How I've Taken an Agile and Iterative Approach to Building my Personal Website
Personal websites are all the rage these days. They are easier than ever to make. Back in the day you had to read up on how to code and do it yourself. Now through easy to use Content Management Systems like Wix, Wordpress, and others, non coders can build beautiful highly functional websites.
With such great tools making basic web development accessible to all, why doesn’t everyone have their own website?
They think they don’t have the skills
False: Anyone who has used photoshop, powerpoint, or even microsoft paint can use a modern CMS to build a great website.
They think they are too expensive
Wrong! While you can use a free option, generally any free website will come with a long list of unprofessional things like ads on your site, and not having your own domain. Jump in with two feet and pay to get a great website URL.
They don’t know what they would put on it
There are tons of ways you could use a professional website! A quick google search will show you almost endless possibilities. Keep reading to see some of what I have in mine.
OK all this sounds great, but I don’t have the time. This has got to take months and months to build a website.
That isn't true, as long as you use an agile approach to building your website.
There are a few questions we can ask ourselves when using an agile approach. The first one is:
Where do we want to get to?
This is important in both approaches. If we don’t know where we’re going, we won’t know how to get there!
Agile asks a second very important question:
What is the minimum we need to just get started, and DELIVER VALUE TO THE CUSTOMER
If you want to get from point A to point B, do you want to build an entire car, or would you rather construct a skateboard? Unless you're the son of a mechanic who has a bunch of party lying around, a skateboard will always be significantly less complex and easier to build.
So we want to build our own website with an agile approach. Per the first question, where do we want to get to?
Here are the benefits I saw from building my own professional website:
Create more of a presence on the web, so that people stop confusing me with apparently the many other people that share the name Ben Staples who are doing some bad things
Host the blog that I’m already writing on Medium so I could potentially have a path to monetize it
Build a platform to start a consulting business for fun
Create a repository (that isn’t LinkedIn) of my work
Sign up for Amazon affiliates
Have a professional sounding email address that doesn't end in gmail.com
Start an eCommerce store
All of this is great and sounds like fun. If I were going about this with a waterfall mindset, what would I have to do? I’d have to plan out each one of these “features” end to end. I’d spend a year or more building checkout funnels from shopify integrations for my eCommerce store, developing a robust booking system for my consulting business without really understanding what potential clients really need, and spend thousands of hours totally ineffectively as I try to guess what people on the web are interested in.
Instead, I stepped back and thought about what the very minimum would be where I could feel comfortable creating a site, paying for it, and telling my friends and family about it to see what they thought.
Instead of building 5+ pages with tons of complex integrations, I started with one simple page; a homepage! I also, as a part of the MVP (minimum viable product), landed on a domain I liked (www.Ben-Staples.com), paid for that and linked it. Sure, website builders do offer free versions of their product where you won’t have your own standalone domain, but for me, domain integration fell below the minimum viable line. I wanted to connect my domain from the start and begin building credibility.
Did this first pass accomplish everything I outlined above? No!
I still wrote and published articles ONLY on medium
I didn’t have an eCommerce store
No one had any way to contact me
I didn’t show anyone any information about my professional work experience
But I was able to get my website live in a matter of hours. Then the most valuable thing happened!
A few friends visited the site once I’d first published it. But they visited the site ON THEIR PHONES! I had been designing it on my laptop. Everything was totally misaligned and boy they gave me an earful about it.
Is it the end of the world? Nope! At the time my site had less than 4 visitors, the repercussions of having a terribly designed mobile site were zero. I went into the web editor, made a few changes, and voila; the site was mobile optimized.
I was so happy with my MVP approach, I threw together a kanban to demonstrate the features I decided to pull in for my MVP, and those I had left to develop at a later date and I made a page for it!
Since launching, I’ve continued to see increases in traffic, continued to receive great feedback, and continued to introduce new features.
I’ve incorporated a contact form, finally created a blog and now publish my weekly articles there first. I linked google webmaster tools and have started to receive organic search traffic.
There are so many great places I can take my website next. For anyone on the fence about creating your own website, give it a try! Maybe it seems daunting, but step back and ask yourself: What is the minimum I can do to get the site live?
About the author:
Ben Staples has over 7 years of product management and product marketing eCommerce experience. He is currently employed at Nordstrom as a Senior Product Manager responsible for their product pages on Nordstrom.com. Previously, Ben was a Senior Product Manager for Trunk Club responsible for their iOS and Android apps. Ben started his Product career as a Product Manager for Vistaprint where he was responsible for their cart and Checkout experiences. Before leaving Vistaprint, Ben founded the Vistaprint Product Management guild with over 40 members. Learn more at www.Ben-Staples.com
I do product management consulting! Interested in finding out more? Want to get notified when my next product article comes out? Interested in getting into Product Management but don't know how? Want even more book recommendations?! Contact me!