Building a poker template
About the niche
Today’s topic is Poker sites. Poker, and card games overall, are hot these days and they are all over news. There are TV commercials for big international gambling sites even here in Sweden. Being in that kind of spotlight and receiving massive traffic must make those sites better than the rest, don’t you think? Let’s google for “poker” and have a look at the top 10 results (23 Jan 2006).
|#||Site name||Doctype||Validation errors||Layout method|
|5||Pagat.com Poker||None||52 errors*||None|
*) These sites required that we set a character set manually to even see how many errors there were.
What do we see up there? Poker.com and Paradisepoker.com do pretty well. Poker.com uses Strict doctype which means that their validation is stricter than the others, but 62 errors is still too much. Paradisepoker.com almost validates as Transitional which is a good thing compared to the other sites in the list.
Three sites use CSS for their layouts instead of tables. This is a good thing and they should be commended for it. However, that does not mean that they can’t be better. All three with CSS layouts overuse divisions and spans terribly, often making the page a mess without CSS turned on.
Does this guy do nothing more than whine? I hear you ask. Yes I do. What I will do is nothing special; any one of you reading this could have done it yourself. I’m going to build a simple HTML document mimicking the front page of a poker site. If you are planning to build a site like that (or even if you are the developer of one of the sites above), you should definitely keep reading. The idea with all of this is to make it easier for people to follow the standards.
I will only include the front page of the site but it won’t be hard to transform it to something simpler later on. Remember the purpose here: to show that it’s possible to combine logical markup, valid code and make it look just the way you want it to. We need some kind of content though, so let’s start with that.
Plan what features you want
The features for the template will be my picks of the top10 above. Let’s put some time on analyzing what features a decent poker site has.
The purpose of most of the sites seems to be to get people to play on their site. Most have some kind of client that is easily available from the front page and that button is the most important part of the page. Aside from that we need features to build a community around the game. Let’s pick a forum as our community builder. Beginners need to have somewhere to learn the basics and everyone might need support from experienced staff sometimes. To build a good community you might also need news of some kind, displaying the largest prizes might give the site more players. Finally, all respectable sites have some info about the company behind it and if the site is big, they have a search. We want to earn some money too so let’s add in a little advertisement. Sum this up in a list with descriptions.
- Play poker button: One big button telling people to click it.
- Beginners guide and support: Show on the front page that you don’t need to be a pro to play and provide a quote from a professional player that illustrates this. Link directly into the guide to show experienced users that there might be something there for them too. Add frequently asked questions to this part too. Give users somewhere to turn to if they have problems.
- News: Front page should link to a couple of top news and at the bottom have link to a dedicated news-page with more info.
- Forum: Users should feel that this is a site with lots of people. Link to the topics in the forum most posted in to show them just that. This site is live and kicking.
- Search: Search might be important both if you look for either a poker term or for a feature on the site. Add search for both the forums and the news here and let people decide which of them to search.
- About us: Trust is important if you want people to part from their money. Put a picture of the staff online and quote reviews and happy customers (Don’t fake this stuff. Never)
- Advertisement (Ads): Ads need needs to be marked up as what they are. We want users to click on the ads only if they like the service the advertisers are serving
We now need to transform this to HTML somehow. When you do this yourself, try to think as little about the color, fonts and such as possible. Focus on what content you want to show your users and build the HTML based on that.
On the next page we will get down to business and start coding. You want to see what I’m talking about don’t you?
Time has come to go through the list of features and write the code for them. The question which we should keep in mind here is “What content do I have?”.
Play poker button
Ok. We want a poker button. Some people prefer to use
All sites cost money to run and getting that money is often done with some kind of advertisement on the site. What kind of ads should we use for this template? Looking at the top10 it seems that images are more common than text so let’s use images. Don’t forget to let advertisers specify alternate text to their images so you don’t have to make something up for the alt attribute.
To get beginners to play on our site we need to at least teach them the basics. How? People don’t like manuals and they are often hard to navigate in. The best would be if no manual were needed at all, but let’s be realistic, some people will still need help. A good approach is to use questions in natural language to lure people to read the guide. Keep it simple and easy to read. To mark that this is the beginners guide we add a header with that name in. Don’t be tempted to use any other header than h2, the h1 will be used for the name of the site and this is a second level header, nothing else. To mark up the questions we use a paragraph of text with links. At the end we add a link to more information. The class “more” there is just a way to say that this paragraph is different from the one above.
If you are a poker beginner you might want to start by reading
the rules. When you are done with that
you can register an account with us. Don't worry,
to join is free of charge and you can even win some money in our
More questions are answered in the
frequently asked questions section
People playing poker are probably interested in poker news too. By having news on your site your users don’t have to go somewhere else looking for them. This will be a separate section so we should add a header here too, h2 is appropriate. The news items themselves are just items in an unordered list, so let’s use the HTML for that,
- . End it all with a link to the news page that we wrap it in a classed paragraph like before.
- 23 feb: Highest Prize Ever paid...
- 5 jan: Top player caught cheating
- 10 dec: How to improve your betting
- 1 nov: PokerCompany featured on...
- 30 okt: Murkus Baltomi the new...
- 24 apr: Planned downtime on Sunday
- Best strategy with one... - 124 repl.
- Anyone know of a store...? - 115 repl.
- What's the name of the... - 89 repl.
- What your biggest pot? - 51 repl.
- There was this guy in... - 49 repl.
- Help me get my... - 36 repl.
We maintain an news archive too.
The forum posts can be handled much like the news. A header, a simple list, this time ordered by with the most active on top. End it with a now familiar classed paragraph.
Our forums are always filled with people to answer your questions.
The bigger the site gets the more important it becomes to get a site search. A search clearly resembles a form; the user fills in a few values and sends them to the site. A simple textbox for the search query with a submit following it.
Just in case you’re not familiar with the modern way to make a good form I’ll go through the elements used below briefly. A