Do you need site-related advice? Is there a specific question you need to ask? Struggling to find someone friendly and helpful with experience in site-making who you can turn to anytime to ask for help? You can stop looking.

Welcome to Ask Grace, the site where you can ask a site-related question anytime you need help, and have it answered.

Ask Grace was originally opened in June 2010, but I lacked the time and confidence to continue running it. I have always enjoyed helping others and running Ask Grace, so on the 24th of July 2011, I brought the idea back into action.

6th October Short hiatus, I feel unmotivated.

+ HIATUS

Remember: You can contact Grace anytime if you need site-related support!

So, you want me to give you some advice? :D Please read the following information so you understand how Ask Grace works.

You can ask a specific site-related question and I will do my best to answer your question in the most helpful way I can.

I can reply privately via Neomail, or I can post my answer here on the site.

You don't need to own a site to ask me a question, as long as your question is related to site-making.

You can ask me for help anytime you like, as often as you like. I like to help!

If you use the 'I asked a question' button on your site or lookup if I've helped you, I would really appreciate it.

Are you finding it difficult to put your question into words? Opposite you will find some ideas for questions that you can edit to suit you.

Ready to Neomail me your question? Click the Neomail is open button in the blue cloud above to the right.



I need general help on my site. Consider my layout and content among a range of other aspects of site-making.
What do you think of my site?
How could I improve my site?
What do you think of my layout?
Could you check the grammar/spelling/punctuation of my site?
What is your favorite thing about my site?
Does my colour scheme work?
How does my site compare with others' of the same category?
Would you recommend my site to other people?
Would you revisit my site?
What is your favorite thing about site-making?
Is everything laid out clearly?
How could I improve the organization of my site?
What sort of affiliates should I accept/look for?
What do you think makes a good site?
How can I make my site stand out from the rest and be unique?
What makes a good extra feature?
I want to make a site, but I don't want to rush into it. What things do you think I need to consider first?
What do you think is a good checklist for a good site?
What do you think of my link back buttons?
What style/sort of layout should I use?

affiliates

OPEN to high quality sites. I will not accept everyone. 11/20

sister site


I love this site. The idea of site consulting is a really helpful way to improve your site without points and grading. It stands out to me as being original and different - Lifaen will consult your site and give you ten suggestions for improving it! It is a great idea which I would always choose over criticism and rubrics: just help. :D Lifaen is a really lovely person to chat to, and I am so glad to be sister sites!

listers

reviews and help from you

As always, thank you to my close friends for their advice! :D

appreciation

credits

Layout designed and coded by me, purplepolkadotty. Main image manipulated by me - see magicalmasterpiece @ dA for resource credits.

Special thank you to Kaz, my closest friend on Neopets, for helping me with the coding and always being there to support and help me... and answer my questions! You are an inspiration. :)

Thanks to 49 Days for the background!

Question asked by Alice:
What makes a screenie directory gain hits?

Question answered by Grace:
I am not so familiar with running directories as I have never owned one myself, so this question is difficult to answer. Also, I have never owned a screenie site, and screenie directories are something I know little about, as they are not an extremely popular type of site to make. Due to what little experience I have with directories, I can only tell you what I think will help increase the page views of a screenie directory site.

Firstly, a screenie directory is quite a specialized site, as there are very few of them known. My first point on a checklist would be to make yourself known. Screenie sites perhaps are not as popular as other site, such as reviews or requests for example. This means that it is likely to be even more challenging to find sites to list, as there are perhaps less of them. You need to make sure you have at least 10 - up to 20 if you can - quality affiliates of a similar site type. Affiliates will undoubtedly raise the awareness of your site. Exchanging links is a great way to help someone else at the same time as helping your own site become more known. Likewise, even for a screenie directory I would find good directories to list you.

Secondly, make sure you have a lot of links. You should aim to have more than 100 screenie sites listed. If you have less than 100, why should someone visit your site when they can find what they want and more at someone with 200 sites listed? You need to make sure the links are organized well too. Alphabetically seems to be the best order. I also suggest marking the best sites as 'high quality' or 'recommended' by a symbol. Refrain from using link buttons when displaying the links - you should write the full name of the page. Why? Because sometimes the size of button images vary, and the text displayed on the button may not be sufficient enough/the correct full name of the page.

Also, you should really try to offer something new and different! A unique and creative idea which is different to the other screenie directories out there will definitely give you some more pageviews!

Good luck!


Question asked by Alice:
What makes a screenie directory gain hits?

Question answered by Grace:
I am not so familiar with running directories as I have never owned one myself, so this question is difficult to answer. Also, I have never owned a screenie site, and screenie directories are something I know little about, as they are not an extremely popular type of site to make. Due to what little experience I have with directories, I can only tell you what I think will help increase the page views of a screenie directory site.

Firstly, a screenie directory is quite a specialized site, as there are very few of them known. My first point on a checklist would be to make yourself known. Screenie sites perhaps are not as popular as other site, such as reviews or requests for example. This means that it is likely to be even more challenging to find sites to list, as there are perhaps less of them. You need to make sure you have at least 10 - up to 20 if you can - quality affiliates of a similar site type. Affiliates will undoubtedly raise the awareness of your site. Exchanging links is a great way to help someone else at the same time as helping your own site become more known. Likewise, even for a screenie directory I would find good directories to list you.

Secondly, make sure you have a lot of links. You should aim to have more than 100 screenie sites listed. If you have less than 100, why should someone visit your site when they can find what they want and more at someone with 200 sites listed? You need to make sure the links are organized well too. Alphabetically seems to be the best order. I also suggest marking the best sites as 'high quality' or 'recommended' by a symbol. Refrain from using link buttons when displaying the links - you should write the full name of the page. Why? Because sometimes the size of button images vary, and the text displayed on the button may not be sufficient enough/the correct full name of the page.

Also, you should really try to offer something new and different! A unique and creative idea which is different to the other screenie directories out there will definitely give you some more pageviews!

Good luck!


Question asked by Stork:
Hi there, Grace! I have two questions for you.
1. For my writing site which accepts submissions, Pennwick (~Vanj) do you think the the subtitle "A place for writers" or "A site for writers" is better?
2. For my up-and-coming encouragement site entitled "Cake Batter" (currently ~Immf) I'd like to have a pixel in the welcome message. I can either find one or request one, but I don't know how to best match my theme with it...cake BATTER is kind of hard to show, lol. It's actually named for the cake batter ice cream served at Coldstone, but few people will guess that. Ideas I have are a pitcher of cream, or some kind of dish of ice cream (perhaps in a Coldstone bowl). What do you think? (New ideas are welcome, as well!)

