This article comes from the personal experiences I had whilst starting Twodded – a ‘quality tutorials’ section of the Pixel2life tutorial listing website. The aim of the site was to provide the users of Pixel2life with consistent quality tutorials and to set a standard for websites in the community to follow.
Twodded flopped because of a number of mistakes on my behalf in terms of management and communication. In this article I want to share what I have learnt from this experience so that others do not make similar mistakes.
Keep in mind that not all of these points will necessarily relate to your tutorial orientated website and that this article will be expanded on with another entry at a later date – so if you wish to help expand the following article please leave your additional points in a comment below . This is also a huge read so bare with me, and feel free to read in parts instead of one big sit in.
Try specialising in a specific area instead of generalising in everything
With Twodded I set out to cover a lot of different areas so that I had a wider audience. Whilst doing this I took on tutorial writers that had knowledge across several areas and therefore could write tutorials for several categories for the site. This can be good for quantity, but isn’t necessarily good for quality.
Writers that you bring aboard will generally be great with one or two categories and good with several others. The option I took was to get the writers to write for whatever they could, therefore absolutely destroying the ‘quality tutorials’ standard I wanted to set with the project. It’s important to get people to write for what they are great at, not what they are good at. This enhances the end product of your tutorials, and your site on a whole.
Sometimes it is better to specialise in creating tutorials for one program (say Adobe Photoshop), for example you contact Adobe about being an official resource for tutorials on Photoshop – are they going to accept a website specialising in Photoshop tutorials or are they going to accept a website that covers tutorials in fifteen programs including Photoshop? The same goes for users looking for Photoshop tutorials, they are much more likely to trust a specialist website.
If covering more than one category, don’t let a category go without tutorials for a long time
Simply put – every tutorial category you cover is an audience. If you choose to have someone write for C++ but they never write again – make sure you’ve got a back up plan for that category. Make sure there are long term plans for any categories you cover with your tutorials as every category you have tutorials for will mean one more audience wanting and waiting for more tutorials to read.
Too many writers means too many problems, be prepared and available
Management is key to running a tutorial orientated site and the more writers you have working for you, the more you need to manage. To run a great tutorial website you need for each of your writers to: be motivated, be flowing with ideas on what to write next and to be comfortable and happy in their environment. All whilst making sure they like you and see your vision in the site you are running.
You have to understand that not all writers will be happy with the environment you have set out for them and there will be problems. You have to be easily reachable and ready for your staff to approach you. Be the perfect boss.
Hire staff you know and trust, not just anybody
Following on from the previous tip, my advice would be to keep writing teams small. Managing and motivating a small team is a lot easier than managing a team of twenty writers. A smaller team also means that you will be working as a small group of friends and get to know each other very well.
Keep in mind that a motivated team with belief is a team dedicated to writing the best they can every time and not just when they feel like it.
“How to for Dummies” books are successful for a reason
When having your staff write tutorials (and whilst writing tutorials yourself) make sure that everything is explained to the point of a user that hasn’t touched the subject beforehand can understand the tutorial. Every user that reads a tutorial is someone you can drive back to the site – and making them understand the tutorial perfectly is the first step to getting them to come back.
Advertisements are supposed to support content, not become it
Whilst managing a tutorial orientated site it is very easy to ‘sell your soul’ to advertisers by placing advertising income ahead of your tutorials and sometimes even your users. For the mass majority of people running tutorial orientated websites advertisements are a necessary annoyance and probably the only source of income. Sometimes we also forget that people are here on our sites to read a tutorial, and not to see which adverts are relevant to the tutorial the user is currently reading.
At Twodded the advertisements are above and below the tutorial related content. This means they are out the way and are letting the user get on with what they are doing. I have seen a lot worse however, such as advertisements every 2-3 paragraphs that look like plain links and advertisements that are placed so integrated with the start of the tutorial that you didn’t even know the first paragraph existed. These for me are examples that shouldn’t be copied and for me, you should think about your users first when thinking about placements of advertising – and not the money it’ll bring in.
One great tutorial, or one great set of tutorials will bring more traffic than 50 poorly written tutorials
The Twodded team had many great writers, the key great writer being Tiago Dias. Tiago wrote a series of three tutorials on how to build an MP3 player in Flash which received twice as much traffic as other tutorials on the site. Each part of this tutorial he wrote brilliantly with the full source code available for download at the end of each tutorial for the user. He also took feedback from readers of the tutorials to see what advancements they’d like to learn and then constructed the following instalments of the tutorials with these in mind. As a result of this the instalments that followed previous entries into the series grew in popularity and the series itself became semi-famous in its own right.
What did I learn from this apart from the fact that Tiago is an utterly brilliant writer?
- Real communication with your tutorials readers can give you an almost unlimited amount of ideas
- Following up tutorials gives the user something to look out for, and makes it easier for the user to learn something gradually
- Sometimes one tutorial isn’t enough, and there’s room to expand this into a better outcome for the user
Always be ready to offer support to people that don’t understand something
Whilst being an excellent writer, Tiago also responded to over a hundred requests for help with the tutorials. As a result of him responding to these readers about the tutorial and helping them, the site grew in popularity – especially Tiago‘s tutorials.
I’m not going to list the amount of websites that have forums for their tutorial help and have people saying ‘Look it’s right here, you’ve just got to read’ and ignoring the user. If you help that user out and support them like a friend, they gain respect for you and your site, and will most likely bookmark to return at a later date..
Be prepared for trouble makers
Whilst bringing up this bad example of commenting, it’s important to note that you should handle these trouble makers accordingly. If your writer is responding like this to users that need help on his tutorials, consider lending some advice on how to reply to the situations. Possibly even hire staff to deal with the users in need of help to take the load off your writer’s mind.
Lead by example
One thing I got wrong at Twodded is that I never wrote anything. I never wrote the great tutorial standard I demanded from staff and I never wrote consistently like I demanded from my staff either. This was by far my worst mistake, as potential writers will be inspired by an owner of a site writing a great tutorial and will be motivated to match that quality and possibly even out do it.
On the other hand if you’re a very bad tutorial writer then maybe you have things to learn from the staff you take on board. But please don’t go overboard asking your own staff for help, there’s nothing worse than a boss that knows nothing about what your doing.
Learn from your mistakes
I think it’s evident in this article that I have learnt from my mistakes whilst running Twodded. Learning from your mistakes is possibly the best thing you can get out of failure in any walk of life and will only improve you in future situations.
This tutorial has a second part by the name of “More things to consider whilst running a tutorial orientated website“. Feel free to expand your knowledge of things to consider by reading it :)