Lessons Learned

Ah, the first post on The Best Blog in the Universe on Earth.

There are many lessons that I (yes, that mysterious Mr. X) have learned when creating this website. I believe that these lessons are useful for anyone that wants to make a living from a website, be it a business or an individual.

1) There are two types of web-page design. The bad design that no one cares about, and the bad design that only you care about. Need some evidence? Check out whichever website you love to visit, inside the wayback machine at archive.org.

Go back a few years and you’ll see, with few exceptions, significant visual and navigational overhauls. The verdict? Design constantly changes. What’s acceptable today is sub-standard tomorrow. What’s considered cool this month seems cheap and trivial next year.

At best (in most cases), designs last a few years, and then an overhaul comes. If there is an ‘ideal’ design out there, no one has reached it yet. If it isn’t ugly, and it’s functional, then the design is fine. If the website is memorable, then any further tweaks to the design is likely a waste of time.

More about designs next blog post.

 

2) If you’re a business and are excited about your product or concept, here is some news you should expect: No One Cares. Many estimate that there are 200 million active websites. 200. Million.

What do you really have to bring to the table? A flashy logo? Another faceless (heh) corporate entity with a lame ‘testimonials’ section? We get it, your product is great. It’s just that it’s lost like a drop in the sea.

If you think that by launching, the world will be enthralled with your ‘isn’t it like this other thing?’ idea, you will probably receive a rude awakening. Oh sure, look at the big popular websites. Whether it’s Yahoo, or Joe the Plumber, the fact is that unless they were lucky (good luck, literally), filthy rich and could afford massive advertisement campaigns, they had to grit and shove their way to the top, trampling your competitors every chance you got.

You’re about to launch? No one cares. Oh, and one more thing. The game is just beginning. The race is a marathon that lasts years until you make some real $$$. See you at the top. Oh, and welcome to the jungle. Survival of the fittest, and all of that.

You’ve got something out? Then it better be good, damn good. You’ve got to be prepared to get behind it and push it, almost if it were a fat mother-in-law you had to get up 20 flights of stairs on her way to her apartment because she forgot her stupid cat. Then find out you pushed her in the wrong *@!^ing apartment building, and some wacko wants your head for abducting Fat Fluffy.

 

3) In case I wasn’t clear enough, you’ve got to have a few screws missing in order to play this game. It’s a high-risk, high-reward, high chance of you losing your time, money, and sanity. I think the only way you can actually succeed is if you enjoy the thrill of doing the almost impossible. 200 damn million. How many of those million are profitable? How many of those will be gone tomorrow?

 

4) Here is where you’re expecting me to tell you the magic solution. Or the ‘it’s not magic, but you can achieve it with hard work and dedication’ solution. The fact is, you need a test market. You need to imagine, ‘what do my readers want?’ when you’re medium-sized, ‘what does my boss want me to puke out?’ when you’re large-sized, and ‘what kind of readers do I even want?’ when you’re starting out?

(Corporate would be, ‘just stick on a fresh coat of paint and release a fancy commercial.’)

Most websites fail. What do you call a website that dies with no one around to hear it? Business as usual. To fail and actually get some attention is to be called a loser. In the web world, Losers are important, because a Loser had to have done something right in order to be noticed.

Get out there, make a website, be a Loser, have a drink, then get back in the ring. Think battered wife syndrome but for web developers, blog writers, or programmers. If you start to enjoy it, then either you’ve gone crazy, you’re delusional, or you’re really onto something.

Me? I’m new here.

 

5) Social Networking?

First of all, what the heck is social networking? If you’ve made a friend or a business contact, then congratulations, because you’ve created a ‘network’, that is ‘social’. Is it necessary? Probably. Make sure who you associate with, because just like a good partner can help you reach heights you couldn’t reach on your own, a bad one will drag you down. How you do it is up to you.

 

6) Learn How to be Lazy (a.k.a. how to get things done), and keep your eyes on the ball.

Presumably, what you make is useful to your audience. You had to think and create something that people want. Once you’ve done that (or are in the process of refining it), something interesting probably happened: you thought of changing direction, of adding features, of improving the product that hasn’t been market-tested.

‘Not yet, it isn’t ready to launch yet.’ FreedomsLink might need an even more transparent layer, with cool text that pops up and says, ‘Click Me, You Scoundrel!’ Maybe it could use 1000 other links to even cooler websites. Maybe even a feature that lets users send links to one another and another feature that links to the toaster in your kitchen and creates an interesting logo in your bread.

Those features that look cool are probably superfluous; most users won’t care. Despite the massive popularity you envision, not too many of those users will be browsing your website using Internet Explorer 5.5, while zooming the text so that it breaks that top-right section of your page.

Be lazy. If you think a feature is really important, then do the absolute minimum to get it working, or just create a placeholder that tells you if users are interested. Take Jason Nazar’s advice.

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