Build/Promote a Non-Commercial Web Site
January 12, 2008 12:28 PM   Subscribe

How do I build and promote a totally non-commercial web site to disseminate useful and creative tricks for fixing a number of supposedly incurable health problems?

I've developed, thanks to a multi-decade study of yoga, some pretty powerful ways for people, even non-yoga people, to self-fix a number of supposedly incurable maladies e.g. migraines, TMJ, RSI, patellar tendonitis, fallen arches, and depression. I understand your skepticism. But please keep reading.

I plan to build a web site to house and disseminate this information non-commercially. How do I get the information out there? There are so many quacks hawking rip-off miracle cures, and so much inane noise, that I can't imagine how to be heard, even though these techniques really work. I think the problem is that I'm not doing this out of greed (the info will be freely offered, I just want to relieve suffering) or ego (I'll be anonymous). And those are the two big forces in the world which make voices loud enough to cut through the chatter!! So how do I, a mild-mannered would-be good samaritan, get word-of-mouth buzz going without stooping to the cheesy/sleazy strategies of marketers?


I should note that these techniques are just little mental or physical actions...nothing that could cause greater harm. So while there's been no rigorous testing, I think it's patently reasonable to offer on a "try this!" basis

As for the web site, I'm envisioning an intro page indexing different pages for each condition. A blog format isn't appropriate, which is a shame because there are great blog templates out there and I don't have graphic design talent (my HTML is good enough to yield bland, barebones 1998-looking sites!). What's my best bet for yielding an attractive look? My pref would be to pay a graphical designer...wouldn't be too expensive, 'cuz it's such a simple site. But how do I find a talented, not-totally-swamped-with-work designer? Or is there a non-blog template that might work?
posted by Quisp Lover to Computers & Internet (15 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
 
You may want to consult the HON Code principles and ask yourself how they might apply to your project.
posted by gimonca at 12:31 PM on January 12, 2008


Re: HON Code, my answers to all questions will be "none". No qualifications, no privacy, no sources, no justifiability, no transparency, no funding, no advertising.

I think it can be summed up with "Here's some setuff that I, a nobody, came up with. It can't hurt, might help. Actually, does help (re: experiences of me, family, and friends, which are 100% undocumented). But don't take my word for it...give it a try."

I will of course include an obligatory "this does not replace your doctor" statement, "get medical advice before trying anything", etc. In case people are too naive to know those things in the first place.
posted by Quisp Lover at 12:36 PM on January 12, 2008


woops...typo..."Here's some STUFF that I, a nobody, came up with"
posted by Quisp Lover at 12:37 PM on January 12, 2008


Take this as you will, but the best chance for getting me to try anything you propose would be to get it into a peer-reviewed medical journal.

Yes, it's a lot of work, but there's zero chance I'd listen to you otherwise. So, although the barrier is rather high, the result otherwise is non-existent.

I'd hope that other people share my views, but I doubt that is the case.
posted by saeculorum at 12:37 PM on January 12, 2008 [1 favorite]


saeculorum, that's highly reasonable. I'd likely feel the same. However, the things I recommend (maybe I didn't make this point clearly enough) are trivial, harmless little physical movements and mental sort-of-visualizations....all incredibly innocuous. So while you or I might not take the time regarless of innocuousness, all that's needed (assuming these things work...which I don't expect any of you to "buy") is for a few people to check it out, achieve success, and spread the word. Once that happens, nothing more needs to be done.

I'm not expecting to attract thousands of people into the site via some marketing gimmick. All that's needed are a few "seeders" who will quickly see the value. So I need to think of how to get some seeders.
posted by Quisp Lover at 12:41 PM on January 12, 2008


...and I have no incentive or desire to submit to peer reviewing. Again, I have no intention of owning or profiting from any of this.

Put yourself in my shoes. You lucked on to some really useful stuff (via lots of exploration). You're not greedy or conceited. You don't want to build this into any sort of biz or other operation, that's totally not your interest in life.

