Of late, a common theme has been coming up in a lot of my conversations. I get a lot of requests from people who want help “building a website.” The conversation goes something like this:
Me: So what do you want to do with this web site?
Them: Well, you know. Have a presence …
Me: And what do you want to do with this presence?
Them: Well, I’d really like to create a kind of one-stop-shop for everything widget. A place where anybody can find a comprehensive resource on rich widgety goodness.
Me: Why would they come to you instead of searching for “rich widgety goodness” on Google?
Me: Are you going to be sweeping the web all the time to keep this place updated with all the latest information?
Them: What do you mean “all the time” … I was thinking I’d add resources as I run across them …
Me: What will make you an authority over … say … anybody else in Widgetry?
Them: Well, that’s one of the things I’m trying to establish … So, what’s your hourly rate?
Me: You can’t afford me.
People? Get with the program. The days of creating the One-Stop-Shop ended about five years ago. Here are some facts of life:
Google is the index. Trying to be a specialized index to web-based content is pointless unless you’re going to try to unseat Google. Yahoo fans might disagree with me. Ok. They’re right, too. You have to beat BOTH of them to be a credible index of content.
Amazon is the mall. If you’re trying to start a store, don’t. Go to Cafe Press and save yourself the heartburn.
eBay is the fleamarket. You can open your own stall here. Stop wasting time farting around trying to create a store front. What you need is traffic and eBay has more of it in ten minutes than you can realistically attract in a year.
What does that leave?
If you’re going to have a website, create something new. Maybe it’s a blog. Maybe it’s the anchor for a community. Maybe it’s a catalog of your artworks. Write fiction. Write political manifestos. Create something worth seeing/reading/hearing.
More and more, the purpose of the web is not to find something — but rather to find somebody. When you open your browser, you join one of the single largest communities in the world. The challenge is finding the five people you want to talk to right now. Maybe they’re not online right now but you can read what they blogged, or listen to their podcast from yesterday. Maybe you don’t know who it is that you need to talk to and what you need to do is figure out who that is.
And given THAT perspective, then your website should make you findable and provide a reason for people that you want to talk with to find you.