Thursday, May 15, 2008

Pre-Launch Checklist for New Web Comics

This list finishes the one started yesterday. It's a pre-launch checklist for new web comics.
More things to consider:
__Will you have a forum?
Most of the forums I've seen become tiny salons full of resident dictators and trolls. I rarely go in them. The problem is, they build a community, and some idiot decides he is the leader. It's not worth fighting about it, but at the same time, if they are rude to your visitors, it's bad. Better to find a well-run forum and join in and network there than to have to police a bunch of people who exploit your hospitality. If I was to be granted one superpower, I'd be tempted by the ability to fumigate troll-infested forums.
__Will you have links?
When I started out, I put links in for anything I liked, just to fill the space. Eventually, the links didn't line up with the rest of the site and I had to remove some, which made me feel terrible.
The temptation is to link to all your friends and favorite sites, but it's better to go slowly. Only link to sites you read and visit, not ones you think you should. Tell readers why you are linking: "These are the web comics I read every week." "I recommend this site." "This is a good web comics blog." Link to sites that are underlinked. Let them know you linked, and maybe they will link back to you if you ask nicely.
__Will you have a slogan?
Sure! Now just think of one. Sleep on it before you make it final.
__Will you have tons of widgets?
I hope not. I probably can't talk you out of Twitter, so it comes down to traffic monitoring gizmos. I like the Feedjit Live Traffic Reader which you can see near the bottom of this page. I haven't found any others worth keeping, but there are undoubtedly a few. Widgets slow down your load time, often very unpredictably, and cost you readers. When the novelty wears off, you'll find yourself deleting them with a vengeance.
__Will you have Google Analytics?
Of course.
__Will you have a character identification list?
Some strips need it. Five or more main characters suggests you should consider it. It can be tucked away behind a navigation button.
__Will you have ABOUT?
I have seen some crazy uses of the ABOUT navigation button. Map software, birthday announcements, long tearful excuses as to why the comic is late. ABOUT is either ABOUT the comic, ABOUT you, or both. Some people have an ABOUT button for each.
__Will you have a blog?
I don't know. I see an awful lot of strips updated in the last week but the blog hasn't been touched since 2004. It probably comes down to whether you are good at quickly writing pithy news bits about your efforts, and disciplined enough to stick something in at least several times a month. You can condense the whole idea down to a NEWS navigation button and put any announcements there. Beware of producing blogs that sound self-centered, a common error in webcomics.
__Will you have update days?
As in, "this strip updates Mondays and Fridays." It depends if you can get ahead enough so that you can keep to them when you are sick or attending weddings. Sometimes it's better to commit to the bare minimum, such as "weekly at random." Whatever you promise, be sure to deliver it. No whining. Resorting to "guest strips" when you prefer to go to a party than draw is amateurish. It certainly strips the guest strip of whatever fan appeal it might carry.
As a matter of fact, I have an odd habit. If I am reading a comic and encounter a guest strip that is not part of a planned special event, I often drop the strip. My heart just doesn't feel the same about it. Charles Schulz didn't do guest strips once over fifty years.