Table of Contents


Tarot Reflections

 June 01, 2003

Tips from the Trumps:
22 Ways to Improve Your Tarot Website
Mark McElroy, NTCAA*

Mark McElroy received his first Tarot deck in 1973, but began serious study of Tarot in 1997.

While interested in the divinatory and meditative aspects of Tarot, Mark primarily uses the deck as a tool for brainstorming, enhancing creativity, and planning action. As Mark explains in his forthcoming book, Putting the Tarot to Work, "My approach to Tarot favors the practical over the mystical."

Mark works regularly with Carol Herzer's Illuminated Tarot, the Thoth deck, Robert Place's Alchemical Tarot, the Osho Zen, Paula Gibby's Blue Rose, and Julia Turk's under-appreciated Navigator's Tarot of the Mystic Sea.

Mark's personal weblog receives more than 1000 visitors per week. He can be reached through his professional web site, or by email.

Mark is currently honored to serve as the VP of Media and webmaster for the ATA.

*What do the letters NTCAA mean after Mark's name? No Tarot Certification At All.


Want to make your Tarot website more engaging, appealing, and popular? Want to boost your placement in the major search engines? Want to make your site a destination of choice for folks seeking readings, Tarot books, or information on the cards?

For web design and strategy tips, look no further than the twenty-two trumps of the Tarot. Whether you intend your site to be a simple labor of love or the next, the following tips, inspired by the trumps, can help transform your Web Pages into Web Kings!

The Fool: “Keep content simple.” Reading text on-screen is harder than reading text on a printed page. To make your site easier on the eyes, keep sentences and paragraphs as short as possible. Your site will look brighter, cleaner, and more professional than sites that lump all their text together into one or two thick blocks of text.

The Magician: “Make it easy for visitors to focus on your content.” Mouse trails (text or graphics that stream along behind the visitor’s mouse), animations, and MIDI music may seem like a great idea … at first. But effects for effects’ sake distract your visitor from your message. A successful site draws the visitor into its content … it doesn’t try to dazzle the reader with every web trick known to humankind.

The Priestess: “No secrets!”  There’s a trend in web design: hiding navigational controls and revealing them only when the visitor mouses over them. If the goal of your site is to draw visitors in, why make navigating the site – or any other task – something the visitor has to figure out? Don’t keep secrets from your visitors. Make choices clear.

The Empress: “Serve your guests.” Too many sites launch into a “Me, Me, Me” monologue, reciting the owner’s background, credentials, and approach to Tarot right up front. (That’s natural … we’re all our own favorite subject!) An alternative? Focus on the visitor. What are his or her needs? What is he or she looking for? How does your site address that need? Make this your homepage message, and your guests will feel more “at home” when they arrive.

The Emperor: “Structure, Structure, Structure!” Rather than post links willy-nilly, organize your content into categories. These categories, then, become the main links on your home page. Remember: people are busy. Remember: if you make your visitors struggle to find your content, they’re never more than just one click away from a better-designed site!

The Hierophant: “Learn from others.” Find other Tarot sites that offer services or information similar to yours. What are they like? What’s good? What’s awful? Does the site look professional … or like a hobbyist’s site? Does the site inspire you to drop $25.00 for a reading? Why or why not? Take what you learn on your “site safari” and apply it to the design of your own site.

The Lovers: “Keep ‘em coming back for more.” A site that’s never updated is like a relationship gone stale! Keep visitors coming back by updating your site frequently with new articles and fresh content. Serve up something new on a regular basis, and you’ll improve your chances of turning your one-night-stands into long-term relationships!

The Chariot: “Define your terms of victory.” Without goals, your site amounts to a chariot without a driver holding the reins! What should your site accomplish? In your opinion, what will make your site a success? Is it enough for folks to say, “Cool mouse trails?” Is the site a success if you get 10 visitors a month? 20? 200? If you’re selling readings or books, how many must you sell a month to break even? Without a destination, you can’t gauge your own success.

Strength: “Align your site with your purpose.” If your goal is to sell readings, a banner promoting your membership in the “Buffy the Vampire Slayer Web Ring” might not be appropriate. When adding graphics, banners, or content to your site, always ask yourself, “Does this content get me closer to my goals for this site?” If it does, keep it. If it doesn’t, wrestle it to ground and stomp it to death.

The Hermit: “Find a way to stand out in the crowd.” There are thousands of sites offering readings and information about Tarot. How is your site different? What do you have to offer that’s unique? Spend time looking at other sites with similar products, information, or services. With that done, decide how your offering can be positioned as different, better, or more appealing. (PS: It’s not enough to say, “My readings are better” … tell me how they’re better, and why I, as a client, should choose you over other readers out there.)

