Creativity in presentation and layout sets your site apart visually. Uniqueness writing in your own style or voice, using your own words, is the uniqueness that sets your site apart mentally. QualityThere is no substitute for quality. Without quality, your creativity and uniqueness will be lost in the noise of information overload.
Updates adding new material regularly bring visitors back for more. Too often web sites sit there gathering digital dust with nothing new added for weeks or months at a time. I’ve been guilty of this myself when I have big projects underway, such as writing another book, and I can definitely see a slow-down in traffic when I let that happen.
So What’s Popular?
To build your site around what’s currently popular is to build on shifting sand. Instead, let’s look at how successful sites are developed because a successful site can be developed around nearly any subject matter. The online population is just too large for there to be many topics that can’t enjoy a good measure of success.
Granted, some topics will have a bigger audience, but they will also have more competition for that audience. Building a site around what you enjoy can often bring more success to you than if you deliberately set out to build a popular site about a topic you’re not that keen about.
Sites that enjoy high traffic and keep ’em coming back have one or more of the following elements. The more of these elements you incorporate, the better your chances of developing a successful web presence.
Create an ever-expanding world. Even if you plan on a specialized site you can find different subjects to tie in with it in an entertaining or useful way. If you were doing a site on Stress in the Work Place, for example, you could have serious articles about ways to cope and manage stress, but you could also include humorous looks at ways not to deal with stress.
Try to be creative. Try to imagine what you’d find if you were the visitor and someone else was making the site. What would David Letterman do with it, or Rush Limbaugh, or Dear Abby, or anyone you admire for their creativity, talent, intelligence, or for other qualities you can emulate.
Are you a recreational poet? Are you good at drawing? Do you write short stories or tell good jokes? Put it up—or if that’s not what your site is about, think of ways to incorporate those traits into what you are building. Whatever makes you unique and sets you apart from others is a great place to start. Everyone is good at something. Think about your strengths.
Know this about yourself…
From the beginning of time to all eternity, there is and will always be only one you. Celebrate who you are, for no one can be you better than you can, and you can be no one else better than you can be yourself.
That makes you very special indeed. You are far rarer than one-in-a-million. You ARE a singularly unique and wonderful person in a cosmic ocean of eternity! Think about that. I mean really think about that.
When you really understand you are that special you never have to play follow-the-leader. The “leader” you follow may not know where he or she is going, or may not be happy on their chosen path. Even if they are, their path is not your path. Being a first-rate you is always better than being a second-rate copy of someone else. You’re a beautiful person! Be that person rather than trying to be like someone else. You can never succeed at being someone else, you can only succeed at being yourself.
It can be pretty boring to cruise through a site with absolutely no personality to it because the webmaster is playing monkey-see-monkey-do. If you’re not being yourself, who will? People don’t want to read the same old stuff they can read in a thousand other places that all sound the same. They would much rather read about your unique point of view as long as you’re willing to put forth the effort it takes to present your point of view in a coherent manner, rather than just rambling on and on without a good flow of thought.
Serve a Purpose
Serving the needs of others means traffic for you. For me, it means sharing my talent for graphics, teaching, and my . . . um, let’s call it my unique sense of humor. I manage to sell enough of my products along the way that I earn my living at this. Maybe in time, I can sell enough to become filthy, stinking rich, who knows? I wouldn’t mind being a little stinker in that way!
I try to entertain as I serve a purpose. Sure, some folks think I’m nuts, but that’s just a lucky guess. Think about what kind of service you could offer. Put up a help page on a topic you know about. You don’t have to be an expert, there are plenty of people who know less. If you get questions you don’t know the answer to, find it. Then you have new content and something fresh to offer. There are many ways to serve the internet community, find your own angle, and go with it.
I was no expert when I first started posting HTML tutorials. I only did it because I kept getting emails asking how I did this or did that. After answering the same questions over and over I made some tutorials. One thing led to another and a publisher called me out of the blue and asked me to write a book on web site design for them. You just never know what interesting and profitable twists life will take when you serve others.
You can offer as many experiences as you can think of. I have more planned than I have time to implement. Build depth with variety. You needn’t do it all at once and create a big project. Work on it one idea at a time and do it upright. Become a mini-expert on the things that interest you. If you work on your interests you’re likely to do a good job of it and others will recognize your effort and reward you with return visits, email, links to your site, and purchase your products or services if that is your focus. In life, and on the Internet, when you give, you set the wheels in motion to receive.
Think about your favorite sites. Do they have a sterile, officious approach or do they have a bit of personality? The answer for most is the second choice. One of the nicest unsolicited comments I’ve ever received said…”I really love your site, it feels like you’re right there with me.” Makes a fella feel good. It doesn’t pay the bills but it feels pretty good just the same. The point is, talk to your guests like you talk to your friends and you’re on the right track, providing you’re not a complete jerk in real life. If you are a jerk in real life—grow up—or you will always suffer the consequences of your attitude.
Even business sites can benefit from having a little personality to them. One of the complaints I’ve noticed about web sites is that they are sterile. No personality, sterile antiseptic writing, and a lack of imagination and creativity all add up to BORING with a capital SNORE!
Rules of Thumb
Here are a few rules of thumb for developing a web site. These are not the only considerations, but they are the most important ones that apply to all topics.
Create your own content. Copying others is not only redundant and unimaginative, but it could also be illegal. Each page published has inherent copyright protection whether a copyright notice is posted or not. Fines can go as high as $100,000 plus damages. Original content is the best content.
Keep download times in mind as you build. Try to keep each page under 40k and 4 screen lengths. I call it the Rule of 4’s – mainly because it’s my rule so I can call it what I like. That, and it made more sense than calling it pudding.
Be yourself. There will be plenty of folks who will like you for who you are. This is especially true for personal sites. People visit personal home pages to learn about YOU…your originality, your creativity, your uniqueness. You know you’re wonderful, let your light shine!
Keep developing and expanding on ideas that are working for you. If you have a page you’re happy with or get compliments about, find a way to expand the theme with related material or simply go for a series of pages with the same topic. That’s basically how my site has grown from the original site of about 15 pages to over 500 pages by the end of the year 2000. (Many pages have since been moved to the member site, which has even more pages than that.)
Find a way to serve. In many ways, the net is one big sharing community. Find your niche, serve it well, and you’ll be rewarded.
Variety is the spice of life! Expand the web world of you with all the things that interest and amuse your own self. If it’s something you’re interested in, so too will others be.