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John Byrne, Webcartoonist?
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Greg Stephens
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PostPosted: Mon Jun 21, 2004 2:14 pm    Post subject: John Byrne, Webcartoonist? Reply with quote

Byrne's been considering this for a little while (we had a "Commerce" thread that started out pointing to his earlier musings), but Scott linked to John Byrne's webcomic experiment this morning. For those so inclined, there's also a discussion thread at the Byrne forum (SEE Byrne deal with concerns about image pixel-width! WATCH as readers give free techical advice! WITNESS R. Stevens offer his services! I tells ya, this web-comix stuff could be hot!).
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William G
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PostPosted: Tue Jun 22, 2004 10:36 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

I think more mainstream artists should follow suit.

The web needs more spandex-clad G-Cups.
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Rip Tanion
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PostPosted: Tue Jun 22, 2004 5:12 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Let's all hope, then, that the web gets what it needs.
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Greg Stephens
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PostPosted: Thu Jul 01, 2004 5:49 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

He's move the comic out of the forum and into its own space. Has a sort of weird interface with a "please wait, image loading" placeholder graphic. I'm not a fan of web interfaces which make it difficult to link directly to a page (though you can link directly to an image), but everybody's got to start somewhere.
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ShadowCaster
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PostPosted: Fri Jul 02, 2004 3:36 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Except for the page linking drawback, I think the reading interface to be well designed :
A cookie is used to store current page, so if bookmarked, you return the last read page when returning.
You only load the image, not a new page. This means a little less to download but more importantly you keep the black borders and layout instead of getting a white flash as the new page loads and the background color info is not yet reached and interpreted.
Not showing the image as it loads is a choice that I can understand but a preload of the next to come and a message instead of main image replacement would have a allowed shorter waitings and something nicer to look at while waiting than the message.
Still I find that much better than the classic "one URL per page" approch.
BTW, the two can coexist : the cgi script could take a page number parameter to override the cookie settings, allowing page linking while keeping it's interface.
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Greg Stephens
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PostPosted: Fri Jul 02, 2004 2:55 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

The linking issue is a big one, from my viewpoint, but your solution would fix it handily. The main reson to provide distinct links is to point new readers to a particular page. The current alternative is to send them a link to the whole thing and say "find page 01.13 from the dropdown" which isn't ideal. I mean, on the web, we should simply be able to link to anything. Now, you can point a new reader directly to one image, not in the page, but then the if the new reader wants to read the previous or next comic, they're not at the proper URL to do so with one click. Frustrating. As you pointed out, it wouldn't take much to make it better and as I said, everybody's got to start somewhere.

The cookie thing for returning to the last page is really cool, but I didn't know it did that because it's a totally hidden feature. Who's going to guess that functionality? Most experienced websurfers know that when they bookmark a URL, it will bring up that page, not that the bookmark will bring up the page and the cookie will then set the page within the page. The web uses a metaphor of one URL equal to one page. Why rethink that? If you've got separate URLs, then you don't need to fool around with cookies. Nowhere Girl is a good example of a similar interface, but one that gives users distinct URLs. Also, the ability of readers to simply click on the current page to read the next page is nice.

You correctly guessed that the wait time for the new comic to load is the other problem I have with the interface, and preloading the next image would help a lot. The frustration with using JavaScript to change the images (and I've had the same problem with other comics that do this) is that you have no indicator of how long you have to wait for the next image. When loading pages, your browser shows you (via the "throbber" in the upper right corner) that it's working on downloading something. It displays a progress bar to let you know how much you've still got to go and when it can't display something, it gives you a clear warning message.

In Byrne's interface, the "image downloading" message takes care of the first point (and, depending on what browser you're using, you get the throbber and the status-bar text, too), but there's no indication of how long you have to wait. Secondly, if the download stalls or fails, is there a way for us to tell or do we just hit reload when we get bored? Lacking these sorts of indicators makes it feel like it takes longer for the comic to download that it would if we had an indicator of some sort. This is why most Flash applications give a "percentage loaded" indicator while they download. It just makes sense. Again, separate URLs would handle this.

