OngoingWorlds blog

News & articles about play-by-post games, for roleplayers & writers


What I look for in a PBEM website

I’m a relatively lazy person and I think everything should be easy. I’m a fan of Steve Krugs book titled “Don’t make me think”, about how websites should be so usable that the user should just be able to use a website without even thinking too hard.

Confusing navigation should be avoided

Confusing navigation should be avoided

When I first visit a webpage I think it should communicate a lot of information straight away. As a web designer/developer I have to think about this problem daily. Creating a website without enough relevant content on the homepage will lead to a high percentage of your users navigating away instantly. They will only stay if they are “hooked” by the information and navigation items you provide.

A website should allow you to complete certain tasks that you want to do. For website about a PBEM site, I want to perform these tasks:

  • Find out how this game is played
  • Find out if the game is still running
  • Find out how to join this game
  • Find out how to contact the GM
  • See the game’s posting archive

I think these are important for the following reasons:

Find out how this game is played

There are many types of text-based online role playing games, and these can be played in many different ways. Either by email, forum, or real-time chat. I want to know which type this game is. I don’t need a lengthy user guide explaining in great detail how to play, but I do need to know the basics.

Find out if the game is still running

A website could stay around for many years after the game is closed. I don’t want to waste time reading about this game and apply to join when it closed in 1999.

Find out how to join this game

Some PBEMs have different requirements. Some have a lengthy application form to fill in, some are more flexible. Some require lots of information about the character you intent to play, some allow you to decide this after joining. The joining process should be easy and not challenging.

Find out how to contact the GM

I might have some questions to ask the GM, like more information, or maybe I have special requirements. Or it’s just nice to have a chat to make sure that you’re going to be welcomed into this game. Details of how to contact the GM should be easy to find, either an email address or via a form on the website.

See the game’s posting archive

The easiest way to understand this PBEM is to see the previous posts that people have made. I want to see if the quality of the writing is high, or if the majority of posts are OOC’s and just unimportant chatter. Seeing game posts allows you to see how the game is played without having to trawl through a lengthy user guide.


Website usabilityLike all websites, a PBEM’s website should be easy to use. There are many things I haven’t even mentioned, like an eyecatching design that will grab the user’s attention. A good design of course is important, but only in a way to communicate something to your audience. A website should accommodate your existing users, but most importantly it should allow potential members to see what your game is about and convince them to join.

I want to use this information to create the perfect homepage in my Ongoing Worlds PBEM website. I want a default game homepage to communicate everything that the game is about.