Now I’m not poking fun at non-geeks – au contraire – but I do want to talk about those of us who have innovative ideas but no way to put them into website programming. Especially when it comes to Web 2.0 programming!

This started with a reader’s comments and questions on I don’t usually post the comments left on that page (it exists purely for contact purposes), except in situations where I believe others need the same answers as those who write in.

As an aside, when you comment on that page please understand that if I do post it as public access, I will strip any particulars from it that will disclose your ideas, target markets, or full name. I have had enough profit-producing niche markets lost to competitors in the last 6 years due to being far too open about my online activities. I will do my utmost to protect yours when you take the intiative to confide in me.

“I would like to create a bespoke web 2.0 site…Could you give me any recommendation on where to go to research how this can be acheived? The only place I have to go for information and advice is the internet, as I have no geek (in a nice way:)) friends…”

editor’s note: “In the U.S., bespoke software is often called custom or custom-designed software.” (source:

What’s A Non-Geek to Do?

Reports are in from Silicon Valley.

Programmers and Web 2.0 investors spending entire days at the local coffee shops. Brainstorming and making offers. Laying their ideas and innovations out on the table. Many want to be the ‘next big thing’. Other’s just want to copy what YouTube’s got, or digg, or MySpace. (That’s not smart marketing or business, but it’s the way of the get rich quick set.)

My answer to Daniel, in an email I’m about to send, is to start out his innovation with an out of the box solution that is ‘nearly there’. If you read his comment you’d have found that he has a great strategy already defined – he’s just looking for the pieces that fit together to put it into play. (Daniel’s planning on selling an ebook, then other products to fund growth.

So where now can we find a ready made, nearly there, application?

There are actually hundreds of these scripts and web applications available right now. Some not quite ready for prime time, some a little buggy but hold true potential. Some are open source (free) with no support, others are open source with some support, and still others with a price tag (but also with full tech support from the seller).

Define the Key Features of Your Web 2.0 Idea

Start by defining the key features you want to offer your website visitors.

  • Would you like them to have their own interconnected ‘space’, urls, and relatively complete control over design, images, and links (think NewsVine or for lack of a better example, MySpace).
  • Are you bringing people together socially under one topic only – where you’d want to offer them the ability to write reams of text, privately email each other, and upload a profile photo (think 43things when it first launched – people connected by tags).
  • Are you after user generated content that is read or watched – then commented on, and rated by peers?
  • Will you alone provide the content and your readers interaction is to respond and/or vote?
  • Will you want/allow the posting of video content, online chat sessions, classified ad posting, photo uploads, etc.
  • …or other features, interaction…

Only once your ‘features’ are defined can you start looking for a ready-made script, Web 2.0 application, or if customizations are in order, a geek (ahem, programmer) to make your vision real.

The Lions Are Restless, and Hungry too!

My visitor Daniel also said this:

“…I have found that it is difficult to know who to trust and where to go for good information – I would normally go to friends I trust for advice (how very web2.0!), but in this situation it is not possible…”

Sadly this major shift in website building has brought out a lot of ‘crap’ products. Products loaded with bugs but selling for high prices, peddled to make a buck off people who have no idea how to run them and who might be embarassed to ask for a refund when they can’t get the scripts to work. (I know! I’ve bought a few of them!)

You do have to be careful whom you trust in this business – especially in this era of Web 2.0.

You do have to be careful which programmer you hire when you get to that point. I’ve known great programmers who can perform miracles in 30 minutes, and had other programmers bill me three times the typical hours required for a job because they were either too inexperienced, or not trustworthy.

Only begin shopping for a script or programmer once your desired functionalities are fully mapped out and on paper. (Remember, it’s just paper – you can always rewrite, edit, or start all over again as you work towards getting your launch strategy in order.)

Tomorrow I’ll list a few of the scripts I’ve started with, played with, installed, tried to tweak, gave up on, or know a little about for your deeper investigation. Until then, map out your core functionalities.

Laura Childs

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