Overview of Squarespace and "the Basics"



SEO and improved user experience Work

Overview of assets provided and modified for Search Engine Optimisation


Favicon

A favicon is a very small version of the company logo that lives in the browser tab. What do I mean by browser tab? Here is an image:

Now, the interesting thing about a favicon is that the image is in a strange format, called "ico" and what this means is that it can change size from 16 x 16 pixels to 32 x 32 pixels or 64 x 64 pixels depending on the resolution of the screen that it is being viewed on. Put another way, while it is an image it is actually a series of images inside a container. Having a favicon for your website is important in the same way as having your own domain on your email is important: it shows, subtly, that you mean business.

 

GTMETRIX Test

All websites are tested. Visitors test them when they visit (and leave the home page without going any "deeper" into the website if the website is not performing well). A more reliable test than a visitor's test is an automated assessment. GT Metrix is one such unbiased tool that shows where a website is doing well and where it is failing (from a performance point of view). When I want to grade a site, I make notes about the visual appeal but I also use tools like GT Metrix to determine if the site has been well built. A poor score in GT Metrix does not mean that the site is doomed, but it does mean one of two things: either the designer does not know what they are doing or the designer has been told that the target audience for the site will always have excellent internet speed (ie be wealthy and tech-savvy) and that they will not leave the site even if it is slow to lead (the reader is something of a captive audience). While this latter case does happen (there are examples of great sites that are very slow to load) it is the exception rather than the rule. Generally, a good website will load quickly on every kind of device because images have been optimised and the code supporting the site has been optimised.

Here is a before and after GT Metrix test for this website. The first test was done with a home page crammed with images that had only one pass through optimisation and the second test was done with a home page that was more pared back and had had more extensive image optimisation conducted:


Privacy Notice

In Australia the rules are still a little vague: privacy notices are recommended on websites but this recommendation is not policed or enforced rigorously. Having said that, having a privacy notice is good practice. In the EU it is mandatory for websites to ask visitors to acknowledge that the site uses cookies. So, what is a cookie and how does it affect privacy?

Cookies are small bits of code that track people. Sometimes this code will live on the visitor's computer and sometimes, more sneakily, the computer will be recognised through some clever forensic work and the cookie will live on a computer elsewhere, making notes about every site that you visit, making notes about the kinds of things you like and the kinds of things you don't like. Big Brother is not the government. Big Brother is a corporation and the government is able to buy that information. When it comes to tracking visitor (user) behaviours, you are the product being bought and sold. You use fitbit? Your fitness data is bought and sold. You use facebook? Companies are told about your personality, if you are likely to be pregnant, or queer, or wealthy, or vain and so on. 

So it is right for visitors to ask what information is being collected by your website and how that information will be used. The information that we will collect will be organised with two main sets of cookies:

1. Squarespace cookies

2. Google cookies

The Squarespace cookies are "baked into" the platform. That is, they start working as soon as the website goes "live".

The Google cookies involve a little more work. The first step is to ask for a Google code and that code is put into a form in the Settings section of the website. The Google code then collects data in a similar, but more complicated way than the Squarespace cookie does. The report coming out of a Google cookie takes some training to understand and make pretty. The report coming out of a Squarespace cookie is pretty and easy from the very beginning. But both are important. You need both cookies. Down the track you may want to use other kinds of cookies, but we can cross that bridge if and when we come to it.


Image Optimisation

This is a big topic, actually, but I will just cover some of the basics. Many web designers get this wrong because they rely too heavily on automated tools to do their work for them. Designers should, instead, use a tool like Photoshop and create their own optimisation workflow in this kind of tool. 

The nerdy bit: I use high-pass filtering to accentuate important detail and selective gaussian blur noise reduction to simplify everything else. Automated tools will eventually do this when they adopt artificial intelligence, but until that day comes (in 2018 or 2019) there is still work required "by hand", even if you know how to set up your own "Actions" (macros).

The performance bar is being raised all the time. Websites that I optimised three years ago need more work done because, frankly, GT Metrix is telling me that the site could be faster. And it is always a trade-off. By optimising images you are deliberately losing some detail and blurring features that were not originally blurry. If you overdo it you can spoil the image, and whether or not the image has been spoilt is a matter of taste. I like detail. The web hates detail. I like big files. The web hates big files. Fortunately I have quite a few tricks up my sleeve to destroy detail where the effect is less likely to be noticed.

One other thing, before we get to image comparisons, is image dimensions. So many designers do not serve different images for different devices. I do. So many designers will standardise the image dimensions (a good thing) then they will leave those dimensions set at 1080p (1920 pixels wide and 1080 pixels tall, for example, even when the box that the image is being viewed through is 280 x 186 pixels. If that last sentence is confusing, think of it in terms of you have an image suitable for a 4k television but you are watching the image through a television from the 70s (a much lower resolution). This kind of mistake is certain death for web design.

Now, to the images; on the left is the image that has had only modest optimisation and on the right is the image that is much, much smaller.

Here are the image statistics side by side:

You can see that the image that has had some image optimisation has a resolution of 1280 x 720 pixels, but an image size of 112KB, while the second image has the same dimensions and a more than 50% reduction in file size (at 54.2 KB).


paid advertising and search engine optimisation

Google will take your money without guaranteeing value, much like facebook does with their paid ads. What you get with google that you do not get with facebook, however, is feedback on how you can improve your score (if you know how to read the information).

So, to improve the SEO (Search Engine Optimisation) score on a website I recommend a little bit of paid Google advertising. Done correctly, this paid advertising will help to demonstrate what people are looking for that they are not getting enough of, and the text on your website can be changed to reflect that.

Setting up a Google advertising campaign well takes 3 hours - and video training can be provided so a staff member can do this instead of the web designer.


Facebook integration

Websites should be updated all the time. "Ah", I hear you say, "you just want a constant stream of revenue." Not so. I want you to be able to perform this task with as little effort as possible. How? Well, you already have a facebook page, so why not make it possible for the content that you post on facebook to automatically pop up on your website? That is killing two birds with the one stone. You have a website that has a constant stream of new things (pleasing google) and you have an up-to-date facebook page (essential for any business selling a discretionary or lifestyle item or service).

Well, the great news is that I have connected the website to the Doralane facebook page. All that we have to do now is to tweak and test the blog page. Voila!