Do you simply keep it to yourself, and let people suffer unnecessarily? No. You build a web site, do a few things to try to ignite critical mass, and get back to doing whatever your life is about.
posted by Quisp Lover at 12:45 PM on January 12, 2008


To actually answer the question, instead of debate the purpose behind it:

You build a website by, well, building one. The easiest approach if you're not a techie is probably to go the hosted CMS route; set up an account at blogger or wordpress or wherever and start writing. Describe your exercises, post photos, do your thing. If videos might help, post them at youtube, link back and forth between the youtube account and your new site.

Promoting it, probably, boils down to visiting health websites and discussion boards, and when appropriate, posting "here's a list of things that worked for me." Try to avoid being spammy about it, but you seem pretty reasonable so I don't think you'll have too much trouble with that (and the fact that you'll have no advertising etc will play in your favor.)

You're right that there are zillions of quack sites out there, a lot of noise, so your best bet for finding people who actually need your info is to go out there and find people who are asking questions online which you feel you can answer.

If they try your ideas, and they work for them, they'll spread the word.

You're *extremely* unlikely to "ignite critical mass," but you might help some individuals. Which is the whole idea, no?
posted by ook at 12:55 PM on January 12, 2008


"A blog format isn't appropriate"

You might be surprised. An ongoing site, where you're periodically posting new things, is a lot more likely to gather ongoing interest than a site which is "here's a list of everything we're ever going to have here, that's it.

A lot of sites which aren't technically in diary form get wedged into the blog format, because the software is out there, and it's easy to use, and people understand how to read them, and they're familiar. These are all good things.
posted by ook at 12:58 PM on January 12, 2008


"An ongoing site, where you're periodically posting new things, is a lot more likely to gather ongoing interest "

Thanks, ook. Why do I want ongoing interest, though? I'm not trying to build up an operation, a brand, etc, I'm just trying to spread word. I dont' want or need people hanging around, I just want them feeling better!

Also, a lot of the success of this depends on clarity. I want to be as clear as possible in explaining these techniques, which means concentrated, centralized information and as little clicking and reading and plowing around as possible. I want everything clear, terse, crisp, easy,, and pragmatic. Reading through blog entries would be the antithesis of this.
posted by Quisp Lover at 1:03 PM on January 12, 2008


Ongoing interest == more people paying attention for longer == more opportunities for them to remember who you are and spread the word. If they read through your site once and that's it, then somebody else asks about it a month later, they may not remember who you are even if the information was great. If you're a blog, all they have to do is look at their feedreader and there you are.

Also, blogs have a lot of built-in systems (comments, trackbacks, digg/delicious/etc) that make a site easier to spread around.

concentrated, centralized information and as little clicking and reading and plowing around as possible.

One of the strengths of a blog format is that it's exactly this: the newest stuff is on top, the older stuff is just a scroll down, everybody's used to how they're structured and they don't need to think about it. If you roll your own site structure, maybe you'll do a great job, and everything will be clear; maybe you won't, because you're not a web designer used to structuring content for the web. Either way, it'll be a structure every user will have to learn from scratch, for your site -- and you'll have to spend a lot of time thinking about and working on that structure, which might be time better focused on creating your content.


I'm not saying a blog is the only way to go; if you'd prefer to use some other cms or code your html from scratch, have at it. I'm just saying it's the easiest way to get started, and has some other advantages thrown in for free.
posted by ook at 1:14 PM on January 12, 2008


and I have no incentive or desire to submit to peer reviewing. Again, I have no intention of owning or profiting from any of this.

If you want people to believe you, then you have incentive.

If you want to help as many people as possible--which it would seem you do--then getting actual hard data backing up your claims is the best way to do so.
posted by dirtynumbangelboy at 1:15 PM on January 12, 2008 [1 favorite]


A blog or wiki. What you need is some way of putting your pages down and having them findable with a search engine. Both of these options will do it, with different organizational principles associated with each. It's really not complicated: article + search engine = usable information.
posted by rhizome at 1:16 PM on January 12, 2008


Even with your trepidations about the format, I think blogging it, using categories to group the conditions, would be a good start for you. Blogs are a fantastic way to present information and most people on the internet are used to their interface.

