When Yahoo! Began

This is one of those sentences that makes me sound like an old geezer, but … Back in my day, Yahoo! was only a few dozen pages.

Yep, back in the mid-90s there was no Google, no Bing. Before they came around, Yahoo! and AOL were the starting point for anything on the internet. And before Yahoo! got to be a household name, we had to remember it as an acronym: Yet Another Hierarchical Organizational Operation.  (There were a lot of failed attempts at web directories before these guys came around.)

I clearly remember the first time I sat down before yahoo.com.  All text, grouped into simple categories. Under “Entertainment,” I clicked on “TV Shows” and was taken to another single page of categories. From there, I clicked “Cartoons” and hit the jackpot – a list of websites so long I actually had to scroll down the page, slightly. They had one link for each show that was listed and I remember thinking it was going to take me all year to traverse the ‘net from beginning to end.

OK, go ahead an laugh. I honestly didn’t think it would take off beyond much us computer nerds.

There is a lesson to be learned here, though. I’ve been building websites since the early 90s and I can tell you the hardest step for everyone is condensing what they want to say. In the early years, the struggle was convincing people that they needed a website; after that, it’s a matter of helping them figure out what they want.

When someone starts visualizing a website these days, they picture all the goodies: videos, interactive chats, amazing graphics, online shopping carts, you name it. All of these features are amazing and yes, worth doing eventually. But I give you now the advice I dispense to everyone wanting to start a new website:

Start with 3 basic pages. Sure, that sounds boring, but you won’t believe how much effort it will take you to get these 3 basics together; after this, adding to it is the easy part.

All you need to do in the beginning is to tell the world 1) Who you are and what you do, 2) How to contact you, and 3) Why they should bother.

Three pages. Trust me. After you’ve got them in place, you can bedazzle it as much as you want. Take a look at Yahoo! today. They’ve never stopped expanding.

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