Part 5: Advice to Family amp; Baby Sites

It’s the story stupid! If I had just four words to describe about a strategy or vision for a family website, “It’s the story stupid” is how I would characterize it. First and foremost, people create a family or baby website to tell others about their kids life. Everything else is peripheral (and sometimes irrelevant). If you create a site that allows them to enter a picture, a paragraph of text and the emails of a dozen people to send it to, people would love it. Oh, wait. That exists already. It’s called email!

So, stop looking at the dozen of websites competing for the keyword “create a family website” and start tapping into how people behave naturally. For each family picture uploaded to the Web and for each blog post about kids posted, there are 10 times more pictures and stories sent via email — maybe 100 times more.

Email has the key elements necessary for sharing a story: You can attach anything to it (pictures, video, audio, links, documents), it’s fairly private, it’s very easy to use and it has your address book ready for you. All you need to do is write the content.

The obvious downside of email is that it’s not easy to scroll through it or to organize it, either for you or for the recipients.

Unless you have a deep integration with email, you are asking too much of your users. Remember this is not about the author only, it’s about the readers. If the readers start complaining they can’t sign in, or “where is my password”, or “I forgot the link”, the author will just abandon your service. In other words: make it very easy for the readers to consume/contribute the content.

People Want a Mirror

Customization is also important. The problem is that startups tend to overdo it on customization, allowing users to pick any color, font, background, spacing, boxes styles, etc. When you do that, you’ll find out people can create really ugly things. Limit customization to a few of the graphical elements, but most importantly allow them to add a page Header that has their picture. People just love to see their own pictures on their website. If you had a completely plain website, black-and-white and allowed people to upload one picture of 900x200 to be their header and nothing else, people would tell you have a pretty good customization solution.

Public vs. Private

Privacy is important — for some. First of all, don’t assume people think like you. Some people like privacy, some don’t care. That’s the end of discussion. You might decide to take the everything-is-public route, but you have to do knowing you’ll lose some users. On the Family/Baby space, I think the ratio is 2/3 demand privacy, 1/3 don’t care. Another thing to keep in mind is that you might be listening to your customers on this topic and they were a self-selected group based on the features you already offered. Meaning if you ask them if they care about privacy you might get an overwhelming yes or no, but that’s not a representation of the population in general.

Facebook Story

You must figure out Facebook integration. That’s not to say you should build your service inside Facebook, which I think you should not. But there is an element of easy-of-sharing and ease-of-connect on Facebook that you must leverage. The biggest problem with Facebook is that it cannot reach the younger than 13-year-old because of the law, and it cannot reach the older generation because of the technology barrier. So you have to create a solution that is seamless for those consuming the content on the website, consuming it on Facebook or consuming it via email.

The only way to succeed with a Family or Baby web presence solution is to be multi-generational friendly.

I could share another dozen less important elements on being successful on this space, but it’s all a guesswork because I wasn’t successful.

Marcelo Calbucci

Marcelo Calbucci

I'm a technologist, founder, geek, author, and a runner.