Using Google Lighthouse for page speed

Google wants a faster web, and they’ll stop at nothing to get it. They’ve recently made announcement after announcement that shows that improving the page speed of the web is one of their top priorities.

First, they’re making page speed a ranking factor. They also announced that they’re deploying a specialist team to accelerate the development of the WordPress ecosystem.

Even the sheer number of tools they’ve released to help improve page speed is impressive. There is the good old PageSpeed Insights, and more recently a feature for Winning On Mobile.

Finally, there is Lighthouse. Lighthouse is a tool that was primarily built to help support the development of Progressive Web Apps. But we’ve actually found it much more useful as a tool to help expand our Site Speed Audits.

Usually, a Site Speed Audit would be built around PageSpeed Insights. A classic Google tool, it’s been around for a little while. Combined with other tools like WebPageTest and GTmetrix, forms the basis of most Site Speed Audits.

However with PageSpeed Insights, while detailed, many suggestions will be impractical, if not impossible, for webmasters to implement.

For example, we’ve tried to optimise towards 100/100 on our own front page. But even though we stripped away basically everything, and hardcoded it in static HTML, we were still only able to achieve a score of 91.

This is because PageSpeed Insights is essentially flawed in the way that it works. Some of the metrics that it pulls out, especially for the Harvest homepage, are impossible to do.

Insights has marked us down for not leveraging browser caching. Seems legit. But when we look further into it, we can see that the resources that need caching are analytics tags or social resources. It wouldn’t make sense for us to cache these any longer.

Google Lighthouse

Lighthouse, on the other hand, is much more practical. Google has built it to re-enact real-world situations. It simulates visiting your site over a throttled 3G connection from a slightly underpowered device, to replicate real-life scenarios.

Lighthouse puts more emphasis on not just the site being fast but also feeling fast to the user.

And this is what makes them different. PageSpeed Insights is about the speed of your page, whereas Lighthouse is more about what users notice. Users aren’t going to notice the length of a cache life. All they care about is the fact that the page has loaded.

To that extent, Lighthouse has a bunch of completely different metrics to PageSpeed Insights. And it’s important to know which parts to pay attention to.

Lighthouse Metrics

Performance

Performance is your key group of metrics to pay attention to here. It’s split into Metrics, Opportunities and Diagnostics.

Metrics

Lighthouse uses the following metrics to measure the performance of your mobile site:

  • First meaningful paint – this determines the length of time it takes for some substantial, noticeable content to appear on the screen. You should be aiming for a low score here.
  • First interactive – this shows when a page first becomes interactive, even a little bit. It’s judged by whether or not UI elements are interactive, and if the screen responds to user input at all.
  • Consistently interactive – this shows when a page is fully interactive.
  • Perceptual speed index – the speed index measures how quickly the contents of a page are populated, and visible to the user. Your target here is a loading time of under 1,250ms.
  • Estimated latency input – this metric shows how long it takes for your page to respond to user input. You should be looking to get this as low as possible. Google’s target is less than 50ms.
  • Critical requests chain – this network waterfall shows what resources are called on in order to render the page. You should prioritise asset loading in the critical rendering path to speed up the page.

Once you’ve mastered these metrics, you’re able to draw a lot more insight for your clients than you would do from the more basic PageSpeed Insights.

Opportunities

As well as scoring your site against the above metrics, Lighthouse also gives you a list of opportunities to make your site speed faster by optimising certain resources. These include render-blocking stylesheets, render-blocking scripts, resizing images and fixing offscreen images.

Diagnostics

Diagnostics gives you a bit more information about how well your site performed. These audits can be quite useful, especially parts like Critical Request Chains. Other audits, like Minify Javascript and Optimise images, you can get from PageSpeed Insights.

Progressive Web App

The Progressive Web App section is obviously what Lighthouse is pushing you towards, but we don’t really use it.

Accessibility

This section covers how easy it is for people to use your site (or web app). It’s more of an extension of previous Google WebDev tools, e.g. measuring when buttons are too close together.

We’ve been big on accessibility for a little while, so seeing that Google also measures accessibility somewhat validates a drum that we’ve been banging for a few years now.

Best Practices

This section covers what Google refers to as ‘recommendations for modernizing your web app and avoiding performance pitfalls’. Some of the audits here are useful but don’t get too hung up on the score here.

