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lourish.com - Building a Website on a Shoestring
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lourish.com - Building a Website on a Shoestring



lourish.com, the grow your own/share your own gardening swap site, launched earlier this month for gardeners to swap their surplus home grown fruit and veg with people near them. The free site was ...

lourish.com, the grow your own/share your own gardening swap site, launched earlier this month for gardeners to swap their surplus home grown fruit and veg with people near them. The free site was conceived, built and then promoted by Lourish’s founder Dave Bower for a little over £1000 after he quit his job to do something “less corporate”.

In his presentation Dave will describe the ideas behind Lourish, the challenges of single-handedly building a site with almost no money, the use of social media for free online promotion and will look at the future of lourish.com.



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  • Some details about me and about LourishNot a course on building a website!Talk about designing, implementing and promotingTell the lessons I've learnt and give some useful guidance to anyone building a dynamic website on no money.The slides will concentrate on the lessons but I'll elaborate with some of the stories of getting Lourish to where it is today – 3 weeks in and 300 users strong
  • The ego building bitI’m no expert!Gently fondling a cucumber
  • Demo> Make offer> Show exchange SN IntegrationInformal swapsMake money? If proves a success may try to cover costs
  • General need for better web presence for gardenersNobody has done a really strong web2.0 gardening site involving communityMost are just another forum or basic SN site
  • Things go much faster with helpSomeone to bounce ideas offYes, the job was crappy, but at least it paid!If you're really going to buld it on a shoestring you'd better start saving the little money you have!
  • Judge interest in site by volumeAnswers questions!Gathers emails
  • More features = More difficult education Mixed messages Longer dev More bugs(Map of swaps)Real pages = faster in long run
  • Financial incentivesoptions, deferred paymentOther incentivescomfy chair, big monitor, good coffee, some input
  • Meet milestones by promising them to someoneLourish was going to be a community garden planner
  • ATM all on one virtual boxdesigned to scale to 3 tier with load balancingS3 data buckets for MySQLCloud foundry to deploy + monitor
  • SeleniumBe confident about loadUnless it's a site for techies don't “beta”
  • Key message join site to swap instead oft shopOther messages Environmental - Cut waste, lower food miles Use up your surplus
  • SPF records
  • ~400 emails = 50 sign-ups
  • Promotion through social networks is still trusted
  • Facebook connectTwitter @Anywhere
  • Get it noticed - hand deliver, gimmick, email, follow up by phoneA national piece may generate a lot of poor quality traffic.A piece in a local newsletter can provide high conversion as it's trusted
  • Bridge - “Big society”One slot on local radio will not increase visitors to your site!TV will be one 20 to 30 second response, could be heavily edited
  • Need to improve invite conversionLeafleting unlikely to provide high conversion

lourish.com - Building a Website on a Shoestring lourish.com - Building a Website on a Shoestring Presentation Transcript

