This is part two of an ongoing project by the DW-WP interns Hilary Allison and JP Kim. This summer, we’re pulling out all the “social media” stops to get our work seen and our names out. It’s an experiment, and we’re documenting every step… so YOU can learn from our successes and failures. Read Week 1 here.
Hilary reporting. If you read last week’s post, you know that my goal for THIS week was to have created a website, connected it to my domain, and made a game plan for content. Haha. Well I can’t say I didn’t learn anything…
(What I Wanted for My Website)
[ ] Free Hosting
[ ] No Ads / Banners
[ ] Customizable
[ ] Fast / Easy to Update
[ ] Image-Display Friendly
I had decided to use WordPress.com to build my website. This blog is powered by WordPress [Editor's note: this blog, dw-wp.com, is powered by WordPress.ORG. Big difference. See below for more.]. Posting is easy, and the features are endless. And it’s free. (Or so I thought.) So I signed up for a blog of my own. Chose a theme – a layout to customize. Clicked “Editor” to start playing with the code, and…
$15.00 to customize CSS….? Fogettaboutit!
Now, I’m no coding wizard, but it’s the only way I know to make something unique out of a generic blog theme. I’m gung-ho to stumble through the gobbeldygook, using a combination of online tutorials and trial-and-error. That’s how I built CartoonAllies.com… editing code on Blogspot.com. Blogspot offers less flexibility in posts – especially in posting images. But they never charged me to customize.
“Okay,” I thought, “so I’ll just go back to Blogspot.” Back I went, and I started building a page. And… that pesky, pesky banner. I can’t blame Blogspot for putting their banner on my page… After all, the page costs me no money. Yet the banner detracts from professionalism. Does it detract from professionalism because it points out that I’m spending no money? “Money spent” = “status?” (Gross.) Or, does the banner detract from professionalism because it declares a lack of know-how… or an easy route taken? “Easy route” = “product of an amateur?” Who knows, man. But I definitely want to move beyond Blogspot, if only for greater freedom of design.
I collected opinions from cartoonist friends. Henry Fernau swears by DreamWeaver. Pat Woodruff and Allison Strejlau use it too. DreamWeaver is a pretty nifty What-You-See-Is-What-You-Get (“WYSIWIG”) web design program in the Adobe suite. (JP and I crash-coursed it, freshman year. Suuure we remember how to use it.) But the thing about DreamWeaver: It’s a program for generating code, NOT a host. So we would have to pay money for hosting. Like normal people.
I was still determined to find a moneyless solution. JP emails me a link… to the Cargo Collective, a WYSIWIG builder and host… specifically for artists’ portfolios. The free version of Cargo includes the power to edit CSS, but you are only allowed 3 pages and 12 images. The upgraded version allows unlimited pages and images, and the power to edit HTML… but it costs $66 / year.
I googled “Cargo Collective alternatives”… and found Carbonmade.com (WARNING: Cloyingly Cute and Trendy Navigation. No, seriously, you click “moustache” to log in.) The free version (titled “Meh”) includes 5 pages and 35 images. The 50-page, 500-image version (“Whoo!”) is $144 / year. See how one of my comics looks in Carbonmade, here.
The paid version of Cargo tempted me. “But if I’m going to spend money,” I thought, “I might as well spend money on a regular host… and use Dreamweaver… or WordPress.org.”
Come to find out, WordPress.ORG is different from WordPress.com. Both are free – sort of.
WordPress.com (what I tried on Monday) is a blogging tool (software) and host.
WordPress.org (what DW&WP uses) is the same blogging software except…
It requires a third-party host. [i.e. it's "self-hosted": you choose a host, pay the host, and install WP there]
It allows for free CSS editing at no charge..
It allows for plugins – like Comicpress.
I wanted WordPress.org, badly. So I started comparing web hosting prices. Some hosts make it easier than others to install WordPress. I researched the ones that make it easy, keeping a chart along the way. Here’s that chart:
§ ”Special offer” – Back to the usual $6.95/mo on my next billing.
∞ “Limited Time!” – Eh heh.
There was one thing I hadn’t tried: Googling “free wordpress.org host.” …. Eureka!! DreamHostApps! I made an account, installed wordpress, and logged into my blog’s dashboard. Whaddaya know? I now had the power to edit CSS.
