Table of Contents
1.0 - Introduction
If you're reading this, chances are you have thought about or have made a website before. Though, if you haven't, rest assured, you will when you're done reading this guide. Years of experience have taught me pretty much everything one needs to know in order to successfully (and unsuccessfully) run a website. Instead of learning the hard way, you can read this guide and skip years ahead of the competition.
2.0 - Before you begin
Another problem with any website is hosting. Hosting a website is becoming cheaper by the day. You can literally pay for web hosting using spare change. If you really don't (or can't) pay for hosting, then there are lots of free hosts available online (a popular one is FreeWebs.com but I'd recommend doing a search on Google to find better ones that offer PHP and mySQL). As for your domain name, again, it is very cheap (just check GoDaddy.com if you don't believe me!) and a domain name shows your visitors you're serious about your website. Your website looks professional if it has its own .com
3.0 - Types of Runescape websites
There are four types of Runescape-related websites that you'd be able to create: Simple Character Page, Clan Website and Forum, Complete Help Site, or any Specialized Websites. Before I explain each of those, I'm sure some of you are already wondering why I didn't mention 'Forums' as the fifth type. That is because 'Forums' by themselves have next to no chance of survival. Starting with just forums from scratch will get you nowhere. The reason? Well, there's a good reason for everything I say and the reason for not starting off with just forums is because nobody wants to go to forums that are completely empty. Whatever you do, don't make forums first. Forums only complement a website, they are not the website. And if you don't know what forums are, great, you don't have to worry about them.
3.1 - Simple Character Page
This is the first and most useless type of website I'll have the displeasure of mentioning. What is it exactly? It is normally a very simple website about your Runescape character. It shows a picture or two, some personal information, a little history, name of in-game friends, and other stuff frankly nobody cares about. Unless you are the owner of a famous or very high-leveled character, I'd recommend not making this type of website. The reason I mentioned this is so nobody makes it. The whole reason behind making a website is so lots of people can come to your website. Always think from the users' point of view. Why would you go to a website about some character? (unless they are famous). In the rare occurrence that you are in fact famous, I'd recommend creating a blog rather than an actual website. Blogger.com allows you to easily create a blog about anything. It also gives you advanced coders ability to fully customize your blog-site with just about everything.
3.2 - Clan Website and Forums
Finally a website worth making: a clan website! The reason you'd make a clan website would be to recruit new members, show your visitors information about your clan, and post news and events for all to see. A clan website is fairly simple. It is meant to give users some very basic information. Sort of like an advertisement. Good clan sites offer their users more information than the basic stuff I mentioned above. I've seen some good introduction clan videos (you can host these on YouTube.com), war videos, image galleries, list of affiliate websites, member-lists with updated highscores, and even chat rooms (a free chat room system is available from PJIRC.com).
So, how do you make a killer clan site? Use a 'portal system' (a.k.a. CMS or Content Management System). A portal system does all the nitty-gritty for you, and all you have to do is input the information. Your site looks professional and somewhat unique. There are lots of portal systems out there. One I've used myself and would recommend (made by a friend) is PowerPortal - by Dark2k1 Development (you can find them on Dark2k1.com). Another popular portal system is called PHP-Nuke (phpnuke.org). You'd need a web-host that provides you with PHP and mySQL database to install these portal systems. You should be able to upload the entire thing to your website, then use your web browser to go to the setup or install file to run the installation utility. The toughest part is installing a portal system, and even then it is not that difficult. Once you've successfully installed it, you can begin customizing it. Change the title to your clan's name, add pages like 'Clan Information' and 'Clan Intro Video', etc. You'd also be able to change the colours and look of the site. Throw lots of Runescape-related graphics (cut out pictures of your clan members work well!) onto your website to give it a Runescape feel. For a full list of different portal systems (Content Management Systems) see here.
If you have the knowledge, you can, of course, make a clan website from scratch. The reason I stressed on a portal system is because it is simple, easy, fast, cheap, and caters to all requirements of a typical clan website. Whichever route you select, make sure your clan site stands out. Go to all the other clan websites you can find, list down all the features they have, and make sure your site has them all, and then some.
Forums (a.k.a. message boards) are a pretty good add-on to any website. They give your visitors a way to communicate to you and each other. The problem with forums is that they are the most difficult thing to get started. People only come when you have people, and if you don't have people already, new people won't come. So, what's the least difficult method of getting it off the ground? Get all your clan members to join your forum, allow guests to post, make only one board, and start lots of good discussions with your clan members. One of the greatest mistakes developers make is creating a forum with lots of boards (sections). Just start off with one board. This concentrates your discussion into one area and makes your forum look busy.
Remember how people come when they see other people? You must create an atmosphere that seems busy and filled with people to attract new visitors to join. I recommend creating one board (section) called 'Blogs' where only your clan members are allowed to post. Ask each clan member to create a topic with their name as the title. Then, ask them to reply to their own topic whenever they can with updates, such as: "Today I trained my attack with W13. Prepared for war tomorrow". For each day, they'd only be allowed a maximum of one reply in their topic. This way, everybody can see how the clan as a whole is doing, visitors can see how active your clan is, and it'd be easy to weed out inactive members.
3.3 - Complete Help Website
This is the most difficult type of website. More difficult than it sounds. Runescape has become such a complex game with thousands of items, lots of quests, and frequent updates, that it is impossibly difficult to keep a website up to date and still cover all aspects of the game. The competition is tough, well established, and been around for years. Nevertheless, like anything else, it is not impossible- just pretty close to impossible.
