My competitive analysis of the major and minor players in my niche has given me a much clearer picture of the web site I plan to create, and a clear set of requirements has emerged. A fundamental question, however, remains unanswered. Just exactly how am I going to organize and present all of this information in a manner that is both scalable and appealing?
Evaluating different ways to organize and present information
In the land of the Internet, it’s rare to come up with a really unique problem so a little further competitor comparison can help me understand how other job sites have solved this problem in the past. Going back to the large and small competitors from my initial research will help my narrow down my choices quickly. As expected, I find that there are many different ways that I could enable schools to post advertisements for ESL jobs, and teachers to find and respond to them.
Considering a forum
I could use a forum as the foundation, and set up different categories for the different regions of the world. Employers could then register and post freely, and teachers would have the ability to browse and search through the listings. Controlling the quality, though, would probably be an issue, as by definition a forum post is completely free form with little in the way of consistent look and feel. It seems that although a few competitors are using this approach, it’s not terribly popular. I’m also not very pleased with the overall look and feel of a forum approach, which at least to me doesn’t come off as feeling professional. For my own purposes, this is not an avenue I intend to pursue.
Considering a blog
A blog is another possible approach. They’re very easy to set up, and I could enable tags to classify the different types and regions of jobs to help teachers find them more easily. Creating an open format for schools to post, though, would likely be a nightmare. A blog would probably be acceptable for a single school that wanted to post a running list of current jobs, but I could quickly see such a method becoming very unworkable as the site scales. Surprisingly, a variation on this theme is used by one of the biggest and oldest job sites in my niche. Why is it so successful? My assumption is that when that particular site was created the blog format was one of the few solutions available that could be implemented easily. The approach feels considerably dated at present, though, and I think it would be hard to attract new visitors using it.
Considering a CMS
Another general method is to use a content management system, or CMS. These are a bit more complex than forums and blogs to get set up, but the trade off is better control over the organization and structure of the content. They’re great when the need is for multiple people that need to post information, yet with a consistent look and feel throughout. No competitor is using a CMS in isolation as a solution, but a number seem to have used a one as the core to which greater functionality was added. This possibility in particular is attractive to me, as most CMS platforms have a lot of third party developers contributing added features. It’s likely that someone has created code that works with a CMS that makes posting jobs easy.
Considering a niche solution
The final choice is to look for something tailor made to the exact type of information I want to organize and present. As expected, there are systems available that solely focus on classified advertisements. At least one of the competitors in my niche is using a very popular one called Noah’s Classifieds. I’m tempted to choose this path, as it would appear to offer the shortest path to get up and running quickly. I’m concerned, though, that while it obviously excels at ads, there are other areas where it may be lacking. While a niche solution would get me up and running in this one area quickly, I’m also afraid it could limit my future options. I sense it would be a real chore to bolt on a forum or a blog without going through a lot of custom effort to integrate them.
Settling on the right foundation
In the end, I decided to use a CMS as the core of my web site. Doing so offers me lots of future flexibility to easily offer some of the additional features I’ve determined will be necessary to differentiate myself, and keeps the door open for even more features that I might not have thought of originally.
My next step will be to review a few of the major CMS platforms available, and see which one offers the best off the shelf solution for my own needs.