This is in response to Janae Grace Huber's request for advice for a webcomic newbie... and it's way too long for a status comment, so...
There's basically three "costs" in starting a website of any kind:
When you minimize one of these, but the others go up.
Sites like Wordpress.com and Blogger will set you up with a site for free and at low effort, but at a loss of control. (In that they can display ads on your site. Also their terms of service need to be read carefully. Sometimes services want to be able to use your content to promote their own service)
You can pay them to remove ads, but of course, that's more money for less loss of control.
You can pay to have your site hosted, which shouldn't cost more than $10/mo. for a small site plus about $10 a year for a domain. Some hosts offer a sitebuilder. Many have easy installations for wordpress or other content management systems (CMS).
There's a catch with those sometimes. Since they use pre-built templates, there's usually a link on the bottom of each page to the designer and/or the sitebuilder. In other words, ads. You can pay for a custom template (more money) or design your own (more effort).
You can also design your own site from scratch. The amount of effort that goes into this depends a lot on how interactive you want your site to be. It also depends on what you already know.
So, here's the bottom line. If you want to be in webcomics, I recommend learning some of the "web" part as well as the "comics" part. The extra effort will give you more options, and can save you money and help maintain control of what your readers see when they read your work.
Libraries will have books on making websites. Some libraries even offer online courses. Here's some tips for picking a book:
There's also plenty of websites that teach webdesign.
Ok... That was a lot of typing.
Any other webcartoonists have any other advice?
*Edited to differentiate wordpress from wordpress.com.
Wordpress is a free, open-source content management system (CMS) which can be found at wordpress.org. Almost a third of the internet runs on wordpress. It handles most, if not all, coding for you unless you want to make your own themes. Pre-made themes are plentiful but are not all free and/or open-source. You still need a webhost for your wordpress site. Many webhosts offer auto-installers for wordpress and other CMS.
Wordpress.com is a hosting service run by the people who manage the development of the wordpress CMS. It offers free and paid wordpress sites, simular to Blogger.
Thank you for the advice! It was really helpful! I'll look around at my local library for some of those books, thanks!
No problem. Glad it helped.
I should probably clarify that while "Visual Quickstart" and "Missing Manual" are brands (like "for dummies") O'Reilly is a publisher. So an O'Reilly book might not mention the name in the title. (Their covers are very distinctive though, with a realistic engraving of a seemingly random animal on each one.) O'Reilly does publish other "brands" of books too, but the animal ones are the kind I was talking about.
But ultimately, you just have to find a style of learning that works for you.
Aaron, what do you think of webcomic portals like Webtoons?
Personally, I haven't seen one I'm a fan of, for a few reasons. Basically it all stems from the fact that it's not your playground. (and this can apply to a lot of sitebuilders, blog platforms, etc) It's true that you may get more readers on a portal. And it is (usually) simpler. But:
If they want to run ads, they can. If they want to promote other comics, they can. Either of those could range from innocuous to horrifically inappropriate. But you don't get to control what your work is used to promote. It's their playground.
If they want to change the rules, they can. People are discovering this about Twitter, Facebook, Youtube, etc. lately. If they don't like what you have to say (or who you are), they can kick you off, shadowban you, demonetize your videos. And they have the right to do it, because it's their playground.
Which leads to the next issue. (Which also applies to proprietary website builders.) Let's say they kick you off. Or shut down. Or get bought out and wind up going downhill. Is your content/site portable? If one of those things happened to my webhost, I could find another and upload a backup of my site. Then I could tell my domain name registrar that I have a new host, and I'm pretty much set. (Which, by the way, is why you should always register your domain with a company other than your webhost.)
Another thing to know about having a website is privacy regulations. Recently the GDPR went into effect. Even thought it's an EU regulation, it still effects most sites. California recently created a privacy regulation, but last I heard, it's not finished yet. There are regulations too, largely involving sites aimed at minors. It's something that you'll have to be aware of.
I edited the original post to differentiate wordpress from wordpress.com.
Choosing a CMS
Will it do what you want?
Webcomics can be a bit odd in their formatting as opposed to blogs. Some CMS have plug-ins and/or themes to handle webcomics.
How new is it?
If it’s really new, it might not be stable yet. Also, will the developers stick around? Newness can strongly effect the answers to the next questions.
When was it last updated?
Anything as complicated as a CMS is going to have bugs, and more importantly, security holes. Are they being found and fixed?
How good is the documentation?
Do you have to be a techie to understand it? Does it cover everything?
How popular is it?
More popular CMS will have more user created tutorials, more questions asked and answered. More people looking for and fixing bugs and security holes. The one downside, more popular CMS have more “black hat” hackers looking for exploits too.
Do you like the interface?
Many CMS’s websites will offer a demo, so you can try out the interface.
Some tips on choosing a host
Unless you use a hosted service (like Blogger, Wordpress.com, Squarespace, etc.) you’ll need a host. You’ll probably want your own domain name either way.
There are untold numbers of domain name registrars. A “.com” shouldn’t cost more than around $10 a year. I’ve been using NameSilo and I’ve been reasonably happy with them. In my opinion, a good registrar will offer free DNS privacy, meaning your contact information stays private.
Never register your domain name through your host. Or worse, host your site with your registrar. Changing registrars is not particularly simple. Fortunately, it’s not too common that you’ll need to. But changing hosts is much more common. Changing hosts is easy, if the host is not also your registrar.
There are an absurd number of hosts. There’s way more to picking one than I can write here, so I would look for tutorials on reputable sites. I wouldn’t expect to pay more than $10/month for a site that’s just starting out. If you start getting a ton of traffic, or are hosting really large files, then it can go up.
I’ve read that most sites dedicated to hosting reviews are bogus. For reviews, you want to find legit user reviews. In the past, I’ve used webhostingtalk.com to find reviews (and discount offers). Also try the BBB reviews, Google reviews, etc.
Read the Terms of Service. No really. Read them.
“Unlimited” usually mean “We’ll decide later”. Unlimited transfer or storage or whatever can be a sign of a host that’s over selling their resources. There is no such thing as unlimited. If something says “unlimited”, be sure to find out exactly what that means. Because there is a limit somewhere, even if it’s not a hard number.
Ask the host something. Anything. Before you pay. You do not want to find out that support is slow responding if your site is down. (Granted, the sales contact form/email may be treated different than the support one. But at least contact the host in some way. Be sure they’re alive.)