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Quick and Dirty Guide to Making a Madden Franchise Site

Here, I'll attempt to lay out some tips and tricks for the actual design of a franchise site, since that is often what people seem to be looking for (from me, and from the Madden community in general).

Note:

There is a utility by ejk called EZFM that makes the task of building a Madden site incredibly enjoyable. While the layouts I provide will assume you aren't using EZFM (since getting PHP support on free hosting isn't simple), it would be quite easy to use EZFM with any of the layouts I provide, since EZFM offers template support that is quite slick.

8 Simple Rules For Dating My Daughters Designing A Website

These are in no particular order, and some people might even disagree with me on a couple of them. But, for the most part, these are actual rules of web design that I didn't make up on my own.
  1. Please, for the love of god, don't embed music in your page. If you must have music, have it off my default and offer a play control
  2. Please, for the love of everyone's eyes, don't have a red-on-blue or blue-on-white color scheme.
  3. Try to design your site so that it stretches/shrinks with the browser window. I try to make sure everything will fit into 800x600 without scrolling horizontally.
  4. Don't go overboard on images. The site should load within 1-5 seconds on a highspeed connection and within 10-15 seconds on 56k.
  5. It's bad enough that all of us (that includes me) are ripping off copyrighted logos for our websites. So, if you're going to use images of helmets, logos, etc. at least download them from whence they came and host them yourself.
  6. Try not to use frames. If you're comfortable with web design it's possible to use frames without them sucking, but they are generally frowned upon.
  7. Do not use blinking or scrolling text
  8. Spell check any text you put on the site. I'm no grammar nazi (and I'm guessing not many Madden people are), but a site that isn't riddled with errors and typos is simply more attractive.

Things To Consider

  • The site really should use the team colors. I don't want to browse a 49ers website that has a green background and blue text.
  • What keeps people reading franchises is content. Interesting write-ups, stats, and a few images that help tell the story of the season. But, if you don't like writing long game recaps don't. I don't, because it's too time consuming, and if I make myself do it, it shows, via the writeups sucking ass.
  • Try to put your own flair into your franchise. Try to come up with something that will make people remember which site was yours. A lot of people will take a look at a couple dozen franchises, but will only end up reading 3-4.
  • Have fun with it. In the end, the site is for your enjoyment. Having readers is good, but it has to be all about your own enjoyment

Key Elements to a Franchise Site

If I were talking about just any old site, I'd say to keep the images to a minimum and try not to be too flashy. But, since this is aimed at a very specific target audience, the design changes quite a bit. There are several elements that any franchise site probably should have:
  1. Some type of header that gives the user an idea of what your franchise is within a second of opening your site. This often comes in the form of a banner
  2. A menu of subsections of the site
  3. Either some sort of introductory message to the reader, or a news/headlines section
  4. Some quick info on the current state of your franchise
The implementation of these elements can be very individualized and this what the design process is all about. Both the header/banner and the news/headlines are pretty self explanatory, so I'll talk a bit about what kinds of things you'd have in your menu (and thus, on your site), and what kind of 'quick hits' you might want on the front page.

Quick Hits

The idea behind offering some 'quick hits' of info on your front page is to draw in the reader, as well as to offer some quick summary information to frequent readers. It also mimics the style of most of the actual NFL team sites (and that is the kind of goal most people seem to have with a franchise site).

Consider offering the current division standings, some statistical leaders on your team, or maybe the box score from the last game. Perhaps have a "who's hot/cold" section, or an injury report. The possibilities are endless. I've seen as many variations as I've seen franchise sites. If you're using EZFM it already offers a ton of stuff, and adding to it is up to you.

Site Content - The Balance Between Effort And Results

Reporting a franchise is all about the balance between the amount of work you put in, for how much you get back. Reporting can be a lot of fun, because it brings your franchise alive and can make playing a Madden franchise more fun than if you were just playing on your own in your parents' home in Wyoming. The trick is figuring out how much information you can update on a regular basis without wanting to pluck your eyeballs out with a spoon. (Obviously, if you're able to use it, EZFM makes your life a lot easier, automating the reporting of every stat that Madden outputs.) If you think you're too lazy, can't be bothered, or have too much of a Real Lifetm, to manually enter a lot of information, you're better off not offering it. That way you can keep your site updated more often, and the momentum of your reporting will be better. People would rather see small game reports every week than massive indepth game reports every month. In the end, pick your style and go with it.

