As I visit websites across the internet, I am constantly perplexed by
several common features of almost every website, Sailormoon or
otherwise. Why do so many webmasters insist on flashing their award banners and
blanketing their pages with "visit my message board!" buttons? What
about those incessant "sign my guestbook" messages? After contemplating
this for a while, I am yet to find a good answer.
First, I simply cannot understand why webmasters think winning
"SailorMerc985's kewl site award" (a made-up example) enhances their page at
all. Recognition is always nice, but think: do your website's visitors
Before I get overwhelmed with flames from pro-award websurfers, let me
make it clear that I am not against *all* awards. In fact, I myself
greatly appreciate when someone goes to the trouble to customize a graphic
or send me comments about my website. I only oppose award schemes with
pointless requirements like "must sign my guestbook" or "must have 200
To the webmasters who own these programs: do you want someone to sign
your guestbook because they are impressed with your site or because they
want your award? What is the satisfaction in such a guestbook entry?
Would you rather have 100 "nice site" comments or ten detailed entries
that give thoughtful opinions and constructive criticism?
Speaking of guestbooks...how often does one see a guestbook entry that
reads "Nice site. Visit my excellent page!" with a ridiculously large
banner? In my opinion, using guestbooks purely for self-promotion is an
insult to the site's owner. Quite simply, it is taking advantage of
someone else's site for one's own promotion. If you really want to be
recognized on someone's site, why not e-mail him/her and politely *ask* for
a link, perhaps with some comments about his/her site? Also, think: if
you are another visitor at the same site looking for a good Sailormoon
link, are you going to click on "recommended links" or "sign/view
guestbook?" Not only is it obnoxious, but posting huge banners in someone's
guestbook is also pretty useless, as only the webmaster is likely to
click on the link.
Again, I would like to emphasize that I am not against all guestbook
banners and links (I personally take a look at all links in my own
guestbook,) only entries that purely self-promote and have nothing to do with
the guestbook's site. It sounds cliché, but whenever you consider
posting to a message board or signing a guestbook, ask yourself, "How would
I feel if someone wrote the same thing on my site?"
As for message boards...I'm completely stumped. Why? Is someone likely
to visit a Sailormoon website because it has a message board? Besides,
unless your site gets hundreds of visitors a day, these boards are
likely to be very empty. With extremely active boards like Anime GrapeVine,
Sailormoon.org, and SMZCC, most message boards will see little
activity. Overall, these boards accomplish little more than taking up some
space on one's index or splash page.
Next, a word about splash pages: if your website has one, I suggest
seriously considering whether or not it is necessary. Splash pages with
huge pictures and "click to enter" text simply annoy any site visitor. On
the other hand, pages with multiple languages, browser-specific pages,
or unusual system requirements that could cause a visitor's computer to
crash are very understandable uses. Regardless of use, I highly
recommend making the page small and fast-loading to prevent the potential
visitor from getting frustrated and leaving.
While splash pages can certainly be used effectively, some may believe
that award programs and guestbooks are completely useless and
extraneous. I must disagree with this viewpoint, as there are many good uses for
both of these items. In my opinion, any award can be twice as effective
and rewarding if the award banner is customized, and especially if a
small review is included. I believe there is little satisfaction in
receiving an e-mail that simply reads "here's your award" with a generic
banner attached. The Witches 4 review group, for example, uses a perfect
combination of reviewing and award banners by giving constructive
comments on all submitted sites and distributing awards to sites that receive
7 or more stars on their 10-star rating system.
Guestbooks are a bit more difficult to use effectively, but I still
believe they can be useful. As a webmaster, it's always great to know
someone has a strong enough interest in my site to visit and sign a
guestbook. My site's guestbook is not located on the main index page to
discourage incessant self-promotion, and more importantly, because it is
*not* one of the main features of the site. Of course, one could completely
eliminate self-promotion by disallowing HTML tags, banning IP
addresses, and deleting certain guestbook entries. However, I am not against
*all* guestbook page promotion, just entries with huge banners and no sign
of interest in the guestbook's site.
Message boards are probably the hardest to use effectively. In my
opinion, the choice to employ them depends greatly on the type of website. A
news-oriented site with daily updates and a reputation of controversy
is the perfect stage for a message board. A multimedia archive, however,
would not be likely to benefit from a board. In the end, the
responsibility falls upon the webmster to provide sufficient discussion topics
for a successful message board. Personally, I would not recommend one on
a personal site, but the SMZCC at Apatt's SM Zone is a perfect example
that it *is* possible to successfully incorporate a message board.
In conclusion, I have a small word of advice to current and future
webmasters: before you race to add a guestbook, message board, poll, chat
room, or other extra to your website, ask yourself, "How does this
supplement my site? Would visitors be interested? Is it different from other
sites?" If you believe such a feature will add appeal to your site,
then go for it. Otherwise, resist the temptation and focus on something
that *really* makes your site stand out from the rest.
Comments on this article can be sent to: Ice.