Question answered by Grace:
In answer to your first question, if you want the subheader to make it clear and link to the fact that Pennwick is a site, then you should use 'A site for writers'. Both are similar, although I think it is hard to choose which is better because each visitor will probably have a different opinion on it. It needs to be your choice. If you say each one, immediately which do you think sounds better? For me, I would use 'A site for writers', just to be clear about the site part, but if it isn't important to specify, then I think you can use either. If you don't have a preference, then I would think about choosing a completely different subheader - something more unique and eye-catching that will definitely draw the visitor in more than the regular, expected subtitle?

In answer to your second question, I think a pixel in your introduction section would be a great idea! Most people, including me, will probably think of a cake when they hear your site name, but as this isn't the meaning you want, I would choose icecream. Make sure you try to explain the origin of the site name somewhere in your introduction so people aren't so confused when they see an icecream pixel. If you can't find the pixel you want, definitely request one. I'm not so good at pixel making, so I wouldn't be able to help with making you one, but your ideas seem really well-thought out. A dish of ice-cream would be fantastic, in my opinion!

Good luck!


Question asked by Mo:
Hi. (: My site has inactive affiliates, some more inactive than others. Should I remove them or not? And should I not remove the ones that are inactive but have owners that are still active on neo?

Question answered by Grace:
I usually choose to remove sites as affiliates that have not visibly updated for over one month, regardless of whether the site owner has been inactive or not. For me, the activity of the site is more important than the activity of the person. They might be really busy at the moment and struggling to keep up with the workload of their site. If you know that a user is still active but has left their site for longer than two or three weeks, I would Neomail the owner asking about the sites' activity, explaining about how you only have a limited number of affiliate spaces. The activity of a site really does affect the overall quality of it, so I would totally understand anybody accepting 'high quality sites as affiliates only' removing sites who have not been updated for a long period of time. Some people wait one week, but others wait longer. I don't have the time to keep checking sites' activity all the time, so for me, one month of no updates is insufficient.

Good luck!


Question asked by Tiffany:
What do people usually notice as a first impression when they first see a petpage?

Question answered by Grace:
When visiting a petpage, the first thing I personally notice is any graphic or layout image, because he layout of a site and the quality of graphics is important to me. Some people may notice things in the organization - positive or negative - which can determine what their first impression is of your site. Also, the color scheme and CSS is important. Do the colors work together well? Usually, first impressions are related to more visual things such as graphical images and color, but for some people grammar mistakes can stand out. Some site visitors may look out for specific things in a site. For me, though, I tend not to take too much notice of the background of a site, as often, site backgrounds are more subtle and are not meant to stand out.

We are all different and we all notice different things at different times as a first impression, but some eyes can be very quick to pick up organization factors.

As I said already, each person can very different on a first impression when immediately visiting a page, so I found your question quite difficult to answer in detail, but here is a checklist of important factors I would consider to ensure the visitor has a positive first impression of your site;

The layout image should be of a good quality and look attractive in the eye of the visitor.

Think about visitor convenience and where important things are positioned on your page, for example the link buttons and a Neomail link.

Any major spelling mistakes on your banner, header or introduction which detract from the visitor's focus should be fixed.

Content boxes should be correctly aligned, links should work, and the layout should be organized.

As you can see, in my opinion a first impression is based more on the visual appeal than the content, so things like organization are very important if you are aiming to wow someone in their first impression of your site.

Good luck!


Question asked by Heidi:
What stands out from Zeal the most, and what do I need to improve on most?

Question answered by Grace:
This is my favorite out of all your previous layouts! I love the purple strip at the top with Zeal in white, and having the navigation directly underneath. Your site name stands out really well from the purple - I love your color scheme! Your site so far looks so professional to me.

I was thinking about how your site would look if the white title, the content box and the navigation links could all be centralized? Things may look more 'in line' than they currently are, because the title is not in line with the navigation. It would be your choice, though, because I know how difficult coding for tables is to center everything.

As I scroll down the Neopets link with the yellow background appears. Try:

In answer to your first question, I think what stands out about Zeal is the name, and the way you put it across on your site. For example, I love how you used the header to draw people into your introduction. For some people who don't know what 'zeal' means, maybe you could add a definition somewhere? I can't find one. Perhaps you could add and develop your introduction by talking briefly about why you decided to open 'Zeal', about your graphic experience, how you think the site stands out from others. I think something a little more special and unique in your introduction would be more interesting.

Your CSS and color matching is commendable. Perhaps the hover link color is a little too pale, maybe you could you a brighter colour?

The border of your main content box is very dark and possibly a bit harsh compared to the subtle backgrounds surrounding it. Try a softer shade?

On the graphics page, the 'Icons' and 'Banners' links do not take me down to the section for icons/banners. Instead, the navigations shifts along to the left when I press Icons. The graphics are arranged in page anchors of their own, right? I think it would be better to simply have them all on the same page since there isn't an overflowing amount of content, then just keep the navigation at the top and give each header a navigation anchor.

Many of your banners are really nice, colorful and well-made. However, on a few occasions the image has been over-edited, and as a result, pixels are visible because so many effects have been used.

The above is an example - the yellow of the rainbow and the pink of the castle in particular. You don't need to use so many textures and brushes etc that it makes the quality of the image decrease. The font used for the 'Under construction!' text could be in a darker color - I would have chosen a red in the rainbow. The exclamation mark at the end of the text could look like a question mark to some people because of the swirly font.

The above is one of my favorites of your banners, possibly because of the matching colors and its' simplicity. This banner is nice and warm, although I am not so keen on the pixelly 'scratch' brush effect over the text.

In some cases, you use a grey colour on the dropshadow which does not go so well with the background behind it. Take the above banner for example - a warmer color would go really nicely with the warm background. Also, bear in mind that using less text effects - glow, gradient, overlay, stroke, dropshadow etc - and simply using one of the pre-installed fonts on your graphics program can be really effective. Simple, but effective.

