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Main Content => Web Design => Topic started by: Terrence Marks on January 09, 2010, 09:07:48 PM

Title: Where to begin?
Post by: Terrence Marks on January 09, 2010, 09:07:48 PM
You Say it First has over 1700 comics. This can be intimidating to new readers.  I wrote Some Day (http://yousayitfirst.com/comics/some_day.php) as a quick-start.  The idea is to bring readers up to speed on who the major players are and how they interact with each other.

Pro: Introduces the characters quickly; 1700 comics can be intimidating and I want to make it as easy as possible for folks to catch up.

Con: Nothing happens. It's a pleasant enough ramble through a day, but there's no plot and no hook.  Mild spoilers, too, I suppose.

Further note: The actual beginning (http://yousayitfirst.com/comics/first_day.php) has considerably more hook to it.  The series is, by far, more character-driven than plot-driven, though.

So lately, I've been thinking about it.  I'm not sure if this is an especially good place to send new readers or an especially bad place to send new readers.  What say you?
Title: Re: Where to begin?
Post by: CorvusErebus on January 09, 2010, 09:27:49 PM
I don't think this is a matter of web design. But then again, It's not really a topic for Art or Writing either. So I'll leave it here for now.

Personally, I'm not a big fan of Plot Summary comics. They tend to leave the reader lost on so many in jokes and tiny details. It may feel like you're helping, but you're really only hindering new readers. They'll have to read all 1700 eventually if they are going to fallow the details. There really aren't any shortcuts to "Jump In Quickly" to a story. Not and still appreciate the intricacies. You've already taken some very good steps towards making that easier though. (Note: The fallowing only applies to Story-Heavy comics. Joke-A-Days clearly don't need all this).

1. Chapters. If you do a story comic, you need to break it up in to Chunks based on the plot points. One long never ending archive can be daunting. Points for having done that already.

2. Cast Pages. These are a bit of a debate point in some circles. Some people think detailed cast pages confuse people. Others think short cast pages waste space since they don't tell you much. My personal stance is Be Brief but thorough. Don't go in to the plot any more then you have to. Touch on story-relevant background information, and basic Personality and quirks. A cast page should let us get the gist of a character without reading everything that happened to them in the comic, and silly stuff like "Their Blood type" (I've seen it). Points for having a cast page, Penalty for being too brief to tell us anything we can't easily guess.

Beyond that, All you can do is make sure your website is easy to read, and the archives are clearly marked out.

Of course, these are only My opinions. I hope we get to hear from some other people on this issue!
Title: Re: Where to begin?
Post by: Rob on January 09, 2010, 09:37:03 PM
Actually I definitely see this as a website layout issue. Getting new readers comfortable enough to dip their toe into the story is only step one. Once they are hooked you want them to go back through the archive and experience the full mojo. But the trick is to grab them and keep them when they get there.

If your archive was small it wouldn't be much of an issue. But you have a huge number of comics requiring a significant time investment for a new user.

If you have a book with the first year, that will be the place to push at cons. Get them to read the first year in hand, they will read the rest on line. For sure.

Another tip that I've seen from some of the big fish; and this is most germane to site layout, is a cast page. A detailed and well thought out cast page with a picture of each cast member and a paragraph or two of thier back story can really engage a new reader.

The model for this, I feel is Randy Milholland's Something*Positive. His Cast Page (http://www.somethingpositive.net/cast.shtml) is amazing.

Hope that helps. Good luck.  ;)
Title: Re: Where to begin?
Post by: Terrence Marks on January 11, 2010, 07:54:06 PM
Thank you for the advice.

I'm going to rebrand it as "quick start" instead of "new readers start here", to keep the option available but steer new folks towards the full archive.

Also, I'll be sure to make the links to the cast page (and the "more info" links on each character's entry on the cast page) larger and more prominent; they're apparently a bit easier to overlook than I had thought.
Title: Re: Where to begin?
Post by: Rob on January 11, 2010, 08:26:15 PM
Yeah I completely missed the cast page. Found it now though.  :-[

It's not bad but I would recommend that you look at Randy's example and try to cut down the full page to a paragraph or two for each character and then keep it all on the same page (I know... so much work abandoned but please read on as I justify it). The difficulty of getting a users to click links has been scientifically documented (I shit you not you can find the studies on line and I bet guys like Corvus and William could probably tell you where they are). The more links to click to get to content the more readers you lose. It's an actual equation.

You have thirteen characters with thirteen links. Add to that the link to get to the cast page and the fact that they have to click back to the cast page to read about the next character and you are looking at almost thirty clicks to read about all your characters. That is a LOT to ask of even a devoted reader, let alone a new one. I would rather have one gigantically long page that has to be scrolled down forever then ask my readers to click that many links. Randy has way more characters than you, yet by dividing them up into three categories and keeping all their info on those pages you can learn about his humongous cast and get back to the home page with only four clicks and some scrolling.

Also, I want to see your girl rabbit naked. Does that make me a furry? Or would that be the opposite of furry since the fur would still look like she's wearing clothes to me? Maybe I just really like Playboy Bunnies and this is a carryover. You seem like an authority so I thought I wold ask.  :D ;)
Title: Re: Where to begin?
Post by: Terrence Marks on January 12, 2010, 06:22:05 AM
It's cool. I was just being petulant there and I do apologize.  Seriously, I'm going to bump up the font size and make the cast link more prominent when I redesign things.

You're right about the cast page, though.  The bios are long and out-of-date right now.  I'm trying to find the balance between introducing the characters to new readers, and providing a reference to people who read the comic through and are trying to remember which character majored in French Lit.  It's due for an update soon and we'll see what happens.

And no.  That just means my wife is good at drawing attractive women.
Title: Re: Where to begin?
Post by: Pete on January 12, 2010, 09:47:44 AM
And no.  That just means my wife is good at drawing attractive women.
That's a good quality to have in a wife.  ;-)

Thought I'd throw in my experiences.  For a while I maintained a "story guide", which I would update after every storyline (or at least, that was the theory; it didn't always happen that smoothly).  However, it was just a summary of each storyline.  I ditched it a while ago, and looking back on it, I realize it was a pretty bad idea.  No one comes to a webcomic to read that much text, they want art as well.

I think Rob has a good point - if you have a book with the first year or so of strips to sell at conventions or whatever, people will be more likely to be drawn into reading the rest of the comic.  I've seen this happen on a number of occasions for Bardsworth.

Also, make sure your archive is very user friendly.  You're in the clear, because you have one of the better archives I've seen.  I really hate it when people just have a calendar archive or, God forbid, a drop-down menu of the storylines.  It may be worth looking into a script to allow people to bookmark where they left off in the archives, so they can just come back to that point (yes, I know, people can just bookmark it in their browser, but the less work on their part the better).

Lastly, it comes down to just making sure that each and every strip you post is so good that it MAKES someone want to jump into your archives.  :-)
Title: Re: Where to begin?
Post by: GaborBoth on January 12, 2010, 02:44:41 PM
Personally, I'm against plot summaries. How I (and probably lot of other people) start reading a webcomic goes like this: Clicking on the link of your comic, reading the latest strip as that's what I see first. If I see this is funny and/or may have a story that might interest me, and the art is good to look at, I bookmark the site, click <<First and start reading. If your comic is good, people will want to read them all and when it ends, want to read more.
I don't see any real pros for summary comics. Rather make a good description of what your comic is about in the About menu to make people interested with a link to the archives.