The Wheel: “Don’t depend on luck alone.” Too many people pop a site up on the web, then expect millions of visitors to pour in. Unfortunately, that’s about as likely as winning a fortune every time you play roulette. Frequently-visited sites don’t just happen … their owners promote them! Stick your URL at the end of every email you send out. Send out email inviting folks to come for a visit. Offer discounts to visitors. Plaster your URL on business cards, brochures, and flyers. Luck alone will bring a few folks to your doorstep … but promotion will improve your success.

Justice: “Keep it ethical and legal.” It’s just a fact: Tarot is, in the minds of many people, a sham. You can help fight this perception by posting a code of ethics on your Tarot-related site. If you charge for the services you offer, make it clear exactly what you charge … and exactly what the visitor will receive in return. If you promise to deliver something by a certain date and time, always do so.

Hanged Man: “Get another perspective.” Ask someone whose opinion you trust to look at your site and give you feedback. (Because your Mom is slightly biased, she probably isn’t the best choice for this job.) They’ll see your site from an entirely different angle, and may offer information you don’t want to hear at first. Take their advice to heart! If you hear yourself becoming defensive, go outside and hang upside down from a tree limb until the reaction passes.

Death: “Some things deserve to die.” Bizarre background colors and patterns – also known as “wallpaper” – make your site harder to read. Odd text colors and strange fonts make your site harder to read. Centering every line of text makes your site harder to read. Why make your site harder to read? There’s a reason you don’t usually see these effects on professional, corporate sites. No matter how much you love them, no matter how dear they are to your heart … please, let them go.

Temperance: “Avoid excess.” One animation on a page draws a lot of attention; a dozen pieces of animated clip art look gaudy. A brief sound effect that plays once per visit is clever, but hearing a bad MIDI arrangement of "When You Wish Upon A Star" play over and over again on every page of your site will drive visitors insane. When dressing up your pages for company, remember that a little multimedia goes a long way.

The Devil: “Appearances aren’t everything.” In life, the Devil card reminds us that the physical world, divorced from the spiritual world, is empty and unsatisfying. On the web, the Devil reminds us that flashy animation, pretty colors, and slick design alone don’t make for a successful site. Content really is king … without compelling and meaningful content, your site amounts to so much smoke and so many mirrors. A simple site with great content trumps a flashy site with no content every time.

The Tower: “Disaster happens.” Servers fail. Files get lost. Hard drives die. Web hosts go out of business. Insulate yourself from disaster. Keep backups of your web site – and keep them up to date. That way, when disaster strikes, you’ll be well positioned for recovery.

The Star: “Be a good guide.” There’s more to Tarot than your site can offer. While I don’t recommend putting links to other sites on your home page (you’ve worked hard to bring visitors to your site … why show them the door as soon as they arrive?), a page of links to great Tarot sites is a resource many visitors will appreciate.

The Moon: “Don’t project a false image.” In Joan Bunning’s book, Learning the Tarot, she mentions the Moon card’s relationship to illusions, including warnings against “accepting a false picture” or “misapprehending the truth.” On the Web, the Moon reminds us to deal honestly with our visitors. I recently stumbled on a Tarot web site featuring a photo of the reader – and recognized the picture as an image from a clip-art collection! Another reader’s “personalized reading, written just for you” was copied, word for word, from one of Nancy Garen’s books. Represent yourself … and your services … honestly.

The Sun: “Let your light shine.” I’ve seen five Tarot-related sites this week that fail to tell me anything about the person offering the readings! A biography page or “About Me” section is a great place to let interested parties discover more about you … without making your entire site shout “Me, Me, Me!” I’m more likely to buy a reading – or any other service – from someone I know and trust than I am to make a purchase from “the Mysterious Zolthar, Master of the Tarot.”

Judgment: “Awaken to new possibilities.” Considering launching your own Tarot site? Why not band together with others, and offer visitors a variety of readers and reading styles to choose from? Do you post book or deck reviews on your site? Consider becoming an Amazon associate and earning revenue from grateful readers. Interested in increasing monthly traffic? Offer visitors a way to sign up for alerts when your site is updated! Keep your eyes open for new ideas and new ways to keep your site alive, vibrant, and fresh.

The World: “You can’t be all things to all people.” It’s a big world out there, with billions of people with billions of needs. “A site about Tarot” won’t be as successful as a site with a more carefully defined purpose. (A site dedicated to choosing your first Tarot deck, for example, or using elemental dignities, or designing your own spreads, would have a greater chance of success.) Identify your special take on your subject matter … and use that perspective to limit and define your content. As a result, your rankings in search engines will rise … and folks looking for your specific subject matter will stream to your site!


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Tarot Reflections is a publication of the American Tarot Association - Copyright (C) 2003
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