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  1.  (9535.1)
    Clicking around, I notice that no-one else really gives a shit about page formatting in webcomics (unlike, for example, the way I built FREAKANGELS pages to scroll simply). I do see a few popular ones that use a manga-sized page so you get the entire page on a single screen, as it were.

    Am I wasting useful energy in thinking so much about the page layout of webcomics? Is it just me who thinks about these things?

  2.  (9535.2)
    I'm generally more concerned with the story beats falling in the right places. I tend to leave most of the visual stuff to the artist.
  3.  (9535.3)
    No, you're not the only one that thinks about it, but I do think that most people making webcomics (of the non-gag strip variety) don't put enough thought into how it's going to be viewed and the proper format for the story they're telling.

    The treesaver link you posted the other day actually helped to solve some problems I had with making a proper web comic with no down scrolling and I've spent an inordinate amount of time resizing test jpgs to see what works best for what I want to do with a horizontal page (ala zuda dimensions).

    I think you really *have* to think about format long and hard before you just do something like this, because it's fucking awful to change should you figure out something doesn't work after a good batch of pages are already done.
  4.  (9535.4)
    no way, the freakangels layout is incredible (here too). It fit's the screen and is easy to use. Fancy webcomics don't work on my computer and scroll/blog layouts don't read like comics (maybe if i ripped the comics up and laligned them vertically in reverse order)). The freakangels format is the most usable and best transcription of holding a comic-book I've seenonline. I've noticed however, that two page spreads ( a reall kick in the middle of a mag) don't fit anybodys internet set up well yet. Keep thinking about these things, that's why this place is so f--kin fun
  5.  (9535.5)
    Back when I started doing Roswell, Texas I thought a lot about web versus printed page formatting and thought I had a pretty good solution -- just slice a regular comics page into either halves or thirds, depending on whether I was on a 2, 3 or 4-tier grid, and display one or two rows at a time.

    Looking back on that now, I think I over-thought the situation. Splitting the pages up that way only meant that people had to do more screen reloading, and ultimately having to reload screens more often is more inconvenient than having to scroll down. Also, this kind of rules out splash pages, or strongly vertical layouts.

    OTOH, I think one ought to avoid making a single panel too tall to be seen all at once on the computer screen. It really takes readers out of the story. For that reason I think the 2x2 grid you use for FreakAngles works well.

    But if you think optimizing page layouts for both computer screen and print is complicated, consider also smart phones and tablets (but take an aspirin first). I'm building QUANTUM VIBE on essentially a 2x4 grid so that I have nice little 3:4 panels that fit neatly into an iPhone screen. The challenge now is how to make the assembled pages not look monotonous. Also, the 8-panel layouts end up being a good bit shorter than a traditional comics page, which means that when I go to printed collections I'm going to have odd-sized books, unless I want to use the extra 1.25 vertical inches to add something like footnotes/running commentary, or maybe a secondary strip ala Maakies.
      CommentAuthorAlan Tyson
    • CommentTimeFeb 11th 2011 edited
    I'm putting together a webcomic that, provided I I have an eight-page buffer, should go live in about a month, called Academy. I actually just finished lettering the first page half an hour ago,so it's interesting that this gets brought up.

    With Academy being a science-fiction comic with a heavy emphasis on environments and settings (it's going to take place on a mobile O'Neill Cylinder) I realized that the script called for a LOT of wide, encompassing shots, and that the comic was very much tailored toward widescreen format. So I've decided to make my pages 11 inches tall by 17 wide, which also fits most monitor and tablet dimensions better (though chances are good that it will be essentially unreadable on phones, but there's not much I can do about that without scrapping a lot of, I think, effective creative decisions), and its possible that most readers won't have to scroll at all to read a full page, while receiving the same amount of content. I like this because it takes one extra action, and thus one mental barrier, away from between the reader and the page. I never have to scroll to read Freakangels, either, and its a very nice thing - I let my eyes do all the reading for me, without any reliance on the mouse or the page.

