your friendly neighborhood site tutorialWelcome to Apartment Nine, guest! This tutorial is all about creating and establishing a successful site, written by yours truly, evileh. I've owned sites for about four years now, both on- and off-Neo, and all of my accumulated sitemaking experience and advice (as well as plenty of resources and coding templates) has been provided here. I hope you learn something from it all and maybe share it with your friends. Enjoy, and please neomail me with any questions.
January 1, 2012
• Updated all links.
October 29, 2011
October 9, 2011
September 22, 2011
September 10, 2011
link backIf you find Apartment Nine to be helpful, please feel free to link back and spread the word!
Since May 31, 2009
conceptCaution: The use of this guide requires at least a basic knowledge of CSS and HTML when it comes to editing petpages. If you don't know CSS/HTML that well, please check out any number of guides available here. (Please don't ask me; I can only give you codes and tell you how to use them, not completely how to code.)
A Warning Before You BeginSitemaking is may not be for everyone. It generally entails a reasonable amount of of dedication, perseverance, skill, and most of all, work. If you're not willing to put in the time for your site, to learn to be better, and to try your best, you may not be cut out to own a site. There's nothing stopping you, of course, but I'm just trying to help you help yourself.
This guide is for new sitemakers wanting to be shown the ropes in building and maintaining a site as well as getting popular. Sitemaking's all about fun, sure, but for many people sitemaking gets boring after a while because they don't have the right drive. Also make sure you have enough time to make and maintain a site; if you already know school (or something else) is going to be a significant factor in limiting your time, you may want to rethink your decision to make a site, since you wouldn't want to let down all the nice people who would be using it.
Forgive my frankness, but I have a large amount of experience with sites and these situations, so I'm just trying to make sure you know what you're getting into. I'm not discouraging you to make a site; you should just be knowledgeable about the type of journey you're about to embark on - yes, sitemaking is akin to a journey, where sometimes you don't know what to expect but you have a thrilling bit of fun along the way.
Sitemaking DictionaryUNDER CONSTRUCTION.
Make sure you're familiar with these sitemaking terms, which are used all over this guide, especially if you're a brand-new sitemaker. Some (or most) of these may strike many of you as basic or silly, but you'd be surprised as to how many people don't automatically know what these mean in the Neopian sitemaking world.
Adoptables and Pixels: Types of graphic images. "Pixels" are usually small graphics in which you can actually see the pixels, and "adoptables" are larger graphics and you may or may not be able to see its pixels. What differentiates adoptables/pixels from other graphics is that they are just for decorative purposes and are usually "cute".
Affiliate: A site that you've partnered with. The two involved parties display each others' buttons on their sites, generally in a designated "affiliates" section. This generates popularity/visitors for both sites and is thus mutually beneficial. The shortened form for affiliates is "affies", a very common term.
Banner: A large block of a graphic (like the one that says "Apartment Nine" at the beginning of this site). It can be for and say anything, but generally when people talk of banners they're referring to ones for sites that have the site's name on it (again, like mine at the top of this page).
Browser: A browser is something you use to view the internet in: Firefox, Internet Explorer, Google Chrome, Safari, and Opera are all browsers. Some of them may render a site's coding differently, so siteowners often proclaim which browsers their sites look best in.
Button: Buttons are like small banners: They also carry the site's name and are pretty much the only thing people use to advertise their site. Buttons have (or should have) the dimensions of 88x31 so everyone's are uniform and fit together. (Aka link buttons)
Counter: Little widget-like things that display a number of how many people have visited your site overall. (You can see mine at the very end of the site under "Credits".)
Dailies and Neopoint Guides: Dailies are basically sites that list all of the Neopets dailies (like free jelly, free omelet, soup kitchen, Tombola, etc.), which are activities that you can do every day. They also usually include quick, easy games you can do each day for a good amount of NPs, quests, wheels, and more. Neopoint guides include dailies, but usually offer a specific number of neopoints to be made with the guide (like 100k a day or something of that nature).
Directory: (Also: types of directories.)
Drag and Drop:
Font: (Both usages. Also: different types of fonts; Century Gothic, etc.)
GIMP: A free image-editing software kind of like Photoshop. You can download it from the product's official website, and you can use it to make banners, icons, layouts, and any other type of graphic.
Hiatus: (Pronounced high-ay-tus; a break or interruption in the continuity of a work.) When you go on a "hiatus", it means you're taking a break from your site and/or Neopets. It can be for anything - because you're too busy to maintain a site right now, you're going on vacation, you've lost interest in your site, etcetera.
Lister: (Also: listee.)
NR: Stands for "Neo-Related", meaning the content in question is about Neopets or has Neopets images in it. Excludes any sort of "real-world" image.
Paint: (Aka MS paint)
Review: (Also: review site.)
RL: Stands for "Real Life" (outside of the Neopets)
Sitely: A section including your link buttons, affiliates, listed at's, reviews, and credits. May also include achievements, past layouts, etc. Can also just mean "of or pertaining to sites".
Sitely News: (Aka classifieds)
SOTM: Stands for "Site of the Month". This is the most common type of competition site, where sites enter in a simple contest to amass the most votes and be declared the winner.
Variants: BOTM (Button of the Month), IOTM (Icon of the Month), BaOTM (Banner of the Month), POTM (Pixel of the Month), FOTM (Font of the Month).
The Status Center: A feature of my site Soroptimist Directory's extras page, Soroptimist Supplement, where all recommended open button, banner, petpage layout, and review requests are posted and updated frequently.
Text Effects: (bold, italic, underlined)
U/C: Stands for "under construction".
A note about neomailing and lookups:
Reasons For Making a SiteWhy do you want to make a site? For fun, to help others, to show others how a site is properly done, etc.? Maybe you want the experience of owning a site, which is often similar to a business, or focus on something enjoyable that takes some skill, sense, experience, and perhaps sociability?
You should ask yourself these questions, since these are basically the foundations of your siteowner personality and your site identity. Form a concept of your site: how you want to tackle the site name and layout, originality, advertising, organization - everything. Know what you want before you go out to get it and you'll be able to create a successful site efficiently and correctly without many hiccups. But, of course, you can't foresee or plan everything, and therein lies the fun!
site namesSite names are usually the first things the visitor perceives about your site, whether when they enter the site for the first time or clicked on your link button to get there. You want something creative so people don't just pass it by, as they might a boring name such as "Jenny's Buttons". You want to capture the visitor's attention right off the bat, and with a name like, say, Classical Fuse, you might just achieve that. If you can, try to incorporate the type of site into the name, like Fontabulous, which is a font guide. Or you can just go the common route, which is to plunk an adjective or name in front of the type of site, such as Soroptimist Directory, "Emma's Dailies", or "Paeya's Fonts".
One popular strategy is to take the type of site (reviews, competitions, directory, etc.) or something related to it and translate it into another language, like Le Critique (French for "Critic"; Le Critique was a review site). Try not to choose something too hard to spell, pronounce, or remember, or some random word you made up, because as an overall effect, it usually doesn't work. You can change your site name later, of course, but it's convenient for everyone, including yourself, if you pick a good one and stick with it.
Site Name SuggestionsPlease neomail me if you use one of these names so I can strike it off the list. No credit is needed if you use a name, and taken names are kept up for inspirational purposes.
Note: Many of these names have been claimed over time, but only names that are currently in use have been
Any Site Names:
• Ace Hotel
• Alpine Lodge
• Ancient Days
• Beautiful Night
• Cafe Bouton
• Chaotic Tranquility
• Citrus Breeze
• Classical Fuse
• Closed Encounters
• Crimson Feathers
• Desert in the Sky
• Ephemeral Designs
• Falling Cards
• Falling Grace
• For the Love of Graphics
• House of Cards
• Love Reaction
• Little Boutique
• Moonlight Waltz
• My Name in Lights
• Over the Stars
• Passive Intermission
• Renaissance Fairytales
• Requis (French: request)
• Rising Up
• Seeing Stars
• Show Me Some Love
• Solar Flare
• Stylish Trends
• The Alchemist
• The Concentrated Abyss
• The Neighborhood
• Under the Sun
• Vertical Weights
• Wecome to Reality
• Wishful Thinking
Review Site Names:
• Queen of Hearts
• Rebellious Reviews
• Stretched Reviews
• Strictly Professional
• The Audit
• The Notebook
• The Treatise
• Timewarped (Reviews)
• Trendsetting Reviews
Overview of Site GenresThis section will help you either decide what kind of site you'd like to make or provide you with more information regarding the generalities of such sites, such as the pros/cons, workload, and projected popularity.
Popularity Level: How popular sites of this particular genre usually turn out to be.
Commonality Level: How common sites of this genre are. (You're often better off making a site that's less common, as it's even more difficult to really shine in a genre with high commonalities.)
Difficulty Level: How difficult it is to make and run sites of this genre.
Maintenance Level: The amount of maintenance a site of this genre requires.
Recommended? Taking into account the four judging categories, I sum up whether or not a site is worth making.
Note: Don't call your site a contest - that would mean you offer prizes (like items or neopoints) for winning instead of what you really do give out (image awards), and offering prizes is against the rules. You wouldn't want TNT freezing you now, would you? So call it a competition.
• Fun and easy, and also puts you in contact with some new sites! I've found that sites you may not expect will enter SOTMs.
• Considerable amount of maintenance.
• Largely dependent on participation; more often than not, competition sites don't get enough and close down as a result.
• Might get boring from repetition of just tallying votes and adding competitors.
Commonality Level: Low[est].
Difficulty Level: Low[est]. All you have to do is post the contestants and tally up votes, unless, of course, you offer time-consuming extras like mini-reviews.
Maintenance Level: Medium high.
Recommended? I'm sure you can notice that the cons outweigh the pros. However, if you're prepared to keep the site up for a while instead of closing it after a bit because it's too boring, then go right ahead! Also, you should try to innovate something new and exciting to add to the "monotonous" competition site genre to distinguish your site from your competition. Competition sites usually aren't that exciting or popular, and it's hard to get contestants in general unless you're popular. I've seen quite a few sites close due to lack of contestants, so only go for this if you can advertise a lot and get a lot of people to participate, or if you have a grand, original idea to really make this type of site work.
Note: Font and pixel/adoptable sites also adhere to the following estimations and are rather self-explanatory, so I didn't think they needed their own sections.
• You get a chance to offer up your hard work for public use! It's immensely satisfying to see your graphics being used.
• Practice makes perfect! Taking requests or just making lots of graphics will eventually help you perfect your graphics skills.
• Designing and making new graphics is pretty fun!
• Most graphic sites aren't high-quality (but the owners don't realize it, of course, because who's willing to admit their site isn't high-quality?) and don't garner much popularity. This would make the time spent on graphics wasteful - unless you're quite dedicated to improving your graphics to really meet that standard of quality.
Popularity Level: If your site's content quality is rather good, then I'd say medium, but otherwise, your popularity would be low if your site is, of course, low-quality.
Commonality Level: High.
Difficulty Level: High[est].
Maintenance Level: Medium. (You would add new graphics, I presume.)
Recommended? Yes, if you're consistently good at making high-quality, usable graphics!
• Help Neopians out by directing them to whichever sites they seek quickly and efficiently!
• You get to see all types of sites and you really learn a lot from this experience!
• Immensely satisfying to see your hard work put to use!
• Repetitiveness of listing sites might get boring.
• Plenty of maintenance work (listing, deleting closed sites, marking hiatus/revamping sites, etc.)