Audits such as Uses HTTPS, and Uses HTTP/2 for its own resources should be easy to pass, but one of the audits in this section will always be failed, especially if you’re using WordPress, and that’s fine. This is the audit marked ‘Does not open external anchors using rel=”noopener”’.

This is to prevent Reverse Tabnabbing. WordPress adds these tags by default, and some webmasters have also adopted it. So don’t worry if you fail it.

SEO

The SEO section is a new feature and is still incredibly basic. It features 10 basic SEO audits, including whether the page has a title.

If you’re not scoring 100 on this section already, I’m worried for you.

 

Once you’ve got all your feedback, you should be looking to work these into various audits for your clients. Don’t simply focus on PageSpeed – even though it’s the primary reason you’re here. We use the accessibility part of Lighthouse to run UX audits, for example.

How to use Lighthouse

To work with Lighthouse, you simply need Chrome 60 or higher, and you can get it as an extension. For those of us who aren’t developers, this is the easiest way to get a solid Lighthouse report. All you have to do is press Generate Report!

Lighthouse can also be run as a node module if you’re into that kind of thing. You can find the instructions to do that here.

Another tool for the toolbox

We’re not saying that Lighthouse is the one site speed tool to use above all others. But it’s definitely a good step up from simply using PageSpeed Insights. Using Lighthouse, alongside tools like GTMetrix and WebPageTest, can really help you drive the most value for your clients.

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Cannes Lions Gets to Grips with Digitisation in Major Outdoor Overhaul

By Dan Dawson, first published on ExchangeWire on 27th Feb 2018

Some great news to report following my annual rant about the state of the Cannes Lions Outdoor Awards and, more specifically, their ‘Digital Outdoor’ category. It turns out that this time the festival organisers were listening. Days later I was asked to discuss my views directly with their team and shortly after this I was invited to join their Outdoor Lions taskforce with the aim of helping to reform the category.

Having provided creative services for digital OOH for over 15 years, I was passionate to see the world’s biggest advertising festival get up to speed on this fast-growth medium and its burgeoning creative potential, something that was not captured or truly reflected by their current awards programme. One major bone of contention for me was the prevailing structure of Outdoor Cannes Lions and the overriding preference given to traditional Outdoor formats.

Considering that digital is revolutionising the OOH marketplace, and is set to top 50% of total outdoor media spend in the UK this year, with many more markets closely following suit, it struck me as odd that the medium remained in the shadows of traditional outdoor at an event which prized itself in recognising latest trends, originality, and creative innovation. Despite the prevailing trend towards digitisation, digital outdoor remained a subcategory to the main event, which was traditional outdoor.

But I am happy to say that the taskforce proved to be hugely progressive. Open, honest, and insightful discussions were had, and changes were implemented. Advertisers and media agencies don’t see Digital Outdoor as a separate entity to Outdoor – it’s all on the same Media Plan. Plus, to the millennials working in creative agencies the world over, it’s just all Outdoor, and of course it’s digital, connected, dynamic, and tactical.

So, it is great to see that the finalised categories for the 2018 Outdoor awards do a much better job of representing the overall medium, and digital as being a big part of that. Now you can enter EITHER traditional or digital versions of your campaign across most of the Outdoor categories. A huge result.

Other game changers have been refinements made to the category criteria and definitions for Out of Home spaces and formats, which are now more representative of the medium today. Meanwhile, what was once known as ‘Digital Outdoor’ is now ‘Digital Screens’ – with subcategories that are clearly defined between linear, dynamic, and interactive campaigns – again, far more in tune with the medium today. These changes will help to reflect Digital Outdoor’s true power as a connected, responsive, and scalable medium.

The other big change (which we hope to see come through in the judging), is that ‘Outdoor Innovation’ which replaces ‘Use of Outdoor’, will be the new official home for those one-off specials, PR stunts, and out-of-the-ordinary campaigns that have swamped the regular categories in past years. This has been a bug bear for me, the blatant over representation of special builds and PR launches that have dominated the league tables. Of course, OOH PR stunts have their place, but this is not the ‘bread and butter’ work for a medium that offers up dynamic, tactical, and contextual campaigns with huge reach.

