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Social Media for Young Cartoonists Project: Week 2: Setting up websites.

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…

My Unrealistic Checklist

(What I Wanted for My Website)

[ ] Free Hosting

[ ] No Ads / Banners

[ ] Customizable

[ ] Fast / Easy to Update

[ ] Image-Display Friendly

Monday:

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.

Tuesday:

 

“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.

Wednesday:

I collected opinions from cartoonist friends.  Henry Fernau swears by DreamWeaverPat 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.

 

Thursday:

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.”

Friday:

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:

* “Reflects 20% off 1st invoice”… In other words, I would be charged $6.95/mo for my next 1-year purchase, or $4.95/mo for my next 3-year purchase.

§ ”Special offer” – Back to the usual $6.95/mo on my next billing.

∞ “Limited Time!” – Eh heh.

Saturday:

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.

Sunday:

“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.

Monday:

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!

JP’s Two Cents

(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

+ 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.

Blogspot

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.

GOALS FOR NEXT WEEK:

Hilary:

[ ] 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.

JP:

[ ] Flesh out JP-Kim.com.

[ ] Establish update schedule.

[ ] Start updating.

Till next week!

HA & JP (the Interns)

Past Installments: Week One

Comments

6 Comments to Social Media for Young Cartoonists Project: Week 2: Setting up websites.

  • by roguedubb

    On May 17, 2011 at 3:06 am

    The navbar thingy in blogger can be removed, try adding the following css. The place where you can add the line below is in the Design / Edit HTML section.

    .navbar{display:none;}

  • by Hilary Allison

    On May 17, 2011 at 10:17 am

    GREAT tip, roguedubb! Thank you! (JP, do this.)

  • by Paulo Patrício

    On May 17, 2011 at 12:37 pm

    I am enjoying so much this posts, they are awesome! A couple of tips: in most cases, you can have more than 1 site (and registered domains), under the same host and for the same money. So, if you have a good friend, you can actually split costs. Try to pick one that make your life easier, for example, installing what you need automatically. If you are kind “illiterate” about WP, CSS, PHP and other stuff, use WP forums, and if that didn’t help, head over to or other pro forum.

    Good luck to you both!

  • by Dave

    On May 19, 2011 at 12:19 am

    If you’re looking for cheap hosting try http://www.2mhost.com/

    They’re pretty rad and their customer service is on-point. In the summer of 09 a video I made ended up on notcot.com and I got more hits than I could handle and it crashed my site. I called them up and they gave me super-awesome handle a bajillion visitor superpowers for 72 hours free of charge.

  • by Gilliom

    On May 20, 2011 at 12:33 pm

    Windows Live Writer is a free blog editor which is an absolute gem. You can WYSIWYG to your hearts content, line up your images, even edit and manipulate them a bit, etc, etc,… It does tons of others things, you can add countless plugins, just go and explore it.
    Makes writing a blogpost for Blogspot a snap.

    http://explore.live.com/windows-live-writer?os=other

  • by tyler

    On June 1, 2011 at 10:00 pm

    This is a really good discussion to be having, and one we’re having at MCAD. how much web design experience do students need these days? up until this year, all MCAD students got the experience of building a website from scratch. but with all of the services out there, it’s become obvious that having intimate HTML (and more) knowledge is no longer necessary.

    your abilities as a cartoonist (or fine artist, musician, etc.) have nothing to do with how good of a website you can build. with our recent adoption of Google Apps for Education, we’re integrating Blogger into the curriculum. so now first year students can use Blogger to set up simple blogs for posting work and critiquing in class right away. if they’re ambitious, they can dig into the code and play around with their themes. then if they’re interested they can take more advanced Media classes which directly address coding, scripting, and using an app like Dreamweaver to build a site.

    a few years ago it seems like it became a ‘thing’ that everyone had to have an amazing webpage to attract attention. but now that these web and blogging tools have been well developed it’s come back to the basics: it’s about the work. just like in the old days when folks walked into offices with their plain black portfolios, all anyone is paying attention to is the work itself.

    and as far as professionalism goes, I hear of, and find more pros using blogspot, tumblr, and other free services because it saves them time and presents their work. just because your site has ‘blogspot.com’ in it doesn’t make you any less professional. there are artists out there who have built-from-scratch personal sites with their own domains who’s actual artwork is lacking.

    and by using a service you don’t have to worry if you suddenly get very popular and your site and so forth are automatically backed up for you. it’s pretty much a win-win.

    there are certainly good reasons for choosing to personally manage or build your own site but more than ever it just comes down to a matter of preference. these web, blog, and social media tools are just that now – one more tool for artists to utilize in the name of getting their work out there.

    I was happy to adopt Tumblr after years of using Blogger built into my own site. I still use Blogger for other things but Tumblr has been nice. my wife just signed up for a Cargo account so I’m interested to see what the set up process for that is like.

    keep it up!

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