Mini Sites for Everybody?

This is part of the ongoing saga of the development of realMendocino.com. Sort of, sort of not.

While I was doing data collecting and data entry for the directory section of realMendocino, I noticed that many of the local businesses and self employed professionals have no website at all. This doesn’t seem wise to me.

On the one hand, most of those folks don’t need a fancy-shmancy site; they’re not doing e-commerce, they don’t need to reach beyond the local community and people who actually visit the area. But, on the other hand, this is the Twenty-first Century. Fewer and fewer people use old-fashioned phone books. Every business needs some kind of web presence of their own, otherwise the only sign of their existence to many of their potential customers may be an inaccurate, rarely updated page on Yelp (or some such global corporate monoculture site). And that Yelp page is likely to have a nasty review by some grumpus who visited the store a year ago.

So, I saw a need to develop an option for mini-sites for these people. One easy-to-set-up, easy-to-edit page with the pertinent information about the business or service. They’d just need to fill out a few forms with info about their business, upload a few photos, pick some colors, define the order in which those elements are displayed, and *voila!* an instant mini-site!

It’ll be inexpensive (maybe $100/yr) for the people setting up the sites, but still a decent source of steady income for me, once I get a decent number of folks interested.

As is often the case with such things, actually developing the gosh-darned thing has turned to be vastly more complicated than it seemed like it would be. I’ve put a lot of time into designing the database, writing the scripts, securing it from malevolent code, trying to anticipate all credible contingencies, etc. But I’ve been persevering, and the monster is almost ready for me to draft a few friends to be beta testers.

Today, as I was working on some of the editing scripts, a new thought ocurred to me: maybe this isn’t just a section of realMendocino. Maybe I should offer the mini-sites to the larger web world. The scripts themselves are portable, I could set them up on a separate site and people in Hoboken and Biloxi could set up their mini-sites and I’d get rich. Or maybe it’d just get lost in a sea of other options which are supported by giant ad campaigns and stuff. Hmmm…

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