I’m trying out something new. I’m going to be documenting the process of planning, building, and launching a web app from start to finish.
This isn’t your typical SaaS app or niche site though. It falls somewhere in between. WordPress and no-code solutions don’t quite fit the technical requirements and a full-blown microservice architecture will only add unneeded complexity.
That’s why I chose to build this with Django. It’ll give me the control I need for a project like this while keeping it as lightweight as possible and reducing boilerplate.
Most niche sites are generic blogs that write about a niche topic and attempt to rank those articles in search engines. The most common forms of monetization for sites like these are display ads and affiliate links.
This tends to be a rather competitive space because your site isn’t really adding any value. You’re basically just gaming the system. It’s a scheme, not a viable business model.
A directory site is similar to a niche site but instead of writing articles, you create a searchable database of whatever widget your audience is interested in. This could be anything from products to services or even local attractions.
What’s nice about directories is they enable a two-way value exchange. They add value to consumers by making it easy to find what they’re looking for and to businesses by promoting their widgets to consumers.
This opens up new avenues of monetization such as sponsored listings. However, it’s also what makes them so challenging to grow.
Without listings, users get no value. Without users, businesses get no value and don’t create listings. It’s a classic example of the chicken or the egg dilemma. One way to counteract this is to pre-populate the site with enough content to make it valuable to users, grow the user base from there, then attract sponsors once the traffic spikes.
Directories also provide the ability to utilize programmatic SEO. Since we won’t be writing full-blown articles manually, our code will dynamically generate SEO metadata and the rest will be driven by a combination of user submissions, web scraping, and manual entry.
A niche directory site is just a directory site niched down. There are huge directory platforms like G2 for software reviews that would be impossible to compete with out of the gate. An equivalent niche directory site would be a software review site for marketing software only.
Niching down allows you to target a specific audience and makes your site more valuable in their eyes, driving early adoption.
In this series, I’ll be sharing mostly high-level technical considerations, project planning details, and more. This isn’t a step-by-step programming tutorial by any means. More like a way to share my thinking process and how I go about building projects from start to finish.
I’ll most likely reveal the site at the end of this series. For now, I’m going to keep the exact niche somewhat vague (just in case). What I can say is the directory will be built around a certain subset of products that a particular target audience is interested in.
In the next post, I’ll be going over the planning process I use before writing a line of code. I’ll talk about mapping out the basic features, defining a data model in pseudo-code, creating a wireframe, and more.