Being a web developer for as long as I have and launching many failed websites, I can (with extreme confidence) teach you how to create, poorly plan, and horrendously execute something that nobody will give a shit about.
After all, I am an certified EXPERT with failed websites.
Most people don't SEE failures like this. Why? They're too busy using and enjoying websites that are successful. Think about it; you don't go to Taco Bell and enjoy a burrito while thinking about the tiny taco shack down the road barely making ends meet. At the most you'll drive past it once or twice, passing judgement on how shabby it looks.
There is a positive message behind this, but like learning anything important, you've got to trudge through some bullshit first. This article is no exception.
9. Think of an idea that's already been thought of, and do it worse.
That headline might be grammatically incorrect.
Anyway, all websites start with an idea. 97% of websites, in my experience, are knock-offs of someone else's more successful approach. I'm not discrediting the ability to take someone's idea and do it BETTER, but most of the time the actual IDEA hasn't been thought through.
Note: Yes, I'm aware of the hypocritical nature of this segment and how my website is a knock-off of many other websites.
There are exceptions. Before Google blew up, what did you you as a search engine? AltaVista? Lycos? Google came along and completely changed how a search engine works, but Google came AFTER those crappy engines.
When I launched my first real website in 1999 (Pluh.com), I wasn't the only humorous website out there, but at one point I was competing. I had complete faith in the project. My problem is that I didn't have a plan. I had somewhat of a vision, but I never mapped out where I wanted the site to go. You can have all the faith and drive in the world, but without a real plan you'll be dead in the water.
It's like having an awesome, elaborate, fully-featured boat with no engine or rudder.
Sometimes though, you just gotta do it and not care about the competition. I'm still surprised I launched Alfredo Afro. After all, how many web comics are on the internet? Go ahead and count. I've got all day. :)
8. Buy many unnecessary domain names around this idea. The more syllables the better
Any seasoned web guy is probably sitting on twenty or more domain names. Often times this has nothing to do with domain name squatting - which is when some idiot buys a domain name and does NOTHING with it hoping to sell it to the highest bidder - it's more of just reserving ideas for later processing.
The problem is actually PROCESSING the idea. In the past I've been scatter-brained to the point where I'd start on a site idea, get about halfway through, and start on ANOTHER site idea. Many times I had three to four projects going on all at once, and before I knew it I became so frustrated and discouraged that none of them came into fruition.
New definition: Fruition - The mashing and cramming of fruit into your mouth.
7. Rush through learning the technical parts of how to build a website
The difference between "building a website" and "properly building a website" is astronomical.
Folks that use the internet are VERY quick to judge. If your site looks like complete shit, people are going to assume you suck at what you do. Period. END OF STATEMENT.
If you're the #1 plumber in the universe but your website looks like it was built with Frontpage by an autistic spider-monkey, they'll start looking for the #2 plumber almost immediately.
Basically your website is an electronic salesman. If the presentation is bad, you immediately fail. IMMEDIATELY. You know this already though, because you judge all websites as you surf. Or maybe you don't know that you're doing it. Regardless, YOU'RE DOING IT, and so is EVERYONE ELSE.
Either learn how to build it RIGHT, or hire someone who knows how (*cough* like me). That is, if you actually want it to succeed. This is a "how-to-fail" blog after all.
6. Launch preemptively before your site is ready because you're impatient beyond words.
New ideas are exciting. It's very easy to get caught up in the moment and just go crazy.
The lesson here is this: You're going to have to put in the exact same amount of time fixing after launch than before launch, so you may as well get it right before you deploy.
Unless you WANT it to fail.
5. Expecting the maintenance of your website to be a breeze.
This one is probably the nastiest of them all. Many web gurus chime, "CONTENT IS KING." This is many nerdy, Star Wars parsecs beyond true. We'll get to that in a minute.
Think of how simple of a concept that a "blog" is. It's essentially someone typing their thoughts and posting it online. Easy, right?
Hyperbole and a Half is a website I chanced upon several months ago. To boil her site down; it's "just" a blog. Even with her simple style you can tell that she put a lot of time, hard work, and effort into it. Something as simple as "running a blog" can very quickly become a full time job if you let it.
Most websites we see are the results of months and/or years of hard work; we don't SEE the process, the painstaking hours of debugging, testing, compatibility, quality control, etc, therefore it looks easy and effortless.
If you think starting and maintaining a successful website is easy, not only are you IGNERNT, you just haven't tried it yet.
4. Expect instantaneous success and traffic
When I was frequently freelancing (sounds like a stupid prog-band name), I had to surgically implant this idea in my clients' heads: "No, no, NO! When you launch your site you won't immediately out-rank every bit of competition out there. It takes time."
Learning Search Engine Optimization, or as most acronym-savvy web geeks call it, "SEO," is the dark side of launching your website. The content on your site not only has to be relevant, it has to make SENSE for search engines to read.
Luckily Google and other modern engines are getting really good at picking out the relevant websites from the ones who write tons of pointless copy to increase their rankings.
Basically if you're doing anything shady to boost your presence, you'll get blacklisted from search engines forever. And thank freakin' Buddah, because who needs more shady crappy websites?
So if you want to fail as a website, make sure you post tons of garbage keywords all over your site that is irrelevant to your actual content! If you're writing an article about turkey flavored candy, make sure you put "JUSTIN BEIBER LADY GAGA BILL CLINTON CHARLIE SHEEN COMMAND AND CONQUER" in your META tags. You'll fail so good.
3. Redesign and retool your website way too often.
Nothing will confuse whatever following you've built by completely redesigning your website every week. Also, if you're keen on failing, make SURE you change your logo and marketing tactics as much as possible.
I went through a phase with Pluh.com where I redesigned the site every month or so. My poor staff - they were so confused as to WHY I did that so much. I don't know why I did it; apparently I had A.D.D. for web geeks.
Best thing to do is to just experiment with layouts on a test machine or something and plan on updating a layout once, MAYBE twice a year.
Also, with redesigns, make sure as many of your old links work or redirect to new ones unless you want to lose traffic.
2. Inconsistent updates with mediocre content
Now that you know content is king, you must also know that terrible, inconsistent content will make you king of shit-mountain.
First, when your website has a purpose, you must determine how often content must be updated. People need to know when to come back to see your new stuff, otherwise they'll NEVER come back.
Second, make sure what you put on your website is interesting/entertaining. Set a personal standard for your content. For example, if the quality of your new piece of content isn't an 8 out of 10 or higher, DON'T POST IT. Quality will always trump quantity. Always.
And for the sake of all that is covered in cheese, PLEASE don't clump paragraphs together. Stay away from ALL CAPS. Oh, and laRn tuh spEeL.
1. Sit back and watch nobody care.
The secret ingredient to any successful website is... love.
If you love what you're doing and are very passionate about it, it'll show. People will pick up on that as they stumble upon your website, and if you decide not to fail at it, you just might be able to make it pay your bills and massage your pancreas as your audience keeps coming back for more.
If you're forcing your content and just slapping things together, that'll show too. Folks will just click on and forget about you within seconds.
So... yeah. LOVE. Of all things, it has to be love. If you don't love what you're doing, please go find something else to do that you'll actually enjoy doing and keep your crappy website off the internet.
This wasn't exactly a comprehensive guide, but I hope you did absorb some sort of knowledge and fiddled that giggle box.
Thanks for reading. See? That's called "being appreciative." Now only if my giant ball of pudding will just manifest itself like The Secret told me it would...