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Friday, September 30, 2011

The 10 Year Anniversary of MedFriendly.com

October 2011 is the 10 year anniversary of MedFriendly.com. I’ll be going out to celebrate with my family and reflect on how much hard work has gone into this lifelong project of mine. I figured I would reflect a little here on the past 10 years, how it all started, and where things go from here.

I remember the beginnings of the website idea like it was yesterday. I was driving with a friend in Ft.Lauderdale, Florida, where I was attending graduate school. The person I was driving with told me that his girlfriend had a website that she made about psychology.

“Really?” I asked, “How did she do that? She must know a lot about computers.”

“Nope,” the person replied. “She just bought some books and taught herself.”

Immediately, I thought to myself that it would be fun to have a website about something. I had no idea how to make one, but if someone else could pick up a book and figure out how to do this, I figured that I can too. I won’t repeat how I decided to create a medical website where medical information is easy to understand, because that is all described here.

Upon reflection, a few embarrassing admissions are in order. First, I initially avoided computers when they first became popular. To understand how much I avoided them, I was still using a Brother Word Processor in 1998 to write reports in college. That year, I met my future wife and she introduced me to programs such as Microsoft Word and AOL.com (the 3.0 version!). Man, do I feel old writing this. Fortunately, I was a quick learner and within a few years, she was coming to me for computer questions. Within three years, in October 2001, I had taught myself HTML (hypertext markup language) which is the code you write to make a website. MedFriendly.com was born.

Learning can sometimes be a painful process, especially when technology is in its infancy. If you were ever to see what a MedFriendly website page looked like when it first began compared to what it looks like now, it is like the difference between night and day in terms of design and functionality. Changing all of the pages to modify the format took an intense amount of work since each page is uniquely customized. Back then, you were also forced to work at a desk because there was no wireless internet. Nowadays, it is so much easier to be able to have mobility and work on the website from anywhere in the house.   

Initially, there was never any intent to make money with MedFriendly. It was a fun interested way for me to learn, share knowledge, and teach others along the way. It still is. But over time, advertising opportunities arose that would have been foolish not to take advantage of. I experimented with various options. Initially, most pages on MedFriendly had links to books to books on Barnes and Noble.com but sometimes the links would change and instead of having a picture of a medical book on the page, I was left with a big red X in it’s place. I also could not always find a book to match the page content. In addition, not many people were buying the books and eventually, it just was not worth the hassle. I tried a similar arrangement with Amazon.com and with another company I cannot remember that sold medical supplies. For similar reasons, these arrangements did not work out.

Then Goodle AdSense came out and revolutionized the online advertising industry. Now, all I needed to do is place the same ad code on all my pages, and Google targets advertisers to the specific content on my page. Quick, easy, and profitable. That relationship has endured, has grown to this day, and will continue to evolve.

Over the years, I’ve been fascinated to see which of the thousands of entries on MedFriendly that people gravitate towards. For some reason, no matter what medical condition I write about, the term feces has been the #1 term on for over five years. I think this may because the entry is somewhat humorous, but is mostly because it covers a topic that people have healthcare questions about but may be embarrassed to talk to their doctor about. Solution: search the internet. The second most popular type of entry is anything that has to do with blood test results, which makes sense given that people are curious about what their blood test results mean. And, people really like detailed content. Long entries, with a lot of detail, are far more popular than brief entries that provide definitions of descriptive medical terms.

In that vein, there will be a focus in the future on adding more entries with detailed content. The goal is to continue to provide information that laypeople and medical professionals find useful, is easy to understand, covers interesting topics, and does so in a way that sets it apart from any other website on the internet.

Tomorrow, to commemorate the 10 year anniversary of MedFriendly, I will unveil a major new detailed entry that has been months in the making on a topic that is medically, legally, and historically fascinating. Come back tomorrow to see what it is. Thanks to the readers and fans of MedFriendly for helping make it a popular healthcare website! Here’s to another 10 years!

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