• Unless you really try hard and put in the effort, your directory probably won't be very successful. (Not an easy option.)
• Requires a fair bit of dedication and sitely know-how.
Popularity Level: It really depends on how big and original your directory is! The bigger and more original and convenient it is, the more popular it'll be. For the average new directory, I'd say low medium.
Commonality Level: High.
Difficulty Level: Low[est].
Maintenance Level: High - you have to pretty much get on every day to list sites.
Link Directory Suggestion: Don't just wait for people to come to you to get listed. Get your directory listed at a lot of other directories (find them at my directory), acquire affiliates, and go out and ask to list people! Well, you should actually just list as many sites as you can, but by asking, you get them to link back too and thus increase your own popularity. Aim to have the most helpful sites listed, not the most site views! (Your goal with a directory should be not to just have the most sites listed, but to be the most helpful. That's how you really attract and keep visitors.)
Link Directory Content Suggestion: Perhaps, since general directories aren't really useful nowadays (about 80-90% of them have less than 200 links, and who visits them, really?), you could start a site-specific directory? You could focus totally on premades or review sites, things that really help people, and you'll probably be more popular than if you tried to make a typical general directory. I'd like to recommend starting a guide directory, since that's really the most helpful type of directory around, and even at my directory, I try to focus on guides the most. There are so many to list, and they're oftentimes what people are looking for, so why not try it out? *Another suggestion would be to list helpful Neopian Times articles; the wealth of guides that get published in there are also very helpful.
Recommended? A general directory is not recommended unless you have an original idea and aim to have the most links and the most helpful ones, of course. I would recommend that you focuse your energy on a site-specific directory, like for premades, review sites, guides, Neopian Times articles, etc.; those types of directories, if done right, will probably be more popular and fun than a general directory with less than 200 links (which is about the average for general directories right now) and flagging popularity. After all, we don't need a bunch of directories listing the same sites over and over again!
• TNT can unexpectedly update their coding filters and break your entire page (see the newest coding filter update for the most recent example xD) so it might be a super pain in the neck to re-work and re-fix the coding.
• (Ugh) Stealers who don't leave credit or people accusing you of stealing.
• Unless you add new premades every now-and-then (which you should), not much other maintenance to do.
Commonality Level: Medium high.
Difficulty Level: Medium high to high.
Maintenance Level: Medium - you'll hopefully be adding more premades as time goes on.
Recommended? Yes! Only, of course, if you are good at coding.
• Keeping up with requests can be hard, as it requires a lot of skill, dedication, and time. (This is a very important 'con' , as it is usually the defining factor in the success or fail of a request site.)
Popularity Level: Medium high-high if you're "good", and low medium-low if you're not.
Difficulty Level: High, because of the amount of work it entails. (Especially if you're good; then you'll be in high demand.)
Commonality Level: Medium.
Maintenance Level: High[est].
Request Site Suggestion: You should never let the requests pile up into a daunting mountain that you don't even want to begin to tackle. If you let it build up, then you keep putting off starting to chip away at it, and then the requesters have to wait even longer. You don't want to acquire a reputation as a slow request-maker, as it might make people hesitant to request from you. Limit requests to a manageable-per-week number like 3-5 for big graphics and maybe 6-10 for buttons? If you're not getting through at least that many a week, you're totally inconveniencing the requester and, eventually, perhaps fewer people will want to request from you. Personally, when I owned button and review sites, I did at least a few a day and kept it very updated. If you can't keep up the workload of request or review sites, don't string your requesters along - it's nuisance for everyone involved - either announce a hiatus or close your site.
Button Site Suggestion: If you're making a button request site, don't request link buttons from others! By doing so, you're falsely advertising your site skill. You see, when people click on a button site's button, they expect to be able to request a button of similar quality. But if it was someone else's skill that was exhibited on your button, you're falsely advertising what your site offers, and the visitor might bypass your site to find out who did make that lovely button they clicked on in earnest.
Recommended? Yes, but only if you have time, skill, and dedication.
• You get to really help people by offering lots of suggestions for their sites! What could be better?
• Easy to become popular if you're a good reviewer!
• Reviewing can be fun!
• Reviewing is very hard work (keeping up with requests and all) and requires a lot of time and dedication.
• Reviewing isn't for everyone; uou need to be objective, professional, thorough, polite, and helpful!
Popularity Level: High if you're good, perhaps low medium-medium if you offer lower-quality/less in-depth reviews.
Commonality Level: High.
Difficulty Level: High/'high stress' because of the amount of work it entails, especially if you get a lot of requests!
Maintenance Level: High[est].
Review Site Suggestion: Being a harsh, picky grader is different from being mean. You need to offer constructive criticism, not just criticism. Don't say something like "I don't like your layout." You should say "The layout would look better if..." That way you're presenting your opinion in a more professional manner and people are more likely to listen to you. Also, don't criticize anything if you can't offer a suggestion to fix it. For example, don't say "Your layout is ugly." You should stick to euphemism ("Your layout isn't of the highest quality") so not to hurt the reviewee's feelings. Elaborate on your statements as much as possible - be very thorough, concise, and in-depth. That's how you make a successful review site.
Recommended? Yes, but only if you have the time, dedication, and frankly, the ability, to grade fairly and thoroughly.
other types of sites
Also, other types of sites don't really need explanations. An art site is where you display your art; an adoption agency is where you post pets to be adopted/traded/etc. While directories and review sites have specific workloads and other information specific to them, sites such as screenies and pet directories are more of a "to each their own" type of endeavor.
What Makes a Good Layout?There are many factors that go into professional, effective sitemaking, and one of the most important ones is a good layout. Of course, a "good layout" is a subjective term, and everyone has their own standards and ideas. But here are some guidelines that are generally agreed upon by the majority of sitemakers about what makes a good layout:
• Adequate CSS: Any good layout has good, developed CSS that isn't too repetitive, simplistic, or complicated. Sometimes you can compensate for simple headers with more elaborate text effects (or vice versa) or, if you want to convey that your site is all down to business, keep it simple yet classy. Also make sure you have header codings in place for every header you use (h1, h2, h3, etc.); don't just use the tag without coding for it, since that looks sloppy and unplanned.
• Appropriate and Uniform Text: With any site, you should not have tiny text! You want people to read it, and if it's too small, some may not bother or will strain their eyes. A font should not be below 7.5pt (bigger for different fonts) and should be completely readable. After all, you wrote things on your site because they're important, but if they're illegible, then it defeats the purpose of writing them anything at all. The font color shouldn't clash with or be too stark against the background (i.e. a black background shouldn't have white text; the text should be light grey so it's softer on the eyes). Your text should also be the same all around your site - don't use Verdana for regular text and Century Gothic in your scrollboxes (as I saw one side do) - keep it neat and orderly with one simple, large, preferably sans-serif, font.
• Appropriate Size: To begin with, you don't want a layout - however gorgeous - to have a teeny-tiny area for content (one not sufficiently large enough for your content). Review sites and directories should have wide open spaces so the links and text are more than easy to read comfortably. Requests and other types of sites can have smaller/narrower content areas, but make sure it's not too small or big.
• Attractive Design/Image: As with any sort of presentation, you should want your layout to be appealing to the eye with both its color scheme which, hopefully, meshes well with the CSS, and layout itself. Sometimes sites try to make their layout fit in with their site name/theme, but it may not always be flattering for your site. (Some themed images just don't have a good color scheme that you can implement all around your site.) Your headers should definitely match your layout and (as is the most common mistake in layouts and CSS) stay away from copious usages of any shade of grey. Grey is good - it's a neutral and it goes with everything - but too much of it either shows a lack of imagination on your part or just makes for a boring, unexciting palette. Practiced eyes can make grey work, but for the most part, keep it out of your layout unless it's already part of the image or it's absolutely necessary for your color scheme.
• Easily Navigable: Most sites nowadays are anchored, which means they must have a navigation, and most sites do - which is good. But make sure your page anchors are working right in at least all of the major browsers and have every section clearly labeled with a noticeable header - you don't want any of your visitors getting lost or confused.
• Making Premades/Customs Your Own: If you use a premade or custom layout, don't be afraid to edit it to your heart's content (as long as it's okay with the creator). Even when I use a premade, I always edit it to fit my tastes, style, and function, and make it ultimately my own. Everyone can have the same premade, but what makes you stand out is your own unique alterations to it that are specifically tailored to your site. Fiddling around with established CSS will also help you understand it better, if you don't have a good grasp of it already.
• Proper Alignment/Function: Your text should be aligned to the left, but your layout should also be in the optimal space for reading. Keeping it in the center is always safe, since then it doesn't make an awkward space on the left/right or feel jammed onto the side. (Though this may be a personal preference.) Make sure all of the parts of your layout, like the navigation, are functional and working correctly (i.e. if you have hover-change images to the address bar or anything, make sure it's all working perfectly).
Layout TemplatesYou may edit these to your heart's content, but please keep the credit on, as these were coded by me. You may not use these in your own premades. (Drag and drop the images or right click + view image to view the previews fully.)
css and html guidesIf you don't know CSS and HTML well, there are plenty of guides to help you; just remember that experimentation is the key to success. Try lots of new things, get comfortable with editing CSS, and let inspiration carry you the rest of the way.
Spud's Guide to CSS
Layout TutorialsIf you'd like something more concrete in the sense of coding petpages than CSS/HTML guides, take a gander at this page.
petpagesIf you don't feel like editing a template and are looking for high-quality premades, you should visit the premade layouts section of Soroptimist Directory. Always make sure you read the rules first before using any site's premades!
Check out my banner tutorial to learn how to make a banner!
how to write an introductionInclude the following in your site's welcoming message for a concise, simple introduction:
• Be Humble: You shouldn't refer to your site or content (or, really, anything of yours) as "high-quality." I know you're trying to set an impression that you have high standards and really do offer great stuff, but not only does it come off as a little snotty, chances are you don't offer high-quality stuff. That just makes you look silly (and a little stuck-up) because visitors might be thinking, "How could they possibly call that high-quality?" More often than not, the people calling their site high-quality are the ones who don't quite reach that standard. (Maybe they're trying to convince themselves? I don't know.) Be a little modest and humble in your introduction. Even if you do offer "proven" high-quality stuff, you're kind of boasting about your products, and, again, humbleness is the best light to present yourself in. You can be proud about your site, but don't proclaim it to the world in a way that doesn't show you're also a little reserved about your success.
• Don't Write a Story: Those story "fluff" pieces in introductions that are so popular nowadays, especially with sites with an overarching theme, are not usually good ideas. They're only often lacking in the literary quality aspect (not everyone is as good at writing story bits as they think they are) and, of course, the grammar aspect, but they're just unnecessary and aren't "cute". People don't really care if a magical fairy is leading them into a "magical hut" (codeword for the site) to talk to an "immortal wizard" (codeword for the owner) about "potions" (codeword for content), they just want a straightforward explanation of who you are, what you're doing, and perhaps why you're doing it.
• Include a Link to Your Lookup: Introduce who you are! Also, since the new coding filters don't allow full neomailing links, your lookup also serves as a contact point. Visitors should be able to quickly and easily contact you with any questions or feedback! Eliciting feedback is always the right way to go to improve your site and make it just right for your visitors.
• Include Your Thesis: Include your site's "mission statement/thesis" - good and fast service, top-notch helpfulness, the best graphics/premades around, and so on.
• Site Genre: Mention your site type so they're sure about exactly what you offer (button requests, icons, etc.) Don't just say "graphic requests" or "premade and custom graphics"; that could mean a lot of things. Be specific: Here I offer premade icons and take banner requests!
