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Sunday, July 15, 2012

Are You Making These Website Mistakes? (Part 1 of 4)


Whether you own a forum, website, blog, Facebook page, or something else altogether, your purpose in this community is (or should be) to assist others and share you opinions and stories. You might also offer up your talents for the betterment of the community. The problem is that sharing stories and walkthroughs is no use if you don't have an audience. So, why do blogs promote their content? For that very purpose - by growing their audience, they reach and assist more wizards than they ever could have without it.

There are enough posts and guides that, if you own a community site, you probably know what needs to be on it. However, do you know what you shouldn't have? In a continuation of our "ten list" style posts, I've brought you the first five things to avoid on your site.

**I should tell you in advance that I'll be guilty of many of these things.**

1. Reality check here. You're a KingsIsle community fansite, and several of the requirements for being official involve dedication. Through Blogger, a service that will accomplish the same thing as most other services, you have no advertisements. Through Google, no matter what website creator you use, a custom domain costs $10 a year. How much additional revenue do you need here?

The point I'm trying to make is that advertising oftentimes shows lack of dedication. Are the few extra dollars a month worth it? While it isn't true in all cases, websites are really an expense that you choose to pay, and by putting up advertising, you essentially force your readers to "pay" for your lack of dedication to your website.

Advertisements also ruin a design overall, and make your site less appealing to adults with your children who might click on these ads, not knowing any better. And who reads Wizard101 content? Young children.

Chris Strom of Marketplicity says, "The purpose of your website and its content is to create [an audience] for you, not other companies! Putting ads next to your content decreases its perceived value. You owe your content more than that."

2. You might say it isn't a problem in our community, but I'd ask you to reconsider if you did. Slow loading times which may be due to overuse of flash, music or videos on load, and/or overall website clutter can, and has, caused me to close directly out of websites. 

If your website is summoning the old Computer Freeze card, then I'm not likely to stay. And if I don't, that's saying something, because I've got a year-and-a-half old laptop that's been cleaned and virus-scanned repeatedly and runs quickly.

If you don't want to try a faster, more efficient web host, remove any of the following distractions from your website (or frankly, even if it isn't loading slow).

Music or videos that play automatically on your website are simply annoying! When I'm in-game trying to record or listening to the new sounds of Pirate101, there's no chance that I'll refer to your site for a guide or otherwise if it has music with an impossible-to-find stop button. On the contrary, optional music can be a very nice touch, as illustrated with the Frozen to Death trilogy.

Flash really isn't a problem in the KingsIsle community, but don't even consider it! You can usually accomplish the same things with some sort of coding, e.g. HTML, Javascript, J-Query, PHP.

Whatever you do, don't overdo your website and its features. I'll really tolerate a lot of navigation and sub-navigation, as well as decorative elements, just keep in fairly simple and extremely clean. No one likes a website where you can't find anything.

3. Unoriginal content, content farming, and repackaging of old content are some of the biggest problems in the KingsIsle community, and you may be making one of these mistakes!

Unoriginal content is an absolute killer. Not only will plagiarism and copyright infringement turn a boatload of pirates or a house full of wizards away from your page, but it can also get your shut down quickly. Oftentimes host services will close down a website that has even been accused, because they don't want to deal with legal issues. Besides that, no one wants to read recycled material! Get in-game and do your own reporting!

If you aren't familiar with content farming, it's encouraging or allowing many users to create small collections of content for you, and then claiming it as your own, either by claiming rights over everyone on your site or having them turn the work in to you. The problem here is that said "users" do not always know that they are part of a content farm. Due to the fact that their is usually little reward for a being a part of one, a content farm typically has low-quality content.

Repackaging of old content without doing it in a new way is one of my biggest faults. Obviously, you've seen the Zeke guides here that I've done over on Central, etc. When I release my new design with some new content, here's one of the areas I hope to improve. I'll be presenting the Zeke Quests in a whole new way that will make the items MUCH easier to locate while taking up very little page space.

The bottom line with repackaging is that we've all read a lot of Wizard101 information before. When I come to do a news post on my blog, I've got to learn to spice it up! Unless I show in-game previews and my attempts at packs or whatever else, then it's something you've seen before.

4. While it isn't a problem on most websites, long gaps between updates and outdated content can be a big issue. Network Solutions, a large online host, domain, and design service, says "Few things send a more negative signal than out-of-date information. Special Note: Don’t include a 'website last updated on' line on your business website – that is a blunder waiting to happen for businesses that are not able to update information frequently."
One of the "big-time" blogging websites did a study once that proves that the more you blog, the more visitors you'll have. That being said, if we hear from you 3+ times a day, it's just too much, and it'll get tiring.

Also be sure to update guides that change. No one wants to fight a boss all day only to find that your drop guide was outdated, and this boss no longer drops the item they're after.

5. One thing to remember if you run a blog is that it isn't all about you. Posting your adventures by themselves will not keep a reader entertainment. Sorry, even in this generous community, we all have selfish reading minds. While your adventures never hurt, don't forget about the extra posts! They're even more important! I did a poll once asking readers what their favorite type of post to read was. There were three options: Feature Posts (e.g. Unknown Pet Files, Analyzing Level 68 Spells, etc.), My Adventures, and News Updates. Of course, Feature Posts came in first by a long ways. Then, however, readers said that they preferred NEWS over my own adventures.

That doesn't mean you'll stop getting updates on my questing, it just means that I'll be trying to pull you in more, and doing more alternative posts.

There are 15 more tips to come! Thanks for reading, and see you in the Spiral!

7 comments:

  1. Nice post! For me with a 4+ year old laptop (not really though... I didn't use it till 2 years ago, lol), I click out of websites that load for over 10 minutes, even though my computer runs pretty fast. If it's my meanie internet, well, that's another story :p

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  2. Very nice post and great information. I think you are spot on with your #5 above. Having multiple things for people to do while at your site is huge if you want to keep a user base.

    I will however say that I do disagree with your first point about advertising. While Blogger and other free services work really well for most sites, they do not work for everyone. Take LOTS for instance, I tried to create many tools, scripts, games, etc for people to use and enjoy. Because of a large user base these things require a huge amount of bandwidth to keep running, to the point where free hosting services are not an option. Once my hosting fees climbed to over $100 a month, I simply could not continue to run the website out of my own pocket, so I put advertisements to offset the hosting fees.

    So while I agree that in most cases advertisements are unnecessary, I believe there are cases where they are required, for without them there would be no LOTS.

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  3. @Legends - I think we'd all agree that (A) LotS shows no signs of little dedication, and that (B) Hosting on your own server, especially with your fan base, could become quite expensive. That's one case where advertising is necessary.

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  4. @Legends - Basically, with that point, it'd irritate me to see a little blog like mine sporting advertisements left and right. And most of the sites are run on fairly inexpensive hosting services.

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  5. Great post! This is why I featured you on Wizards Unite, you're smart. I have pretty much the same views as you do on Sites :D

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  6. @Ian - Yes, I did notice the feature, it was very nice of you! :)

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