in Business

The Niche Get Richer

What’s a web designer or developer to do? You want to create something new. But it’s all been played out right? Have you decided all the ‘cool new sites’ have been built? There’s only one great place to share photos right? And where else to go to auction stuff? There’s only one place where you can build a profile to share with your friends, a place to watch video files and share them, right? Actually there are handfuls of each of these. And which of these web places cater to your unique personality and desire? Which do you see using 6 years from now? 6 months from now??

MySpace, Flickr, Facebook, YouTube and the like are getting a lot of love from the media and a lot of traffic these days. And why not? They are examples of great emerging trends online. They symbolize the fact that “Community” and their legions of users creating their own spaces and ideas trumps “Content” and the static information it represents. Big dollars are being spent. Whether it be half-billion dollar acquisitions or burning a million a month in bandwidth, the net is certainly exciting these days, even if you aren’t a designer or developer. If something catches on and everyone is there, then everyone wants to be there..for now anyway. But do we all have the same needs? Away from all the big names and mass audiences, there’s something deeper growing. It’s all along the long-tail, it’s all the niches and their networks and these are growing even faster. This growth is even stronger and smarter than the massive community sites.

Consider the unique tools each niche is building. These offerings have never been more desirable or compelling or even available…

Think about runners, or simply exercise enthusists, where now your shoes talk to your iPod, which talks to a network of runners worldwide who are all running against you, or with you, all displayed on a beautiful flash interface.

Think about portable gamers, Now you are on your couch or over at McDonalds with your Nintendo DS playing the New Super Mario Bros. with someone across the planet. Who can collect the most coins, mash the most toadstools and smash the most blocks?

You can buy virtual land and sell it for profit in your SecondLife. Where do you stand in Warcraft and Xbox-LIVE rankings? What music are you and your friends and global music loving neighbors listening to right now in last.fm? How about my Dad and all those lost albums on vinyl he’s rediscovering the iTunes Music Store? Or scrapbooking stay-at-home-moms comparing their layouts? Or anyone with a cool t-shirt idea? Or families sharing journal entries and family photos? Or anyone discovering their ancestors?

As web developers, designers and entreprenuers…remember the niche. There are a billion unique things that deserve our creativity, intuition and insight and the opportunities today are limitless. What else do you see out there? Which niche are you going to build out?

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  1. Y’know, it’s funny Chris. I have outlook of, “What HASN”T been done??!?!” But if we as web developers/designers were to think in such hopeless terms, then innovation would truly cease and the web/tech would be boring and monotonous. I suppose the old adage, “See a need and fill it” will always ring true. The trick is to find out and exploit what people really need or want.

    Companies like Apple and Nike with their new iPod/Shoe system filled a need I didn’t even know I had until I saw that system. I must now ask myself, “How do I do the same thing in web design?” Sigh…

  2. …and don’t forget the other half of the equation, ‘The Rich get Nicher’. It would seem to me there’s a cyclical nature with the development of ideas and organizations, and yes, right now theres an upswing with all of these exclusive sites catering to specific ‘needs’. That in mind, I believe larger entities (Google) see the smaller ones (sketchup) and integrate the niche idea into a greater business landscape.

    I’m not syaing we’ll see yahoo buy myspace, (they’d do it in-house ;) ) but, eventually the niche becomes more than what it was at it’s inseption. For example, I can see Nike+ becoming not just a community for runners, but what about the walkers, do they get in too? Or maybe I can have a device on my mountain bike that talks with my ipod, and what about weightlifters, how bout my ipod telling my how many pounds I benched last week.

    The idea of a community of runners online centered around music and running is a great one. I admit, I never wanted to run so bad in my life, but ultimatley this idea (and indirectly the community) will get consumed by itself (or larger idea), no longer becoming niche.

    just a thought.

  3. Armand D — this post was actually by Ward (our honorable guest poster for May). Just wanted to clarify that.

    Ward – good topic. I’ll also add that building apps and products for the web is one thing, but don’t forget multiple languages. There are 150 million people in Brasil who would probably be a great market for web apps if we just thought a little bit and built in a few extra languages.

  4. Thanks Armand..the world of design and development has never been more HOPEFUL. The promise of the limitless niches (and where they can gravitate to, as Jeff points out..and who they can speak to, as Chris describes) is an example of this.

  5. I don’t know that finding a new niche is necessarily the key, it could simply be to find an existing niche and finding a new and creative way to deliver it. I guess that is like saying that you don’t have to reinvent the wheel, you just have to find a new way to package it.

    Lonnie

  6. OurStory.com has a similar service to Families.com, which allows you to share timelines of personal and family history. There is also a photo feature, as well as the ability to print a nicely bound book which you can give as a keepsake. Their interface is a little easier to follow as well…