The last remaining challenge, as I see it, is down to the organisers, judges, and jury presidents. It is vital that these changes are upheld by the rigorous policing of submissions to ensure that category criteria are met, and rules are enforced. I can’t stress this point enough. We’ve seen it time and again, since Digital Outdoor was first introduced to the programme back in 2009, campaigns that were shortlisted, and even awarded, were not digital or outdoor in the way that we know it. Organisers will need to tighten up on category rules and ensure that judges are on board with agreed definitions of what Digital Outdoor is.

Whether this new rigour can be carried through the judging process is yet to be seen. But the changes to Outdoor coming into effect this year, along with the Six Lion limit, and the separation of judging charity against brand work, means we could be in for a very different June in the South of France.

So, all things said, 2018 is shaping up to be a good one for digital OOH creativity. Digital OOH, as a whole, is in rude health. The technology stack that media owners, agencies, and specialists have invested so heavily in is amazing. Brands and their agencies are thinking more strategically about the medium than ever before, and now we have a renewed vigour coming from the world’s biggest festival of creativity which will hopefully see this new body of work coming through. 2018 is going to be one hell of a ride. Who knows, maybe next year the Cannes Lions Officialdom will rename the programme ‘OOH Lions’ then my work here will be done!

The post Cannes Lions Gets to Grips with Digitisation in Major Outdoor Overhaul appeared first on Grand Visual.

Luxury brands or luxury blands?

Something very disturbing happened last week. I was in a dentist’s waiting room flicking through a copy of Vogue. Without thinking I put it back on the table and started reading Golf Digest instead, but this type of behaviour is very unusual for me. So why did this happen?

The immediately obvious answer: Vogue is boring. Or, at least the first twenty pages are. As the clearly labelled tin suggests, Vogue simply presents the current prevailing styles and fashion. It is not a literary classic. But I am someone who loves fashion, and I am eminently stylish (winky face in tow). So Vogue, and for that matter any other vehicle for advertising luxury brands like it, should appeal to me. I therefore decided to undertake a little research project to explore this incident in more detail. Here’s what I found.

Question 1: why are luxury brand advertising campaigns (LBACs) currently so lifeless?

Same-same, but not different. LBACs have become indistinguishable and entirely interchangeable. Some of the most revered establishments – the Guccis, Pradas, and Diors – no longer have clearly identifiable brands. In fact, if you were to replace the logo on almost any one of the current LBACs with that of a competing brand, it would require a very discerning eye (perhaps the sort that gets paid to authenticate artwork) to notice that something was out of place.

The human clothes horse project. Models are simply being used by luxury brands to hang their products off. The mannequin model method (or as I like to call it, ‘mmm’) of advertising is monotonous.

The superiority complex. Luxury brands are, to my mind, overly fixated on a sterile suavity and sophistication they think their high-society clients embody. But – and it is an important ‘but’, much more so than those of our mannequin models – it must be remembered that consumers at the very top of the ‘spending’ spectrum (and all of us, for that matter) are human and subject to everything that comes with it. For richer or poorer, the consumer is an emotional beast.

The emotional void. And this is the point. LBACs are not establishing an emotional connection with the consumer. It seems to me that they are giving very little consideration to the power of meaningful messaging. There are some people that would find this argument astonishing. They would say to me that luxury brands trade only in the purely superficial and it is unrealistic for me to expect something deeper than that. But, those of us who know and love the industry understand that it can and should mean much more.

A useful illustration of this argument is Dior’s campaign with Jennifer Lawrence. Search ‘Jennifer Lawrence – Dior’ in Google Images and then search ‘Jennifer Lawrence – emotions’. The contrast is staggering. The latter shows her to be, as if we didn’t already know, an utterly compelling character stuffed to the hilt with emotional possibilities. But, she has been presented by Dior, as far as I can see, like all other models. She has been dulled to the extreme and drained of her clearly abundant feeling.

Question 2: how can LBACs reinvigorate themselves?

Break the… in fact, forget moulds entirely. When I say forget the mould, don’t forget your brand’s raison d’être or product. That would be disastrous. What I mean is that you should not take your lead from other sterile LBACs. This seems to be the convention at present. Of course you will be aware of others’ campaigns, but when you start the creative process, don’t let this be your benchmark. Dig deep – very deep if need be – for novel, different, inspiring ideas; wrapping the product in emotional values. If your own brand identity is clear and simple, the scope for creativity arising out of it should be limitless.

