Vimeo

Failing to Optimise This Site

Over the past few days, Google has been pushing users to try running its Test My Site With Google service. In particular, it’s trying to help sites see how mobile friendly they are.

I dutifully entered the details of this site, and waited for the report.

I host this site quite cheaply, so wasn’t expecting any great shakes. But it’s running an up to date implementation of WordPress, and the theme I’m running is pretty responsive.

The report gives you three scores, marked out of one hundred – for mobile friendliness, mobile speed and desktop speed.

Mobile Friendliness came in at 98/100.

I’ll take that. The theme I’m using seems to work well on mobiles, with the only small issue being “tap targets” – the ease with which people can use their fingers to navigate the site. If the buttons are too small, then people may struggle to navigate with their fingers.

Then came the bad news.

Mobile Speed was just 14/100. And Desktop Speed came in at 0/100!

This is worrying because Google does base your ranking in part on your site’s speed. You would think that 0/100 for desktop means the site’s not loading at all, yet that’s simply not the case.

What is true is that some third-party hosted elements are slow loading – namely Flickr and Vimeo. But I “outsource” those for a reason. It keeps my costs down by hosting those elsewhere, and I can ensure that viewability is maintained by those companies’ development. Self-hosted videos or pictures can be a bit of a nightmare, and of course my hosting fees would ramp up.

However, Google was giving me big red marks against “Optimise Images” and “Eliminate render-blocking JavaScript and CSS in above-the-fold content.”

For the latter, I killed some JavaScript that WordPress loads for emoji. That’s redundant on this site as far as I’m concerned. But while that seems to remove the red mark against JavaScript, “Optimise Images” is still there. And I still score zero for desktop speed.

At this point I’m a little stuck.

Let me explain how I use images on this site. Here’s an example of a photo from Flickr embedded into this site:

Through the Woods - December 28, 2016

I use Flickr’s own embed code, choosing the “Large” 1600 width image. The reason for that is that on desktop, I want the photo to look nice and big. While it’s not full-width, it’s pretty wide. And if you have a retina-style display, the photo should appear nice and big.

The embed code uses some Flickr JavaScript to ensure that the image is resized appropriately in a “responsive” manner. In other words, rather than being a fixed width, it will display smaller for smaller or mobile screens.

The problem remains, however, that in the background a 1600 px width image is loading. That’s slow and is impacting on Google’s assessment of my site.

I could embed a smaller width image. The one below is 800 px wide.

Through the Woods - December 28, 2016

But this is going to look a bit rubbish on a smaller screen.

I can also adjust the embed code so that JavaScript isn’t loaded.

Through the Woods - December 28, 2016

But while that helps with lessening the amount of JavaScript and is perhaps something I’ll do in the future, it still doesn’t help with reducing the size of the base image (1.2MB).

And if you’re viewing this on mobile, then all three images will probably look identical. But that’s the problem. You only need to see, perhaps a 600 px image.

I’d love to be able to load only large images when the display is big, but a smaller version if the display is more modest. And while there are plugins for WordPress that allow this (e.g. WP Retina 2X), they’re based on loading from your WordPress install, and not a third-party location like Flickr.

So I’m a bit stuck. My site, but it’s nature, will have large photos embedded, but I can’t find a way to make them look nice on large displays, but in particular, shrink the page-loads for those viewing on smaller screens.

[Update] Thanks to Em in the comments below, I’m trying to use srcset to see if that helps. See my next post here.

Sell Me Personal Use Music Rights

I like making the odd video, and invariable, I prefer to use music on the soundtrack. Given that I’m not about to commission my own music for my little projects, I have two choices. I can either use a music track I already know, or I can go to a music library and for a relatively small amount, buy the rights to use a piece of music for my video. As long as it’s for personal use, the costs is usually pretty low.

Now here’s the thing: I much prefer to use music that I already know. Certainly there is good music to be found in some of the online libraries, but you really have to hunt for it. And it becomes quite a big procedure relying on the library’s categorisations to hunt down the sort of thing you want.

