For a niche oriented blogger it is pretty natural to come up with new subject ideas all the time. Raj wrote an inspiring article How Many Niches Should You Pro-Blog? but focused on the questions involved and the problems showing up when doing multi-niche blogging.
Let me show you my very 1st concept phases for a new website.
The basic idea is to work out a content concept 1st and to ignore design issues. If you fall into the trap of designing a new site 1st then you will see how decelerating design issues are.
Phase Zero: Seed the idea
Skipping the analysis part of classical product development I will assume that some idea got into my head worth to develop a content concept for a new website/blog. Basically when an idea for a new website comes to mind I structure the idea in four parts:
- One sentence concept phrase
- Some example article keywords
- How to promote the site
- How to monetize the site
This should fit on a small paper notebook page and should not take longer than 15 minutes.
- How to employ kids?
- Playground, surrounding, specials (Technique: Google map, hCard, hReview)
- E-book, PR/Media, Flickr group
- Ads from local businesses (cafés, bakeries) around the specific playgrounds
‘Phase Zero: Seeding the idea’ is no brainstorming and no messing with mindmaps, design concepts and technical issues. Instead it is a simple process of taking a quick structured note for future follow-ups.
Concentrate on the content concept in a way that you can see the value of the content stand out from the crowd. Imagine a three-minute presentation to a stranger.
Phase One: Community driven?
After seeding the idea (read: take a note because otherwise I will forget it) the basic concept will hang around for an uncertain amount of time. Maybe I will discuss it with friends and maybe I will set up some search feeds to follow the basic keywords to get a feeling for the existing websites.
Very important is to decide if the site should have a community part. Can or should user generated content be one of the big values your new website has to offer? The community question is one of the big web 2.0 questions. Yesterday it was ‘forum or not’ but today all is possible.
Depending on the yes/no to the community question you will have to think about different technical solutions. In my case I have three standard platforms (Please insert your own). Which platform to use?:
- Single domain with Textpattern
- Simple multi domain or sub-domain site with Pivot
- If community response plays a part then I will consider Drupal
The community trap
In my mentioned ‘How to employ kids?’ scenario it might be very natural to reach out to other parents and get additional reviews and comments. But the crucial coming up question is: Will the concept be worth to develop a necessary ‘community management’ concept (read: time commitment) or will a simple comment function be enough? As I am not really interested in being a community manager I will always try to stay with the simple solutions as long as possible knowing that simple solutions narrow the extension possibilities of a site.
If you are not totally sure that a community feature is needed for your concept to work then better stay away. You will always have the option to offer a separate forum solution later.
Phase Two: Rough content sketches
After finishing the two basic concept phases I will try some concrete tests.
- (Optional) Setup a basic installation with a basic three columns design.I prefer to do the 1st tests inside of a ‘no index’ sub-domain. The advantage is that I can show it off to other people compared to an installation on a local test machine. This step is optional because if you are more familiar with prototyping in your HTML editor then use that. Remember That we are talking ‘speed content development’ here 🙂
- Create some basic content. Normally I will have one test article which is copy&pasted and refined in new articles all the time. I will not work on the ‘big’ design. Instead I will show content concepts inside of articles using article sidebars with float:left and float:right and some kind of test navigation links in the articles.
Using a ready made three columns template or a magazine style template with a test installation is not aimed at using it later but instead the aim is to answer the question ‘necessary or not?’. For small sites I love the ‘one column’ and the ‘left navigation + one column’ designs.
Phase Three: Design and template
And here we are already leaving the ‘content driven website concept’ part and it starts to become time consuming work. The more you could strip down your content concept in the phases before the easier it will be now to develop a nice and reader friendly design.
The ROI trap
If you are one of those guys who say ‘I will keep all my options open’ then you may end up investing more time than the site will pay back to you regarding monetization.
Strip down fancy features and your site will be up live and running much faster.