features when a website is being built.

However if you think about it, that is not surprising. When you are building a website you are thinking a lot about the project. It is only natural that you mind comes up with lots of possible ideas.

Rather than dismiss these ideas for lack of time or money, add them to your feature list. This is essentially a wish list of things you might possibly want to do one day.

Boagworld task list

Once your current project is launched you can look at the wish list and work out what to do next.

Not only does this prevent scope creep but it also encourages an ongoing investment in your website.

Marketing opportunities

We all know that websites need promotion. However, it can often be hard to think of how best to promote them. When the moment arrives to do something about promoting our sites, all of our great ideas leave us.

Keeping a marketing list is a great way to combat this problem. If you find a website that covers a similar topic to you, make a note on your list to contact them and ask if you can write for them. Equally if you meet somebody at a conference who could promote your site, make a note to follow up that relationship.

Man holding a sign saying: I am looking for a wife please stop and talk to me

Whatever the marketing idea, write it down. It is then available for when you can act on it. This reduces the mental effort of coming up with ideas. Instead of thinking about how you could market your website, all you have to do is spot opportunities that arise naturally.

Fixes list

Our final list is a fixes list. This will include a mixture of bugs and usability issues.

In his latest book ‘Rocket Surgery Made Easy‘ Steve Krug recommends that you carry out light weight usability testing once a month. This will generate a significant number of usability issues that need resolving.

When combined with browser bugs this amounts to a considerable number of fixes. By adding all of these elements to a fixes list you achieve two objectives. First you ensure nothing is forgotten. Second you can priorities what needs addressing first based on the seriousness of the problem.

Without a list of this nature you can easily become overwhelmed by the complexity and number of issues that need resolving.

Are lists sexy?

Are lists sexy? Of course not. However, they will help you maintain a firm grasp on your websites development, remove the mental load of generating new ideas and ensure nothing gets missed. That may not be sexy but it is effective.

  • A fan of lists myself (even if they are boring and my wife teases me about them), I enjoyed this post (and I’ve got to get that marketing list going). I think the features list is especially important since it gives team members get put their good ideas in one place without getting sidetracked by the development needed to get a site out the door. They can become a bit unwieldy for a large project, but it’s important enough that someone should be tending that garden anyway.

    Re: the blog post ideas, that doesn’t always work as well for me, since when I get to actually writing the blog post I may have totally lost the inspiration around that idea (or I’ve just ended up including the ideas from one blog post in another blog post).

  • I rely on lists constantly! How does anyone cope without them? Whenever I have an idea for a blog post or site feature, I jot it in my notepad!

  • I HAVE to make lists for everything because if I don’t I will undoubtedly forget!

  • I have a list for things to add to my website, but it’s growing longer every day! Have you got a list of how I what I can do to make more free time?! :-)

  • :D interesting read… I must confess like you show in that wordpress draft post example i just smile with that :D :D i do it that way when i came you new ideas of post. the other thing is that i´ve already more draft posts then publish one :/ really need some time to focus writing and finishing that draft ideas :D

    Keep going the good work Paul

  • Sometimes I do forget passes, then lists are the only way to keep it up =)
    thanks for the useful reminder, will keep the article for reference either =)

  • I recently started a design blog and I’ve found lists very helpful in keep things straight. My list of lists include: post ideas, sites to submit posts to, features for my site, sites/bloggers I want to network with, guest post ideas and sites to guest post on and places to eat lunch (I’m already hungry this morning).

    I think I need a list manager for my lists. Great post and I love the podcast!

  • I recently began using lists on a daily basis to keep track of stuff that I’m doing. I just came out with an excel file that lists:

    clients / projects for each client / whether I’m waiting for info, approvals, or can move on with it / cost / invoice sent / invoice paid…

    Needless to say this is for my freelance stuff and it’s not really fancy, but it’s a starting point.

  • Andy Wickes

    Great post, thanks. I’ve taken to using Evernote on the iPhone to add notes as they occur to me. These then get download at the end of each day alongside any Tweets I’ve favourited and compiled into one long list of things to action, sites to check out, people to email.

  • I realize the first image you’ve used on here was for WordPress, but what is the application that you used to list out your features?

    • Exactly my thoughts, what software is that?

  • This is great quality advice.

    I’m a big procrastinator and sometimes disorganized too, but I bet I will be far more efficient when I implement lists into my daily work.(from now on)

    Thanks for the heads-up!

  • Great post. I’m also curious as to what app you are using in the screenshot. I did a quick search and found Things … but it doesn’t appear to be the same app.

    • @ Newton Think the programme Paul uses for organising the feature list is OmniFocus.

