News

Are you ready for Google’s ‘Mobile-friendly’ Update?

Google first announced algorithm changes to affect mobile SEO back in November 2014. They have since provided a few more specifics and have revealed via a blog post that the algorithm update will happen on the 21st April, and will focus on ‘mobile-friendliness’ as a ranking factor.

Zineb Ait Bahajji, from Google’s Webmaster Tools Team has said that the upcoming mobile-friendly ranking algorithm changes will have more of an impact on Google’s search results than the Google Panda or Google Penguin update did!

Essentially, what Google is saying is that if your site is not mobile-friendly, you need to take the necessary steps to ensure  it is. If 50% of your traffic from is from mobile devices such as smartphones and tablets, if your site is not mobile-friendly (‘responsive’) that potentially your traffic from mobile is at risk.

Why is Google implementing these changes?

Google currently considers that the user experience of many sites featured in their search results is not good enough for the increasing number of people now using Google on their mobile devices. They don’t want to be serving their users with sub-standard search results and so they are making efforts to sort out this problem.

What you need to do

Google have recently provided quite a bit of information for website owners about the performance of their mobile websites and alerting them of any potential issues they may have. Even if your site is responsive and you think it’s mobile-ready, it’s important to have a closer look and do a proper mobile SEO audit. Here are a few things you need to check and action as soon as possible to ensure you’re not left behind –

Run the Mobile Friendly Test

Check out  the mobile diagnostic tool available on the Google Developers website. Begin by testing your home page and then each of the main page templates on your website. Make sure the site resources such as images, CSS, JS are also crawlable.

Analyse your mobile usability report

If you have a look within Google Webmaster Tools, Google now details webpages on your website with errors for mobile users – for instance when touch elements such as buttons or links are too close to one another making tapping them with your finger difficult. Other issues are the use of flash or improperly sized content such as huge images that are being scaled down inappropriately.

Google-Mobile-Usability-blog

See if you have a mobile-friendly snippet

Google have started to display mobile-friendly websites in mobile search results next to the meta description in their search results. If your site is missing these ‘Mobile-Friendly’ labels you are likely to have a problem come the 21st of April.

google-mobile-friendly-snippet

Check your Site Speed

Site speed is another important factor – as you’ll want your site loading as quick as possible via a 3G mobile connection. This is already an important ranking factor for both mobile and desktop sites so use Google’s PageSpeed Insights tool to check for page speed issues on your mobile site.

Google-Site-Speed-blog

Each of these online tools will give you a clear indication on whether your site mobile-friendly or not and what you need to do get there. The chances are that many website owners won’t know that they need to actually improve their site to adhere to Google’s algorithm change until it’s too late – don’t let that be you.

Responsive Design Workshop

November saw our very own Alex going back to school!

As part of our support for the Knutsford Studio, Alex has offered to run workshops for any students interested in web design and business set-up.

This week’s class saw him presenting 8 students with the basics of Responsive Web Design, giving the students the opportunity to have a go at designing their own responsive homepages and asking as many questions as they needed to.

We hope that we will be able to get involved with many more workshops for the students as so far, we are incredibly impressed by their abilities.workshop1

Introducing our (mini) photo studio

This month, we have set up our own mini photo studio into the office and are delighted that can now offer product photography to our clients. We have always enjoyed location shooting and have several sites featuring our own filming and photography. So now it’s nice to be able to shoot our own product photos that we can then use on client websites.

Our first assignment has been to photograph an impressive set of bronze sculptures in 360 degrees to produce interactive rotating models of the sculptures online. We look forward to showing you the results but in the meantime here is a sneak peek of how one of the 360 sculptures has turned out. 

Students Teaching Us a Thing Or Two

As a family business running a busy studio as well as bringing up children, we at Pixel Air, have a vested interest in the community. When the Knutsford Studio got in touch with us towards the end of the summer with their proposal, it just felt like a good thing to do.

Asked if we would be interested in offering work experience placements to some of their new GCSE and A-Level students, we jumped at the chance.

A Brief Introduction

Part of the Knutsford Academy, students at the Studio at Knutsford wishing to follow a career specialising in digital technologies can work on their 5 core GCSEs (English, Maths and Science), whilst enjoying an industry-led course in Computing, Design, Broadcast Media, Sport and Leisure or Performing Arts, learning work-place skills alongside their regular learning.

The Future of Learning

When we, as a family, consider the career pathways that our children might pursue in the future, we recognise that University is not always the only or best option. When we heard about the Studio at Knutsford, it’s teaching and courses really appealed to us on a personal level. To have the opportunity to send our children into a high school, and for them to also be gaining work experience at the same time as studying for their GCSEs seems like a wonderful idea that we would like to know more about.

There is an amazing pressure on school-leavers to go to University and gain fantastic degrees and present impressive CVs with all sorts of qualifications to their future employers, but we have certainly found out for ourselves, as employers, that actual work experience speaks volumes louder.

