These are various helpful guidelines for webmasters. Following them is just about a requirement if you want to affiliate with TCoD, but even if you have no interest in that, it is still a good idea to observe them.
- Every single "(The) Poké(mon) ____" title you might have thought of is taken, guaranteed. And if it's not, it shouldn't be taken. These names are clichéd and silly and all sound the same.
- Chances are most "[insert random Pokémon here]('s) [insert location here]" (e.g. "Latias Nest", "Zubat Cave", "Charizard's Lair", "Eevee's Hideout") are taken, too. Again, however, even if you find one that's not, these titles tend to get rather tiresome after you've seen the umpteenth Pokémon's Place. Try to think of something better.
- Don't call your site something like "EnteiWorld.net" or anything else with a domain extension if you are not the owner of that domain. No, not if you intend to own it sometime, either. If you have the domain and the site has become widely known by that name (like "Serebii.net"), you can start using that if you really have to, but no sooner.
- Don't make a website unless you're actually serious about it. Especially don't make one if you just want to be able to say you have a website. Do you have something real to say? Do you have the dedication to maintain it for years to come, or is it just something you did when you were bored and will probably lose interest in within a few months? It's always annoying to see 80% of all Pokémon fansites die (or jump on a bizarre bandwagon and get converted into graphic design sites) within the first year or two. Only make a site if you really mean it.
- Learn HTML. 'Easy' site builders won't get you far at all, period. If you absolutely must you can start out with one, but you'll have to learn HTML sooner or later.
- Don't open your site until you actually have something of substance on it. Or at least don't advertise it, tell everybody to visit it or try to affiliate with anyone until you do have something on it. Otherwise you're just wasting people's time. "Something of substance" would be some interesting, useful, entertaining or perhaps journalistic content.
- Whenever you put a page up on your site, always immediately check the live version of the page on the public site and make sure all the links, images and possible scripts on it work. It always puzzles me when I come to a site where it's plain that the owner has never actually looked at half of their pages. This is a matter of half a minute at the most.
- Reread your sections. A lot. I generally proofread my sections once immediately after I finish writing them, again shortly after I've put them up on the site, and then regularly while randomly browsing through my content - and yes, it is worth it. It lets you catch little mistakes and outdated or inconsistent information yourself instead of it sitting there to rot until some visitor calls you out on it.
- Be a perfectionist, in general - encourage people to point out any errors they find, and when they do, be quick to fix them. You should care about the accuracy of your website. Anything else is just irresponsible.
- Don't put your site on 'hiatus' just because everybody else is doing it. Most websites that go on hiatus never come back, and it was a silly trend anyway - if you're going to revamp the whole site, do that in a subdirectory and keep the content up as normal until you've finished the renovations. And actually do those renovations instead of just forgetting about your site and abandoning it. And don't include making a bunch of new content in such renovations - the only excuse for making renovations anywhere other than on the live site is if these renovations involve drastically modifying the code, layout or organization of the site in such a way that the site will look messed up or appear seriously inconsistent until you've completely finished your modifications. If you're going to make new pages too, make the renovations first and then write the new pages.
- Don't restrict anything to 'members only' unless there's a good rationale. Generally, the only good rationale for things being members-only is if it requires consistently recognizing the user, such as posting in a forum or certain types of games that necessitate storing information for/about the user, or if they involve user input which has been repeatedly vandalized. Restricting your most interesting content in an attempt to get more members is just irritating, and for my part, I don't really like registering at random sites all over the place, so I'll just leave and never know how awesome your members-only content is.
- Don't refer to your site as the "number one" anything or "THE BEST" anything. Chances are it's not the best whatever, and even if it is, it's egotistical and rather lame to refer to it as such. Advertise your site as what it is, not what you wish it were.
- Spelling and grammar are important - don't write in all caps, don't use chatspeak, and if you're not sure about the spelling of a word, look it up before using it. Proofread all your sections after making them. If your spelling is generally nothing to be impressed about, try typing your content out in Microsoft Word or another program with an integrated spellchecker, checking Pokémon names in my Gotta Spell 'Em All section, and then copying and pasting it into your HTML editor.
- Before putting cheats, etc. on your site, test them yourself or at least make sure you have a very good reason to believe they will work. It's always better to be safe than sorry here.
- Don't fill your site with pages that say "coming soon!" or "under construction". Don't make huge menus with fifty links if only ten of them actually work. If you really want everybody to know what sections you're planning on making, at least don't make them links until they're actually there - people shouldn't have to click your links to find out the content doesn't exist.
- Following from that, don't put sections on your site when they're clearly unfinished while putting a "Will be finished later!" or "More soon!" at the bottom. The only exception is when the page is complete and useful in its current form already but you plan to add more content to it later too. When you put up a section that is obviously incomplete, it makes you seem lazy and the content feels rushed, and the user who clicks expecting certain information will feel cheated when it isn't there yet.
