Digging into Digital: Image Comics Re-Launches their Website

Adding new creators like Brian K. Vaughan to their list of creator-owned comics isn't the only thing that Image Comics is up to these days. Earlier today, they announced on Facebook a major face-lift to their primary website. Partnering with Comixology, one of the major players in providing digital comics, Image's new site is designed to be user-friendly, geared towards getting readers to find books by their favorite creative teams, learn about new projects, and purchase Image books digitally through Comixology (natch).

Here's a snippet from the Press release on Facebook:

Berkeley, CA – 29 July 2011 -- Image Comics is pleased to introduce a completely redesigned Website, which includes many additional features and improvements. ComiXology, who created and continues to maintain the Image App for digital comics, has once again partnered with the publisher for the redesign of their Website.

Some of those exciting features and improvements include:

A new online database which will help fans search for their favorite comics and discover new favorites by allowing them to search by creator, series title, or even genre.

A live RSS feed, inviting fans to keep abreast of the latest Image Comics news and participate in the Image Comics community via Twitter and Facebook.

A section devoted to digital comics for sale, including some downloads that are even available for free! Read all of Images Comics digital comics at comics.imagecomics.com.

The Image Comics Forums, which will continue to give creators, retailers, and fans alike an online home for questions and discussion.

Some of these things already existed, of course, but they were clunky. The new site puts them in a cleanly displayed format (contrast this with Marvel, whose site I avoid except to read their digital comics library), with only the content you requested scrolling down to the bottom of the page as you go along. The following are my impressions of the features on the new Image Comics website.

  • It's a very pleasant experience. I enjoyed looking at the news articles without clutter all around me, and it actually made me want to linger and see what I might be missing. In this online world where there's so many things calling for my attention, I think it's key that this redesign keeps me interested instead of annoyed.
  • From the news page, I moved over to the blog, which I found was not only active, but it had items that were not covered in news. It's nice to see them separate from each other. Use news for press-release type stuff and the blog to feature things relating to Image comics more generally. I like that, and I hope it continues.
  • You can't really have Image without thinking of Rob Liefield (even if he's not an active Partner, per the FAQ), and it looks like he's going to get his own blog-like space on the new website. Right now, there's an interview with him, where he admits deadlines are tricky and thinks he could have made it in the sports talk world. It's very conversational. I'll be curious to see what happens with this part of the site over time.
  • Speaking of the FAQ, I think it's a nice idea that you don't see a lot of these days---well, at least I don't. After covering the usual subjects, such as who runs Image and how it got started, there are detailed instructions on how to submit and how submissions are handled, which doesn't do much for me but should help aspiring artists (writers without artists need not apply, BTW). Perhaps most interestingly, Image has several comic book terms broken down for new readers. It's another small touch that makes this site very user-friendly for new comics readers.
  • The best part of the site, in my opinion, is the comics section, though it definitely need some work before it can live up to its full potential. The comics section is broken down several ways. First of all, there is a place for new and upcoming releases, perfect for interested parties who may not know all that Image produces. You can search alphabetically for just about every comic ever published by Image, as well as by every creator that did work for them. I clicked around on a few creator pages and found them rather lacking, so I hope this gets up to speed soon. (Todd McFarlane's only lists Haunt, and has no biographical details. You'd think his would be one of the first to be filled in, but I guess he's less important to Image these days than Kirkman.)
  • In this era of blogs and Twitter and now G+, the inclusion of forums struck me as the one odd note in the whole mix. The forums seem to have some new postings, but I question how much they're actually used. Do people in the comics world still feel attracted towards forums? I'm genuinely curious, and would love to know.
  • The last link on the site is for the Image Comics digital site, which will be instantly familiar to anyone who uses Comixology for their digital reading purposes. It even accepts my regular Comixology login, and allows me to read any Image comics I've already purchased through the main Comixology site when I am on the Image-only site. (Naturally, I cannot read my non-Image comics there.) It's a very nice job of cross-pollination that Comixology seems to specialize in, making the reading experience as easy as possible, no matter where you happen to run into their service.

Overall, I was extremely impressed. This is a website that's clearly learned from the experiences of other comics sites, and I think it's a real winner. Image is definitely stepping up its game on a number of levels, and I think they're positioning themselves well both to be a major digital player (Image has been doing day and date digital before it became a big thing for the Big Two) and a user-friendly place for new comics readers.

Well, done, Image! My digital cap is off to you and Comixology for this one. What do you think of the new Image site? Tell me in the comments!