Some Ideas for Content

Content is king, as they say, so I'll try to offer some more commentary on the subject.

Game Reporting
The length, quantity, and type of game report is entirely decided by you. As stated above, you're best served picking a style that doesn't seem like "work" to you. In my opinion, what you're trying to capture is the feeling of story, progress, and momentum in your franchise. If you've just had a nailbighter of a game where you won on the final play of the game against a division rival and sneaked into the play-offs, write about it! It only has to be as long as you wish to write, but you should try to tell your readers about the game. If you can't get excited enough about a game like that, you should consider whether or not you actually want to report a franchise. When determining length it's entirely acceptable to have longer reports for the games you really enjoyed. Perhaps you report a little more as the season wears on. It can be hard sometimes to get excited about the first 3 or 4 games of the season where not many stories have emerged.

Stat Reporting
If you're doing things by hand, your ability to offer comprehensive stats is severely limited. In fact, if I saw someone offer the kind of stuff EZFM offers, via typing it in by hand, I'd think they needed to get their head examined! ;-) The good news is that you can still offer up lots of stats via Madden's HTML output. If you go that route (and I think it's a good idea) you should tie the stats into your site design. It reaks of zero effort when a well desigedn site has links to stats that just go directly to the plain text files that Madden outputs. It doesn't take much effort to wrap the stats in your design, so you should think about doing this.

Supporting "Stats"
There are other pseudo-statistical things that you might consider adding into your site, that will have to be added manually. Keeping an injury report can be a good idea, and will explain to your readers why your star player didn't play in the last game! You could also report the weekly award winners, and/or the year end award winners and Pro Bowl players. You should at least report on the members of your own team that win awards. You could consider giving out your own team awards like "Most Improved Player" or a team MVP, etc. These are all just ideas and suggestions, of course, and you probably have some of your own ideas. With the addition of owner mode you can go nuts with adding information to your site; you could offer information on your coaching staff, training staff, ticket prices, etc. There is tons of info about your team that is kept by Madden that can be displayed on your site if you feel like typing it out!

Media
Depending on how much hosting space you have, you might consider offering game photos, yearly recap photo galleries, or even videos. You'll need a buttload of hosting space, if you want to offer a lot of media though, so try to consider what selection of images would best tell the story of your franchise. Having some images can greatly enhance how your franchise comes to life, but perhaps having a gallery of 8 screenshots you took during the game, for every game, doesn't add much to the site, despite adding effort and filling up your hosting space. So before blindly chucking dozens of screenshots up, consider how you want to actually use these shots. Think of them as sports photography instead of just screenshots of Madden. Try to capture photos of key plays in the game.

History
You should probably consider making some effort in tracking past seasons in your franchise. Once it's 2012, it's nice to be able to look back and see how your franchise has unfolded. At least offer the reader the ability to see who won each Super Bowl and what your team record was. Perhaps keep track of your team's Pro Bowlers over the seasons, etc. How much information you hold onto from past seasons is up to you, and can be determined by your hosting space, but you should try to have some kind of yearly summary for past seasons. Another high-effort thing you might consider adding if you're a glutten for punishment, is to have individual player pages. In my opinion it's the holy grail of a franchise site. It's so much work to do manually, but offers such cool results. Not many people have the time and patience to do it manually though, so don't feel bad if you're not up to it.

Example Layouts/Designs

Here I present you a few example layouts/designs to get you started. I don't pretend that they are the pinnacle of design. Each one accounts for about 15 minutes of my effort. I'm just offering something to get you started. If you poke around each one you'll see some bits of HTML and CSS that I didn't explain either. At the very least they'll give you some inspiration for your own designs. None of them include any kind of images, because I couldn't be bothered creating images for sites I don't plan to use :-)