Every month, in preparing the LXF coverdisc, I search the net for hot new (and updated) Linux software. Freshmeat, HappyPenguin, KDE-Apps and other websites help greatly in this endeavour. However, I come across many individual project websites with problems - and fair enough, the developers are busy focusing on the code itself. But just a few tweaks can make all the difference to the immediate perception of a project, so here are my recommendations...
- Say what it does! I've come across many projects where the front page is news, download links and the like, but there's not a single line explaining what the software actually does.
- Have a clear indication of activity. Perhaps by putting news near the top, or a box with the latest version and a date.
- Be consistent. Krename is called both Krename and KRename on its website. It's a tiny point, but it looks like the project is more loved if everything is consistent.
- Use clear English. At the very least, run a spelling checker. If English is not your first language (and I know how hard it is to learn another language!), ask on a friendly Linux forum for someone to skim over your text.
- Link to the files. So many projects link through to a generic SourceForge landing page, so the user then has to navigate through tree widgets and interstitial pages to find the latest version. Aaargh!
- Have up-to-date screenshots. Games are particularly bad with this. There'll be announcements on the page about version 0.7 having all sorts of cool new stuff, but the screenshots are from 0.3.
There are 18 jillion free software projects out there, so it's worth trying to get ahead of the crowd with a good website. And not just for individual downloaders: when I'm finding software for the disc, if your website is old, fiddly and full of typos, I'll pass it by. If it's up-to-date, clear and well maintained, your software will go out to 27,000 potential users!
Update 16 Nov: and one more thing! Do not, NOT, use a non-standard compression format like .xz unless absolutely necessary. If it reduces a massive ISO by a few hundred megabytes then fair enough, but I've just come across a 174K program in .xz format, and had to install another set of tools just to look at it. BAD!