After receiving the WPVote domain and theme from Jean I moved on to stage 3. Researching ‘competitors‘ websites.
I must admit I tend not to do too much research when building a website, but this time I did decide to do some look into similar sites for inspiration.
WPVote is essentially a Digg clone, so I knew what to make, but at the same time I wanted to make it something a little bit different so I felt that looking at similar sites would be a good way to get me going.
When viewing these sites I was more interested in the structure and information architecture, ie what is on the homepage and where, as opposed to how the site functions. I am very interested in creating something new, but at the same time these types of sites have created a conventions of their own so I want to keep things within a recognised format.
Some of the things I took from looking at these sites include:
- Use a right hand sidebar – keep the submitted content nice and prominent
- Include vote buttons, and vote count (vote up and down, or just up?)
- Display the article domain before the excerpt
- Link to the submitted articles. A lot. Reward people for submitting their content
- The front page is used to display the top voted content
- Some sites also used the homepage to display recent submissions
- Site categories are displayed in the main site menu
- Design is simple, focus is on the content
- Include images/ screenshots with the submissions where possible
These key points gave me a decent starting point for my site mockups. Again this isn’t something I do too often, generally preferring to jump straight into fireworks or freestyle the HTML, but this time I thought I should try to arrange my thoughts a little better.
Once I worked out what I wanted to display I had to decide which technology the site would run on. To be honest this wasn’t a very hard decision, especially since a lot of the work had been done by Jean for the current version of the site, but I (very very) briefly considered using prebuilt Digg style software such as Pligg. For me, though, it seemed best to use what I know – and since WPVote already had a voting theme made with WordPress, and since it’s a site ABOUT WordPress, it seemed logical to continue using WordPress.
Looking at the feature list it also seemed like my theme framework, Elemental, ticked a lot of the boxes from the off, so turning the existing WPVote theme into a child theme became incredibly appealing. Anything to save me some work.
Is there anything I’ve missed? What do you consider essential elements on sites like Digg?