For The Muslim Webmasters
The traffic to this website has exploded recently. It took me about a year to get Islamic Learning Materials really going good, but Alhamdulillah, it is officially, going GREAT!
I must admit, a big part of it was due to being nominated for a Brass Crescent Award. Despite the fact that I don’t care for some of the other “Muslim” blogs ILM is up against, I know that site has brought me a good amount of new visitors.
But a lot of the recent success of ILM is because I did a lot of researching, and tweaking, and testing, and yes…a whole lot of writing! However, I’m not a stingy person. I would actually like for other Muslim websites to be just as successful as ILM has become.
I think there are enough Muslims with enough different interests that hundreds if not thousands more Islamic websites can be created and be successful.
So, in case you’re thinking about becoming a blogger or creating your own Muslim website as a business, or if you just want someplace to rant and rave without anyone telling you to shutup, here are a few tips you can use.
Inshallah, you’ll find that these ideas are easy to understand but not so easy put into action.
1. Be Muslim. Obviously.
Perhaps this goes without saying. No. It has to be said. If you’re going to run a website, and have it geared towards Muslims and the Islamic world in any aspect, then I truly believe you should be Muslim.
Of course, there are some blogs that talk about things that take place in the Muslim world (the Middle East, Africa, Asia, etc) where the author is not Muslim. That’s all well and good.
Very often, you might find that you learn a lot from these websites. But for a Muslim website to really “click” with Muslims, the person behind the screen should be Muslim.
You don’t have to be a great Muslim or a perfect Muslim. Truthfully, there’s no way for anyone to even know if you’re a practicing Muslim.
But from what I’ve seen, the best Muslim websites tend to have Muslims running the show.
2. Be Different
And then there are a whole lot of blogs where the author is just rambling along talking about their life and their cat and their hijab and anything else that their mind. Islam is a wide, expansive, and deep topic.
There are innumerable things you can create a website or blog about. The options are endless. But what’s more important than creating a website about a unique topic, is simply creating a unique website.
Your website or blog has to have something, some spark, that makes it different from all the rest. It may be witty writing (ahem…I believe I’ve got that covered), or a snazzy design (yep…got that covered too), or perhaps just really interesting articles (like articles on Michael Jackson, Star Wars, Command & Conquer, Johnny Depp).
Here’s a tip: Don’t be afraid to take a chance.
3. Be Pretty.
I don’t care what anyone says. Design matters. I think Apple has proven that to be true. Your website needs to look good. It took me a long time to learn how to design websites well enough that I could get Islamic Learning Materials looking the way it does now.
And to tell you the truth, I’m not quite done yet. Every time I see this website, I see a bunch of little things in the design that could be improved. So put some time into your website’s design. You have several options:
- Hire someone to do it for you (if you ask me to design your website it’s gonna cost you $300 at least; contact me if you’re interested).
- Learn how to do it yourself. Unless you’re already good with it, expect to spend many months learning the many different tools and techniques out there.
- Get a template. This means you basically buy a prefabricated design and smack it on your website. That’s cool until someone else uses the same template and builds a website that looks identical to yours.
Here’s one more design related tip: Design with your customer’s in mind. Make it easy for them to navigate around your site.
4. Be Real.
People like dealing with other people. And guess what? Muslims are people! Ergo…Muslims like dealing with other people also. So be real. Be human.
Let your visitors know you’re a real person. Use words like “I” and “you” and talk about yourself a little. Even if your website is for an offline business, you can still be more real.
Imagine if you wanted to buy some Islamic books from an online Islamic bookstore. Which phrase endears you more and makes you more willing to buy?
- We carry a large variety of Islamic literature from all over the world. If there is any title you cannot find, please contact our customer service department to request an extended book search.
- No matter what Muslim book you’re looking for, I can almost guarantee you I’ve got it. If you can’t find it on my website, then shoot me an email and I’ll use every resource I’ve got to get it for you.
I don’t know about you, but I like the second guy better. He’s not talking about “we” and “our” and “customer service department” (yuck!). He sounds like a real person who will answer my email when I send it to him.
The first company sounds like my email will get lost in the shuffle and never emerge from cyber oblivion. To be more real to your audience, you may want to record videos of yourself, put a picture of yourself on the website, and tell a personal story every now and then.
5. Be There.
This is the most difficult part of all. And where I sometimes fall short also. You come to this website. You care enough to read something I wrote.
And then you send me an email or leave a comment…and I don’t respond. I’ve tried and I’m still trying to get better at this. These days, I can definitely say I answer (almost) every email and comment I get.
I say almost because some comments are just plain stupid and don’t deserve a response (yeah…talking to you Mitch and Claire). But all legitimate comments and emails are answered by me (and soon a dedicated staff of volunteer advisers).
Perhaps not as quickly as you’d like, but they do get answered eventually. If you’re going to build a good Muslim website, be there for your visitors. Let them know you care about them. After all, they cared enough to contact you.
Islamic Learning Materials was born in February 2006 to give me an outlet to sell some of my books and recordings. Despite the many frustrations, the starts and stops, the many times I felt like shutting this thing down, I’ve learned a lot about this subject.
But the most important thing I’ve learned is that I really love doing this. I love Islam. I love writing. And I love technology. Inshallah, I hope these tips help you find what you love also.