chaos' guide to making a successful site - v1
[ I am writing this guide because my birthday is January 2nd, tommorow. So many people have helped me out on the way, that I figured I would give back to the community on my birthday. Consider it a present! ]
It makes me happy to see so many people these days trying to make a website. The problem is, alot of people have no honking (since i'm posting this at Serebii and PokeCommunity as well, i'll replace where I normally would swear with some random word) clue what on earth they are doing or take bad advice from their peers. After reading this you should get a better idea of how to make a successful website in this day and age
As for me, I run one of the biggest Pokemon websites on the internet, the only forums bigger than mine that deal with only Pokemon are Serebii and PokeCommunity, I run a NetBattle server that gets over 100 people on concurrently and I have a willing and active community of people to help me out. I've been doing HTML, CSS, PHP, and even though unrelated to web design, C++ for around 7 years now. My site gets 2,200 unique, 35,000-40,000 page views, and 250,000-350,000 hits a day. I know exactly what I'm talking about.
- BEGINNERS, AN INTRODUCTION -
Don't use free website templates. The goal of you starting out on a site is to do EVERYTHING by yourself. It's the only way you will ever get better at this. You might as well accept that your layouts are gonna look like crap at first, but they would anyway if you used a Bravenet template. Once you've made a few layouts and understand better how HTML and CSS work, you're ready for the real meat of this tutorial. Sorry, I don't have time to write an HTML tutorial when there are tons available already on the internet.
- So you're serious, and want more traffic? No complete beginners please. -
1. This is the absolute most important thing. Nobody cares about your ridiculous PHP script that lets you specify which 'style' you want a layout to be. It's cool for proof of concept to help you learn, but it has no point on a real site. Nobody cares about your 30 affiliates each getting 30 page views a day. This isn't going to attract you attention. Neither is your 600 page links on the site that lead to your default 404 page of 'I HAVENT MADE THIS YET/COMING SOON WITH ::MyGenericPokemonSite v4// SEE YOU ALL NEXT NOV!'
None of that is going to get you traffic. You know what gets you traffic? A _niche_. Find a niche for your site- something to hype it, something that nobody else has. Give your users a reason to come to your site; anyone can go to Serebii and see the latest headlines for anime. Don't be just another pebble in the gravel road. Instead, be some sort of brick! A car going down a gravel road isn't going to be stopped by your pebble. It's going to keep trekking on to its destination, the sites everyone else go to. So be a brick and stop the car dead in its tracks. Get them to look at your site first before they go to Serebii or such.
Yeah, that was a bad analogy. I was totally feelin' it though. The point is, you need something to make your site unique. My site's niche is competitive strategy to Pokemon. My users love my site because they know they can't go anywhere else for competitive strategy. It targets them. There is no other site on the internet that can MORE than fill a 128 man tournament in less than 24 hours.
2. DON'T LET YOUR FORUMS BE YOUR MAIN ATTRACTION. The forums are there to unite and give your users a sense of community. If you don't have a niche yet, you aren't going to have users. "My invisionfree.com board" is not a niche for attracting views. I could go to any site for a forum system. You didn't make it. It's not unique to your site. Why should I visit YOUR board and not anyone elses? I don't even like your site, it has no content, focus, vision. Just a forum system that you didn't make.
If you do have a forum, don't make this fatal mistake: making more forums than you have users. I see this all the time- 10 registered users, 100 forums of bullshnitey. Good job, you managed to make a section for every possible topic anyone could ever think of. Too bad you only have 10 members and with so many forums, they are going to have no clue where to post in. Keep it simple. When I started Smogon in May 2004, I had -2- forums. A general chat forum with a witty title, and a General Pokemon forum. I also got 1500 registered users in half a year. Even after purging inactive users, we at this time are 4 members away from 2000, with around 50-80 people viewing the forums at the same time (70 at this time of writing).
3. Involve your community. Ask people to help you, and help them help you by showing them the ropes. Eventually the newbies who want to help will grow up and "get it," and become very helpful staff to you. Don't turn away people that are idiots, even if they are idiots. Just help them be better. :/ You'll be able to generate content quicker, and this in turn will get you more visitors that will want to help as well. It's a vicious cycle. People love to contribute to projects. Just give them proper credit for their work.
When I was first starting my site, I had a Pokemon Analysis section and I let people contribute their work. It was a completely original idea, and attracted the attention of alot of people. Now every other knockoff site trying to be another Smogon tries the same thing, and it never works. Get your own niche. Don't copy mine, or anyone elses. My site can do strategy better than yours. Its what we are known for. Just accept it :/
" Best Moveset
Use Flamethower against Grass and bug types, Dig For electric and fighting types, and Aerial ace for almost any pokemon, use detect to defend yourself from moves like hyperbeam"
4. DON'T OPEN YOUR SITE TOO EARLY!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! THIS IS SO IMPORTANT. God, why do people always do this. It's like pre-ejaculation, to put it in vulgar terms. You get the users excited with all the original ideas you have, and then when you open.. YOU DON'T HAVE THEM. Nobody is going to check back every day to see your stupid 404 pages. Close your site down, generate some hype about what it's going to have, and open when you have stuff to actually keep users interested. If you do it this way, people will stay.
