I’ve had some decent success in recent days with reading online ebook guides from websites, and Vanilla Forums has one called Gamification for Online Communities. I’m not even going to bother linking to it as it doesn’t deserve the promotion.
It starts off strong — a definition rooted in the academic study and scientific classification, namely that gamification is the “use of game thinking and game design elements in non-game contexts. These game mechanics are designed to shape a game’s dynamics (e.g., competitive behaviour) and emotions (e.g., anticipation) in order to engage players (e.g. users, customers, employees, voters).” It focuses on the application aspects to other areas and even goes further with a larger formal definition that recognizes point-scoring and rules as key elements. For the onboarding process, it uses examples about tracking completion progress and achievements, but doesn’t initially mention the need for “rewards” for those behaviours — without the reward, it’s just a to-do list.
After that, it moves into the aspects but I found the motivation elements less revealing. They talk about player types, and only identify 3, and then moves on to benefits of gamification. Except it doesn’t identify any. It says “let’s talk about what it can’t do”, and then doesn’t. It is completely empty fluff statements. It shifts gears into “how to implement gamification”, but really only jumps to some key performance indicators (KPIs) to know if people are using the site before and after you implement it.
At this point, I would be willing to toss the entire thing, but it’s only 33 pages so I kept going. The section on onboarding isn’t bad, pretty simplistic view, but okay. Another section talks about engagement, hopefully leading to entrenchment, before moving on to potential pitfalls.
Overall, I’d probably rate it about a 3/10 for content. But if you take into account typos, grammatical mistakes, and just plain spelling errors, I’ll downgrade to a 1/10.
Too bad, it started so strongly on the definition.
As with the Checklist, it is divided into multiple simple sections:
Marketing — Instagram, SEO, and Sitemap plugins were standard fare, but they also added lead generation, and contest plugins, most of which I would never use but I’ve also never even thought of them as categories that WP had in their repository.
Development and Design — Child themes, sliders, forms, and lightbox plugins are all standard fare, a good collection. I would have expected a bit more “getting started” plugins before those, but good choices. Typography and shortcode plugins though are really good additions, even if they are more “level 2 or 3” for people new to WordPress.
Monetization — I am not very interested in this area, but I liked they added simple things like PayPal integration, crowdfunding, and e-commerce in general, not just ad systems and affiliate links.
Media Plugins — I was really curious to see what they had listed, particularly just after I did my pic and video integration project. They have audio (not interested), graphs and charts (simple choices, but good), and two video plugins. Not awesome.
Customer Experience — Adding a knowledge base to your own site? I didn’t realize you could do that with a separate plugin, but okay. Translation plugins? Those are giant flags for me as automated translation is often a crapshoot. Live chat plugins, okay. Ratings plugins? Well, that’s a bit different to see. I don’t normally see those covered. And tooltips, whatever.
Security — basic security plugins and role managers? Hmm. I guess since the security packages tend to be all-in-one, I guess that makes sense. I was expecting a suite of smaller functional plugins.
Business Improvements — booking and calendar functions, looks decent. Could put that with customer experience though. Same with directory plugins. Invoice plugins…wouldn’t that go with your e-commerce area? Project management plugins…hmm, now there’s a question if that warrants it’s own item from the rest. Although it gets close to “running the business” to me, kind of like monetization too.
Site optimization — Often these look like snake-oil salespersons, but at least the ones mentioned are reputable. Don’t now how much good they do outside of large business sites. There’s also responsive design, mobile compatibility, etc.
And then the ubiquitous “other” category. But what a category. Plugins to embed games; holiday related plugins; map tools; real estate plugins — wait, what? that’s pretty specific; and comment plugins — why isn’t that with forms and ratings?
A pretty good list overall, and worth my time, even if a bit uneven in places and not as good as the previous guide they shared. I’ll double-check my game and wordsite options, good flags for me.
If you’re reading this, you know that I have a website (the server waves “hello”, by the way). It’s just a personal site, but I’m closing in on a million words worth of posts, so that alone puts me above a number of personal sites out there where people blog for a while and then stop. Plus I’m a bit of a planner, so I approach my site a bit more formally than the “creative” types. (Also explains why it has such a boring layout but that’s another story!). Which quite often means that if I see guides and things designed for businesses that can be applied to my site too, I click, read them, and go to sleep hunting for acorns of truth in a sea of spam and superlatives.
