Awesome Petpages: Beyond a Shadow of Default
A petpage? What would anybody do with that?
Quite a lot, as it turns out. Petpages are one of the best features of Neopets, so it's sad that so many people never bother with them. As the single most customizable part of Neopets, they're the creative outlet for hundreds of users and a goldmine of useful tips, tricks, and guides for managing the many aspects of the site. Because anybody can make a petpage, there's no "standard" petpage, just broader categories and common trends. These are useful to anybody interested either in simply exploring pages others have made or creating their own masterpieces.
And so, without further ado: everything you need to know about petpages.
Service page: page intended to be of use more than amusement
This covers a whole range of page types. Directories make up the largest portion, but service pages include a number of other varieties. Guides give instructions on how to do something, such as getting a good score in a particular game or making a page, or provide an explanation of something a particular user is knowledgeable about. Closely related to guides are pre-made providers, which put up coding snippets, entire page layouts, or even occasionally art for general use. Finally, the remainder is a mix of various projects, from petitions to awards.
Directories are a special type of service page, and deserve their own page. In essence, they are a collection of links, conveniently gathering similar pages into one place. The most common form is a pet directory, either an adoption agency or a sign-up list of pets that meet certain standards, such as color, age, or petpage content. Directories can also include links to dailies, old accounts, or just unusual spots in Neopia. A discussion of directories would be incomplete, however, without the Void Directory of Pet Directories. While its name implies that it merely lists other directories, it actually links to any form of service page. The Void Directory provides one of the most comprehensive collections of directories, guides, pages with people saying nice things about Neopets, and even other directory directories.
Character page: any petpage designed to hold a story or summary of a pet
Character pages are a little more focused of a category as compared to service pages, but nevertheless have quite a variety. They extend from simple text descriptions for roleplay reference to elaborate combinations of art, writing, poetry, and coding for detailed characters. These pages are typically divided into a number of common sections.
The introduction starts off a character page. Frequently, it's in a different form than the rest of the page, such as a second person address to the reader. The intro makes sure that the reader is interested and draws them in, stating how they arrive at the page and meet the character or showing some aspect of the character in another way.
The story often makes up the bulk of the petpage's content. It follows the character through a situation, which is sometimes as simple as talking to the reader. It does not necessarily have to be a full plotted story, so long as it gives a good indication of what the pet is like. Shorter pages combine this with the introduction, while some go on for as many as forty pages and may contain several chapters. On a few pages, it's not even writing, and the entire thing is done in comic form.
Because people tend to be lazy, a character page should contain a quick summary section, done in bulleted format by convention. Like a list of stats, it contains their name, nicknames, species, color, physical distinction, personality, and anything else that the viewer ought to know about the character. A similar section, likes and dislikes, is included nearby in most cases to give a more complete picture.
The friends and family part of a page is essentially a plug. It gives a brief summary, biased by the character, of their owner's pets, along with any others they've met through roleplays. Links allow a visitor to check out the other pages, although this is often neglected.
Well developed pages contain one or more pet-specific section. These depend on the story, but can be things like explanations of a world or a discussion of something the character enjoys. To a smaller degree, standard sections can be given character-specific titles to make them seem less formulaic. For instance, a Dr. Sloth might have their likes and dislikes listed as "Things to Spare" and "Things to Vaporize."
What would a page be without bonus content? Traditionally, this means adoptables, but can also be poetry, awards, fanmail, or a comic including the pet. If the pet has any Neopian Times articles, they can be linked to as well. Awards, both those given out and those received, serve as another way to link between pages, creating collections of exceptional pages.
Art is the best thing to get people to look at a page. While it may have an excellent story, most people won't bother if there isn't something visual grabbing their attention. The pictures can be distributed throughout the rest of the page, strengthening the overall layout, or they can be collected into their own section, where they're usually shown as thumbnails that can be dragged and dropped for full size.
Large pages ought to contain some form of navigation, using in page links for convenience. This allows a user to jump to any major point quickly without having to hunt for it.
