I read a ton of webcomics. A virtual library of them. I love them and want for many of them to survive long into the future.
I also work my day job maintaining websites and optimizing my company’s website for the future. And that future is mobile-readiness. I read a report recently that said mobile is nearly 20% of global internet usage. This accounts for both tablets and smartphones, but there is one thing that’s for sure, the percentage is on the rise.
The Mobile Users are Coming!
For a growing number of people, their smartphone is their only internet source, and to a person who’s been on the internet for most of his life, that’s a crazy thought. It’s wild to think that people don’t care about huge monitors anymore. I spent most of my life trying to get a huge television, and now many people watch everything on their laptops, tablets, phones—all of the small screen devices.
This sort of mentality affects all of us in the creative realm, and this includes webcomics.
Like I said in the beginning of this post, I read a bunch of webcomics. And one thing that I see over and over is a neglect of mobile users. It comes in many forms—from web design to the comics themselves—and all of them are becoming increasingly important for us to no longer ignore.
As webcomics, I liken this to the fight that printed books are having against ebooks. Not everyone will buy into the new version, but for the creators that can adapt, there is a world of possibilities out there.
How You Can Adapt for Mobile Users
There have been a handful of webcomics lately that have been experimenting with different formats. Thrillbent is doing some interesting things to adapt to the webcomics model, and although I disagree with the way they’re doing it (I like my new comics pages to be new comics pages, but I digress), at least they’re doing something differently.
I recently did a reboot of my webcomic, The Underfold into a whole new format and new website. And here are some things that I decided upon to help myself keep mobile users in mind.
- Think vertically. I don’t know about you guys, but I generally only turn my phone on its side when I am taking pictures or watching videos… or if I can’t see something at the small size. And it seems like a chore. For me, it made more sense for me to move to a page format so that my comics were vertically oriented. I know the original intent of webcomics was to mimic the newspaper strips we all love so much, but the internet is changing. Would it hurt your readership if you went from horizontal strip to vertical?
- Font size. iPhones are small. It’s good to think about how your comics will look on it’s tiny screen. Unless I’m looking at a particularly cute picture of my kid, I don’t like having to zoom in and scroll all over the place to see something. That goes for comics too. Perhaps it’s time to start narrowing down the amount of text you have per panel/page and bump up that font size. What I did was plan out all of my pages on 3×5 index cards because they’re roughly the size of a smart phone. When I scanned in my thumbnails, I played with the font size until it was similar and readable. The fact of the matter is that it’s not going to hurt your final product. You may have to draw some more pages to fit all of the dialogue… or you start to let your art do the talking more. Either way, we all win.
- 3. Bigger is better. You don’t necessarily have to do as drastic a website redesign I did to make everything responsive (where your site automatically adjusts for the size of the screen)—although in the future you likely will—but you should at least consider making some of your key site elements bigger. For instance, your navigation scheme. Think about instead of having just text, maybe you create some nice, big graphic buttons that will show up clearly on a phone screen.
If your post text is important… maybe it wouldn’t hurt to bump up the size of the text too. Just take a look at your website on a smartphone (and not a Samsung Note 2, I mean, that thing is huge), and just look at it long and hard. Think about what it looks like from an outsider’s perspective… because that’s the goal, right?
In the business world, this idea of mobile-responsiveness is THE conversation piece. Studies have shown that many people will not recommend friends to a business’s website if their mobile site is terrible (or lack thereof). And this goes for social sharing too. The webcomics community seems a little less critical of this… for now. Now is the time to start paddling before the wave hits though, because it is definitely a coming reality. Even with my website, although I may be small potatoes, 16% of my traffic last month came from mobile/tablet.
The time is nigh, you guys.
Today’s guest article was submitted by Brian Russell of the webcomic “The Underfold.” You may find his comic by clicking here. You may also find Brian and the comic on Twitter at https://twitter.com/theunderfold