Webtoons Formatting is Far Too Restrictive

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I have pretty much given up on Webtoons as a potential platform for my comics for the foreseeable future. It’s kind of a strange claim to read and certainly, there is a level of hyperbole here but the frustrations with the platform have killed any enthusiasm for it for me as a creator.

Despite the potential of Webtoons as a source of readers and a way to promote my comics, Cosmic Dash and RGBots, a very, very specific thing has killed it for me as a place to potentially upload my work and is an extension of an overarching problem facing webcomic creators.

What killed my interest in Webtoon as a platform was this.


Webtoons vs. Tapas

This is troublesome because there is a huge potential audience. The closest English-language competitor to Webtoons is Tapas, and the numbers are more in favor of Webtoons. Whereas Tapas seems to float around a total of 4 to 5 million visitors over the past six months, Webtoons is estimated to claim over 30 million visitors over the past six months. Sure Webtoons may cater to a more international audience, but those are significant numbers between these two platforms.

So, because of some frustrations with image restrictions on Webtoons I am essentially willing to cut myself off from hundreds of thousands of potential readers. This may sound crazy and petty, but I feel my reasoning is completely sound.

Webcomics Are Exhausting

It is not just the creation of the webcomic, generally unpaid, that is exhausting, but the incidentals that revolve around running a webcomic that adds up. I’ve spoken before about the importance of being able to say no when it comes to your webcomic and to take breaks, and sometimes the extra work is just not worth the potential rewards.

Typically the webcomic is represented by two core divisions: desktop and mobile, with them blending to a great degree due to tablets and smart devices. So when it comes to formatting webcomics there needs to be a consideration of mobile and more standard page formats. Essentially a division of single-page comics and scrolling comics that are more vertically oriented.

That means that when it comes to platforms for webcomics there are three that really matter right now CMS-driven sites, Webtoons, and Tapas. Most other webcomic hosts tend to be lumped under “CMS-driven” sites when they are exemplified by single image pages that are navigated through pagination, such as buttons or clicks. Webtoons and Tapas, however, are mobile-oriented and often utilize scrolling to read vertically-oriented comics. Simple enough distinction, yes?

So, at the very least, a webcomic creator should format their pages in a more traditional print-format of a single page as well as a more mobile-oriented scrolling format. This is, of course, all very much a broad summary as there are further variations, but for the sake of simplicity, that’s where we’re drawing the line; single print-dimension pages or elongated vertical comics for phones.

4koma style

Josh Nickerson’s Melancholy, for example, stitches two traditional pages together to create a vertical strip, the concern, however, is that it might be too small and crowded for mobile screens. The mobile version of the comic Humor Me more directly reflects the scroller format for comics on such platforms. Individual panels are rendered at a large size to better allow the panel to be read on smaller screens. The webcomic Jonny Crossbones is an example of the standard print-proportion pages linked with pagination.

For RGBots I just sort of skipped the issue altogether and used the Japanese Yonkoma, or 4koma, format of four vertical panel strips. It works on pages and it works on screens.

It seemed like a completely elegant solution to dealing with the differing needs of traditional webcomics and scrollers.

At least, it did before I tried to publish RGBots on Webtoons.

Webtoons: Too Much Work for Me

Now, these strips work perfectly on the RGBots website as well as the RGBots mirror at Tapas. There is no issue whatsoever with Tapas as a platform beyond sometimes getting lost in the shuffle (in addition to other things to discuss for another time). It’s great. One image that takes care of both.

The problem is that Webtoons requires images to fit a specific range of dimensions: less than 800px wide and 1280px tall. This does not work for RGBots at all. RGBots is 500px wide at a little over 1300px tall. I cannot upload this comic to Webtoons unless I redo those comics, but that means either splitting every strip in half (a tall order with an archive of 100s of comics) or reducing their dimensions, making them smaller and harder to read, thereby defeating the purpose of the initial format.

I revamped RGBots to work with print and mobile. I spent a lot of time trying to work out this format, and it absolutely kills me that Webtoon’s arbitrary image restriction kills the hard work I’ve done.

I say arbitrary out of frustration; sure, there is probably a reason for the limitations, but this still proves deeply problematic for me, a potential user. It becomes even worse for artists who want to repurpose work and haven’t already accounted for such mobile versus print distinctions. I am facing that exact same hurdle when it comes to Cosmic Dash. If I wish to place Cosmic Dash across the official website, Tapas, and Webtoons, I would need to do a ton of extra work, on top of running my website, promoting my work, and actually creating the webcomic.

The bottom line is this: in order for a webcomic to take advantage of the “big three” distribution models a comic needs to be formatted in three distinctly different ways. Webtoons is making this unnecessarily complicated through such arbitrary file distinctions.

So, for now, I am not bothering with Webtoons. I’ll probably use it eventually, it’d be foolish not to. I am just not happy about the extra hurdles I’ll need to leap to use it.

I know. I know. This is all very much first-world problems. But these things add up and there are very real problems that can result from being overly-rigid regarding format on their platform.

Odds are I am not the only potential Webtoons user who has decided to skip out on that platform. Odds are, until this changes, I will probably not be the last, either.