I've visited literally hundreds of gallery post sites, and as a result, I think that it's pretty safe to say that most are quite similar to one another in their layout and design. This can be attributed to the common use of non-exclusive template designs, the unfortunate tendency of webmasters to copy each others projects, and yes, to the notion that "if something works, why change it?"
Tinkering In The Workshop
Having said that, I think that there's room for experimentation with the layout and design of a gallery post site, especially if you're starting one from scratch. While I wouldn't recommend a radical overhaul of an existing site that is currently receiving a decent amount of traffic, especially bookmarkers (since you stand a chance of alienating your surfer base and losing traffic) – on a new site, there's no real downside to experimentation.
As such, I'm in the process of building two gallery post sites: one, which will serve as my 'main' site, is as plain as can be, with a very practical, utilitarian design featuring minimum graphics in a layout very similar to the test TGPs I've built over the past few years. This will become an enormous "100,000+ galleries" site using technical wizardry to sift through everything and "bring the cream to the top" while shooting for high traffic numbers and efficient flow. The second site, a much smaller, pseudo-niche site will be much more design-intensive and either feature gallery subsets from the main site, or hand-selected hosted galleries from choice sponsors.
Although both sites will be very different in concept and appearance, they will share a basic layout structure, featuring a "Hall of Fame" as the first thumbnail section, followed by "Today's Galleries" and then "Yesterday's" galleries. There's nothing radical in this, but it's not the only way to do things.
Some sites like to have sections for each day of the week, i.e., "Monday," "Tuesday," etc. Personally, I don't feel this is necessary – or wise – as it "trains" surfers to visit once a week and still find something of interest. I would rather train my surfers to return daily (or at most, every other day) in order to find something new and exciting. If they miss out on something because they were away for a few days, they can always enter the archives (but that's a story for another day).
A Popularity Contest
As for the "Hall of Fame," I think that having a section at the very top of your site that features the best (most clicked) thumbs in your database is a great way to 'hook' surfers landing on your page. If you've got less than a minute to attract someone's attention, you don't want to waste it on showing them shitty (or 'untested') pictures – hit them with your very best instead! You won't alienate repeat visitors (such as bookmarkers) this way, as they know to scroll down for the day's fresh listings.
Having a "Top List" of your best referrers at the bottom of the page is a common way to send additional traffic to your trades, and thus increase the return traffic you receive, but consideration should be given to raising the position of this section higher on the page in order to further increase trade efficiency. One strategy I have considered would be to display the "Top 10" referrers between "Today's" and "Yesterday's" listings, or in another prominent location, with the balance of referrers listed in their more traditional position at the bottom of the page.
Another consideration in the layout and design of a TGP involves internal linking and advertisement placement. For example, a link to your contact information, 2257 records and other legal information, links to your archives and subsections (if any), and a link to your webmaster / trade / submit page all need to find a home, as do "bookmarking aids" and email collection boxes, as applicable to your own site. While webmasters will often scroll right to the bottom of your page in search of links of interest to them, bookmarking buttons should be liberally sprinkled throughout your design – one for each 'section' should suffice.
If you wish to display banners, buttons, text links, or other advertisements, then they need to be incorporated in as attractive and visible, but not intrusive, a manner as possible. Keep in mind that using pop-ups will typically kill your chances of finding decent trades, as well as hamper bookmarking efforts. Integrating a banner rotation program which supports rich media while counting impressions, clicks, and allows for zones and weighting is a great idea, but beyond the scope of this article.
Finally, another consideration comes up that indirectly impacts layout and design, and while not really a design issue, will be dealt with here: whether or not you intend to accept 'outside' gallery submissions from other webmasters. While the trend is clearly pointing to hosted galleries and trusted 'partner' accounts due to the excessive amounts of 'cheating' done by gallery submitters, accepting submissions is a quick way to build up a diverse gallery base while gaining (limited amounts of) traffic through mandatory reciprocal links.
Your decision to accept submissions (or not) impacts the design of your gallery post's "webmaster" page, and can influence the categories (and thus links to) niches displayed on your main page, and in your archives (if any). If you are planning on accepting submissions, an easy option is to add your site to the database of one or more popular auto-submitters.
For example, Chameleon Submitter offers 72 niche-based submission categories which can be accepted into most TGP scripts. I've used this great tool to submit galleries in the past, and will use it to accept them in the future. As such, I copied the options from their category selection drop-down box to see not only what was available, but the syntax used for selection. For example, "CumShot" is not the same as "cum shot" – a distinction required for proper integration with some TGP scripts. Knowing this from the start makes setting up categories within your TGP script easier and more effective, and so I wanted to discuss this at the earliest stages of site creation.
I covered a lot of ground here, and hopefully have given you some food for thought. Thought, however, is all I have to go on here, as I've yet to build and operate a 'finished' TGP. If you have some thoughts or experiences to share, please add your comments to the discussion thread below. Stay tuned for more!