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Week 5: The Business Model Approach to Designing Your Customer Interface

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With the content you brainstormed in my last article, it's time to start designing the user interface for your personal Web business.

Web business engineering expert Nick V. Flor is the creator of Web Business Engineering.com, a Web business content forum. He teaches Web business courses at Carnegie Mellon University and owns two highly profitable Web businesses, Dating Expert.com and YesNoMaybe.com. Professor Flor is a regular contributor to InformIT on Web business topics.

Editor's Note: To download a zip file containing the source files for this article, click here.

Introduction

In this article, I discuss some of my key design rules for personal Web businesses, and go over both the design and implementation of my favorite Web business user interface. This week's assignment is to design a general user interface for your personal Web business. But first, the "Hacker Phrase of the Week."

Hacker Phrase of the Week

"Are you threatening me?"

Usage: Anytime someone asks you a question or makes a statement and you either don't know the answer or don't have a good response.

Example:

    Boss

    Couldn't we do that using servlets?

    Programmer

    Are you threatening me?

In my last article, I gave you a heuristic for choosing high-value content for your personal Web business. Choosing the right content is one of the most important design activities you'll perform. Without high-value autonomous content—remember that a personal Web business is based on the autonomous business model—it doesn't matter how great you think your site looks; the chances of it succeeding are very low ("slim and none" is how I like to put it).

But great content alone isn't sufficient to ensure success. If users don't know what content your site provides, or it's difficult to acquire/interact with the content, or it's difficult to understand the content, the chances of your personal Web business succeeding are again very low. What you need to design, in addition to high-value content, is a good user interface for your Web business. But what exactly does it mean to design a good user interface?

Entire books have been written on the topic of designing great user interfaces for Web sites, and no brief article such as this one can hope to provide coverage of all the various design techniques. I encourage you to read as many design books as you can, as each author has interesting theories and techniques that you can use. This article just gives you a conceptual framework for thinking about user-interface design in personal Web businesses, which you can use to derive your own design rules. I also discuss my favorite personal Web business user interface, and walk you through its implementation.

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