Microsites, minisites and weblets, part I

Image: micro-sites for Research in Practice / For AdultsI'm about to start development of a couple of micro-sites for a a client, reminding me that the last series of micro-sites, commissioned by a government department started with a sprawling monster. The long run of commissions from government and collaborations with universities went much the same way.

The wide-ranging scope and scale of this series of 'micro-sites' raised a number of questions, not least: what exactly is a micro-site?

From the top

There's an often-quoted definition of a micro-site from 2012 on Wikipedia:
"A microsite is an individual web page or a small cluster of pages which are meant to function as a discrete entity within an existing website or to complement an offline activity. The microsite's main landing page can have its own domain name or subdomain."
It's not great. The definition for mini-site isn't great either:
A minisite is a website by which companies offer information about one specific product or product group.
And the definition of weblet is worse:
 "A highly interconnected portion of the World Wide Web devoted to a particular end, usually maintained by a single individual or organization and located at a single site."
This originated at NASA in 1994. Weblet largely has a different context in web application development these days; we'll come back to it.

Since those are pretty useless, let's look at things another way...

From the ground up

For our working purposes, a micro-site or mini-site:
  • has a specific purpose to present specific content, promote an event, organisation or objective, which may be online or offline
  • may be commercial or non-commercial (such as educational, charitable or public awareness)
  • may be part of a campaign
  • may be contained within a larger (branded) web-site or
  • may be self-contained
  • may be hosted separately or on a parent server
  • may have it's own domain (web URL) or be addressed using a sub-domain of a parent URL
  • may share branding with parent organisation(s) or be entirely standalone in it's 'brand' identity
  • has at least a landing page, and if it has sub-pages, its own internal site navigation
...and we could probably add a few more pages of attributes. We could also argue the difference between 'micro' and 'mini'. But let's not. Let's look at some examples in Part II. RC