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How to Compel Your Readers to Support You
Moving traffic is an extremely important component to marketing your work online. If you can’t move traffic, you can’t compel people to buy your products, come out to your live events, or otherwise support you. In addition to this, you won’t be able to share traffic with your professional friends to shore up your networking goodwill.
The bottom line is that it is extremely important to get your readers to click the links that you post., buy your stuff, and to come out and see you if you tour.
A surprising thing that I have observed in my organizing of webcomic programming is that it does not appear that website traffic has as much of a relation between your ability to influence your readers as you might think.
I have met people with very large estimated monthly readership who are absolutely unable to compel their readers to do anything, and I have met people with tiny readerships who can command a small but powerful army.
Size does matter, but the degree that it matters depends on how good you are in speaking to your existing readers.
Your blog posts matter just as much if not more than your work. It is all part of the packaging.
Here is a handy translation guide for some common poorly-chosen themes and what they are really telling their readers:
– “Here’s a comic.”
You might be busy, but it it happens more than a couple of times, you are saying that you don’t care. If you don’t care, why should your readers? Repetition and consistency are the things that train your readers to watch your blog for important things. You are teaching them not to find anything you say to be important.
The way I’d do it: “Hey guys, I am super busy right now. I have (x and y and z) just about ready for you guys. I’m really excited about it. Here’s a photo of (something I’m working on or something random from online that is amusing). Talk to you guys again on Tuesday! :D”
– “My art sucks.. But whatever, here’s some art.”
You’ve just communicated to people that you hope will buy your work that you aren’t worth it. Yeah, I guess your art does suck. I believe you.
The way I’d do it: “Hey what’s goin’ on? I have some new kikass concept art up in here. Clicky the link and check it!”
I find that a rule of thumb is to imagine how the people reading you think. It is just like being friends with someone. If you want them to get to know you and care about what you do, you have to let them in a little bit, but try and remain as positive as you can. Negative talk really irks a lot of people.
Above all, be honest and be yourself The rest will fall into place over many years. Your readers are coming to see you to be entertained. Your job is to fulfill that. If you hope to make money off of it, you need to also keep them listening to you.
Fashionably Obstructed: The Problem With Many Online Clothing Retailers
Shopping online for clothing is risky business since you can’t touch or try anything on. It never ceases to amaze me though that most clothing retailers know this and still go to great lengths to prevent their customers from seeing their clothing based on their site design and pictures.
That’s like buying a car, filling it with dirt and seeds and growing weeds out of the sunroof.
The worst offenders are businesses who seem to think that they are awesome. These are the niche trendy fashion lines and retailers of club wear. We are all in agreement that fashion is about selling an image. The problem arises when the mechanism for delivering the facts to the customer are nothing but smoke and mirrors showcasing how “cool” the website’s models look on camera.
No one cares at all how cool a shop owner’s friends look. That’s awesome for them that they seem to only accept pretty people as friends, but this tells me nothing about the vital statistics of the merchandise being sold and it’s real world use.
When a customer comes to a fashion retail website, they want to know:
– What are the measurements of the piece?
– What does the stitching and fabric look like? Is this made of thin fabric that will fall apart? Does it stretch? Is it soft?
– Do you have a line drawing of how the piece is cut so the customer can extrapolate how it would fit on them, or at the very least on a person who is standing normally and not with an arched back? It’s about your customer, not “look at me I’m cool”.
– Do you have a good return policy if it doesn’t fit?
Fashion is represented so poorly on the internet that I haven’t found many places that I would buy from simply because I have no idea what I’d get in the mail from them. It is a shame that such a tough field to succeed in is being made unnecessarily tougher by some of the people who hope to market their designs.
If you own an online clothing store, what have you done to make your customer’s experience better? Are there any innovative tricks that people should know about that you have found work well?
Wanted: AWSOM Columnists
Are you interested in contributing to spreading sane web design and polite internet marketing? Well, AWSOM.org needs a few good columnists.
AWSOM.org covers the business side of being internet famous. Webcomics, bloggers, bands, and artists of all types are our target audience because they use the internet to spread the word about their work.
Web design, internet promotion, guerilla marketing, brand building, and making money are examples of what we like to talk about.
You must be able to:
– Write well while keeping people interested in what you have to say. (We like people with a sense of humor.)
– Commit to writing at least one short blog post per week. (Pictures or illustrations accompanying the post are optional but encouraged.)
– Believe that the act of helping people should be taken seriously and professionally.
This is a partnership in which we band together to help spread the word about each other’s work while helping others. People who are involved with AWSOM have the option to become a valued expert on our panel discussions that are held at cons.
Customers Are Awesome, So Design for Them!
The real purpose of an art, comic, music, or blog website is to give a reader information about you in under 7 seconds that tells them why they should stay and keep reading you from now on.
There it is – the Meaning of Life. The Lost Scroll. The Fate of Atlantis. Master this and you have Real Ultimate Power.
Art and design is largely about “image”. While this is true, many artists fall prey to Too Much Image when it comes to designing their website. I believe that a website should be the frame for your brilliance. It shouldn’t eclipse your work. It also shouldn’t take excessive time to load or otherwise alter the user’s browsing experience. Today, I am going to talk about some guidelines for making the best impact with your website.
1. Avoid Flash: I personally don’t like Flash unless it is specifically for a flash cartoon or game that you have made. I have never sat through a Flash intro to a website and said afterward, “Gee, I really liked sitting there waiting to get to this website I have never heard of before.” Never. Most people will not wait.
