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I went looking for forum words of wisdom . . .

Gems and words of wisdom in our own backyard from the WW master himself

5:33 pm on Nov 10, 2004 (gmt 0)


WebmasterWorld Administrator webwork is a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 10+ Year Member Top Contributors Of The Month

joined:June 2, 2003
votes: 24

This is pure plagiarism, a copy and paste, with all kudos going to the big kahuna, BT himself, dating back to August 2002. I posted it here because, in my search for guidance regarding a project I'm working on, Brett's statement is, well, you decide:


You want to know the secret of WebmasterWorld's success? Here it is: Focus on the members - focus on their messages - focus on their contributions.

Make that the most important thing on the page. Everything else on the page is noise - it's counter productive. It just clutters the page.

Information is what you came here for, it's what you stay for. Features and gimmicks? I've got dozens upon dozens of features built into the software that have not been (and won't be) turned on. Signatures, karma system, Upload Files, html posts, Images in posts, Polls, Ignore/twit lists, ThreadRank (shh-top secret) moding system, calendar system, who's online, chat, threaded/unthreaded, plugins, ad system in 3 flavors - etc etc...on and on.

I put them in there for a potential commercial system and some folks want that stuff on their forum. I don't want them here because it's just noise - it's just noise. Your messages are what we are here for, and that's what we focus on.

Interesting this discussion popped up. There's an opportunity here to talk about some things that have went on this week and have been also building for months. The following is in general terms only.
This business of seo and site ownership is laced full of half truths, unsupported hearsay, and outright lies from weekend experts who learned it on some other site saying the same thing.

There is an entire legion of site owners who go to forums, usenet, and other online places in honest attempts to learn the secrets of the wizards. How can I build a successful site? How can I get more traffic? Most often in other forums those are answered by people just repeating what they read on some other site that was previously repeated from some other site.

I wouldn't put myself in the class of a webmaster wizard, but my previous post was based on years of experience doing this. That's not one you'll find in an internet book of the month club. Even when you draw back the curtain and expose what is behind, some people just don't or can't believe their eyes. Yes, there are occasions when the emperor isn't naked and a cigar is more than just a cigar - this is one of those occasions.

Specifically, I don't think there is a more informative or valuable message about community building on this system than the previous one I left above. Reread it - that's it - it's all I got - all cards on table.

Polls? Sure they are gimmicks. We aren't about polls here, we are about webmaster education and help with specific problems. We are "News and Discussion". We are not "polls and surveys". They are a distracting gimmick.

Everything on a page of this site that isn't directly involved in discussion between community members, is clutter. Most of that clutter is a Gimmick.

E-a-friend? Gimmick.
StickyMail? Gimmick.
Printer Friendly? Gimmick.
Control Panel options? Gimmick.
Flags, Skins, My threads? Gimmick, Gimmick, and Gimmick again.
Profiles? Gimmick, but a gray area since it's still in direct and personal support of members and their messages.

Here's the full monte soapbox version:

- Content is still the king. What brings people to a site and keeps them coming back is content. Unique, original, and engaging content. Don't have that? No success.

Our content is provided by the members. Members and their content is what we are here for. It's what we are here to do - it's all that really matters.

- Gimmicks do not support that. They are actually counter productive to the sites mission. Chat, Polls, Surveys, and other "junk", are just gimmicks that clutter a site and obscure it's mission.

Look at Infoseek, Yahoo, Altavista. What happened to all them? They forgot what their users came for and instead went off on tangents that have turned out to be -- you guess it -- gimmicks. If you treat every user as a wet collar newbie in search of a portal and all your site will have is newbies. Speak to a higher audience and that's what you'll attract.

Everyone seems to think there is a magic golden goose out there laying millions of new internet users ever day. The big web expansion is over, and users are much more sophisticated today than they were just two years ago. They know how to find what they want. You can't be everything to everyone. Trust the Google Tom Peters (In search of excellence) model. Do one thing, and do it better than anyone else. The model works.

Content is what we are here for - it's all that really matters.

- Google proves that there is room for single task excellence. There are a million untried ideas out there and a million more that could have been successful. They were cast off with the portal one-site-fits-all madness of the late 90's. Do one thing, do it better than any one else.

Content is what we are here for - it's all that really matters.

- Again, striped down sites are retro cool. Google is not an accident. Users want brain dead obvious navigation systems and don't want to spend 10 mins figuring out some motor head groovy rolled over flashed out dom navigation system. Black text on a white background, done.

Design is just one minor aspect of the bigger picture. 60% Content, 35% Usability and 5% Design are what make a site.

Some of your content brings them, your navigation system helps them to find more, and the design stays out of their way so they aren't distracted. That brings em back for more.

Some talk about SEO and a few bad apples out there. SEO can't begin to compete with the web page graphic designer and some of the web page designers out there. An entire community has been sold on "graphics are everything to the success of a site". Now we are into an era where there are so many designers that do nothing but visit design sites and give each other awards, that they think they are successful. They are going around screaming, I got the data to prove graphics makes the difference. It has become a self fulfilling prophecy.

When you look at the people with real world independent success (Google again) or are doing the real world testing (Neilsen), they all say the same thing: graphics don't do anything but hurt a site. They only work when they are in support of content - a picture to go along with a story.

Content is what we are here for - it's all that really matters.

- A sites reputation is important in a world of instant communication. After you are successful, the challenge isn't to do something brilliant (you've already done that), it's to keep from doing something stupid. Continue to tweak, but if it ain't broke, don't fix it.

Content is what we are here for - it's all that really matters.

- Don't be clone. Millions upon millions of sites out there are clones. You won't get noticed because of that latest "gimmick". You will get noticed and stay noticed because of your content. Guess what?

It's all that really matters.



Thanks Brett. I needed that. It was getting complicated. It just got simple again. ;-)

1:58 pm on Nov 11, 2004 (gmt 0)


WebmasterWorld Administrator rogerd is a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 10+ Year Member

joined:Aug 2, 2000
votes: 0

Well said, Webwork. WebmasterWorld is one of the most successful forums on the web, and hence is a great example for those of us who own or administer other forums. It's amazing how simple powerful ideas can be, and equally amazing how often these concepts are ignore.
4:45 pm on Nov 15, 2004 (gmt 0)

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joined:Sept 25, 2003
votes: 0

Let me start out by saying that I agree with the big BT.

60% Content, 35% Usability and 5% Design are what make a site

If you spend your time working on the above in the same percentages, you will be successful. However, I think Brett is over simplifying his message. His equation works for HIS site. Polls may just be noise to this site, but they can be quite a draw for others. If you have the content, people will come, and people will come back, regardless of the design and fluff. That's absolutely true. However, I don't believe this forum design would succeed in many other markets. There are markets where a more polished look and sticky gimmicks will help you to succeed over competitors. This site is information motivated and that's why that model succeeds. Some site's are a little more fluff motivated. If the design of this site was visually displeasing, I wouldn't even sit through to read the content.

People are using search engines to navigate the web more and more. My logs are filled with referers of search engines that have my url as the keyword. They type it into their googlebar instead of the address bar. More people are using searches to navigate a site than the navigation. If content is truly king, most people will find your site through a search for the content that you feature. If your site isn't sticky motivated, what's the likelyhood of them bookmarking your site for future inquiries versus them just doing another search on the whole web. If you provide some fun gimmicks for your users it may give them that push they need to stick around.

I still agree with Brett, you shouldn't be spending your time overstyling your site. Your focus should always be on the members and their messages. But I believe some gimmicks and polish help to serve the members. Content is king, but gimmicks are queen. Content is not all that matters, it just matters most.