Terrouge E-zine Archives
Four Easy Steps to Designing a Great Redwall Site
You've had fun in all those Camp Willows and Snowfur Encyclopedias of Redwall past, right? (And hopefully read Terrouge issues of Redwall past too.) You've participated in activities, chatted on the boards, and gained two or three ranks. You've perused through the deep fathoms of information and even tried a recipe, with great success (or not). But despite the enjoyment you've had with the site, you've always wanted your own. So you tried making your own, and I bet you've got an HTML file on your hard drive that hasn't been touched in a year. Even if none of this applies to you, I still hope you're in the least bit interested in what makes a good Redwall site. To keep it as simple and relevant as possible, I'll do it in the format of my site reviews. Doing great in these categories will not only score well with the reviewer, but with the readers too.
How eye-catching is the first page? Is it easy to navigate? Does the layout make sense? These are some of the questions that may be brought up when it comes to your site's presentation. Depending on what kind of a site you have, you'll want a certain atmosphere to it. A good example is the (former) Imperial Navy Serving Ublaz. The black shale background and red and orange spidery text conveyed the sense of actually being on the vermin isle of Sampetra. Remember that the key here is to keep it consistent. Another major help is frames. The club banner on top and a menu on the left may not be the most original design, but it is one of the most professional. Making the frames the right size from the start will prevent any scrollbars from bothering the site visitors, and you want as little annoyances as possible. Navigating your site should be so easy that a five year old could do it. If the five year old can do it in their sleep I owe you a Coke. Make sure every page has some sort of link back to a menu or a higher priority page. If you're utilizing a tree sort of system, with sub-pages branching out from the big vital ones in the trunk, you'll be preventing many people from getting lost. Keeping the layout as logical as possible is a logical idea itself.
You obviously want to make your site very pretty. However, that doesn't mean plastering huge - as in both on-screen size as well on-disk space - picture files all over the place. If you put too many on a single page, the page's loading time may suffer drastically. You don't want to sit for two minutes and wait for a picture to load, and neither do your readers. Don't forget that even if your modem can handle it, it doesn't mean that some 56K user can. If you're one of them, not only do I pity you and suggest DSL, but that if you don't have any problems with an image then it's all set for go. Also, if your site is a fan-art collection, thumbnails are a great alternative to full-size pictures as well as text lists. Of course, graphics are not just about standalone .gif's and .jpg's. Background and text matter too. Having dark gray text on a black background is not such a great idea, and neither is green on red. Keep good taste in mind as well. A black backdrop and white Times New Roman text may contrast well enough to be legible, but they are not very stylish. Put in some blues, yellows, Comic Sans MS, and the such. For a Redwall site, though, hot pink Algerian is rarely a good choice.
For most site-building experts, the top three things a good page must have is - in no particular order - content, content, and content. If you're making a Redwall kitchen site, I would not suggest having just one recipe, and candied chestnuts at that. Shove your reference site full of facts and information until you can barely organize it anymore, put as many activities into your club until you can't manage all the member input. Of course, quantity is not everything. If you plan on having three activities, don't make them a word scramble, an Outcast of Redwall quiz, and a poetry contest. A good tip for making activities is to make them as least reliant on words as possible. If all people wanted to do were to write missions or character descriptions, they'd be publishing their second novel by now. Give the member the least amount of work to do as you can: instead of making them send you an e-mail for whatever they did each time, give them a form to fill out instead. In a club, it is the members who give most of the content, so you may as well make it easier for the content to flow in.
This is probably what will make or break your site. In the case of a reference site of sorts, the only thing that'll keep readers coming back for more is simply loads of useful information. When it comes to a club, however, the lasting appeal is a much more complex affair. The Achilles heel of managing a club is that you really do need to manage it. This means constantly updating. Once the member roster hits 50 or so, your Inbox starts to pile up with club-related messages at an incredibly fast rate, and it's hard to keep up with refreshing the roster with new points, ranks, and members. Even worse is changing the activities, like quizzes, every month. As more and more input floods in, the update interval gets longer and longer until you decide to drop the whole thing and shut the club down. Some clubs find an efficient method of member management, however. The most used course of action is assigning active members to be second- or third- in command, depending on how many helpers there are already. Some club leaders simply assign one activity's management to one member. This system's efficiency is dependant upon the newly "privileged" members' devotion and loyalty to the leader. Another way is to make fancy shmancy computer programs do everything for you. The first, and frankly only, impressive tidbit about Mountains of the North was that when you joined or sent in several specific activities, the system automatically put the information up on the respective page. Whoever uses a program like this should remember, however, to manually do whatever is not taken care of by the program. This was Mountains of the North's downfall, and the only thing that delayed its "death" was the message board. It is a fairly universally good idea to add a chatroom or forum (or both) to a site. Having your readers argue amongst themselves definitely keeps them from arguing with you, and gives more interactivity with your site. At Terrouge, for instance, when you're done reading the articles on the fifth of the month you can rant about them on the message boards until the next issue comes out. And if the next issue hasn't come out for a while, you can rant about that too. Lasting appeal indeed. ^_~
Think your site fulfills everything here? Send us your site address and we may review it in a future issue!