It's not a bad interface. It's simple to use with only a couple of frustrating points. It's just that those points are imortant enough to merit mention.
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Greg Stephens
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PostPosted: Fri Jul 02, 2004 5:58 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

OK, frustrating thing about the interface #3:

When you click on the comic, it DOES advance to the next page. Good thing. But when you hover the mouse over the image, you don't know that because it doesn't turn into the "pointing finger" icon. Bad thing.

I discovered this due to the way the listbox works with the scroll-wheel on my mouse. See, scrolling down the page to get to the listbox, I select a page to view, then I want to go back up to the top of the page to read that page. I casually use my mouse scroll-wheel, but since the focus is still in the listbox, the scroll-wheel changes the page selection and boots me to another page. As a user, I know I have to click elsewhere before I scroll, so what do I do? I just click anywhere I DON'T see the pointing-hand icon- like on the comic, for example. And because it's active (though I didn't know it), I'm taken to the next page. Something I didn't want to have happen.

Two fixes for that are: 1) Make the mouse cursor change to the pointing-hand icon when hovering over the comic and 2) make the active item focus change from the listbox to something else when an item has been selected/activated (or make the listbox require a button-click before it switched to a new page).

Frustrating thing number 4? Because this all happens in the same page with the images being swapped out by JavaScript, I can't use the Back and Forward buttons of the browser to get to the page I wanted to when this sort of thing happens. Yet another reason having separate URLs per page are better than not having them.

I'm not actually looking for things to complain about, and if I really felt strongly about them I'd go post at the Byrne-board, but I think this is an illustration of how whenever somebody tries to reinvent the wheel (and I'm pretty sure that somebody other than Byrne himself put this script together, so it's hard to say how much experience they have had with webcomic interfaces), they run into the same problems that other wheel-inventors have solved previously.
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Dan Marcoux
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PostPosted: Sat Jul 03, 2004 2:53 am    Post subject: Byrne WebViewer Reply with quote

Hi folks - never visited this site before, so please forgive me if I break protocol.

I happen to be the guy who wrote the WebViewer for John Byrne's "You Go, Ghoul!" comic. I've read the comments posted here and readily welcome more criticism and suggestions!

The interface I designed for the Viewer was simply an effort to keep things as simple (minimalistic) as possible. I could have taken the easy road and simply fit YGG into what I'd had already done for JB's Gallery (http://jbgallery.ourbunch.net), but what fun would that be? I poked around a bit to see what others were doing with WebComic interfaces and wanted to do something a little different... and the requirements I had presented me with only a few limitations.
- New "users" should be presented with "the cover", returning users should be presented with the last "episode" they saw.
- Image size may change - Mr. Byrne is still experimenting.
- Mr. Byrne must be able to upload images directly - no middle man. (Which also means large files - he believes in saving images with little-to-no compression - 300k-400k each)
Nothing was mentioned about "direct linking" to a specific page - would somebody really want to link to a page in the middle of an arc?
The "click the image to proceed to the next episode" was added at the very last minute... one of those "it'd be nice if..." things.

Could the viewer use more work? Undoubtedly - try viewing the page with Javascript turned off, for example. When will changes be made? Pretty damn soon.

Anyways - please, continue posting comments here --- I'll check in regularly.
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PostPosted: Sat Jul 03, 2004 5:53 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Hey there, thanks for posting! The people who hang around this forum have read a lot of webcomics with a lot of different interfaces, so we're bound to have opinions. Some more opinionated than others.

There's already a few suggestions in this thread that you can take for what you feel they're worth, but I'll add another word about the virtues of separate URLs since you asked about how useful it would truly be.

