Setting up a Webcomic on WordPress

As I mentioned earlier, I recently helped my friend Jake set up a website for his comics. I decided to use WordPress, and it is working really great.  I thought some other people might be trying to do something similar, and wanted to share what worked and hasn’t worked so far for me.

Why WordPress

I chose WordPress because I wanted something that would be simple to post, could handle images well, had a good editor and would be easy to customize. At the end of the day, wordpress was the best choice because I could get a very customizable site in a fraction of the time it would take me to write it by hand, especially when you start looking at more advanced features.

Advantages

Image Handling (One click resizing)
Archiving
Design Options (Easy to change with themes)
Built in RSS
Lots of Plugs Ins, especially for Social Media
Ease of use

Now on to the good stuff:

The Plug-ins

Plug-ins are probably the best thing about WordPress, here are the ones that I found particularly useful:

Askimnet
Hands down a must for any blog, does a great job of filtering spam easily

All in One SEO Pack
Again, a standard install for any wordpress site I set up, decent SEO out of the box and makes customizing per post very easy.

FeedBurner Feedsmith Extend
A nice plug-in for redirecting your various default feeds to your feedburner feed.

Google Analyticator
I like this over other plug-ins because it gives you a little preview in the wordpress admin of your recent stats.

Quick Cache
With all of the images that a webcomic is going to be serving up, any help you can get performance wise is great.  This plu g in also makes flusing the cache really simple, which is great for when you are developing with it.

RSS Image Feed
By default, WordPress doesn’t include images in your RSS feed, a bit of an issue for a webcomic. This fixes it, although if the entire post is just an image, it can be a bit flaky.

Share and Follow
Give you a ton of options for adding share this buttons and badges. Mix and match to your hearts desire, I settled on Facebook and Twitter at the bottom of every post, but you could add a lot more.

Simple Facebook Connect
Again, lots of options, I used it to auto post to the webcomic’s Facebook page using the publisher option.

Twitter Tools
Auto posting to twitter, integrates nicely with bit.ly as well.

Misc. Tips

Analytics

The gold standard here is Google analytics, really simple to set up and a ton of useful information.

RSS

Feedburner is great because you can track subscribers and also add neat features to your rss feed, like social media and contact links.

Copyright

This is really up to the artist, but I really like the creative commons license. After all, you are putting it on the web so people can enjoy it right?

Scheduling

If the comic is going to be a daily or even if it is only weekly, scheduling comics in advance is the way to go.  It can take a little work to make sure everything (Facebook, Twitter, RSS) is playing nicely, but it take a huge amount of pressure off of you to have the week done ahead of time, in case something comes up.

 

That’s it for now, I’ll try and come back to update this as http://www.jakerohdy.com matures and changes.  So long for now!

 

Introducing – Jake Rohdy Comics

As part of my new year’s resolutions, I wanted to create at least one new website. Last night I launched Jake Rohdy’s Comics.  While technically I have created a few sites this year, this is definitely the biggest, and I have enjoyed working on it. It’s nice working with a “creative type” (he hates being called an “artist”, even though that is totally what he is…) because then they can come up with all of the images instead of me struggling with them. I also was able to learn a lot about WordPress, and I will probably share some of what I found that worked / didn’t work in a later post.

Anyways, I just wanted to announce the site, you should check it out….http://www.jakerohdy.com

SimplePie – Easy PHP RSS

SimplePie RSS LogoI write for this and two other blogs, and I like the homepage of my personal portfolio (www.brentswisher.com) have up to date information about all of my posts.  It makes for an easy one-stop-shop of all of my online activity, and I like the idea of having a dashboard of my recent activity as a home page. The issue is that manually updating the page each time I create a new post would be a bit tedious.  Since all my blogs have built in RSS Feeds, I though that would be a great way to embed new posts.

These were the criteria I was looking for:

  • Customizable so that I could make it match my sites theme
  • The links would be visible by search engines
  • I could customize what would show (titles, date, domain, etc)

After a little searching, I found something that works great: SimplePie RSS

SimplePie is a PHP based RSS parser.  It’s a PHP class that allows you to access RSS feeds in a object oriented way.  It is really simple to customize as you specify which parts of the feed to display, and you can insert them using standard PHP code anywhere in your site that you need.  It’s fast, easy to learn, well documented, and I would recommend it for anyone looking to use RSS in their website.

Advantages:

  • It uses PHP as opposed to a scripting language, so the links are indexed by search engines and will count for SEO.
  • It uses a object oriented approach to the feed, making it easy to customize what you want to display (title, link, body, etc)
  • Easy to install, just download and include.

Tips:

  • Make sure that you have the page encoding set to utf-8.  If you forget to specify this or use another encoding, strange characters will replace items like dashes and apostrophes.
  • Be aware that SimplePie caches your feeds.  If you make changes and expect to see them in the feed right away, you might need to wait for the cache to be refreshed.
  • To make it easier to make changes, create a separate page for each feed, and then include the page wherever you want to display the feeds on your site.

I would definitely recommend SimplePie for a RSS parser, what about you? Let me know if you have another solution you enjoy!

Web Editor: WinSCP and Notepad++

I found a new combination for Windows web design/programming that I really like: WinSCP and Notepad++.  I have been a fan of Notepad++ for a long time.  It’s quick, has a ton of features I use (color coding, element matching, auto-complete, supports a ton of file formats, etc.) and all around it just works.  I also really enjoyed the built in FTP synchronizing. When I recently got a new computer with Windows 7 though, I found that the Notepad++ FTP plug-in isn’t available by default.  While trying to figure out how to enable it I found a post talking about the WinSCP/Notepad++ combo, so i gave it a try.

First the setup, it’s really pretty simple.  Just get WinSCP and run the installer.  The do the same for the latest Notepad++ .  After that run WinSCP and connect to a scp/sftp/ftp source.  Go to Options > Preferences > Editors and change whatever extensions you want (.htm, .html, .css, .php, etc) to use Notepad++.

Now whenever I open a file with one of those extensions from WinSCP it automatically opens in Notepad++.  If you modify the file and then save it, the changes will automatically be uploaded to the remote server.  I have been using this setup for about a week and really like it.  having a full features FTP client makes it a lot easier to move around images and other files that I am using on the site, and it integrates just as well with Notepad++ as their old built in plug in.

Overall, while it might not replace Dreamweaver if you are coding all day every day, Notepad++ and WinSCP work great for quick fixes and is usable enough that you won’t go crazy if you need to spend a few hours with it.  And the price is just right: FREE!