Of course, this isn’t the case with all courses, and we know that University is an amazing experience in itself, but it is good to know that future students might have other options. Furthermore, those that do wish to go to University, can base their decisions upon a foundation of industry-based learning, rather than having spent the last few years sitting in a classroom and just talking about the workplace.

We feel very lucky to have the chance to offer the students at the Studio an opportunity to acquire the skills that we would like our own children to leave school with, whilst also finding out as much as we can about how the school is run and discovering more about our local community.

Born to Code

Going back a ‘few’ years to when we were in school (which wasn’t actually all that long ago), we were lucky if we had a computer to share with a peer, once a week in an IT lesson where we were taught about spreadsheets and using CD-Roms.

Going onto University, there were no web design courses. Some students opted for the Graphics Design course and pushed the boundaries to specialise in Web Design. You had to be a real enthusiast to push the boat out and practically educate yourself in coding and Flash design.

We are well aware that things have moved on since ‘our day’. Our own kids are well adept at using an iPad at the ages of 2 and 4 years old already, and their primary school is well set up with laptops and wall-mounted computers  for web-based research and independent blogging. However, we wanted to know at exactly what level and expertise students are expected to be now through their regular studies.

Our Students

We received our 2 new work placement students this month – 15 years old and brimming with confidence and enthusiasm. With impeccable manners and much appreciation, the students were very keen to work on some of our live briefs, having been given some logo design as an introduction to our office environment. We are hoping to involve some of our clients in being able to offer them some proper feedback on the work that they do for them.

The boys’ knowledge and their conceptual thinking has so far surpassed our expectations and they handled design work in Photoshop brilliantly, uploading their logos to their school server without a problem and talking about getting involved in a bit of coding on their next visit to the office.

It is genuinely refreshing to have the students working with us and bringing in their fresh ideas with an approach that we, ourselves, have long forgotten about since leaving school. It was lovely to see them go away with their logo design brief, start making sketches, talking together about concepts that we would never have thought of, and then presenting their ideas to us as a finished Jpeg.

Next Steps

As well as working with our current students over the next few months and setting them briefs and blog posts and research projects to work on – all of which we hope to publish on our main site – we are looking to engage the Studio as a whole, and to offer our services as a reference point for all of the students.

With a selection of other local businesses, we will be presenting lectures and short talks to some of the students about the true stories of what happens in business and how a design office is set up and run. It is through doing this that we hope to encourage the students to get involved in local businesses and to learn through experience as well as within the school walls.

We see no reason why all students shouldn’t feel that they come to us, as a business and as people who started out just like them, to get advice, to conduct interviews and to have their work criticised. It’s apparent that quite often students leave education with a warped sense of what goes on in the real world, heading home with a bunch a coursework folders which they got top marks for, only to discover that they don’t really have the confidence to get out there and speak to business managers or to find that they are shot down at the first interview for their lack of experience. They might suddenly realise that actually they don’t have 2 weeks to collate a sketchbook of ideas and that by the end of the day, they need to have five templates ready to show a client, not one.

We want our work experience students to leave us with a little portfolio to which they can direct their future employers which will show the live briefs they were given and worked on as part of a normal working day, and the honest (but dazzling) references we give them.

And we hope that they will continue to be in contact with us for many years to come, to come to us for advice  and then to no doubt give us advice in the future!

Google Will Warn When Your Site Is Not Responsive

We wrote an article not so long back about the importance of keeping your site up-to-date with technology and with your user.

With more people using mobile phones to access search engines than ever before (set to overtake desktop searches), it seems it is more important than ever to make sure your website is responsive.

Google has announced that it will start to warn its search engine users of which sites will not be compatible with the device they are using.

If your business relies on customers finding you through Search Engines, it’s a good time to get responsive!

Read article here…

Dementia Roadmap Website Launches

With Dementia Awareness Week 2014 comes the launch of the much anticipated website Dementia Road Map, commissioned by the Royal College of General Practitioners and developed by Pixel Air.

DementiaRoadMap.info, a thorough and comprehensive guide for Practitioners and Carers supporting people with Dementia, provides the user with up-to-date directories of local services as well as advice for those living with the symptoms.

 A Wealth of Information & Resources

The user is invited to select the regional site which is most appropriate for their needs, with each site providing information specific to the local area about the diagnostic process, the local care pathway, post diagnosis support, living with dementia and planning for the future. There is a vast display of local and national resources within each regional site which can be filtered using Search and Advanced Search options.

Advanced Search

Designer and Developer, Simon, says: “We quickly realised that advanced search functionality was going to be key to the success of the website. Developing this in a way which is both powerful and flexible whilst retaining the same simplified user-experience as the rest of the website was key.”

In the footer of each regional site, the user can access a Tour of the website which explains the site as a whole and what the user can expect to find within the site, offering them the opportunity to get the very most out of their visit and where to find all of the information that they need.

