Sunday, March 31, 2013

Webcomic Review Month 2013: How to format a webpage in a logical manner

I'll say it here, I'm not a web designer or even a graphic designer, normally I don't deal much with design at all. However, I go on a lot of webpages every day and I'm generally considered to be a smart person, if I go on your website and can't find the information I want then something has gone wrong. And for about 70, 80% of the webcomic websites I come across, regardless of whether or not I like the comic the website works just fine and I'm able to find out everything I need to know about it. But for that remaining percentage, well, here are the basics you need to have a well organized website.

To start, I get on a webpage and immediately look for either the first or the latest page of the comic. It can be either and it can be on the main page or I can go click on a link like "new readers start here", both of those are totally fine and I have no idea what attracts/keeps more potential readers. Once I've gotten to that page though and whatever is on the page intrigues me I look for five buttons below the comic, first, previous, archive, next, and last pages. Sometimes a comic doesn't have all those buttons but as long as I can easily navigate and find the archive that's okay. And you really, REALLY need to have an archive page. Baby stuff I know but I can think of one or two instances where a comic didn't have one. And, in the cases I'm thinking of I had read some of the comic before, wanted to try it again but didn't want to start at the beginning but there wasn't an archive and the pages URLs weren't numeric. So I decided that they weren't worth the trouble and haven't looked at them since, guys just make an archive page and keep it up to date.

So, I've looked at a few pages, they grab me, the next thing I do is to look at the about page to see what exactly the comic is about. Here's what I'm hoping to find.

A two sentence to paragraph summary of the plot. Any shorter and there's not enough information for me to tell if the story is original enough to be interesting/is going to be a really good take on an older idea or if it's going to be terrible. Any longer and you're just getting waaaay too deep into world building.

And then credit the staff!
Because it's rather awkward when I
have to dig through the copyright information to find
someone's name or even a handle to call them.

And credit everyone involved! Got a
colorist? Inker? Artist who does everything? Co-writer?
Whatever, just give me a name to use, occupation, and something
funny/silly to make me connect with them.

Again, most of the time I can find both of these things, about 60-70% of the time, but plenty of people only have one of these on the page. And I swear once I found an about page that looked like this
Handle is a cat who likes cheese and sleeping.

Needless to say I wasn't impressed, guys don't be that person, or at least have a plot summary as well! 

After that, if you have a lot of characters, or at least a number of point of views which don't often overlap, then I recommend a character page. However, you really really have to keep those up to date or they're a bit pointless for the reader ( "Hmm, don't remember this character but all the other characters seem to know them, let me look on the character page. ....kay they're not there which could mean their a minor character BUT there are other people who aren't on the page that the plot has indicated are major characters and should be here, help I'm confused").

Link pages are also pretty cool, when I first started reading webcomics I'd read one, like it, and then check to see what comics the author recommended and read those. I noticed quickly that just because I liked what someone wrote didn't mean that I was necessarily also going to like what they read (something which still confuses me) but I wouldn't have found nearly as many amazing comics as I have if it wasn't for that. Also, it's super awesome when webcomics have their own banners that I can use here instead of having to screenshot the logo and steal that to put in my reviews, just saying.

And that's about it, so far everyone I've seen who is selling books or other merchandise already have a store page, plenty of people have a page for fanart/other fanworks they've gotten which is rather nice, honestly it's not that hard to set up a good website and there are plenty of non-webcomic websites I've seen with the same problem (photographer websites that I've been looking at for my homework I'm glaring at you guys right now). I do wonder if some sites, like Smackjeeves, limit how much you can change the design since I've seen an awful lot of SJ sites missing an about page, but even then I have faith that people can get creative and figure out how to get all the necessary information across anyway.

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