The No Reason Comics site represents one of my ongoing projects. Not because I have to create strips
twice three times weekly, but because for the first two years that we were doing the comic, I was unhappy with the various iterations of the site. As of this year though, I feel like I’ve finally hit the jackpot with the design, and the response from the readership has been overwhelmingly positive.
The first major consideration that I felt failed the user/reader experience in the previous iterations was a lack of visibility of the readership itself. One of the things that drives Web 2.0 thinking, (and the entire webcomics community) is the idea of community feedback. Nearly all of the major Webcomics (PVP, Penny-Arcade, Least I Could Do) thrive because of their community of loyal readers. By providing them with entertaining content for free, and giving them a forum to express themselves and give the creators feedback, these creative endeavors have blown up into fully function communities – around comic strips. With our latest design, the site gives the readers comments a giant section of real estate, with their profile pictures and a link to the conversation they’re having. We’ve noticed a spike in commentary since we’ve added this feature.
The second consideration was simplicity. Our older designs (and this is true for a number of other webcomic sites) is that with the plugin power of WordPress, there is a tendency to let the site become cluttered with useless information, tons of distracting little bits and bobs that add little to the user experience – which is almost always carried throughout the site because of the way WordPress operates. Now, and this will influence my other work with WordPress, I’ve collected the necessary information on each page, and eliminated the extraneous stuff. Now, instead of allowing certain things to generate automatically, I’ve customized these content generators to display the necessary stuff for each page without cluttering other pages, or creating a heavier workload for the site. The site now runs cleaner than it ever has, and uses less bandwidth. For example – the twitter feed is only available on the front page. This was something that would cause a huge load on the site, having to check an external site for updates when ANY page was loaded. By only offering it on one page, it cuts down the site load.
This also cleans up archival pages. Now, instead of seeing tons of other thing, they can focus on the three most important things on those pages, and find what they’re looking for – the comic, the post and the feedback conversation.
The reason this site is still an ongoing project is there’s still a ton of content still to add, and we’re working on an e-commerce functionality so that we can begin offering merchandise at a reasonable rate that means higher returns for us, while still delivering quality goods, and a few other features we’re looking into.