The Lemures Files
  Guest Article: September 1st, 2000

Website Extras: Why?

By: Ice

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 really care?

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 guestbook entries."

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 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,, 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.

Comments made on this page are opinions of the author. They are not necessarily shared by Tripod and the Amazoness Quartet.

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