Responsive Design for Mobile Devices

Pixel Air, the Altrincham-based team behind the design and development of the website worked very closely with the Royal College of Practitioners to ensure that the fully-responsive site was designed with a sympathetic, clear and informative look – approachable, easy to read, easy to understand and easy to navigate – on whatever platform they are viewing from, giving the user the best possibility of finding all the answers they are looking for whether they are a Care Professional, a dementia sufferer or a family member.

Multi-site for Scalability

Another aspect of the development process was providing the ability for admins to quickly create a new version of the website for different regions of the UK, with default content and the ability for a new admin to create localised content and imagery, content categories, resources and groups.

Designer, Paul sums up the design and development process: “With a clear brief, a tight technical spec and a sharp, proactive client, designing the Dementia Roadmap was an enjoyable process from start to finish.

Pixel Air joined the project midway through, with a great deal of work already completed on the planning and structure of the content. We used this to wireframe and provide responsive prototypes almost immediately. Our rapid process – eschewing the traditional psd-signoff-build model – allowed us to make far greater progress than by traditional means.

Driven by typography and inspired by the likes of Gov.uk and The Hillsborough Report the site makes great use of CSS3, SVG and Iconfonts. The result is a lightweight responsive site that’s sympathetic to the subject matter and usable on any platform.”

Simon adds: “Personally I am delighted that we met every part of what was an extremely challenging technical brief. I learnt a lot along the way and couldn’t be happier with the finished result. The close collaboration between the whole team from start to finish was key to the successful implementation of the brief and to launching it on time for 2014’s Dementia Awareness Week.”

 

 

 

New Pixel Air Website

It’s been a long time coming but we’re finally very pleased to announce the redesign of our very own website! After 7 years we finally had to make our own site a priority and have given it a complete overhaul to bring it in line with what we do for all our clients these days.

The site is an beta release at the moment – as we simply couldn’t wait any longer. So we’ll be spending the next week or two ironing out bugs and adding further content and improvements. It’s very much a case of ‘release early and iterate often’.

 

Two websites for two venues

This month has been very busy indeed. We’ve had some very exciting and inspirational projects to work on. The first is for Heaton House Farm – a stunning wedding venue in the Cheshire countryside. Using plenty of striking visuals we created a user-friendly, responsive site that showcases what a trully stunning wedding venue this is.

February also sees the launch of a site for the newly rebranded and refurbished Victoria Hotel, Manchester. The site is built using WordPress and makes good use of photography to promote the hotel’s style right through to the booking form. We’re already working on some great projects due to launch next month.

Merry Christmas!

It wasn’t just the festive season which made us feel jolly this month – we were also delighted to wrap up the year with the launch of a few new websites, namely – Hargreaves Factory Outlet, a popular frozen food retailer in Manchester, recruitment specialists ADE Group and Heaton House Accomodation – a bespoke wedding venue providing comfortable on-site accomodation. At the end of all of our hard work, we had a great Christmas Party in the Bloom Bar, Altrincham, enjoying our Christmas dinner to the sounds of live jazz, with a further Christmas Indian lunch enjoyed at Dilli, Altrincham.

Bienvenido a Mallorca!

We’d like to announce the launch of a new website for a family-run Spanish bed & breakfast Finca Son Jorbo. Offering a range of traditional apartment suites and set in the beautiful Mallorcan countryside the site showcases the beautiful grounds and comfortable-looking suites. The site is also fully responsive to make the most of the traffic coming from their Facebook page.

Chemical Sourcing & English Tuition

Hale-based Novakem recently approached us to design a new website to showcase their chemical sourcing and logistics services. They already had a professional corporate identity and modern colour palette to work with – so it was a case of coming up with a clean and contemporary online presence.

Another website launched this month was that of the Flexilearning Centre – a London-based school of English, who required a much needed overhaul of their website. We came up with a very neat, well-structured and ultimately user-focused solution to meet the needs of their varied visitors.

 

Aquababies

October has seen the launch of a new site for Aquababies, a leading baby swim class in the North West. We’ve had a lot of fun putting this together with the use of some fantastic underwater photography to make the site eye-catching and fun!

Aqua Babies are one of the North-West’s leading providers of swimming lessons for babies and toddlers. There are around 8 locations to choose from and with new locations planned in future. They have a dedicated following of Mums and Dads who return to book younger siblings in for classes as soon as they’re born.

Built in WordPress

The new website we designed is built for WordPress with a custom responsive theme. The homepage has a few custom widgets showing you where your nearest location is as well as plenty of photos from recent underwater shoots. The site is mobile-friendly of course to make it as easy as possible for busy parents to find upcoming classes in their local area whilst they’re on the move.

Easy to Update

The website has been built so that it is as easy as possible to update. Staff at Aqua Babies are delighted with their new site and look forward to publishing blog posts about their latest news and upcoming special offers. We are confident the new website will be a valuable marketing tool and will put them in good stead for the future by increasing brand awareness and growing their customer-base.

Visit the new website here.

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