I had to build a relatively simple HTML5 ad for the main client this week. I had previously built Flash advertisements, but even that was a few years ago.
This was sadly a frustrating experience, especially since Flash ads (which in end user terms are basically the same) have been around for over a decade.
I will not go into too much detail, perhaps, I’ll backfill this post in the future. I wanted to write down a few notes while this pain was still fresh in my mind.
Google Web Designer (GWD) is the preferred way to build HTML5 ads for Google AdWords. The sad thing is they don’t need to invent anything here, just copy programs that we’ve used to build Flash ads for years. Some notes on this “beta” product.
- It will install without complaint on Windows Vista. It will NOT work properly though, many features fail SILENTLY on Vista. Admittedly, Google only claims Windows 7 compatibility – I was working over RDP on one of the spare machines in the office – I didn’t even realize it was running Vista rather than Windows 7. The “Swap Image” and problems in the asset library come to mind.
- Don’t even get me started on the quirks in the UI. I never could figure out how to move an object with the mouse, rather than create a transform. I ended up entering “pixel” values into the X and Y fields with the keyboard.
- I couldn’t find a way to export a frame of the animation, for, you know, the JPG failover image that the majority of ad networks require for users that disable animated ads.
- Misleading “template” choices. My first attempt at building an ad I picked one of the 300×250 templates that mentioned Google and something about remarketing. In the end, this caused me grief. My final file was not compatible with the standard AdWords upload… something about it being custom (forgot to write the exact error down). I eventually rebuilt the simple ad without a template, using the Google ‘environment’.
- Resizing a file to switch from a rectangle to a leaderboard ad? Yeah, not easy. Actually, I never confirmed that I got this working – I may try again next week.
Google AdWords issues…
- I use Inkscape for a lot of vector art work. GWD seems to use these SVG files fine in local previews, but uploading the “publish locally” zip file from GWD to AdWords failed in all my attempts. Worse, it failed with this completely misleading error: “Invalid file format. Make sure you are using a supported file format (.JPEG, .JPG, .PNG, .GIF, .ZIP or .SWF) and that your file is not corrupted.” I was using text that had been converted to paths, but I later tested with just an oval and rectangle. In the end? I made precisely sized PNG files. It feels so old fashioned, and I’ll be really annoyed when I have to resize the ad.
HTML5 Ad Notes
- No, you do not need to include a “clickTag” with HTML5 on AdWords. This is not as easy to figure out as it should be.