• Keep It Classy: Your introduction is your third impression on the visitor - the first is your button/site name, second is your layout, and then third is how you conduct yourself in your introduction. It's exactly like you're a sales representative trying to get a potential buyer - you're not going to grunt and use informal or grammatically incorrect language. You're also not going to gush and give them your life story. You're going to say "Hello, welcome to site name here, where we offer insert content here. I'm guest and I'm always available for any questions or concerns." Sites are a lot about how you would conduct a business in real life.
• Keep It Short: No one wants to read your life story or how to got around to making this site. They just want to know what it is and what it's offering, or they might just skip it altogether. (I know I do.) If you want to include some site history or an explanation of the site's name, do so, but again - keep it short or make an extra site history page.
• Site Name: Throw in a "welcome" and your site name so they can be sure as to what it is and how it's spelled, just in case your layout/banner/button was unclear.
originality and creativityI strongly recommend that your site offers something original and creative that no other site offers. This way you can attract more visitors since they can only experience the special feature at your site. I can't help you much with this section (then the feature wouldn't be very original, would it?); it's something you have to think of yourself. Something that imbues your personality into your site or something new and funky fresh - anything you can think of that's original is going to be a great boon (or benefit) for your site. Now, if you have awesome content but your site itself isn't that original, it's not a problem, really. Your content should be attracting plenty of visitors on its own...originality and creativity is just a great extra to have.
You can also take an existing site feature and put your own twist on it - but nothing too elaborate or useless, mind. (Keep it strictly site-related, not RL-related.) Your objective is to be fun and different, so don't try too hard; that would be counterproductive. Another idea is to add little extra features on the side - events, rankings, mini-reviews, and graphics are great things to start out with.
literacy and professionalismUtilizing correct spelling, grammar, and usage of punctuation is very important. If people have to struggle to read what you wrote, then chances are they'll just give up and either not read it or leave your site (and then they could be missing out on something significant!). You want to present yourself and your site in the best way possible, so learn how to write the right way, without choppy or run-on sentences and excessive usage of text effects. Your site can hardly be high-quality if you yourself can't write like a high-quality site.
So, I implore you to proofread your site. To make it easy on yourself, just proofread the section you just added when you click on "preview changes". Or if you have extra time and you're bored, go ahead and read through your site to see if you can reword a sentence and make it more fluent or catch any spelling mistakes. (Tip: Firefox also generally has a built-in spellcheck for anything you type in.)
A professional atmosphere incorporates in literacy and a basic knowledge of how to present things to strangers. Try to refrain from using too many smilies, "lol's" and "haha's," or anything else of the sort. (Though in your updates, it's more okay; just not in the main content of your site.) Always capitalize and punctuate properly, and while you don't have to write completely formally, stay away from chatspeak (as always) and replacing worlds with symbols or numbers, like 2, 4, and @. Also refrain from using repetitive word choices (use synonyms), and don't use more than one question mark or exclamation point for a sentence unless it's like this: ?! Use all symbols and letters correctly, and be succinct and to the point, so the visitor isn't scratching his/her head over what you mean.
Also try to stick to basic fonts like Verdana, Arial, Tahoma, Franklin Gothic Medium, Century Gothic, Calibri, and Georgia, and stay away from fonts like Comic Sans MS, which is more playful than professional. Sans-serif fonts ("clean" or "basic" fonts like Tahoma versus serif ["fancier"] fonts like Georgia) like this font, Verdana, are also generally easier to read.
How to Build a Great Directory
I never really thought much about the benefits of a directory past helping people and the satisfaction it brings, but there's more to it. A directory is the 4-way sign at a crossroads (or a doorman to a posh hotel, you choose...or maybe even a flight attendant. Okay, enough with the analogies) and every person that you cross kind of becomes a part of the overall scheme of your experience. Whether you remember every individual site or you just start to comprehend the underlying blend of sitemaking and dedication that is present in Neopia's petpages, making a directory goes far beyond grabbing a layout and slapping down some links. It's about seeing all sorts of sites you normally wouldn't see, becoming a part of the greater Neopian sitemaking community, and being the best 4-way sign, doorman, and maybe flight attendant that you can possibly be!
You want to direct people like a directory suggests, but you want to do more than that, too. You want to add to and possibly change their sitemaking experience, since directories are both part of and not part of sitemaking - they're on the sidelines but at the same time, they're like the head coach! (Forgive my awful football references; I don't know anything about football. In fact, I have no idea why I keep throwing in so many analogies!)
So get out there and take the Neopian sitemaking community by storm!
directory warningAny directory tutorial should begin with the bold words: Owning and compiling a directory is committing to a lot of work. It will take a while to get to the status where you have enough links to be popular enough for a directory to be worth all the listing and maintenance required. Directory-owning is not for everyone, and a good number of current directories are inactive or close due to lack of interest in the site. Make sure you're ready to commit before starting the arduous journey of making and maintaining a successful directory.
Owning a directory isn't all blood, sweat, and tears, though - it's immensely satisfying to see the product of your time and effort blossom into something great. Helping people with a wonderful directory is what you should be striving for!
types of directories
• General Petpage: Of course, the most popular directory to make is directory that lists just about everything! You really can't go wrong with a general directory, though it may be difficult to really become popular with this one. There are already so many general directories, so the question of why someone should use yours instead of someone else's, which may be bigger and better, arises. If you have a good answer to this question, a general directory might be for you. Otherwise, the sitemaking community doesn't really need directories listing the same sites over and over, as that doesn't really help anyone in the long run.
• Guides: Like listing NT articles, listing only guides would be immensely helpful for anyone. You could list NT articles and guides, too, if you like - double the helpfulness factor! You could be the next The Games Room if you play your cards right.
• High-Quality Only: Perhaps you'd like to offer your visitors a more refined directory experience by only listing what you deem to be high-quality sites. Since this term is subjective, I would recommend you having a good deal of site experience and perhaps owning a high-quality site yourself before you start determining the quality of other sites. A low-quality site owner probably thinks their own site is of a good quality and will thus allow most anyone into their so-called 'high-quality' directory, almost effectively defeating the purpose.
• Pets, Shops/Galleries, Guilds: Though new directories of these types are not common (except for guilds), you might find that you'd like to list pets, shops/galleries, or guilds instead of petpages or NT articles. However, the message with general directories is the same - if you can't list enough pets, shops/galleries, or guilds to be effective, you should just let the bigger, more popular directories do their work.
• NT Articles: Instead of a general petpage directory, you could try listing NT articles. The upsides to this include: articles will never 'close,' so you don't have to worry about that kind of maintenance; they are extremely easy to list and find - just root around the NT Archives; they are really quite helpful; new ones come out every week; you may find an article for a topic that you probably won't find a petpage guide for; people might not think to turn to the Neopian Times if they're in need of a guide, and there are very few NT article directories, so you'll have an almost-monopoly on NT-article-seekers! You might even open their eyes to a treasure trove of things they never even thought about before. It's a win-win situation for everyone!
• Specific Site Type: Also helpful would be a directory focusing on specific site types, like adoption agencies, pixels, review sites, etc. By narrowing your focus on these categories, you allow for easier and more in-depth navigation of these sites, which people may not find elsewhere.
layout and cssOf course, your layout shouldn't be just any premade - it should be one that's fit for a directory. You should pick one with a very large content area, since people don't want to have to be squinting to see your links (and when you get a lot, it'll be extra difficult to see a ton of links in a tiny space) and easy, clean navigation. Unless you can procure a beautifully coded and made layout, you should stick to simple layouts so you don't get bogged down in layout and coding problems. Like a library, you don't need a bright, ostentatious layout to attract visitors - you just need to have a lot of quality content.
Also, you should make sure your text and links aren't tiny and are actually readable. (I suggest 8pt+ sans-serif fonts like Verdana or Tahoma.) Your link color shouldn't be too bright or contrasted with its background, since people will most likely be looking at these links for a while and you don't want to kill their eyes!
Columns are great things to utilize in a directory so you don't have to have an endlessly scrolling page. Use two or three columns depending on your textarea space, but don't make them too small! You don't want your visitor feeling 'claustrophobic.' Put scrollboxes in these columns to maximize space.
• Contacting Links: It's imperative that you provide the link to your lookup all over your site so people can contact you easily about getting listed, errors/closed sites, etc. If people can't find such a link, they may not bother and will just move on - and that isn't good siteowning at all. It's extremely easy to provide a link to your lookup or to a neomail with your username right beside it (since, with the new filters, direct neomail links don't work properly on petpages), so make sure you have them in strategic places.
• Forms and Rules: Many people choose to hide a 'codeword' of some sort in their rules so they can know who read the rules when the form is submitted. However, this isn't as effective as people would like: Visitors (including me!) usually know there's a secret word or special link and just skim through to find it without even reading the rules. Codewords are thus rendered almost pointless. They're just a hindrance, and if you really think about it, rules are pretty much the same for directories: on-Neo sites, no "About me's", and link back. There isn't a point you really need to reiterate here. I don't state any rules for Soroptimist and I get on just fine. Also, about forms: for directories, people sometimes ask for your name, username, site name, site URL, and category. Well the first two are silly - they're usually written right there, and unless you specifically list these things on your site, don't ask for them! Also, to increase convenience for the visitor, you should just ask for the URL and figure out the site name and category for yourself, since they're usually quite glaringly obvious.
• Good Updates: As with any site, you should keep good, detailed, bulleted, neat updates that are very regular (at least once a day). Link to everything you mention - places around your site, other sites, etc. - so the visitor doesn't have to go searching for whatever you're talking about. If you don't link to it, they're less likely to go look for it and probably won't give it a second though (I know I'm like that). If you don't get on at least once a day, you probably don't have time for a demanding directory, so there isn't much point in making one.
• Helpfulness of Owner: Lastly, a directory owner should know their listed sites very well and be able to help someone who's looking for something. Accept suggestions, ask for feedback, stay upbeat and just make it known that the biggest reason you have a directory is to help others find what they need to find. Why else would one make a directory?
• Recommended and Ranking: You should mark sites recommended so people can get to the better sites faster, and also (if you have room), rank the best with link buttons so people can find the best possible sites in the category with just one click. What, then, is the point of listing non-recommended sites; won't people just pass them by if they're not recommended? Well, firstly, everyone has different opinions of what should be recommended. Of course a newbie, low-quality directory owner will probably mark other sites similar in quality to their own recommended, while a larger, more high-quality site won't. But a directory is also about helping people find something - maybe they're looking for the site, recommended or not - and expose them to hopefully at least some more traffic so they can grow, learn, and become recommended.
• Sitely News Section: This is probably something you should host once you've established yourself as a large, high-quality directory, since the main focus of it is the news that other sitemakers post about their sites. If your directory isn't that popular, you won't get a lot of news, and and an empty, unpopular section is no fun. Sitely news sections can also include the sites you listed that week and the sites that closed, so people are constantly in the loop and can discover new sites and find out which ones closed. If you're up to it and have the time to maintain it, you could also include open requests and reviews.
• Spacing: An important thing to incorporate into your overall design is spacing. Your directory will (hopefully) eventually become rather large, and it's difficult to properly utilize and enjoy something crammed into a tiny space. So it is advised to (1) have a large, spacey, simple layout that works well in most browsers and (2) add a line-height for your text so that, too, is spaced out and neat.
