About Just the First Frame
I created Just the First Frame to be the best way to discover comics on the web. Two opposing issues surround web comics today: discoverability (sharing) and copyright infringement. I believe that showing only the first frame of each comic elegantly solves both. I'll outline the argument below.
1) Pinterest, Tumblr & Facebook
Social media sites are great places to share and discover content, web comics included. The problem is that more often than not, people share the web comic in full, so their friends get to enjoy the comic without the need to click through to the originating source. That means no ad impressions and no recognition that someone has viewed the work from the artist's perspective. This is a form of copyright infringement, but it's a two-edged sword. The benefit is that it's easy to discover the work. The drawback is that the original artist doesn't know who, how or where their work is being shared as well as the lost ad impressions on their own site. Some people also add a link to the original source, but not nearly enough understand the importance of this. The attitude is generally, "Share All the Comics!"
Don't get me wrong. Reddit is by far my favorite place to discover comics, and one of the best things is that the moderators of the comics and webcomics subreddits are highly sensitive to copyright infringement and giving the artists their rightful traffic. But therein lies the one drawback for me. Comics are visual, but on reddit, I must rely on the text as a deciding factor and assume the most upvoted comics will be more interesting. This is where a site like Pinterest shines. They understand that people are drawn to visuals, and that imagery is a fun and easy way to decide what to click on. And what are comics, if not visual first?
Another minor drawback is that the turnover rate of comics on the front page is fairly low, and reposts from days, weeks, or months ago are common. As a follower of web comics, I want to see the latest and greatest. Which brings me to my final argument...
RSS brings to me the latest and greatest. Yes! Exactly what I want! But the format of it comes with the worst of both worlds mentioned above. Some artists provide the full comic in the feed. Great for me, but no click-through for them. Some only provide a text link, forcing me to click through. But a text-only link just isn't attractive often leading me to skip past the post. A couple other tricks artists do is to show a really tiny thumbnail or a cropped portion of the comic. Those are both really good ideas. But in the end, I'm getting a highly inconsistent format, and it's a bit of a discombobulated experience.
4) Just the First Frame
Which brings me to this website. Updated daily, I believe this brings the best of both worlds. By showing only the first frame, people have no choice but to click through in order to enjoy the full comic. Reading only the first frame would be like hearing a joke without the punchline, the punchline being the most important part. Also by showing the first frame, people get a highly visual and scannable page, allowing themselves to be drawn to the variety of comic styles. Moreover, by reading the first frame, they're given a unique hook to click through for each and every one.
So, highly scannable, visually consistent, and click-throughs are imperative for enjoyment (unless you just like looking at pretty pictures without context). I believe this makes this the best and easiest way to discover comics on the web today.
- Henry Kuo
How do you crop the frames?
I manually crop all of the frames. I'd love some automatic algorithm that does this while I kick back and relax, but as of now, I neither have the ability nor motivation yet to learn how to do so.
Can I submit my comic?
Heck, yes! Just shoot me an email at [email protected]. Please, be aware of a new rule I've been forced to apply due to the fact that this site is currently just a one-man production. I'm no longer accepting comics that don't have an RSS feed, as that is simply the easiest way for to me to keep up to date with all of the new releases every day.
Once I submit my comic, do I need to continue submitting each new comic update?
Once you submit a comic, you don't need to anything more at all. I'll subscribe to your feed and make regular daily updates.
How do you handle single panel comics?
I do my best to crop out what might be considered the punchline or payoff of the comic. If there's no obvious way to do so, I will just skip posting that particular one.
What technology did you use to build this?
What comics are included on this site?
You can see a full list of included comics on the Submit page.
Do you have any plans to add categories?
I do indeed, but this will take some time as I want to make sure I find a system that's useful yet simple. But the bigger picture in my mind is that at some point, there could potentially be far too many comics for any single one to get the right exposure. Categorizing could perhaps be still too much of a burden of an interaction, kind of like how the majority of redditors simply don't use subreddits. So a long term project would be to find a way to automatically adjust what's displayed for each individual person based on which comics they choose to click. Now, I think that could be a very simple, cool and elegant solution that requires no work at all for each individual.
Who's behind this site?
Just myself (Henry Kuo). I design, write code, and do a bit of UX. You're welcome to view more of my work on my personal website.
For any other questions, feel free to contact me directly at [email protected].
I created a quick script that visualizes (in a very rough way) the most clicked panels from the past 500 clicked panels, updating every hour. You can view it here.
I'm transitioning from Google Reader to Feedwrangler for keeping up with all of the feeds, so there may be some comic updates that get missed during the overlap, but I'm doing my best to minimize. One bonus reason for choosing Feedwrangler is it constructs actual html for their page displays, meaning I can parse the urls from source code and then paste/open them all at once in the browser rather than my current routine of opening each individual post manually saving me about 200-300 keystrokes a day!
I just added preloading the next set of images as you scroll down the page so you don't have to wait for images to load each time you scroll to the bottom. I can't believe this took a year for me to think of and was such a duh moment. Also, I wasn't paying attention, but this site hit its one year anniversary last week! I officially launched on February 29, 2012, and I'm up to 44,784 cropped panels. Thank you to everyone who continue to use and enjoy this website!
To date, I've manually added 26,870 panels! That averages out to about 118 panels per day from the launch of this site back in the beginning of March, though that number is a bit higher now than in the beginning. I'm planning on doing a screenflow of one of my daily updates soon for anyone curious to see, and maybe for me to just show off a little of my Photoshop-fu!
Added a Popular link.
Reduced the size of the images. I realize this reduces legibility, but I had to weigh this against the fact that the number of submissions has grown to a very large number. Displaying more comics with less scrolling allows more comics to get a fair amount of exposure. Smaller images also means smaller file sizes, meaning shorter load time, which should also help give comics farther down the page a greater chance of being seen.
Added an algorithm that automatically raises the order of comics based on clicks. There is a limit to how much higher they can rise from their original position, but this should allow more clicked comics to maintain a higher amount of exposure for at least a little while longer. I'll keep my eye on this and make adjustments to try to keep things fair, and I'll remain open to removing it outright if it gets overly abused.
Changed viewed state again, making it light rather than dark allowing unclicked comics to stand out more.
Added date markers! Now when you scroll down the page, you have a little something to help orient where you are rather than feel lost in an endless sea of comics wondering where you last left off.
Removed the arrows that displayed the number of frames. This is just total intuition, but I don't think anyone even reads those numbers, and removing them both adds a slight boost in performance and makes the display cleaner.
Added a red banner that appears on the corner of a frame if the comic gets over X amount of clicks (I say X because this number can change if the popularity of the site increases). With this, as you scroll down the page, you can visually pick out comics that are getting more views. I kind of like this rather than re-ordering the whole page by "popularity", because this still forces you to scroll past comics that aren't getting as many clicks to ensure they still get an equal amount of exposure.
Fixed the flicker issue in Safari. That was bugging me for awhile!
Added display toggle between a large fitted grid and a small thumbnail grid. The large grid lets you read each frame. The small grid lets you browse purely by visual interest.
Changed viewed state of comics, mostly for performance since having a lot of transparent elements can slow down the speed of a page.
Added ability to hide any comics series, so you can pare down the comics displayed to only those you want to see via a process of elimination.
Added a Randomize button to randomly shuffle the order of comics displayed.