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Comic Books Are User Friendly: Is Your Webcomic?

Books are common technology: You hold it, turn the pages and read the information. There aren’t many people who take a book and can’t understand how to get what they want from it. The same goes for comic books. If someone wants to read a comic book, they simply use it like a normal book, turning pages and taking in the comic.

When moving to the web, technologies have to change. You can’t flip pages on a computer monitor, even though your web-comic is broken up into such. What is the user to do? Adapt.

There are two ways to take a web-comic’s navigation: Use the same thing everyone else is using or be innovative and create your own navigation scheme. If you take the second route, you have to provide users with enough information that they can quickly learn (and like) this new technology. Setting up a web-comic where clicking on the comic itself moves the reader through the plotline is certainly convenient, but if the reader never knows it is there, how effective is it? Not very.

So, what exactly is the most standard form of web-comic navigation? There are actually two: The button method, or the archive method. The button method consists of anywhere from two to six buttons, moving the reader to the first comic, the previous comic, the next comic, and the last comic. This form of navigation is widely understood and accepted, allowing first-time readers to visit your site and feel comfortable moving through the comics. The archive method presents the reader with a list of comics and allows them to select which one to read. To a first time reader, this may prove daunting, especially if you have hundreds of comics available. The best method is usually an adaptation of the two (as seen here), allowing new readers to navigate by turning “pages”, and allowing old readers to find their favorites quickly and easily.

Another thing to consider about your web-comic is how you link to it. If your comic is a gag strip with no plot, it may be simplest to link to your main page (containing your newest comic); however, if you have a deep and intricate plot, linking to the front page will leave the readers confused at best; ruining the comic plot at worst. If this is the case, it is best to link to your first comic in the newest plotline.

Keep readers in mind first when designing or linking your site. Sure a cool navigation may look neat, but when a reader leaves your site after realizing that they cannot browse your archives, all that cool won’t mean a thing.

Plot-Driven Comics

Xaviar Xerexes's picture

Plot-driven comics with large archives are well-served to craft a single page "guide" to the comic so that new readers can get a handle on it.

Chapters or other ways to break up large archives are also really useful to give new readers a way to start on strip or just to catch up.

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Xaviar XerexesÂ

I am a Modern Major Generality.

I run this place! Tip the piano player on the way out.