Separate URLs mean that:

  • The browser's own "back" and "forward" buttons can be used to navigate the comic. Always a good thing.
  • Readers can easily bookmark a page and come back to it later. Cookies are nice, but they're invisible to the reader and can't be controlled by the reader.
  • With the ability to bookmark distinct URLs, readers can bookmark several pages for reference.
  • People discussing the comic can link directly to a given page. This is probably more useful than the issue of readers bookmarking separate pages.
  • Any "deep linking" of this sort is done so in context, with the comic presented complete with navigation to adjacent pages and links back to appropriate home pages.


Separate URLs do NOT mean separate HTML pages. The URL can inclue arguments to the script (as ShadowCaster mentioned) so that it's still one page for you to maintain, but the reader gets the benefit of separate URLs. Both http://jbgallery.ourbunch.net/cgi-bin/ygg/01/11 and http://jbgallery.ourbunch.net/cgi-bin/ygg/01/12 could get funneled through the same script, but one would serve page 11 and one would serve page 12 of the first "issue."

How to give returning users the latest page they viewed? Allow the script to interpret an argument in the URL so it knows to read the "last viewed page" cookie. Give the readers a link to bookmark with a URL of (for example): http://jbgallery.ourbunch.net/cgi-bin/ygg/lastread and the script will know from the "lastread" value to check the cookie and serve the appropriate page. For good measure, make a URL of something like http://jbgallery.ourbunch.net/cgi-bin/ygg/mostrecent so that regular daily readers will always be able to go to the most recent page available, no matter what the "lastread" page was which they were on when the cookie was stored (since they might have been browsing backward and thus stored the cookie for some page other than the most recent one available). (Personally, I'd just do the latter and not the former. In fact, I have done so in my own interface. Cookies, I think, are not as reliable as a good "latest comic" bookmark).

The whole "distinct URL" issue is one of those areas where I think Jakob Nielsen is 100% correct and not simply being a stick-in-the-mud. Web surfers know how their browser's back and forward buttons work, they know how to make bookmarks and they know how to reference links, so you shouldn't do things that diminish that ability.

Ah, that's enough yammering for now. It's a lot of work to put together a good interface, and you've done most of the work already. It's a fairly solid 1.0 version and I'm sure that by 1.3 or 1.4 you'll have all the niggling issues ironed out.
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kaos_de_moria
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PostPosted: Sat Jul 03, 2004 7:07 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Greg Stephens wrote:
Hey there, thanks for posting! The people who hang around this forum have read a lot of webcomics with a lot of different interfaces, so we're bound to have opinions. Some more opinionated than others.


true, so don't get discouraged. people here talk about comic engines all the time and every engine has its pros and cons. the good thing about your JS solution is, that it does not have to load the whole page everytime. given that, it would make sense to hvae more design elements around the comic (frame etc.) as you have to load them once only anyway.

i think the thing with the backward/forward button is not a that big thing. especialy in webcomics people get used to flash environments where these buttons do not exist either. a problem might be, that it looks too much like good old html and that makes you expect the buttons to work.

i agree that you do not use all possibilities JS offers you. you could easily load the next picture (or start to) while the reader is busy with the current page.

on numbering pages. i personally prefer pages being numbered by publishing date instead of chapter numbers. that way i can more easily know where i was and where a certain part of the story was.of course that could be easily done by adding the date after the chapter number.

on pure usability basis, i would propose to have the navigation bar before and after the image. but i have to admit that i'm online with a rather small display (1024*768). but i guess i am not the only one.

i think that's about it for now.
as is said, it's a good job, but there is always space for more. good luck with all improvements.

kaos
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William G
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PostPosted: Sat Jul 03, 2004 9:53 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

He sure has been working that "house style" for a long time, hasn't he?
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Rip Tanion
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PostPosted: Tue Jul 06, 2004 4:26 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Is it my imagination, or has Byrne "Eisnerized" his drawing style just a bit.
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