Guild Websites – Are They Worth It?

My guild in World of Warcraft has decided that they want a website so they can establish an “online presence”. Now, I’m a little skeptical about this because I’ve been in dozens of guilds in my time, led some, co-led some, and built websites for about three of them and it’s been my experience that often these things just end up never getting used. Building and running a decent guild website takes a lot of commitment and, at the end of the day, it’s only as beneficial as the amount it gets used. I can recall several times when I’ve been in guilds that say things like “check the guild site for details about X” and then the event occurs and we discover that no one actually bothered going to the site. It makes me wonder – are guild websites really worth it?

I’m sure there are plenty of well-established, well-organised guilds that revolve around their website and enforce registration and communication but I have no doubt that they are in the minority and that most guild websites just exist like Wild West ghosts town, waiting for someone unlucky soul to accidentally stumble onto it. Personally I think there’s no need for a guild website until you know that you’re running a “serious” guild and not just a fly-by-night casual one (which seems to be the most common type in WoW). Even then, the most useful aspect of a guild site is really a forum to allow people to communicate when not in game.

Setting up a site can also take a lot of time and money. You have to register domains, rent a server, and spend time setting up an open source forum or similar and then applying some sort of skin to brand it. Having done this myself a few times, it’s pretty disheartening to put in all of the effort to discover that no one uses it or checks it regularly.

Maybe I’m becoming too cynical but I feel that guild sites are overrated and only have a time and place if the entire guild is raiding regularly, working as a proper team and willing to communicate outside of the game world. Until that point, I think casual guilds are better either sticking to the in-game tools available (such as WoW’s calendar system) or even just whipping up a Facebook or MySpace page. It’s why I like the idea of EVE Online’s upcoming COSMOS system which gives characters and corporations the ability to make their own mini-sites in-game – I want to spend my time playing the game, not building a website to support it.

So there you have my views. Am I just becoming an old fuddy-duddy or are guild websites more hype than use? Or am I actually overlooking something that is a valuable tool for all types of guilds, not just “serious” ones?

And on a sidenote, can anyone recommend some decent, quick-to-setup guild software, open source forums etc? :)

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37 Comments

  1. Carthalis says:

    Having run a guild and a guild website for 2 years for The Matrix Online, at first it feels all cool and great, but towards the end it just became a millstone around my neck. The happiest time was shutting it down a couple of years ago and thinking thank god for that. Keeping it updated and getting everyone involved in it can become a chore.

    At the time I used forums provided by vBulletin, which was pretty easy to set up. I think the idea of using facebook or myspace to keep the guild informed is a great idea.

    • Gordon says:

      I think this can happen with anything guild related. I remember running a guild on EQ2 not long after it came out and although it started off great, eventually it became such a responsibility and I felt like I was a school teacher. Disbanding it was a great relief to me.

  2. Genda says:

    I think it depends on the guild. We have one at Casualties of War that I administer and it’s well worth it. I would imagine that it’s the exception though. Being that we decided a while ago to be a multi-game guild, it’s facilitates us getting together in Champions, Aion, and Fallen Earth. There’s also a movement afoot to gather in the now free-to-play DDO. None of these would have been possible without the site. (http://casulatiesguild.com)

    Now the guild started as a bunch of bloggers and their readers, so there is definitely a self-selection of the group toward communication and a propensity to be active online.

    So maybe that isn’t the best example.

    Point is, they CAN be worth it, but I can certainly see the other side of that argument.

    • Gordon says:

      No doubt it can be worth it – I still check my old EQ2 guild site a lot. I guess if you manage to establish friendships with players that transcend the current game you’re playing, it can be a great way to keep in touch.

  3. Longasc says:

    I agree with you that guild websites are usually a waste. 99% if not more of them.

    Everyone is talking about social networking, web 2.0 and all that – so why not integrate guild pages and personal info pages into the game and make them available on the webpage of the game as well?

    Champions Online is, despite absolutely not being my kind of game, again pioneering in this regard. They have/had this annoying Twitter achievement spam, but you can create a webpage for your char.
    The WoW Armory is another example, right now it is just an armor and achievement list display, that also shows everyone when I logged in/out and has absolutely NO PRIVACY option. There could be so much more.

    Websites where people can present their chars are extremely popular, make it part of the game.

    Imagine that, I send you a mail ingame and you can read it in your inbox on your char’s webpage!

    • Gordon says:

      EVE Online are going that way with COSMOS and I think it’s a great idea. I want to spend my time playing the game, not maintaining a website around it :) The downside is that this sort of tool is just going to end up becoming another expected feature of any MMORPG, meaning they take longer to build and players have even higher expectations for them.

