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Week 4: Choosing High-Value Content for Your Personal Web Business

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With your theme and Web hosting provider selected, it's time to start designing your Web business! The usual tendency—putting everything that comes to mind on your site—can result in a site that's uncoordinated and confusing for users.


Up to this point you've chosen a theme for your Web business, registered a great domain name, and signed up with a Web hosting provider (and if you haven't, you should go back and read my previous articles). Congratulations! You're well on your way to becoming a Web entrepreneur. Now, if you're like most people, you want to sit down immediately and start implementing some Web pages, but I want you to resist that urge and instead put some thought into the design of your Web business. Without good design, your Web business has two chances of succeeding: slim and none. I'm not saying that you can't get lucky and create a successful Web business by chance, but the probability of doing so is low. So we're going to spend the next couple of articles looking at design issues. Remember, I'm training you to be not just a Web business entrepreneur, but a Web business engineer—and to be the latter you ought to systematically design your Web business, much the same way a good software engineer systematically designs computer programs.

In this article, I'll show you a heuristic for helping you choose high-value content for your new personal Web business. As an example, we'll apply this heuristic to determining what content to put in a Web business whose theme is (surprise!) "Hacker Phrases." Next week, we'll start implementation. But first, the "Hacker Phrase of the Week."

Hacker Phrase of the Week

"What color is the sky on the planet you're from?"

Usage: Any time a friend or coworker says something utterly ridiculous.



    Do you think I should test my code?


    Um, what color is the sky on the planet you're from?

Design is probably the activity that people most frequently perform incorrectly—or rather, incompletely—in their Web businesses. The problem is that there are many different aspects of a Web business to design. When most people hear the word design, they think "user interface"—but that's actually the last thing you design. First you have to design a good business model. In my first article for this column, I saved you a lot of grief by simply giving you a good business model—the autonomous business model (Figure 1 shows the full version of the model).

Figure 1

Information activity map for the complete autonomous business model.

Of course, there are many other business models on which you could base your Web business, but for reasons discussed in my first article, a personal Web business should be based on the autonomous business model. Your choice of business model then determines what else you have to design. For the autonomous business model, you need to design mechanisms for the following activities:

  • Getting users to add content (autonomous content mechanisms), as shown in Figure 2. (For an explanation of both the model and information activity maps, see my first InformIT article, "Week 1: The Business Model Approach to Web Site Design.")

Figure 2

Partial autonomous business model: autonomous content mechanism.

  • Driving new users (N) to your site (with one or more traffic-generating mechanisms), as shown in Figure 3.

Figure 3

Partial autonomous business model: traffic-generating (marketing) mechanism.

  • Generating revenue (with one or more revenue-generating mechanisms), as shown in Figure 4.

Figure 4

Partial autonomous business model: revenue-generating mechanism.

I'll discuss the design of these mechanisms in detail in upcoming articles. What you need to do next—regardless of the business model—is choose the right content. Selecting content is one of those activities that most people don't think of as design—but it actually is. Anytime you plan out what you're going to do, you're doing design. So plan your content carefully; all the user-interface design in the world won't save your Web business if you have the wrong content.

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