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Discoveries in User Centered Design and Small Business Support  

:: Thursday, October 14, 2004 ::

I'm passionate about my work and loyal to those I've found over the years that impress me with their passion and generosity of spirit. I came to know Ammon Johns, well known in the search engine marketing industry, by way of his endless free advice in a forums that no longer exist.

Ralph Tegtmeir, aka "Fantomaster" is a great soul who, in the late 1990's seemed to be everywhere, building his business and teaching in newsgroups and forums the intricacies of search engine spiders.

Jill Whalen, of HighRankings.com, has long produced the The Advisor newsletter filled with SEO/SEM advice and articles. She never charged a subscription. Her writings are practical, down to earth, and easy to understand. She finds contributing writers who are the same way.

There are many more people who've been around for years and, even today, still give their time freely to guide others who are just learning skills in web design, search engine optimization, search engine algorithms, usability and user centered design, and the ins and outs of operating a business online.

And, there are familiar faces that are expanding into new ground. One of them is Robert Clough, of Search Engine Guide. I've always liked Robert because he's approachable, warm, easy to correspond with, and has long had the spirit of giving.

In addition to his web site and the newsletter versions produced from Search Engine Guide, he's focusing on the needs of small businesses. This is a segment of web site owners I, too, have always been drawn to. Possibly it's because my roots are as a struggling single mom trying to hold a family (and myself) together by making a living working on the Web. It's a hellish path to choose.

Robert has rounded up some lovely folks to help him produce two sites I want to tell you about. The first is the Small Business Brief Forums. A few months old, there are already over 300 members. The forums cover a wide variety of topics including blogging, affiliate marketing, viral marketing, off-line marketing, revenue generation and search engines.

In addition to the forums, another excellent resource I've been checking out every day is the Small Business Brief, edited by Linda Riley. Besides articles and news, and links to a variety of resources, there is a Small Business Resources Directory. All of this is free.

Some of you may know my friend Bill Slawski, a tireless man who has made over 8000 posts at Cre8asiteForums. This is an incredible feat! Bill doesn't just jot down a few lines either. He researches answers to member questions. He's polite, respectful and thoughtful. What you may not know is that he has a few blogs, one of which is targeted to small businesses. It's called A Nasty Bit of Business. To get a feel for Bill's unique style, and why so many people love him, his latest post is called "The Value of Making Mistakes". You can't help but feel inspired by Bill.

On the Usability front, sadly, I find there are less approachable people in the industry. We're familiar with Jakob Nielsen, Jeffrey Zeldman, Jared Spool...but none of them run forums, or project themselves as being happy to receive an email from you if you have a question. (Though of them, Mr. Zeldman is willing to talk about himself and share precious insights into, for example, the thrill of becoming a new father.)

An exception is John Rhodes, whose WebWord has been around for years. It's a non-stop insightful resource into any tidbit relating to usability, and he's devoted a great deal of his time to keeping us informed.

Someone new, who's impressed me with his gigantic wealth of information on web design, is Ben Hunt, who gives us Web Design From Scratch. His Tutorials section, all free, is one of the best contributions of online help I've ever come across. His site is easy to use. He uses illustrations to give us a visual, which is enormously helpful when words aren't getting a message across. Lately he's been putting in untold hours into helping Cre8asiteForums with our redesign efforts. Again, generosity of spirit and time. We're honored to have his help.

Lastly, there are some people who somehow find the time to hunt for items of interest and present these things to targeted groups. I'm thinking here of Barry Schwartz (aka RustyBrick) who burst onto the information supplier scene with his Search Engine Roundtable. He and his staff volunteer their time to scouting for SEO/SEM forum threads of interest and related news items. Because there are several SEO news sites, Barry's site tries not to be redundant, but rather, they dig for the goodies, making it a fun site to check out every day.

New to the list of hunter-gatherers of information is Threadwatch.org run by Nick W. Of his service, also free, he writes, "Threadwatch.org cuts through the chatter and produces a clear signal for the time starved professional SEO." Nick cares so much about his site that he ventured into Cre8asiteForums "Web Site Hospital" to get feedback so that he could make improvements. This is a guy who cares, is in it for the reader, and has joined my list of charitable web site owners with a big heart.

Speaking of big hearts and free advice, one area at Cre8asiteForums has proven to be rather popular. It's not just because of the advice and sometimes, step by step how-to assistance, or the "rule" that to receive help, payment is as simple as helping someone else. At the Web Site Hospital, what you'll find is civility, concern for the feelings of web owners, and a willingness to guide web site owners to try things out for themselves. We've added more Moderators there because of how busy it is, but the kudos goes to the forum members who return often to share their knowledge and experience with other web site owners.

As I conclude this, there's a bunch of other names coming to my mind. Perhaps it's worthy of a thread at Cre8asiteForums because you see, people such as those I've mentioned today really appreciate hearing "thank you". Your acknowledgement may be the type of "payment" they most love to receive.

:: posted by Kim Krause Berg on 10/14/2004 10:26:58 AM

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