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HOW TO BUILD A SUCCESSFUL WEB SITE

By Ben McClure
Posted Sunday, November 21, 2004

Think you have a successful site? Maybe you really do, but chances are it might need a little mending. Here's some simple ideas to remember when trying to create a friendly, worthy site.

1. Looks aren't everything.

Most sites can be categorized in two ways. Informative but lacking the helpful and pretty interface, or completely useless, but good-looking. Though I can't tell you how to make a great looking and informative site, because then they'd all look the same, what I can say is first, avoid the single-page web site, and the black-on-white, all blotched together default look. Add your own creativity to the looks. If you were a consumer, would you like how your site looks? Even before looks, though, you should know what information you're going to include. It should generally be something you're good at and/or know at least a respectable amount of information on, and you should have a legitimate reason for making the site. If this is done, you have the potential of having a good web site!

2. Interaction.

Your viewers hopefully like the information you give them. But, think they'll come back, or even stay there for more than 5 minutes? That's why there's things like forms, Java, DirectX, Dynamic-HTML, and Flash! If you know any of those, there are effective ways to use them all in your site. Just be creative, but avoid over-using any of them. Add search forms to your site, or a discussion board, possibly a web site members sign-up page, a contact page if needed. You need to let the users somehow interact with your site in somewhat of a helpful way. My site incorporates every one of those things I've mentioned.

3. Graphics

It is almost impossible to get by these days without _some_ graphics on your site. It is simply a requirement. If you don't have graphics, you might as well go back to Telnet. Title graphics, colorful bullets, pictures explaining your site, buttons, etc. all will give your site a more advanced look, even though it's so very simple to add them! Not good at making your own graphics? No problem! Can't pay someone to make your graphics? Still no problem! You can find thousands of total strangers everywhere who will make graphics for your site for free, simply because they have fun doing it. Go around and ask in chat rooms. I'll even make them for you =).

4. Web location.

Though it's not a big issue for text-only and low-graphics sites, but if you want people to come to your site, your servers need to be tolerable. If you have the most beautiful site in the world, better than your competitor Bob's, and the information would score an A++ on any review, but your servers are down 1/2 the time, and crawling the other 1/2, then Bob will get all the business. You can find good servers easily, and even freely sometimes, if you look hard enough. If you have the money, pay, it's almost _always_ better. You get no advertisements from them on your site, and usually faster, more reliable service, plus an easier to remember URL. Free services are getting better, however, but you'll have to deal with some form of advertising from them on your pages.

5. PROMOTION PROMOTION PROMOTION

Most people make a site,then sit back and hope to see the hits rack up. This simply does not happen these days, with hundreds of thousands, possibly millions of other sites covering the same topics you do.

The answer is simple yet complicated. Simply stated, GET NOTICED. The full explanation: Submit your site to search engines, advertise in every way possible everywhere possible, use word-of-mouth, advertise locally in school or at work or in the bar, just let people know! Generally, unless your site is really great, you won't get too many friend's of visitors on it, so don't rely on others too much.

This article assumes you know the basics of making web pages, such as basic HTML and adding graphics. If not, or if you'd like to learn some advanced things, why not check out some tutorials from places like (http://www.webmonkey.com) or (http://www.pcshowandtell.com)? They'll help you a lot.

Ben McClure, (http://www.falloutgames.com).

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