If you use music you already know, it’s a lot easier. You simply pick something from your own music library, that you’ve heard on the radio or whatever. If you don’t already have it, you buy a digital copy for 99p and away you go.

Except, you don’t have the rights.

If you upload the video to YouTube, Google will probably monetise your video for you, correctly sharing any revenue with the rights owner. But it may not, depending on what agreements it has with the appropriate rights owner. If Vimeo spots unlicensed music (and it’s a bit more hit or miss), it simply doesn’t allow it.

And these issues can vary by territory.

What would be great would be to be able to licence music I’ve actually heard of for personal use. So no monetisation by me of the video on YouTube, and no commercial use. But just so I can put some music I’ve heard on my little video. I’d be happy to be a few quid for this – more than the 99p the track would cost me from a download site. I’d happily include a licence code that could be checked. Artists and rights owners make more money (more than they’ll make from advertising on a video that will in the scheme of things get very few views), and I get to feel good about using music legally.

How about it?

NB. I did write about this previously, but the intervening few years, the problem remains, and I’ve not found a solution.

Trent Park – Drone Footage

Trent Park from Adam Bowie on Vimeo.

I’ve been playing with my DJI Phantom 3 Advanced a little more.

Things that I need to spend more time include optimising the video output for Vimeo (I’m using Premiere Pro CC’s “Vimeo 1080” setting here, but I’m not happy with it, and Vimeo says that I can do better, but then it prefers 720), and the colour grading. I’m still learning how to use that, and need to understand what LUT files can do some more.

Playlist Reversal

Since I got a Chromecast, one thing I’ve found really useful is the “Watch Later” playlist feature on YouTube videos. Someone sends you a link to a video, but you don’t have time to watch it now, and anyway, you’d prefer to watch it on a big screen. You simply click “Watch Later” and you can catch up from the comfort of your armchair.

But there’s a problem. New videos always go on the end of the Watch Later playlist. That means after a while you have to scroll through many old videos to get to the latest.

There is an option to trim a playlist of played videos, but I might want to keep them in my list. The only solution I’ve found is to manually remove videos from the playlist.

I understand that some people add multi-part videos to Watch Later, and if you always used the most recent additions first, you’d have to add the videos in the reverse order. My solution is to just have a switch so you can choose the order.

In the meantime, it’s a frustrating “bug” as far as I’m concerned.

I note that Vimeo also has a “Watch Later” playlist functionality. Except their’s behaves much better – the most recent additions go to the top of the playlist.

Mud in Trent Park

Mud in Trent Park from Adam Bowie on Vimeo.

Here’s a short video I shot yesterday morning to test my Sony Action Cam with the Joby Action Clamp and Locking Arm. I bought the Sony AS15 last year in a cheap deal on Amazon. In many respects, it’s highly specced compared with the Go Pro competition. My model has now been superseded by the AS30 and AS100, but it still has some great remote control abilities using a mobile app.

Where Sony is really lacking is in accessories. There’s just not a wide enough range on-sale, and what’s more even those that are being manufactured are really hard to get hold of. I never really understand why companies don’t put the effort into the various mounts, since you’ve got a captive audience. Again, Go Pro realise this and make a lot of their own accessories as well as having a wide range of third party mounts.

The Joby Action Clamp I used today comes with both a standard mount which will fit the Sony, as well as the bespoke Go Pro mount.

How did the clamp perform? Very well indeed. As you’ll see from the video above, I attached it to my bike in a number of places, and it held on well. Only once did something loosen, although that may have been the tripod mounting screw. Despite being made of plastic, it is really firm due to a clever locking mechanism design. Overall I’m very impressed, and I’m happy to put a camera on the end of it.

As a side note, this is the first time I’ve licenced some music from Vimeo’s music shop. I’d still love to be able to licence music that’s more famous for use in Vimeo and YouTube videos.