Everyone has a website in them
Conventional wisdom says – everyone has a book in them. Well, Guy says – everyone has a website in them. Actually, creating a website is easier, because unlike a book, you can publish it yourself. Incidentally, a personal tragedy; I know of at least five people who are much better writers than I, but they cannot get their books published, while I (and you) can get a website on line, simply by publishing it myself.
Today, I just want to plant the seed that you too could build your own web site and it need not cost you a fortune. To make my points I have distilled my six year’s experience as a webmaster.
You may be encouraged that of the five websites that I am associated with, the site that I have the least to do with is by far the most successful. That site is fashion-era.com. It may also hearten you that fashion-era breaks all the rules of the so called gurus. It uses large pictures, nested tables, scrolls for 14 screen and is written using FrontPage. The gurus say, small pictures, no tables, the optimum page is 4.2 screens and only use Dreamweaver.
What most gurus don’t stress, because it would put them out of a job, is that all you need is passion about your subject. When Pauline writes her fashion-era pages, the word excessive springs to mind. She uses bigger pictures, more examples, more complex adjectival phrase than others use, but her readers, 24,000 per day, love it. Pauline goes on and on until she has finished, she does not worry about the page length or the number or size of the pictures, the result is the opposite of what the gurus predict, fashion readers come in their droves. To be fair to Pauline, she spends days or even weeks researching her subject, but this is a labour of love and it comes over in her web site.
I am willing to bet that you are passionate about at least one subject, so you too could have a successful website. If you have several ideas, then favour the one with the greatest international appeal. Only 10% of our traffic comes from our native UK. Fashion, Computing and Humour (Humor) have no boundaries, but while ‘Narrow gauge railways of Southern England’ maybe a fascinating topic, it is unlikely to be widely read in America, Africa or Australia.
How to make money from your website
This is the secret of how websites generate money. Imagine you owned a warehouse that overlooked a road. Can you appreciate that companies would be keen to advertise their product on your external walls? If follows that if you are on a busy road with lots of passing traffic, then advertisers would pay more than if you were at the end of a cul-de-sac. Perhaps you can see how this billboard analogy relates to websites.
The strategy is to build a website then contact people to advertise their product, or just place GoogleAds at suitable places. It’s also only human nature that we deal with people and products that we like. All my advertisers offer free trials and amazingly, no-one has ever complained about their products. Here are two examples of my advertisers, do visit if you are interested in either product:
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All my sites could make more money if they advertised poker, credit cards or even more dubious activities. We are pleased with our decision to stick with products that complement our sites and would interest our readers.
I admit that in the past I have been seduced by get-traffic-quick schemes. Learn from my negative experience and avoid such offers. All you need to do is get your site into Google and allow traffic to grow naturally. If you think about it, when you attract people who are paid 1c to click on your page, they are not going to read that page, they are wasting their time and you are wasting your money. I am also dubious of link exchanges. If I manage to attract a reader I want to keep them. People who exchange links feel the same, so they will hide the link to your site on some little read page.
Here are my views on how to create a successful web site.
The secret is to enjoy creating your web site. Your passion for a favourite subject will shine through. Profit is likely to follow, but that will come later. Even if you don’t make your fortune, you will still have fun, good memories and fame amongst your friends. That’s what happened to my site called ‘Will and Guy’s Humour’. Computer Performance makes a modest profit, but Fashion-era does five times better than all the other 4 put together. I have control of two other sites, but I won’t mention their names as they don’t make any money. Those less successful sites need more material and some tender loving care.
Now I am not going to say that everything my sites did was right, my point is that what we did wrong did not matter. Enthusiasm for the subject matter carried us through. The web is a great teacher, it keeps you on the straight and narrow. People soon tell you if have a broken link – embarrassing, but fixable. If you have too many pictures using too much bandwidth, the ISP tells you to pay more or make the graphics smaller. Pages not optimised for Mozilla, some geek tells you. Then you get a copy of Mozilla to see what’s going on and cure the problem.
