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Example: Content Ideas for the Hacker Phrase Web Business

Let's brainstorm ideas for a Web business whose theme is "hacker phrases." What would we put on such a site? Since the site focuses on hacker phrases, we need a page for those phrases—a hacker "phrase of the week" page. We should also include an archive of past weeks' phrases. Finally, it would be nice to get user feedback about the phrases, so we might have polls in which users can rate past phrases. Of course, a site with just those three pieces of content could be fairly boring. What else can we add? There's plenty of material indirectly related to the theme of our site. For example, a page that defines the term hacker would be a good addition, even though it's not directly related to the theme of "hacker phrases." For fun, we could have a test that a user could take, which would automatically score how much of a hacker he or she is. We might also want to include a page that describes the history of hacking. Maybe a page that describes the history of the site would be interesting. Hackers have their own lexicon, so a dictionary that defines hacker words would be a great addition as well. Finally, a forum for hacker discussion could be good. We could brainstorm a longer list, but that should suffice for instructional purposes.

Step 1. List Content Ideas

The first step is simply to list content ideas along with a brief description, as follows:

Idea

Description

Hacker Phrases

A list of things hackers say

Hacker Phrase Archive

List of past hacker phrases

Hacker Phrase Rater

Rates the past hacker phrases

Hacker Definition

Describes what a hacker is

Hacker Test

A test that a user can take to determine whether he or she is a hacker, and how hardcore of a hacker

Hacker History

The history of hackers

Site History

A description of how the "hacker phrase" site came into existence

Hacker Dictionary

Definitions of hacker terminology

Hacker Pictures

Pictures of hackers

Hacker Forum

A message board on which hackers can exchange information

With your content ideas written down, the next step is to categorize them.

Steps 2–3. Categorize the Content Ideas

Next we categorize ideas in terms of value and who generates the content. For value, we'll have three levels: high, medium, and low. The content can be generated by the site designer (that's us), by a user, or by a script.

Idea

Value

Generated by

Hacker Phrases

High

designer

Hacker Phrase Archive

High

script

Hacker Phrase Rater

Medium

users

Hacker Definition

Low

designer

Hacker Test

Medium

script

Hacker History

Medium

designer

Site History

Low

designer

Hacker Dictionary

High

script (database)

Hacker Pictures

Low

designer

Hacker Forum

Medium

users

With the content categorized according to value and who generates it, the final step is to rank the ideas.

Step 4. Rank the Content Ideas According to Value and Who Generates the Content

Ideas are ranked according to content value first, and then by who generates the content. Ideas linked to high-value content are listed before low-value content. For ideas with the same content-value ranking, content generated by scripts is ranked ahead of that generated by users. Content generated by the site designer (us) is ranked last.

Idea

Value

Generated by

Hacker Dictionary

High

script (database)

Hacker Phrase Archive

High

script

Hacker Phrases

High

designer

Hacker Test

Medium

script

Hacker Phrase Rater

Medium

users

Hacker Forum

Medium

users

Hacker History

Medium

designer

Hacker Definition

Low

designer

Site History

Low

designer

Hacker Pictures

Low

designer

With our list generated, it's easy to see what we should implement: all the high-value content ideas in which the content is added by the users or generated automatically. The exception is the hacker phrases, which are added by us, but only because they are updated but once a week. If the frequency was less than weekly, it wouldn't be implemented, or a similar mechanism would have to be designed in which the phrases were generated automatically or contributed by the site's users. All the medium-value script and user content ideas should be implemented as well, as they provide the user with good value and don't require us to do any ongoing work. This includes the hacker test, the hacker phrase rater, and the hacker forum. The remaining ideas that are low value or that require the designer (us) to generate them should be implemented last, or not at all.

So now we have an initial set of content to put on the Hacker Phrase site and we can start filling-in our business model (see Figure 5).

Figure 5

The autonomous business model with some content details filled in.

With the content determined, we can now look at more traditional content-design issues. Specifically, next week we'll look at designing the user interface for the Web business, focusing on design issues for the layout, form, and interaction of the content we've just chosen.

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