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How to make a successful Pokemon website

Discussion in 'Archives' started by chaos, Jan 1, 2006.

  1. chaos

    chaos
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    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

    Flamethrower
    Dig
    Detect
    Aerial Ace

    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)

    2. Don't use stupid JavaScript to keep me from right clicking. Don't use stupid JavaScript to make snowflakes on my screen. Don't use stupid JavaScript to have a Pikachu follow my mouse cursor.

    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.'

    [​IMG]

    (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 ;))

    5. *WARNING* JavaScript menus are cool, but make sure the links to parts of your site are actually in the HTML file or search engines won't index your pages.

    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.

    Yes: smogon.com/advance/venusaur
    NO: pokemonpalace.net/?id=news-subform

    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 :-D

    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.
    - chaos
  2. Sanders

    Sanders
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    Good guide. Another thing people should stay away from are very very dark skins!
  3. cook

    cook
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    cool, now a lot of sites will be using this :( but whatever
    oh yeah hb and rofl at havocs post
  4. havoc

    havoc pottlepalooza
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    racist
  5. The HavoX

    The HavoX

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    I also want to point out the limitations of so-called "free phpBB hosting," as a lot of people are unable to act upon them due to free hosting.

    Limitations
    1. Styles are limited to ones that your host has decided to upload for you to use. Therefore you will not be able to upload a custom style or the really cool style you just downloaded.
    2. phpBB Modifications (known as MOD's) are installed by altering the phpBB system files and any style templates you have installed. You will require FTP access in order to install them, therefore as the Free package denies you FTP access you will not be able to make the neccasary changes.
    3. phpBB problems, such as phpBB errors, SQL errors you can not fix. This maybe due to an error your hosts side, an error in the php side which you are unable to fix as it requires you to "in most" cases edit the php files (to fix the error...)
    What you can do about it
    1. If you have a phpBB or php error, the host will most likely be able to fix it (themselves). They will not allow you to use mods and in some cases you can ask your free host to upload the skin and install it for you.
    2. By far the best solution would be to buy a hosting package (this will usually involve you parting with some money), with php and an SQL (mySQL, MS SQL etc...) and install phpBB manually (or you could say "fuck you phpBB" and obtain a vBulletin license), that way you will have access to the phpbb/vbulletin system files/template files, SQL and you can modify your forum in anyway you wish...
  6. zfs

    zfs Everything old is new again
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    Good advice, just don't expect your site to have contributors as cool as we do. :)
  7. Atlas

    Atlas I'm the Mary!
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    best part of the whole thread :D

    (everything else was good too tho)
  8. Archaic

    Archaic

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    Any chance you might consider posting this to BMGf as well chaos?
  9. xcrissxcrossx

    xcrissxcrossx

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    LOL

    btw, I like smogons layout.
  10. chaos

    chaos
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    done
  11. noobster

    noobster space cowboy
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    Great guide and happy birthday duder. And yeah I do agree people like to contribute, it feels great helping a site of this size out :D
  12. Pidgeot500

    Pidgeot500
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    Great, of course... another thing I don't like about some forums is making you register to see what's going on, it's a cheap tactic that boosts your usercount but just ends up getting you a lot of newbies or dead accounts, I'd guess... This guide is ironic in that I should be coming out with my site in just a week or so, as soon as my main beta tester returns from vacation; not sure if it follows these guidelines, but it's not meant to attract a whole ton of people anyway, just be "out there"... Anyway, happy birthday.
  13. Articuno64

    Articuno64 1 to 63 were taken
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    since when does chaos know how to make good sites? ::SCOFF::
  14. giga

    giga
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    i'm linking this to all admins of different forums I know lol!

    edit: okay I just finished reading it, it's very inspiring. good job =]
  15. Pokemonexperte

    Pokemonexperte

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    Very right ... most wannabe webmasters forget that they need some good content, a clear layout ... and endurance (!). And if you are running some forums, give moderation-rights only to persons you can REALLY trust. (I'm always quite amused, when I notice that some spammers, that are banned from my forums, became moderator in other forums ...)

    btw, I have to disagree :D ... my (German) website, the biggest and most comprehensive German website, gets even more hits (2,600 to 3,400 uniques); and my forums are at least the same size ... But happy birthday and congratulations for building up this website.
  16. Doomsday

    Doomsday
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    giga's right, this is quite inspiring. I always wanted to build my own website, but HTML seemed too complicated to me @_@
  17. chaos

    chaos
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    (I meant English, if you want to be a jerk www.koudai8.com is a very very very huge site)
  18. Jshadias

    Jshadias
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    germans more like nerds
  19. Zero

    Zero

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    Yeah, good guide. I'd like to differ on the affiliate stuff though. PokemonPalace.net was in the top 10 for referrer hits for PokeRealm last month so affiliate links do work and they're not as bad as you make them sound.

    Second, I do use a three column layout but the right side does have legitmate stuff. I think it fits well with the overall layout and structure of the site.

    Other than that, I pretty much follow all the guidelines you posted yeah (and agree with them) - especially getting material ready before you go online.

    I remember working on EliteGurus.com for a solid month before I even put it online.

    I'm always open to comments about the site. I already followed your advice about removing the .html extensions from my links. :)
  20. chaos

    chaos
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  21. Zero

    Zero

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    Haha dang, that is a lot of buttons. Alright, gotcha.
  22. The HavoX

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  23. Jshadias

    Jshadias
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  24. Amazing Ampharos

    Amazing Ampharos
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    Invisionfree forums work well if you just have something for now that you are only going to upgrade if the NB server ends up doing well. IMO the most important reason smogon succeeded so brilliantly was being tied to the biggest NB server.

    Also, I think gamefaqs demonstrates another principle: the more stupid arbitrary rules you have, the fewer good people you will get. Serebii too to a lesser extent actually. I thought smogon running under just one fundamental rule "stupidity is a bannable offense" was another thing that helped it a lot.
  25. Jshadias

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    lol i just put that in so we could ban annoying people

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