“Alright,” I said to JP, “Before I go crazy with the design, I’m just going to set up the basic division of content.” Made a page for comics… a page for illustration… etc. A new challenge confronted me: finding the best way to display art – and comics in particular – on these pages. Non-sequential requires less engineering… I would be happy with thumbnails that clicked open to fullsize in a larger window. But comics, as we’re all aware, require special treatment on the web to create a reader-friendly experience.
Time to install Comicspress? Oh dear, I don’t have a regular host. So where do I upload it? Idea deflated.
What about a slideshow plugin? Oh, so all extra plugins require uploading? That… makes sense. What about hosting the comics on a site like CarbonMade or Comicfury, and simply linking to them from my WordPress?
Or perhaps I should just bite the bullet and spend the money on a real host.
And that’s where I’m at today… I’ve found a variety of solutions to making a website. None of them are perfect, at least not for cartoonists who are both A) struggling financially and B) insistent on absolute customization. For cartoonists who fall more on one side or the other, many of these solutions could be just the ticket.
READERS! Do you know of a more complete solution? Please join the conversation by commenting!
(that may or may not be worth more than two cents):
When I looked for my blog/website to use I only had 3 things in mind:
1) How much can I accomplish with the least amount of programming/website knowledge, and is it free?
2) How professional does it look without heavy CSS or HTML editing and, is it free?
Everything else that I could possibly be bothered with concerning my website could be figured out later. My number one priority was to have a vehicle on which I could publish my work, that was easy to update, track, manage, and was free. I ended up choosing Tumblr for my webcomic and Blogspot for my general art blog.
+ Tumblr is absurdly quick and easy to use and all the templates they provide are very well laid out, and do indeed look professional.
+ The majority of the templates are free, although the best ones you have to pay for.
- The problem with the templates, for HTML illiterates like me, is that each template is made by a different person, therefore, the amount of non-HTML customization varies from template to template. You literally have no idea what each template will offer and its a blindfolded crap shoot of epic proportions when trying figure out what template you want to use Lots of clicking, going back, finding another one, finding out it still doesn’t have what you want, trying to compromise, thinking you’ve found one that has everything, miserably finding out it doesn’t, excuse me, I digress.
+ Anyway, the great thing about Tumblr is that you have to option to fully customize your page using HTML. You can even use an existing page’s code to dick around with, so for all you other people that aren’t programming-retarded, this may be something you’ll find useful.
+ Tumblr allows me a simple way to have my comics out on the web and since I am releasing them into the Tumblr community, I gain a little bit of extra exposure through reblogging as well. I had been releasing my webcomics through Tumblr for a few months before school devoured my soul and I found that all I had to do was plant the seeds of interest (usually just a post with a link and a funny headline) in the places where my target audience regularly went, and they did the rest through rampant reblogging.
Since Blogspot is a standard blogging site, it seemed like the appropriate choice for my artistic, internet HQ. Here I will chronicle my artistic journey, detailing all my artistic adventures this year (including my work on this social media project).
+ On Blogspot, HTML is fully customizable and the templates for people like me are many.
- My only real complaint about Blogspot is the way it deals with images on your posts and pages, especially when I’m dealing with multiple images. These problems are very apparent in the first incarnation of my art blog that can be found here. I can’t tell if it’s just my lack of blogging competence or what, but I can never get the images in my posts to line up properly. This is kind of a big deal when the main reason everybody is coming to your blog is to look at these images. I want them neat, and in some sort of grid-like, orderly fashion. Blogspot seems very intent on making that impossible for me.
- It is very much the opposite of WYSIWUG due to the fact that NOT EVEN THE PREVIEW IS ACCURATE. *Cough* Anyway, for now, Blogspot will have to do. I’ve been scouring the interwebs and it seems like WordPress may ultimately be a better choice, however, my good ol’ friend “everything else in the world I have to get done” prevents me from experimenting much.
[ ] Test out Tumblr.
[ ] Pick my poison. (Choose website host/design method.)
[ ] Build the website.
[ ] Link it to domain.
[X] Join Twitter (<-ahead of schedule, follow me at @HaHa_Hilary, and I’ll follow you back! More on Twitter next week.)
[ ] Customize Twitter.
[ ] Flesh out JP-Kim.com.
[ ] Establish update schedule.
[ ] Start updating.
Till next week!
HA & JP (the Interns)
Past Installments: Week One