Putting It Out There

Once you've finished toiling away on your first few comics, and you've produced a work of staggering greatness (or, at least, a couple of pretty good fart jokes), your next step is to create a home for them. Now, there are places that will offer to do all the work for you; Webcomics Nation is one respectable example. But, if you're in it for the long haul, eventually you'll want to set up your own web site. And the first step is selecting a domain name.

When I was in school, I had an English professor who liked to tell his students that titles are a lot like the bow on a present: nice to have, but ultimately unimportant. Domain names are a lot like that. Just try to pick something short and easy to remember, that you won't get embarrassed about when it comes time to give out your email address to strangers. If you can find something that meets these criteria and is also relevant to your comic's subject matter, great; personally, going over my list of favorite webcomics, I can't really figure out how half of their titles relate without doing some serious analytical gymnastics.

Pick a web host that's affordable, but not crazy-cheap. Places like Dreamhost and Lunarpages offer some pretty good packages that will cover everything you'll need for around $100/year. Wherever you go, make sure that, in addition to offering copious (if not unlimited) quantities of storage and bandwidth, they also provide support for PHP and MySQL; if you want any sort of automated content management, whether it's a basic archiving system for your comics or a full-fledged blogging platform, you'll need these features.

Which brings us to the actual making of the website. There are plenty of places to learn the basics of creating a web page, and they're all a simple trip to Google away (w3schools.com is a pretty good reference site to start with). Just like the Art and Writing aspects of webcomicking, you're likely to make a lot of mistakes at first, and the learning process will be frustrating. But, it's important and eventually you'll get the hang of things.

There are steps you can take to make your life a little easier. Keep your site design simple; it's tempting to throw in all the cool features you see on other, more established webcomic sites, but ask yourself what's really necessary. If you don't have readers yet, you don't need ad space, and you don't need a store. Simple is fine. Simple is good. Everything you add to your site is just one more thing drawing attention away from your comic.

Speaking of which, your comic should be on the main page. And, ideally, people should be able to see the whole thing without having to scroll down. Not so much for fear of people being lazy, but because it'll be easier for your readers to immerse themselves in your archives if they can just keep clicking through to the next comic without having to scroll all over the place.

Finally, once you've finished your coding your web site and styling it to your satisfaction, go check it out in a different browser and see how messed up it looks. Then search the web for other plaintive e-wails from people who've suffered similar distress. Find the solution and fix things up. After that, check your site on a different computer and go through the whole thing all over again. Then square those shoulders and lift that chin, because now you're a real webcartoonist.