Starting a website? Tips on going niche, working smart and growing fast [WCCT]

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Rob Hope WordCamp 2013_02

If you’re looking for examples of niche, it’s difficult to imagine a slimmer area of focus than one page websites. But it’s an interest in that specific area that has helped Cape Town-based developer and WordPress fan Rob Hope expand a side-project into a fulltime commitment, driven by the allure of the focused and inspiring.

Hope is the man behind One Page Love – a design platform which highlights, reviews and showcases the stories behind single page websites. It’s a niche in modern web design, and one which is becoming a serious trend Hope has capitalised on. His site provides inspiration to digerati looking for ideas or feed their addiction for design galleries — to date, more than 4 400 one page websites have been added to One Page Love, which now sees 6 000 daily visitors and receives 30 submissions a day from designers hoping to get featured.

Speaking at WordCamp Cape Town, Hope explained his strategy behind One Page Love, how he’s grown the site and the community behind it, and offered tips for aspiring designers, bloggers and developers hoping to make their occasional daydream a reality.

Focus on the users and community

It sounds obvious, but you’re building a site for an audience — so why wouldn’t you consider their experience and ways to communicate with them? Hope explained that he personally contacted the teams behind the first 500 sites he found to let them know they’d been featured and ask if they thought their work had been presented in the best way possible.

They then visited his site and shared the fact that they’d been featured with their followers on social media, forming the foundation of One Page Love’s own following. When they asked if he could make an award banner for their own sites so they could show that they’d been featured, he did it — now they’re passively sending him traffic.

Hope suggested that you focus on your users’ experience – don’t make them jump through hoops to find the content, enter a gallery, or navigate around. Don’t have unnecessary clutter, ugly ads or, as he puts it a “social Christmas tree of sharing buttons” if they don’t add any value. Make it easy for visitors to follow you and subscribe to your site, and try out new features often to see what works best for them.

Change, improve and boost your audience

Don’t be static – it’s a website with the ability to shift and alter with a few lines of code and a click of a button, so you can change it up a little. Hope emphasised the need to study your statistics and search queries, then introduce changes and see how that changes your audience’s behaviour. “See what people are asking for,” said Hope. In his case, it meant bigger images and an easier navigation system to prompt users to flip through pages and pages of one page beauty. Tweak and improve until you’ve put together the best experience possible, and visitors are spending more time interacting with your site.

If you go niche, you’re targeting the long tail – so work smarter so you can reach them. Hope explained how a minor SEO tweak which added ‘one page websites’ at the end of his keyword tags had a serious effect on his search traffic. If a designer submits a website, they’re thanked for the submission, then asked if they want to follow One Page Love on social media. In addition to once-off features and reviews, Hope also publishes round ups and posts which showcase multiple sites – an easy win because “people love lists.”

One Page Love

Monetize later (and be clever about it)

While it may be quick and easy to stick Google Ads on every spare spot of white space, Hope says you should only think about monetising once you’ve put together the best user experience possible and have regular, returning daily followers. Your content also needs to be more valuable than the stuff your competition is churning out – that should be your focus for as long as you can justify it. Think YouTube, Instagram, Twitter – they got the design and user experience right before they thought about how to make money. If you’re in a situation where that’s an option and you can survive being unprofitable for a while longer, it’s a route you should consider.

When the time comes to start thinking of ways to monetise, Hope says “don’t go slap in a massive skyscraper ad.” Don’t create loopholes in your site, or make them hunt for the content. Think about other tactics beside ads – what about referral programmes, a sponsored newsletter or RSS feed, or creating and selling an ebook? In One Page Love’s case, because it’s targeted at designers and developers, it’s also a perfect platform for Hope to sell his own custom single page themes. Build layers of income, so you can make money in more than one way. All those small percentages and affiliate rewards add up.

Keep your focus (and your traffic)

Once you’ve built a following and are seeing some return on the time you spent making everything perfect, don’t take a break: keep improving. Forget about what everybody else is doing (even the clones) and just keep adding value. But also stay true to your original aims and standards. Hope explained that he’s turned down high-profile site submissions from major players like Samsung because they only partially met his criteria for the site – even though featuring the design could have helped him see a serious boost in social awareness and traffic.

Ultimately, Hope says you have to keep your passion and goals in mind above all else — don’t lose your users because you sold out and became inauthentic.

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