25 reasons to dislike a website

When I started the harveyline website I wanted to make sure it provided a ‘good visitor experience’.

The book ‘Don’t make me think!’ By Steve Krug provided a lot of insight.

Website’s That Suck has been around for a while and is always worth a visit, just to make sure your own site is not as cringe-worthy as some of the examples shown.

Many of the contributors to the UKBusinessForums regularly have something to say on the matter.

So, in no particular order:

  1. Flash websites.
  2. Intros (including Flash intros).
  3. Requests to register for no apparent reason.
  4. Loooong pages that scroll forever.
  5. Sound that plays as if from nowhere.
  6. Videos that auto play.
  7. Poor quality images or at the wrong resolution, often pixelated to death.
  8. Stock images of unreal people.
  9. Popups.
  10. Popups that say “Are you sure you want to leave?” as you try to leave the site.
  11. Poor speeling.
  12. Poor grammar, innit.
  13. No replies to your contact email.
  14. Pages not found.
  15. Links not working.
  16. Requirement to download specific software to use the site.
  17. So what do I click on?
  18. Slow load times.
  19. Complete this survey request as you enter the site for the first time.
  20. Embedded ads….where is the content on this page please?
  21. No design (mad fonts especially Comic Sans, garish colours).
  22. No real contact address (as required in the UK by the Office of Fair Trading).
  23. Incomplete.
  24. Inaccurate.
  25. Out-of-date.

I usually string the last three together during a rant about how 80% of the information on the internet is valueless. But shown like this brings the list to nice round number.
So if you think there is something you dislike about harveyline, please tell us.
Contact me.

Posted in The internet at large | Leave a comment

Using Flash ads in AdWords

As the harveyline website develops I try to find ways to promote it. I pay Mr. Google for advertising through AdWords. When, and if, I think I understand the complexities of AdWords I might post something on this blog.

AdWords includes the option to use animated ads, made in Flash. This post summarises some of my experiences using SWFs in AdWords.

Google has a policy document on image ads here:

http://adwords.google.com/support/aw/bin/static.py?hl=en-uk&topic=28431&guide=28427&page=guide.cs

And some information here:

http://adwords.google.com/support/aw/bin/answer.py?hl=en-uk&answer=26938

Common issues with failure of the Flash ad are:

  • animation too long, 30 seconds is the maximum permitted
  • animation not halting (i.e. any background animation should stop)
  • not implementing ‘clickTAG’ correctly

The ‘clickTAG’ is the tracking code assigned by Google to an individual ad.

You can make Flash ads in AS3 or AS2, but the code is different.

Minimal code for AS2 on timeline:

var clickTag:String = "";

var mouseListener:Object = new Object();
Mouse.addListener(mouseListener);

mouseListener.onMouseDown = function() {
getURL(clickTAG, "_blank");
};

Minimal code for AS3 document Class
package
{
import flash.display.MovieClip;
import flash.events.MouseEvent;
import flash.net.URLRequest;
import flash.net.navigateToURL;

public class MedBox extends MovieClip
{
public var clickTAG:String;

public function MedBox()
{
// attach listener to a button
butt.addEventListener(MouseEvent.CLICK, Nav);
}
private function Nav(event:MouseEvent):void
{
navigateToURL(new URLRequest(this.loaderInfo.parameters.clickTAG), "_blank");
}
}
}

I am using ‘this’ rather than _root, but either will work.

The script that loads the SWF ad to the web page passes the URL for the target page (your web page) to ‘clickTAG’ as a name-value pair. The loaderInfo property of the display object traffics the variable for clickTAG through its’ parameters property.

You can publish the ad to any Flash player version from 4 to 10 inclusive.

AdWords will reject the SWF if it includes any random number generation. Some 3rd party tweening classes include random numbers.

Although many users are familiar with ads where the entire image will act as a button, some are not. To avoid the issue of “mystery meat” navigation, make the clickable button obvious.

The policy document includes these words:

“AdWords does not allow the specific tracking of user interactions that don’t involve clicks.”

Such as View-through tracking, Key-modifier tracking and Mouse location tracking.

I must confess I was not able to find out much information on these. Most sites I found simply regurgitate the text from the Google policy page. Mouse tracking is akin to 3rd party products such as ‘clictale’ where it is possible to track the visitors activity as they view the page. View-through is a technique used by Google to track how a visitor views the ad before they click it

So, keep it simple, the only events the SWF should respond to are mouse.CLICK events to trigger the navigation to your chosen target page.

It is possible to load additional content at runtime, such as images or SWFs, although I have not tried it with ads.

To date, it is not possible to test the Flash ad in the ad testing tool. It seems the only option is to use the placement report to determine on which sites the ad appears and view it there.

