This somewhat creepy animation of the Funhouse is here for a reason. Read on.
Now that you’ve finally settled on a website design that you really like, here’s a question for you. What does it look like on a mobile? And I don’t mean ‘is it pretty?’ If you’ve used any hand-held device to look at websites designed for desktop computers, you’ll know that it’s a frustrating experience.
Yes, you can zoom in to read any text but you’ll very likely need to do a lot of scrolling around the screen. As for the expensive brand video you had created, you can pretty much forget about that working. Most web video players are Flash-based and mobiles don’t support Flash. Even the html5 players have all kinds of quirks, meaning they might work on the iphone or a Blackberry, but not on Android. Then there’s the ipad to consider. Your Flash banner and other animation won’t work in a mobile or ipad.
So what’s the solution? Some sites have parallel mobile-specific versions running on a sub-domain, so for example you might see the equivalent of this type of url: mobile.funhousegraphics.com. That’s fine if you’re Twitter.com or something equally huge, but for the rest of us this has implications for Search Engine Optimisation. A sub-domain is a standalone website, therefore you would be splitting your web traffic between two different sites, an SEO faux pas.
This is where mobile-friendly website design comes in. The real answer is to dish up the exact same content from the same place using two different design templates. For example, I created the creepy web video of the Funhouse above and encoded a single version of it. But that single video will display differently depending on what device you run it on. Looking at a desktop monitor? It’ll fill most of this central column. Try scanning the image below to load this post in your smartphone:
On a mobile you’ll see a compact version specifically designed for hand-held devices. (That doesn’t explain why it’s creepy. I just felt like it. Halloween or something.)
Likewise the image below, showing the compact version of funhousegraphics.com in an Android window, will itself be resized to fit a hand-held screen. So the mobile version of this site has all the video and functionality of the desktop version and serves up the very same creepy content, but with its own compact layout.
But hang on, don’t you need to build an app for people to download in order to dish up a proper mobile-friendly website? No, you don’t. Unless you want your mobile version to do something radically different from the desktop version (not just looking different, but having a different function) you won’t need to think about apps.
Mobile usage has been increasing dramatically and as the phones themselves get more sophisticated, people are expecting more from them. It’s up to web designers to find ways of delivering content to fill this need.
I’ve created lots of flash animations over the years, many of them self-contained websites. But the trend seems to be away from these all-in sites and more towards using flash banners or just bits and pieces of flash sprinkled through a website. I think this has happened partly because flash was always absolutely hopeless for search engine optimisation – the designer always had to put in all kinds of alternate content specifically for search engines – and partly because there is hope that there may be a newer, easier technology on the horizon.
Whatever happens, animation on the web is here to stay and if there’s a better way than flash of incorporating moving elements I’ll be working with it soon. In the meantime, flash is still very much alive and well.
I could show you lots of examples of flash banners that I’ve made but they’re a bit meaningless outwith the context of the websites they belong in. Instead here is my favourite piece which is a little front page insert I created for Internet Karaoke, the online karaoke player. Queen Karaoke is the site’s ‘virtual hostess’ and the purpose of the animation was simply to tell customers they had to purchase credits before singing along. However, beyond the simple instruction to ‘Get Credits’ I decided we could have some fun.
Having a great website is one thing but unless you’re getting a reasonably high ranking in Google and the other search engines, it might not do you much good. You can pay Google for a sponsored listing, but who really wants to pay Google? That’s where search engine optimisation (SEO) comes in.
I’m a search engine marketing consultant based in Edinburgh, Scotland. SEO is the art of increasing your website’s visibility by raising its ranking in the major search engines like Google and Yahoo. Here’s a case study:
Around this time last year I was approached by Ampersand, the Edinburgh based stable of advocates, to tackle their SEO. They had a very attractive website that did everything they needed and everyone was very proud of. There was only one problem – it was very hard to find in the search engines.
I ripped through the Ampersand site applying a wide range of ‘white hat’ SEO techniques and put a number of measures in place that would, given time, boost their rankings considerably. After a month we were beginning to see a marked improvement – I kept a log of the progress being made on individual search terms. Later I was delighted to be able to tell them they had a page one ranking for virtually all the terms they were interested in.
Anyone who says they can guarantee a top position ranking is not really telling the truth. There are too many factors that are taken into account in Google’s massively complex number crunching. Also I wouldn’t believe anyone who says they can fix this for you overnight. It’s a slow process, but as long as you’re not a fly by nighter and are in business for the right reasons, it’s a job that’s well worth doing.
My number one tip for anyone looking to boost their website ranking would be – have a website with interesting and unique content. And if you’re interested in taking the next step and finding an SEO consultant in Scotland, give me a call.
I'm Greg Moodie, a freelance graphic designer and SEO consultant based in West Lothian, just outside Edinburgh in Scotland. Trading as Funhouse Graphics since 1998, I specialise in 3d animation, motion graphics and search engine marketing for websites.