Walt Schlender
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I built a comic builder!

Comic builder part 2. I built it! Here's the story of the build process.

In my last blog post I put together the designs for a comic builder.

The article left off with me wondering about my next steps. Should I go out and find some customers? Should I just build? Should I launch a landing page?

After a night of rest I got some clarity on the project. I decided to build it.

Here’s the result!

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Sweet! But why build?

I decided to build the tool because I wanted to use it myself.

This is a new mindset for me. In most of my past projects I’ve designed products I thought other people would want. This is so much better!

First, I know I have at least 1 user. Me!… and if the product has problems (which new products always do) I can fix them.

Second, someone (me) will be around to figure out how to make the tool useful. Yes, the tool can create pretty pictures… but what do you do with those pictures? Where do you post them? What kind of results can you expect? I can sell the product when I have answers to those questions. How fortunate there is someone (me) who wants to run a bunch of tests.

Finally, I just think it’s valuable to make things. Perhaps nobody will want to use this tool but I still get a lot from building it. I learn about new technologies, I get to practice doing a product launch, I get to write this blog post and do video recordings, I have a product I can show to people. The list goes on…

I get these things because I built something. Validation is nice, but you really learn when you build.

The plan

My plan involves a quick build followed by a slow rollout.

When I say quick build what I am talking about is intentionally cutting some corners on the UI and usability in the interest of getting the product done.

For the comic builder this means spending time on the comic instead of the user interface.

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The reason I can do this is because of the slow rollout.

A slow rollout involves rolling out the product to a few customers before trying to attract hoards of users.

Since there are only a few users I can work with them 1:1 to answer questions, deal with issues they’re running into or building features that are missing. I’m my own first customer so the UI can be pretty sucky. It’ll get better as I get fed up with my own lazyness and fix things.

So… if you think this project seems cool, I need some first users.

If you’d like to try the early product get in touch walt@wildnotion.com.

The build

The build took 4 days. I used EaselJs to actually build the product.

Here is a comic about the different phases that I went through during the development process!

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I started out not knowing how to do pretty much anything.

The first day was pretty much spent trying to get a draggable blue circle to show up on the screen. Of course I ran into problems when I started trying to load images and then get them to resize properly.

As time went on development went faster and faster.

Once I figured out how to factor my graphical components out into classes I was able to move very quickly. I went from a draggable-resizable image to 3 draggable-resizable images to 3 draggable-resizable images with good looking frames and a dropshadow background.

Progress slowed a bit when I started trying to add comic bubbles — the math for figuring out how to draw a bubble that fits around text is complicated. That part is quite fun though. If you want to really understand trigonometry try to figure out how to draw a triangle whose head you can drag around.

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Overall I’m pretty happy the the end product. It works.

… and … now that I’m using it I can see so many places where it needs to improve.

  • You can’t save the comics that you’re working on (so if you reload the page your progress is lost)…
  • The app doesn’t store your source materials so you end up having to hunt around a lot in order to find the pictures you want to use.
  • I end up taking a lot of pictures on my phone and it’s a pain to have to load them onto my computer so that I can put them into a comic frame.
  • The user interface isn’t ready for normal people to use.
  • The color correction is very important and needs a lot of work.

But really everything is going according to plan. It’s great that I’m excited about using my own product and that I see places where it could improve.

I have some other projects I want to work on so I’ll probably pause on comic builder development for now, but the project is definitely not over.

Expect to see comics showing up all over my future projects. As I use the tool I’ll fix little things… and then when it’s ready I’ll show it to a larger audience.