- Maintain stylistic consistency in your sections. Always format parallel sections or pieces of information the same way, both in the basics (don't give one of your sections a special image as a header if you're not going to do that for all of them) and in the details (if you list some Gym leaders' Pokémon as "[Pokémon name] - level [level]", don't then suddenly change it to "[Pokémon name] Lv. [level]" halfway through). Also try to decide once and for all whether to, for instance, capitalize the names of Pokémon (they are trademarked and capitalized in all official literature, but an argument can be made that they theoretically ought to be noncapitalized as they aren't rightfully proper nouns) and stick with that throughout the site.
- Do not make sections that suck.
- Don't make Marquees of Doom. Okay, look, guys. Really. I mean, it's not like I'll go into theft-rage whenever I see one, but they're still rip-offs, and when I see one I will roll my eyes, view the page source to see what the prize is if any, skim briefly over what sort of nonsense you put in it, and move on to see if the next link on your menu is something worthwhile. I will not give you any mental points for it unless you have something especially fresh and entertaining in the text of the marquee or the prize. And no, it is not especially fresh and entertaining if it turns out there is no prize at the end after all. In fact, that might actually subtract some of those mental points. Same if the marquee consists of a bunch of lists, but that's in the domain of the above point.
- We all went through a phase where we thought non-sequiturs were the pinnacle of humour, but to those who have grown out of it, too much of that just makes you look immature. Llamas, cheese, pie and so on are not that inherently funny, so don't splatter them all over your site in an attempt to make it hilarious.
- Be original - if your favorite website has some brilliant section, it will not be nearly as brilliant when you put it on yours too. Generally, if you see something really cool and original on a website, it should inspire you to also make something cool and original, not to make a carbon copy of their cool and original idea. This also applies to sections that were never cool and original to begin with - you're not obligated to have the same sections as everyone else just because you have a Pokémon site. There is no good reason for anyone to come to your site if all your content is something they could just as well find on other, bigger sites. Think of something nobody has ever done before, and people will have more of a reason to visit your website rather than somebody else's.
- Another reason not to use fanart you find on Google: keep your image use consistent. If your sections regularly contain images of, say, Pokémon that are being discussed, you should generally decide whether you want those images to be sprites (then which generation?), Sugimori art, your own artwork, etc., and then stick with that decision throughout; it looks amateurish to illustrate parallel concepts with drastically different images. The same applies to game screenshots (you should really take those yourself to make them perfectly consistent), pictures of game boxes (in particular, a lot of sites mix languages and often sizes or image quality as well) and so on. Again, don't just Google whatever you want to illustrate and grab whichever image you think looks coolest; it'll look messy and unprofessional.
- Don't put images on your site just for the sake of having images. Layouts can have decorative images, and sometimes images are appropriate to illustrate a particular page, but don't put a random Lugia icon everywhere you talk about Lugia, don't put cool-looking animated gifs you found on your front page just because they look cool, and don't have multiple pictures of the same thing when one would suffice.
- Do not direct link images. Direct linking is when your
imgtag refers to the complete URL of an image on some other website, as opposed to the relative path of an image on your own server. The reason not to do this is that when you direct link an image, it leeches bandwidth from the other site's server when people visit your website, which could variously lead to their site being suspended for going over bandwidth limits or just slowing it down because the server has to keep handling requests for images from your site. To boot, if that site ever goes down, the images on your site will all break, and you might never be able to recover them. This applies especially when direct linking big images or a lot of them, such as if you have a page with all the Pokémon sprites from Diamond and Pearl direct linked from some other website. There are exceptions, primarily where the owner of the other site specifically permits you to direct link (such as when they give you copy-paste HTML including an image direct linked from their server - this includes for example my quiz result images), but as a rule, don't do it unless you absolutely have to.
- Don't put images designed for white backgrounds on a dark background or vice versa, and yes, this does apply if you have a style switcher of some sort and some of the styles would have the wrong background. When you ignore this simple rule, you end up with a jagged white or black outline around the image thanks to anti-aliasing, and no, letting the image be that way is not better than not having the image at all. It looks horribly ugly and unprofessional. This can sometimes happen when you copy an alpha-transparent PNG or save it and open it in a program that doesn't understand alpha-transparency like Microsoft Paint, but the simple solution to that is to save the image and open it in a better program (try GIMP) that will allow you to put it on any background. If the image just isn't alpha-transparent and has those white and black pixels hardcoded in, you can either find some way to get rid of them, put the image on a static background of the appropriate color, or sigh and find a better image to use.