    • The program’s called OmniFocus. It’s an awesome app but they’ll relieve you of $80 for the privilege. There’s an iPhone version that is much less but it’s still expensive for an iPhone app.


    • Wow, a bit pricey. How does it compare to Things?

  • Good to see that I am not the only one who relies on lists.
    I have daily and weekly lists for web related tasks, but also for other areas of my life.
    Like Paul I have lists with ideas for blog posts, with features or changes for web sites, with web sites or web services I want to have a look at, with WordPress plugins I want to try out, with design ideas and and and …

  • I have lists going for all kinds of tasks, site updates, people to call, long range marketing techniques, etc, etc, etc. I keep them in my iphone and check them regularly to help keep me organized 24/7.

  • I heavily rely on using lists too and literally note anything — I probably couldn’t live without them to be honest. One of the things I like most is the peace of mind you get if you know that you won’t forget anything anymore.

  • I admit I do struggle with finding ideas for posts, especially since my website (not the one linked to this account) is focused on a particular niche.

    Lists definitely help. I use the Tasks and Notepad application on my BlackBerry to “jot” things down whenever I think of something, however little it may be. You never know, little at first and then gold in the end.

    Just like the Olympics game last night! Torah Bright was 5.9 and then won the gold her second run with a 45. That’s inspiration right there.

  • d0x

    Excellent post. I especially like the part about keeping a Features list. Often times I just scribble down random ideas on Post-It notes which eventually find themselves lost in a pile of papers and ultimately end up in the trash. Seems so obvious and so simple to keep a Features list on your computer, yet it had not occurred to me to do so until now. Thanks!

  • KJ

    I am already doing this. I do delete things from my fixes list after I fix them. It gives me a sense of accomplishment. I do this this article was stating the obvious. If you are a website owner and are not doing this, you should be (fill in the blank).

  • Good list. I actually started to implement a WordPress blog within the framework of my hard coded site. Can’t wait to start blogging and writing some articles that I can post.

  • thanks for the post, it really helps me on my way in running my own website :D

  • Great read, I too, keep lists for everything :P
    Thanks for posting!

  • Nice collection of lists. I hear your obsession, I’m so obsessed with lists, I put together my own little webapp for keeping top 10 lists that others can participate in and vote on as well…

    But I’m going to keep your list of lists for the next time I update my website full of lists.

  • Ron

    I would beg to differ on list being sexy. They are super-sexy! At least on a Mac =)

  • Nice to know I’m not the only one with Lists! Nice piece. Thank you for sharing. I find that lists keep me focused as long as the individual items on the lists are prioritized AND the lists of lists are prioritized. Only then are the most important things being completed in a timely fashion.

    • lv

      I’ve found it to be pretty helpful. I try to add my blog ideas, my recurring tasks etc to the list. Then I just set it to “Open at Login” and I’m reminding of things I have to do. Sexy or not, lists come in handy! Thanks for the article!

  • Kristoffer Benoit

    Excellent post. Lists are psychologically liberating also. They can help to releive stress and keep the brain uncluttered by encouraging more linear thought.

  • Good article! I recently came across a program called “SimpleTask”. I’m not trying to plug a product, as I don’t have any affiliation, but I’ve found it to be pretty helpful. I try to add my blog ideas, my recurring tasks etc to the list. Then I just set it to “Open at Login” and I’m reminding of things I have to do. Sexy or not, lists come in handy! Thanks for the article!

  • I hardly rely on lists (specially To Do lists) as they keep changing day by day, so I try to focus on whatever available at that moment.

    As mostly people here are Freelancer or partly work freelance they are short on time and deadlines to meet. I don’t think so mostly people create lists like mentioned here in the post.

  • revenuelove

    Great article. I find it crucial to keep a running list of items that I personally need to do.

    @e6c443c8408452dc33f8adb2b1f1201f:disqus – I see what you’re saying “…keep changing…” and I agree that it’s really hard to keep a to-do list of items that continue to change. I’ve found that one thing to make sure of is not to make a huge list of things you want to do. If it doesn’t fit on a post-it —> it can’t be done in a day, at least that’s my experience. So, using a couple of tools I collect info, ideas, and backburner stuff – then I turn them into action items.

    Here’s what I use…

    Personally, I start every to-do item name with “call…, email…, type…, get…, fix…, etc.” – some kind of a action word (aka verb). I use EVERNOTE to save my ideas and THINGS for my running lists.  If it makes it into THINGS, it needs to get done someday. That’s how I do it.

    My company uses BaseCamp and other project management tools – and those are great, but I found that EverNote and Things were great for all the straggler to-do’s that didn’t really fit into a project or that were more personal in nature.

    Thanks for a great post!