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If You Build It, They Won't Come

Internet Page Growth

Creating a "world-class online destination" will not assure an audience for your Web site. This bears repeating, over and over again, to each and every one of your clients. The rules have already changed.

I continue to see companies devising elegant, well-laid plans for crafting quality Web sites catering to niche audiences that get smacked down by the sheer volume of highly-relevant content out there on the Web.

You can't put a Web site up nowadays without extraordinary plans to promote it: through great content, smart search ads, a social networking strategy, and most importantly, very active efforts by real people -- not PR departments -- that can create real relationships and connect with the people controlling the conversation.

You don't make a Web site. You make a place where humans connect with humans. It just happens to be with language and code. All this Web 2.0 stuff is just like a telephone that does the dishes and can tell you who the King of Spain was in 1822.

Playing with Google's first index spawned this whole line of thinking. In the good old days, if you created a Web site about how you love horny toads, you were probably the best damn site about toads if you were feeling lucky. No longer. The battle for relevance will only continue to scale exponentially, as borne out by my infographic above. Each new site is just a little pinprick in the ever-expanding void. And I think being relevant and having killer content just isn't good enough anymore.

So I have a proposal that will make UX people cringe, but it's a holistic measure that will help you satisfy your clients outside making Web systems that surprise and delight users.

When when you start the planning phase of your next project, sneak a little area into your wireframe that talks about the following: how you want people to get to each page, and why they'll want to go there. It's something I almost never see discussed until a site is in build, when you've got "the luxury of time" -- but I think that's a weak strategy. Think it out in advance. Let it iterate with the system you're creating. Get holistic on why every feature connects back to your community, and if it doesn't, kill it.

This may require forcing your content strategist, copywriter, or client into a corner to hash out a massive tangle of detail. But you need to build some roads to your fancy hotel in the sticks. Otherwise, how will they know it's even there?


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