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Women Who Inspire Us
InternetHeidi Swanson

Heidi Swanson

Heidi Swanson is the brain behind ChickClick, a network of independent women's Webzines. Swanson was inspired to create the site after a mind-numbing experience working as a contractor for a Silicon Valley company. After wasting her time in meetings taking direction from people who thought they could run an Internet project just because they had Stanford MBAs, Swanson decided she could do it better on her own and ChickClick was born. Swanson cranked out an initial mock-up of the site and pitched the idea to Imagine Media in Brisbane. Six weeks later, in February of 1999, ChickClick launched with a roster of 20 sites. Swanson handles almost everything, from content management to design and development, with help from her sister, Heather Swanson, who acts as "tech diva."

ChickClick has been adding new sites, but are very particular about which sites they get involved with. Swanson says "For this project to work, the sites have to be committed to doing frequent updates piled high with sass and smarts, and there is a definite learning curve on the business side going from an independent homepage or e-zine to a commercial venture. I want all the sites to be bringing in 4 or 5 figures a month, I think that is realistic, and I think it sets up a lucrative financial foundation for these sites to flourish and bring on additional contributors. The driving force here is to get girls excited about technology so that they master it, use it, test out and cultivate strong independent voices, and don't fall behind their male counterparts."

Swanson wanted a design that was funky and edgy, something that would appeal to "grrrlz." The key would be balancing the fun and the functional, but also to have a really basic design. "I don't have a team of Web developers behind me," she explains, "so I needed to make changes on the fly." Swanson decided to use illustration instead of photographs. She called on a high school friend to crank out some pix on napkins or whatever. Swanson scanned them in, then used Adobe Streamline to get thick flat lines and solid colors. The end result: boffo graphics with tiny file sizes.

Swanson had watched the success of Imagine Games Network's model and thought it made a lot of sense. "We have the advantage of co-promoting 20 sites without needing to have the editorial staff in-house. We let the editors do what they do best -- content -- and we help promote them and make sure they have revenue coming at them."

The whole deal, Swanson says, is for the sites to "inspire a lot of other girls out there to start playing with Web tools and busting a move on the Web to get their voices out there." ChickClick is a place where young women can get excited about technology and publishing because it is done in a smart, fun and funky way.


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