8 ways to generate website ideas

Having seen the success of my ‘18 random website ideas‘ post, i decided to put together another list. But not a list of ideas…. a list of how to come up with ideas….

That post has now had over 10,000 views, the majority of which have come from Google, so i know there’s plenty of people out there looking for ideas, and looking to create websites. Here’s 8 tips i’ll give you…

1. Sit down, relax, gather your thoughts

Sometimes, ideas will just come to you after seeing something that just ‘sparks’ a bit of creativity in you. For example, i came up with the idea for BeerChief as a direct result of browsing Bebo and Facebook. But more often than not, ideas just won’t hit you – you have to make them hit you. Much like getting hit by a car, you stand a much better chance in the middle of the road than on the side of the street.

So rather than trying to come up with ideas when working or talking to people, dedicate time to it… give the ‘idea thinking process’ your full attention. That way, you’re actually working your brain. Get out a pen and paper, write down any keywords that enter your head and take it from there – cross off the ideas that you don’t think will work, circle the potential winners.

2. It’s not all about money

If the main question you’re asking yourself when trying to come up with ideas is ‘how can i make money’ – forget about it… whilst that can work in some cases (Alex Tew for example of themilliondollarhomepage.com sat down and asked himself that exact question) it usually poisons your mind with ‘get rich quick’ ideas which never work.

You should be asking yourself questions like;

  • what sites do i visit on a regular basis and what annoys me about them?
  • what feature/service would i use that doesn’t already exist?
  • when / why / where would i use it?
  • does this exist already? (a quick google will tell you)

If you focus primarily on the cash, you’ll get completely different ideas. Focus on how to improve / create new services or features people would use. Worry about making the cash later. It’s much healthier to have an active site with 10,000 members and tonnes of unique content earning $0, than it is to have a small site with not much content earning $10/month.

3. Never grab the first thing you see

Whether it’s a blogging platform, a template, a site you see for sale, a domain name, a pair of socks… just don’t buy them instinctively because you like the look of them. Make sure you know what you’re getting yourself in to. Even though a template might look nice, it might be full of bad code or could be using copyright images etc… a good domain name might be blacklisted by google… you just never know…

Look for reviews, expert advice, check out forum posts – believe me, it saves you time and cash in the long run. Always do a quick google of anything or anyone you buy from online. If anything sounds dodgy, it is. Competition is fierce out there so always investigate and browse the competition before you dive in to anything.

4. It hasn’t ‘all been done’ before

I’ve lost count of the amount of times people have said to me ‘ah, sure that’s been done’, ‘that’d be too complex’, or ‘that’s probably been done’… WHAT?! You may as well throw yourself underneath a train with that attitude. That’s a lazy, negative, pessimistic view to take and i’m telling you now you’re not an entrepreneur if that’s how you think.

Just because something ‘exists’ doesn’t mean it can’t be bettered or improved by you. Sure, the bones of the idea may be similar but if you believe your idea is different enough to be a success- don’t listen to the naysayers – go for it. You’re always going to have doubters and people who won’t recognize you until you are successful… make a note of those people and be sure to save it up for the day you create something big 😉

5. Rough Sketch

one thing that always frustrates me is the design / layout for a new site. I never know what way i want it to look, even though i have a rough idea of what the site will be about. Even though we all hate pen and paper, it is actually STILL the easiest and quickest way to get ideas down quickly.

Bookmark some sites you like the look of, come up with a basic layout/structure you like the look of and then build everything around that. Scrunch up, slam dunk in the bin and try again if it’s too messy. It’s vital you have a rough sketch of what you want your site to look like – particularly if you’re not a designer yourself. Even if you don’t use that design, it helps give you more ideas and is a step on the path to the right design.

6. Domain surf

Sometimes i’ll just randomly search for domain names and see if they’re unregistered. An unregistered good domain name is like an untapped oil field – if you see one snap it up. You can alternatively go in to ‘sniper’ mode and try to snipe expiring domain names which other poor fools have forgotten to register. I wouldn’t do it though unless you actually have an idea for the domain… otherwise it’s just cyber squatting and unethical.

So how do domain names give you ideas for websites? Well they can sum up what your site is about in one word. By randomly browsing for available domain names, you may end up buying a decent domain name and then coming up with the idea afterwards. It’s never any harm to own good domain names so why not try and get your hands on some and they might fill you with big ideas afterwards.

A handy little tool i use is makewords.com – it will help you pinpoint that unregistered domain you’re after.

7. Watch, listen and learn

Unless you can step back and view things as an outsider, you’re judgement is going to be clouded and probably poor. But imagine if you find out what people like and don’t like… wouldn’t that help filter your ideas and perhaps even give you knew ones? Yes it would.

This is how i came up with idea for BeerChief – by watching how large numbers of people used social networks and for what purposes. That was all ‘free’ information – all it cost me was time. Always stay active in social networks as it’s a great way to meet like minded people plus discover what people like and don’t like.

For example, on digg, if you were to submit a ’10 reasons why you should vote for McCain’ article you wouldn’t exactly be welcomed with open arms. Now of course, you must defend your views and not switch sides due to pressure, but a newbie who submits something like that, ain’t gonna be too popular. I don’t even follow American politics yet i know digg is Obama territory. That’s because i actually read and listen to the stuff on it. If you don’t know the community, don’t expect them to warm to you or your ideas right off the bat.

Stop and watch what people are saying and gradually build up a profile of the typical community member. Social networks are just like real groups of people, in real life. You can’t just walk in and expect to be everyone’s best friend… you have to invest something in the group over a long period of time before you gain respect.

8. What’s in the news?

Watching/reading the news can be a great source of inspiration for ideas. If you’re quick off the mark, you can really cash in on ‘news’. Although an increasing number of people seem to have ‘caught on’ to this, it can still work…

Whenever a new product or service/site is launched, it’s obviously ‘new’ so there ain’t gonna be much information on the web on it. There also ain’t gonna be many related domain names taken – see where i’m going with this?

You have to be careful with the legal side of things… for example if you were to register googlephone.com when/if google ever release a phone, they could easily just ‘take’ it off you overnight, if they wanted, as their trademarked name is in it.

But gphonereview.com or mygphone.com would probably leave you in the clear. Now you can go about setting up a forum or blog to create some hype and fuss over the ‘google phone’ and seen as there ain’t much competition, you may just cement yourself as the no.1 google phone forum on the net… that’s just an example of course…

So basically if you see a live press conference involving the unveiling of something, you stand a much better chance of succeeding with a related site than if you hear about it a week later as most likely, someone/people will have beaten you to it. Not that you shouldn’t try of course, it just makes it more difficult 😉

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11 thoughts on “8 ways to generate website ideas”

  1. @ rory, cheers, i’ll do my best to keep up the good work 😉

    @irishsellers, yeah makewords is hugely under-rated tool in my opinion, it speeds up the domain hunting process and when we’re talking about breaking news/product launches etc… time is crucial and the makewords website may just give you a head start…

  2. #3 is a good tip, you never know what you’ll get when downloading someone code work. One should take a close look at coding and the graphics.

    I’m new to the business so I really appreciate your tips and ideas.

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