    I am thinking about eventual print copies, and right now I kind of like the idea of a landscape format book, mostly because it reminds me of the old Calvin and Hobbes collections (while Academy is nothing like C&H, I really like the look of the book that way). However, I realize this may get me in trouble with printers later if they're not willing to print that way.
  6.  (9535.7)
    I remember there have been several threads on Drunkduck forums and most people generally responded with "as long as I don't have to scroll vertically AND horizontally". It seemed that loading times are a bigger issue, especially since some insane people tend to throw online 1-5mb uncompressed (and sometimes at print size!) bmp or png files, heh.

    Personally, as format and interface go, I found the readers used by manga scanlation sites to be the most convenient (with the exception of double spreads). Just scroll the page down (if it's too big for the screen) and then either press "right" on the keyboard or click on the page to go to the next one.

    Generally one thing that doesn't work layoutwise is having long vertical panels that have wor balloons on top and bottom in a way that makes you go up and down the page constantly. I saw people react negatively to such things in comment sections on some webcomics. Also you can't have word balloons or captions "rising" in the panels. That is, say the second balloon can't be above the first one cause even if it would made sense on a traditionally read page (first balloon is closest to the edge of first panel) in a "scrolling medium" the first balloon might seem second or might not be seen by the reader who simply did not scroll enough.

    On the other hand I find the blog based system to be an abomination (it's REALLY inconvenient at times) and obviously the fonts/page dimensions have to be large enough to read comfortably but not so large as to cause scrolling sideways. Oh yeah, it's a personal thing, but I REALLY despise comics where it's all in flash and word balloons animate in/out of place and I get to see annoying transitions. If I'll want to see something animated in a tiny square, I'll go to youtube and watch Charlie the Unicorn.

    All right, I'm starting to rant so let's wrap this up.

    To summarize this ramble:
    - as long as the page is large enough to read comfortably but not too large to cause sideways scrolling,
    - the interface should be simple, we're here to read comics not watch flash animations,
    - give me the option to go to the next page by clicking on that page,
    - pay attention to the word balloon order,
    - no (or absolute minimum of) double spreads,
    - watch the filesize,
    - avoid anything that will cause people to scroll both up and down...

    In other words, Freakangels covers most of these already (with the exception of the ability to click on the page but that's ok, I always open all pages in a chapter in separate tabs and just cycle through them while reading using keyboard)

    (also, as for my own future ongoing stuff, I'm aiming for a "manga reader" based site with bi-weekly 20-page b/w chapters, pages probably around 600-700px wide, not wider than that... no double spreads, splash pages kept under control, designed to fit manga-sized pages when in print).
    • CommentAuthorBerserker
    • CommentTimeFeb 12th 2011
    I do find myself surprised that more makers of webcomics don't opt for a landscape orientation to their page. This is, to me, the most natural and sensible solution to the problem...

    Of course, if any maker is looking at physical publication down the road then a landscape format isn't going to work much in their favor at all. This isn't to say that landscape format books haven't been successful before, obviously, but it does usually seem to make aggravations for printers and retailers, and frankly doesn't play well with other books on a shelf at home, either.

    I've found myself thinking of other ways to make a landscape book work in that sense - but that's digressing from the subject here.
    • CommentTimeFeb 12th 2011 edited
    I'm sure Neil could provide a bit more of an in depth version, but when REMNANTS was just an idea we had decided that we wanted our page layout to be similar to Freakangels. We wanted it to be both easy to read on the screen and look good to us if we were to print it as a book.
  7.  (9535.10)
    My experience has been that printers will generally give you whatever trim dimensions you like. The problem with odd-format books is with retailers, especially comics retailers, who want books to be taller than wide and, preferably, 6.625"x10.25" for shelving and display reasons.
  8.  (9535.11)
    I got used to making my webcomic as a vertical strip due to the width limitations of my old Wordpress blog. I never got out of the habit and in fact embraced it: every fifty strips, I make a special edition with a beginning, middle and end rather than the usual buildup plus punchline.

