Starting out / Website concept / Question

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Hi all, I'm new here, thought I'd introduce myself. I've been following /r/juststart for a while now, and saw BuilderSociety being mentioned a few times so I thought I'd check it out.

I don't have too much experience building websites, but I do have one website that started out as a hobby project and is now moderately successful (just under 20k unique users / month). It's not really earning me anything (barely pays for hosting costs), but it was a fun thing to try out and I learned a bunch.

Currently I'm working on a more serious website that I think has some more lasting potential. Through a hobby I've learned quite a bit about a certain industry which is quite large, but opaque in terms of pricing, reviews, and user guides. Basically it's quite difficult for someone without deeper knowledge of the industry to make an educated purchase.

My idea is to make a website listing all the products of the main manufacturers, allowing users to compare them, and most importantly to discuss them, and give each other advice on purchasing decisions, repairs, best ways to use the product etc. There is quite an active community out there, but they are dispersed over many different forums, so if you want to know some things about product X, you basically have to delve into all these forums to find some useful information. My goal is to centralize that information in one place.

I'm relatively confident in my concept, and I have some skills to develop the front-end, but I don't have much experience with backend development. I know some very basic PHP and Javascript, but that's about it. I've been looking at some low-code/no-code options, e.g. using Airtable and Zapier as a database to create Wordpress custom posts, and although I think I can make an MVP with that, I'm not sure whether that would limit me too much in the long-term if I wanted to add more advanced features.

Q: The alternatives are basically to go the low-code way I just described, learn to code everything myself, outsource it (How much would that cost?), or find a partner with backend experience. Not sure yet which way to go, any feedback about what to consider would be much appreciated.

In any case, I'm looking forward to learning from everyone on this website.
 
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mj22

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welcome to buso, good luck on your endeavor.
 

EyesExist

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Good lucK! Kill it. Never doubt yourself.

What you get out = all about what you put in!
 

Ryuzaki

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@city17, your previous hobby product can definitely earn you some cash. Even if there's no real value in the visitors, you can still monetize it. The lowest level of monetization is CPM ads, meaning that you get paid a certain amount for a user loading and viewing an ad. They don't even have to click on it. At 20k users a month, I'd think you could fairly easily get $3+ CPMs, which would be $60 a month on the low end. I guess it also depends on what country the visitors are from, etc. And yeah, that's potentially about the cost of hosting. I see the conundrum.

I'd definitely spend some time figuring out how to monetize that a bit better though. That's a solid chunk of traffic.

Regarding your new project, I'd be tempted to create a unique solution. I've done sites "kind of" like that on Wordpress though, using a CSV file as a database and then importing cells into custom fields which then help populate the pages with pre-fab content in the template. Then I'd go back and add normal the_content(); to make each page have a portion of unique content on it. It worked out fine and was extremely organized once it was done. But generating the CSV file and importing it and all that was kind of clunky. There's a plugin called WP All Import that I used for it.
 
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@Ryuzaki Thanks for the suggestions, very helpful. I had something like your CSV suggestion in mind for my Wordpress solution, but using airtable and zapier (although I didn't try populating custom fields yet, maybe that bit doesn't work). I'm actually going to talk to a friend tomorrow who's a capable coder, so if he likes the idea hopefully I'll be able to go for a more customizable solution. But otherwise I'll probably try the method you suggested.

As to the old site, I didn't expect it to be able to make that kind of money. Currently it's earning a tiny bit from affiliate links. I tried Google Ads, but they rejected me. I guess the reason is that it's a web app (although simple, it's useful to visitors) with 80% of the text below it being related to the affiliate links, because the app itself doesn't really need any detailed explanation. So I think to get accepted I would need to remove the affiliate stuff and come up with some random text to fill the page, so Google's bot sees it as a non-affiliate only page. Still think it's interesting that Amazon accepted me, and not Google, would've thought it would be the other way around.

Or is there some different ad program you would recommend? I don't have any experience with ads, just with the amazon affiliate program.
 

Ryuzaki

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We've had a number of threads about CPM Ad Networks, and I know I've done some longer write-ups but I can't find them. Here's a couple to start to give you a lay of the land:
You can do some Google searches to find list of networks and quickly see which ones are the most common. A lot of them require a certain number of monthly impressions to be accepted too, so you'll quickly get limited to which you can use.
 
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Some updates on my progress:

- That old website I had, I added some bullshit text (not necessarily nonsense, but if I were just thinking about the visitor I wouldn't put it there..) and now Google Adsense deemed my website worthy enough and accepted me. Making a few € a day, and my affiliate links are still active as well. Nothing much, but at least now it's paying for itself! Worth the one hour I spent on it.

- Decide to go for the WP custom theme + ACF + WP All Import route for the new website.

- I've got the design finished for 80% for my website. The most important page (displaying the content of each product) is pretty much finished. I'm working now to add all the Custom Fields to it so all the information is displayed as I designed it. Still need to finish the design for the archive pages (overview of brands & product categories) as well as the homepage.