• Subcategories: The broad category of "Requests" isn't going to do justice to the myriad of different types of requests, like button, banner, layout, glitter, blinkie, shield, etc. It would also help the visitor out if the different requests were all together and labeled so one could find exactly what they were looking for with a snap of a finger. Don't make your subcategories too specific or general and make sure it applies to all of the sites within it. You can also employ sub-subcategories to denote very similar divisions within one subcategory. (Ex: Guides ＞ NC Mall ＞ NC Mall Gifting and Trading. Category ＞ subcategory ＞ sub-subcategory. Now a visitor can find exactly what they want!)
• Suggestion System: Even if you don't offer rankings and/or recommendations, you should have lots of neomailing links to you everywhere (within reason) and maybe even a special place where you solicit suggestions from people. If you're aiming to be a high-quality site that's a community for sitemakers, you want to incorporate their ideas and feedback into the site so it's a more personable experience for everyone. Actually consider and welcome suggestions about your site, recommendations, and rankings, because you never know, you might just learn something new or find yourself persuaded!
• Button Portfolios: Browse through button request sites' pickups/portfolios and click on any button for a site you don't recognize.
• Lurk the boards: (Especially the Help Chat and Game Chat) Look for site URLs in peoples' siggies or that they've posted. These will most likely be guides (if not screenie or art pages), so be on the lookout!
• Other Directories: Browse through other directories, of course, and see if they've listed any sites you haven't (this works best on sites with a "newly added" section). Soroptimist offers a section that catalogs all of the sites it has listed during the week. Check it out?
• Sitely Sections: Browse through the listed at's and affiliates of people to see if they have any sites you haven't yet listed.
• Test-Run Your Site: A good way to see what kind of sites people need and sections you should fill out first (other than actually asking people) is using your directory yourself. If you need a site, try to use your directory, and if you don't have what you need listed, then you better find it fast!
Very Important Note!
Beware of the lure of listing a lot of miscellaneous and useless sites, like quizzes, sites about pets' personalities, and other silly things like screenies, untaken names, music, adoption agencies. I know you want to be able to offer a good variety of everything for your visitor, but you should definitely focus on directories, review sites, requests, and guides instead of useless sites like misc. and screenies. I'm not saying you shouldn't list them, because you should, you should just work on the more important categories first and not bothering with listing every single screenie page or adoption agency, which aren't really "sites" but spring up more out of necessity than being professional ventures.
Making a directory unique
Now you might be thinking, Directories really aren't unique or original! No, they aren't - not unless you make them so. Sure, you can use the same features everyone else does (marking sites recommended, ranking the top 5 or so sites, offering sitely news sections, etc.) but your stamp of individuality is missing. Most people don't think of this as a plus or even something to consider, but since you're reading this, think about it - add something original to your directory that no one else has. And maybe it'll catch on and you'll become a legend.
Some people also like putting themes in their directories. However, if you have a theme for your site with different headers that correspond to the theme, make sure that it's not too difficult to figure out what each one is talking about. Having themed headers can be detrimental to your site's ease of navigation if they're too obscure.
Pros/Cons of Site Descriptions:
Some directories offer site descriptions for each listed site, which some hail as "fresh," "helpful," etc. But how helpful are they really? Take a look!
• Visitors can find exactly what kind of site they want with whichever extra features.
• Your positive/neutral (hopefully not negative!) description could help sway a visitor to visiting the site when they originally wouldn't.
• It's kind of like Google giving a "preview" of each site before you click on it.
• You can't really use effective columns, which make for easier and more convenient viewing, if you offer descriptions. All the sites are in one big scrollbox, and that gets tedious to scroll/search through.
• Visitors may not even bother reading the description. I know I don't.
• It's extra work! If you're listing a lot of sites or you just don't have time, it's a big project to try to keep up with.
I would suggest that you stay away from site descriptions. Though there are an equal number of pros/cons, the cons are larger issues and greatly outweigh the pros. Of course, you can go through with it if you like, but there's a reason most people, including myself, don't do it.
advertisingOf course, the first step is to get listed at other directories so people can find you. You should've officially opened your directory with a good number of sites listed already, so maybe some people won't object to you become affiliated with you (especially if you have a nice layout). (Make sure your affiliates and the directories you're getting listed at are listed, too!)
When you're newly opened and looking for listers, try posting a sitely news submission at Soroptimist or other sites that accept sitely news. Even bother with smaller sites with news sections - you never know what little sites might find you because of that!
The #1 rule in advertising any site is do not have an ugly button! If you have an ugly button (or a few), hardly anyone will want to click it and see how 'great' (or not) your site is.There are a bunch of great request sites and button tutorials out there, so you have no excuse not to have a great button! (Note: It's nice if you try to make your own buttons and all, but if they're not good, you're just hurting your own chances of getting good publicity.) Check out The Status Center for all the best open button requests!
Maybe you want to advertise on the boards if you're really desperate? But you don't ever need aggressive advertising tactics to become successful - if you're really great, people will come to you.
how to be the best
• Helpfulness: Implementing this in both your site and yourself is a great advantage to have! If people feel you're there to serve them, they're more likely to neomail in with feedback or participate in your site, and word will get out what a great directory you're running here!
• Knowledge and Experience: They get you farther in sitemaking, of course, and are good ingredient to have in order to run a successful directory. You'll most likely know what people want, how things should be run, and how visitors in general work, so you can properly target your audience. Of course, Soroptimist was my second site on Neo (not counting my pixel sites) so I grew and learned with it, but since I had up to 19 other sites at once, I still got a lot of experience from them to implement in my directory.
• Numbers: How many sites (and maybe NT articles) you've listed are very important because, naturally, the biggest sites are going to be the most popular. Sure, it's more about quality than quantity, but if you're up against sites with both, you have to step up your game!
• Originality: This is key if you want to make it big. Directories themselves aren't an original concept, unless you make it so. It's like taking an old ugly granny dress and making it into something fashionable with just scissors, some fabric, and a great eye for design. If your directory offers something nobody else does, people will have to go to your directory to get it (monopolies are great!). The idea might be so great that everyone else will pick up on it (imitation is the greatest form of flattery) and then you can retire knowing you changed the way people make sites forever.
• Organization: The way you organize your site is extremely important, considering if people can't easily navigate your site they probably won't come back to use it again. You should make sure everything - especially links - are easy to find, see, and use, and everything is in its designated place.
• Passion and Ambition: Devotion is undoubtedly the best requirement for a successful directory, for one simple reason: If you don't want to be the best, you simply won't be! If you're willing to put in the extra effort and time (and my favorite: blood, sweat, and tears), there's no reason you won't be the best!
• Get listed link: Sometimes this link is either nonexistent (owners just say to neomail them or give their non-linked username) or difficult to find. You should make your link stand out so people can find it quickly and with ease. You don't want to damage the impression of your directory if you don't even know how to properly place the singularly most important part of your directory, aside from the links themselves. If you have rules and a form, you should include them in the neomailing link (code available under "conveneince"), but there really shouldn't be that many rules anyway. Other than having a site on-neo, not under construction, or without stolen content is mostly a given.
• No link button: I don't understand this, but some people think it's fine to officially open and start getting listed a site that doesn't even have a link button. Link buttons are so easy to come by nowadays - there are numerous request sites, tutorials, bases, TUTORIALS, and maybe even friends you can ask! If you don't have a link button with a perfectly coded textarea accompanying it, people might not go through the trouble of creating a text link to your site. Why make visitors work a little harder to do that and search all over your site for a link button? Just get one, even if it's a temporary one. It's not hard. You don't want to reduce traffic to your own site, do you?
• Ugly link button: You're already setting a negative impression of your site, and you're turning away potential visitors with an ugly button! I know I've already gone over this pretty thoroughly, but this IS a common mistake!
• Unimaginative name: I have seen names like "Lily Directory" and "Purple Directory" far too many times. You want something catchy, imaginative, original - something people will remember and admire. You're more likely to snag some visitors with a name like "Magic Star" than "Lauren's Directory." (Personally, as a directory owner, I check every button I don't recognize, but people in general probably don't.)
• Poor navigation: Navigation is crucial in a directory, especially as you expand. Some directories have navigations that don't work (incorrect page anchors - you have to watch those!) or none at all. If you're a directory, you definitely need a link navigation because of all of your categories!
• Too many/big symbols: When using symbols in a directory, you hae to make sure that you (1) don't use too many or it gets hard to remember what's what, and (2) that they aren't too big. Big symbols stretch out the paragraph line and the irregular spacing just looks plain sloppy and weird. You want to look professional, don't you? Get symbols that are small enough to fit on the line, but big enough to be seen.
• Inadequate categories: Some people have too general categories - "Guides" for all sorts, putting NR, games, and program/graphic tutorials all in one, or just "dailies" and leaving out NP guides - or pack too much into "Miscellaneous." If you have a good number of one type of site piling up in your misc. section, give it its own category (types of sites like adoption agencies, untaken names, screenies, and music). You should also use subcategories so your visitors can precisely pinpoint the site or type of site they're trying to locate.
• Ill-fitting/ugly banner: In addition to having ugly buttons, some new directories often have banners that are (a) low quality and unpleasant to look at or (b) not big enough to completely span the width of the textarea/table. If a link button is impression step 1, a banner is step 2 and an ugly banner is just chasing people away!
• No layout: Occasionally I stumble upon a directory that neglected to implement any layout structure at all. While those sites would get a thumbs up for simplicity, there is such a thing as too simple...without a basic table, your page will just be an unappealing stretch of blank canvas inadequately filled by a handful of links. (For who would frequent such a directory that doesn't have a layout and thus allow it to grow? It's like being a faceless person...you have no layout, which gives you partial identity aside from your site name.)
• Difficult-to-read links: Probably the worst thing you could do to your directory besides having the get listed link difficult to find or not there is make your links hard to read! If people can't read them, they definitely won't be using your directory! It's a humongous loss on your part because it doesn't even make a lick of sense to have links that aren't legible, since directories are all about links. Pick a link color that is both matching and easy on the eyes, I beg of you.
• No alphabetization: A major minus on the convenience front would be not to bother alphabetizing your links and/or categories. If links aren't alphabetized, how can someone be sure you don't have a link short of having to CTRL + F searching for it? Or what if they don't know the name, just the letter it starts with? Start a link directory with alphabetization from the beginning, stick with it, and you'll be just fine.