    The first special edition was around sixty panels long, the second was eighty and the third and latest, a hundred and ten. Each of them a single, long image to scroll down. I guess you could call that a straightforward infinite canvas.

    To me this is the most comfortable way to read a digital comic: all you have to is scroll down. The width fits your screen already. No need to click any buttons to load new pages or to navigate through an unwelcoming maze of panels that branch out in all directions as one comic made in Flash asked the reader to do. From beginning to end, the story isn't interrupted.

    The particular comic I linked to is built on a three-panels per tier format, laid in bricklike pattern to loosen it up. This didn't cause any limitations: when I needed to switch to two-panels-per-tier layout for an interview sequence, I could easily, and when I needed a big square of a panel (the pageless equivalent of a splash page), the width allowed for sufficient space.

    In case I'm worried about a future print version, this kind of comic can actually translate well for pages because it's drawn in pages. It's obviously a pain in the ass to draw in a file with seventy thousand pixels of length, so instead it's made in segments that are later patched together. These segments can have their length limited to a constant value as well as their width, which can guarantee your very long comic can be turned into equal-sized pages for print, while digitally all it requires is scrolling.

    After I posted this comic, some people complained they couldn't view it. For a moment I thought my infinity ambitions were doomed, until I found out every single person complaining was using Internet Explorer and every other person using an actual browser was having no trouble at all, would you believe.

    The obvious limitation of this is file size. The hundred and ten panels I made correspond to 2,4 MB, and are equivalent to your average 22pp comic at best. But it's not colored and it's not relatively long. A colored graphic novel in this format would be quite impractical and require pages (they could be very long pages but still they'd need to be pages).

    But for my current webcomic, which doesn't have such ambitions, this format fits very well.
    • CommentAuthorBerserker
    • CommentTimeFeb 12th 2011
    @ScottBieser - The difficulties I've heard of printers having with odd format books did seem to stem more from the shipping them mostly - but even then, yeah, that's with the REALLY oddly dimensioned books.
    • CommentTimeFeb 12th 2011 edited
    I thought a lot about page formats! And it brought me right back to the 'traditional' upright page.

    My first online comics had a variety of formats - infinite canvas, strip format, cut-down page splits, full pages embedded in a wider layout. (I apologize for the Germanness of these examples - it wasn't until much later that I started English comics. It's really just for illustration, so no harm done, right?) But, with the exception of the strip, they were short-term experiments with no publishing plan.

    When I started serializing my Conny Van Ehlsing (at one page a week), I considered cutting the page into halves or other fragments for the web but decided against it because in the long run, it would have compromised my page layouts once I'd bring them back to print. And I was just starting to really explore page layouts!

    Also, the whole page has a rhythm the cut-down half-page doesn't have. You can't have a page-turner twice every page (once in print)! It'll get old pretty soon.

    The web experience did change the way I approached pages, though - I found myself putting more story into each page to make it a satisfying read worth waiting a week for. In print, these stories turn out to be very tight and fast-paced. It's a compromise I can live with.

    Also, what Aurora Borealis said - what you see of the page needs to be instantly readable. No scrolling just to understand the sequence of word balloons. You read, then you scroll. Never make your readers scroll only to (maybe) find out the read wasn't worth their effort. For the same reason, I despise comic blogs (with the typical blog layout that shows the latest page first, and to read the comic in the right order, you'll have to scroll down and up again, unless it's published backwards).

    Speaking of web layout, I think it's important to use the width of the browser window - but there's no reason to use it all for the comic. (Freakangels is a good example for what else you can do with that space.)

    Scrolling really shouldn't be an issue - everybody is used to that from practically every web page worth reading, and if I can't get a reader to move her index finger down the mouse wheel a little to find out how the page ends, I probably won't get her to click for the next page either. (I make an exception for gag-a-day strips here. Gag readers want a quick laugh at a quick glance. I wouldn't expect them to scroll for it, and I definitely wouldn't force them to. But in a long-form comic, I want the kind of readers who are ready to engage in the read.)
  9.  (9535.14)
    I'm generally more concerned with the story beats falling in the right places. I tend to leave most of the visual stuff to the artist.