Making a complete help site will require lots of time. Make sure the next 6 months to 1 year aren't busy for you. Start by researching the help sites that already exist. A search on Google for 'Runescape' should bring up most of the good ones (spread over the first 2 or 3 pages in the results). Look at the information that they all offer: guides, tools, maps, etc. Would you be able to plagiarize all this information in a way where nobody finds out? I'm sure you've done it in school, and like it or not, you'd be doing it when making a new Runescape help site. Why? Because all the Runescape help sites offer the same type of guides, for example, you'll find a mining skill guide on every single Runescape help website. This leads us to wonder: does the world really need another help site?
3.4 - Specialized Websites
I'm shocked that very few people have actually thought of these types of websites. 'Specialized Websites' are sites that offer a specific tool (only). Instead of the developer going through the trouble of making an entire help website, he/she just makes a tool that lots of Runescape players will need. You may not understand until I give you some examples: an image (screenshot) uploader, a specific language website, dynamic signature creator, or a tool that lists all the clans and their members along with their Runescape levels (directly from the Runescape high scores). These websites are unique. Very few other websites (if any) offer the same services as them. That is the reason they're successful.
So, how do you make a successful Runescape site? Think of something that almost everybody in the Runescape world can use on a regular basis, nobody else can replicate, and people would be forced to link to your website from your competitors' websites. The only way your Runescape website will succeed is if your website has something to offer that the competition doesn't (and can't). If you don't have any unique bright ideas, you might as well not even go through all the effort just to create a carbon-copy website like the competition. It'll get nowhere.
4.0 - Getting your website popular
What good is a website if there are no visitors? Popularity = Success. There are a lot of ways to get people to your website. First thing you should after completing your website is to submit it to all the search engines (search for 'search engine submission' services on Google). This won't do you much good in the short-term, so don't depend on it. Then, forge alliances (trade links) with other websites of the same size. If your website is better, you'll successfully leech away all their visitors and get them to your own site. Also think about merging with other websites (specially if both of you have forums). It is better to be a part of something bigger, even if your part is smaller. The sad reality is that popular websites get even more popular and less popular websites keep getting less and less popular. So, jump at all opportunities to merge with other sites and grow. Staying more active than the leader of the other site (in the merger) will effectively win you the support of your visitors and staff. Also, ensure everything stays under your own domain-name. Never move your website away from a domain name that you yourself own- even when merging. One other popular method of promotion are 'TopSites'. A website that lists a bunch of other websites. As visitors vote for the sites, the higher on the 'TopSite' website they go. In my opinion, these are useless. They only suck away own traffic.
Another way of promoting your site is through videos. Make lots of videos and put your website's address at the bottom-right or at the very end of the movie, etc. Then, post your videos on YouTube, GoogleVideos, Porkolt, MetaCafe, and any other free video website you can. You may even post these on your competitions' forums (if they allow it). Fake (edited) screenshots with your website's address work well too- providing they are funny and unique.
The ultimate best way to gain traffic is to directly get it from high-traffic Runescape forums. Most forums allow you to have a signature. In the signature, you're allowed to place an image or text. This is free advertising for your website. Don't over-do it. Be discreet. I'd suggest making a half-banner-sized image and linking that image to your website. On the image, list some of the unique tools or information provided on your website (i.e. "My agility is at level 32 right now. Want a signature like this? Click here"). If you run a clan website, on most forums, you're free to advertise explicitly. Another word of advice is to make a hybrid site: a clan website and a specialized website of some sort. Needless to say, a hybrid site will allow you to advertise freely on most of those high traffic Runescape forums under the cover of a 'clan website'.
In the long run, the best place your website can be at is at the top of the search results on Google when somebody searches for the word 'Runescape'. I recommend reading up on SEO (Search Engine Optimization) and Google Pagerank. The secret is to have lots of unique updated content on your website and lots of have lots of similar websites link to yours. Google (and other search engines) provide an endless supply of free traffic. Getting even on the first or second page of search results is very difficult, but once there, it is very beneficial for your website.
5.0 - Making money off your website
You just finished touching up your website. Your friends think it's great. You're using my tips to promote it and finally your visitor counter is counting up. Time to make some cash, right? Wrong! Making money on the Internet is not easy. Especially when you're not selling anything! I'm not going to endorse selling anything Runescape-related though. What you can sell is space on your website. You can sign up to Google Adsense. They'll provide you with advertisements of various shapes and sizes of your liking to place on your website. When your visitors click those advertisements, you'll make a small amount of money. I recommend not doing this until you have at least 300 unique visitors per day coming to your website. Anything less than that is just not worth it. You will be making (less than) pennies a week if you try to earn money off a fresh new website. My advice is to not make money making your priority. Think about success. Think about popularity. Get your website known. Work towards creating unique new tools and having a team of friends constantly promoting your website everywhere they can. Another popular method I've seen is a PayPal donations button. It is completely useless as nobody will bother actually donating any money to you. Without serious traffic, it's not worth it at all. I'd recommend saving yourself the embarrassment of asking visitors for money (looking like the tramp in Varrock), and never even considering a PayPal donations button.
6.0 - Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)
Q: Can you make my website for me?
A: No, sorry. You'll have to make your own website.
Q: Where can I get help at this? I have questions!
A: Try Wikipedia or Google. I recommend reading tutorials online. If you still need help, post your question here
Q: Can you post a link to my website on your site?
A: No. Why should I? (Sorry to be harsh!) Why would anybody? Also, I'd recommend checking with sites that are of similar size to your own site. I've mentioned above methods of gaining popularity. Unfortunately, they aren't as simple as asking somebody to link to your website.
Q: Can I copy stuff from other websites?
A: No. What you can do is read their websites, think, and write it out in your own words.