A little history. Four years and a week and a half ago, I started my comic thanks to two great pieces of advice from my friends Jami Noguchi and Marty Day:
- Shut up.
- F*cking do it.
At the time, I thought I needed to step back, make a logo, make a website, make it pretty, and all that stuff before launching. Instead, I installed WordPress inside the folder of another site I had, and just started making comics. This was brilliantly stupid. Brilliant because it made me shut up, stop thinking about it, and get started. And stupid because for years the site had odd naming issues (is it Not Quite Wrong? Rosscott Inc? The System? System Comic?), a really long URL, and looked pretty standard-ComicPress-y. Unlike Scott Kurtz, I think ComicPress is a perfectly fine way to get started, but it is a standard template and like any standard templates, can be outgrown.
I outgrew mine a while ago.
Flash forward to last year, when I wrote a rather monumentous post on the site called “Finite Canvas, Better Frame”. As a web designer, it was dumb of me to have such a bad website, especially for a comic about web design. So, after a lot of thinking, I began working on what you now see here which is a better way of reading comics. Boom. Yeah, I said it. What?
We need a better way of reading comics because the way comic sites work needs to change with the Internet. As Jakob Nielsen says, you’re not just competing with others in your field, but every other site on the web. And comics need to catch up to that. When the term “webcomics” gets used, half of that gets quickly forgotten. You can’t be a webcomic artist without a website, and it’s time we started having that half of things catch up. This site is an experiment in usability, featuring a lot of tools to help users better interact with the comics shown and it’s all built on ComicPress.
So why is this a better way of reading comics? Let’s go through some features, shall we?
Left-hand navigation. Never again will you go searching for the comic’s navigation buttons, or have them move around on you when a comic is long or short. They are always
right left there, no matter what. Like a mother watching over you. So you can now effectively read every comic without moving your mouse.
More ways to dive in. There is related content all over the place. Like a comic about coffee? Want to see more about coffee? NO PROBLEM. Check out ALL THE POSTS ON THE SITE ABOUT COFFEE. Under each comic and post is now related comics/posts since over half of the traffic to the site is here for one comic they saw about design / coffee / bikes, now they can see more related comics about coffee / bikes / design. Oh, and not just ONE, but TWO archive pages! Check it. Browse by subject or browse by comic date.
Infinite scroll. Go to the home page, and scroll to the bottom. You’ll have the main comic at the top, and then some mixture of recent blog posts and comics. And at the bottom? MORE POSTS. They just keep loading and loading. It’s just like Tumblr’s ultra-addictive and dangerous dashboard. But better (because it has my comics in it).
Archive diving made easy. Are you new to the site? Haven’t read all the comics but don’t want to click through page after page of comics and wait for it to load? What if all the comics were on one page that I could just scroll down and read through? WELL NOW YOU CAN. Welcome, friends and Systemics, to the Turbo Reader™. Go to the archive pages and just use the sidebar to pick which comic you’d like to start with, and whether or not you’re reading forwards or backwards in the archive. You’ll get all the comics you want and none of those pesky “news posts” that you just don’t read anyway.
Responsive Design. Resize this browser window. I dare you. Did it break things? Honestly, probably a little. But it also resized to fit your browser, didn’t it? Isn’t that neat?
If you’re interested in moving your own comic site forward, let me know. I’m trying to blaze a trail, but there’s no reason to go it alone. If you want to talk shop, ping me at systemcomic at gmail dot com. Otherwise, stay tuned. I’m planning on launching some initiatives to make some of these tools available for others. We all need to catch up and move forward.
So there you go, a quick overview to the new site. Obviously, I think it’s a rather staggering improvement, but I couldn’t have done it alone, so some thank yous:
- To Lori Goldberg (Twitter, Website), who programmed the whole thing into WordPress, everyone go give her money. (Female programmers! Yay!)
- To my friends who heard me complain about this process for the past year or so, thank you.
- To my comic friends who told me to shut up and fucking do it, thanks. Now onto the book.
- To Carter, who almost programmed the site and started work on the Turbo Reader with me, thanks man. Sorry it didn’t pan out, but it was some solid work that needed to be done to yield the final result.
- Ryan McCahan of Blind Ferret, who did some late-night .htaccess breaking and fixing. And Justin Boyd as well, who lent a hand!