Create a CSS Hover Effect Image Gallery

After browsing through a a few web portfolios lately I’ve noticed a rather noce efefct – whereby when the user hovers over a thumbnail an image appear – this may be a zoom icon (for images) or a play button (for videos). In thus article I’ll quickly run through the simple steps on who we create a a funky css hover effect image gallery. This is a very useful technique for any sort of site that display thumbnails links.


<div class="thumb_wrap">
<a href="#link" class="thumb_link">
<span><img src="play.png" alt="play" class="play_video" /></span>
<img src="thumb.jpg" alt="thumbnail" />

I’ve simply nested a span tag containing the hidden play button. Additionally, to keep everything XHTML valid, the hyperlink doesn;t contain block level elemnts.


a img {

.thumb_wrap {
margin:0 25px 0 0;

img.play_video {
position: absolute; 
margin:40px 0 0 80px;
display: none;}

The CSS is simply sets the image’s position absolutely (to ensure nothing gets pushed out of line).

The JQuery

The give the show effect a nice fade in style and in order the show our hidden image I’ll add a small piece of JQuery that finds the image within our span tag and fades it in. The latter is done when the user hovers over the image, when the mouse leaves, the image is hidden again. The folllwing would go within the head tag (I’ve also let Google CDN host my JQuery file):

<script type="text/javascript">
$(document).ready(function() {




…..and that’s it. You now have a cross browser compatible (IE 6 plus) image gallery effect, that is very easy to implement. See the image gallery in action.

W3C Validation and SEO Benefits – My Opinion

The link between full W3C Validation and it’s important upon SEO is commonly discussed topic and a huge taboo. This is the notion that  having a valid site according to the W3C Standards is either critical (or not) to your website’s SEO.The first thing to note that a site passing W3C Validation will have met the following criteria: will not use depreciated tags and will not have syntax errors – essentially a syntax check.

I physically cringe when I hear quotes such as ‘valid xhtml will help your users’. Valid xhtml will not help your users, to help your users a site needs to adhere to web coding standards – this is an entirely different beast. The main difference here is the practice of seperating content from presentation, thus giving the content increased meaning. For example, a page using tables to layout the whole web page would not adhere to web coding standards because using tables for layout is semantically incorrect and requires a lot more code. Tables should be used for tabular data, simple. Another example is the use of paragraph and header tags. Visually they are very similar but have a very very different meaning sementically. However, yet again, semantically incorrect pages will pass validation. The main Google webpage doesn’t even validate (interestingly, Google does’t even quote html attributes in order to save on page size). In my opinion, as long this is the case W3C validation will be a none issue, SEO wise.

Understanding which semantic elements add value to the document will affect the onsite of a website and is an SEO ranking factor.I have read several artuicles that describe W3C validation and SEO as a match made in heaven, this simply isn’t the case, although web semantics and SEO are.

There are many websites (40% is a figure thrown around a lot) that do not validate, yet perform quite well in search engines as they have a range of high quality content. Take a quick example. I searched for a very competitive term “houses”. The number one result was Rightmove even has an authorative listing for that term too – SEO wise there can’t be too many issues here. Running that site through the validator throws up 33 errors and 22 warnings. – see the result. These are mainly smaller syntax errors that quite rightly, the developers of that site have ignored. There are endless examples where sites a lot worse appear at the top of the SERPs, even though they fail to validate and sometimes, don’t follow web standards at all.

Continue reading W3C Validation and SEO Benefits – My Opinion

JQuery Hover Effect Image Gallery For eCommerce

web design talk jquery galleryAfter searching  for a simple jquery image gallery for an online store I decided to make my own. There were several solutions that were close to what I wanted, but quite there. The project required an simple large vierw of an image with multiple thumbnails below, when hovered upon switched the large image. The requirements were as follows: cross browser compatible (IE6 plus, Chrome and Firefox – all the major browsers), have a nice fading effect between image changes and be totally degradable if JavaScript was turned off.

First of all, take a peek and the finished JQuery image gallery – I’ve put the gallery in context on a product detail page for an ecommerce store.

JavaScript and JQuery to the Rescue!

JQuery was the JavaScript framework of choice and made it easy to get things up and running. Techniqually the same effect can be achieved without JQuery, but for simplicity I’m using JQuery. The code is quite easy to follow and I’ll just pickup  up on the main parts.

Firstly we’ll start off with the HTML – simply two dividers, with an unordered lists for the thumbnail images:

<div id="bigpic" class="b"><img src="images/big/iphone-3-big.jpg" alt="iPod Shuffle 16GB Zoom View" />
<p id="desc">iPod Shuffle 16GB Zoom View</p>


<div id="thumbs">
	<li><a rel="images/small/iphone-1-small.jpg" href="images/big/iphone-1-big.jpg">
<img src="images/small/iphone-1-small.jpg" alt="iPod Shuffle Front View In Blue!" />
	<li> <a rel="images/small/iphone-2-small.jpg" href="images/big/iphone-2-big.jpg">
<img src="images/small/iphone-2-small.jpg" alt="iPod Shuffle Dual View Grey!" />
	<li> <a rel="images/small/iphone-3-small.jpg" href="images/big/iphone-3-big.jpg">
<img src="images/small/iphone-3-small.jpg" alt="iPod Shuffle 16GB Zoom View" />

The main image is housed in the divider with the id of ‘bigpic’. I’ve also added a description below the big image – this will change when the image is hovered over to the thumbnail alternate text. Each thumbnail link goes directly to the enlarged version of the image – this way, the gallery will still work when JavaScript is turned off.