• Buttons vs text links: Newer directories that primarily list "modern," active sites sometimes use their buttons, which is detrimental to the directory in a few ways. Sure, an advantage of using buttons is that (1) it's convenient for the owner, who just has to copy + paste the code instead of putting it into a text link and alphabetizing/recommending it, and (2) link buttons are, of course, mini-advertisements, so the prettier buttons will be more likely to be clicked on, right? However, if you use button links, (1) not all sites have buttons (it's a shame, but mostly older sites that are still helpful and really should be listed don't have buttons) so then you're excluding a lot of sites from your directory, aren't you? And that's not helpful if a site isn't being listed just because it doesn't have a button. (2) Buttons can't be CTRL + F searched for, like a text link could. How inconvenient! And (3) too many buttons will slow down your page - again, how inconvenient and lazy of the owner! - and nobody likes using a directory that freezes up and then crashes their internet browser. Button images also "break" so frequently that you'd be constantly replacing people's link back buttons on your site (if you didn't, it would look messy). It's just another "chore-like" job that will slow down the process of updating your directory! (Thanks loveaccomplished!)
don't get too inspiredThere's nothing with getting inspired by a site and using some of their ideas (with credit, of course), but don't model your entire site over another. If you're a carbon copy of a site but have less links than them, who's going to visit your site when they visit theirs? Even so, basically taking all the ideas of a site (always with credit!) isn't stealing, but it's just a cheap way to make a site without putting in any thinking by yourself. Why would you want to be a follower and not a leader? Why can't you think for yourself and come up with your own ideas instead of taking them from others? And lastly, why even make a directory (or a site in general!) if you aren't going to be original at all? There are very few successful directories and they didn't get big with just taking ideas from others without adding their own. I have to mention this because it's a very real problem with directories. Wondering why there are really only about 4 or 5 good, updating directories? Because the rest of them don't know how to run one.
neopian times articlesOnce you've gotten established and listed a good number of sites (by 'good number' I mean more than 400), you can work on listing NT articles! The Neopian Times has a treasure trove of helpful information that someone just didn't want to put on a petpage or wanted to get out to a broader audience. Listing them is really a win-win situation, since they're easy for you to find and they never close like a site does, and visitors get information from a source they may not have considered! You shouldn't list all articles, though. As with petpages, stay away from the useless, unhelpful articles like quizzes, stories, and pet articles – fiction and humor isn't going to help anyone with anything and you're just wasting your time. If people want silly stuff, they can head over to the NT themselves, but you should be trying to help them with guides that they may have missed or not thought to look for. You should also keep your counts for petpages (like total number of sites) separate from your articles, since they are very different things.
ending remarksThe #1 rule for directory-owning is be helpful (not be the most popular, though if you are helpful, popularity will follow suit on its own). The whole point of a directory is to quickly and conveniently point visitors in the direction of whatever they seek, so please keep that in mind. Also, try to add your own original touches -- if you stand out, you're more likely to get more visitors, right?
Directory-owning is an even bigger work-in-progress than reviewing, since you constantly have to shift to reflect the current situation of sitemaking today to stay afloat and stay effective. Directory-owning is really fun to the right people (it's like secretary/business work, which I find fascinating) and I hope it appeals to you!
Reviewing the Right Way: A Review Site Tutorial
Review site warningRemember, a review site is an enormous amount of work! Dealing with all the reviews in a timely fashion can get hectic, especially if you get a lot of requests and have to juggle school and your personal life. Think very hard whether you have the time, dedication, and frankly, ability to review harshly, fairly, and thoroughly.
You should also be pretty confident in your suggestion and critiquing skills, as well as staying objective, reviewing fairly and on the quick side, and planning to keep the review site open for a while. If you're not sure if you can handle the large workload of a review site, you should offer reviews on the side at one of your existing sites or maybe on the boards or something.
Of course, this plea for experience may not apply to everyone. Maybe you're just a fantastic reviewer right off the bat! Well then kudos to you, you're one in a million. However, majority of Neopia needs practice, experience, and a good eye to review properly. I would also like to say that if you don't have any recommended sites then your reviews are probably not going to be wonderful. I'm not trying to put you down here, I'm just trying to make you aware of the reality of the situation.
foundations - name and layoutFirstly, get layout that's at least pleasant to look at (visitors will probably be on your site for a while reading reviews so you don't want to subject them to a horrible layout for so long, do you?), and incorporate in the basics of aestheticism (defined as the study of the mind and emotions in relation to the sense of beauty). What I mean by this is to have a nice, big, wide layout that allows plenty of room for ample-sized text (no size under 7.5pt and preferably sans-serif for easier reading) and large review boxes. You don't want to pack a ton of tiny text into a tiny scrollbox, it makes it difficult to read and it really just doesn't make sense. Remember, siteowners should always be thinking of visitor convenience and keeping their common sense about them.
How should you start thinking about what kind of reviewing criteria you want? Well, basic criteria involves the fundamental aspects of a site: layout, content, neatness/organization, sitely section, spelling/grammar, and perhaps re-visiting. Make sure you should make it practical; offer most of the points (if you're going by a point system) for the more important sections like layout and content, and the minimum amount of points for little sections like grammar/spelling and originality sections. Even if you're not using a point system, you should give an overall rating of the site at the end (maybe letter grades: A+, A, A-, etc.) to properly convey what your professional opinion of the site is and so they have something to compare to the next time they get reviewed at your site or someplace else. Additionally, always close off your review - any style - with a few concluding and summarizing sentences so the reviewee completely understands what your position on their site is.
Review Box Template;
No credit needed for the sample rubric or the box coding. Enjoy, and remember to keep your review boxes and text large for easy, roomy reading!
Afraid you're not being in-depth enough? Try my two favorite styles of reviewing! (I call them inspections, not reviews, to diffrentiate the style from what people generally consider to be 'reviews'.)
1.) Written Inspections: Instead of categories, each section should be each page of the site (homepage, sitely, content, etc.) to make sure you cover everything. Bullet each thing you need to point out, and keep it short. Also, pretty much only mention things that need to be improved. It's implied that if you don't mention it, it's fine. One of the big problems with reviews is that they get bogged down in phrasing things right and trying to be sensitive. Just go out and say it! (And by that I mean professionally and helpfully, of course.)
2.) Visual Inspections: These are by the far most helpful type of reviews, since they physically point out issues and everyone can see the problem. You can also just number the screenshot and actually write out the problem instead of writing it directly on the image. (It might get messy that way.)
• Keep yourself ("I") out of it. A reviewee wants your professional opinion, which you should present as if it is fact. Don't say things like "I don't like it"; conduct your review with professional language. If you interject your straight opinion into a review, people would be less likely to listen to you, and it also makes a weak argument. You should back up statements with proof and present it like it's fact. "Your layout isn't the best quality. The edges don't match up, the colors don't match, and the banner could use some real image editing", is a good way of getting started on these tips.
• Give your point of view as a visitor but try not to be biased. A point of view comment would be, "When I entered your site, the first thing I saw was the title because the text was bright pink. It works well because the brightness of the pink is able to catch my attention." Whereas a biased comment would be, "When I first entered your site, the first thing I saw was title and I like pink so therefore it looks good and works well. (Thanks beatitude!)
• Offer suggestions for everything you mention. If you can't offer a suggestion to fix something, you're better off not mentioning it. (Then again, if you're a good reviewer and know what you're doing, then you should have a suggestion for it.) Or if you can't offer a direct suggestion, refer the reviewee to someone who can help them, like a more skilled coder or graphics maker. Reviews are like essays - you're kind of making an argument and you wouldn't include information or, say, a quote that doesn't directly pertain to the subject matter.
• Employ tact when you're pointing out a problem. If something's ugly, don't go out and say so. The reviewee is probably proud of their site and you want to be firm and professional but not outright mean. If something needs work, say it needs work and offer suggestions for how the reviewee could go about improving. If something's blatantly ugly, offer up a euphemism like "it's low-quality and could definitely be better." If you're getting exasperated with the reviewer's multiple spelling errors and silly mistakes, don't let it show! You want to help them, not hurt their feelings! Just take things one step at a time, take your time, and get the review done right.
• Stay away from posing rhetorical questions. Not only is it less professional to constantly say, "That doesn't look good, huh?" or "I wouldn't want that, would you?", but it also comes off a little condescending, know-it-all-ish, and unkindly. Remember, you want to describe everyting as kindly, firmly, and as helpfully as you possibly can, and rhetorical remarks usually don't help your case.
• Don't use smilies, "haha's", etc. Since you're staying professional, you should stay away from adding in those smilies, "lol's", "haha's", etc. - more often then not they just don't fit into the overall scheme of a review and, of course, doesn't make you look as professional and knowledgeable as you should.
Other pointers for reviewing the right way:
• Be available for "follow-ups." Maybe you don't take re-reviews, but at least allow your reviewees to contact you about any site questions/help they need after the review and give them some quick pointers via neomail on how to improve after, say, a month-long period or something. (I like what Turnip said in her rules at her review site, Frequent Flyer: I'll always keep an open line of communication during and after the review. If you have any questions, comments, or concerns, feel free to neomail me and I'd be happy to help.)
• If you use a point system, you should explain why you took every point off (give a point breakdown) and not take exorbitant amounts of points off for small infractions. Maybe if it keeps happening over and over it becomes detrimental to the site, but if it's just a few little things, don't go overboard.
• Offer lots of (linked) sites in your review to help them out! If they need better link buttons, link them to some of the best request sites. If they need to get listed at directories, need premades, coding help - anything - you give it to them and also show them where to find other helpful sites (Soroptimist Directory can definitely help you there).
• Check the site in different browsers (IE, FF, Chrome, Safari, and maybe Opera). You should review the site in the browser it was coded in, but if the site isn't very compatible with other browser it's also a detriment to the site's ability to reach all sorts of visitors.
what not to do
• You didn't make all or any of your link buttons. For one, not everyone is good at making buttons or really has the time or inclination. There's no problem with having all requested buttons. If a reviewer says "I'd like to see more buttons made by you," I think you should ignore them if you don't like/want to make buttons, since it doesn't matter. While it's a nice plus, showing that you care about the little details of your site, it just may not be possible for you, and that's okay.
• You didn't make your own layout. It's perfectly fine to use a premade, custom, or edited template/premade layout instead of one mode from scratch by you. Not everyone is that great a coder or really has the time for coding. If nobody used premades, we wouldn't have premade sites! Now, if the site's using a bad premade, custom, or edited layout, then of course you should mention it. Some might say, "I didn't make it, so you can't tell me what's wrong with it." Well, they're using it, so they should change the wrong parts of the layout or get a new one, not be content with a faulty layout. (Inspired by neobutterfly282!)
• Your site's a directory, so points off for that; directories aren't original. Well, someone has to make a directory, and a reviewer should only take points off if the directory itself is unoriginal, not the site concept.
• You should only list good-quality sites at directories. Actually, you should list as many sites as possible so people have choices. Your opinion may not be the same as someone else's, so they have your suggestion on what's a good site (if you use the recommended idea from the directory tutorial) and they can make their own decisions, too.
• Keep your old updates! (For those who keep daily updates.) Who even reads the old ones? I don't, and I'm pretty sure most people don't and especially don't care very much. This is just a good thing in theory, but in reality, it's not really practical. If you must, keep updates for a week or three days or something.
Other don'ts of a review site:
• Don't get frustrated, angry, necessarily harsh, or (frankly) ridiculous in your reviews. (I find myself getting worked up when I review sometimes; it's okay, just let your frustration out off the page and keep your review professional and helpful.) Or at least keep your emotions out of the review. If your reviewee makes blunder after blunder and more ridiculous mistakes than you can count or mention, you should sternly tell them to fix it, but don't get carried away and actually saying mean things about their site. There's constructive criticism: Your site needs a lot of work; you have mistakes everywhere. -Points out mistakes and how to fix them- And then there's just mean remarks: Your site is actually quite horrible and I'm surprised you had the gall to open it, let alone get it reviewed. I would never revisit this site, ever. Keep your writings under control; the great thing about the internet is that you're not face-to-face and don't have to deal with emotions if you don't want to.
• Don't take points off for something that is irrelevant to the functionality of the site. Just because you don't personally agree with a particular feature doesn't mean that it isn't useful to the site or the owner. Think objectively before removing points - save those removals for things that really hurt the functionality. (Thanks whitehouses!)
• Don't be a review site hypocrite. This is my favorite! Well, the term is self-explanatory, isn't it? It's when review sites give all this advice (and it's usually not in the "try this, this, and this to make your site better" it's like "you should do this, it'd look better" without an explanation) but they could take their own advice on their own site, too. That's one of the reasons why I recommend making review sites with simple layouts so it doesn't have to worry about the "sitemaking" and perfection aspect of sitemaking. I mean, I'm just talking about those not-so-great review sites, not necessarily every one. But the moral of the story is to make sure you take your own advice!
