Northwest Passage website and social media

2010–present | Last Activity: current

Northwest Passage is a website and social media project dedicated to chronicling the 1990s Seattle-”grunge” phenomenon. This topic has had ample coverage in books and films, but its online coverage has been severely lacking. This subject has always been a huge personal interest to me so I took it upon myself to build the site that I thought should have already existed in the first place.

My Role

As the creator of this website, I am ultimately responsible for everything on this project: design, development, content strategy and development and social media. I utilized my entire skill set and experience to create this project, using my journalism background to conduct interviews and create content, my web design and content strategy background to build and maintain the site, and my background in social media to promote the site.

Approach

As the sole stakeholder in this project, I am able to build Northwest Passage as I see fit, without worries of interference from other parties or concerns about its profitability. The only restraints are the amount of time and effort I am able to put into this site. Northwest Passage has been a “labor of love” for me, and since I am interested in this part of music history, I’ve been always happy to work on this project even without any monetary gain. Giving this subject the attention it deserved was enough reward for me. Telling the story correctly became a goal.

There are multiple ways I could have gone about this project. It could have been a social media page that simply shared songs and photos. It could have been a “news”-type site, like Consequence of Sound. It could have remained as serving as a music “database” like the previous iteration of this site. I decided to go in a new direction when I redesigned the site in 2013. The new Northwest Passage would be driven by original, article-format content. The site wouldn’t be merely a database of important events or bands.

Instead, the site would feature articles that examined various aspects of the northwest music scene of the 1980s and 1990s. Not wanting to reinvent the wheel, I made it a point to cover mostly uncovered subjects, such as this feature on an influential compilation album, or a profile of one of the underrated bands of the music scene, or even an examination of what “grunge” even was. Eventually, I added content from other authors that is otherwise unavailable on the web, but the majority of the site’s content is written and edited by me.

Selecting this content direction was the main decision. The design of the website was built around this new content strategy. Some of these decisions are listed below:

  • The emphasis of this website/social media project is quality content over click-bait. One benefit of not having a monetary goal for this website is that I can focus entirely on quality content and a good user experience. I did not have to resort to spammy articles and cheap SEO tricks to earn clicks and pageviews. Content such as lists are displayed on user-friendly, single-page layouts instead of SEO-friendly slideshows. No ads mean quicker load times and cleaner layouts and better experiences for the reader. From a social media standpoint, quality content means I do not have to rely on click-bait headlines to generate traffic and likes.
  • Social media has become the #1 driver of all website referral traffic, and is indeed the #1 driver on this website. Instead of making a website that centered around the main page, each article is treated as a landing page with a large headline and a hero image. In addition, a short description of the website, along with links to other articles, is featured in both the sidebar and the footer of each page. When the reader is finished with one article, there are clear calls-to-action to other content on the page. This is an intentional design decision to keep readers on the page after they are done with the article and a reflection of the fact that most web users do not reach this page through the home page.
  • Mobile traffic continues to increase (62% of site visits in 2018 have been from a mobile or tablet device, per Google Analytics), so the site employs mobile-first strategy; each page layout is conceptualized on a small screen first before larger screen sizes are considered. This means a simplified layout that looks just as nice (and more importantly, just as legible) on an iPhone as it would on a desktop computer. This concept applies not just to design but to content as well.

Results

Northwest Passage remains the only website dedicated to this extremely influential part of music history. The new content approach has led to strong SEO rankings and the site has an engaged social media audience. But the project’s main goal was always just to cover a topic that has meant so much to me personally, one that hasn't had had the online presence it deserves. Feedback from those involved in the scene has convinced me that I've succeeded in this goal.

Below: Article content page. As traffic is mostly directed to a typical article page from search engines and social media, each article is treated as a stand-alone page. To keep users on the website, there are multiple next-step options on the page: the navigation menu at the top, the archives list in the sidebar, and the universal footer.

article page
spreadsheet

I compiled this spreadsheet of pivotal events of the northwest rock music scene from the 1980s to present day. This material is used for regular social media content.

Northwest Passage social media

This tweet got the most impressions by this account after being re-tweeted by the official @Nirvana page (950,000+ followers). Its amplication surely is a result of a timely post using content I had collated into the aforementioned database.

Nortwest Passage list content

Above: List content page. Who likes scrolling through 15-page slideshows? No one! With no need to rely on page views, this site can display list-style content in a reader-friendly, single-page view. This site focuses on user experience, not ad revenue tricks.