The A to Z of website creation - adding more toys ...
One of the best ranges of services offered for new web designers comes from http://www.Bravenet.com .
Bravenet offer tools that are easy to set up, and simple to access, however they carry that “newbie” or “amateur” tag. They are not suitable on a professional business website, but for a homepage you may find just the tool you want. At a later stage you can change from Bravenet to more professional looking services.
So what do they have that you want?
You want a place where people can make comments about your website and ask questions.
Feedback is good to have, and guestbooks are the most common way to receive it. Guestbooks are also handy to use on other peoples sites as well.
If you put the address of your website in another persons guestbook, it acts as free advertising for your website when people read it. It may also increase your ranking in search engines as the guest book might be seen as ‘linking’ to your site (under some circumstances). So guestbooks are handy to have and to use.
When you get your website up, it may have an address that is difficult to remember and impossible for people to record.
The address for my site was initially “homepages.ihug.co.nz/~smith/index.html.” Who the heck could remember that! So I used a redirect URL. It was a short address that people could remember and redirected people to your site.
The problem with redirect URLS is that search engines ignore them, so they are not a long term solution, and as search engines also ignore addresses like mine was as well, its no benefit in that respect. So they are only useful to give out to people.
Chat, message board, polls and others
Bravenet offer other tools but for a beginning website they may be less successful.
When you have a flow of people through your site then a message board is a good addition as it creates a sense of community and feedback. However an empty message board spells DEAD, so you may have to work at putting the posts on initially.
A chat room is fun, but again unless you have the flow of people it will be empty.
Polls can be interesting but only if they are changed frequently and get a good flow of votes.
So these tools may only come in useful on a more established site.
Live News content
What can be handy is having content for your website that someone else provides. This looks good as it is updated frequently but can have a negative effect if it sends people away from your website to someone else.
As far as I know the best form of live news is at http://w.moreover.com/
However live news is no substitute for having unique content of you own.
Although the temptation is to grab all the toys you can and add them to your site, in the end the simpler the site is the better it may look. Some tools seem a good idea but have either past their use-by date or are just not popular.
Into his category fall Web rings.
They were popular in the 80’s and 90’s and seem a good idea however they are no longer popular and give little benefit to a site.
Web rings are meant to group similar topics together. This is handy if you are a small site and want to piggyback on another sites popularity, but search engines have taken over the role of finding topics areas. .
“Recommend this site” tool is also in the dud category, has anyone ever used this? A good idea that languishes unwanted.
Tools to flee from
Free for all linking. Search engines hate this structure and will penalize you for using, let alone having this on your site. Not a good idea at all.
Search engine submission tools. They don’t work, one of the great net cons. Do it by hand, it’s the only sure way.