Interface counsel

Lisa Anderson has some advice for would-be webcomics artists at Comics Village, and it’s actually pretty good counsel for anyone thinking of embarking on a creative career: plan ahead, be original, stay committed. And there are a few suggestions that I wish more webcomickers would take to heart, such as this advice on website design:

Before running off to the land of fancy effects and complex coding, consider your readers. Black backgrounds are rarely a good thing, as most colors (especially fonts!) look horrible on it. Standard red and blue should not be used atop one another…they have different depths, and many can become sick at the difference it causes their depth perception. Frames can be handy, but bad layouts and complicated formatting can leave the reader lost and annoyed. Try to keep your archive neat and accessible. (A personal pet peeve are those archives based purely on date posted. It makes finding specific arcs or strips impossible.) When it doubt, go for something simple with a soothing color scheme.

Here’s my own pet peeve: putting so much stuff up top that I have to scroll down to read the comic. Sometimes I can’t even find the comic in the mess of banner ads, titles and subtitles, blog posts, pictures of the kitties, whatever. Almost as bad is a strip comic that floats alone in a vast emptiness, with a few Project Wonderful ads and a drop-down menu and nothing else to anchor it. Webcomics Nation, I’m looking at you! Put in some sidebars, for God’s sake! Then you can have a few square or skyscraper Project Wonderful ads instead of a dozen of those stupid-looking buttons. And you can bring in traffic, and boost the usefulness of your site, by adding links to news sites, other comics, and your other projects.

One more thing: If you are spending money on an ad on another site, please have that ad take me directly to your comic, not to your LJ or blog. This is especially aggravating when the ad looks interesting, I click it, and I wind up on a blog page with no indication of where the actual comic is. So remember: If I can’t find it, I can’t read it.

The site that hosts your comic is as much a part of the user’s experience as the comic itself. If it’s more noticeable than the comic (blinking ads, white-on-black text, fluorescent colors) you’re doing yourself a disservice. If you want to be taken seriously, use good design to show of your work at its best.

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