Your icons in general are of a really good quality. You have also used some really unique effects on some icons - things I haven't seen done before with icons, such as your warping and positioning of the text in a creative way. I don't know how much of the images you edited and what was originally there but I love this one.

I want to say that your 'stars' feature of marking your favorite graphics is a good idea and stands out to me.

Zeal is a brilliant site which I would recommend. On some of your graphics I would recommend not applying so many textures on top of eachother on overlay. Instead, keep it simple, so the image quality does not alter. Also, have a go with non-NR subjects. Your site layout is not Neo-related at all, so I think you could definitely try some banners that are a bit different. I would love to see layouts added to Zeal! I know that sometimes it is not possible because of the time required, but I can imagine some fantastic layout designs that would make Zeal stand out even more.

Good luck!


Question asked by Black Fox:
I would be ever so grateful if you could tell me how to improve my site, Vudc's Art Requests!

Question answered by Grace:
The site looked under construction when I visited it. I really recommend a new layout - your page could be organized a lot better and look more appealing from the eye of the visitor at a first glance. You haven't included your site name in a big font as a header, or in an image at the top, so it makes it difficult for me to know a: what your site is called and b: what category/type of site it is. The page lacks a banner or big graphic. Perhaps you wanted the site layout to be very simple? I would still suggest you consider requesting or making a banner as this is an important visual feature of a site.

The picture of the Maraquan Lupe on the page seems out of place and unrelated to your content unless the visitor knows that your pet Vudc is a Maraquan Lupe. Some people won't be able to guess, and may not read about the pet in your 'About Vudc' section. If you do like this image you could have it made into a banner, which would look much more professional!

The current front page could make a visitor seem confused, as it is very empty and there is no visible site title expect where you introduce the site. The page scrolls, but it doesn't need to because on none of the mini-pages have you used all the space. Make the height of the content box shorter but make sure all the mini-pages don't get cut-off as a result. You can make each page scroll if you overflow with too much content. Overflow:auto is the code to do this. Paste it into the div coding (in style tags) for the mini-page you want to make scroll.

Welcome to Vudc's Art Page!!! :D This is where you can find most of Black Fox's adoptables, request some art and even scroll through Black Fox's art dump! X3 And if you want to learn more about Vudc, that can be found here too. ;)

Your introduction - which is hidden by the Neopet image that I recommend you remove - could come across as unprofessional as you use a lot of unnecessary exclamation marks, and smiley faces. I'm not sure if you mean for this page to be a site, or just a 'dump' - a place where you can show a portfolio your graphics? I personally would choose to change 'art dump' to something more inviting and professional, because to me, the word 'dump' could be associated with a lower quality, lack of effort etc. The actual meaning of the word to dump is to get rid of - I suggest re-writing your introduction. I had some ideas of how you could do this;

Welcome to Vudc's Art Page. Here you can find adoptables made by Black Fox (link to your userlookup). You can request your own art, too! Enjoy browsing the page, and if you have any queries or comments, feel free to contact me via my userlookup. (you can link to your userlookup again here)

I suggest not starting a sentence with 'And' - you can leave out the last sentence about learning more about Vudc as this will hopefully become more evident to the visitor as they scroll through all your content.

The content itself is of a low quality, and I can only find two adoptable images. This is not enough content for a site. I suggest in your introduction you make it clear that this is just a place to put your art or whether your page is an actual site or not. The graphics on your main page are low quality. I can see the pixels - it looks as though you have used the pencil tool on Microsoft Paint and drawn a line freehand. You asked me how I think you can improve your site, and I think the most important thing would be to start learning how to make professional, high quality graphics to offer to your visitors. First, you should make sure you can make high quality content and lots of it BEFORE making a site and struggling with it. I suggest finding a good guide to making adoptables and other smaller graphics if this is what you want your site to focus on. Read the tutorial, try it out. Which programs do you have? Some programs such as Photoshop, Paint Shop Pro and GIMP can create better quality graphics than, say, MS Paint. It of course can still be done with other programs like MS Paint. Loads of people use MS Paint alone to produce fantastic pixels, and these are the people you should ask for help as they could inspire you.

I looked at the graphics on your pickups page, and some of these are of a better quality than the adoptables on your main page. You should always aim to show the best of your work on the main page because most people will see this page first, and will be interested to see what your graphics are like before requesting.

Good luck!


Question asked by Rainbow:
My site is a sitely community news site, and this is my first time starting a site in that category. I'd like to know how my site compares with others' of the same category and what you think of the organization. Do you think the layout is too simple? And any comments about the link back buttons?

Question answered by Grace:
I used to run Flare, so I have some experience with this type of site and what it entails. I started the idea of a site that could share site-related announcements, advertise, and answer people's questions. See now where Ask Grace came from?
Flare was a help site, but with the twist of classifieds. I think that Flare was successful - I was given much positive feedback during the time Flare was a site. When you first start a site in a category you haven't tried before, it can be difficult to know where to start and where you stand compared to the other sites of the same category. With something like classifieds - which I believe Cass first started - or announcements, advertising and answers which I developed, you need to make your site stand out. It usually isn't a popular category, but you must make sure it stands out and is different. Put all the effort you can into your site - in layout and content. I found Flare very rewarding, and I enjoyed being a part of the site community more, by reading what people had to say.

Running Flare took up a lot of my time. People on the Neoboards were constantly saying how there was no point to my site, because if people needed to advertise, they could do it on the boards. However, that was not the case, because many of the site-makers and site visitors who the advertisers were aiming their posts at didn't visit the boards, especially at the right time. This was the reason I first started Flare. I felt that there was an empty space which needed filling. I didn't open the site thinking it as a 'classifieds' site, because I gave my own style to the site. I think this is what made it stand out. People didn't just post announcements, they posted flares. This was my first real successful site in site-making, and I learned a lot from the experience!

Be warned, though, and I'm being totally honest. To do this site well, you should:

Update frequently, each time you recieve a Neomail you should record the information on the site.

Make sure the information is accurate - checking spelling mistakes, wrong links etc.

Let the person know after you have posted their message/news on the site.

Always stay professional.

Keep the boxes all organized - make sure that if somebody hasn't included the link to their site, you find it. Remember to link to their site if it is mentioned in the news - with a button is best as some people prefer visual things.