The JQuery Magic ….

Right after including the JQuery library (I recommend you make use of Google CDN for this – there are many reasons to let Google host your JQuery files) I have included an int,js file – this contains all the gallery JavaScript. The int file is a small file that catches a hover on each thumbnail and switches the main gallery image (Our ‘bigpic’ divider). All the code is contained within the mahic document.ready listener. The first half of the file catches the hover on a thumbnail:

$('#thumbs ul li a').hover(
		function() {
			var currentBigImage = $('#bigpic img').attr('src');
			var newBigImage = $(this).attr('href');
			var currentThumbSrc = $(this).attr('rel');
			switchImage(newBigImage, currentBigImage, currentThumbSrc);
		function() {}

Here we are getting the currentBig image href, the new big image (from our thumbs href) and current thumbnail src. The second empty fucntion is included to say ‘don’t do anything when hovering away’. Exclude this empty function and the hover event will continue to fire when you leave the image. Now we have these three variables we pass them to our switchImage function, code below:

function switchImage(imageHref, currentBigImage, currentThumbSrc) {

		var theBigImage = $('#bigpic img');

		if (imageHref != currentBigImage) {

			theBigImage.fadeOut(250, function(){
				theBigImage.attr('src', imageHref).fadeIn(250);

				var newImageDesc = $("#thumbs ul li a img[src='"+currentThumbSrc+"']").attr('alt');



This is quite self explanatory. The first check made is that the current big image is not the same as the target big image – if this was true we would fade in and out the same image, which leads to a rather weird looking effect. If both paths match, the user has hovered over the thumbnail of the current big image (in this case nothing would happen). Hovering over any other image will result in the current big image fading out, setting the big image src to the src from the thumbnail (the new image) and populating our description paragraph.

Using the Gallery in a Production Website

In the example 3 static large and small images have been manually added for simplicity. In a real website, maybe an online store, you would retrieve this information from a database. Another thing to note is image sizes. I always find it useful to let users upload whatever file resolution they want, giving them the exact pixels as a recomendation. To ensure that a particularly large file wouldn’t break the layout I tend to sue image resizing scripts, such as the excellent smart image resizer from shifting pixel – uploaded images can be automatically scaled to dimensions of your choosing.

Also, at some point I’ll learn about making your owns plugins for JQuery and turn this into a self contained plugin 🙂

There’s not a lot more to this to be honest. tested in IE6, IE7, IE8, Chrome and Firefox – all working nicely.

Take a look at the final result or download the source files. Enjoy!

How to Deal With Difficult Clients Using Split Testing

Sometimes you can be in the process of trying to tell a client that their idea simply won’t work. Be it a flimsey campaign idea of extra design element that you know through experience will not work and produce the desired KPIs for a client project. You can even show the client links, articles and examples of why their idea will fail to deliver results. However, if this is potential or existing client they are likely to go elsewhere, to a company willing to follow their every word without consideration – I have come across web companies who will do this.

Recently an existing client came to me asking why his site isn’t showing up when people search for a particular long tail search term. Now, his existing site used a pretty awful content management system that didn’t even allow him to set his own pages titles or meta descriptions. Furthermore, he was lacking inbound links, which people ranked above him did have. This all sounds simple and straightforward but even after I had explained (in quite clear and non technical langauge may I add) the merits of good SEO and one page content the client simply wouldn’t accept this as a solution. He had his own short term and less costly solutions – basically revolving around the the idea me resubmitting his sitemap page to all the major search engines each day. I’m not debating that submitting a sitemap isn’t a good idea, because it is. However, the client’s main KPI for this project was increased site enquiries.

After much discussing this we had both come to a bit of an awkward silence – not a good thing if you’ve ever experinced this in client meetings. For some reason I remebered back to my unoversity days where I had read something about split testing (or A/B testing) – where you can turn a negative situation into a positive one.This is quite a delicate situation to be in as it can damage your client relationship quite quickly.

The idea was to use the client’s idea for a period of time and my idea for a period of time. At the start of this I would install Google Analytics (I was tempted to use Google’s website optimizer, but decided against it) and let the statisitics do the talking – as a no one can argue with statistics.

This method has been very useful previously when demonstrating the merits of creating a dedicated landing page for Google Adword campaigns, but can be used anywhere if you’re willing to a little bit extra.

