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News and advice from the Oxford Web team, June 2012
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Going mobile, and why it makes a difference

Whatever your audience, you will usually find that a growing percentage of users are accessing your website via mobile devices, whether it's tablet PCs or phones.

With the technology that manufacturers like Apple, Android manufacturers such as Motorola and Samsung, Nokia, and of course Blackberry makers Research in Motion have crammed into their devices, most websites display OK, but there are very good reasons to develop specifically mobile-targetted websites.

Video: if your site is being accessed on Apple devices, and you are displaying video using the (traditional) Flash FLV player, then you are losing an audience. Note that this applies to iPads as well as iPhones. Best to make sure that your video can play in every device - and if you're a web developer, you may find our video article (right) comes in handy.

Speed: This refers both to speed of use and speed of download. If your corporate website starts with a banner portraying a large photo of the company office, you don't want to slow mobile users down by sending all of that over their mobile connection - nor do you want users having to scroll past it on their tiny screens to get to what they want (and if they're on a mobile looking at your website it is more likely that they know what they want and don't need a picture anyway). So it is worth trimming down all of the fat (while kepeing a professional look and feel) on devices.

This needn't mean developing another website. In fact, it shouldn't - who's going to maintain all of the content on your new (mobile) website? What it does mean is designing a stylesheet and some options (with your web developer/designer) to make the same content appear differently on different devices. Once that's done, you can continue creating fantastic content and you will have the satisfaction of knowing that it is automatically reaching a wider audience.

 
Canonical URLs

This is very easy, and it's for you if you've ever written two versions of the same page, or you have multiple ways of getting to the same page (e.g. yourwebsite.com/categories/nuts/walnuts and yourwebsite.com/walnuts. Google doesn't like duplicate content very much, and can get confused about which is the main page. You can fix this very easily by telling it about the main page (the canonical URL). Link below:

HTTP://GOOGLEWEBMASTERCENTRAL.BLOGSPOT.CO.UK/2009/02/SPECIFY-YOUR-CANONICAL.HTML
 
Finally, if you've ever run out of lego bricks..

..then here's the solution (just for your kids, obviously...)

HTTP://WWW.BUILDWITHCHROME.COM
 
Tech Talk: Building video capability

The simplest way to add video to a site is to use a so-called "embed" tag from youtube or another video streaming service. Paid streaming services such as streamingvideoprovider.co.uk are very good at this, as they will allow you to set a large number of video display options and won't add any of their branding.

For ultimate control and flexibility, though, you need to be hosting your own videos. But how do you cater for the different devices?

Ideally you should have an MP4, an FLV, and an OGG video.  This caters for most of the different browsers and devices to which you'll want exposure. I won't attempt to discuss video quality in detail here, but you should make sure that your video and audio frame rates are low enough so that the bandwidth doesn't kill, and high enough so that the video can been seen and heard in enough detail (which of course will vary depending on the subject matter).  The videos should all be processed from source; don't try converting your already processed MP4 into an FLV, because you will lose quality in buckets.

Once you've produced your video formats, you'll need a way of telling the browser what to display. Javascript comes in handy here: this file will create the function CreateVideoElement() which you can call with your available video files in order to create a video player on the page.  Your fallback function (see the documentation inline) should be the tags to create the FLV player of your choice - for example GDDFLVPLAYER.

And you're done!

 

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