Understanding Animated Functionality as Content

The last kind of on-page content that can be embedded into a web-page as a tangible asset is one of the most difficult to understand and value. While animations are becoming more and more informative as an engagement platform, they don’t index well for a search engine, and they are expensive to build and maintain.

However, their ability to suck in users, establish legitimacy, and convey information makes them a valuable investment for a website with a strong incentive to engage its users. The trick for us as web-asset managers is to therefore understand the technical purpose of a given animation, and to value the asset according to its ability to meet that function.

One of the simplest kinds of content-based on-page animation is called a ‘reveal’. This is a function that engages the user through a mechanism that will progressively draw in the customer through the provision of information. This has evolved over the years from being contextually evolving content that reacts to radio-buttons (ie. the classic quiz function), to functions that reveal exciting new content upon the discovery of a hidden button.

My personal favorite embodiment of this level of functionality is a tab at the corner of the page that will effectively peel back the page to reveal a secondary page hiding beneath the primary. In my experience with the online industry, I’ve seen some very clever adaptations of this strategy that have generated extremely favorable returns for the asset in question. Because of the ability of these kinds of functionality to create value, we need to understand how to differentiate the tangible worth of the functional information from the intangible glitz of the animation itself.

From the perspective of content-analysis, the tangible worth of an animated communication comes from both the type of content being represented (see the previous article discussing the worth of specific content types), its effectiveness in engaging the user, and its ability to be indexed by search indexes. That being said, all of these aspects are simply different applications of different valuation methods that are included throughout our ongoing discussion.

When looking at the ability of an animation to engage a user, we need to begin by looking at its complexity. This becomes a fairly simple task because of the way in which the size of an animation file will directly correlate to its complexity. So long as we can keep in mind that complexity only equates to engagement when it is not obnoxious, we are able to use a conservative discount to come up with a tangible worth for a given animation fairly quickly against its bit-value. This also takes into consideration the worth of the opportunity value, in that it measures the cost of creating the content ourselves. For example, if we were to take the time to animate a virtual site assistant as a custom job, would it cost more on a per-bit basis than if we acquire the pre-made asset.

The second thing to take into consideration when determining the value of a content-based animation is to determine its worth as a driver of organic traffic. While an animated guide or speaker will not create much worth from a traffic perspective, hidden content from a reveal function will, because of the way in which it allows us to place more information on a given page, without overwhelming the reader.

While the reader thinks that they have visited a new web-page, the search engines will know about the hidden content right away, and will index it accordingly. As such, a reveal tab is an excellent way for a clever asset manager to give context to on-page keywords. From there, we simply need to examine the organic value that is placed on keywords, and discount according to the rate at which the relevant traffic follows.

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