- Actually spent quite some time relearning html, css, and php in a structured way; made designing so much faster and easier than having to look stuff up. Also halfway through the JS curriculum on Freecodecamp, although I don't have too much use for it currently, I've got some ideas for some tools to add to my site later (e.g. comparison tool for products).

It feels good to see the basic framework of the working website, makes it feel a bit more real rather than just having an html template and an idea in my mind.

So, partly a question of continuing with the work and just getting it done, partly still some question marks on how to do things. For example, where to host (Amazon Lightsail recommended?), how to build a functioning custom comment section on WP (and how to handle users), how to build an Ajax search function, and so on.

Slowly getting there, one step at a time.
 
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Good to read you progressed with your new site. If I were you I wouldn't spend too much time faffing around and trying to plan out stuff for the future. Just get the thing online and work on something new each month as you go. This way you can see what is working and add more, or what is not and do less. Easy enough to find a freelance dev. who can do some monkey work on backend stuff for you when you need to expand it.
 
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Regarding your new project, I'd be tempted to create a unique solution. I've done sites "kind of" like that on Wordpress though, using a CSV file as a database and then importing cells into custom fields which then help populate the pages with pre-fab content in the template. Then I'd go back and add normal the_content(); to make each page have a portion of unique content on it. It worked out fine and was extremely organized once it was done. But generating the CSV file and importing it and all that was kind of clunky. There's a plugin called WP All Import that I used for it.
I use the combination of:

Advanced Custom Fields
CPT UI
WP All Import
FacetWP

and then Python+PythonAnywhere to run daily data processing.
 
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Good to read you progressed with your new site. If I were you I wouldn't spend too much time faffing around and trying to plan out stuff for the future. Just get the thing online and work on something new each month as you go. This way you can see what is working and add more, or what is not and do less. Easy enough to find a freelance dev. who can do some monkey work on backend stuff for you when you need to expand it.
Thanks, yea, that's kind of what I'm aiming for. I'm trying to filter out what I need to have at the start, and what I can work on as I go and add to the site later.

I use the combination of:

Advanced Custom Fields
CPT UI
WP All Import
FacetWP

and then Python+PythonAnywhere to run daily data processing.
I'm using the first three as well, seems like a good combination. Thanks for suggesting FacetWP, that's exactly what I was looking for. Does it work as fast in practice as it does in the demo on the website? It seems really fast.

If I may ask, what kind of daily data processing do you do? Automatically getting external data and adding it to your site, or... ?
 
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Thanks, yea, that's kind of what I'm aiming for. I'm trying to filter out what I need to have at the start, and what I can work on as I go and add to the site later.



I'm using the first three as well, seems like a good combination. Thanks for suggesting FacetWP, that's exactly what I was looking for. Does it work as fast in practice as it does in the demo on the website? It seems really fast.

If I may ask, what kind of daily data processing do you do? Automatically getting external data and adding it to your site, or... ?
Yes, scraping and feeds, of which there needs to be done various things to make it fit into to the same categories.
 
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Nearly a month further and my website is online. It's still very thin on content, but the basic framework is done, just a few tweaks to do (home page, logo). I've learned a lot about building a theme from scratch, using ACF, and FacetWP, and overall (Wordpress) website-building. Even if this site doesn't work out as I hope it does (still believe in my concept, but we'll see how it goes...) I feel more confident in my ability to create a solid basic website now. So for my next idea I'll be able to develop and launch significantly faster.

The next steps:
  • Put finishing touches to basic framework
  • Talk to people with experience in my specific niche, to get some feedback
  • Add products to my database (this will probably happen continuously for quite some time)
  • Start to write a few guides
Still some things I have to figure out:
  • Reaching out to companies for product image rights (what's the common procedure for this? Just email them?)
  • Figure out how to get good user engagement (comment section for people to discuss their experience with the products) and how much value it will add
  • Finding ways to promote my site (e.g. how to share with relevant forums without seeming like a link spammer)
Let's see how it goes..
 

Ryuzaki

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So for my next idea I'll be able to develop and launch significantly faster.
For sure. That's why we talk about "failing fast" and iterating through builds. Building a few small sites that don't do great but allow you to experiment through the entire process is super valuable at the start. It's way better than trying to hit a home run on your first project. There's things you don't even know exist that you'll learn about that exponentially increase your chances for success later, but you have to get through a few builds first.

Good job, and good luck. Yeah I'd just email product owners. Most, if they have affiliate programs won't care if you use their promotional materials. If they do, they're stupid. This is not necessarily the "correct" advice, but I'd just use them all and not spend the time asking. I'd just wait till someone complains and then I'd take them down. If they complain about you making them extra money, then stop promoting their products. Again, that's not the "correct" approach but it's the real move. Are they going to sue you for making them money? It'll cost them more money than it'll earn them, while stabbing an ally in the back.