Since the fall I’ve been poking around in the online graphic novel world and there’s a ton of information out there about “how to make a graphic novel.” I’ve even posted (and will continue to post) various tips and tricks that I have and hopefully people might find helpful. The one thing that I’ve found really lacking is information relating to website design. So I want to try to help out in this area and maybe others can learn from my experience.
All those computer programming classes I took back in school have really come in handy. I went to art school with no intention of doing anything web related, but that turned into a major focus of the curriculum while I was there and since then I’ve designed dozens of websites in the past few years for a variety of products. I’ve also designed sites to work with various Content Management Systems (CSM) such as TeamSite, CoreSite and WordPress. I don’t think of myself a web designer, but I understand HTML and CSS and what they can do. I’m comfortable with them. I also don’t profess to know everything there is about this process and I’m constantly learning. But if I can help anyone not make the mistakes that I’ve had to figure out, then I’ve accomplished something here.
In the past year, I’ve really taken an interest in WordPress and PHP and have built four different sites. I thought I had my head wrapped around the whole thing. So when the WordPress/ComicPress combination was recommended for my online graphic novel, I jumped right in. I installed the combination of WordPress/ComicPress and then I changed my mind.
From what I can tell, the WordPress/ComicPress combination is great for people who what to change the simple things quickly and easily without having to learn a whole lot of code (the background colour or typeface, for example). But for those of us (ME!) who want to customize the site and know how to code, it’s gets complex. There are all sorts of bits and pieces that I’m not intending to use on my site at this time, but they’re still there in the code… So why use it? Well WordPress is a really good CMS. It’s open source, so it’s free and it has a large community of developers so there are all sorts of additions you can make to it. And it uses a combination of HTML, CSS and PHP so it’s straightforward to use. For my money, you can’t beat it.
So if you want a really good tool for controlling the content on your site, WordPress is the way to go. If you’re planning on publishing your graphic novel online (or if you’re currently doing it) ComicPress is a really convenient tool to help you do this as well.
Both WordPress and ComicPress have forums that you can dig around in for answers – and I’ve done just that over the past several weeks. These can be both helpful and frustrating since you can’t always find the exact answers to the problem that you are having. I’ll explain more of this in my future posts as I go.
Let’s start at the beginning… What do you need to know if you’re just starting out?
If you’re just getting started, you need to evaluate what your skill level is. If you’re a complete beginner, there are a lot of resources online to help you through and once you’ve got everything installed, it is very straightforward. Some basics you might need to know are:
HTML – HyperText Markup Language (HTML) is the predominant markup language for web pages and forms the basic building blocks of web pages. Web browers read HTML documents (code) and then display them on screen for the user.
CSS – A Cascading Style Sheet (CSS) is a language used to describe the look and formatting of a document written in a markup language (usually HTML). CSS is designed primarily to separate the document containing the content from the document pertaining to how it is presented.
PHP – Hypertext Preprocessor is a widely used, general purpose scripting language. PHP code is embedded into the HTML source document and interpreted by a web server with a PHP processor module, which generates the web page.
So in summary:
1. Web pages are composed in HTML.
2. CSS tells the browser how the HTML should look.
3. PHP is dynamic code so that you don’t have to change every web page, just certain parts and those changes will take effect across the whole site.
(I’m sure someone can explain that better than I just did, but that’s how I’ve got it straight in my head!)
Where do I download the files?
If you’re still with me and want to get going, you’ll need to install both WordPress and ComicPress on your server. You’ll also have to check that your server provider is running a MySQL database to store all the blog information that you’re going to start to generate. All of this is well documented over on WordPress.org, so here are the links you’ll need to get going:
Once you’ve done all of this, you should be up and running. In my next post tomorrow I’ll cover how I started to edit my site and really add in some customization.