No, Seriously: Why??

Okay, first of all, gotta love Dean Haspiel. Great guy, great comics. He has a new one up at Zuda. Go take a look.

Unfortunately, I haven’t finished Dean’s story, because I have a book to draw and thanks to Zuda’s interface, it would take me half the morning to finish reading the thing.

I asked this once before and one of our posters (Matthew Marcus) had a theory, but I’m still unsatisfied.

Why, oh why, oh WHY does every single page turn in Zuda require blurring the page I was just on and subjecting me to an unreasonably slow loading bar?

Why can’t it remain in focus and simply put the progress bar out of the way so I can keep reading and get a head start on loading? Or perhaps dim the next button until the page is ready?

Why don’t I have the option of loading the whole comic in advance as I would a song or TV show? (or am I just missing that feature?)

Failing that, why doesn’t Zuda at least pre-load one or two pages in advance? (Note that if I walk away for 10 minutes, I’ll still have to wait just as long once I return).

Why is the load time for Zuda pages any slower than, say, this?

The reason I’m frustrated with Zuda has nothing to do with its business model (a separate issue for another day—also a moving target it turns out) or its corporate parent.

The reason I’m frustrated is because I actually LIKE the basic design of Zuda. The screen-fitting, full screen option is so natural. Such a great way to lose yourself in a story.

But with every page, the interface intrudes and rips you back out.


Discussion (32)¬

  1. ssimonss says:

    Because the internet gods have taken a disliking to you?

  2. Polly says:

    These things must be made precisely, with a lot of imagination, which always is needed.

  3. Stuff is almost never Beta’d with the right people…

  4. michaelk42 says:

    Because Flash is an infection of obnoxiousness.

    But really, that’s just one of the superficial problems with Flash.

    • Scott says:

      Well, I suppose that’s a much bigger question now (especially post-iPad): Will html 5 do the trick?

      • michaelk42 says:

        After “The Year+ of No Flash Update on Linux” I learned closed standards controlled by a single company can be a Very Bad Thing. The iPad/iTouch web experience was previewed for me during that time, since I only had an Ubuntu machine at the time.

        I don’t think it’s a good idea to base a site on a closed standard, but that’s not the real problem here. People may (probably will) do the same obnoxious things in HTML 5 if they’re available. It’s just that Flash seems to be the thing that invites obnoxious FX at this point in time.

  5. Scott says:

    EARLY EDIT: For a few minutes, my post also contained a complaint that I couldn’t click to advance on the image itself.

    That was wrong. You can—after it’s loaded—apologies to the Zuda crew for that, and thanks to Zuda’s Ron Perazza on Twitter for the speedy correction.

  6. slightly off topic, but I’m curious to know if Zuda is going to be DCs only on-line comic offering? Or am I missing something somewhere?

  7. Christian says:

    Online comic readers – the gift that keeps on disappointing.

    I’ve been published with Zeroes2Heroes and while they don’t use the screen’s natural format for the comics but rather the usual publishing format , their viewer does have some pretty nifty features and it’s fast-loading. It’s their website itself, in return, that tends to be wonky and slow-loading.

    Comics aren’t meant to be this difficult to make online. Frustrating!

  8. My impression of the Zuda page-turning is that they’re just being fancy for the sake of being fancy. If it were the early ’90s they’d probably have a flaming logo, sparkling GIFs and and an annoying MIDI file playing.
    OK, it’s not ‘that’ bad, but I totally agree that there seems to be no reason to interrupt the story flow between every page with a reminder to the reader of what site they’re on. It’s one of the reasons I rarely read comics on Zuda. I also wouldn’t read a, say, Marvel comic if every other page was a blurry image with a Marvel logo over it.

  9. James P says:

    The speed of download is a issue for many, but I have a bigger issue with the way we see the Type. In most Zuda comics the Type is just to small at normal size … maybe 90% and a little hard to read. If you go to full screen then the type is fine to read but then you see the image at 100% (sometimes pencil marks). Most Web comics have one size where the image and Type work together without change. My two cents.

