It's now time to pick a host for your roleplay site. I’ll give a brief description of what each site has to offer. At the top of each review I have provided some links to help improve your site and a rating on how easy it is to operate the site. Hope it helps!
Web Address: http://www.spruz.com/
[A huge thank you to Lady Phoenix for suggesting this site.]
Spruz is probably the easiest out of them all. It gives you a 1-2-3 setup in picking a template and then a theme, which then lets you personalize it. But it is setup a lot more for a social/blogging site than just for Roleplaying. Using the Free Package will limit you to only having up to 50 members, and the max of 100 MB of file space. The plus side to this is that it's super easy creating a theme for your site if you're not good with coding. It also seems to be great at filtering out bots from joining your site. The Admin and Moderator features are decent enough for me to recommend this for new users. And just as a side note, it seems that using custom scripting for this site is a premium feature you have to pay for. In the end, I totally recommend this if coding is not your strong point and if this is your first time making a roleplay site.
Web Address: http://www.invisionfree.com/
Invisionfree would be the next easiest to use. But it is a little more advanced with the site options, and does call for you to know a little more about coding. Though, unlike Proboards, you are allowed to choose the size of your avatars displayed on your site. Invisionfree also allows for a sidebar feature. However, since Invisionfree has turned into Zetaboards, you will be given the option to convert your Invisionfree board over to Zetaboards. But once you've converted, you cannot convert back to Invisionfree. Keep in mind that it will also get rid of your Invisionfree theme that you had for your site (Zetaboards does not share the same coding that Invsionfree does). Also, Invisionfree doesn't have a proper search menu available. But in the end, it's a pretty decent site to go with.
-Choosing Proboards for Your Host:
Web Address: http://www.proboards.com/
Proboards has released Proboards V5, which allows you the option to update to V5 with your old Proboards, which will get rid of your old theme. PV5 has a more updated look than the old Proboards. Though it's pretty much the same, it just tried to get more user friendly by adding options on how you can customize your site. For example: you now get 3 different ways to edit your site Easy (Which lets you pick or edit preselected color themes), Medium (Which allows for you to add CSS code within your site) and Advance (Which allows for you to build your site using HTML). I also think it's cool that you can create your own Avatars for the site. It can, like the original Proboards, feel a bit overwhelming but once you get use to it, it's not too bad. All in all, it’s a great site for Advanced-beginners.
Zetaboard isn’t really made for a roleplay site, in my opinion. It acts more for blogging with its given options. You can still have the choice of resizing the displayed avatars on your site, and it's pretty much set up like Invisionfree, except with a few give and take site options. Like, the search menu works, and it's a little more organized with it's options, making it easier to get around the site. However, Zetaboards does not support the code for a proper sidebar. But since it's a lot like Invisionfree, this too is pretty decent.
-Choosing PHPBB Boards for Your Host:
Web Address: http://www.phpbb.com/
PHPBB is most definitely for advanced users. Heck, even trying to download it and install it is not for newbies. And this does make sense now why I don’t see many people using this to host their site. However, while I’m not sure all the features it offers, I did see that it supports a sidebar. And I have seen that you can make very professional looking sites, and can be used for blogging and roleplaying. But I can't really say if it's a great site to go with or not. It's something you'd have to decided for yourself.
-Choosing MyBB Boards for Your Host:
Web Address: http://www.mybb.com/
[A big Thank you to Silence for mentioning this to me!]
This is a lot like PHPBB in regards for it not being for newbies. This is also for more advance users and requires a lot of downloading and installing.Though, the upside to this is their Admin/Mod system, which just rocks and blows away all the other sites listed above. It allows for you to have full control over your site, while offerings a very handy banning/warning system which I just adore. For that alone it's worth checking out.
-Why I Didn't List Webs for Your Host:
I mean, after all, I am using it for my guide, right? Well, I'll tell you why I didn't list it, it's because Webs makes great for blogging and just making a web site, but not a roleplay. Granted, it is very easy to use and understand, but it doesn't give you the proper control that you'll need over your forums, topics, members or your staff team like the sites listed above does. On top of that, as I'm finding out, it's very glitchy and enjoys not saving your work and deleting paragraphs/sentences/pictures randomly. And this is why I'm not going to recommend it.
If this is your first site, or you're not very good at coordinating and picking out colors, then I would suggest you keep it simple. I would suggest using black or white to be the main color of your theme. And you could use blue, red, green, purple, yellow, or orange as your secondary color (but just pick one). Or you could only go with one color and just have different shades of that color throughout your site.
Also, please don't use bright obnoxious over-the-top colors for your theme. I'm talking about bright eye hurting reds and yellows. Remember to keep it soft and gentle on the eyes. You'll scare a lot of people off if your theme colors hurt their eyes. Remember that the longer you keep your site open, the more you'll familiarize with the code, the more professional your site will become. And soon you can have a brown, green and blue theme that will look just classy!