• Don't make your text too tiny or a hard-to-see color. Reviews are a big mass of text, so if the text is difficult to read, who is going to read your reviews at all? It's not only extremely inconvenient for everyone, but it's ridiculous as well. It takes all of two seconds to have a font that's big and bold enough to read. (Inspired by ahsomness!)
• Make sure you read a site's FAQ (if they have one) before asking them if you can review them. (If this is one of your strategies.) Oftentimes if a site wants a review, they'll ask for it when they're ready, and they also put it in their FAQ if they want one or not. It's kind of like checking for a "No Solicitors" sign on a house before you knock on their door. Asking people for reviews is also not a good strategy anyway since they may not be ready for a review or think your reviews are even high-quality, and you'll just end up bothering them. Stick to the good ways of advertising your site. (Inspired by lolamartinez1!)
limiting number of requestsYou should never let the requests pile up into a daunting mountain that you don't even want to begin to tackle. If you let it build up, then you keep putting off starting to chip away at it, and then the requesters have to wait even longer. If they have to wait too long they may not even want a review anymore and you'll merit yourself a reputation for being a slow reviewer. (Oh no!)
Limit requests to a manageable-per-week number like 3-5; if you're not getting through at least that many a week, you're totally inconveniencing the requester and perhaps eventually, no one will want to request from you because you're not reliable. Personally, when I owned my review sites, I did at least a few a day and kept it very updated. If you can't keep up the workload of review sites, don't string your requesters along, it's nuisance for everyone involved.
• Advertise When Your Reviews Are Open: Advertise on the boards or post sitely submissions at the above directories every time or a lot of the time when your reviews are open!
• Get Affiliates: More exposure to your site in more place means more visits! Post sitely submissions on the above directories to let people know you're looking.
• Advertise on the help chat. Your review site is definitely helpful - and thus pertinent - and advertising on the boards attracts people who may not use big directories and, if you get enough attention, gets people to recommend your site to others.
• Get Attractive Link Buttons: Pretty link buttons increase the probability of being clicked on! Check out The Status Center for all the best open button requests!
• Get Listed: If people can't find your site on large databases, there's a low possibility they'll find it elsewhere. And, of course, being recommended and/or ranked is a huge bonus, too! Get listed at my site Soroptimist Directory today!
• Word-of-Mouth: One of the best ways to gain popularity is to offer amazing reviews and subsequently build a great reputation. News of your site will travel by word-of-mouth, and you'll be "famous" in no time!
maintenanceOnce you've established your site, review style, and you're on a roll with amazingly in-depth and popular reviews, you have to turn to site maintenance. Of course, at face level this means regularly sweeping your site for dead links, spelling/grammatical errors, messed up coding, etc. Once you get past that, there's also updating and frequency of reviews! You should have updates for the obvious reason - to let everyone know what's new. When you finish a review, mention it in the updates and link to the review itself so people can easily read it; talk about new affies, events, extras, etc. Being a detailed updater (use bullets!) is always cool, especially if you update every day (it shows dedication and meticulousness, and your visitors will appreciate it).
Now, how often and how fast you review is an important thing to make sure you're not slow on. Sure, you should take your time, but don't take a week or more than two days on a review - you're going too slow (I doubt the case is that you're being too detailed). You should get at least 3-5 reviews done a week (or maybe one or two a day?), otherwise your waiting list might be getting longer and longer without anyone getting off it. Sites with a reputation of slow reviews/always-closed reviews might eventually find themselves with a dwindling waiting list that never fills back up. If you can't handle the workload of a review site you shouldn't make one, should put it on hiatus, or should close it.
conclusion: grow and learnYou may not be Neopia's best reviewer from day 1, but it doesn't mean you can't eventually get there. I myself have definitely changed from my first reviews to my latest, and I learn new things all the time. Review "perfection" comes with a lot of practice, experience, and good old common sense. You'll grow and learn through your experience of a reviewer and a sitemaker, which will help you on your quest to offer helpful and honest reviews. Reviewing isn't for everyone, though, so if you feel like you're overwhelmed or reviewing just isn't fun anymore, close your site; don't drag it on longer than it should be. Good luck and I hope to see your review site ranked at Soroptimist Directory soon!
tips for a button site• Credit: Don't get so hyped up about credit. I saw one site that said it was going to report you if you didn't credit them after 3 warnings. That's a bit extreme! You shouldn't get all protective of your credit - it's just one little button you probably spent max 10 minutes on. It's hardly the pride and glory of your life. So don't get silly about credit; remind them once, and put it in your rules, but don't bug about it or anything. Be professional, but learn to let certain things go. Also offer a textarea of a text link for crediting your site in your pickup section so it's easier for them to credit you.
• Extras: Try offering extra button goodies like resources (gradients/bases), tutorials, a BOTM, button reviews, etc. But don't get caught in up all your extras and neglect your waiting list!
• Gift Buttons: Don't make gift buttons and always expect the recipients to use them. Maybe they don't like it or they want to make all the buttons for their site themselves. Then again, if you're good at making buttons, gift buttons are a good idea because it spreads your popularity. Make your gift buttons the BEST they can be!
• Limit Requests: Try limiting requests per site/person to up to 3 so you have room for more requests at once. No one really needs more than 3 buttons anyway! Also don't let your waiting list pile up. Not only are you making everybody wait, but it also puts you off when you're trying to work.
• Link to Requester's Site: Personally, I love it when button sites link to the sites they made the button for. When I had my button request sites, I always did! That way your visitors can visit the new sites, which is always nice. Sure, it's free advertising, but this way you can also check to make sure they credited you, I suppose.
• Low-Quality Buttons: If you make an ugly button, redo it. Please don't be lazy and subject your requester to using it. Or, of course, they may end up not using it.
• Offer Less Requesting Options: You might be offering requesting choices like animation, border, font, etc., but the creativity, style, design, and overall fun of the button comes not from rigid criteria but the inspiring imagination of the button maker! When I owned a button site I never offered options since I preferred to take a flexible suggestion from the requester but ultimately picked the image that looks best. As you might know, sometimes requesters don't pick combinations that look good; it's better to turn out a good button than follow orders. You're an artist, remember?
• Requesting Outside: Don't request buttons from other button sites. You should be showcasing your work, not others'. Some button sites nowadays won't even let you request if it's for a button site. You should also make your site's link buttons the most beautiful they can be, since they're mini-advertisements for your site's quality, and if you don't have an attractive link button for yourself, not many people are going to request from you.
• Text Outlines: Don't animate the text's outlines. It really doesn't look high-quality...Stick to animating the whole text and border itself, its motion, or just the text.
• Unhappy Requesters: Don't get too upset if a requester doesn't want to use your button. Obviously, it's not the best of quality or what they really wanted, but they just don't want to say it outright because they're trying to be polite. If they don't use it, just try to get over it.
columns and scrollboxesInstead of having a long list of things, you should put them in columns or scrollboxes. Use scrollboxes only if you have enough content to make it scroll a good amount.
navigationNOTE: You do not, of course, have to use the navigation css to use page anchors. I just added it in as a bonus! Also, you don't usually need a linked navigation in linear layouts.
Not working? Make sure there is no space between a. and nav. If there is, then the code won't work!
How to useUse this as navigation link itself:
Confused? Ok, so the first code is what the person clicks on to get to the new section. The second code is put where the section is, so it "connects" to the first code and tells it where to go.
Back to navigationIf you have a navigation, a visitor will be wanting to get back to it after using it, right? So I advise you to have "back to navigation" links like I do at this site. Just grab the nav box links code above, change the NAMEHERE to something different from your regular navigation links, and use that the same way as described above!
Of course, you can always make your "back to navigation" links the SAME coding as the regular navigation links.
Not just for navigationThis navigation code can be used for anything! Navigation, affies, you name it!
If you're not using these for navigation (you could use them for lists of affiliates or other links), then just take out the class="NAMEHERE" part inside the tags of your link.
relevant and succinct sectionsMake sure all the sections in your site are strictly site-related, and delete anything that's off-topic, a waste of space, or unnecessary. For example, sections like a site mascot or blog are totally unnecessary and just take up space in your site. Sections like site history or about me are okay if you organize it correctly and it's totally out of the way, though I discourage "about me's" since most people don't know you personally and don't care much.
Also try to explain/write something the shortest and most to-the-point way possible, and use columns and scrollboxes to maximize space usage.
Lastly, don't use header two's and three's all the time. Some sites use a header two after every header one, whether there needs to be one or not, and it's really unnecessary. Everything on your site should be necessary, professional, organized, and neat. If anything's not, delete it.
empty/coming soon sectionsOf course, it's perfectly fine to have "coming soon" sections, since it alerts your readers to expect something new soon and will hopefully bring them back almost every day to check for that new content! However, don't have say "coming soon" if that time is more than a week and a half to two weeks, because that's not really soon. Also, avoid blank sections like a "reviews" section that has no reviews or (my favorite) an "awards" section that's void of awards. If you have a section with nothing in it, don't have a section at all - make it only when it's necessary (except where coding placeholders apply).
resizing imagesA way to keep large images on your site uniform in size is to resize them by just adding the height and width you'd like inside the image tags like so:
You should definitely resize buttons that aren't 88x31, large banners, layouts, gifts, etc. You can also code an image resize into your css with the following code: (Go ahead and edit it!)
With this code, you never have to mess with messy resizing on EVERY image again! You can change "border" to whatever you'd like. Then, to use it, just add class="border" (or whatever you changed it to) into your image tags.
And then you get something like this: (Nice and pretty, huh?)
site checklistAre you organized and neat? Check yourself against this checklist to make sure!
• Left-Right Scrolling: Are any of your scrolling boxes scrolling left/right because some of its content is too big for its dimensions?
• Link Borders: Did you forget to put border=0 in your linked image tags?
• Lookup/Neomail Link: Do you have at least one link to your lookup so people can neomail you? Make sure that every time you mention neomailing you, you have it linked accordingly. If you don't, then how are people going to contact you?
• Misalignments: Is there anything hanging off the end of a sidebar/mainbar?
• Open Link Tags: Did you forget the /a＞ after a link, messing up the stuff under it?
• Scrolling Box: Is everything that should be in a scrolling box...in a scrolling box? Do you have a huge "list" of graphics/whatever that can be boxed up?
link buttonsYou should always start a site off with a link button. This seems obvious to most, but as a link directory owner of 3 years, I can safely say that a lot of people don't take link buttons into consideration when they begin their site and start getting listed. You shouldn't start getting listed/getting affies before you're completely done with your site! And if you don't have a link button, it's not so easy to link back to your site, thus reducing site traffic. (Oh no!)
affiliatesThe system of affiliates is quite simple: Two sites exchange their links in a designated "affiliate" section, thus garnering some traffic for each other. I would say that affiliates show sites you're proud of associating with and/or really enjoy, unless you simply accept affiliates without regards to their quality. There isn't much else to affiliates, except for the fact that I advise you to limit your number. Of course, you can affiliate with as many sites as you like, though if you cap it at around 20, your existing affiliates are showcased in a much more exclusive, special light. It's up to you.
Also, you should alphabetize any collection of links (such as affiliates, listers, etc.) unless they're already organized in chronological (or some other) order. This way, it's easier to find a particular site without scrutizining every link button in the group.