The hidden depths. Luxury brands are in the luxurious position, inevitably, of being able to work with celebrities who have done and achieved wonderful things in their careers. Jennifer Lawrence, to use the same example, is an Academy Award-winning actress and now counted amongst Time’s 100 most influential people. Aside from her beauty, these are obviously reasons why she was chosen by Dior, but does that richness of her character and her almost iconic status come out in the campaign? Sadly for me it does not. Luxury brands must do their utmost, without being too brazen, to make sure the depth of their campaigns are fully understood by the consumer.

Make me feel. “Emotion drives most, if not all, our decisions”¹. LBACs must therefore at least try to make an emotional connection with the consumer. This doesn’t require over-sentimentality. Far from it. To be effective it simply requires the campaign to convey something which is human and meaningful. And far from being something to fear, the genuine exploration of an emotional angle (albeit not a very British behaviour) is likely to open up even more creative opportunities.

One such luxury brand which has been successful in making an emotional connection is Patek Philippe. Their campaigns heavily feature the image of two generations within a family alongside the brand’s well-known tagline: “you never actually own a Patek Phillipe, you merely look after it for the next generation”. This is effective because:

  1. It is different to competing companies who invariably opt for the simple watch-wearing celebrity campaign
  2. It implies that owning this extraordinarily expensive watch is not about vanity; it is about heritage. You have become a custodian of a special tradition
  3. It resonates with people’s family values
  4. It still oozes the sophistication that is a prerequisite for all those who can afford a Patek Philippe

And so, to draw my thoughts to an end, it is obvious that luxury brands have to maintain extremely high levels of refinement and elegance in all that they say and do. That is the nature of their industry, but the basic principles of advertising apply universally. And the fundamental rule that at the heart of advertising lies the heart of the consumer is one that luxury brands must not forget.

That is not to say that the task of achieving (or balancing) both sophistication and a meaningful emotional connection is an easy one. Quite the opposite. It is an unenviable task. But it’s not an impossible one. And in the current saturated luxury marketplace it is a critical one. Not least because, if undertaken successfully, it will happily mark the end of the era for the luxury blands.

Looking to discuss your branding requirements? Check out our case studies and drop us a message on info@bearlondon.com to find out more about our services.

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[1] Scott Badbury, Nike and Starbucks. ‘What great brands do

Is the right side of our brain really more creative than the left?

Be it through linguistic exploration, visual interpretation, the usage of differing media, or a combination of these approaches. This got us thinking about how the brain processes these differing influences, and spurred by a conversation at BEAR HQ about the notion of left-brain and right-brain dominance and its relationship to creativity, we did some research into whether this concept stands up under scrutiny…

Like the study of physiognomy in the Renaissance and its evolution into phrenology and various sub-branches of comparative anthropology, scientists, writers, sociologists, and even lawmakers have sought to equate and predict our personality traits based upon our physical appearance. Though not as immediately observable as the shape of your nose or the distance between your eyes, the notion of a left-brain or right-brain dominance in people as indicative of personality traits, skills, and differences of interaction within the world could be seen to follow this historic line of thinking.

How did scientists first learn of this supposed propensity for the hemispheres of the brain to process information in differing ways?

Discovered during the 1970s in the treatment of severe epileptics, neurobiologist Roger Sperry, who, in cutting the neural pathways between the left and right sides of the brain effectively split the brain of his patients into two. The goal of this pretty absolute and severe treatment was to quell the excess of electrical activity that triggers the seizures.

line drawing of human brain on yellow background

Through the conducting of various experiments that relied on both lingual and spatial cues, he discovered the brain’s hemispheres operate with a separate consciousness and can process information independently of each other, even when there are no neural connections between the two hemispheres. His ‘split brain’ subjects’ results showed that the ability to process language resides in the left hemisphere, and spatial in the right.

From Sperry’s initial findings, a type of pop-psychology grew… (what some scientists would refer to as ‘woo’) ascribing the differing and opposing traits to the left and right brains – a dichotomy. The left was considered the seat of critical thinking, fine mathematical skills, language, and reason. Whereas, the right was the seat of visual-spatial processing, facial recognition, music, the recognition of emotions, and intuitive reason.

