How to make a site like howhowto

Howhowto is a vertical search engine for the "how to" knowledge domain. That's a fancy way of saying that it only tries to search for information about how to do things. This gives you a different way to search than if you use a general purpose search engine such as Google or Yahoo, where results can be lost in the billions of pages indexed by these engines.

It's possible to make other vertical search engines for other knowledge domains. If you have a field of expertise or a good grasp of the web resources that are available for a particular topic then you might consider making a site like this yourself.

The general process consists of three steps:

(The easy part!) Go to Google Co-op and sign up to make a custom search engine.

(The hard part!) You have to decide which sites to include.
If you only want to search one site, or if the knowledge domain isn't too big, you can do this step quickly (Google even has a tool that lets you make a search engine on the fly in about five seconds).

But if you want to make a site that indexes an entire domain of knowledge then you'll have to develop a strategy for locating perhaps thousands of relevant sites and you'll have to find a way to try to narrow your search to just the parts of these sites that have the relevant information. This step can take many hours. How you do this depends on the particular domain you've chosen, but here are some common problems:

(The part of medium difficulty.) Make it look pretty! You don't have to parachute in teams of web designers from around the world, as we so obviously did to make howhowto, but at least you want to make your search engine usable. Spend some time using it yourself before you give it to the world.

Have a look at the Google Co-op directory to see what others have done!


- Steve Kangas

About Steve
It's fun to make things! Howhowto came about because I wanted a better way to get information about how to do stuff. And it's fun to make websites! Years ago I made a site called which enjoyed some success. This is one of my first sites since then. Enjoy!