Guided View is Broken

As digital comics become more popular, it’s becoming more important to understand what ramifications they have on the evolution of the medium.  One of the first trends I want to address is the so-called Guided View, where the digital reader zooms in on each panel before moving to the next. This has a profound impact on the way we read and experience comics.

Last week, I talked a little bit about Montage and Collage in comics.  In short, we experience every moment of a comic book in two forms.  We read each moment as its own moment in a sequence of events, the Montage; and simultaneously as part of the whole construction of the page, or the Collage.

You can probably see where I’m going with this.  When reading a comic with Guided View or a similar technology, we’re losing a number of elements.  We don’t see the construction of the whole page, which would peripherally influence our understanding of the current panel.  We also lose the sense of relative size of each panel, which is the most basic way that creators imply pacing.  Reading the same comic on and offline would leave markedly different impressions.

This leaves a very different impression...

...than this.

I’m not suggesting we dismiss online comics entirely.  Tablets provide a great replication of reading full page comics.  Turning a laptop sideways can do the trick too.  So what purpose does this Guided View technology have?

Creators need to look at it as an opportunity.  Guided View and similar technologies offer great, unique storytelling potential beyond what is possible on the printed page.  The future of digital comics will be digital only – creators attuned to the peculiar needs of digital comics will push the bounds of the medium. But so long as creators are designing for the physical page and then tearing it up for Guided View, digital comics will be a compromised experience.

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11 thoughts on “Guided View is Broken

  1. Digital comics are sweet on a tablet. It’s very comfortable reading full page.

    On smaller devices like phones, they of course require Guided View (and even with that it’s still pretty ropey). Which is why I don’t read comics on phones.

    I’ve turned to buying all of my monthly comics digitally. The monthly format always felt temporary to me anyway – thin, flimsy stock, with ads that get out of date real quick. So I’ve got no problem going digital, and won’t shed a tear if Comixology goes tits up and I lose all of my purchases. Even if I had purchased the physical copies, they would’ve ended up crumpled at the back of a closet.

    But I’ll always buy the physical trades. Nice, glossy covers that look wonderful lined up on a bookshelf. In the same way you can’t replace books of art with the Kindle, you can’t replace trades with digital versions.

  2. I am a heavy iPhone user. Guided view is essential for phone/mobile comics. Other than that, praise be to the mighty tablet reader!

  3. On the iPad, though, your example of the guided view page is almost certainly NOT what you’d see in the Comixology app. Guided View doesn’t, as you seem to be implying, automatically show you one panel at a time. A bunch of small panels like this would probably be shown in rows, with the moving from row to row seen as motion. You’d get a pretty good idea of the structure of the page. And you can set the app to show you the entire page when you leave it, which pretty much ameliorates that problem.

    Not that Comixology is perfect. There of course are some comics that don’t work as well with Guided View (I’m just not sure Dark Knight Returns is one of them), and sometimes the programmed Guided View is just wrong. I wish Comixology allowed a compromise view, where I could make the page fit the screen horizontally (and I’d have to scroll up and down a little bit) rather than viewing the whole page, which for single pages fits the screen vertically. From using other, less official comic book viewing apps I know this works fine.

  4. I would agree that reading on just the guided view does lose a lot of what we get from comics in layout and design. What I have found that works really well for me on comixology is making sure the full page view is on at the beginning and end of each page. It becomes much more book like to me.
    The page comes up and you see the whole thing.
    Then it zooms into the panels so they can be read.
    The when the page is done you get the full page view again, and turn to the next page.
    just go to your settings and make sure they are turned on

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  8. Guided View isn’t broken, it’s just a bad idea. As long as you can pinch or double tap to zoom on the page, you control the reading experience. Guided View is an unnecessary intermediary between the authors’ work and the reader. Its a kludge or a hack for a problem that doesn’t exist.

  9. @Norm Dwyer – totally disagree that it’s unnecessary. Guided View is great for maintaining the element of surprise between panels. Sure it ain’t perfect as you’re prone to miss out on stuff in a panel, but I have it set to show the page in its entirety after the last panel of each page is shown to ensure I’ve seen everything before moving on. It works well and it’s a wonderful way to read comics.

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