Getting listedGet listed at popular directories so you're easily fonud by the Neopian public. (Being marked recommended or ranked doesn't hurt either!) Soroptimist is the biggest, best directory to get listed at (for exposure), though you should also get listed at some smaller directories to widen your advertising base.
posting classifieds/newsOnce you've gotten your site up and running, the next step should be to put up a classified anywhere that posts classifieds about your newly opened status and if your requests/competitions or whatever else is open. The following sites are some great places to start:
You should also post on these sites about new: layouts, significant content, events, specials; off or on hiatus/revamp; seeking affiliates, listers, sister sites, co-owners, or help; and anything else you can think of. Don't necessarily post every day (there's such a thing as over-advertising), but every now and then when you have something big to share. Sitely news postings are there to help you, so don't forget to take advantage of it!
other methods of advertisingYou should put all of your sites on your lookup and maybe on your pet lookups so passerby can get lured into visiting them. (*Evil cackle*) Another good strategy is to keep at least one of your sites in your neoboard siggy so it's automatic advertising for when you use the boards.
You can also go to the Help Chat or any other board that's relevant to your site and recommend your site where needed. Try making a new topic to advertise your site (most likely at the Help Chat), but only once or twice since you don't want to overdo the board advertising.
My point with this section is to make sure people know about your site. If you've got a great site but nobody knows about it, what's the point? And this does seem obvious, but there are some great sites out there that barely advertise, which is sad.
Word-of-mouth advertisingThis may not be a tangible way of advertising that you can "control", but it is mightily effective nonetheless! Perfecting the technique of word-of-mouth, or "tell-a-friend" advertising is subtle and requires a lot of skill (both in the site and in advertising!). Thanks to this close-knit community of sitemakers, word about good-quality new sites really gets around, and at Soroptimist, I definitely try to support that quality.
So how does one go about with this subtle art of advertising? Well, it all starts with a great layout, pretty link buttons, and some great content. These are staples of any good site and good first impressions with new sites definitely get people talking. Offering original specials will have people going, "Did you see that new site? You can get -insert special here- there and it's really cool!" Or, of course, if your content is just amazing and enough people hear about it, your popularity will spread. When you get listed at Soroptimist, your button is posted in the "newly listed" section so everyone can get a good gander at what's new, and if they find that your site is marked recommended, all the more power to you!
But is that all there is to word-of-mouth advertising? Just be great? Doesn't sound like much more than suggesting to have a great site overall. Well, you can also try little things - kind of like subliminal messaging - that reiterate that you want visitors to suggest your site to others. Using phrasing like "Did you find SITENAME helpful? Grab a button and recommend it to your friends!" or "Here's a convenient link to my site so you can just copy and paste my link and go when someone's looking for a great premades site!"
Also, the last bit of this is that tangible, in-your-face advertising is not necessary for a successful site. After putting your site out there and going through the traditional advertising routes like acquiring affiliates and getting listed, you should mostly let visitors come to you. If you're good enough, it's very easy to become popular in the community - it's not like this is the NBA and you have a very slim chance of getting in if you played basketball in college or something. If people see your site everywhere, they might be less likely to click it, since they've seen it too many times (like those ever-ubiquitous, hideous cash-for-gold ads!) But if they discover your button like a diamond in the rough, well, you've just increased your "wonder" value!
visitor convenienceVisitor convenience is one of my biggest concerns for sites in general. You should always think through everything on your site as if you were the visitor. Make sure everything is easy to find and use (for example, those tiny weeny textboxes are kind of hard to use), and have a great organizational and navigational system. Use your site yourself - pretend to be a visitor - and see what you're lacking or what can be fixed. Ask a couple of friends to point out to you what they, as visitors, feel needs work. If a site isn't convenient to use, then many may just not use it.
Also make sure you take in all visitor feedback and reviews that suggest how to make your convenience and organization better - because it's not really all about you, it's about your site. Think of your site as a business - customer service should be your #1 priority! That's how you stay in business.
text convenience• Align Left: Always align your text to the left! If you'll notice, all documents - articles, newspapers, books, anything - align their text to the left because that's how the human eye reads English! It looks awfully sloppy if your text isn't aligned properly.
• Color and Contrast: Most sites have a white backgrounds for their text, so they keep their text color black or dark grey. However, if you have a non-white background (especially very dark ones), don't have your text color as a color with a high contrast (i.e. black background with white text). While the text will then stand out very nicely, if the contrast is too high, it starts getting harder to read.
• Hover-Color Mess-Ups: Some people have messed-up link ending tags (the [/a] bit), meaning they forget them or have them improperly coded. Then the text under it all gets messed up as well, and when you hover over this (regular) text, it hovers as if it is a link.
• Size Matters: The whole point of putting any sort of writing on site is so it can be read. However, if your text is rather small (anything under 8pt or, in some cases, 7.5pt [depending on the font] is getting too small), then your visitors have to strain their eyes to read it. Especially with sites that have a lot of text - review sites, guides - your text should be large and easy to read. You don't see professional business documents being typed up in 7pt Times New Roman - no, they're put in a comfortable 12pt Times or Arial.
secret codeword in rulesEveryone has different opinions about putting a little secret codeword in your rules that "forces" your visitor to actually read them to continue. I, personally, think that most people know there's a secret word, skim for it without even reading the rules, and thus render a secret word pointless. (I do it myself! I don't read the rules because they're always the same.) Now, if you have a special rule or two you'd like to highlight, then highlight it! Put it in a bigger font, a striking color, emphasize it in some way - or, even better, offer up only the most important rules in a short, easy-to-read list.
If someone does do something that goes against your rules, don't sweat it! It's an honest mistake; everyone makes those sometimes. Just kindly point out their error so they can fix it and y'all can be on your way. When I owned a button site, I had rules and I had a codeword, but if people didn't put it in their neomail, I didn't even mention it, I just accepted their request anyway. Don't get so hyped up about your rules; trust in your visitors to follow them and gently redirect them if they don't. A little kindness goes a long way!
Do's and don'ts of textareas:Do: Go ahead and edit your textareas to make them all fancy, change their sizes, etc.
Don't: Make your textareas too small! If they're too small, they're difficult to use, thus defeating the purpose!
Do: Actually provide textareas for your buttons (and of course, any other sort of graphic content).
Don't: Forget to close your linking tag so your textarea is linked as well.
Do: Make sure the code in your textarea is correct. The image should be the right image, it should be linked properly to your site, and should have the border=0 code in it,
Don't: Include extra stuff in your textarea (unneeded HTML stuff); this just hinders convenience of the visitor, who now has to reformat your button's code into something they want to use.
As is reiterated by the "Visitor Convenience" section above, the #1 priority for a site should be its visitors. Without happy visitors, your site won't get an oppurtunity to become anything great because it probably won't be visited at all. You should always think through something through the eyes of the visitor so you can correctly capture the essence of what they expect and where they're coming from. Then you can truly be an amazing, sensitive, helpful sitemaker!
So what does it mean to offer good customer service for any type of site? You should be helpful, polite, and thoughtful. Never show irritation or anger over anything and remember that the person on the other site probably just made a mistake and has feelings too. If you're feeling irritated enough to rant on your site, don't do it - it's time to get off the computer for a while and get some fresh air. When you come back, chances are you won't be as upset and can conduct yourself with relative professionalism. If you can kindly point the person in the right direction, they'll be grateful and eventually your good site reputation should get around and increase your popularity.
Think of this as "investing" in a person. If you're patient with them and go out of your way to help them with everything they could possibly need, you will get a reputation for being undeniably helpful. This should increase traffic to your site, since who doesn't like visiting a site with a fantastic owner who's always there for them?
For example: Say someone neomailed in to Soroptimist asking for this and that guide, and I helped them out and added some pointers for their new site myself. I helped them with their site, and they're most likely to gain a good impression of Soroptimist as well, so they might even tell some of their friends and recommend Soroptimist to different people. Offering up a few kind words is pretty easy! Since most sites exist to be helpful and offer free services to Neopians, there should be no reason you can't offer the services right!
effort, zeal, and ambitionNaturally, a high-quality site has to have a lot of time and effort invested into it. That doesn't mean you have to work for 9 hours straight on your layouts or content, but you should spend a good amount of time maintaining it and making it better, and pay lots of attention to it. The more you work on and experiment with your site, the better it's going to get.
The top ingredients for a high-quality site are, undoubtedly, zeal and ambition. You have to want to be the best, offer the best, and keep getting better. If you're a directory site you have to want to list the MOST (helpful) sites. If you're a review site you have to want to be the best and most helpful one out there. Go ahead, scope out your "competition" and see how you can be better than them.
Not good at making layouts or graphics? Practice! Learn HTML/CSS and throw in your own colors and e diting to premades/templates. The best way to become skillful at making layouts is surely with extensive experimentation. If you're not good at graphic-making, get a great image-editing program like GIMP (free) or Photoshop ($) (don't use Picnik; it's not high-quality) and look up tutorials at my directory or on-line (there are a bunch of great ones out there).
If you content yourself with not being the best, you probably aren't the best. You hopefully went through this tutorial and picked up this high-quality attitude, but I've got to stress it one more time because it's so important. High-quality site-making is 30% practice, 20% skill, 40% effort, and 5% presentation. Popularity (affies, getting listed, getting reviewed, advertising) is only another 5%, so don't focus on that, focus on the larger things!
dealing with workloadA lot of people have asked me how I deal with the giant workload of Soroptimist and still have time for extra stuff. Well, for one, I'm addicted to directory-making, so basically everything I do for Soroptimist is fun, not a chore, for me. I love answering neomails, updating, etc.
However, that's most likely not the case with the general sitemaking public. So how does the average Neopian go about dealing with all the neomails/workload a site brings?
• Empty Inbox: You should also try to keep your inbox as empty as possible (use folders and delete all messages you've already looked at or replied to) so you don't feel cluttered and overwhelmed and, of course, don't get a full inbox. It's extremely annoying for visitors to not be able to contact you for who-knows-how-long because you're a little lazy on your "housekeeping" detail. Now, don't bother with answering every neomail. If someone replies "thank you," or something just as unimportant, just delete it. You'll just be going into pointless neomails after that.
• Getting Through Neomails: Bring up your site's petpage editing page, your actual site, and your neomail inbox. Start off your day on Neo with answering neomails and just shovel through them until you're done, editing your site as you go (and save changes every now and then, of course). A great way to cut down response time is making up a page of pre-written answers, like my page here. If you come across a neomail that requires something more than just a simple copy + paste answer, skip it and come back to it later.
• Maintenance: What about the actual work of a site (updating, fulfilling requests, making new graphics, etc.)? Well, you should make a schedule, either in your head or a physical one. Make sure you know what you want to do and when, or make a mental list of stuff you really need to do, what you want to do, and whatever else. Sometimes the easiest way to do something is to just sit down and do it without worrying about the end result; you just kind of wing it. (Listening to music and kind of ignoring everything helps too, if that sort of thing would work for you.) Also, keep a clear schedule for big projects that will take up a lot of time. That way you're not worrying about anything but your current endeavor and you can go slow, take your time, and do your best.
how to keep good updates• A Week's Worth: Keep at least a week of updates. When you write Tuesday's update, delete the update from last Tuesday. It's a good system that makes sure you keep a week's worth of updates and that you don't clear them all in one swing, because that means there was - say - a whole week to read the oldest update but only a day to read the latest, which is the most important! So don't clear all your updates on one swing, delete one a day as you add another.