And please don't overload your site with garbage. I'm talking about glittering images, animated picture images and such. If you overcrowd your site, people will think that you're an immature child that has no idea what you're doing. People won't even bother checking out the storyline if your site is just simply too over-the-top. Remember, your site is going to reflect you and what you're about. It's going to say a lot about you if your site is a hot mess.
And don't rush when making your site just to hurry up and roleplay. I know how exciting it can all be when wanting to just open up your roleplay and play. But keep in mind that a well designed site will get its recognition. So, make sure your site isn't half way finished while you're trying to roleplay. Don't add that kind of burden on to you.
-Font Size and Colors:
I have read that small font makes a site look professional. And I won't argue with that. However, I have been to some sites with the font the size of dust! And to make matters worse, the owner had the nerve to make the font color three shades lighter than the grey background! This now made it near impossible to read. Let me break it down to you like this: Your site is going to be 99.9% all about reading. So why not choose a readable font color and size?
Keep in mind that some people's eyes may not be the best and they have been required to wear bifocals from birth. So keeping a decent sized font for them would be helpful. If you have a dark color scheme, then have a light font color for the words to stand out. If you have a light color scheme, then go with dark colors for the font. Remember, just make sure it's all readable and won't hurt or put strain on anyone's eyes.
-Colors and Patterns: [Thanks to Dragon for leading me to find a Banner maker!]
If you still need help or ideas for picking out patterns or colors to use for your site, you can check these sites out:
-Color Combos: http://www.colorcombos.com/combolibrary.html
-Background Patterns: http://www.bgpatterns.com/
-Stripe Generator: http://www.stripegenerator.com/
-Plaid Maker: http://www.tartanmaker.com/
-Banner Maker: http://www.bannerfans.com/banner_maker.php
-Image Hosting Sites:
If you need a place to upload your created banners and graphics, then check out the links below:
-Using an Image Manipulation Program:
If you wish to use a photo or image program to help you create and edit your color scheme for your site, I would highly recommend using Gimp. It's free, and much easier to use than some of the leading photo programs. And in my opinion is pretty much on the line of Photoshop. Again, to be free it's worth checking out!
-Gimp Tutorial: http://www.gimp.org/tutorials/
-Using Coding for Your site:
For those of you who wish to use basic or advanced coding to enhance your site, you can check out these sites for basic and advanced coding:
-HTML Coding: http://www.w3schools.com/html/html_examples.asp
-CSS Coding: http://www.w3schools.com/css/css_examples.asp
And this is what's called a 'Sub-header' above. See how the Sub-Header is much smaller than the Main Header, but still large enough to get your attention? Basically, we're still talking about setting up a topic, but we're breaking it down using Sub Headers to make it easier to read.
-Going Over Sub-Topics: <--- This is a Sub-Topic. Sub-Topics just help to emphasize the point of what we're going over. The point behind this is just to help break down a topic within a topic while still making it coherent. It just helps make things a little bit easier to follow.
-How to Dress Up a Sub-Topic: Since these are like mini headers, It's best to dress them up to make them more noticeable. This can be done using coding like 'Bold', 'Italic', 'Underline', or 'Symbols', 'Fonts' and 'Colors'. Though, if you choose to use a color to highlight your sub-topic, just be sure to stick to no more then two colors (See how all Sub-Topics are orange and all Main and Sub Headers are blue). Using multiple colors could cause some major eye damage.
Since your topics are made to explain how your site works. I recommend making sure you add up a Step by Step process on how to go about your site. Like:
Step 1- You must sign up at our site.
Step 2- Fill out your bio page.
Step 3- Introduce yourself.
-Adding Links to Your Site: Above, you can see there is an example of a 3 step process. Adding links leading to the sign up page, the bio page and introduction topic to that 3 step process will make it a breeze in navigating it. And it will also cut down on member confusion, or having them to ask for assistance to get to those pages. This will lighten the burden on you and your staff by a ton.
-Adding a Sidebar: I'd also like to recommend that you keep your site user friendly with a sidebar.
By adding links from your site to the sidebar, it'll make the site seem a lot less cluttered. Not to mention a lot easier for members to navigate and to find the rules, maps, and the main story of your roleplay.
-Say it Clear: I just want to stress this just a little bit more about explaining your site in a straightforward and simple way. Yea, sure, it can stroke your ego to have your entire site all typed out in Legal Jargon (How impressive!). However, it just doesn't make any sense if you and only a handful of people can understand your site. Keep in mind that you may understand what you're saying, because after all, you did type it. But, others may feel intimidated and confused about the site and what it's about or what is expected of them. You may lose a lot of great members that way. Keep in mind that there are a lot of prideful people out there that may have a hard time asking for help if they don't understand. If your site is straightforward and simple to read, then it may make them feel a little more at ease and a lot less threatened by your site's superior vibe. You may be thinking "But, this is the only way to weed out noobs and to get a more like-minded crowd!". No, your rules should be what weeds out the immature crowd and is what should attract the kind of crowd you're looking for. Again, this will be through clear, simple and straightforward guidelines of what you expect from your members, and what can be found at your site and how to navigate it.