Posted in Software: bend it to your will | Leave a comment

My name is of no consequence

The 1960 film The Time Machine, directed by George Pal is doing the rounds on UK TV at the moment. Always worth a look for the Oscar-winning stop motion effects and the lovely Yvette Mimieux. Edwardian London and all other time periods, were created on the MGM soundstage; although the apparently British cars have left-hand drive. Im not sure where in Scotland Dr David Filby’s (Alan Young) accent comes from. Alan Young also appeared in the remake in 2002.

yvette mimieux

Yvette Mimieux

In the scene when George Wells (Rod Taylor) saves Weena (Yvetter Mimieux) from drowning whilst the other Eloi look on with indifference, I always enjoy the moment when, as he pulls her apparently unconscious from the water, she points her toes to make sure her legs look their best.

pointed toes

pointed toes

The title of this post is from the scene with the ‘talking rings’, where the voice tells of a 326 year war and the destruction of civilisation. I find it quite elegaic, as the voice recounts the destruction of a remote past when we all hope for is a better future.

time-ships book cover

The Time Ships - Stephen Baxter

The “Time Ships” is a sequel to the HG Wells novel, written by Stephen Baxter. It explores the idea of alternative timelines, created on each occasion the Time Machine is used. So that when George returns to the future to be with Weena, he finds his presence there has changed the future. It includes a possible timeline where a human culture arises from a handle of people stranded in the Palaeocene, 50 million years in the past.

Perhaps the Time Machine itself has not entered mainstream consciousness the way the monolith from 2001 has. But it did get a mention in the Big Bang Theory episode ‘Nerdvana’ where it was described by Penny (Kaley Cuoco) as looking like “something Elton John would drive through the Everglades”.

Well, it made me laugh.

Information about the Time Machine, machine can be found here.

http://www.hollywoodlostandfound.net/props/timemachine.html

And a remarkable replica here:

http://www.timemachineguy.com/replica.html

The best site I found for information about H.G. Wells, dramatisations of the story and the Time Machine is here:

http://www.colemanzone.com/Time_Machine_Project/

Posted in Culture | Leave a comment

Downhill to Christmas

Well it’s the season of mellow fruitfulness here in Aberdeen. After a lacklustre summer, the nights have turned distinctly chilly and the leaves are turning all shades of red and yellow. Today, the sky is that pale, cerulean blue we get in the north. But the sun is low on the horizon and gives little real warmth. The air does have a distinct “flavour” to it, something earthy and yet crisp in the nose. It is my favourite time of year.

In one of those strange quirks of the cosmos, Stevie Wonder’s ‘Summer Soft’ is playing as I write.

autumn sky

autumn sky

I have an apple tree in the garden, and it is always pot-luck as to how edible the fruit turns out; it all depends on which type of apple tree the local bees have found to cross-pollinate with. This year I can just about eat them raw without my face caving in. But they don’t score any points for looks. I also have a rampant bramble which produces a few blackberries. So it’s time for pie.

apples

apples

blackberries

blackberries

Posted in Life, the universe etc | Leave a comment

How it all started

Way, way back in the dim and distant past, (before the internet, home computers and mobile phones) I tried all sorts of arty pursuits: painting, drawing, origami, batik. I did have a model railway, but I spent more time making the papier-maiche hills and tunnels.

As I continued through ‘serious’ education, my arty side was neglected until I was in full time work. I then picked up brushes again and daubed oil paints and pastels. I could never get to grips with watercolour though.

In the later part of my working life I spent time in a small consultancy. The company was small enough to allow people to get involved in all parts of the business if they so wished, including the in-house website. Which is how I came across Macromedia Flash 5. I started poking around with it to see what it / I could do.

I produced some animated idents for the in-house website. But my creations were limited to a 180 x 60 px space.

Here are a couple from the archives, one for Valentine’s day and one for Easter.

The exploding rabbit population proved popular. Occasionally the rabbits appear all white or all pink.

About this time a couple of friends sent me ecards from a quite well known website which features dogs. And I thought, I could do that.

So I quit a well paid job, went back to college to gain some knowledge in digital art, sound editing, composition, animation etc., and started harveyline.

I am fortunate that by brother is a very gifted pianist and was keen to push his musicality into composition and arranging.

I hope to be able to continue this enterprise for several years and provide eCards and other art that is both engaging and entertaining.

www.harveyline.com

No matter how original you think you are…..it was nagging at me where I had seen or heard the title of the  post before….here is a link to the talk by ‘father of the internet’ Tim Berners-Lee:

http://www.w3.org/2004/Talks/w3c10-HowItAllStarted/

Posted in Life, the universe etc | Leave a comment