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On Site Design

Whenever I start thinking about web design, I think of the term "look and feel," which inevitably makes me think of the hamsters in Microserfs. Then, I chuckle to myself and move on.

When designing the look and feel of pear-pear, my wife and I wanted a site that avoided everything we hate about webpages--ads, unnecessary framing, a crowded visual field. But that's a website in general. We also get pretty opinionated when it comes to how we feel about the design of webcomics pages specifically. If the intent is to focus your audience on the art and the narrative, a lot of those poor website design choices become even more inappropriate. With a nonverbal, single-panel comic, it's especially ludicrous.

I realize that webcomics with animated ads, and a jumbled, crowded field do just fine. Look at most of the top ranked/most viewed comics, and you'll see that poor design is no deterrent, apparently, to their readership. Maybe most people don't mind because they're inured to it. Maybe it's become the convention, even expected; so, new webcomic artists feel if they're going to be taken seriously, they must appeal to the dominant form. But we weren't interested in that, and wanted viewing the site to be a clean experience.

I could gripe about how the typical webcomic page layout--including the layout of the art itself--is the bastard child of the webpage and the comic book page, or of the webpage and the newspaper comic strip, and it doesn't have to be. But I think my thoughts on design are best expressed through the site itself. We wanted it to be both narrative and non-narrative, depending on how it is read, and so we decided that each page should only be a single panel. This way, the viewer must slow down and consider all the elements of the panel before moving on. This isn't necessarily important for all comics, but it's important to what we're trying to achieve with our comic.

Hopefully later this month we'll have a simple, appropriate and fun archive navigation system up and running, to better promote the other way of reading it: as a collection of brief story arcs that add up to the daily life of these breakfast table denizens.

Re: On Site Design

when i looked at pear-pear, i wasn't sure, upon glancing, exactly what was clickable and what wasn't. i really wanted the two pears in the upper right corner to be clickable because it seemed everything similar to them was. as for the icons, unless i read the bottom of my browser window, i really don't know what i'm going to get if i click them. in fact, i was so desperate for some sort of text the whole time i looked at the navigation.

the first, previous, next, last buttons are obvious. the rest, not so much.

maybe a rollover or something wouldn't be a terrible idea.

Re: On Site Design

Pear-pear's picture

I'll have to look into baking some cookies. The concept we're working on right now for the archives is a dozen eggs in a carton, where each egg sends you to a month (e.g. the eighth egg leads you to a list of all the comics from august). To keep up the textless format, we were thinking of thumbnails for each comic, but this would be time consuming to make and a pain in the neck for those with dial-up. Then we thought of just listing the strips by number, and including a thumbnail only every time a new character showed up, or a major event occured.

Any thoughts?



Re: On Site Design

At least a webcomic shouldn't be more cumbersome to handle than a printed

What I dislike most about most webcomics is not being able to read a page
as a whole without scrolling.

And as you mention bookmarks: I wonder why most webcomics do not provide
a cookie which takes the reader back to the last page being visited. This
is something my girlfriend implemented for my webcomic at

Re: On Site Design

I'm honestly surprised that more comics haven't taken up some sort of save-place feature.

Re: On Site Design

I'm sometimes tempted to propose a Vincent Flandersesque "Webcomic Sites that Violently Inhale" site. Most often when I run into unnavigable navigation systems e.g. no "Start at the beginning" link, frame-or-javascript archive setups that won't let you bookmark your place, elevator archive-pages tall enough to reach geosynchronous orbit...