5. ... and as for the above, generate hype. Be a well known person in the community. Get people to respect you and listen to you. Signing up instantly and advertising your pile of horse jello invisionfree forum is going to get you banned for advertising. Make some friends on forums, and while you are at it study their practices for making your own. After making friends, get them to join your forums and help you out. People love to be involved in things!! I can't say it enough. Also, put your site in your signature with a short description about what's unique about it. Don't put an obnoxious banner with generic Pokemon sprites in your signature. Nobody is going to click that, it's like an ad banner. The human eye is conditioned to skip over piles of horse jello!
- Layout tips -
A catchy layout will get the attention of your visitors. Here is where ALOT of people make mistakes. AVOID THIS LAYOUT: big honking banner up top, links to every page on your site on the left, affiliates on the right. If you eventually have a big site, you can't put a link to every page of your site on the left. Don't be Serebii, they have an atrocious and slow loading layout, as well as an ugly color scheme. (No offense! Take pointers :/)
1. Avoid 3 column layouts. NOBODY CARES ABOUT YOUR AFFILIATE BAR ON THE RIGHT. -NOBODY-. (Not even your affiliates, because affiliate bars don't generate clicks to their site)
3. Don't use <embed> to play stupid music. Don't use <object> to play stupid music. Don't use bgsound to play stupid music. If I wanted to listen to the Route 33 theme, i'd have it on iTunes. However, NP: Ben Folds - Landed.
4. Come up with a good slogan for your <title> and banner. Examples of bad slogans:
* Your #1 source for __________
* Everything you could ever need about _____
* Your daily dose of _____!
* No slogan required.
* We're trying to come up with a better slogan!
A good slogan is memorable. It helps people remember your site. My old slogan was "Pokemon on the Internet: Lets make it happen!" No other site was about playing Pokemon on the internet. It wasn't my #1 source for Pokemon on the Internet. Your stupid site is just starting out, it's not the freaking #1 source. Anyway, my slogan eventually started a cult following where the word 'internet' is synonymous with 'smogon.' Do any of your communities feel that strongly about your site? Well, they should! Get a better slogan. You and your stupid 'I don't need a slogan, slogan not required.'
(No offense to pokelericon, I actually like his layout. It's easy to read and has a cool color scheme. Just a gay slogan! Good luck with your site )
6. Use a readable color scheme. 'Oh hey my mascot is Kyogre, LETS MAKE THE WHOLE SITE BLUE.' No. Stop it. Monotone layouts are so hard to read, and don't stand out. Make sure the content area of your site is readable. Put it in a different color, and use alot of contrast.
7. MAKE THINGS NOTICABLE. MAKE HEADERS TO CONTENT LARGE. Don't make your content text really unreadable and small.
- Misc Advice -
1. Oh my god, stop affiliating so much. That doesn't help anyone, nobody clicks affiliate links ESPECIALLY WHEN THEY ARE ON THE RIGHT SIDE OF YOUR LAYOUT. PEOPLE AUTOMATICALLY IGNORE THINGS ON THE RIGHT SIDE OF YOUR LAYOUT SINCE THEY ARE CONDITIONED TO BELIEVE THAT LEFT - LINKS TO CONTENT | CENTER - CONTENT | RIGHT - LINKS TO THINGS NOBODY CARES ABOUT.
Of course, this doesn't apply to partnership. Help webmasters out. Hope they help you back. Make friends. Just another reason I'm posting this guide If you didn't know me as a webmaster before, you sure do now!
2. Make links on your site readable, and guessable.
Don't use index.php?id= urls. It's bad form. Use mod_rewrite, google it if you have no clue. It also gives you bad ratings on Google. Even worse is site.com/?id=3 :/
- Closing -
Hey, thanks for reading this! And thank yourself too. Maybe you have a better perception of what it actually takes to stand a chance in the webmaster world. I end this document with a quote by Chrono Cr@cker:
Sucks that I'm one of the most well known Pokemon webmasters/players in the world Even groups of people that don't speak English know I'm one of the greatest battlers in the world! It means alot to me that my reputation has spread to even Brazil, China, and Japan. It's great to see pokedrome.info doing so well these days. That's ok honey, I love your quote :-) It gives me something to laugh at on my birthday :-DAnd Choas, you haven't even capitalized your own username. Meaning
(i) You aren't a noun or
(ii) You probabably know you aren't so important so it doesn't matter or
(iii) You don't know English Grammar
Fix up your sites and PM me the results! Or post topics. I'll notice. I love seeing people improve their websites. If you ever need comments or criticism for a site, please go ahead and ask me. Even though I'm a very busy person, I like helping people out. Sorry if the advice here seemed harsh. It's sometimes hard for me to explain concepts without being a jerk about it.
Good luck in future endeavors.
~ Internet, Pokemon, websites, and Happy Birthday to me.