I have a fair number of people who email and ask me advice about how to build a website. I’m by no means an expert (in this ever changing world wide web, is anyone?) but I’ve built sites a few times.
The first question I always ask is… "what do you want to build a site about?"
You’d be surprised how many “I’m not sure” answers I get.
Although it’s definitely true that any site will evolve/change/grow over time, you should have a general idea of what kind of site you’d like to build.
The look and feel of a site aimed at children will be different than one aimed at 35 year old sports enthusiasts. Your decisions about where to host the site, what to call the site and how to manage the site will all be impacted by what the site is about and who the target audience is.
One thing I have found is that most of us build sites for “ourselves” (people just like us). I have parent/children sites and I’m the mom of two girls (they were 4 and 1 when I started).Most of my visitors are in the same boat (or are grandma’s with little ones)
CONTENT versus SALES sites
Just a bit of clarification before we get going… a “content” website is one that gives people information of some sort. DLTK’s Crafts for Kids is considered a content site. So are KidZone.ws and Coloring.ws. These sites give information, printables and/or ideas for free. These sites are similar to a magazine. They don't have to be about parenting... there are automotive content sites, sports content sites, health content sites, etc.
A site like Amazon.com is a sales site. These sites allow you to do business over the computer (either as a consumer or another business). They are similar to stores.
There are also sites like Yahoo or Google which are called "search engines" or directories that may combine aspects of content and sales sites, but their main purpose is to help people find their way around the internet.
Everything I'm talking about in the following series of articles relates to content sites, not sales sites. Some of the info will apply if you're building a sales site, but you also have to consider things like shipping, security, payment methods, order forms, etc. This is more complicated (and not as much fun *grin*) as making a content site.
Making Money with Content Sites
Money makes the world go round and the last article in this set talks about your money making options. At this point, I'll just say that yes, you can make money with a content site... BUT with the collapse of the internet world it isn't easy and it won't be much. The yearly costs of running a site the size of DLTK's are staggering (not even counting what it costs to buy equipment) so a lot of what you do make will go into paying the bills. If you work out what you earn it'll likely be under 5 cents an hour... Of course, this is more than you'll ever make cooking supper for the kids *grin*.
If you're going into this to make money, turn around and walk away now. If you're going into this because you think it's neat and you want to share your great ideas then climb on board!
- It IS neat,
- It IS fun to share,
- It is wonderful to stay in tune with what the kids are into,
- You get to cry when you get emails from children with cancer and heart conditions thanking you for all you've done,
- You get to laugh when you share stories with other moms about that time the easter egg dye met the living room rug
- You get to realize that the only difference between the moms in Australia, the moms in the U.S. And the moms in Canada is that they say g'day, y'all and eh? (respectively)
The little bit of cash you do bring in will give you the extra warm fuzzies needed to keep you motivated. (Look hun! Someone's paying me to be a mom!!)
STEP ONE: Take a look around
It sounds odd, but the first step to building a website is to take a look at the websites other people have. What do you like? What do you hate? What are you always searching for but can never find enough of?
When I first took this step, I made notes to myself in my, now infamous, “fat little notebook” – it cost me $0.69 and is the best investment I ever made. I split the book into sections – I’ve included some of the sections and a couple of the notes I made below:
What do I like.
- Being able to print stuff for the girls
- Being able to find what I need without having to travel to 900 different places
What do I hate.
- When I find a really neat craft that starts with, “draw a lamb” or some other creature just so my 18 month old can spend 2 seconds gluing things to it. It takes me an hour to draw the darn lamb!
- Link pages that go to more link pages that go to more link pages… it’s ok if they tell me I’m going to a link page, but I don’t like when I expect to find content and don’t
What’s missing/What do I want more of.
- Canadian crafts (I’m Canadian)
- There are printable things on the web, but I think there is room for more
- There are things for preschoolers on the web, but I think there is room for more
I’ve helped a couple of people start websites (Nina at http://www.first-school.ws and Heather at http://www.kidsrcrafty.com ). I liked the fact that when they approached me they started with… “do you know what’s missing on the internet?” And then went about building a site to fill in that hole. For Nina it was English/Spanish templates for preschoolers and for Heather it was English/French.
You can use search engines to help you with your quest to find what you like/don't like in your area(s) of interest.
Once you figure out what type of website you want to build, I suggest you stop looking at the competition. Build it yourself, don't copy it from someone else! In the end you'll find it far more satisfying (and successful) if you build something uniquely yours!