  4. spinks says:

    Bboards are amazingly useful if you have a lot of guildies who are working and/or casual players. It lets them actually keep up with what’s going on and keep feeling involved even though they aren’t online all the time.

    ie. if people use it, it can be amazing.

  5. Bootae says:

    Spinks is right. It very much depends on how your guild community clicks. I’ve had some where it was a waste of space and then others like my current one, where the forums and shout box are very popular.

    Almost all of us work and have families, which means the guild site is the link between us all when we can’t get in game.

    These days I’m using MMOguildsites. It has a monthly fee, but it’s peanuts. Site was a doddle to set up, has every function I want and having support available has been a refreshing change.

    http://killfrenzy.mmoguildsites.com/

  6. itscrackerjack says:

    i still use New Dawn web site most days.

  7. Occam says:

    I think they are worth it for the most part. At the bare minimum, some forums and a charter with application/membership information. It doesn’t have to be elaborate (and in fact, the more elaborate features are the ones least used).

    It’s useful to have a way to interact with guildies outside the game (for example, for those who are unable to play for the time being), and beneficial to have a way to attract and inform potential applicants.

    Also (and this part is highly subjective), I feel like guilds without websites lack a certain legitimacy that those with websites have. It’s a place of permanence, and in a way it shows that they are established, committed, and stable. Those without sites could be there one day and gone the next as far as you know. Having the ability to access information about a guild only by logging in and hoping someone from that guild is on strikes me as shady, or at the very least, dubious.

  8. Occam says:

    I should add that I’ve never played WoW, so I don’t really know what the guild “scene” is there. In EQ1 at least, almost every guild has some sort of website. EQ2 I haven’t been playing as long, and am not in a guild, but even so, most that I’ve looked for I’ve found online in one form or another.

    • Gordon says:

      I agree that it does add an air of legitimacy particularly in a game like EQ2 were the player base is more mature and dedicated. However, I feel that WoW is such a casual game that sites aren’t really necessary in most cases… at least not until you start serious raiding.

  9. itscrackerjack says:

    First thing i look for when im looking to join a guild is does it have a forum.

    For 1 its a really good way to get to know who your playing with. It keeps you in touch with friends you make even when you cant play any more and the most important reason its great fun pushing the limit to see how many times you can get banned. )))

    Toothy knows what i mean.

    • Gordon says:

      Yeah, I do :) I think the ND site (and guild) was a real exception though. We were lucky everyone (or the core peeps anyone) in the guild were all nice, decent, cool people who had the same play style. Having a forum can also lead to a lot of drama though which can be stressful.

  10. The best setup I’ve known came from an old guild of mine who basically sublets out forum space from an old member who has his own active forum community. There are two “sides” to the forums: the general side and the side. There are occasionally bleed-overs and that really just enhances both communities.

    Even after I left WoW and , I still post regularly on the other side of the forums. So the online presence they had was worth something. I made some real friends there; we even do Secret Santa at Christmastime.

  11. J. Ayers says:

    Longasc has the right idea. I am a huge supporter of the integration in Web 2.0, and with the resources a company like Blizzard has, such as with the Armory site, there is no reason they shouldn’t work to integrate WoW into the community side of their website, and then work that into places like Facebook groups.

    For that matter, just making an entire website for a guild seems like to much work when you have something like Facebook groups you can use. There really isn’t a whole lot of custimization needed in a website that Facebook can’t do… Maybe guild member info pages, but that can be set up as just links to the WoW Armory entries, since that is about the most info anyone wants to read about another character.

    • Gordon says:

      Yeah, I’m going to explore other options for this guild site. It’s not that I’m totally opposed to the idea, it’s just that I know from experience it end up being a lot of work for something that never gets used. I’d rather we just set up something free and easy – like a Facebook page or whatever – and waited to see how useful it became.

  12. Sven says:

    For larger multi-game guilds they are definitely useful, but smaller guilds are probably better off just using Google groups or even Twitter to keep everyone involved/informed. With some games now allowing you to Twitter in-game (if you turn off the spam posts) I think there’s a lot there to be harnessed.

  13. Pitrelli says:

    For a casual guild Id recommend using the guildomatic template ones. They arent the best but they do the job and dont take things too serious unless you subscibe to get the DKP service etc.

    Im not a fan of guild forums in general as I’d prefer people to do their organising in game but thats just me I guess

  14. Ferrel says:

    Coming from the perspective of a previously competitive raider I have to say that a good guild website is invaluable. It was one of our biggest recruiting and propaganda tools. One of the saddest realities of competitive PvE is that a lot of guilds claim to be “the best” and “number one” but there aren’t a lot of ways to prove it. A solid front page goes a long way in that effort.