Flash also doesn’t display on an iPhone and most other mobile devices, so if you must use Flash, make sure there is a non-Flash option.
You might say, “What idiot only uses an iPhone to browse the internet?” Well, that idiot would be me. I work hours that would make a large man (or even David Hasselhoff) cry. I rarely am able to get to my own desktop computer. A Flash only website is enough to prevent me from seeing it entirely. I do not have time to “surf the net” in the few hours I have at home each day. Also, I am not alone. Our culture is going mobile in a big way.
2. Don’t have music that auto-plays: There had been some debate about this in the case of bands. Some bands insist that the best way to get their work to their customer is to have their music auto play. I disagree. It is important to quickly get your work to that person’s ears, but politeness toward your customer always supersedes any sales tactic.
These bands aren’t considering people who are browsing at work or school. Just looking at my personal web traffic, I see that most of my readers come right when they get to work or school. I think the entire internet would be empty if you removed this type of traffic. At worst, that MP3 file is an embarrassment to the person who hasn’t had time to adjust the volume on their speakers to prevent the whole planet from hearing it. At best, it’s annoying to the person who was already listening to iTunes.
Both of these scenarios happened to me. Both of them resulted in my immediately closing my browser and never coming back.
3. Don’t change the user’s browsing atmosphere: Changing the end user’s browsing atmosphere is similarly rude and jarring. Things like changing their cursor to a cross hair or forcing you to view their website full screen so that you can’t see your OS’s navigation menus are just plain inadvisable. Most people react with fear to new things. This is no exception.
4. Take different browsing scenarios into account: Will your website run on a computer that has a 800X600 resolution and a dial-up modem? How about on both Mac and PC browsers? Does it display on an iPhone, Palm OS, and on Windows Mobile?
As I said before, the range of ways someone could be browsing the internet is wider than ever before. While you can’t test for every single device or browser, do at least some testing to make sure things aren’t totally blown looking on something, especially if the something is very popular (even if you don’t like/use it personally).
5. When in doubt, don’t do it: If a feature doesn’t speed up the delivery of your work to the person loading the website – it should not be used. Trust me, if your work isn’t good, no amount of “cool” features are going to get you a sale. When in doubt, don’t add the feature. Focus on content first, then add whiz bang stuff later.
So there you have it – some basic guidelines about how to design for your customers so that you can optimize those valuable first 7 seconds and keep a new visitor for life.
Like all guidelines, there may be some special case where some of them can be broken. Have you used any of these features (or others) and made them work for you? Or, have you see a hideous offender of poor web design that sends customers running? Let me know in the comments!
The Creative Comfort Zone
The success of free sites like Deviant Art shows how many artists don’t want to be bothered with making their own site. Sure, some of them do have their own site in addition to Deviant Art, but most don’t and many of the ones that do rarely update their own sites.
I am not saying that Deviant Art “sucks”. Deviant Art is awesome. For no investment, anyone of any skill level can experiment with online publishing. This is a great way for someone new to the field to figure out if this is something that they would like to do. Probably every artist should have some sort of presence there – just like MySpace and Facebook – simply because you can. More exposure is always better.
However, Deviant Art should NOT be your main website.
I say this because:
1. Their interface is quite confusing for the end user. You cannot customize it to make your work easier to view by someone who is not familiar with the Deviant Art culture. The first 20 times someone linked me to their Deviant Art page I left without seeing their art because I couldn’t figure out where the gallery was. It can be very annoying.
2. When Deviant Art is down…it’s down. You can’t fix it. If your work is unavailable for weeks you have no recourse because you don’t control it.
3. Your URL is YourName.deviantart.com. This might be good for networking with others on the site, but it is not so professional for people who aren’t.
4. Passive ad revenue is one of the the largest and easiest source of income – and you can’t do that on Deviant Art. You actually are making them rich – not yourself. Of course since the cost to host your stuff is free, it’s a balance–but still, eventually you’ll want to make money (I assume) off your work.
You might say, “Hey, Oni! I get a lot of people buying commissions from me on Deviant Art. Why do I need ad revenue?”
There are two ways of thinking about it:
1. Working yourself to carpal tunnel cranking out as many commissions as you can for a small amount of dollars. Generally you will probably find that this leaves you too busy to augment your brand. Oompa loompa doopity doo…
2. Do commissions for x amount of dollars when you feel like it and collect far more than x dollars for doing nothing but getting people looking at your work. Have tine to build your brand and a social life.
For my purposes, I choose 2.
If jumping right into working with something like WordPress is daunting, a good thing to do is to at least buy your own URL/domain name that redirects to your Deviant Art. This way, when you finally take the plunge you won’t lose your hard-earned fans out of confusion. They’ll go to where you direct them.
I am a big advocate of controlling where and how my work is presented on the web because it is just that important. Nobody else cares if your work is represented well. You need to care.
They say that you should dress for the job you want, not the job you have. This is very true. It is also very true for how you “dress” your work.
I urge you to try out free sites like Deviant Art and to even maintain a presence there. Just remember that the end game is about making money for you by developing a healthy career. If you hope to achieve that, you need to take control of your work. Too many artists are concerned about the immediate future and don’t invest in a holistic approach to career development that will give them strength 30 years from now. A balance needs to be understood if one hopes to thrive.