  • Growing lourish.com
    Building a website on a shoestring
    Dave Bower – http://lourish.com
    © Lourish 2010
  • Coming up...
    A little background
    Before you start
    Building a public website
    Promoting – If you build it, they're really unlikely to ever bother coming
    Wrap up and Q+A
  • I'm great, me...
    10 years software engineering
    5 years leading dev teams for Internet start-ups
    C#/Java/Grails development
  • lourish.com
  • The need for Lourish
    Gardening sites are all rubbish
    Community gardening not involving 20-40 group
    I had a LOT of cucumbers
    Job driving me insane!
  • Before you start
    Get a grown-up to help you
    Bounce ideas
    Keep work options open
    Stop buying stuff!
  • Low cost start up
    You don't need
    a new PC/server/phone/shoes
    a company (yet)
    Buy domains
    Free email + docs from Google
    Free developer tools
    SAAS may be expensive in the long run, but it has low initial cost
  • The tease
    Internet presence, you will need...
    Holding page
    Vague but exciting details
    Gather email addresses
    Survey (WUFOO, Survey Monkey)
    Email form
  • Designing
    Fewer features
    Cut out the unnecessary screens/features/details
    Make common case simple
    Leave the absolute bare minimum
    Create real pages
    Involve a designer as early as possible
    Agree cost and time scale up front if you can
    They know their stuff – take notice
    Find someone interested in what you're doing
  • Implementing
    If you don't code...
    Kiss goodbye to building a website on a shoestring!
    Find someone you really trust who doesn't just code but who also manages developers
    Managing developers is really difficult
    Software is hard to estimate
    Financial incentives
    Other incentives
  • Implementing
    Thank God you can code...
    Choose technologies with longevity
    What are your strengths? Outsource everything else
    Plan realistically
    Missing milestones? Work out why
    Don't be afraid to completely change direction
    Move in to ideaSpace!
  • Lourish Architecture
  • Test It!
    Really, really test it
    Unit test, TDD even better
    Functional test
    UI Test
    Load test
    Staging environment
    To beta or not to beta?
    Users expect a working site, “beta” label or not
  • Launch! (And you thought you'd done the hard part...)
    It's easy to build a website, it's very difficult to get one noticed
    Promoting is as important as building
    Good support experience can create devoted users
    Use monitoring to provide feedback
  • Promotion
    It's not rocket science
    Consistent communication throughout
    Use 1 key message, with maybe 1 or 2 subsidiary messages
    “XYZ.com does it better”
    Keep promoting
  • Promotion - Email
    Use emails gathered from teaser site
    People will forget they registered...
  • Promotion - Email
    Expect to be marked as spam if you didn't have double opt-in
    Use mailing service
    Mailchimp / Campaign Monitor / Constant Contact
    Protection from “spammer” status
    Expect low conversion from email to site
  • Promotion – Social Media
    No self-promotion!
    Use Google alerts to find out what’s being said where
    Support the site through a blog
    Promote blog through Twitter and Facebook
    Get influential bloggers to write about you
    Add blog stream to site for easy CMS!
  • Promotion – Social Media
    Company page
    Use follows to position yourself
    Use link shorteners for tracking (bit.ly, twitpic etc)
    Keep posting updates or risk looking dead!
  • Promotion – Social Media
    Integrate into site
    Single sign on
    News feeds
    Give a reason for users to promote site
  • Promotion – Press
    Press releases
    Use a story
    Local papers need local angle
    Targeted – one key message
    Get it noticed
    Journalists are lazy, write their articles!
  • Promotion – Press
    Radio and TV
    Get key message into every answer!
    Build “bridges”
    Don't expect a deluge of new visitors!
    Wrong medium for converting users
    Get link on their website
    Promote press appearances via social media
  • Promotion – Grassroots
    1 in 3 invite
    1 in 10 invites converted
    Local champions / Virtual champions
  • Promotion – SEO
    Quality links to site (BBC)
    Sensible page titles
    Use image alt attributes
    Write copy with keywords
    Home page
    Choosing a “meaningless” domain name helps!
  • Monitor
    Google analytics
    Traffic sources
    Google alerts
    See what's being said & respond
    Facebook insights
  • Support
    Responsibility to
    help users
    keep site running and innovating
    Respond professionally
    Answer quickly
    Respond only once to “chat”
    Use pseudonyms
    Reply during office hours
  • Eleven Lourish Lessons
    Get help (even if it’s from a soft toy)
    Early design input
    Build absolute minimum
    Concentrate on strengths, outsource weaknesses
    Changing your mind is OK but stick to your beliefs
    Release early and often
    A website is a responsibility
    Promotion is everything
    Hofstadter's Law: It always takes longer than you expect, even when you take into account Hofstadter's Law.
  • A Website on a Shoestring
    Free software and SAAS
    Fewer features
    Get designer in early
    Promotion is free
  • Future Lourishment
    Possible future directions
    Stronger SN integration
  • Sign up at http://lourish.com