That is why it was assumed that left-handed people (and thereby right-brain dominant) are more inclined to be creative, more empathetic, and have a propensity to learning problems like dyscalculia and dyslexia. Whereas, someone who is right-handed and left-brain dominant would be logical, critical, and have better literacy and numeracy skills. However, it cannot be as simple as this, as traits such as creativity are found in both left- and right-handers.

Much like phrenology before it, the left-brain/right-brain dominance concept has been almost entirely discredited.

Our left and right brains work together complementing the processing of information, best explained by Carl Zimmer in Discover magazine, May 2009.

”No matter how lateralised the brain can get though, the two sides still work together. The pop psychology notion of a left brain and a right brain doesn’t capture their intimate working relationship. The left hemisphere specialises in picking out the sounds that form words and working out the syntax of the words, for example, but it does not have a monopoly on language processing. The right hemisphere is actually more sensitive to the emotional features of language, tuning in to the slow rhythms of speech that carry intonation and stress.”

Our brain’s hemispheres have the ability to independently and concurrently process information, and Zimmer outlines in his article that perhaps this dominance can switch – much like how breathing through our nostrils alternates between left and right.

Every time anyone takes this online test, for example, we get a differing result stating the particular dominance of either our left or right brain. It is not that our brains have fundamentally changed, but it is the way we perceive the information that is changing, and this can be influenced by many external and internal factors – for example: is the room noisy, are we hungry or tired, have we just been involved in an activity that requires mathematical skills?

It takes both the left and right sides of the brain to process the information that we get from the world, solve a problem, draw a picture, and understand language.

A person’s handedness isn’t necessarily going to automatically denote them more creative than someone who has the opposite handedness. However, this concept does make for neat shorthand and has helped to sell countless self-help books, online courses, and brain-training apps. Even here at BEAR our creative team regularly has a ‘right-brain breakfast’ to discuss and explore cultural and creative concepts outside the bounds of client briefs and current live projects.

Looking to discuss your creative requirements? Check out our case studies and drop us a message on info@bearlondon.com to find out more about our services.

Staying relevant: The habit of constant evolution

Three young people wearing burberry

A very suave, sophisticated and successful businesswoman recently told us that the key to her success were her good habits; habitual exercise, healthy eating, and learning. She said: “entrenching these habits is hard work, but once you have them staying on top is relatively easy.” She also pointed out that “being on top can be just as attractive in your personal life, as it is in your business life!”

Ignoring the unfortunate innuendo and her slight smugness, we thought to ourselves that the same rings true for branding. Trends, cultures and consumers evolve constantly.

It is vital that brands do the same to create and sustain customer trust and loyalty. Making a habit of constant evolution is therefore crucial to any brand. It unfortunately does not come without hard work and an element of risk, but these are components of any successful story, and the alternative, a failure to progress in a rapidly changing world, will inevitably lead to a brand’s downfall anyway.

In our minds, three things will help brands to get in the habit of constant evolution.

1. Click refresh – this feed does not update automatically!

Brand refreshes should happen regularly. It might sound simple but make sure to put it in your diary to review each year. This will force proactivity, create forward thinking and help you to stay ahead of the game. Apple is probably still the best example of a brand which wholeheartedly embraces the need for constant change as a principle of success as it continues to enthral with its relentless product innovations. This type of continuous evolution removes the need for drastic reinventions after periods of stagnation, which are often more difficult to execute. The disastrous attempt made by JC Penney’s former CEO, Ron Johnson (also formerly of Apple), to radically reform the dowdy US retailer between 2011-2013 is a gloomy example of what can happen when brands are allowed to gather dust.

Modernised version of JC penny logo against old logo

2. With respect to Eminem, don’t lose yourself!

In a chaotic world where we are incessantly peppered with new information, customers will not want to waste their time trying to work out exactly what lifestyle demands your brand is claiming to meet; it has to be very obvious. Often brands overcomplicate what they are trying to offer in an effort to modernise. They end up losing their identity and alienating core customers. If the essence of your brand is straightforward, it is much easier to remain faithful to it, whilst also delivering new and surprising ideas which strengthen it. So keep it simple!