    This is off topic, but I have to tell you: a comics writer with no visual sense, and no interest in exercising it, is unlikely to become much of a comics writer. Learn to think about and visualise the panel AND the page. Believe me, you'll thank me for this in the end.
  10.  (9535.15)
    Generally one thing that doesn't work layoutwise is having long vertical panels that have wor balloons on top and bottom in a way that makes you go up and down the page constantly. I saw people react negatively to such things in comment sections on some webcomics.

    You'll note that on the rare occasions I've done page-tall vertical panels in FA, there's been negative space on the other side.

    I'm also thinking a lot about black-and-white again, to be honest.
  11.  (9535.16)
    @berserker. I eventually went for landscape, since it seemed natural to me that most people would be reading it on monitors which was my intent on posting a webcomic rather than a comic on the web with intent to publishing that a hard copy. Re formatting I gave it some thought I made my jpegs 950*665 because most peoples monitors these days fit 1024*786 and deliberately disregarded mobile phone technology and the like. Certainly when considering publishing it may cause some headaches, but landscape isn't completely problematic as you point out, as seen by things like Calvin and Hobbes or Dan Dare anthologies amongst other titles.
    • CommentTimeFeb 12th 2011
    Mixed feelings here. I understand readability is important, but I'm also pissed the new technogy is imposing Its limitations on the language of comics, making people avoid the use os some particular tools or techniques. Double page spreads, complex page layouts and tall panels have already been mentioned. Do We really want to renouce to these?

    Hard to say.
    • CommentTimeFeb 12th 2011
    For experiMental Theatre, i decided to side-step the problem. I'm working with something of an underground comic style and figured it would work well with a half-page format, so each episode is landscape oriented for easy web viewing. But when collected for print, i'd run them two to a page to keep the hard copy at a fairly standard size and format.
  12.  (9535.19)
    You'll note that on the rare occasions I've done page-tall vertical panels in FA, there's been negative space on the other side.

    Yeah. Had to look through the archive since it slipped my mind.

    Interestingly, I looked back through my own stuff and I found that I did truckload of pages with long vertical panels, for example this one...

    page 1
    linkin case direct linking fails.

    (also, don't mind the art, this is a 3 years old page, haha).

    Now if I recall correctly no one's ever complained about that particular page. Word balloons pull you to the right column of panels and there's no lone word balloon at the bottom of the tall vertical one to make someone angry that they missed something by not scrolling down first. Of course there might have been people who scrolled down to see what's below before continuing but if so, no one has said anything. But I do try to be a bit more careful with recent stuff.

    @Alberto: Technology is imposing limitations on language of comics since the first printed page.

    The old four color process used to color comics, the need to adhere to CMYK palette to have something printed, page dimensions (standard comics size in USA, A4 format in Europe and so on), b/w for underground comics to keep the costs low. The way I see it, we can retain MOST of the comics language and the changes made to it are actually beneficial to clarity.
    • CommentAuthorkperkins
    • CommentTimeFeb 12th 2011
    @Alberto. All mediums have their limitations All mediums bring something new, or different to the table. Learning to work within the limitations is part of the process and, more importantly, part of the fun.

    Working on a project right now, that is, like Freakangels, going to be serialized on the web, and then printed. I'm more worried about the printed aspect of it, but think I've found a way to make it look good on a webpage, too, with just some down scrolling, like Freakangels, also, but using a different grid. If it was going to be web only, I probably would have gone with a format like Zuda's, since I really liked that; it worked on the web, and was probably fine for something like the iPad, although I'm not sure how it would translate to a smaller screen.
    Simple interface is always great. Either navigation buttons, or click on the pic to go to the next page, or, preferably both. No Flash, that was my one problem with Zuda; you can do everything Zuda did with html, css, and some javascript, and make it lighter, and faster.