I've finally launched a new website, and trying to build it up will be my main occupation for the next three months or until I say "Uncle." While it will be a self publishing website, in the sense that I'll be creating and publishing content, it will also include an element of Web 2.0 social networking, without the "social" part. I'm doing this through a blog that will include embedded YouTube videos of various do-it-yourself repairs and projects, along with my thoughts on the subject. While the blog won't be the main focus of the website (I hope), I'm interested in seeing how a text and video based blog on a wide variety of topics fairs for visitors.
The primary goal of the new website, ifitjams.com, will be to promote my interpretation of back-to-basics, though many might see it more as going to ground. For years I've been considering a series of books about financial basics for a future where credit will (hopefully) be limited, and where American may rediscover the old Yankee ethic of using and maintaining what you have until you can't patch it up anymore. While there are a huge number of DIY (Do It Yourself) websites in existence, their focus is largely on restoration or improved performance, rather than cobbling things up to get another six months of service. And when you take into account the expense of fixing something "the right way" it's often difficult to justify the cost versus replacing it with something new.
I've been preaching at both authors and publishers for nearly a decade that starting a website is the most important thing they can do to to get their work in front of the public. But I'm often met with the argument that it's too late, that the Internet is already taken, that launching a site in the Web 2.0 era requires tens of thousands of dollars of investment just in software infrastructure and basic programming. Building a dazzling website with all the modern bells and whistles has never been where I advised publishers to spend their time, and it's sure not on my to-do list. I created the skeleton for my new website in four or five hours, including some original starter content (a flowchart for diagnosing automotive ticking noises), the first few blog posts, and a couple of short videos.
And it's ugly. One of my first visitors pointed out that I had a typo in the newly designed site logo, and that the pages were too wide for some computer monitors. I fixed the logo but only made a minor tweak to the page width issue, I just don't want to get bogged down in aesthetics or even usability issues at this point. My focus will be on developing my own unique content, a mix of text, photographs and videos, that will be compelling enough to the core audience that they will be willing to forgive glitches in the presentation. If the site is successful on those terms, I may well go back and make a major redesign effort based on feedback, but WITHOUT COMPELLING CONTENT, THERE'S NO REASON TO BOTHER.
I didn't hold any staff meetings before publishing the new website, I didn't create a business plan, and I don't have a set budget. The first order of business will be renting a garage or comparable workspace to start shooting videos of various backyard mechanic repairs of my project car and whatever else I can find that needs fixing. Now this is the important part. After a couple months, I'll take a serious look at what's working in terms of drawing visitors and what's not working. Here's where a well founded start-up or a corporation with a business plan would congratulate themselves over ideas that were working and pour their resources into fixing the pages that weren't living up to expectations. And here's where I'll walk away from the ipages that aren't doing well and focus my energy on the efforts that are proven to work, and explore new ideas.
That's one of the things that the Internet has actually changed in the world - how people consume information and entertainment. Telling people what they want and how they want it hasn't proven to be a useful business model on the Internet. You have to respond to the market, and the only way to do that is to get out in front of the market and to see what happens. Don't waste your time and resources trying to launch the perfect website, it's not a book. The important thing is to get started, and as with my recent return to the ebook market, I'll be reporting about the progress of the new website on this blog. The future of self publishing is going the way of multi-media, and when it comes to Do-It-Yourself subjects, I won't be surprised if Internet video entirely supplants most books.