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GuildPortal 8 Year Anniversary Interview with Aaron Lewis

Updated Tue, Nov 17, 2009 by Martuk

GuildPortal recently celebrated its 8 year anniversary. The popular site provides MMOG gamers a place to develop websites for their guilds free of charge across a number of MMOG games. This week Ten Ton Hammer had the chance to speak with Aaron Lewis, co-owner of GuildPortal and self-proclaimed full-time code monkey.


Ten Ton Hammer: Would you please introduce yourself and explain to our readers a little about your involvement with GuildPortal?

Aaron: Sure. My name's Aaron Lewis and I'm half-owner, full-time code monkey for GuildPortal.com.  I write the code for the new features, maintenance, bug fixes, and occasionally, I write bugs just to keep it interesting.  In addition, I do database design, administration, and most anything I can get away with when Sandy (the other half of the business and also my spouse) isn't watching.

Ten Ton Hammer: It’s already been 8 years since the creation of GuildPortal and it’s still a very popular venue for guilds of many different games. What led you to create this sanctuary for guilds to host their websites?

Aaron: Well, as a couple, Sandy and I have always been entrepreneurial.  We started out with something called MyLife Journal back when I was learning VB 3, then GPA+ (software for helping college and high school students manage their brains) before I worked for eCollege, and finally GuildPortal came around after we'd been actively playing EverQuest for about two years.  Our guild used ezBoard at the time, and since the market for “guild hosting” as we know it today didn't exist, it seemed a natural thing for us to invest our time in.

Ten Ton Hammer: Who are some of the people responsible for keeping GuildPortal running and updated so efficiently?

Aaron: Sandy is responsible for keeping the books, providing front-line support, making sure the monthly sales-based donations to Food for the Hungry are made, and telling me to “stop breaking things!” when I'm “enhancing” the product.  I'm responsible for developer-level support, bug fixes, keeping everything scalable, and new feature implementation.  Together, we also review and prioritize new feature requests. 

GuildPortal is home to guilds of many different MMOGs.

Also, the oft-unsung heroes are the people who actually host our servers and are there with extremely valuable technical skills to help when we need them.  Specifically, people like Sarah from MaximumASP make running a business like this possible.

Aside from efficiency, the actual admins who participate in discussing features they'd like to see implemented, reporting problems they find, and in general helping each other out in the admin community (admins.guildportal.com) really are the pulse of GuildPortal.  The most stand-out of them all these days are the folks who go by the handles of Mottie, EverDark, and Eph.

Ten Ton Hammer: What have you learned since the launch of GuildPortal and how has it changed the way you deal with the running of the site and its design?

Aaron: First and foremost, the user almost always knows better than we do.  If they say something's convoluted, it needs to be simplified.  If they say a certain feature needs to be added, it needs to be added.

Occasionally, a feature request will reach us that would complicate the core product for a lot of people, while benefitting only a few.  Usually, though, we can work it into an “advanced options” type of thing.

Ten Ton Hammer: Like Ten Ton Hammer, GuildPortal has taken a no gold ad stance gold selling advertisements. What led you to take this stance and how has it been received by the community?

Aaron: As I'm sure TTH has discovered, it's the more financially difficult path to take, but it's the right thing to do.  Anyone with a question as to whether the gold and account selling companies propose a real problem for gamers – or the games themselves – needed only login to Aion when it first released here in the States. 

Ten Ton Hammer: How many members now call GuildPortal their home?

Aaron: We do periodic deletions of inactive guilds and accounts, so it's not a running total from day one, but as of the time of this writing we're standing at 239,795 guilds and 3,268,453 members.

GuildPortal doesn't support gold selling advertisement on their site.

Ten Ton Hammer: You've recently been adding new widgets to the site. Would you care tell us a bit about these new features?

Aaron: Most of them come directly from suggestions our admins make.  We've added a lot of goodies for Aion, a recent raid drops listing, and a customizable raid progression tracker.  We're at well over 40 content types now and continually adding more.

Ten Ton Hammer: What plans do you have for GuildPortal moving forward? Are you working on any new features?

Aaron: The core engine that stands around site design has had a lot of goodies added recently – tools that generate banner images with gradient text, glass table effects, drop shadows, overlaid on background images shared by the community.  That's really the direction we're moving in.  We're finding that many people are perfectly happy sharing their designs with others, and so we're just providing tools to make it easier for them to do that, with only summary review by us.

Of course, we'll keep adding new widgets and supporting new games as they're released.  We do have some very exciting developments we're hiding away for the moment, as well.

Ten Ton Hammer: Thank you for taking the time to speak with us Aaron and I hope we’ll be seeing GuildPortal around for many years to come. Is there anything else you would like to share with our readers before we conclude?

Aaron: Thanks for listening!  We'd like to thank everyone who has made GuildPortal their guild's home on the web, and invite anyone who has not – or who hasn't checked us out in a couple years – to give us a try!

Guild Portal recently celebrated its 8th anniversary as one of the pioneers of guild website hosting. You can check out what they have to offer at http://www.guildportal.com/.

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