Mobile-friendly impact

So Google announced earlier this year that they’d be introducing further changes to their algorithm to penalise sites that aren’t mobile-friendly, leading many to adopt the phrase Mobilegeddon, in the run up to the implementation on the 21st April. But I can’t help thinking that for all the fanfare and the massess of online discussions about how this could ruin many online businesses, it all ended up being a bit of a damp squib or a latter day Y2K-style issue.

Yes, it was probably more important for high-traffic B2C sites, particularly social media, news and ecommerce platforms that naturally lend themselves to their content being digested on the move via mobile devices. But for B2B sites or even lower traffic blogs (like mine!) I can’t help thinking that the whole impact was over-egged and resulted in significant discussion, research and reworking of websites in the run up to the change.

Having said that, of course it makes sense from a UX perspective to have a website that works in all contexts, orientations and for all screen sizes, but my issue is that the urgency with which many were promoting changes to be made was excessive.

The key issue

But more importantly than that, when you start considering your website traffic in more detail, you’ll see why this mobile-friendly issue may not have been such a big issue after all.

If you think that a typical B2B website, or indeed this blog, may receive anywhere from 5-20% of its traffic via a mobile device. Of that proportion, when you look at Google Analytics, I’ve often seen it further split between tablet devices and mobile devices fairly evenly – so at any one time, a maximum of 10% of web visitors are arriving on the site via a mobile device.

Depending on the design of the platform, it may or may not be a good experience for them – but that’s not the issue here. The key issue is whether an individual has actually searched for your site using Google. Because if they have, and your site isn’t mobile-optimised or responsively designed, then your position in the Google search results may suffer. But remember that the maximum of 10% of web visitors on a mobile device may not be arriving via Google search. They may have bookmarked your site, they may arrive from other inbound links or social referrals – so my contention with ‘Mobilegeddon’ is that the true impact is arguably less than was suggested initially and we’ve been the victim of online scaremongering.

Easy fix

Of course, if your site is based on WordPress (as this one is) then it’s relatively quick and easy to identify a replacement theme that is mobile-friendly or responsive-designed, upload and activate it – and then you’re compliant with the Google algorithm. 

But if you’re managing your site using a different CMS or system, then you might need bit more help and direction. And that’s where Google’s Webmaster Tools come in handy. Once you’ve registered your site with the platform, it’ll be analysed and a report on where any issues (from Google’s perspective) will be made available to you – along with a list of fixes and further advice that you may want to implement. Whether that’s easy or not to implement will depend on your technical ability or the ability of the team or person working on your site, but at least you know where you should be focusing your efforts.

Free test of mobile-friendly status

You can test your site, or any of your competitor sites, using this free Google tool here.

How to easily create your own font

I’d often wondered how easy it would be to create my own font and having seen various pixel based, graphical editors always placed it in the too-complicated or too-hard camp. But I came across this tool called MyScriptFont the other day which promises to make the process significantly easier.

First of all, there’s no on-screen editing. You simply download a template grid and then using a medium thickness black felt tip, write in the alphabet in uppercase and lower case, along with the main numbers and punctuation. Additional symbols are optional, which in the interest of speed and testing it all, I opted against. Then it’s simply a case of scanning your grid in to your PC and uploading it to the MyScriptFont website.

Once it’s online, the site does its thing and provides you with either a True Type Font (TTF) or OTF which you can download and then easily install into your own machine.

I created mine in about 5 minutes – which you can view or install from here, if you like. It’s not perfect, as I accidentally crossed some of the guide lines so the loops on some of my letters have been cut off during the scanning process, but it was so easy to do, I just felt it worth sharing on here. I’ll shortly be revisiting the site and taking more time on my grid so I can have a perfect font!

Where the site might have a few drawbacks is in foreign language support, or for those instances where pixel perfect accuracy is required. It’s also quite tricky, as I found, to fill in the whole grid without making a mistake… so, unlike me, take your time and do it slowly! And make sure your felt tip pen doesn’t start fading half way through writing.

In terms of applications, there are a lot of paid font solutions out there that designers and organisations use and pay for, but this one is absolutely free – and pretty unique too. It’s not going to be suitable for every application, but the speed at which you can get your own custom handwriting based font is hard to complain about.

Online marketing planning case study

chessMy blog so far has been a place for me to share things that I find interesting as well as helpful tips and information that I’ll often refer back to myself. It’s almost like having a personal set of bookmarks that are accessible everywhere I go without having to use any bespoke service.

However, a friend has asked me for some advice regarding their newly launched online business and since I happen to work predominantly in the online / media / marketing world, I thought this blog is as good a place as any to write up my suggestions.