As you can probably tell from just these fews things: this site will require a lot of your time. You need to be quite quick and organized to run the site effectively, I realised, too. I wasn't organised enough, I was too slow at updating, and the more Neomails I recieved, the more bored and slow I became at updating. A site like this does need to be updated almost if not every day, so it can begin to feel like it is taking over your real life - which you should never let a Neopets site do.

I'm really sorry if this has put you off starting your site - you should try it, though! I wasn't the right person to continue running that type of site - I get bored too easily and need a site where I do more than just post what others have to say.

Positives include:

It can be really fun, especially if your site has a theme or something really different about it which stands out.

Classifieds can feel a little boring after a long time of doing the same thing, so I recommend making the idea your own by adding your own personal, unique twist.

You will be helping a lot of people by posting their information. It may not feel like it, but you are doing a good thing. It's rewarding!

You can get more involved in the site-making community!

This site type is quite simple to do - you just have to add other people's news. Make sure you advertise a lot, though, as this site relies on visitor interaction to keep going!

You also asked me for my comments on your layout (which is still under construction), and what sort of layout is best for this site. I think that your layout is nice and simple, clean and fresh, but possibly I agree with you, a bit too simple. I always preferred having some sort of image for Flare - something bright and colorful which would intrigue people. It depends what your color scheme is. If you need help with the layout, you can always ask me. Also, make sure the boxes on your layout are big enough for the content they will need to hold, without having to scroll too much. You could make your hover link color darker so people can see it more clearly. I like your link back buttons, but perhaps if you're planning on getting a banner, ask button makers to use that same image, theme and colors so at least one button is associated with your site layout.

I know I've talked a lot about myself and my experiences, but hopefully they will help you, and prepare you for what this site type entails, from somebody who has experienced it before. I look forward to seeing your site when it is open. Good luck!


Question asked by Alex:
How can I improve my review site, especially in my reviews? I am hoping on being recommended by others, but I don't know what else I can do to prove myself.

Question answered by Grace:
At a first glance, your layout is clean and simple. The blue background compliments the image and the color scheme is good. It aesthetically works. However, for a future layout I would suggest something more unique, in the style. It currently is a typical Neopets style layout, anchored with navigation on the left hand side, image above, custom made and I know exactly where the texture used on the image is from. I would really like to see something a little different which often can make a difference between site recommendation and not being recommended. You need to make your site stand out from the other review sites. I do really like the CSS here, though, the colors work. Some may say the layout is very feminine and washy, so perhaps consider developing your color scheme for a future layout.

The four cut out circles on your layout with Neopets related image inside are neat and interesting, but I would have liked to see the images inside a big music note shape or something that would symbolize music to a lot of people. Although, the background and image choice is very good as the images are of a good quality and music related! The fourth, smaller circle on the right is covered by a texture so much that it makes it a little difficult to see what the image is straight away. This circle isn't connected or linked to the three other circles like the others are - overlapping eachother. There is a gap in between the third and fourth circles, and this makes the layout slightly disjointed.

I really like your music theme! I've never seen anything like that done before with music and instruments, and I like how you chose all the different instruments for the styles of reviewing. I suggest putting each review style into its' own scrollbox, within the content div. You can also add a navigation (use page anchors) so people can see all your different styles at the top of the page, and click on them to see the style explained. This way, the visitor will be able to go directly to each style as opposed to having to scroll through all the text to find out what style they should request for a new site, and which style is recommended for a pet application.

You need to do everything you can to tighten up on neatness and organization as it is something that undoubtedly changes the impression someone has of your site. When you preview your site after making changes, check to see that buttons don't have link borders - particularly in the Reviewed Sites and Sitely section. Use this code to get rid of the border on images -

You should explain the meaning behind your site name and why you chose it for a review site, in your introduction.

I want to say also that your homepage is really neat and organized, but the updates box background is a similar color to the italicized text color in the box too. I suggest you make the italic text color darker.

I read several of your reviews - you appear to be very thorough.

Things to bear in mind for a future layout

I would definitely suggest a new layout to impress people. I would make you one - just Neomail me and ask, or it would be great if you could try yourself (obviously not something everyone can do, which is okay).

Read your reviews and your criteria, and review your own site. I've done this before and it works - review yourself the way you would review others.

Your site at the moment, in layout and content, is a very typical Neopets site. There are lots of things you can do to be different from the rest and stand out. Standing out is where recommendation comes in - you should be offering something different that makes people go to your site instead of other review sites. Lots of review sites have themes - other than your musical theme, I can't spot an original idea or something really special or different in your reviews. In each grading scale, small things are changed, but you are still reviewing in the same way.

For your next layout (or for this current one depending on how long you plan to keep it up), request or make some more link buttons which have the same theme and image as your layout.

Make your site more your own!

I like where you use a screenshot to illustrate your ideas! I think that some comments which aren't on the image would be good aswell - maybe you could do like what I do, unstructured advice for the site together with screenshots showing certain things? I'm trying to find the link between the instrument and the style of the review. Is it random, or is there logic in the choice? I really think it would be good if you had more explanations behind the titles, because at the moment it could be confusing for some possible review requesters.

Why is the type of review - Bell, Trumpet etc - at the top of some reviews but not others? It's confusing not knowing which review is which type, so you could make this clearer.

Also, maybe you can try outlining the individual review boxes (and you can make individual criteria boxes and give these borders too) in a subtle color that will differentiate between the different content.

In my opinion, a lot of the work that needs doing on your site is related to organization. Never give up - just because it feels like you aren't recommended. This does not mean your site has no potential! Good luck!


Question asked by Lorna:
Hi, I have a few questions if you don't mind. What do you think of my site? Is it organized ok? Is my theme alright? In general, could you give a me a tip or two on how I could improve my site? Thanks so much!

Question answered by Grace:
Trance is a great site with a fun and interesting theme which you take really well into your criteria themes as well. I love the different criteria - it's probably my favorite thing about your site. I really like your introduction - the whole theme is more than just alright, it is fantastic and inspiring.

I suggest moving the three voting SOTM buttons at the bottom of the homepage to the top. (A paragraph space under the header, then another paragraph space before the start of the text.) Also, make the second 'vote' button borderless. There are a lot of buttons, particular in your Sitely section, with have borders - border=0 removes the border leaving your site nice and neat looking!