    Now that we’re more of a casual organization we use the forum more than the website. It is very helpful for passing information on. The site is more of a tool than anything else. If someone is curious about us I just point them in the direction of the site. To me, to be taken serious at all, you need to have a website. Otherwise you seem even more like the fly by night organization you’re talking about.

    • Gordon says:

      I’d agree that a good site can indicate a lot about the seriousness of a guild. Having an online recruitment process is also a good way to make sure people are serious about joining. Still, I reckon guild sites are only really useful for “serious” guilds and shouldn’t be taken as a general necessity.

  15. Marchosias says:

    Anymore I tend to eschew the whole “guild experience.” But if I find I ever want or, god forbid, need to be in a guild, I usually look up a couple couple websites/orgs that I belong to, to see if they have a guild in the game I’m looking to play. For me that would be TOG (The Older Gamers) or COW (Casualties of War). They seem to fit a) my age group and b) my casual playstyle.

    I used to game with a core bunch of friends who would go on to form large and active guilds in the games we were playing, but eventually we’ve all moved on to other games and schedules so we rarely game together anymore. But “back in the day” we had great websites. Mainly we used the forums to organize activities, recruit members, and post decisions made during in-game guild meetings, etc.

  16. Guybrush the mighty says:

    I just set one up on webs.com (www.revengeoflechuck.webs.com), and have to admit it was a really really good CMS. Its free as well, as long as my guildies can take the adverts!

  17. [...] Fly Spitfires asks about whether guild websites are worth it? To be honest, I couldn’t imagine not having a guild website, the amount of tattle that goes on on [...]

  18. Flex says:

    I agree that it’s a mixed bag. My old guild forum has 30,000 posts and forms a great way to not only educate and organise, but a great place to socialise out-of-game. A requirement for written applications and signing up to raids through the website keeps people using it (and ensures that people who won’t, find another guild). But I see plenty of forums out there with maybe 3 posts total.

    Now that’s just embarrassing.

    Oh for the day when blizzard supplies a bulletin board in-game that’s also accessible out-of-game via something like your-guild-name.realm.worldofwarcraft.com. No more annoying setup required.

    • Gordon says:

      My WoW guild just setup a site using webs.com – it looks pretty cool and apparently it was very easy to get going. It seems to be enough for now.

      What I’d really love to see is this of feature provided by developers but with added automation i.e. it automatically enrolls your guild members, shows their ranks and levels, displays your guild calendar etc.

  19. [...] from We Fly Spitfires asks are Guild Websites Worth It in MMOs? I said that they somewhat add legitimacy but aren’t necessary for the casual [...]

  20. SmakenDahed says:

    The guild I’m in is using wowstead.com. I have no idea what the customization is like since I don’t actually control it. It ties into WoWArmory for characters and what not. Has built in mechanisms for including gear links in posts.

    We have very few people actually making use of it though.

    If it is something your guild wants, make sure it’s something the whole guild wants and not just a few people want.

  21. Jason says:

    In my opinion, most of the features of a guild website – message boards, announcements for members, etc – should get integrated into the game. Forming a guild should create boards that can be viewed in game, as well as outside of game after logging in to the game website. There could even be a publicly viewable news feed for each guild.

    As for cross game stuff… if your group is more a social group and not a game specific guild, then you would benefit from having your own site and forums, of which there are many places on the net to make free ones.

  22. Inficant says:

    Our guild uses Guild Launch http://www.guildlaunch.com/. Awesome hosting, awesome support, awesome features. A guild site is fun and can help you build community for your guild.

  23. Fredrik0 says:

    If you are serious about organisation and want to take it to it’s competitive edge you need one. My alliance in EVE has both very active forums, google group for sharing documents, our own TS servers, Jabber server etc. And all these are heavily used, much so that we have over 50k topics on the forums. 100+ concurrent users on the jabber and surely 3-400 on the TS when bigger ops happen.

    It would be absolutely impossible to achieve our organisation without having all these OOG tools and having them handled by people who do this as a profession. Or atleast I think so.

  24. Pindleskin says:

    I’ve been running a wow guild for 4 years, and since the dawn of the guild we’ve had a site with forums. User adoption has been low, with only about 20% of my users making regular use of the forums, with the other 80% only going when I force them to – eg. sign this post or you will NOT raid. But even that 20% interaction makes it worthwhile, helping to build a bond between those that use it. Funnily enough it’s usually those that actively use the forums that have the biggest guild presence too, and generally become officers in the guild.

    Our guild has always used Joomla for the main page (Awesome CMS, with plenty addons for wow and other mmo’s) and phpBB2/3 as the forums. Last year unfortunately our phpBB3 database crashed on backup, causing a loss of over 50000 posts and 200 active users. Since then we’ve used Fireboard (Kunena mod) because of the compatibility of users between Fireboard and Joomla.

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