(This is old, I typed it up a while ago. And me being true to my nature - AKA lazy - I didn't edit it. ENJOY )
I figured I'd post a 'How to Get Started in VP World' guide-esque. This will mainly contain my thoughts on what I feel are most needed to get started in making your own virtual petsite.
You are welcome to reply with your own thoughts or ideas on how to get /started/. (Just the very early beginning stages).
So, I see you are interested in starting your own petsite? Well, the first thing you should do is ask yourself some questions.
Do you have the time to make a virtual petsite?
A lot of people get all excited when they first decide they want to, but then end up not having the time to actually work on it, either due to school, work, or other reasons.
Do you think you have the patience and dedication to make one?
Making a petsite takes a lot of time and hard work. You have to realize that these things don't just happen over night. Good petsites can take at least 6 months to a year if they're lucky.
Can you handle the responsibility and a leadership position?
If you plan on being the owner of a petsite, you must understand that that lays a lot of responsibility on your shoulders as you will be the leader. If you can't handle that, you may want to wait until you can or join a staff position on another site to get an idea.
What type of work can you put into it yourself?
Some people are lucky and have extra skills that saves them time and money when making a petsite, such as art, graphics, coding, writing, etc. Identify what you yourself can do first.
Are you willing to learn?
Making a petsite involves going outside of your box. You may not be skilled in the areas I listed above, but you should be willing to explore each of those areas. Especially coding. Coding is one of the foundations of the site. With no codes, no site. (It is also helpful if you want to see what any hired programmers are doing). If you don't want or have time to learn, then I recommend not making a site. Owners should be willing to give those areas a try before deciding on hiring staff or not.
Do you have any funds?
Yes, it is possible to make a petsite completely for free. There are websites that offer free domains and/or hosting that support codes like PHP. But usually, people don't take those sites as seriously. For a dedicated owner, one should have their own domain and hosting. That's just the beginning. You should prepare some savings for emergencies, you never know what will happen. You should also prepare money for possible staff members in the future. Art and programming (and other services) can add up pretty fast! I also suggest making a budget. How much money do you have, how much do you have coming in (that you can get or earn), and how much do you have or can you have go out. Etc.
Are you prepared, mentally and/or possibly physically, for possible downward slopes?
Things may slow down progress wise and you need to know that that WILL happen. You need to understand that it's not a bad thing and that you'll just have to work through it. You may even go through a phase of depression for things not getting done, but remember, these things take time and patience is a MUST. There is no rush to make a petsite. I also suggest taking breaks. You don't want to work yourself or others too hard. Remember there is a real life too. People need breaks.
Lastly, why do you want to make a petsite?
I think that about covers the questions. Be sure to answer all of these as detailed and honestly as possible. If you're not ready to make a petsite yet, don't worry! Try playing on other sites to get a better idea of would need to get done. Try joining a staff position on the site to learn responsibility, hard work, and dedication.
Once you've done all of the above, now it's time for the ideas. Ideas are the building blocks of your site. No site, even non-VP sites, can live without an idea. Everything starts with an idea. What your job is is to plan and organize those ideas.
First of all, is your petsite original?
That's the most important thing for your petsite to be successful. People can join any petsite, why yours? What makes your site unique?
Petsites need some sort of plot. What things have happened, are happening or will happen? Characters, creatures, a world, etc. Why are things a certain way? What made it that way? Do you have a backstory? Are there any heros or heroines? How do players get involved in the plot? What can they do?
Plan your world. What will it look like? What will it have? How many will your petsite have? Moons? Universe? Or just a town? What's the history of those places? What type of plants, animals, people, etc. inhabit this world? How does exploring work?
How do you want your pets to work? Just plain adopt? Buy? Find? Breed? Grow? What will they look like? Will they come in multiple colors? How can players get those different colors?
Non-playable characters. Will your site have any? How involved in the plot are they? Do they serve a purpose or are they just fillers? Can players talk to them or communicate in some way?
Every site needs these and yes, they are each different. Players will need to know the rules of game-play, what they can or cannot do, how their information is protected if it is, etc. Don't just brush over these, these are just as important as everything else on your site! Make them thorough, detailed, and easy to understand.
What type of features will your site have to offer? Games? Battling? Trading? Auctions? What makes them unique?
What keeps you playing a site?
Look for sites that either you love, find interesting, or are popular. Find out what members of that community like or what keeps them coming back. It's helpful to look for ideas or inspiration, but do not directly steal ideas. Remember, your site is unique.
It's important to be, not just one step, but tens to hundreds of steps ahead of your players/users. You need to know everything about your site. You HAVE to plan ahead! Things don't just stay static. Your site can't stay the same forever. Things have to happen in order for your users to stay interested and keep coming back.