- Use colors that are easy on the eyes. The aesthetic sense for color is something that matures pretty late, so a lot of kids (such as me) make websites with bright blue backgrounds and see nothing wrong with it, but it will hurt the eyes of everyone a bit older. Generally good colors for use in website layouts are relatively dull (i.e. have a lot of gray in them) or light ones. Most people are more comfortable reading black text on a light background than vice versa, so if you're only going to have one color scheme, it's generally better to use lighter background colors and black text. If you have a relatively dark layout, on the other hand, don't give it black text; monitors differ in brightness and often an unwary webmaster uses a background that looks medium grayish to them but is almost indistinguishable from the black text to some users. That said, a lot of people have a hard time reading white text on a dark background, so it's usually better to just use a light color or light gray for the text if you have a dark layout.
- Keep text to one color for all body text, with a different one for links. Also keep to one font and size. Headings, blockquotes and stuff like that, obviously, can be an exception, but all regular text should be consistent.
- If you're going to make a style switcher of some sort, the first thing you should do is make one light style and one dark style. Again, most people are more comfortable reading dark text on a light background, but there are also those who prefer light on dark, and the best thing about having multiple styles available is to be able to cater to both groups. The second best thing about style switchers is to be able to cater to people with different monitor resolutions, browsers and navigation preferences: you can make specialized styles that are fixed-width, cheap on horizontal space, compatible with browsers some fancier styles aren't, or use drop-downs, only one column, etc. - the sky's the limit. Style switchers that just change the color of the headers and links are pointless; style switchers that switch between different elaborately illustrated layouts that are all dark-on-light 800x600 fixed-width three-column structures are aesthetically nice but ultimately a waste of potential.
- Do not center your text. Things like headings can look good centered, but actual paragraphs are better off left-aligned or justified. When it's centered, the user's eye has to look for the beginning of the next line as they read, which is very distracting and annoying.
- Do not make links "jump" when hovered over. By "jump", I mean that hovering should not change the position or width of the text - don't make links bold, italicize or capitalize or center themselves (or whatever else actually moves them somehow) on hover. Firstly, moving text is always rather distracting. Secondly, I can't keep count of all the bold-on-hover menus I've seen where hovering over one of the links makes it too wide to fit into the menu so that it splits into two lines, shifting the entire menu downwards - very unprofessional-looking. Thirdly, in some cases it can lead to "flickering", if the user positions his or her mouse in such a way that it triggers the hover effect, which then moves the text so that it is no longer hovering over it, which makes it change back, and so on, resulting in a flickering effect.
- If you have a liquid layout (i.e. one that stretches to the full width of the user's screen), do not have a rectangular banner whose background does not match up with the actual background of the page behind it. It looks extremely tacky when there is a banner in the top center that looks all squared off by itself. When banners cannot be made to have their edges line up with the edges of the layout itself (which is only possible for fixed-width unless the banner is repeating), they should always be made so that they blend smoothly into the background at the sides.
- Do not use a splash page if there is no point in having one. There are really only two possible points to splash pages: a) being named for example index.htm if that's what your starting page must be named even though your real main page has another extension; and b) containing warnings, etc. that people must see before entering your site. (Then I mean stuff like "THIS WEBSITE CONTAINS ADULT CONTENT AND IF YOU ARE UNDER 18 YOU SHOULD LEAVE IMMEDIATELY" or "This is an art gallery, you must absolutely not use anything you find in it in any way and by entering you agree that you are aware of this and will face the consequences", not "Look, this site works in every browser!") If you don't seriously need one, then don't have one. Yes, I had an unnecessary splash page for years out of sentimentality and tradition (though I attempted to make it less annoying by having it redirect you straight to the front page proper if you had a style cookie set), but that was bad and you should save yourself the awkwardness by not making one in the first place.
- If one of your sections has a long name that doesn't fit into your menu, do not abbreviate it to fit it unless the abbreviation is an official or very common one. This especially applies if you have a "Do Not Click Here" page - it completely defeats the purpose if all the visitor sees is "DNCH", since then they'll just click there thinking "Hmm, what does that mean?" This also applies to abbreviations that may be a little more known than that, like "PotW" for Pokémon of the Week. If the actual phrase is spelled out somewhere nearby, such as if it's an abbreviation for the site's name which is (or should be) at the top anyway, or if you have a "Pokémon of the Week" and then below it a "PotW archive" or something, it will be fine since then it's easy to figure it out, but don't make the visitor have to click to have any idea what the section contains. It will be a better idea to think of something shorter that is at least slightly descriptive of what the section is - for a "Pokémon of the Week", you could for example make the link say "Featured Pokémon" or, if you need it even shorter, "Featured PKMN".
- Do not use background music. You can have it as an optional thing if you really must, but do not make it blast out from the visitor's speakers without warning when they come to your site.
- Really, generally don't put anything unwanted and unnecessary on your site, no matter what it is.
Page last modified April 02 2013 at 03:19 GMT