A WEBSITE THAT DOESN’T SUCK

In Business & Technology /

By Shazia Kermally

All it took was for Tania Hew’s sister to mention a funny conversation she heard on the TTC and an idea was born.

Hew, 24, and her sister Liana, 22, are the creators of the week-and-a-half-old OverheardintheTDot.com, a website that specifically caters to posting and viewing raw comedy heard on the streets of Toronto.

“I’ve heard funny conversations as part of an everyday commute to work,” said Tania. “The city has its own character that we decided we could showcase.”

But the creation of a website takes more than just having an idea, said Stephen Cope, a British website consultant and creator of www.Build-Your-Website.co.uk.

“Most people build websites these days to make quick money,” said Cope. Cope said, what many people don’t realize is it can take a while to get a good site going. “You have to be prepared to learn new things because [internet technology] is constantly changing. It’s a long process,” he said.

One of the most important things to keep in mind, said Vincent Flanders, web designer and creator of WebsitesThatSuck.com, is that a site should serve the user before its creator.

There are also a couple other things to remember when creating a site.

The tools to build it

There is a variety of software available to those looking to make their own website. Dreamweaver and FrontPage, which are both html-based, cater to the technical savvy. For those who don’t even know what html stands for, Cope recommends WordPress and Sitesel.

Hew, who graduated last year from the computer sciences program at Ryerson, said she used WordPress, which is free. “It was good because I didn’t have to start from scratch,” she said. “WordPress is pretty good for blogging software,” adding that the software, was ideal for overheardintheTdot.

Plan it, design it

Cope has seen hundreds of sites in the span of his career and finds that most people encounter problems that hinder success in the areas of design and planning.

“Most people concentrate too much on getting the site to look good,” he said. “They try to put too much on it and they end up over-complicating.”

Flanders agreed. “That’s one of the ironies, whether or not your design is good doesn’t [matter]” said Flanders.

He said an example of this is Craigslist. He said what Craigslist lacks in design flare is made up for by its user friendliness.

Patience Grasshopper, patience

Another common mistake people make is rushing into getting their site online, Cope said.

“[Creators] get a domain name before they get their site together.”

He recommends people set up the skeleton of their site before even thinking of getting it on the net.

“[Planning] is fundamental because if you get that wrong, the rest of it doesn’t really matter.” It took Hew only three weeks to launch her site, but she admits planning was crucial in getting OverheardintheTdot together.

“The planning took the longest,” she said. “Once we came up with a name, a layout and all of that, we then started looking for a host.”

Making, virtual — but real — money

In fact, creating a website can be a good way of making money. One of the easiest ways to create revenue is through advertisers and affiliates.

However, as Cope explained, as a member of an affiliate program you become a sales representative for whatever product you plan to promote so you have to do your research.

“You have to really know the product,” Cope said. For now, Hew has decided to use advertising instead of joining an affilate program. She pays $30 a month to Google Adsense.

A program that “crawls the content of your pages and delivers ads … that are relevant to your audience and your site,” according to Google. When people search the web from a given site these results show up and the site owner gets paid each time people click on them.

Reality check

Although her site is up, Hew said there’s still a way to go before it starts raking in the cash.

“When we get the base that we want, we’ll be able to approach the advertisers,” she said.

Hew said that an important thing to keep in mind when creating your own website is to “think about what you’re going to do before hand.

Put in some planning and consult with other people to see if [your idea is] a viable idea,” she said.

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