Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Repairing Your Weaknesses

Decades apart, I have found two different takes on dealing with weaknesses in a webcomic, or just about any endeavor.
The first lesson was senior year in high school. A normally quiet girl was fretting because the art teacher was removing certain pieces from her portfolio. A soft spoken man who let me cartoon without interference as long as I helped the retarded kid from time to time, he explained that artists must periodically strengthen their portfolios by removing the weakest works.
The girl was skeptical, but when he laid his keepers on one table and his deletes on another, everyone saw his point.
So one method of improving an artistic presentation is pruning. I'm an aggressive pruner: I prune at least one blog post for every two I publish. I have pruned whole volumes of comics; even a novel.
Recently I was reading a newspaper article about a new book by long time chess champion Gary Kasparov. Using the chessboard as a metaphor for life, he offers the idea that the goal is to constantly improve your weakest pieces. I play chess, and I am an attrition player, looking to snipe weak pieces and then press my advantage with trades. I have never looked at the board in terms of improving my own weakest areas, unless they were in danger.
What can webcomics learn from this? Obviously, many comics cannot delete weak pages, and it's difficult to find time for do-overs.
Single panel comics on the web can almost universally benefit from pruning weaker material, moving it offline or to an annex for hardcore fans.
We can acknowledge that it is probably better to delay a post than put up something inferior.
But besides these approaches, Kasparov's advice doesn't seem terribly helpful.
Until you look at the whole "board." The art, the writing, the design, the site, the logo, the masthead, the navigation, the optimization, the fonts, the colors, the blog, the links, the ads and all the rest.
Where are you weak? Is one of those areas holding you back? And what can you do to strengthen it?
If any readers have used Blogger and have advanced experience in installing third party templates or exporting blogs to other locations, I have become tired of fighting this broken system and would like to ask you a few questions. Thank you.