I really like your site and I admire the way you review, it has inspired me. I really like the simplicity and professionalism of your layout, although this style of layout has become very common in site-making recently. I would love to see a more unique style - as an idea for a future layout: if you want to keep the site all on one page without scrolling, using page anchors, you could have the layout in a tent shape, or different tents for the different mini-pages you have. When reviews are open, the visitor could see an image of the crystal ball, and a cartoon/vector/drawing of the elderly lady (maybe a speech bubble) described in your wonderful themed introduction. I have loads of ideas in my head for a layout for your site - it's a really fun theme to be able to work with! I'd love to see more fun images to illustrate what you describe! The exciting themed introduction gets me thinking about what the person looks like etc. I'd like to see you really show the theme in the next layout, not just in the theme of the image. I found some really nice circus tent vector stock images the other day, and I think they would really suit your site! More images around the site would be great, especially on the front page, as there is a lot of text. I think fun images related to your fairground, magic theme would help to interact more with the visitors.

Currently, there is a lot of space to the right of your layout. I understand this is the design, and I do like the layout design. I would like to see the layout without such a bright background, as this detracts my attention from reading your content. Maybe a repeat background (of a calmer shade) with something going on in it to fill the gap would work?

Your review boxes would be more organized and neat if there was a paragraph space in between each one.

Welcome, purplepolkadotty, says an elder woman.
You could change the 'elder' to elderly, but this is entirely up to you - just something I would personally choose to change.

Check in your reviews that you always write in full sentences. I read your three reviews, and in Cib's Premades I noticed:

Very nice.
Though it is also a bit dull. - some shorter sentences used would be more grammatically correct if your joined the 'though...' sentence onto the previous sentence it refers to. Sometimes in your reviews I find the structure of the sentences a little disjointed, as in the context which you have used 'though' in, I would choose not to start a new sentence with the word. Instead, you can use however.

They make sense, but perhaps it would be more professional? Again, this is just a suggestion which is of course your choice.

You make very helpful points and suggestions in your reviews. Keep going, because Trance is one of the top review sites at the moment which I would recommend. Good luck!


Question asked by Madame:
Hello, I am Madame. How could I improve my review site?

Question answered by Grace:
My first impression of your site is positive, because at a first glance the organization looks tidy, and I really like your color scheme. Blues, white and oranges can go so well together. I feel that your navigation links in the light blue could possibly be made darker since the navigation, with its' white background, does not stand out for me like the other div boxes of text you have. I understand that the layout maker or you maybe wanted to differentiate between the navigation content and the text in the site content div box? You could do this by making the navigation text darker or a different shade, so it becomes clearer to read.

I like reading themed introductions - if they're not too long and over the top, it can be a creative feature of a site worth having. I noticed in the first paragraph of your introduction, the word delicious is used twice. Perhaps try to look up a word in a thesaurus to find alternative vocabulary for what you want to say.

I actually would suggest adding some sort of image to break up the text, as there is a lot of it. Your homepage could jump out at people with a burst of bright color and images without being irritating to the eye.

Your layout does not fit onto one page for me. When I click on the links, the page always jumps down, and I have to click and scroll up with my mouse to see the top of the page. Bear in mind on a future layout, keep the height of the image at around 550-600px if you want it to all be on one page without scrolling at all/page anchors.

I like your introduction, but it would be great if you could think of a way to make the text easier for some people to read. Some people may find increasing the font size and the line-height could really help them. The bold and italics you have used in the first and third paragraphs really works for me. I think you should re-read the second paragraph and see if it would be appropriate to underline/italicize/bold some words to pick them out from the sea of black text on a white background which to me could be potentially difficult for some users to read. Is everything in your introduction relevant?

I have to say, I do like theLook at the menu,Call Tessa links, keeping with your theme and interacting with the visitor.

Something quick I noticed earlier - could you add a bit more padding to the left side of the text area? It is a bit too close to the dropshadow of the image.

The layout design is simple and very typical of a Neopets site, but the quality of the image is an issue worth looking at. I was expecting to see a bigger banner to jump out at me and tell me this is The Bakery, as opposed to the very small image you currently have which did not have the same effect. The image itself is broken up by several shapes with rounded corners - this is unique, I haven't seen it before but I personally don't like it. I feel that the layout would be much better without the shapes, their positioning is irregular. I always say to myself that if the quality of the image is not good enough, I won't use it, because quality means a lot to me in graphics. It is one thing to use an image you quickly copied and pasted without editing, but another for an image to really look like somebody thought carefully about it. I am sure the image was carefully thought about, and the overall layout looks like a lot of effort was put in to the design, but I don't feel this in the pixelized image. It is too simple. I feel that a layout should be of a similar quality to the sites' content.

I read all your different criteria. I feel that the structure in all your grading scales is very similar. If I were you, I would change the style of reviewing, because if in each type of review the only thing you change are the points - ie Layout, Content etc - there is no point in having different grading scales. You don't explain the different and purpose of each one underneath its' title making it difficult for the requester. Your first three grading scales are technically the same thing, so I think that your 'menu' could use some work and checking over to make sure it is realistic and makes sense. Your descriptions could also be more thorough and detailed as you seem to pick out similar things for each point. In some cases, you point out something for one category that should be in another one. For example, 'does it have enough affies and listers' is in the Organization section, yet this is an important Sitely factor.

I think the Custom Cake is unfair if you grade with points, because someone could choose three areas of the site which they are feeling more confident with, and get higher marks than if they were to choose something they were less confident with - maybe spelling and grammar for example. This would be unfair if two people compared their final marks with you, because they were graded on different things of their choice. If you understand what I'm getting at here, I definitely like the idea of letting someone choose what they want help with, but don't use points/marks to do so.

I read the two reviews you have so far completed. I think you can break up the large blocks of text into smaller paragraphs. The text should be aligned to the left. Remember to change your text from italicized back to normal as appropriate.

In both reviews you offer lots of suggestions, but the way that you word your comments sometimes could be seen as negative. Obviously, not all your comments will be positive, but you don't have to necessarily say them in a negative way. If you were to put an idea across to a friend in real life, you would be friendly and helpful about it, right? Avoid using words like 'bad', and word your points in a more objective, helpful way. Your suggestions are relevant and well-thought out, but always think of the visitor/requester. What would help them to improve? How can you write your ideas in a way that doesn't make them feel really terrible about themself and their work, yet helps them to improve and encourages them?

