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The Tiger Roars
Building Your Own 40K Site
Introduction <> Content  <> Set-up <> Maintenance

Building Your Own 40K Site: Introduction 
If you’re reading this, then you’ve visited at least one 40K site on the web. Hopefully, you’ve visited a lot of them—many of them are quite good. Perhaps you’re thinking of starting your own site. If you are—and you’d like to put together a quality site—let me offer you some friendly advice.

Some background: I’m an amateur webmaster who has been running this site since February 2000. This site is very large (over 30 MB) and has been revised twice. The Jungle has consistently been in the Top 10 of the Warp’s Top 40K Sites Poll for years now. I average about 200 hits a day—not awesome numbers, but they don’t suck, either. This site has a rather rabid following, and several of its visitors become contributors. In addition, I have been a technical writer and editor for the U.S. federal government and have taught technical writing and other English courses on the college level. 

I mention all this not to blow my own horn, but to establish some credentials with you, the visitor. I like to think that I know what I’m talking about when it comes to creating and running a successful 40K site, and I hope you’ll agree.

I’ve already touched on a number of related points in the editorial 5 Suggestions for Your 40K Website. I’ll elaborate on them here, adding on some the insights I’ve gained since I wrote that piece. To set your mind at ease, I’ll tell you right now that this series isn’t going to get too technical: you don’t need to know the difference between HTML and XML, for example. Nor will I get too down in the weeds on website design theory—if you’re interested, there are tons of books out there that can tell you more. 

Ready? 

Getting down to it
When creating a website, there are three things you need to think about: 

  • Content, or what you’re going to put on the site
  • Set-up, or how you’re going to build the site; and
  • Maintenance, or what you’re going to do with the site once you’ve built it. 
Before I go any further, let’s take a look at two crucial elements that will lift your website above most all of the others out there. Those elements are reader-centered writing and visitor-friendly website design.

Reader-centered writing
“Reader-centered writing” is a concept used by technical writers, guys like me who get paid to write text. The basic idea is that you write material in a way that’s easy for the readers to read and understand. Why? Because reading is work. You probably don’t think reading is work, but it is. Ever sat down to read for a few hours and felt exhausted when you stopped? That’s because reading taxes your eyes and your mind. 

Here are some techniques writers use when drafting reader-centered text:

  • Adhering to a conversational vocabulary; 
  • Segmenting the writing into small chunks broken by “white space” and/or multiple headings; 
  • Providing “road maps” for readers to follow; and 
  • Providing lists and tables whenever possible. 
For an example of reader-centered writing…well, you’re looking at it. I’m using conversational English and lots of pronouns—“I” and “you”—to adopt a familiar, relaxed tone that readers won’t find threatening. As you read along, doesn’t it “sound” like I’m hanging out with you, just talking normally? Though I’m teaching you the same thing I taught my technical writing students, this article doesn’t read like a college textbook, does it? 

Notice how each paragraph is relatively short and sweet. Notice all the “white space”—that’s the parts of the page that don’t have words written over it. “White space” (light green in this case) gives the eyes a chance to rest. Scroll up and down the page—go ahead, take your time, I’ll wait—and notice all the headings that separate this lengthy article into bite-sized nuggets. In fact, even the overarching structure of this series (four installments instead of one) is designed to make it easier to read. 

“Road maps” are text messages that indicate to your readers what’s coming up. Remember this passage, from just a few paragraphs ago?

When creating a website, there are three things you need to think about: 

  • Content, or what you’re going to put on the site
  • Set-up, or how you’re going to build the site; and
  • Maintenance, or what you’re going to do with the site once you’ve built it. 
Before I go any further, let’s take a look at two crucial elements that will lift your website above most all of the others out there. Those elements are…

That’s a “road map.” After reading that, the visitor has an idea of how the article is organized and what path it’s going to take, making the information easier to comprehend. The visitor now has an idea that in addition to what they’re currently reading, there are three major sections. The visitor also knows what will be discussed in each section. But before they begin reading those sections, there will be a some more introductory material. 

Long strings of data are hard to read and understand. Lists and tables break these up and make them easier to comprehend. Here’s an example, written in paragraph form:

