This was written right at the start of 2001. Some of it was useful. Some of it was a shameless ploy to direct readers into a choice that would only benefit me! Me! ME! Muahaha!
Nevertheless; despite the mercenary tactics I still find it interesting that GameWyrd was set up to be geeky and a digital marketing success as far back as 10 years ago (it’s 2010 now!). I’m now in digital marketing!
That’s great. The online roleplaying community is one of the best. You’ll find fellow webmasters are happy to offer advice, aid and sometimes even web space. Getting started can be rather intimidating though and so this short essay has been put together in an attempt to make things less scary for you.
It is often the most obvious thing that gets over looked. If you’re flirting with the idea of putting up a webpage for fellow Gamers then take your idea and inspiration and focus on it. Really focus. Is there enough information to fill up a web page? Is there enough for a whole web site? Can you add more? Should you trim out some of the surplus? Is it an idea that translates well into the text and pictures that form the basis of the internet?
Don’t fall victim to copyright. The very last thing you want to face the morning after a marathon nine hour gaming session is a notice of incoming legal action. I’ve seen entire sites shutdown because their domain name sounded too like an established brand name. It’s not too gloomy; most game companies are good sorts and actually like to see fansites. White Wolf, for example, has a clearly spelt out policy for FanSites. You might well have seen the official White Wolf fansite banner on some webpages. The thing to remember is not to claim other people’s ideas or work as your own and not to try and sell something that you don’t have the permission to.
The Basics of Page Building
These days there is no shortage of programs that’ll cobble together a webpage for you. WYSIWYG (What You See Is What You Get) programs often let you simply drag paragraphs of text or pictures around to where you want them to appear. This is a good way to quickly produce a page but all to often the code behind the scenes is messy and awkward. You might not care, though. Learning basic HTML really isn’t that hard and it can make the difference between hosting a successful RPG site and spending hours on a dead duck. I started on HTML Goodies and I’d recommend it to you.
Where do you put your page?
A few years ago there were plenty of free web hosts (so called because they “host” your web pages for internet access) who would safely and securely display your work. Not any more. In recent months even the biggest and the best of the “free” sites have imposed more and more limitations. GeoCities, for example, now enforce a monthly bandwidth limit. That means after X Number of people have looked at your pages the whole site is temporarily closed. Not very nice, huh? One of the best places to have put your RPG site was on the RPG Host but they’re just as human as the rest of us and at the time of writing aren’t accepting any more free sites.
The solution is simple enough. Pay. Ouch. Yes. I know that sounds a little harsh but you’re able to buy your very own web space for the cost of a couple of pizzas. Rather than seeing some dreadful movie spend the money on a month of webspace.
Having your own space means you be able to hook up with a domain name of you own. The large companies sell domain names by the second. If you’ve found a good name and no one else has claimed it then think seriously about grabbing it now. After all, you have little to loose. The domain name costs even less than the web space and you’ve a whole year (or two) to do something with it. DomainNames.com is run by VeriSign and so is likely to be able to provide you with reliable and secure service. That said, you don’t have to pay for a domain name. Domain forwarding is often free. V3 is, perhaps, the largest. You might well have seen the “Jump.To”, “Go.To”, “Fly.To”, etc, style of web address. Domain forwarding works by selecting a short and catchy web address and using it to point to your normal space.
Too many webmasters encounter banners only after they’ve finished the design for their site. You probably hate them but banners are well and truly part of the mesh that holds the internet together. If you’ve gone for a free web host then the chances are that banners (other people’s banners) have been forced onto your site. If you own your own space then you have more control.
There are two main types of banners: exchange and commission. If you’re a webmaster of an RPG site then you’re lucky because the community has a great selection of large and stable exchanges. My favourite is the RPGHost’s Exchange since it’s the largest and you can get started straight away. You can find a list of some other exchanges to consider on GameWyrd’s resource page. The exchange principle is simple – whenever your site shows a banner from the exchange another site that’s part of the exchange shows your site’s banner. This means that your site is being advertised on similar web pages and helping to attract visitors to yours. The other type of banner is entirely more optimistic. Banners can, in theory, earn you money. You’ll be lucky to find a banner that pays you pennies whenever a new person clicks on it. You’ll be more likely to find a banner that pays you a commission should someone go through it and buy something on the merchant site straight away. It doesn’t happen very often. This is the way the Amazon affiliate scheme works. GameWyrd also uses TradeDoubler and gets some pretty good deals from them.
It is likely that you’ll need banners on your site. If at all possible find a place for banners on your site while you’re still designing it. Nothing looks tackier than an awkward collection of banners thrown on the bottom of a page.