You should align the text in the menu boxes to the left and add some padding. You could also make the border less harsh - try dashed #3289e5 or a darker blue.

When you use images to show and illustrate ideas in your reviews, use paragraph breaks in between to keep things neat.

Proofread your work to filter out careless mistakes - I have to proofread my written work, or else I would have TONS of mistakes, because I can be clumsy, so I take extra time to check.
Are the examples provided? should be Are there examples provided? and Archieves should be spelled as Archives.

Your sitely section looks neat, except add a space between the second and third link buttons.

Your site is very new, and I can understand the stress of opening a new site, and almost straight away lots of people pointing out things that can be improved. Never give up, though, as in time you will learn how rewarding owning a review site can be.

If you need a new layout in a month or two, you can contact me if you would like me to help you make you one, or a banner.

Think about some of the points I have made, and consider making changes. Good luck!


Question asked by Caitlin:
Hi Grace! Hope you had a good holiday. I'm mailing in the hopes that you can help me decide on/come up with a site name for my upcoming SOTM + Rankings site. I've come up witha few ideas below but if you have any other ideas, then please feel free to advise I've included the name, definition and any other relevant information. Please base your advice on the catchiness of the name and whichever is most relevant and well-thought out. If all of them are terrible then please tell me that too.

Echelon: a level of command, authority, or rank: the top echelon of city officials = the sites I rank are the most elite.

Le Grande: French for 'The Great', = again references the elite sites factor.

1848: It was a year of much revolutionary movement and so I could base the site off the theme of revolution and how each site I rank is revolutionary etc.

Minutiae: small, precise, or trifling details = it's all in the details that make a site great.

Bijoux: French for Jewels = the sites I rank are jewels, lol.

Melange: French for 'mix of everything', as I'll rank for many/a 'mix' of different categories.

If you'd like more info, feel free to ask too! Thanks :)

Question answered by Grace:
I'm not so good at thinking up great site names for other people! My favorites of your ideas above and why are:

Melange - I speak French myself, and I love languages, and I think that choosing a foreign word that actually has a relevant meaning to your site theme is a good idea. I really like the idea of a mix of everything, all site themes, but then it could be confused with a mix of quality, which would not be the case for a ranking site.

Echelon - Echelon and Melange are my favourite names. They're unique and interesting, and a lot of people won't understand the meaning until they visit your site, which may also increase site traffic. I'd really like to see a sort of war/army/revolution sort of theme if you choose to use this site name.

Bijoux - I like this name for a ranking site, but I know somebody else has named their site this before. It's up to you, but I always avoid naming sites the same as previous ones to avoid confusion, depending on how long ago the site closed of course.

Le Grande is also another possible name you could use, but for me I would be looking for something a little more interesting and unique. However, there's a lot to be said for choosing a name which most people will be able to guess the meaning of straight away, and therefore be more likely to remember your site name.

I think that as long as you show the meaning behind your name and explain it in your introduction, choosing a foreign word or phrase as your site name is fine. I would avoid using dates, no matter how 1848 may stick in peoples minds. Some people may know more about history than others, and also, using digits and dates is quite a common idea that many people have used before. For a ranking site, I would definitely choose something really unique that means something to you.

I find Minutiae a more difficult one to remember offhand, and the spelling is a bit different, but again, I like your idea behind the name. You've come up with some really great ideas, and I can tell you've put a lot of effort and thought into them.

I thought of a few names, but they aren't as good as yours! Top Dog, Pick 'n' Mix, Best of the Best, Topnotch, Shuffle.

Good luck, and I look forward to seeing your ranking site!


Question asked by Madame:
Can you give me some tips on my site, the layout and content of the magazine?

Question answered by Grace:
My first impressions of your site and layout are positive, although one thing I noticed straight away is that the text is quite difficult to read because it sort of 'blends' into the banner background where a lot is going on. Maybe you could add a thin border around the title in a darker color? I think this would do the trick. Also, I am not so keen on how 'Neostars' is separated like it is as though 'stars' in an afterthought - made me first think your site was called 'Neo Magazine Stars'. Other than that little suggestion, at a first glance I can't see any major problems - everything is neat, and your color scheme works and appears consistent throughout the page.

The site could be changed into a never-ending style layout as at the moment I am finding it difficult to navigate around and find your different topics and pages of the magazine. I was expecting that links to your pages would be listed under 'Magazine Navigation', but instead I have to click a few times around the site to actually find the content. There are many things you could do to make the actual content of the newsletter more accessible to visitors. I am a little confused - is this a newsletter inside a newsletter or site? I like the idea of having a 'cover' and showing the image, but the quality could be improved as the main image does not look very edited and is quite boring to me. You should also remove the border - it's not just the cover which has a link border on. Some buttons also have a border on, which can be removed by using border=0 at the end of the img src code - don't forget the carrot bracket.

Your site is a good idea and I have no doubt that it is popular. I read your pages of different features, and the magazine looks as though it functions well behind the scenes, as you seem to have a lot of content in each issue. There are so many different types of things to read about - from site related interviews to stories and comics. You have thought about so many things a Neopets newsletter could offer. I like how you 'employ' others to help you write articles. However, you aren't recommended at some directories - I think this is likely to be down to organization issues. I think you need to take another look at the way the visitor sees the site, as the scrolling and anchor pages aren't as neat as they could be. There are many neatness issues, but also solutions. If your site functioned better so I could see it more clearly instead of in so many different sections, I think my views on your site would change. Take a look at other newsletters and compare yours to theirs - don't use any ideas, but I hope this will help you to see for yourself where you are lacking compared to other magazines.

I like how you have decided to break up long blocks on text with images, and I think these images would look better if they looked more to do with the writing. You could wrap so the text 'forms' around the image, or at least centralize or align the image to somewhere other than to the default position: left above the text. This could be seen as unprofessional, and it happens a lot of times. The main thing that lets you down is that there are many organizational flaws which can be fixed so simply. Most of your images are aligned to the left, most of them have link borders etc, so this is why I am pointing the issues out so you can fix them, and tidy up the site.

I would like it if you explained the meaning behind your title, as it sounds quite unoriginal and plain. Why did you choose the name 'Neostars' for a magazine? Why 'stars', what does this mean, and what does it tell you about the site? You should make the reasons clear in your introduction.