So imagine my surprise when I click on one and find that I LOVE IT.
An organization called WP-Engine wrote “The Ultimate Pre-Launch Checklist for WordPress Websites“ and I thought it was interesting enough to click-through. Sure, I had to surrender my email and look like a business, which I am a bit, and then I got the e-guide. They have it broken down into several headings and I’m going to talk about each one.
Content — replacing dummy content (words, images, video, audio), and proofreading and formatting, and a contact page are standard, but I like the rest of the suggestions for reviewing — page links, downloadable files, 404 error pages (rarely done, mine is pretty minimal), and redirections (from old sites), which a LOT of people don’t do.
Design — I was surprised at this one, as I thought they were mostly going to talk about layouts and themes, but instead they were more on the technical (HTML and CSS validation, optimizing images, FavICONs, and linking header images) and usability testing (previewing in different browsers and platforms, including mobile). However, I didn’t even know you could set up a Print Stylesheet (I tend to just use PrintFriendly) and this may be something to look into as I would like to be able to quickly convert some of the posts into downloadable / printable sheets or PDF.
Functionality — This one looks more like simple usability testing to me, with web forms, auto responders, speeds, social media, RSS, and third-party tools. However, I really like their inclusion of “accessibility guidelines”. Often missed.
SEO — I really hate stuff written about Search Engine Optimization, normally at least. Almost all of it is “I can put your site at the top of the Google results list!” Actually nobody can do that. Not without bot farms and a bunch of shady methods. Real SEO is not about having the perfect design, it’s about content. Always has been, always will be. If you’re a company selling widgets, unless that widget is unique to you, the only way you’re going to the top of the list is if people like your product and search for it or click on links that link to you. An optimized site with crappy products won’t do anything compared to an okay site with great products. The guide has all the basics of meta data, titles, taglines, keywords, and add a site map. It’s a good list, I just wished it focused on the content more…for me, it is more like “don’t forget simple things you can do to avoid missed opportunities”. But it’s not presented egregiously, just one more thing to do.
Marketing — Ruh roh, my alarm bells started ringing. Web marketing tends to be like the classic line about advertising — 50% doesn’t work, we just don’t know which 50%. Except in web marketing, it is likely closer to 90% doesn’t work. And honestly, most of the materials on the net are “Oh, you want to do web marketing? Here’s my tool at $x per month that will make it EASY to GET THE BEST RESULTS on the PLANET, maybe EVEN THE UNIVERSE”. This guide? Nope, it just mentions newsletters, email providers, social icons, and social profiles. Nice.
Legal — Up until this point, I would say the guide is clearly in the top ten of all the ones I have ever seen. Then they do a section on Legal? Nobody does that. NOBODY. Seriously, I’ve never seen it even remotely mentioned in any guide. And I don’t just mean put a copyright notice. They talk about showing the company details — trustworthiness, efficacy, sure, but also mandatory for some jurisdictions, along with tax registration. Ensuring you have all the required licenses for images, fonts, code, plugins? Nobody tells companies to review that! Privacy policies are de rigueur now, so no surprise to include it. Terms and Conditions are good, although I saw a post this week about the readability of them and running it through a barometer of how dense it is. Even cookie warnings and local requirements are mentioned. Awesome. Way beyond anything one needs to do on a personal site, sure, but awesome.
The rest of the guide is equally awesome. Moving the site to a new server, preparing for launch, backup and security, and then the launch. All with decent steps covering the big-ticket items. It even concludes with a bunch of cleanup organizational items.
But if you’re not convinced by my descriptions above, here’s the kicker…wherever there is a popular related plugin in the WordPress repository, they say, “You could use x or y to do this for you.” If you go off and do that, they don’t get a royalty or anything. There’s no click-through to do that. It is just them mentioning it. And most of their recommendations are relatively obvious ones, but it’s what everyone is using. They’re not saying, “Here, try this little plugin that one of our members developed.”
It’s just a great guide. You may have to surrender your email and get a marketing offer for the company to see if you want to hire a WP expert, but the content is awesome.