How I built a curated directory in 7 days with little or no programming knowledge: a guide.
If you’re reading this, then you probably have an idea of what a curated directory is, and perhaps you’d like to get started working on one.
Most people in the startup scene would be familiar with Startup Stash, the #1 upvoted product on Product Hunt. It’s a site full of useful web resources for startup founders. Their popularity started a trend of curated directories popping up across the internet.
So why create one?
A curated directory is a list of websites that targets a certain user demographic. This is especially useful because
1) content discovery is a lot easier than searching everyone’s favourite search engine, Bing.
2) directories are categorised, so you see a broader picture of what you can explore.
But more importantly, because it…
3) adds value to a target audience, allowing you to drive relevant traffic to your business(es).
Marketing does not get enough credit
Marketing is tough. Anyone who starts a business would know that. We’re currently building Stacked Homes, a platform that makes it seamless for home owners and buyers in Singapore to buy and sell directly with one another.
We needed a way to build exposure for the site. Throw ads on buses and trains? We aren’t rolling in dough, and those ads costs tens of thousands for a few weeks’ exposure.
Without much money, we needed to find a way to direct relevant traffic to our site.
Adding value to our target audience
This meant prioritising our focus on how we can add value to both home owners, buyers and sellers. Hopefully by creating value to our target audience, they would take notice of our main offering.
That’s when we decided to create a curated directory of useful sites for them, which led to the birth of All Home Stuff.
Here’s a guide on how you can create one just like that with little to no programming knowledge.
Disclaimer: Anyone with a background in programming would know that such a directory is easy to do, but bear in mind that this was written from a non-technical point of view, so do bear with me please, thank you!
Step 1: Build your content
Depending on your target audience, you need to come up with areas of interest that you think your users would be interested in.
For example, if you’re looking to curate websites for mothers with newborns, you may want to think about what they are interested in, or better yet just ask them! Categories like baby products, forums, parenting guides and health-related articles would be useful.
In our case, we came up with as many categories we think would suit a homeowner, seller or buyer. Then we just listed them down one by one.
If you happen to be working in a team, set up a Google Sheets document so that everyone can collaborate on it. It’s a lot easier than sending files to one another.
Step 2: Get a template
Without knowing how to build a website from scratch, we thought about reaching out to a developer to help me develop the site. We’ve had some pleasant experience finding developers from UpWork, however we were looking at quotes from an upward of $200. Paying for such a service was fine, but it comes with downsides like
1) spending time finding a suitable developer
2) having to follow-up and making sure timelines are met
3) having to rely on the developer for after-services (such as updates).
Being someone who likes to tinker with things, I thought I’d give the DIY route a go.
Our first instinct was to find someone who coded such website templates before and just get it from them. This was fairly straightforward. To start it off, I typed in terms like “Website directory template” and “Curated Directory” on Google, Product Hunt and Reddit.
We came across templates like Curated Theme ($49), Metrodir ($59, also the theme that the founder of Startup Stash used), Stashes IO (Free, but you won’t own the directory), Chipmunk Theme ($49). Ultimately, we chose Chipmunk Theme as it was the most aesthetically-pleasing site that looked simple enough to serve my directory’s needs.
Step 3: Find a hosting provider and install Wordpress
We recommend going with Singapore Host. The most basic plan would do fine. They’re fast, affordable, simple to use and have very little down time. Once you’ve received the sign up email, install Wordpress (one of the most powerful content management systems around) in your cPanel.
To keep this article on point, you can find a guide on installing Wordpress here (This is not the same as Wordpress.com!). Once you have Wordpress installed in your cPanel, and the Chipmunk theme downloaded, simply install the theme in Wordpress.
Ultimately, getting the theme, hosting provider and setting it up should not take more than an hour.
Step 4: Start putting in your content
This is the most time-consuming bit. We spent the rest of the week putting in the title, description, link and feature image for each site. To speed things up, you can use a chrome extension that helps you capture screenshots immediately to your computer, so that you can upload it to your site straight away. Screenshots will take up a large amount of your hosting space (each image can go up to 5MB!), so do consider reducing the file size before uploading it to your site.
Low quality images would not matter: you’re doing a curated directory, not a stock photo site! At this stage, don’t worry what your website looks like. What’s important is that your relevant content is put in its right place.
Step 5: Customising the site
Having a template saves you time, but it may not fully meet your needs. The Chipmunk Demo Theme lacked some soul. It does well in listing out collections and resources, however we wanted to communicate the value of our site instantly to visitors. We also wanted categories to have relevant pictures, instead of thumbnails of websites that carried no meaning. So I needed to do 2 things
1) Create a landing page effect with a clear message
2) Replace collection thumbnail with my own images
This requires a bit of CSS editing, but you can refer to our custom CSS code, which can be thrown inside the template conveniently to achieve our website’s look.
Once you’re done inserting the customised CSS code, you can choose to enable or disable certain features that come with the theme. For us, we removed the “feature” section so that we can focus our visitor’s attention to the collections section.
And that’s it! Just 5 simple steps to building your curated directory! We hope you’ve enjoyed reading about our experience doing this.
If you ever need help building a curated directory like this, or have any questions/feedback, feel free to drop us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org