• Be Active and Regular: Realistically, if you can't update at least once or twice a week, your site is on the fast track to becoming inactive, and that's effectively wasting everyone's time. Put your site on hiatus or close it, but don't leave your visitors and affiliates hanging by barely updating.
• Bullet Points: They keep your updates short and to the point, which helps make people more inclined to read them. Which would you rather read, a few bullet points or a paragraph? Bullet points also keep your thoughts organized, as some people's update paragraphs are choppy, jump from subject to subject, and don't flow well.
• Comments Link: If you have room, offer a link to neomailing you about update comments. Eliciting feedback is always a good move, and the convenience of a ready-made link will be even more encouragement for people to neomail in!
• Good-Size Updates Box: Don't make your updates box too small; have it at a good size for easy reading. The whole point of an updates box - or any text, really - is for it to be read, but if it's too cramped and uncomfortable to read and scroll through, many may not even bother (thus defeating the purpose).
• Left Alignment: Always align all text, especially your updates (and rules), to the left; otherwise, it appears sloppy.
• Link to Everything: If you mention another site, a place on Neo, or a place around your site, provide a link to it so people can easily see what you're talking about. It isn't very hard and it totally ups your convenience! You should want to make it easy for people to check out whatever awesome thing you're talking about!
• Reiteration: Every now and then, repeat some of your coming-soon content so people can be aware and visit your site from time to time to see if it's up!
• This Isn't a Blog: Keep RL out of your updates under all circumstances unless it directly affects your site: My power was out today so I couldn't update! or I'm going on vacation, so I'll be on hiatus. or I'm sick so I won't answer neomails till tomorrow. Other than stuff like that, really, you shouldn't be talking about RL because, in all honestly, no one really wants to know.
• Update Frequently: If you don't have anything new to possibly offer that day, then maybe talk about what's coming up or something site-related. If you are a request/review site or a directory, you should pretty much be updating every day. You'll fall behind on your requests if you don't!
• Write Out the Date: If you have enough room, write out the full date: Thursday, January 13, 2011, so there's no confusion with the 10/6/09 format, which is different outside the US and might confuse people who have to figure out what the tenth month is just to figure out the date.
scoring revisitsWhat brings people back to your site, other than boredom browsing? Take a look.
• Daily Updating: If update everyday, chances are people will drop by your site to see what's new or just to read your updates! From experience, I've noticed that people really appreciate the meticulousness of daily updating. This augments your reliability, and people won't be wondering when you'll update next or if you'll ever come back from your hiatus.
• Helpful Content: If you offer content people can learn from (whether you're a full-on guide or have some tutorials on your site) people will come back to take a look at and maybe reference your helpful content.
• New Content: Of course, if you're good with actively adding new content on a frequent enough basis, people will stop by your site to check if it's their lucky day and you added new stuff.
• Open Service: If you have open requests for any sort of service, of course people will come back to your site and tell others about it. Other than the basic review and graphic requests (of course), if you offer some extra service that people can use even when your real requests are closed, you can ensure more visitors.
• Special Events: Offer a day or two when you accept extra/special requests or some other sort of feature (like Soroptimist's Halloween Special and Global Site Improvement Month!). Most tie it into a holiday occasion.
getting reviewedReviews sometimes help to see how you're doing with your site and what you can improve on. If you get a bad score the first time/first couple of times, don't lose heart - just improve your site. Don't do not close down your site just because you got a bad review! The point of reviews is not to put the reviewee down, but to help them out. I mean, if your site is low-quality, you'll get a bad score; you can't really expect a good one. But it doesn't mean you can't get better! Lastly, don't not apply for a review someplace because you've heard/you think the owner is too harsh. You want a harsh reviewer so you can get the maximum improvement out of a review! Don't worry about scores or review awards; those don't matter in the quest for bettering your site.
when to get reviewedSome sites apply for affiliates, directories, and reviews all at once when they first open. However, you should own the site for at least a month or two before you apply for a review. Firstly because reviewers won't have much to work with if you're just opened with very little content. Also, you should let yourself get comfortable with sitemaking and kind of learn the ropes so when you do get reviewed, you'll better understand where the reviewer is coming from, what he or she is saying, and how better to implement the tips and advice. You'll also have a better judgment on what works and what doesn't on your particular site.
I would say actually follow advice from reviews - and a lot of review sites say that about themselves, too - but not all reviews are actually offer helpful advice. Reviewers aren't perfect, and you won't always agree with their advice either. Take their suggestions into consideration, but at the end of the day, it's your decision. However, if different reviewers keep mentioning the same thing, you should probably take their advice on that thing.
Lastly, you shouldn't apply for like 10 reviews at once. Apply for max one or two so you don't get the same advice over and over again and so when you do improve and think you're ready for another review, all of the review sites won't have already reviewed you.
counterCounters are little widget-like things that display a number of how many people have visited your site overall. (You can see mine at the very end of the site under Credits.) You should definitely have a counter so you can see how popular you are. I recommend Boingdragon for general counters (yes, you have to make an account) since Neopets' page stats isn't really an accurate gauge of your site; I think it counts original visits and revisits, which Boingdragon does not. Boingdragon also has a feature that allows you to see how many visits you get per day in a week. Nifty, huh?
• A Sitemaker's Dictionary
• Benefits of a Good Layout
• Common Spelling/Grammar Errors
• Hosting Events
• Low-Quality Discrimination
• Making Your Own Layout
• Neomail Etiquette
• Quality and Quantity
• What Kind of Layout to Get?
closing, hiatus, and revampSure, at times you might feel like you want to give up on your site, like it's not worth it, or it's too much work. I feel this way sometimes too; it's normal when faced with such a huge ongoing project such as a site. I strongly encourage you not to give up and give it another chance, but if your heart is truly out of the site, then try putting it on hiatus and rethink your options. If you ever feel the stirrings again, you can take your site off hiatus and pick up where you left off, or if sitemaking isn't something you'd ever like to continue, then just go ahead and close your site.
Another option besides closing or hiatus is revamping it. Maybe you're not satisfied with your site the way it is, but perhaps if you change it up and gain a fresh new perspective on its potential, you'll feel better. Try it!
how to get out of an enthusiasm slumpCountless times, people have lost interest in their site and just closed them without properly reviewing their options. Or maybe they put it in indefinite hiatus or something of the sort. (I'm not talking about time management difficulties here, just loss of interest.) Well, maybe you'd like to indulge in this 2-minute rehab for your site and maybe even rekindle your excitement about owning your site! Read on, young grasshopper.
• Identify the problem: What exactly is the problem with owning your site? This might be an easy one for directory or competition owners (repetitive, boring) or review site owners (too much work, loss of reviewer drive). But maybe your reason is less tangible than you think. Maybe you're dissatisfied with the quality of your site; you're trying hard, but no matter what you do, you can't seem to get better in reviews or in general comments. (And maybe you're hopeless at coding no matter how many times you try, too.) That's ok. I'm here for you.
• Revamp your site or start over and simplify: Before you completely give up on your site, try completely revamping it. (I do this when I'm dissatisfied with one of my sites.) Rewrite everything more simply (and hopefully grammatically correct), and get a bombshell layout from either requesting or a premade (which you can edit to make more your own and maybe add a banner). Perhaps by rebuilding your site you can rediscover why you made the site in the first place and what you really love about it.
More on simplifying your site: Take off those needless extras (SOTM, mini-reviews, blog, etc.) and just let your site be itself. Start with the basic core of your site and then build on it if you feel ready (and you should know what the newer features are like already so you'll know if you're ready to add them or whatever).
• Ask for help: Talk to a close friend (preferably a sitemaker) about your problems and what help you need, whether it's with your layout or thinking of new ideas or simplifying or something. You'll probably feel better after sharing your issue with someone, and you might find a solution you hadn't thought of before.
• Get help: Read all about dealing with your workload and a ton of other sitely advice here at Apartment Nine, of course.
• Compare and contrast: Compare your site to others of the same genre. What specifically makes their site better than yours? Is it their layout, awesome content, original ideas, etc.? Don't emulate others exactly, but get inspired by looking at other sites.
• Get compliments: Get honest opinions on the best parts of your site. Hearing what you're doing right should boost your confidence to continue to do what you're doing well. You're always free to neomail me at any time for anything!
a new year's propositionHere's a message to all sitemakers out there!
December 31, 2010: With all of Soroptimist's events in 2010 - especially GSIM - and Apartment Nine's revamps and added content, I would imagine that a lot of my advice has been offered to the sitemaking community at large. Of course, everyone has their own opinions, experience, and eye for design, so everything I say is subjective to my specific past. But if there's one thing that I hope to impart to everyone - something that isn't just opinions and educated advice but something a little deeper. For 2011, my third year of Soroptimist and my overall fourth year of sitemaking, let's make something great together.
Well, first of all, let's examine sitemaking itself. What is it? It's making a site on a petpage where you acquire offers and offer services/content, sure. It's where you express yourself in a more creative and sociable setting - now you're getting somewhere. It's an addictive, all-consuming, I-haven't-showered-for-a-week-'cause-I've-been-on-Neopets-for-hours craze.
Whoa. Let's not get crazy here.
Okay so you know what sitemaking is. But what does it really mean to everyone who visits your site and to you, the siteowner? Really, what does sitemaking mean to you? Is it just a silly hobby you indulge in to unwind from a stressful day of school/work/life, or is it something more? A legitimate hobby, something that forms a part of you - no matter how small - just like hobbies of reading or drawing?
Here's the gist of what I'm getting at. Most of you are young (I would presume), so you probably haven't really done much in life yet. I'm young too - and I still have to say this. You want to make an impression on this sitemaking community - on this world - right? You don't want to just be another closed site listed on Soroptimist to be deleted after a week. You want people to neomail in to Soroptimist saying So-and-so is closed!! *Multiple frowny faces.* (Yes I get those. It's touching.) You want people telling their friends in neomail conversations you will never know about that So-and-so is my FAVORITE site! I bet they'll be ranked #1 on Soroptimist and eventually get ranked everywhere else too! You want to be the next biggest thing since So You Need A Guide, The Games Room, or Futago - sites that everyone on Neopets knows. You want to make a difference. Am I right?
But I haven't actually said what my proposition is yet. It's this: Make your site memorable. Make a legacy and reputation that surrounds you, and success will come naturally. You don't have to take sitemaking seriously, of course, you just have to apply the common rules of hard work, effort, and originality and you will be set. Put some thought into your site - or your newest one, or whatever project you're working on - and keep it pristine, and people will flock to you on their own. Word-of-mouth advertising is very powerful.
So what's the last thing I want to tell you? You will always reap the rewards of what you sow.
farewell and good luckSo you've made it through Apartment Nine! You're ready to set up your own site and experience the real fun behind sitemaking. Sure, there'll be some ups and downs - but the important thing to remember is that the only opinion that really counts is yours, in the end, and let your creativity shine through your sites. If sites get boring, end them - don't let them drag on. If you really want to make a new site, by all means go ahead, but make sure it's not something that's too overdone and it's something you really want to spend time on.
All in all, sitemaking is a learning experience. You get better as you go along, and have fun while doing it. Be fresh, be funky, be crazy - and just have fun. After all, that's what sitemaking is for, right?
Thanks for accompanying me on this journey for a better site. I'm your host, Cass, and I'm always available for any feedback - comments, suggestions, questions, anything! I'd love to hear what you thought of Apartment Nine and even your personal sitemaking stories.
Looking for more site tutorials? Check out the following pages!
(Subj: A9 Affies)
listingsJust neomail me if you have listed A9!
(Subj: A9 List)
my other sites