    • West says:

      Took the words right out of my mouth. However if this was Zuda you wouldn’t be able to read them anyway.

  10. I’ve recently realized that it only takes a bit of javascript and AJAX to preload images and flip pages elegantly without taking the user away from the page that they’re on. Browser back buttons and bookmarks can be accommodated by using the browser’s built-in hash history… and so on. I’ve recently gone this route, myself. However, it also occurs to me that the biggest barrier to doing this would be that you get a huge drop in perceived page views. You can read 300 pages on my site and never leave. If I had ads like project wonderful, I’d get a single credit. I don’t much care about page clicks these days, but I think there are some folks who do.

  11. michaelk42 says:

    And I forgot to mention, Flash leads to shenanigans just trying to link to a specific page – http://bit.ly/dooredbikepunx

    I didn’t see an obvious way to link to a specific page, so a screenshot-link it was.

    (Wankery in comments is unrelated.)

  12. BobH says:

    I assume the long load time for each page is because they send you an insanely large image and then resize it down to your browser. Look at the resolution you get when you zoom in on a page. Checking one page in Haspiel’s comic quickly full zoom is something like 5 times bigger than the full screen image I get on my 1280×800 monitor and still very sharp, which, since we’re working in two dimensions, means a file size 25 times bigger than it needs to be. No way that resolution is needed for a webcomic. GIRL GENIUS only has files 700 pixels wide, and nothing I’ve seen on Zuda is doing Foglio-level artwork.

    Plus the zoom function is poorly implemented, since you can only zoom in on the middle of an image, then have to awkwardly pan around to other parts. I’d pretty happily lose that function in favour of a 96% decrease in load time and accept the lack of backwards compatibility for the day people are browsing the web with a 5120×3200 screen resolution. And lose the print function. Does anyone use that?

    So my advice would be drop the ultra high resolution, pre-load two screens in advance, lose the blur-and-logo transitions, allow keyboard shortcuts to work in full screen.

  13. Perazza says:

    BobH is correct in that the majority of the load time is because of the image size and because, believe it or not, we are preloading pages. Unfortunately we’ve learned that load times vary wildly for users. Something we’re constantly working to improve.

    One of the primary drivers behind using Flash when we designed the core site (3 years ago) was because we felt “full screen” was the ideal reading experience – no ads, no site even. All comic. Flash made that possible in the most elegant way at that time. As time goes on things change, new technologies develop, you learn from how your users behave and actually use the site and which features they don’t use.

    We just announced some fairly major site changes – like dropping the competition altogether and enabling mature readers opt in/out. At present we’re also exploring ways to offer readers additional viewing options as well.

    This kind of feedback is super useful so I’m more than happy to try and answer specific questions or even take informal advice on ways to improve the UX. Feel free to ping me on Twitter (@perazza).


    • Scott says:

      Thank you very much for checking in, Ron (and for being such a good sport about my crabby post!)

      Sorry that wordpress’s spam-catcher temporarily held your comment for moderation, BTW. Don’t know what’s up with that.

  14. Name dropped! Cool. I just bragged about it to my girlfriend, and after explaining the issue, her theory is that it’s just to advertise Zuda with a logo that stands out and is aesthetically more appealing against a blurred background. As usual, she’s probably right…

    By the by, I finally teamed up w/ an artist and production has begun for a webcomic that incorporates the “about digital comics” work of Balak01. By the time it’s up someone may beat me to it, but I still love feeling like a pioneer by implementing the ideas of comic book formalists.

    Interestingly, the fast panel progression via right arrow keystrokes makes those types of comics impossible with Zuda’s current load issues, but then again, who knows what the future will bring.

  15. DreamTales says:

    I’m so glad you posted on this. Basically what a lot of comic sites are saying is “You can read my comic, but only if I turn the pages for you. And BTW, you need to keep looking at the pages because they might change. Or not.”

