web design

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?

Read more

The difference between sub domains, parked domains and add-on domains

I still get confused about the differences between sub domains, parked domains and add-on domains… so here’s a handy reference definition: 

Sub domain 

  • Lets say your domain is mysite.co.uk
  • You install a Discusssion Forum and put in in a directory called mysite.co.uk/forum/
  • You can turn the forum into a sub-domain by adding it as a sub-domain from your Control Panel
  • Now you can access your forum as either mysite.co.uk/forum OR forum.mysite.co.uk
  • This generally costs you nothing and is free.

Parked Domain

  • You have two domains mysite.co.uk and my-other-site.co.uk
  • mysite.co.uk is the domain of your website and you want to add my-other-site.co.uk
  • You want them both to go to the same place. In other words, when someone types either www.mysite.co.uk or www.my-other-site.co.uk they will go to the same page(s) on your website.
  • In order to have additional parked domains you need to purchase them from a registry.

Add-On Domains

  • You have two domains mysite.co.uk and my-other-site.co.uk
  • You want the two domains to be totally separate/independent websites
  • In order to have additional add-on domains you need to purchase them from a registry.


Disable directory browsing

If, like me, you like to play around with your web site – occasionally you’ll accidentally break it, as I have. This latest time, I disabled the directory browsing on my site to increase security, but the way that I tried to do it through the cpanel index manager, left my whole site inaccessible.

So that I remember next time I do this… I’ve written the instructions down here.

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Adapt your WordPress site for mobiles

There’s a relatively easy way of making sure your WordPress site or blog is readily accessible from the growing number of smartphones and mobile devices out there, whilst still retaining much of the functionality and style that you’ve worked so hard to create with your site.

WP Touch is a handy, free plugin that will simply reformat your WordPress site if it detects that is being viewed on a mobile browser. It doesn’t change the viewing experience in a traditional browser on a desktop or laptop, but works behind the scenes to make your site that much easier to view and navigate on a mobile device.


Can the Free Web Site model work?

I’ve been thinking about this for a while now… and I’m wondering whether the Free Web Site model can really work. It was an advert in today’s Crain’s Manchester that got me thinking. It was an all-inclusive single price package for web site design, logo design and SEO work – all for the bargain price of £999. In my opinion, that seems a little steep…

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Paying for online content

There’s a really interesting discussion going on right now about whether newspapers can actually start charging for the digital distribution of their content. There’s an article on the BBC web site that I read today (link HERE) – and it includes an ongoing discussion about whether people really believe it’s achievable. 

As a marketer and someone interested in developing an online (hopefully profitable) presence, I have to believe it’s possible to monetize the web in some form – but I believe it’s unrealistic in this age of distributed reporting, aggregated news and instant updates that can be shared with the world, to expect someone to pay for content that is available in almost identical format elsewhere on or offline.  

The reason I think it’s not going to be enforceable universally is that there’s never going to be agreement between the media organisations. It’s the old prisoner’s dilemma, everyone saying that they’re going to be charging a fee to access the news, but then one breaks from the ranks to steal a competitive advantage – resulting in an endless circle of competitive retaliation.

What I do think is more achievable, is another service I read about recently that encourages micro payments. In the same way that organisations such as Amazon have benefited from targeting a huge population with an incredibly diverse product range – addressing the long tail of retailing – then micro payments that could be distributed to providers from a shared pot of funds could be exactly the solution that everyone is looking for. The site’s currently in beta (sign up for more info HERE) and is being developed by one of the Pirate Bay’s co-founders, Peter Sunde.

Creating a favicon

What is a favicon?

It’s one of those little images that sits up in the address bar next to the web address.

They’re really good for branding and help create an association between your web site, your logo and your overall styling.

There’s a good tool out there to help convert everyday images into favicon’s.

You can get to it HERE – it’s free to use and provides a handy zip file with a download of your favicon.

Hosting – who do I recommend?

Without doubt, my best experience of a reliable, low-cost, feature packed hosting company has to be Host Gator.

Yes, they’re US based, but so what? Apart from the billing process being prone to currency fluctuations, they’re just ultra reliable and very helpful if you ever have any problems.

I’ve used them for plenty of years and plan on staying with them too.

More to write on these in subsequent posts too… such as setting up databases, installing web applications and general configuration, tips and my experiences.