Just like successful gardening or farming, creating a website needs good tools. Conventional wisdom say invest in an html editor such as Dreamweaver. (I confess to starting with FrontPage 98 and sticking with it, I now use FrontPage 2003.) The gardening analogy is so apt that Pauline and I often say ‘I’m just off to do some gardening on the site’. By that we mean we are weeding out old pages, repairing broken fences – I mean broken links. We also keep the paths clear by editing the menus. Our favourite pastime is planting new pages, what works best is to create a cluster of six to eight pages on one topic. Google and our readers like this concentration of material.
Of all the people I know, farmers are amongst the most multi-skilled, for example, mechanical, horticultural, animal, bookkeeping and selling. They also have to be a builder, plumber and electrician. Without being rude to the farmers, none of the skills individually is difficult to learn, what I admire is the way they acquire so many disparate skills. It’s the same with web design. So, here is the heart of my message, anyone can produce a web site, you just need basic skills in the following topics.
Just learn by doing. The more you write, the better you will express your ideas. The more pages you produce, the bolder you get. In no time at all you will develop your own writing style, which readers appreciate.
My frustration at school was that I could not spell the words I wanted to use. Therefore it was a surprise to many that I became a teacher! Admittedly a science teacher specialising in teaching dyslexics. It was a joke at the school that when my pupils could correct my poor spelling, they were cured of their learning difficulty and ready to move on.
My eureka moment came in 1984 when I discovered a word processor called WordStar. It transformed my pupils written output and gave me a lasting interest in computing. (WordStar is now an obsolete Word Processor, but it did give me a grounding in a tag based language, which later helped me understand HTML.)
Writing is strange. Technically, its easy because the modern spell and grammar checkers correct your obvious mistakes. However, you have to want to write, you must feel passionately about your subject matter and develop an empathy for your readers. Put it another way, if you turn the previous sentence into its negative form, then you will see how to fail. For example, employ someone who would prefer to be designing with Dreamweaver rather than writing, had no interest in the subject matter and who hates people.
To digress slightly, one of my best decisions was to learn to touch type. It was strange being a lone male in a female group. I had no idea of how catty women can be. However, when I got my bearings, my competitive streak surfaced and I was determined to be top of the class. In the end I graduated 3rd of 20 and I am grateful for developing typing skills, which will never leave me.
My next best decision was to read a few books on writing for writers. Previously, I had no clear idea of the purpose of each punctuation mark. Commas, semi colons; – dashes, they were all a blur. A few chapters, and I soon understood syntax. What I also learnt was that good writers don’t waffle, and to keep the reader awake, they select active verbs.
Just as athletes get injuries, so writer suffer from writer’s block. It’s a hazard you learn to deal with, in my case I just write – anything. Then when I come out of the block, I redo those first faltering sentences. Oh yes, I discovered that all writers refine their material, it made me feel better when I realized that not even top writers deliver perfect prose first time.
Tips. Think about your readers, picture them as you write. Look for examples and a good analogy lightens heavy material.
Domain Name and ISP
Just as a gardener buys land and seeds, so you need to invest in an ISP and a domain name. Let me be clear here, having your own domain name is vital. However, your actual domain name is less important. Go for a name that’s memorable and relates to your theme. My point is there are plenty of names, especially if you use the hyphen. Don’t say, ‘Well train.com or jackets.co.au has gone, therefore cannot have a good name’. Think laterally, add a hyphen and invent names such as or yourname-southtrain or even guy-south-train.
I should not really say this, but the choice of ISP is not important because you can easily change hosts. However, if you are looking for an ISP, I suggest that you consider TSH and compare their servers and bandwidth with two others researched from Google. So far 15 people have followed my recommendation of TSH, 3 others took up their offer of a free month then cancelled, my point is choose an ISP that you can test before you commit.
A hidden benefit of a website – the entrepreneur effect
When you have a web site, a curious effect takes over. You cannot stop having ideas. Ideas for new material, fresh sections you could build, schemes to make money. Then there are thoughts about writing better English, ‘tighter’ html, or producing faster loading pictures. It’s strange but true, when you’re passionate about a subject, your brain just will not stop thinking of how you can make your site better.
One possible side effect of owning your own website is you can become a hero in your community. Build a website dedicated to your local pub and get free drinks; write about your local shop and get a discount. More altruistically, if you have an injury or illness then build a website with the pictures and story of your recovery – it will really help others and their relatives who are going through despair with same illness.
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