The way you write the articles - or whoever writes them - is good, as you make the writing interesting and engage your audience by using a range of punctuation and rhetorical questions etc.

I like how the beginnings of paragraphs are indented, just like they have text formatted in newspapers. However, I do think you should also consider more different ways of formatting on your site, like using color. You will notice that I bold, italicize and underline my text to create visible emphasis. Sometimes on your site, apart from images you have used, the articles feel like a sea of text which is really difficult to read - all gray and boring - and I can find so many words and really relevant places where the text should be highlighted, such as when you do lists. You should use bold more, like you did when you made the 'question' and 'answer' headers bold. The link hover could be changed to another color, as at the moment your links are quite plain. I suggest using a color picker (do you have GIMP, Photoshop etc? If not, just use this Hex Color Codes page to find some colors which fit with your banner and color scheme/theme.

This site does have potential, but there are a lot of things you could do to make it shine from others of the same category. The layout also scrolls when I click on certain clicks, so you can scroll through all the page anchors, although other times when I click on links such as 'Editorial' I just see that page anchor, which is what is should be like? I think you should rethink the layout style as it isn't functioning as well as it could, and these issues make it harder for the visitor to focus on the content of your magazine.

Good luck!


Question asked by Rica:
I need general help on my site. Consider my layout and content among a range of other aspects of site-making.

Question answered by Grace:
You have a really consistent color scheme going on, the site has a nice feel to it upon visiting. I like the green navigation links and the style of them, but it confuses me a little that there are two navigation bars instead of one. I understand the reason for having one fixed, but maybe you could organize the site differently so you just have one navigation bar with all the links on? Also, the text on the fixed navigation buttons is a little difficult to read for me because it is so light and blends in with the background.

The layout style is pretty common - it is of a good quality, as is your banner, but I would have liked to see a more unique style. The site so far is aesthetically pleasing to the eye apart from the white box on the banner (with rounded corners). It doesn't look completely central, which I noticed straight away as I visited your site. I do like the magical feel to your banner, though - it is very inviting to visitors and it makes me feel intrigued and want to explore the site more. For me, The Workshop would be easier to navigate through if all the content was just on one or two pages instead of many.

You can also continue your background on so it repeats completely, for people like me with wider screen resolutions, as I see a section of white background. Otherwise, I like your background pattern a lot!

You use quite a few 'smilies' that I would choose not to use, to keep your site looking professional.

Perhaps you could use a paragraph break in between Updates and the Spread the Word header to give a space in different topics. You could also make a more subtle, not animated link button as in the current ones a lot is going on. You could also make a button which has the same theme as your layout - a button with the lovely wintry feel about it that I pointed out at the beginning.

I wrote the above comment before I realized you have more link buttons on a different part of the page. I don't think you are showing your best buttons on your home page. I think your should choose around 9 (that amount would probably fit) buttons to go on your homepage, so all your buttons are in one place, because as you can tell, it confused me too.

Some of your extractions/.PNGs are a little messy around the edge, such as this one above. Extracting and neatening up images is something many people can do themself, so I believe that if you're going to offer it as a resource on your site, the .PNGs should be all be really perfectly cut out. A lot of them are fine, but some aren't as neat as I think you could make them!

Your banner bases are fairly simple, involving an image with textures on top. I'd like to see you try out different effects. The bases you have at the moment are of a good quality and are simple. In some cases, they are too simple. See the banner above - the brightness and range of color by using different blending effects is good. The image does look stretched. Either make it smaller or bigger. You've used some brushes on this one, but they aren't really obvious enough to see clearly, nor subtle enough to blend into the background. The words 'rainbow' and 'cherish' are really random and I don't know why you have used these on the banner base. The diagonal lines could be less bright, maybe you could overlay them with more opacity if you haven't already?

In some banner bases it is hard to tell what you have done to edit the image - it just looks cropped. Textures are meant to enhance a picture, and it some cases the textures on your banners don't enhance the image for me. Some banners are too basic and simple.

In some cases, including the banner above, the image is of a poor quality and is either blurry or pixelated.

I've said this before, but you should try not to stretch images. On the banner above, the image looks very stretched, so do the diamonds, and I can see pixels.

Your 'just cropped' icons are very simple because you've just cropped them - anyone can do that. I do think an icon should be simple, but within reason. I believe you should still edit it, as at the moment these images look very uninteresting, and some of them haven't even been cropped as well as they could have been.

In the icon above, you have cropped the image so that part of the kiko's mouth and eye is showing, but half is cut off. It would be better to crop more neatly so there aren't just a few pixels showing as this looks a little untidy. I like your textured icons and button bases a lot, but be careful not to use too many textures with bright blending effects as they can lower the quality of the image.

I looked at your old icons in your portfolio and recently you have definitely improved, so well done!

I also want to point out that your text 'Writing a letter' on one of the navigation buttons isn't very clear what it leads to, so I suggest you rename it 'request'.

I hope I have helped by pointing out a few things I spotted. You have a good site at the moment, but they are many ways you can improve the content, such as making sure you choose a quality image in the first place.

Good luck!


Question asked by Summer:
I'd like to know your opinion on crediting when it is difficult. If you have a button for your site and the site closes, I would normally try to credit the user. However, if it is particularly old, the pet has been transferred, or the user is no longer on the site, what should a site owner do? In the past I've just added a rollover message crediting the site by name and noting that it's closed, but I'm not sure this provides proper credit. Also, if I use something from off-site (like a background graphic), where is the line between referencing off-site and giving due credit? Thank you so much!

Question answered by Grace:
If the site owner who made you the button no longer owns the site for whatever reason, I would always link the button to the maker's userlookup, or you could add a rollover title saying 'by Name. Even though the site is closed, the button or background was still made by that person, so why shouldn't they deserve credit? Sometimes, if a button is really old, I replace mine. It's okay to request/make new buttons if you've used one for a while and the site closed. If you're not so keen on on the button, I would start fresh and have a new set on link buttons. In my opinion, 'proper credit' is simply stating who it was that made the graphic. A link is nice, but if it isn't possible, just writing their name or username or even old site name should be enough. Nobody can acuse you of stealing - they have absolutely no reason too, since you have taken the initiative to credit them in written form even though the site is non existent now. It would be totally different if you continued using the button, saying you made it, which you haven't.

