Design Tips For Webserial Writers

by Stephanie Payne on November 17th, 2008
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As someone highly interested in writing in general and of late, Webserials in particular I like to comment on things, and as much as I love and support Tales of MU, by Alexandria Erin – I do wonder at the sites design. Of course, having read in excess of three hundred chapters (yes, you heard right – excess of three hundred) of AE’s work. I can honestly say I’m hooked, and even if she stays with her current site design – as long as theres something to read, I’m there.I’m also not begruding her because she has ads on her site, just so you know.

As some of you may be aware, I’ve got a little Webserial of my own, Moondust. It’s on Hiatus because I couldn’t seem to get into it or keep up – originally it was meant to be a combined effort of my friend Ashlee and myself. One of the first things I took into consideration was Site Design. Traditional Publishing has a standard of books and papers and that lovely smell that comes along with it. People love books, they curl up with them on a chair o in their beds late at night. They take them on buses, on trains and they’ve been around seemingly forever. They’re familiar and comfortable.

The internet, and therefore webserials – however have what? Technology, need for internet connections, devices that aren’t so cosy on a rainy day. To me it seems that people except to only like stories that come from tangible books.. and Webserial’s just aren’t like that, unless they have a printed edition as well.

But I’ve gone a bit off track here, I have so much to say about Webserials and I’m distracting myself. One reason people might find webserials unappealing is the look. Not all writers are artists in other respects, and far less are web designers. I use wordpress, an so do quite a few others who do webserials so I’ll use wordpress to continue this post – sorry guys who use other software.

Also I should probably mention I’m not referring to, but the one you can install on your own site.

So what do we want to look for in a website design for a webserial?

  1. Readability! It’s a webserial, which obvious means you need people to be able to read it. What this means seems to be lost on some, though.The main point is a good sizes and clear font, things like Arial, Veranda, Times New Roman, Georgia and the like.
  2. A pleasing but simple colour scheme – simple is optional, I suppose  – but you should want your readers enthralled by the words not just the layout.
  3. Plenty of space for your writing to shine. Please, please no tiny content columns! Too much scrolling for a relatively normally sized chapter will both annoy and scare certain people away.

Thee are certainly other things to consider, but these would be the main points. Of course, as I said before – not everyone has a clue about web design, and I know not everyone can afford to pay for someone to make them their own special theme.  Therefore, the logical option would be to find good and free themes – that could be customized easily enough.

I told you I’d get to my point eventually!

I’ve rounded up some good themes that I think are suitable for webserials and the like. I haven’t tried them all, but I got screenshots and have links and such. Below each Screenshot I’ll explain why I think it’s a good theme, and for what sort of story I think it would suit best. Remember to always check out if the theme creators give support/allow modifications and their licenses.

Notebook/Book Styled Themes

Notebook Chaos by Evan Eckard

Notebook Chaos has 2 columns, a quite vibrant design including with elements that set it apart from your average website, such as handwritten headings, stick-it-notes, clips and pins. It would be good for certain first peson or diary style stories, especially ones that aren’t too dark.  Probably more for the girl MC’s than the boys. NC would also be good for college/school type stories. It’s easy to read with a good sized area for stories an down the bottom theres a place where it shows an excerpt from your “about” page, giving you a chance to say something extra. Easy to read, interesting but not too distracting, if you ask me.

There is a downside to this theme, it’s not widget aware – meaning you can’t modify the sidebar without modifying the code.


Modern Notepad by aoemedia

Modern Notepad is well, what it says. A wordpress theme styled after a notepad in a very sleek and modern sort of way. Not my cup of tea, personally – but it appears to be very well designed. It’s less personal but would still work in a variety of stories including diary style and first person, college or whatever. It’s got a decent font (though you can of course, always change fonts fairly easily) along with easy to read text over the content column. it’s widget ready and this easy to mess around with the sidebars.


Notepad by InfoCreek

As you can probably tell, I’m using this theme myself. It’s very feminine with a lot of lovely little details like the ribbons and the floral design behind the content. It’s three column and widget ready in both sidebars, so you can add extra tidbits and such.  As with the other Notepad themes, this one would work well on diaries and what have you, particularly stories with a feminine slant/strong feminine side and/or characters. I think it’s easy to read and not too distracting – but obviously I’m a little biased since I’m using it. The only issue I can think of is that the content area isn’t quite as big as I would like – for a webserial. Otherwise, its fine.


