I’ve been perusing the archives for a variety of webcomics in the last couple of weeks, and I’ve seen a wide range of site designs for these comics ranging from abysmal to superb. There are two things I’ve come across that annoy the bejeebers out of me:
- ‘About’ pages that don’t actually tell you anything _about_ either the comic or the artist. One of the things mentioned in _How to Write Webcomics_ is that a webcomic site should have an ‘About’ page that should tell you a little something about the artist behind the work and possibly even a little something about the comic (like its inspiration, evolution, etc.). In two or three separate instances, I’ve clicked on the ‘About’ page for a comic I enjoyed in order to find out a little more about the philosophy behind the comic and in order to learn a little something about the artist, only to find one or two sentences that contain no useful information other than an email address. There’s one I’m reading right now that’s a little bit bent and contains an off-kilter brand of humor that I find rather enjoyable. The thing about it, though, is that I think it would be even more enjoyable if the artist would set the whole comic into some sort of personal context. I can interpret the comics he writes from my own point of view, but I can almost certainly guarantee that it’s going to be different from the artist’s POV, and there are certain of his comics that simply go right over my head because I don’t understand his POV. A more complete and comprehensive ‘About’ page would go a long way to remedying this situation.
- Useful archive links in prominent locations on the page. One thing that I hate is reading a the current comic in a webcomic, enjoying it enough to want to peruse the archives from the first one through to the present one, only to find that a) there are no archive links, or b) I have to click into the archives in order to get to the first comic, or c) there is simply no way, even by going into the archives, to get to the first comic. Any good webcomic should four links placed prominently on the front page either directly above or below (or both) the current comic – first, previous, next, last. New readers, such as myself, find those eminently useful in catching up on what’s gone on in the past, and without those links, we are more likely to surf away and never come back. Even having to click into the archives first before being able to click through to the first comic is frustrating. The more clicks you require your readers to go through in order to dig into your comics increases the chances that your readers are going to get frustrated by the experience and leave without ever becoming fans.
I’d say that about half of the site designs I’ve seen for various webcomics are extremely well-done. About half of the remaining comics could use a little tweaking and smoothing out of trouble areas, and the remaining quarter would greatly benefit from a ground-up redesign to make them more reader-friendly. Webcomics should be fun and easy to navigate, and good design is the way to make that happen.