We built a robot that could analyse a website, and grade page speed, responsive design and SEO with a pull of a lever. Why? Good question. Mostly just because we could.
About Buy Yorkshire
Maybe we should explain. Pixelbot was built for our stand at Buy Yorkshire, the biggest B2B conference and exhibition in the North. We wanted to bring something fun and eye-catching to attract people to the booth – but we also wanted it to actually do something useful when they got here. So, the idea for a website-analysing robot was born…
We always want to be useful, right from the very first interaction with a client – or potential client. What are you doing now? What could you be doing better? How can we help you with that?
These were the conversations we wanted to be having at Buy Yorkshire. Rather than coming away from our stand with a free pen and a business cards, we wanted people to leave with something that was actually helpful. A smaller number of meaningful conversations, rather than a stream of impersonal sales pitches.
We landed on the idea of conducting a mini website audit for anyone interested on the day. But who wants to spend five minutes bent over a laptop or tablet while someone judges their site?
Doesn’t sound like a whole bunch of fun. So, you know, being developers and everything, we decided to build something that was.
Our biggest worry was that people wouldn’t get it – so to deflect some of the criticism and protect our egos, we embraced the dafter sides of the idea right from the start. Something a bit retro-futuristic and steampunky. Silver spray paint. Big red buttons. And it obviously had to have a one-armed bandit handle.
As for the on-screen aesthetic, we instantly drifted towards 80s-style consoles – black background, luminous green text, and lots of pixels. The end result? Some nightmarish combination of Bertha and Blade Runner.
The actual build of the website back end that would do the analysing legwork was the most complex part of the process. On pulling the machine’s handle, the site would submit a form that included the user’s website URL, and then run three API requests using Google’s developer tools.
The first tested whether the site had a responsive design for use on mobile. Responsive design is a big stumbling block for companies who haven’t updated their website in a while, and something we talk through with a lot of clients. While your current design may look just fine on desktop, it’s a nightmare to use on any other device – and with Google introducing mobile-first indexing, it’s set to have a bigger and bigger impact on search results.
The second tested the extent of the site’s metadata. While this is a very simple insight into a site’s SEO, it is, once again, a stumbling block for many businesses. We may have to wait for Pixelbot 2.0 before we can offer more insight on keyword visibility at the tug of a handle…
The final test looked at page speed. Again, company websites that haven’t been updated in a long time might be suffering from plugin bloats or overstuffed content management systems – or could be languishing on slow servers.
As well as being an ecommerce specialist, our developer Ash comes from a background in product design, and is an accomplished woodworker, so he kindly agreed to assemble this ridiculous contraption for us.
A simple wooden cabinet with a hole to display a computer screen was embellished with an 8-ball handle that springs back after being pulled, and a big, red button that dispenses a competition entry ticket when pressed. A bit of real-world circuit board programming and a toy car’s wheel handled the physical dispensing aspect of the build.
Pixelbot made his debut at Buy Yorkshire on 15 May 2018, and made quite the impression – we had a steady stream of people keen to step up and pull his lever throughout the day. We’ve already had some exciting conversations with people we met through Pixelbot’s matchmaking service, too.
This was something a bit different for us – we’re specialist WordPress website developers, so branching out and building something unique, and very physical, was a lot of fun.
Pixelbot is currently in storage, so you’ll have to wait until we’re at an event again if you want to say hi. Follow us on Twitter to keep an eye out for any announcements. Anyone who stops by the office also gets the chance to meet the little guy, so get in touch if you’d like to set something up!