||Josiah's Sprite Comic Guide
Part 8: Creating and Setting Up a Comic Web Site
Now that you've got your comic started, chances are the next thing you want to do is put it online so people can read it. But there's many different ways to go about it. If you're just making a few strips here and there for fun, you could always post your comic on deviantART, ImageShack, or your favorite web forums. But sites like that don't make it very easy for people to find your comic or browse through the strips. You also can't do much else besides posting the strips themselves. If you're serious about your comic, you're going to need your own web site. Fortunately, there's plenty of options out there, whether you want to make it as easy as possible or do everything yourself.
Creating a Comic Site - The Easy Way
There are a lot of sites that will let you create a web site for free. Google is a good once. Or, if you want something a little more specialized, web comic communities like DrunkDuck, Smack Jeeves, and KeenSpace (aka. Comic Genesis) offer free sites that made specifically for comics. These free hosting services make it really easy to get your site up and running and generally have special site building tools you can use, so no formal knowledge of web design or programming is needed. You can also create a free blog and put your comic on it, which is generally even easier, though harder to customize later on. The advantage of this approach is that you can get your comic online quickly and easily no matter how much, or little, you know about computers and web sites. On the down side, your customization options will be rather limited and your site will likely get stuck with a bunch of unremovable ads. Though, if you're lucky and your comic gets popular enough that those ads actually start to bring in a decent amount of money, they may give you a cut (exact details vary by host).
You also need to be aware that a lot of free sites limit your storage space (the number of megabytes worth of files your site can contains) and your bandwidth (how much data your site can send to viewers each month). It's important to look up and keep in mind your limits. If you run out of storage space, you won't be able to add anything new to your site, at least not unless you delete some old stuff first. While if too many people visit your site and you run out of bandwidth you site will either go off-line for the rest of the month or you'll get charged for the extra bandwidth.
Creating a Comic Site - The Professional Way
If you want to be in complete control of your site's design, content, and ads (if any), and have all the bandwidth and storage space you need, then forget about the free web hosts and comic communities, you'll need to handle the design and hosting on your own. It's a lot more work but, like I said, you get to be in charge of everything.
Once you've got your site made, you're going to need to actually get it online. That requires two things, web hosting and a domain name. The hosting comes first. A web host is a company with a whole bunch of web serves. You pay either a monthly or yearly fee in order to get your own space on one of their serves. There's plenty of hosts out there. I currently use Hosting Zoom (though it's my third or fourth at this point), and I'm pretty happy with them, but a quick Google search can turn up plenty more. Hosts generally have several different hosting plans you can choose from. The main things to look at are the price (duh), the storage space (the more the better, though for your average web comic and gigabyte or two should be more than enough), and the bandwidth (once again, the more the better, but for a brand new comic you probably won't need all that much at first). Reliability is very important as well but don't trust the host's web page for that, do a bit of research online and see what its users say. If you're a real computer whiz, have an extra system lying around, and have a really good internet connection you could technically host your site on your own, but that's not really recommended unless you have the know how and your site is popular enough to require a dedicated server (something only the most popular web comics need).
Once you've signed up for a host, you also need to think about a domain name. The domain name is your www.whatever.com it's what people type in to reach your site. Domain names need to be registered and require a yearly fee to keep. You can often register a domain name through your host, but I recommend getting your domain name through an independent register like Network Solutions or Go Daddy. While getting everything from one place is convenient, if you need to change hosts having your domain name in a separate account will make the change a lot simpler. FYI: Domain name registers like the ones I just mentioned often offer web hosting as well, though it's generally a bit more expensive than what you can get from other places. It's also good to keep in mind that your chosen domain name may already be taken, so have some backup choices ready just in case. If you do get your domain name from a different place than you're hosting, you'll need to set the domain name to point towards your host's name servers (you host should list their name servers somewhere in your user control panel). Once your site has been uploaded to your host and the name servers are set, your site will be up and running! (Note: it can take a day or so for the name server switch to activate).
General Design Tips
1. The main page in your site should always be named index.html (or index.php if you're doing a php site), as index files are the default.
2. Organize the rest of your site's content in folder such as Comics, Archives, Images, etc to make it easy to find individual pages.
3. Give each folder it's own index page. If you don't have anything to put on that page, have it redirect to another page (such as your main page). If you don't do this, savvy web users will be able to access your file directory.
4. Your domain name should ideally contain the name of your comic, or something similar.
5. Your main page should contain your newest comic, your newest news post, and clear and obvious links to previous comics, previous news posts, and your site's other main pages. If your comic absolutely won't fit on the page, at least put a very prominent link to it.
6. Make sure each comic page contains links to the first comic, previous comic, next comic, and newest comic.
7. Don't go overboard with flashy graphics, sounds, or crazy color schemes. Keep your site fairly simple and clean and with small files sizes for each page.
There's many different ways to get your comic online depending on your goals, budget, and web skills. While I can't teach you how to create a web site from scratch (well, actually I could but it's way beyond the scope of this guide), there are plenty of comic hosting services that can provide you with the tools to make a simple site of your own. If you already know something about web design, creating a site and finding a host of your own is also an option and gives you a lot more control, though it's also more expensive. Once your site is up and running, it's time to move on to Josiah's Sprite Comic Guide Part 9: Attracting Visitors to Your Site.