Strikeforce Gupta: Space Marine Leader with bolt pistol, chainsword, frag and krak grenades (35 pts); 4 Scouts with bolt pistols and chainswords, 1 Scout with heavy bolter (80pts); 8 Tactical Marines with bolters, 1 with missile launcher, 1 with melta gun (170 pts); Veteran Sergeant with bolter-flamer and power weapon, 9 Tactical Marines with bolters (190 pts) and Rhino with smoke launchers, extra armor, and hunter-killer missile (73 pts); 3 Land Speeders with heavy bolters (150 pts); 2 Attack bikes with multi-meltas (separate squadrons; 65 pts each); Predator Annihilator with lascannon sponsons, extra armor, searchlight (151 pts); Land Raider with hunter-killer missile and smoke launchers (268 pts). Army total: 1247 pts.
Here’s the same text, written as a list:
Strikeforce Gupta:
Space Marine Leader with bolt pistol, chainsword, frag and krak grenades (35 pts); 
4 Scouts with bolt pistols and chainswords, 1 Scout with heavy bolter (80 pts); 
8 Tactical Marines with bolters, 1 with missile launcher, 1 with melta gun (170 pts); 
Veteran Sergeant with bolter-flamer and power weapon, 9 Tactical Marines with bolters (190 pts);
Rhino with smoke launchers, extra armor, and hunter-killer missile (73 pts); 
3 Land Speeders with heavy bolters (150 pts); 
Attack bike with multi-melta (65 pts); 
Attack bike with multi-melta (65 pts); 
Predator Annihilator with lascannon sponsons, extra armor, searchlight (151 pts); 
Land Raider with hunter-killer missile and smoke launchers (268 pts). 
Army total: 1247 pts.
Bit easier to read, isn’t it? Now here it is as a table:

Strikeforce Gupta

Space Marine Leader with bolt pistol, chainsword, frag and krak grenades
35 pts
4 Scouts with bolt pistols and chainswords, 1 Scout with heavy bolter 
80 pts
8 Tactical Marines with bolters, 1 with missile launcher, 1 with melta gun
170 pts
Veteran Sergeant with bolter-flamer and power weapon, 9 Tactical Marines with bolters
190 pts
Rhino with smoke launchers, extra armor, and hunter-killer missile
73 pts
3 Land Speeders with heavy bolters
150 pts
Attack bike with multi-melta
65 pts
Attack bike with multi-melta
65 pts
Predator Annihilator with lascannon sponsons, extra armor, searchlight
151 pts
Land Raider with hunter-killer missile and smoke launchers
268 pts
Army total
1247 pts

Now that I’ve discussed reader-centered writing, let me move on to visitor-friendly website design (the preceding sentence, by the way, was another example of a “road map”). 

Visitor-friendly website design
This is the HTML equivalent of reader-centered writing. You make the site easy for the visitor to use. Instead of thinking to yourself, “What’s the easiest, fastest way I can make and post my site without breaking a sweat?” you take the time to consider what your visitor would want to see and how they’d want to see it. Sure, you might know your site forwards and back and know where everything is and how to get to it, but does someone who just showed up for the first time? Think about things like that.

Some options to consider:

  • Selecting a background that eases eyestrain; 
  • Organizing your content into logical categories;
  • Following a consistent layout; and 
  • Creating an intuitive, easy-to-use navigation system.
As for examples—again, you’re looking at them. Whatever your opinion of green is, the light green pastel background that this text rests on is less tiresome to the eyes than plain white. If your site has a lot of text, plain white is usually bad, not because it’s boring, but because basically, your visitor is staring into a large light bulb. 
 
Conversely, avoid using a black background with white or green text (what you’re reading now, and what you often see used on 40K sites, including the old version of the Jungle). Yes, the “star field” design looks cool, but it’s actually hard on the eyes. 

Notice also that the content of this site is broken up into (hopefully) logical sections. There’s a “Fighting Tigers” section, which has everything directly related to my army, and then there’s an “Other Pages” section that deals with everything else. Each main section is broken into smaller categories: the “Fighting Tigers” sections breaks down into Codex, Tactics, Gallery, Allies and Enemies, and fiction (“Tales of the Tigers”). 

The (new) layout of the Jungle is consistent throughout. Every page has the same “look and feel.” Backgrounds are all the same, fonts are all the same, colors used are all the same, titles are in the same places, bylines are in the same places, etc. Consistency makes your visitors comfortable. They become familiar with your site and know where to look for stuff. And usually, the most important thing they’re looking for (after good content, of course), is ease of navigation. You know, getting around the site. 

Each section of this site has corresponding links at the top and bottom of each page: no matter where you are in the Jungle, you can always get to, say, the first page of the Campaigns section by following the link at the top or bottom.

Why top and bottom? You can have your navigation located on the side of your pages, either with or without frames. The Jungle’s old design had sidebar navigation. But many people find it easier to navigate at the top or the bottom. From the top, they can easily hop to another page they like. Or they can read down the page and conveniently jump to another page from the bottom. 

So having discussed reader-centered writing and visitor-friendly website design, let’s talk content.
 
Next page: Content
Next page

Building Your Own 40K Site
Introduction <> Content  <> Set-up <> Maintenance

Like what you've seen? Then vote for the Jungle in the "Top 100 40K Sites"

© Copyright Kenton Kilgore, December 2002. 
 

Top

Fighting Tigers:
Codex <> Tactics <> Gallery <> Allies and Enemies <> Tales of the Tigers

Other Pages:
Main <> What's New <> Site Index <> The Tiger Roars <> Themed Army Ideas
Events and Battle Reports <> Campaigns <> Terrain <> FAQ <> Beyond the Jungle