If you use something from an off Neopets website, I would write in your credits section the title of the site, without the URL so it cannot be as easily identified as being a website, but as more a group of people with another name who you used resources/graphics from. If it is an image based layout, you can always write on credit like 'textures from Site in a small font, which is acceptable.

Credit and appreciation of what others have made is important, and you should always try your best to ensure you have credited in the right places, or make it clear that the graphic was not made by yourself.

Not crediting somebody or claiming something you didn't make as your own is wrong. It is obviously best to credit someone with just a line of text than risk them coming back to you and accusing you of stealing.

Check out this page which is all about copyright law and should be helpful. Good luck!


Question asked by Rica:
Hey Grace! I've recently lost quite a bit of affiliates due to inactivity. D= As a result, I've gotten quite a bit of affiliate requests and I've also been trying to go out and request to be affiliates with some other sites. But I'm horribly indecisive when it comes to affiliates, and it takes me forever to decide whether I should accept or reject an affiliate request. Besides being high quality, what else do you think is important when looking for affiliates?

Question answered by Grace:
When choosing an affiliate, you should look around at different sites and ask yourself 'What kind of site impresses me?' You should also aim to choose sites of a similar theme as your own - although this isn't always the case for me - because visitors who come to your site are likely to want to visit sites of the similar type.

You should decide based on your immediate reaction and thoughts on the site. Does it 'wow' you? Is it really unique? If you feel the site is outstanding overall, or specifically in something such as the layout and content, I would consider requesting this site as an affiliate.

You shouldn't invite just any site of an average quality to be your affiliate - you should choose a site which catches your eye and is special and unique: a site you remember.

Nowadays affiliates have become less important nor fun as in many site-owners who are affiliated with eachother don't talk very often. Affiliation should be like a partnership in site-making - affiliates should support eachother, it shouldn't just be used as a way to exchange links and therefore gain in popularity and pageviews. There is more to it than that. I think a good affiliate is a friendly owner who is willing to be there to talk to you and offer advice if you need it.

I also recommend that if you don't know the site or owner very well, you should start a conversation with them first. That way, you can get a clearer picture of what the person is like, as well as the site.

When I look for affiliates, I look for similarities in my site and theirs. Quality and quantity should be matched. I always look for sites which amaze me.

The site should be aesthetically pleasing and neat.

The sites you accept as affiliates will reflect your own site and how others' see it, so I would bear that in mind when choosing. As I have said before, if you are picky, choose sites with related content which will be more likely to appeal to similar target audiences.

Make certain the site doesn't have too many affiliates either, and see the different sites they choose to accept before you go applying so you know what you're expecting.

Try not to keep the site waiting for too long upon them requesting to affiliate with you. They might forget to add your button. Make your decision as soon as you can based on your immediate reaction of the site and whether you think your sites match well. Don't be afraid of 'letting the site down' because affiliation isn't like that at all - you shouldn't feel like you 'have' to accept anybody. It's your choice.

You're definitely right in that you should only accept sites of a good quality and be select - aim to have around only 15-20 affiliates, and arrange them professionally and neatly.

Affiliates can be a great way to share site-making, visitors and increase your popularity, and do help a site become more known in the site-making community!

I hope these suggestions have been helpful. Good luck!


Question asked by Sophia:
Hi Grace! I believe button request sites these days just aren't complete without some "extras" to give the site a little oomph. For The Florist, I added a florist theme + storyline, as well as button tips and resource banners. What I noticed, however, is that nobody has sent in tips for a long time, nor is anyone actually using the banners D: What do you think I should do? I do enjoy making those banners D:

Question answered by Grace:
I personally really like your banners. They're of a good quality, clean and simple, however possibly the reason that people aren't using them is because they have no use for your banners. Visitors may like them, but may think to go to a resources-only site first to look for a banner to use for their hiatus, but nowadays, I don't see a lot of people using resource banners on their sites, and if I do see one or two, usually they are from Foomanshu. I think that if you really like making banners enough, and want to make more, you could move them to your other site. I think it would seem more fitting to have a lot more banners at a graphics site rather than having a LOT at a requests site. Even though it is a nice added extra, I think that if making banners is more your preferred thing to make than buttons, I would still keep the banners in The Florist, but make a lot more for Sugarrush, where banners would be more the main reason for visiting your site, so hopefully more people would see your banners! I honestly think that there is little you could do to improve the banners to encourage more people to use them - I think the main issue is that for a lot of people, if they need a banner they would either request it, or make it themself. Also, maybe you could try to post an announcement on a site like Soroptimist to see if people do know your banners are there. I would definitely use your hiatus banners, but I think you could make them bigger. I like how your banners are flower themed, fitting in with your consistent theme throughout the site, but I think that the banners could be seen as quite feminine, and so are the fonts. Maybe you could offer different sorts of banners; different themes and colours, maybe Neopets related? I have looked at the banners at Foomanshu to see what sells, and it seems as though people go for fairly big, bright banners for occasions such as a hiatus, closed or moving etc, so maybe if you really like making banners, you could revamp the banners extra section and replace some of the banners with some bigger, more different ones? Maybe try different effects on the banner as well as text effects? Variety is good. I do like your banners and I see no major reason why it appears that Neopia isn't using them.

Secondly, I have always thought that having a section of site advice is a great thing to do, and where others can submit their own. I used to have a site solely for advice, it was called Locket - not sure if you remember it? It got quite boring after a while because a lot of site-makers had already submitted advice, and more slowly than before more advice was being submitted. I do think it is better as a side feature than a main site feature, though. I think your button site tips section is fine - you don't need loads or people won't read them. Short and sweet is often the way to go. I personally think you should leave both your extra features where they are, as maybe not everyone has seen them yet. People do read other people's site advice, even thought at times it seems like that page of your site is collecting dust.

It's up to you, but if it was me, I would choose to keep both features on the site, because if you enjoy running them, that's the main thing at the end of the day. I think you can edit and add things to your features, but in my opinion, they are good enough, and will give the visitor something extra to look at when browsing your site, which is always a good thing! You could always add button site rankings or something which you can update more often - something which would encourage more interaction between visitors and the site. What about a small button making contest? Something unique which will get more people to visit the site is a good extra feature, in my opinion.

Good luck!


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We all have times when we come across hurdles in site-making. When you are stuck, it can be reassuring to know there is someone there to listen to you and offer advice to overcome these hurdles.









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