Welcome to the penultimate article in the KISS: Usability & Webcomics 101 series. Today, pages and extras for your webcomic site.
Now that we’ve run down the basic parts of a webcomic site and some of the ways you can make it more user-friendly, we’ll wrap up this KISS 101 series with a few nice extras you’ll probably want to include. These are items worth working into your design, but not worth making your central theme. You want people to look at your comic first, then check out everything else to get them excited about bookmarking your site and staying a fan.
For more about Extra Pages, RSS & Social Media Buttons, and Copyright Notices, Read on after the jump.
Pages are additional sections of your website indirectly related to your comic. They are linked from your Site Navigation (which, as you recall, often does its best near the top of the page). Readers will typically turn to pages to get more information about you and your story, or to see what you have to sell in your store (if you have one).
Maintaining a consistent site design through your pages will help readers easily flow through your site and prevent them from getting lost. Colors should be kept the same, or at the very least complementary, and the header and site navigation shouldn’t move from the where people expect to find it.
Clear labeling of pages is important as well. Tell readers what page they are on by placing the page title near the top and in the name text of your browser. You can also make the location more obvious by keeping the page name and the site navigation name the same.
In webcomics, there are several types of pages readers are accustom to seeing. Although you don’t need to use them all, being familiar with the terminology is well worth your time. A handful of the most common page names and purposes are:
About: An About page can be about you, the comic, the history behind the comic, and/or the story so far. An about page is considered to be a bare minimum ‘extra’ page by many webcomickers as it allows your readers to begin making a personal connection with you. Example from Dodge the Bullet.
Cast: The Cast page simply introduces the major and minor characters in your story. It is also one of the most common and considered indispensable by some creators. Example from Walking the Lethe.
Gallery: A gallery generally refers to a gallery of artwork done by the creator that is related to the comic, such as sketches, backgrounds, or other bonus work. Sometimes the Gallery page also contains fanart, but more often fan creations get their own page. Example from Sweet & Sour Grapes.
Contact Me: WordPress makes contact pages easy, but you should at least offer your readers one or two ways to get in touch with you be it an email, twitter account, or something else. Example from Title Pending.
Links: Link exchanges are slowly being phased out by many webcomic sites, but creators still like sharing links to their favorites. Collect them all in one location to avoid cluttering your homepage. Banners so readers can link to you are also often included in the Links page. Example from Yet Another Fantasy Gamer Comic.
Store: The design of a good store probably deserves its own post, but if you’re building your own try to make it make the rest of your site design. If not though, that’s ok. Readers are accustom to seeing “Store” links go out to a separate services such as Topatoco or Cafepress.
RSS & Social Media Buttons
RSS feeds & social media buttons are very popular in webcomics these days, and rightly so. These services offer your readers with alternative ways to read content, get to know you, and interact with their fellow fans. Since there are so many services out there, there are a couple of ways you can add them to your site.
If you only want to use a few services, individual buttons tailored to match your design is the way to go. These buttons are typically fairly small, so you can make them fit prominently along a sidebar or near the top of the page. The most common ones used in webcomic are RSS (which should definately be easy to find), Twitter, and Facebook (which has a Like button and can sign up followers to your Facebook page if you have one).
If you want your readers to have access to lots of different services, you can look into using a broader service like AddToAny. These services can help you minimize the social network buttons’ footprint, but may be less obvious to your visitors.
Both options can be usually be modified to blend into your site design, but in either case, resist the urge to change the core symbol too much. Each social network has a particular symbol that readers are use to seeing and if you deviate too far they may become confused. Changing colors is usually ok, but if you have any concern at all, be sure to include words to clarify what the visitor is clicking.
You automatically own copyright to your work, even if you don’t include a copyright notice, but since not everyone gets that you should have one anyways. A simple, but completely acceptable solution is to include a statement in the footer like this:
YourComic is © YourName, Year XXX.
If you are using something on your site that you did not create yourself (but have permission or license to use of course), be sure to credit those creators as well. This is just a start, but copyright is a big topic. We’ll dive back into it another time.
Go back to the site design you’ve worked out for your homepage and clip out the comic, blog, and other homepage only content. Will the frame you have left work for the additional pages you want to include? What changes would make it work better without becoming disconnected from the rest of your website?