Creating a more valuable web site for your users

Over the weekend, I was thinking about how to make our site more valuable to our users. We have two of them – customers (students) and teachers. We have been wrestling with the idea of how much content our site should have since, in all candor, we don't make a cent from web content. We make money by providing a real service in the real world.

However, at the same time, there is some underlying feeling that we could be providing more value to our users by helping them become better at their passions. I was reading a post today from Joshua Porter, a UI expert that I enjoy reading, and he was explaining how LinkedIn could become more valuable.

I found this particular section useful to me:

To be the world’s best professional app you need to make people better at their profession! This is straight out of Kathy Sierra’s School of Passionate Use. The best way to make people passionate about your business is to make them better at what they’re already passionate about.
In other words, users will get passionate about LinkedIn if LinkedIn
can help them do their work better. Now, LinkedIn knows what I do
because I’ve told them. Why isn’t their goal to make me a better
freelance consultant/interface designer? Give me some tools to do my
business better, give me great content that helps me do my work better.
There are places to find great content around this…it’s just a matter
of curating it and publishing it.

There are a few things we could do along these lines:

  • Develop and record free online video. It's not as good as private music lessons, but it helps people get started. (Is this valuable since there are years of free video on YouTube?)
  • Develop an area for musicians to collaborate on projects and find bandmates (I wonder if this would be useful since myspace does a lot of this already).
  • Develop an area for instructors to share ideas and learn to get better doing their passion. Kind of "teach the teacher". They become passionate about us because we make them better at what they love to do. (Again, there are sites doing this already. Can we do it better? If not, why do it at all?)

There's no easy answer since each minute that is spent on creation of content is time away from other projects. Thus it becomes a matter of priority. Does the additional content drive sales? Is it unique and original? Will it help produce passionate customers? Are we truly building value for those we serve?

If we can answer those questions, we'll be more likely to get the right mix of content without neglecting our core competencies. It's tempting to run at content generation just for the sake of it without having a well thought out plan. Since we are quite methodical, we'd need to spend time weighing the pros and cons before making a decision.

Do you have any insight? I'd love to hear from you.

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