Prior to 2006, Burberry was a classic example of a brand which had over-complicated things. It moved away from its pure British trench-coat identity, which had seen over a century of success, and tried to deliver on all kinds of fashion apparel and accessories in an effort to keep up with global expansion; dog coats, leashes and kilts were some of the lowlights. They very nearly destroyed the brand’s identity as a result. When Angela Ahrendts (now of Apple, surprise surprise!) took over in 2006, rival luxury brands such as Louis Vuitton had more than 16 times Burberry’s revenue. She quickly restored ‘the Ethos of the Trench’; the idea that their most iconic item, with its esteemed British heritage, had to be at the core of all their brand creativity and innovation. The turnaround was startling. By 2012, they had doubled their sales revenue. For the last five years consecutively, they have been recognised by InterBrand as one of the top 100 Global Brands. This year, Fast Company placed it as the seventh most innovative retail brand in the world. It almost seems illogical that their simple commitment to evolving around one historic item has allowed the brand to stay relevant today, but it has and it is a great lesson for other brands.

Car with burberry pattern and lots of graffiti

3. “Oh yes he is!”…“Oh no he isn’t!”

Looking towards the yearly Christmas bedlam, remember that audience participation is not restricted to pantomime. When brands tell their story, their audience needs to be involved too. An open and ongoing dialogue with your audience will give you a better appreciation of their lifestyle demands, which will direct your brand’s evolution. It will also give you an idea of when they are ready to receive your latest innovations. If they are not, you can get them ready. And, assuming you have not been blessed with entirely satisfied customers, their honest and critical feedback will be a powerful driver of change.

Yahoo appeared to get this wrong a few years back during their ‘30 Days of Change’ campaign. It revealed a new logo every day for 29 days leading up to the release of its actual new logo in September (perhaps a play on Google’s logo adaptations). It was a slightly contrived attempt to involve their audience in a working process, in which they actually had no involvement at all. Audience involvement must be real, or it could do more harm than good.

Coca-Cola has a strong tradition of involving its customers in its evolutionary process. One illustration of this is its commitment to respond directly to all its social media followers. Another example is its use of crowdsourcing to generate content for future brand evolution. Not only do its consumers feel like that they are truly part of the brand’s development, but Coca-Cola’s resulting awareness of what its audience wants helps it to stay relevant.

So, our suggestions to try to ‘stay on top’ are:

  • Take steps, even if they seem artificial at first, to ingrain a culture of progression within your brand. Evolving a little and often is a far easier than revolutionising every now and again
  • Keep one or two straightforward principles at the heart of all your innovations. It is easier to cut through all of society’s brouhaha if the message is clear and simple
  • Genuinely engage with your core audience. It is your awareness of their wants and needs, which allow for successful evolution

Following these suggestions will, unfortunately, neither guarantee that you remain relevant nor that consumers engage with your brand. Much will still depend on the quality of your innovations and the execution of your brand strategy. It will, however, help get you into the habit of constant evolution; a habit which no brand can survive without given the ever-increasing pace of change.

PPL PRS launches TheMusicLicence

As of February, a joint venture by PPL and PRS for Music sees the launch of  TheMusicLicence, a new music licence that brings together both licensing arms of PPL and PRS together under one unified brand: PPL PRS.

PPL PRS’ joint venture is completely changing the music industry and leading the way internationally.

Removing the need for two licences, businesses who use music will now only need the one licence under the joint venture of PPL PRS, making it both an easier process for businesses and fairer for artists and creators.

Bringing together both companies as PPL PRS, based in a new HQ in Leicester, the joint venture has a strong brand identity, created by us here at BEAR, that joins the fun of music with a simple plectrum marque and playful sound waves.

Streamlining the process, TheMusicLicence replaces the need for two separate licences, transforming the way the UK music licensing system operates. Celebrating everything that music can do for a business – including motivating staff, improving the customer’s enjoyment and experience, and creating an upbeat and positive environment – TheMusicLicence and the accompanying strapline Turn it up! pays homage to all that’s great about music.

Supporting artists and at a fair price for businesses, and similar to the TV licence and UK driving licence, TheMusicLicence from PPL PRS is now the only licence you need. Find out more about the project in our case study.

To find out more about BEAR’s services, including brand identity, strategy, UX, tone of voice and much more, please feel free to get in touch at info@bearlondon.com.