This method is beneficial for the following reasons:

  • The client’s idea are being dismissed as wrong (however right you think you are)
  • You are showing the client that you care enough to demonstrate your ideas
  • Occassionaly the client will back down as soon as you explain your plan of attack
  • It prevents those awful awkward silences
  • You have a real world example to use in your other client meetings
  • You are speaking the clients language in that you are demonstrating how your actions lead to increased conversions
  • You are being direct, which I personally think is alwasy a good thing – as such statistics are often a huge eye opener for clients
  • If and when the client comes to the same conslusion as you, they won’t blame you

There is always the arguement that the client is the client and that it’s all business at the end of the day. However, I personally pride myself on doing things properly. Others will say just get on with, do what the client wants and forget about it – you can only offer your opinion. This is a good point but can still damage your client relationships when they return later on and you need to charge them again. It all depends if you require long or short term client relationships – as they are definately an investment.

Improve SEO Through Home Menu Anchor Text Optimisation

seo-anchor-textIt’s a widely known fact that link anchor text is rated YH2Z675VXTC5 highly by search engines and is often the deciding factor in your SERP position for competitive terms, mainly because it gives meaningful information to users (amongst others). Correct use of anchor text (on both inbound and outbound links) will give your page increased meaning.

I’m sure you use this fact throughout your website while performing onsite SEO. Any tutorial will rightly tell you that keyword relevancy is of upmost importance here. However, a lot of the time you end up with a ‘Home’ link on your menu, linking to your main page.

This is bad for SEO for a number reasons. Firstly, the anchor text ‘home’ is very poor choice of word to use as it’s meaning is highly diluted nowadays. Now unless you have a site relating to homes, the keyword isn’t very useful at all, as we don’t want to rank highly for the term ‘home’. However, at the same time users are familiar with such a link and it makes sense to name such a link to your main page. The situation is worsened if your site is large with a great number of internal links. Imagine having a 100 page site, all with the anchor text ‘home’ – this is a lot of inbound links telling search engines each page is related to ‘home’! Furthermore, the menu link’s are usually towards to the top of the page, giving them inscreased relevancy to search engines.

The solution is a compromise, use ‘home’ along with you main keyword(s) – making sure to avoid obvious stop words like ‘and’. For example ‘Graphic Design Home’. Even better use your main keyword directly in the anchor text i.e. ‘Graphic Design’. This is quite a powerful and simple SEO trick that is easy to implement into your site.

CSS Sprities and Website Optimization

One of the latest and most well established design practices are CSS sprites. This is the practice of combing multiple images into a larger and single, composite image. By using the CSS background-position property selected portions of that master image (or sprite) are displayed. The main issue here is how can a larger image witha larger file size be beneficial, especially when compared to several smaller images? The answer lies in HTTP requests and Yahoo’s 80/20 rule explains this much better than I could! To summarise, the numbers of HTTP requests to the websites is drastically cut, thus loading the page much faster in  single request. Another major beenfit is that not Javascript is required for mouseover code, so you can make image rollovers easily. I have used this technque in the past, but like a lot of people never knew it was called sprites.

In fact, using sprites are so effective many of the internets biggest site’s are using them, all in slightly different ways. On such sites a truely huge number of requests are saved every day. For example, Youtube, Google, AOL,  Amazon and Apple all use CSS sprites. Take the mimilist example of Google (left):

Google CSS Sprite

Youtube, does things slightly different and uses a absolutely very simple sprite and applied the background-position property to each link class. Here’s the simple HTML used for the list: Continue reading CSS Sprities and Website Optimization

301 Redirects for SEO Using htaccess

301 Redirects Prevent 404 Errors
301 Redirects Prevent 404 Errors

Google treats and as two totally different websites. This is very bad for your (or even a client’s) website as it may lead to duplicate content and different pageranks to those sites.  This is how Google “canonicalizes” the url and is very bad from an SEO standpoint.

In essence, a web server could return totally different results for each of those pages. I have also encountered the situation where clients have set their preferred domain in Google webmaster tools, have given out the opposite version for SEM and wonder why they don’t see results :)You can easily check the above by using the “site:” operator in Google search. E.g. and

You can use “mod rewrite” rules as a powerful method for redirecting many URLs from one location to another.  This is a simple server level technique for handling redirects. The way people handle this canonicalization issue is purely a personal choice, although the below method can be altered for directing to the none www version of the url.

The .htaccess file is simply an ASCII file created with any normal text editor. You need to save the file as ‘.htaccess’ (no filename, .htaccess is the extension!). Open you newly created .htaccess file in your favoured text editor and add the following lines of code, replacing with your domain:

RewriteEngine On
RewriteCond %{HTTP_HOST} ^
RewriteRule (.*)$1 [R=301,L]

Upload the .htaccess file to the root folder of your website and you’re done. All your traffic will be permanently redirected from a non-www version of your website to a www version of your website. To do the opposite (direct all traffic to the non www version use the below code in the .htaccess file):

RewriteEngine On
RewriteCond %{HTTP_HOST} ^
RewriteRule (.*)$1 [R=301,L]