Buying a domain and hosting is a major and important step. It also helps shows others how serious you are and that you're willing to spend money. However, do not just use the first site you see. Research is VERY important, especially for hosting! Your site will be on their server for a long time and you NEED to know if they are reliable. Read as many reviews as possible, talk to people, or even call the companies themselves and ask questions. It's your money and you don't want to waste it!
Development forums can be very important when building a VP site. It's very easy to make one, just find a free host such as ProBoards. Set up the forum in an organized manner and make it easy to navigate. Make sure to have a place for registered users as well as official staff. Having a forum is a great way to keep in contact with everyone and keep everything in one place. (And build hype if you feel the need to.)
Once you've got most if not all your planning done and organized, only then should you consider looking for staff. People don't often like to get involved with a site that has no idea of where it's going. They want a plan and they want to know what it is. You need to let them know that you are serious about the project and that you 100% want to go through with it. If you don't sound convincing, finding staff will be difficult.
Now what should be said to potential staffies? Well, I'd start out first saying exactly what you need. Do you need art? What kind of art do you need? What style? What's your price range? (Or is it volunteer?) Examples are the BEST thing you can do. If you don't have any art, find a site that has the style you want and post that (give credit). This is your site you want to build and you want it just right, right?
Finding staff may end up being harder than you think. Not everyone jumps on new sites unless they present themselves in a way that shows them that you're serious. It also might be difficult to get into this business/hobby without any money. A lot of the more professional users out there want some bang for their work. It's not impossible to find volunteers, but the quality might not be what you had in mind.
Contracts are your friend! Don't be afraid to have your staff sign a contract between the two of you. It makes things easier down the line if trouble does arise. It's also important to keep documentation of any and all payments as well. Stay organized!
Programmers are probably the most difficult to find. Not only do all the VP owners want them, but so does the rest of the world. Don't keep yourself constricted to finding programmers in the VP community. I highly suggest going outside the box and looking online. Sites like Deviantart or Freelance.com are good places to start. Do keep in mind that programming is expensive, and many won't work for free, or even cheap. (Be sure their codes are very secure!)
Writing is not just words on a screen. Writing can be beautiful and moving. Writing can even make or break ones site. Having a good writer (or writers) is very important. Make sure they know more than just the basic grammar rules. Don't be afraid to ask a friend to read their examples and give you their opinion. You want your site to not only look good, but sound/read good.
Don't get yourself cheated. Always, always, ALWAYS ask for a reference. ALWAYS! Ask for as many people as possible that they have worked for in the past. (This goes for all staff of all kinds.) Ask for examples and double check those examples for legitimacy. You don't want to lose any money in some jerk who's cheating you. Make sure all your staff are legit.
Make a schedule and stick to it! Don't have long dragged out moments of no work. There should always be something to do. Your staff was hired/volunteered for a reason, to work, and that's what they want, so give them work. Give them a quota and set that quota to a time. (Most often is a month.) Be sure that you don't overload the staff though. They are people and just like regular people, they have lives as well. Also take into consideration of real life issues or events that may slow you and/or them down.
Breaks are not a bad thing! If life is stressing one of you out, take a break. Your site will still be there and in the works when you/they return.
Plan ahead and be prepared, for, well, anything! Anything can go wrong at anytime. I highly suggest you keep backups of all the work completed.
Listen to your staff. You may be the owner, but they have opinions and ideas as well. They might even know something you don't. It's important to keep communication open. Also, being friends with your staff isn't a bad thing. It can encourage both of you to work harder and it can make things a lot more fun!
If you don't like them, don't keep them. If a staff member is giving you trouble, acting rude, etc., and after being told multiple times to stop, hasn't, well guess what, you can get rid of them. I would suggest asking the opinions of other staff members first before doing so, just in case you don't know something they do. It's also important to change any and all passwords that they may know or have come across, just in case. Also remember that what you paid for and received from them is yours. Don't let them try to take their things back without a good reason.
DO. NOT. RUSH.
I can't stress that enough. There is no need to rush. These types of sites take time and effort, and trust me, in the end, it will be worth it.
There is so much more I could go on about, but I'll leave that to the replies. I just wanted to touch on the parts I feel are important and that should be addressed.
So, I leave you with some final thoughts;
Be intelligent. Be thoughtful. Be tasteful. Be honest. Be respectful. Be original.
Pets sites are not made in a day, not even a year (most often). Through a lot of hard work, stress, drama, troubles, and issues, a lot of fun can be had while making one. Never be afraid to ask for help or advice. As scary as we users might be sometimes, we can be surprisingly helpful.
Do your best not to give up. If you need to pause, pause, but then keep going. Your dream will come true one day, all it takes is a little time and effort.