My Desk by Grab A Theme

Another papery sort of theme, it reminds me of a worksheet someone had thrown away or scrunched up. It’s easy to read, though the main colomn is too small for my taste. It could easily be spruced up with a little bit of editing of the CSS (Cascading Style Sheets) to add some colour, and you could probably remove the sidebar on single posts and pages if you felt so inclined (and had the know how). I’m not sure if it’s widget ready or not, though.


Aspire by InfoCreek

This is a somewhat popular theme, I’m quite sure i’ve seen at least two or three webserials (though which ones I’m afraid I don’t remember, they aren’t ones I frequent.) It has a distinctly aged sort ot look to it and seems to be very well put together. I’m fairly sure it has widgets – and theres a blogger version for those of you’re that way inclined.  The two sidebars make plenty of room for any extras and notices you might want to add/ It’s one of my favourites.


Duffy by InfoCreek

Duffy is the last papery sort of theme I have for the moment, once again it’s by InfoCreek and has three columns. it has neat little header elements made out of flash and a rumpled sort of look. To be perfectly honest it makes me think of pirates. If you click on the screenshot thumb here, you’ll notice little “block” signs hovering over some of the elements – you might want to ignore that, it’s not in the design – it’s a AdBlock Plus thing. My only issue with this is the seemingly random use of brown stips at the top.

Simple Themes

Barecity by plaintxt

It doesn’t get much simpler than Barecity, it’s plain and white and certainly easy to read. It also isn’t likely to distract anyone from the content – which is the goal of such a design. It’s also light to load given the lack of images. The only problem I can really see with Barecity is that for some it might be a little bit too star/glarey. I’m pretty sure it supports widgets, too.


Blass2 by porkcharsui

Blass2 is another simple theme, a bit more spread out than barecity but more or less the same – light to load, easy to read etc. This one has a bit more of a blue tint to it.


Grey matter by Nikolaj Masnikov

Grey matter is beautiful theme with plenty of room for the main content, I think it would work well for a webserial in that respect, it’s also good looking without being distracting – however I do think it could use a little customization if you want your site to stand out – but it’s okay, this theme is under GPL meaning you can modify it if you please. It is widget ready and probably a bit better for those with larger screen sizes.


K2 by ..a bunch of awesome people.

K2 is a somewhat popular and easy to customise theme. If you google for a little bit, you may see what I mean. I’m pretty sure it has an options page for easier customiation and I know it’s widget ready. if you google k2 themes you should be able to find some ready made customizations, also. The best part about k2 has to be the versatility it allows, especially to those without much time or know-how.

And it has plenty of content space.


Elegant Box by mg12

As far as simple themes go, this ones pretty good in my book. It’s clear, not completely dull. Light and widgets ready – which in my opinion is right up there on the ‘needs to have’ menu. There’s plenty of space and the search bar is right there if anyone wants to find a part of your stories they like.


8some by wpcosmos

I actually really like this theme, it’s not the same all over and the contrast makes my inner designer all happy inside, it’s widget ready also and theres plenty of room on it.


Simply Ornate by Evan Eckard

Simply Ornate comes in five different colours, which you can see if you follow the link. I think the name really does suit it. Not only does the name fit but it’s easy to read and it is very pleasing to the eyes. Unfortunately, I don’t think it has widgets – but if you don’t use them, certainly give this theme a good look.


Brilliance by Jai

Brilliance is, well. Brilliantly designed for one. I know – I’ve long since run out of new things to say. Brilliance is a three columned widget enabled theme. The third column is for ads, it is explaimed more on the page. Sommething about it screems ‘writers site’ to me – though what it is I’m not too sure.


Jentri by Phu Ly

An old favourite of mine, I used to use it on Of course, back then I had a smaller screen and the content box looked an awful lot bigger. Still, it’s a good theme thats coloured but not terribly distracting it gives an old sort of look, though it’d be better as a fluid theme that expanded with screensize. I think it’s widget ready, but I’m not sure.


Modern by Ulf Pettersson

Modern is pleasing on te eyes and has plenty of space for a story or anything else you might want to post to your webserial. The colours a comfortable as well, and the menu is slightly different but still very clean. Theres a sidebar on the main pages, but not on the screenshot that I have. Sorry! look on the site for a better example.

I think I’m about done for now – there are several more… but I think mum is sick of me taking so long to write a single blog post. And at least I’ve given you some food for thought, no?

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Categories: Design, General, Webserials


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