If you want it to feel a little less 'bloggy', you can use a more full-featured CMS such as Joomla or Drupal. After you 'sketch' out the site, you'll have a better idea about what features you really want to be able to offer and a general idea of how you'd like the layout to work.

Don't pay anyone, a graphic/web designer/illustrator OR a web developer, until you know what you need; with your likely budget, getting a consultation from a professional without at least trying to DIY is going to be a waste of money.

How do I get the information out there? There are so many quacks hawking rip-off miracle cures, and so much inane noise, that I can't imagine how to be heard, even though these techniques really work. I think the problem is that I'm not doing this out of greed (the info will be freely offered, I just want to relieve suffering) or ego (I'll be anonymous).

I would recommend against being anonymous. You're trying to build trust in your work. Anonymity doesn't help you build that trust. Have an "About Me", defend your credentials to provide this information. If you don't do a blog format, run a personal blog in addition to the main site and comment on other blogs, link to articles that support or are similar to what you're trying to present. Have people with an existing audience and trust circle do a write-up and/or link to you -- if your information is good this should not be difficult.

A blog format isn't appropriate, which is a shame because there are great blog templates out there and I don't have graphic design talent (my HTML is good enough to yield bland, barebones 1998-looking sites!).

On the web, content is king. If you have good content, even if the presentation is shitty, people will STILL look at it. I worked for a webby-award winning website that had a codebase which had hardly changed since 1996 -- it had great content that people wanted to read. Metafilter is a good example -- although a couple of slip-covers and home depot lighting fixtures have been thrown on in the past year, design-wise, the site is still pretty basic (although metafilter has always had pretty good usability, so it's not some kind of design disaster).

What's my best bet for yielding an attractive look? My pref would be to pay a graphical designer...wouldn't be too expensive, 'cuz it's such a simple site.

I think in general, it's good to have a professional do web work for you. However, I don't think most good web professionals are in reach of the average joe who wants to put together a website. Here's a ballpark: even with a simple website, to do logo/branding and layout, you're looking at 2-4 weeks in an ideal world. That's from $8-16k for someone who's charging $100/hr, which is entry-level for people who are talented. That's *just* design. You can pay as little as $30-60/hr (or even less!), but you really get what you pay for.

But how do I find a talented, not-totally-swamped-with-work designer?

Network, OR, have buckets of money. It's really hard. I've had to do this search two or three times in the last year, and every time it has come down to networking. If you have the latter (buckets of cash), hang out at k10k.net, or designiskinky.net, or the myriad other portfolio-link-dumps, and when you see something you like, email the author.

Or is there a non-blog template that might work?

Look into more general content management systems, or CMSes. Blog software is essentially a subset of CMS software. There's a TON of this type of software out there [Wikipedia List], and each one has its own upsides and downsides. Find one you like and start tweaking! CMS with larger communities will typically have more templates available for your use.
posted by fishfucker at 1:29 PM on January 12, 2008


n-thng the blog format. start small -- create a simple blog with info about you, your background, and an "intro" to what you are trying to do. then add a few entries each week on different topics - TMJ, insomnia, whatever - and invite readers to leave feedback (whether they've tried other treatments, how they worked, whether they tried your suggestions, etc). build it up over time, adding new topics periodically.

waaaay better than a static "here's everything!" site.
posted by davidmsc at 12:34 AM on January 13, 2008


Yup, I'd concur with the doing-it-as-a-blog suggestions. Reason being - it's much more personal and will build the trust-factor that you need. Put your photo there, tell a bit about yourself, etc. Make it look like you're talking TO me as a friend, instead of an anonymous website. A good example that you may want to look at is Steve Pavlina's personal development website (www.stevepavlina.com) - it's written as a blog but also contains a lot of useful articles.

Marketing? I've found that being proactive in discussion forums and commenting on other blogs / websites within your industry helps. Have a signature to your site, or recommend your article to someone who has a problem that you can solve. Have a newsletter / RSS so folks can get updated on what's new. It's a very natural, progressive way of building an audience over the long term.
posted by arrowhead at 6:06 AM on January 13, 2008


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