Why use VR on a Web-site....
Virtual Reality, "VR" offers the most cost effective visual
presentation of any type available. In terms of "Bang for your
Buck", VR is the best method for viewers to evaluate products on
a web-site. VR allows the user to interact with the product, looking
at it from different angles, study particular details, see it how it
functions, generally play with it - all without leaving the home or
office. We all know how important it is to a sale for the customer to
pick up the product in a store; VR on a web-site is the virtual equivalent
of picking up a product. Only better!
VR on a web-site creates a memorable experience for the visitors who
will remember the site and products. The term "sticky" site
was coined for VR!
In side by side comparisons over the past several years, it has been
confirmed that sites with VR imaged products outsell 2D imaged products
at least five to one. This makes VR a sensible choice when investing
in a web-site for product eCommerce, after all, what is the point in
spending money to drive visitors to a web-site, only to loose them again.
VR will help convert visitor traffic into sales customers.
I suggest offering VR files with your URL embedded in the file for
downloading onto the visitor's computer; it's like putting a brochure
in their hands.
A little about the different types of VR....
There are a number of ways to put VR onto your web-site. These include
QTVR and FLASH, both of which require a plug-in to operate. VR that
does not require plug-ins are JAVA players such as IBM's Hot Media or
MGI's Live Picture.
Each technology has advantages and limitations. When it comes to flexibility,
nothing can touch QTVR, which allows pretty much any image manipulation
one can think up, including zooming, animation in panoramas and lots
of other cool features. However, for the broadest appeal and application,
FLASH seems like a good pick. Unlike QTVR, FLASH is not a "true"
object movie, but rather a fancy "rollover". This does not
matter since it works well for Objects. Unfortunately, FLASH does not
work well with panoramas, since it is not able to distort the source
image properly to get a beautiful playback. For panorama imaging. Hot
Media or MGI Live Picture are a workable alternative to QTVR technology.
How BIG do these files have to be....
Most of the object movies on my site are between 300 and 400k each.
These images comprise 36 frames, each with a window size of 320x240
and JPEG 50 compression. Click on any one of them and you will get a
good idea of the time a visitor to your site will have to wait while
downloading a VR file. If this seems long, do not despair, the files
can be made a lot smaller.
There are three main issues affecting file size and hence download
1. Number of frames.
HOW many frames are really needed to present your product properly?
If the number of frames is reduced from 36 to 12, this reduces a 300k
file to 100k - a two-thirds reduction in download time. The trade-off
is a less smooth movement of the object when spinning. It is worth mentioning
that some clients feel the need to go the other way, with as much as
180 frames for each object. This is NOT recommenced as the file size
can easily reach 3-4 Megabytes, which does not work well for dialup
2. Window Size.
The size of the window in which the image is presented can be adjusted
to minimize the file size. The smaller the window the smaller the file
- a 320x240 pixel window reduced to 300x200 pixels results in almost
50% savings in the file size. Many web-sites use window sizes such as
120x160, This is very small, but it works wonders for the file size.
A good solution can be using them as "thumbnails" which when
clicked deliver a larger size image for the user to view. Time is not
then wasted waiting for images of no interest to download.
3. Image Compression.
My personal recommendation for most clients is to create 2 or more versions
of each VR file, then as the default on the website link people to the
smallest file, while at the same time offering a link to a larger file,
this will bring pictures in front of clients quickly, and also encourage
people to check out a larger file to see more details of a product.
Compression reduces the quality of an image by removing information
in the source file. The more a file is compressed, the more information
is removed and, depending on the displayed size of the image, at some
point the amount of data removed will start to affect the appearance
of the picture. Personally, I'm very happy with JPEG 50, but many people
are perfectly happy with a file compressed much more. The best way to
make this choice is to create samples of different compression ratios
and compare them.