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A Good Lookup

by maivry


A big part of the world of customized user lookups is response. Sure, you might start making lookups just because you can, but somewhere along the way someone will comment on your lookup, and you probably won't be happy if it's negative.

So, rather than tell you how to code your lookup to perfection, or design the most beautiful and intriguing graphics imaginable, I'll tell you of the general guidelines to avoid being tarred and feathered by lookup makers everywhere.

Quick Lingo Check

Browser: Program you use to view the internet.

CSS: Style of a webpage.

HTML: Structure of a webpage.

Resolution: Size, in pixels, that your monitor displays.

Sidescroll: When the webpage is wider than your resolution, and it creates a horiozontal scrollbar.

To start, let's keep in mind the practical side of lookups:

Make your lookup compatible

Whether it be your browser, your resolution, or even special sidebars, try your best to make your lookup work with as many different possibilities as you can. If you can't test it, ask others for their opinion.

Keep credit where credit is due

Stealing graphics and/or code is reportable, and not in the least looked up to. Coding depends, though. If you want to use their font code and edit it to your needs, there's nothing wrong with that. You can find that sort of thing on any HTML or CSS site. But copying their template and just using different images and text does not count as your own work, and is entirely reportable. As long as you follow the user's rules, there's nothing wrong with using a premade.

Keep your lookup quiet

Music tends to annoy people. Never add any unless it's entirely necessary to complete the effect. Please, please, never use music that starts out loud. Most of the time it disrupts what someone is already listening to.

Keep your lookup uncluttered

Glitters, dolls, quiz results, photos of yourself, and usually anything animated, are a common thing that can ruin a lookup, mostly if you have more than one. If they're really small and don't clash with your theme, there's probably no issue. Quite often it's just annoying to scroll through them.

Avoid horizontal scrolling

Small blogs are a pain in the neck to everyone. Sometimes you don't have space to fit a proper sized blog over an image, and that can slide. But if you can't view your stats and shield without them being disfigured, redo it. Another problem is when the blog is so long, it might as well be a table. That defeats the point and can be quite distracting.

If you have a large layout, it will create sidescrolling for small resolutions. Optimal sized lookups can fit in 1024x768, if not 800x600. If the side looks too blah to you, add a repeating background, as big as you want, that isn't necessary to see for the lookup to be satisfactory. Happiness all around.

Don't use low quality images for your graphics

Pixelation or white edges are what you're likely to run into, and they just make your lookup messy. If you want to use a picture that's too small to make into a good layout (e.g., a pet image) make sure you can compensate by, say, adding effects that distort it just enough that you can't tell it was distorted through enlargement. :P But make sure you can still tell what you're looking at, and it also needs to be aesthetic.

Keep your stats visible

Not only is it against the rules to hide them, it's also plain annoying. Most of the time people visit your lookup to see your stats. Your font must also be readable.

Choose colors with good taste

Contrast is key, but that's with light and dark, not bright and dull. Make sure you're using colors that apply to your theme, not ones that are all over the map. Similarly toned colors are a no-no in any art form, and it is especially applicable to fonts. Dark background = light font. Light background = dark font. Mixed background = Put the text in a colored table.

Choose your background with care

Probably the riskiest kind of background is an animated one. There are only a few exceptions. Another major problem with backgrounds is often due to making them specific to your resolution. It is actually quite impossible to make a background work with all resolutions without making it repeat. So make sure it repeats when you want it to, and position it to be correct in all resolutions. Always check, either by changing your resolution or asking someone else.

Make your navigation navigable

Lookups are meant to be practical, no matter how much people just want to make them spiffy looking. Include navigation links whenever you can. Make sure your navigation is large enough to click on. Periods are a nightmare to click, and you have to figure out which one you're going to, too. ;P Using links that name the links you're going to is at least reasonable. If you're using an image for the menu, make sure the names are readable and match up with the links. You can check by watching your status bar to see when your mouse is hovering over a different link. If you don't have a status bar, you can most likely make it show up by clicking on View > Status Bar in your browser.

Make your lookup unique

Even if you coded the layout yourself, make sure it's not a carbon copy of what's apparently a fad. Avoid using common graphic or coding methods just because. Also, avoid using themes that you can find on practically everyone's lookup. It's easy to get tired of seeing Illusen, MSPP, and popular celebrities everywhere you go.

Balance your lookup

Been told your lookup is too plain? True or not, don't compensate by going to the other extreme. Over-using brushes and sticking complex graphics and codes everywhere you can doesn't make your lookup any nicer, and they don't always fit the theme. Simple tiled backgrounds work nicely for blank areas, whether in the actual background or in a background of one part of an image.

Keep the load time short

Sometimes this just isn't avoidable, but it can mainly be fixed by keeping your graphics to a reasonable size pixel-wise and saving everything in a compact format. Smaller lookup = more compatibility and faster load. ;)

Keep your links the same size on hover

A simple thing, but one that can ruin the feel. Say you look at a lookup, and it's all nice and balanced, and you go to click on a link and suddenly it jumps out from under your mouse because it's twice as big and long when you hover over it, and stretches everything in sight. How are you ever going to be able to click that thing? This type of thing can also happen with adding borders, bolding, and other such attributes.

Don't use fancy fonts

They can be hard to read, or they can be pointless because people are less likely to have the font. Effects on fonts usually don't help either. The only time to spiffy up your fonts is when they're quite prominent on graphics. Or a header. And otherwise, avoid using large coded fonts, too.

Don't make fake lookups

Even if you keep your stats below whatever you added, it's generally just a very temporary amusement, and turns out to be more annoying than anything else.

Keep your shield

I'd put this in the same sort of range as adding music. You may add a custom one, but they can be bothersome, due to displacement and that you can no longer see the convenient rank in months you've been here. But sometimes custom shields are exactly what you need.

Use your description as an accent

Sometimes just having extra words on a lookup can make or break it. Try to say something, but don't ramble. Check your spelling and grammar, and don't bore the people you think are going to read your lookup by making a long lists of likes and/or dislikes or anything else that is better said elsewhere for the people who are actually seeking it. Break up your comments into short paragraphs, which make everything more interesting and useful. As well, messages to TNT are both disconcerting and pointless, as they don't sway TNT in the least.

There are, of course, more pitfalls in making lookups, but these are the ones you are most likely to run into and should most carefully avoid. Good luck and have fun!

Special thanks goes to the NeoBoards for having people who know what they don't like. ;D

This guide is based on opinion, mainly on various opinions of the unanimous kind.

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