Four Steps for Running a Successful Website: One World, Two Feet
by Erika Zambello -- November 17th, 2015
During my time at the Duke Nicholas School, I realized that one of my professional passions is science and environmental communication. The days of print-media dominance are waning, and some of the most important publications in our field, including the Conservation magazine, have evolved into online-only platforms.
Given the importance of digital media, I wanted to wade into the fray with a new idea: an exploration and travel website created through a collective of dozens of writers. Instead of just one writer, many would come together to give readers daily slices of life from around the world. From this idea, “One World, Two Feet” was born.
The website has been launched for a month now, and by diving straight in to a new communications venture, I have learned four critical steps for launching a website that can be useful for environmentalists, scientists, and anyone looking to test out a new communications idea.
1. Collect content ahead of time
When launching a new website, especially one based on writing and communicating information (instead of launching a product, for example), it is critical to build up a metaphorical warehouse of content before you even begin. Your archive will not only allow you to see what kinds of material is out there and readily available, but can help you brainstorm the best way to showcase what you have. A website based primarily on photography is going to look and act very differently than one based solely on writing.
For One World, Two Feet, I first needed to contact potential collaborators to see who might be interested in writing and contributing photography on a regular basis. Ryan Huang, a PhD student and co-founder of Duke SNAP, was my first call, and together we contacted a range of other Explorers, from Duke but also from our alma maters, my abroad days, and people we had met in the past. I was surprised and delighted when many of them were excited about the idea, and they began to send me blog posts and beautiful photographs from their travels.
2. Spend time building the platform
No one will come back to your website if it doesn’t work correctly, or if the layout is poorly designed or poorly executed. Building the platform may be the most difficult part, but it should also take the most time. Work out even the smallest details, so that the entire website comes together as one. Pages should logically flow into each other, and there should be a balance between the static and fluid aspects of your project. For example, on One World, Two Feet, we may have constantly changing feature photographs, but they can always be found under the “Travel” or “Gallery” tabs.
Ryan and I spent over a week working out all the kinks to the site. We decided to use WordPress, and took our time choosing the perfect theme and figuring out how best to organize everything. This is where having a team is critical: Ryan is much better at maneuvering in the back-end of user websites like WordPress, and he found so many functionalities I never would have discovered on my own.
Think you have to spend a lot of money on a website with a professional look? Think again! To set up One World, Two Feet we paid a mere $26 to reserve the url.
3. Update regularly
Regularly adding content is the most important aspect of maintaining a popular site. Updates not only include your own website, but also social media. Facebook is a critical driver of traffic, especially for millennials, as is Twitter and even Instagram. Social media should be an integral part of any communications strategy, not something to add as an aside.
However, Google and other search engines also remain an important way people can find your page. Google prioritizes websites that are updated at least on a weekly basis, and the more new content you have the better off you’ll be.
Of course, the nature of your website determines how often “regular” is, but to us at One World, Two Feet it means uploading new content every day. Whether it is a photograph or a post, there’s always something new to check out on the website as well as Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook. Our mission is to inspire people to explore in their daily lives, and what better way to do that than to provide daily inspiration?
4. Have fun!
Above all else, your website project should be fun. If it’s a drag and you grow to dread it, then it’s time to give up the reins to someone else or look for something different to pursue, for it will probably show in your final product. I love being a part of One World, Two Feet; it has helped me connect to old friends, learn a ton of new things, and expand my list of potential travel destinations. I look forward to working on it every day, and sincerely hope to see it continue to grow and expand.