    There seems to be an inverse relationship between the creativity of the profession and web site utility. The worst offenders are architects. Why do they think we want to wait all day for pages to load, or figure out their perversely unique ways to navigate their site?

  16. […] is too small to read without going full-screen and is painfully slow with transitions. Now that Scott McCloud has complained, I’m hoping things will […]

  17. Rich Barrett says:

    Being both a website designer and a webcomic creator I can see that the people at Zuda have fallen into the same usability trap that some of my previous clients forced themselves into by wanting their website to be more than a website. They wanted an “immersive” experience that takes away the sense of viewing something in a browser. They want fancy transitions and bells and whistles.

    Most site visitors don’t really want that though. They want to be able to easily jump in and out of your site. They want to check it out and check their email simultaneously. They don’t want to wait more than 2 seconds for something to load. They want to use the browser back button because that’s what they do on almost every other site they go too. They want to bookmark a specific page or share it.

    Zuda, like a lot of Flash sites, make this all kind of tricky. All of it probably seemed like a good idea to the creators and the people at Zuda a few years ago because it sounded like the ideal reading experience but I don’t think it’s necessarily what webcomic readers want or need. I’m glad to see they’re thinking of making some changes.

  18. Dino says:

    thanks for lookin’ and tryin’ to read all of STREET CODE, thus far, and for encouraging a Zuda discussion!

    • Scott says:

      Hey, Dino. Seriously, the comic is awesome.

      Sorry I used you as a pretext for a dorky usability rant! ^__-

  19. […] images may spook the politically correct. And then, there’s that f***ing Zuda browser. Even Scott McCloud hates it. When the writer behind Understanding Comics gives you grief, you’ve gotta start […]

  20. Ray Nayler says:

    Hey Scott,

    I’m the author of the March contest winner at Zuda, Night at the Western. I figured you would eventually comment on the Zuda site. To be honest, I was surprised to hear that it takes so long to load: I live in Tajikistan (no joke) and it takes ages to load up a page here, but I really just thought it was a problem exclusive to our terrible, terrible bandwidth problems here. In order to read comics on Zuda from here, what I would do is open a whole bunch of tabs, load each page individually, then come back and check it out later. That seems like a pretty steep workaround, I know, but my pages would stay blurry for up to 5 minutes each. That’ll take you out of a story! I wanted to address the issue of text: we worked with an excellent letterer, Fonografiks, to make sure that our text was visible both in full screen and when minimized. I think it made a big difference in the contest. People just can’t always be expected (especially with sometimes short internet attention spans and tabbed browsing) to check out comics they are maybe only marginally interested initially in in full screen. It sure would have helped with my promotion efforts, though, if people over here didn’t have to spend 1/2 an hour loading up the pages!

    All of that being said, it seems that Zuda is undergoing an extensive overhaul right now. They have a great team, with their ears to the ground on things like this, and I would be really surprised if their interface did not change soon. And on a further positive note, I really think that the 3:4 format is awesome and almost fully exploits the computer screen, and we were able to really take advantage of it (and hope to do more with it in future screens, once we sign our contracts and start posting.) One of the things that’s really cool about that size is the ability to do two cinemascope-looking panels on one screen.

    And I wanted to say thanks, Scott, to you personally. Understanding Comics got me interested in writing for comics. That book completely changed the way I looked at a medium I’ve loved naively and unanalytically ever since I was a kid. I’m finding working in this medium extremely rewarding, and you played a big part in that. Thanks a million!

  21. […] Scott McCloud becomes the one millionth person to complain about Zuda’s annoyingly slow flash interface—and his […]

  22. Not a big fan of Zuda, which has been frustrating to navigate.
    Equally not very happy with Comicpress webcomics, but I am biased towards Flash and think I have used it effectively for navigating the CO2 Comics website.