Finally, the last section of any page is the links. Standard links are 50x50 pixel gifs, pngs, or jpegs with a link back to the page. The secondary standard, 88x31, is for small banner links. In order to attract traffic, a page must provide a link with a code in it for pickup by a user. Common courtesy states that there should also be an outgoing links section so that anybody visiting will be able to move on to other pages once they're done.
Layout: the coding aspect of a petpage
Layout does not just include coding, but also art incorporated in presenting the page. Its objective is to allow visitors to enjoy the content, as well as to display it in such a way as to make it more interesting. Most pages fall into one of three types: contained, sprawling, and fancy.
Contained pages are either smaller or only slightly larger than an average browser window, and use scroll boxes to hold content. Typically, this involves a background image with content in a separate layer above. While this allows for greater customization, the content may feel cramped and show up improperly in different browsers. Depending on how the layout is managed, however, the problems can be avoided entirely.
Sprawling pages are much larger than a browser window, and have the majority of their content laid out vertically. This usually means a table with a border of some kind and a header image at the top. This approach doesn't allow the same degree of artistic freedom, but does a better job in displaying the rest of the content, especially across various browser types. Still, a skilled artist and coder can make a sprawling page look as good or even better than a constrained page. In general, this version is the best for beginners to work with, since the coding is the most intuitive and it does not necessitate a background image.
The remaining variety, fancy, is only for those with a strong familiarity with coding, and sometimes an experienced guild to assist. Fancy pages use unusual coding tricks, ranging from old tags like the scrolling marquee tag to complicated roll-over effect CSS. They may also take advantage of transparency capabilities in gif and png images. The result is a unique page that may even interact to some degree with the user. The drawbacks are many, however. It can almost be guaranteed that there will be browser compatibility issues. In addition, the amount of work and knowledge required does not always pay off in terms of end-result, since some effects may be subtle, or only workable on certain computers.
Grid: series of interconnected and related pages.
Most major pages, especially those for characters, are grouped in large grids. In the case of characters, these tend to be by species, so that Lupes link to other Lupes, Xweetoks to Xweetoks, and so on. Smaller grids are more specific, such as radioactive and/or toxic pets, and focus on a specific trait common enough to include a fair number of pages. Grids as a whole will link to one another throughout, but by and large stay connected to themselves.
In order to become well trafficked, a page has to either get on a grid, or else obtain links through a Neopian contest of some kind. Getting on a grid is easier, even if the species is an uncommon one like Ogrin or Bruce. Doing link trades with similarly themed pets works well, as does simply aiming for similar levels of quality. The more specific a grid a page is tied into, the more likely it is that other users on the grid will link as well.
Spelinking: the pastime of navigating through character petpages
Okay, so I made up the term myself, but I like it. Spelinking is going through a grid to read through the stories and look at the character designs. It's an excellent way to pass time, and helps with the creative process. Since there are hundreds of great petpages out there, searching for the best is quite enjoyable. The best way to go about it is opening any promising 50x50 links on a page in separate tabs. After each page is read or skimmed depending on how interesting it is, open its links in tabs as well. The first thing necessary to get started is a good initial page, one well-connected to a large grid or two. One option is to start off with a famous page that's done lots of link trades and collected a couple dozen links. Another is manual voting in the Beauty Contest on a weekly basis. Since every entry includes a link to the entrant's petpage, it's easy to find pages with a good set of outbound links. (In addition, manual voting supports good artists, including those who may be too busy to advertise.)
Spelinking is the best way to familiarize yourself with what makes a characters unique and interesting, as well as showing what's already been done and therefore should be avoided. Later on, learning how grids work makes it easier to get a developed pet into one. Even for those who don't intend to develop pages themselves, the process is enjoyable and useful. Roleplayers can find other good writers, and artists can locate other artists doing trades.
(The Void Pet Directory is located on www.neopets.com/~Tinsel295 and www.neopets.com/~Emsohl is a great recent site spotlight winner to start spelinking from.)