Although I’ve intentionally kept the name of the company anonymous, the principles behind maximising online opportunities for an online retailer apply can be applied by anyone.

The background

The company my friend works for is a niche SME online retailer that has decided to branch out in to a new range of products (home accessories and home gifts) outside of its existing offering (beauty products). Rather than expand the existing successful brand, a new separate entity has been created. A good, well designed web site has been constructed; an expansive range of over 400 niche products has been selected and available from launch at competitive prices; and some initial social media activities have been undertaken. So far, so good – they’re sounding like they’re doing a lot of the right things – but what can they do to take things to the next level?

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Free cloud storage solution… The Box


There’s a lot of talk about cloud computing right now and I think it’s only a matter of time before many of us move our entire digital lives into the cloud. That is to say that instead of carting around CDs, DVDs, USB drives, hard drives or SD cards for cameras, for example, we’ll all just be connecting and uploading/downloading content to and from the internet.

There are a number of free cloud storage services around – and I’ve listed a few of them below – but the one I’m using and therefore recommend is The Box. Pleasingly, it also has a current promotion at the moment for all Android users that sign up before the 23rd March 2012, get a free upgrade to 50gb storage. The maximum file size is also increased from 25mb to 100mb, so it should suffice for virtually most files, apart from full movies or TV shows.

As you’d expect, the service comes with its own range of apps, Android and iPhone, as well as desktop integration and easy bulk uploads for when backing up your files to the cloud. It’s really easy to manage too, with easy creation of folders and sub-folders, and the ability to grant others access to your content, by inviting them to collaborate. Paid upgrades enable more user levels, but if you’re a basic personal user that’s looking for a decent volume of cloud storage space, the box certainly puts forward a great proposition.

To sign up, click HERE

Other free cloud services you might want to consider include:

  • Dropbox – 2gb of free space, or 2.5gb if you sign up via this link here: There are a handful of very good reasons why Dropbox is so popular.
  1. It was one of the first cloud storage options available.
  2. So many people use it and are familiar with it.
  3. You can claim up to 16gb of free extra space just by referring people. My referral link is HERE – so please sign up using that so we each get an extra 500mb of space!
  4. The wide variety of ways in which you can access your space, particularly with mobile devices such as smartphones and tablets – is class leading.
  5. The integration with Windows and ability to automatically sync and backup files is fantastic.

There are others available, but these are just a selection. Ultimately, your choice of provider will depend on your individual requirements and what balance you need between features and space.

How to match and find a font

fontsHaving had to recently undertake a project to redesign some corporate literature and align new marketing materials with concept designs, I found that I’d inherited some design work from a predecessor but only had the flat image files, so had no way of knowing what fonts were used in the designs. I was sure I’d know if it was a standard font, but as these weren’t… I didn’t know quite how to start. Obviously, this led to a trip to Google and the result was me finding a handful of very helpful web sites that I want to note down here so that a) I don’t forget them, and b) other people can perhaps benefit from them too. All these services I used are completely free online.

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Typical web banner sizes

I came across a really handy reference guide earlier, concerned with the size of typical web banners. 

It’s taken from Wikipedia, but I’m including it on my site as it’s probably an easier to access resource.

banner sizes

(Click on image to view full size)


Fantastic time-lapse animation

I came across this time-lapse animation today, of an illustrator/artist creating the cover for a comic book.

It’s incredible watching the image being constructed and the detail that goes in to a piece of work like this.

I’m not sure I’d have the patience to work on something like this! In the video, the artist starts off creating a pencil sketch and them imports the image into Photoshop to flesh it out more.

Free online pic resize tool

If you need to resize a photo, but you’re away from you main PC – ie on a tablet or netbook, and don’t have access to your regular imaging application, then this handy online pic resize tool is invaluable. It’s free too.

More webmaster tools

Continuing on from my last post about domain name alternatives (HERE), there are other tools freely available online that should be part of any webmaster’s toolbox. This post will include links to the ones that I use most frequently and have found easiest to use.

There’s no point in struggling through with your web site, you may as well take advantage of the free resources that are available to you – and there are lots! All you need to know is where to look for them.

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Domain name suggestions

So, you’ve decided you want to have your own web site – either for a personal blog, interest site, or some business venture (or whatever else) and now you need to decide on the domain name that you want. Unfortunately, there’s quite a lot of other people that have had exactly the same idea and there’s increasing competition for the best web names out there. 

Even if you’ve decided on a really cool name, it may already have been taken by someone else that has launched their own web site – or could have been secured by a cyber-squatter, who’s going to try and charge an exorbitant amount to allow you to take it…. so, what’s the alternative?

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