A brief history
Back in 2004 we were looking for a new and interesting project to undertake, on a whim we decided to build a directory in part this decisions was because we had never done anything like it before.
Due to our lack of experience at building directories we had no idea what to expect, how many visitors a day to cater for or how many submissions per day, so erring on the side of caution we decided to start with a niche directory. With several of our web design clients being artists it was easy to decide to build an art directory.
A directory script engine was born
The first step in the process of setting up the directory was to locate a script to power our directory, after surveying all the scripts available at that time none truly meet our needs or our criteria of producing valid XHTML with tableless designs.
Using ideas and code already available in our in-house shopping cart it was fairly easy to design and implement a PHP/MySQL based web directory script that could easily output valid XHTML with a tableless layouts.
For the submission process the one overriding criteria on how it should function was that anything submitted must never be publicly viewable until a human editor had verified the information.
This initial directory script became the foundation for the now widely used TOLRA directory script, it has been enhanced significantly over the years to add features requested by clients and also features we found were lacking as we started to manage and understand how directories work. The script has also formed the foundation for other projects such as a real estate listing service.
An art directory
Armed with the new directory script, a set of templates were created for the various parts of the directory, per listing thumbnails were enabled and the site and script tested.
At this point we had a fully functional directory but no categories, we didn’t want to create the definitive category list as that would leave hundreds of empty categories for potentially long periods of time. This we felt was not good for our visitors and would probably clutter up search engines which again isn’t our aim.
The end result was that we created the top level categories plus some of the more specialised ones only going 2 or 3 levels deep. Where a category needed to be divided by country only 4 countries were initially added, Australia, Canada, United Kingdom and United States.
With the option to allow people to suggest new categories we could add the appropriate ones on demand and so hopefully grow without having a significant number of unused categories.
There’s nothing worse than visiting a directory with no content so to avoid this we located art related sites and added them, in March 2004 Art Web Links was now ready to be unveiled to the world.
A few posts on forums generated the initial interest and the start of the submissions, it also gave us feed back by which to adjust the submission process and the way the directory worked.
One important thing we were initially missing was a count of the number of listings within each category, without this visitors had no idea which categories were worth entering to see listings and which were not.
Submissions to Art Web Links proceeded at a steady pace and soon reached the point where we no longer needed to push the site it was standing on its own.
Around this time we started to find more and more submissions arriving for sites that were unrelated to art, these were rejected as you would expect, however the number of these submissions continued to increase to the point where we were rejecting more than we were adding.
A general directory
With the high number of rejections because the sites were off topic we felt we had to do something, the options were to open Art Web Links up to all sites or start a second general directory.
Converting from a niche art directory to a general didn’t seem right not to mention the site name and domain name would be inappropriate. Therefore the decisions was made to create a new general directory.
Again rather than creating all the possible categories we built just those that we needed with the option of allowing people to ask for the missing ones.
July 2004 World Site Index web directory was launched. A notice was placed on Art Web Links asking people with sites not related to art to please submit to our general directory.
World Site Index grew rapidly quickly reaching and passing the 1,000 listing mark, with us clearing many submissions within 10 minutes of them being submitted. Needless to say as our popularity grew and continues to grow so does the number of submissions, now unfortunately submission can take weeks before a reviewer gets to them.
Free or paid submissions
Both web directories started as free submission only, with revenue being generated from AdSense. As the rate of submission and delays in processing submission grew we introduced an express service for people wishing to queue jump.
The directories continue to offer free submissions and it is something that we would like to continue to do indefinitely, although the continual lack of care taken, blatant keyword stuffing of titles and descriptions not to mention submission companies stuffing hundreds of their clients into one inappropriate category my force us to rethink this.
We could simply sit back and continue to grow the number of categories and listings in our database or we could expand our offerings to provide a better service to our visitors.
July 2006 saw a complete redesign of the skin for World Site Index, with the addition of a set of tabs, initially just Web Directory and Art Directory. These 2 tabs were soon followed by a third tab, Currency Converter, and a fourth this blog. The blog was added to allow us to let people know what we are up to, how well this will work only time will tell.
Over the coming months and years we plan on adding more services to World Site Index, time scales will almost certainly be controlled by the volume of submissions.
To everyone that has submitted a site or links to us we would like to say thank you and look forward to your continued support.