Wordpress website experts based in the UK.

SSL is an important modern feature of the online world and it’s being pushed by all the big search engines including Google as it’s a proactive step towards protecting the sensitive information of Internet users.

If you don’t have an SSL certificate, you really should and if you’re not sure, we’d love to hear from you as we can help you install one if you don’t aleady have one.

SSL – What is it and why should you have it?

Improve the overall strength of your passwords and stay secure online with Lastpass.

Key features include:

  • There’s a free version which stores upto 20 passwords which will give you a chance to test just how easy it is to use
  • The premium version costs £12p/a at the time of writing. That’s just £1p/m which is really affordable for most
  • Helps you generate truly random passwords on-the-go and save them, you don’t even need to know what it is!
  • You can share access to others without displaying your password
  • Store other types of secure information such as bank card details

Lastpass – Improve your cyber security

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General

Server Updates – possible warning on email accounts

As part of our ongoing attempts to improve the services we provide for our clients, we are currently in the process of upgrading our servers to make them faster and more secure. As part of this upgrade, we are currently migrating all mailboxes (email accounts) hosted by us across to the new server.

Some of our clients may now begin to experience a popup which is entitled, “Cannot verify server identity”. This is particularly likely to happen in Safari browsers on iOS devices.

We use a data centre here in the UK and as they have millions of emails passing through their building each and every day, they have to have a high-end data protection insurance. Part of the criteria for this is that they need to have an SSL (Secure Sockets Layer) certificate in place to cover all the emails passing through the building.

As they have millions of customers, each with their own domains, it is only possible to achieve this by setting up a single domain – which in this case is stackmail.com – and passing all the emails through that. Obviously, as this is different from your domain name – hence why iOS devices are triggering a warning looking like this:

Nothing to worry about This is nothing to worry about and is easily resolved. As you can see, there is the option to ‘Continue’. Simply press this – the popup may appear again – and you may continue to use your emails as normal.

 

What if I still have difficulties?

 

If you do however experience any difficulties, please complete the form below, or if you are looking for support with your existing set up call us now on 01604 212535.

 

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General

WordPress Update – 4.6 Released – Pepper Adams

It’s arrived!

The latest WordPress update which promises to be faster and more efficient to all involved in using it to host and publish their content – whether for a website or blog.

Features in this WordPress Update

Here’s the video from the WordPress Dashboard:

If you don’t have time to watch, here is the breakdown of the 5 new features from the newest WordPress update:

  1. Simpler workflow for adding, previewing and updating themes
    • This means that you can apply, check and update themes much more easily without ever leaving the screen you are on. Really useful if you like to keep things fresh.
  2. Broken link checker when you add a link
    • This is a really useful feature – no longer should typos be an issue when adding links into your text.
    • WordPress will highlight the link red when you type it to signify it’s not a valid link – allowing you to correct it there and then!
  3. Drafts are saved locally whilst writing
    • This is another really useful feature, too. As you type and create your post, WordPress automatically saves a copy in your browser meaning that, if unexpectedly you lose Internet connection, instead of the page being stuck there unable to save, your draft is stored.
    • You can continue creating the content and hope that the connection is restored before you finish or, if that’s not the case, you can rely on the browser cache to kick in when the connection finally is restored. You should not lose your work now.
  4.  Font changes to the backend mean that it loads faster
    • To be honest, I’d never thought of this, but it makes total sense.
    • WordPress now detects which OS (operating system) you are using – whether Mac or Windows – and then renders the admin panel in the default font for your OS. This saves on loading a custom font and speeds things up for you. Clever!
  5. Stability improvements
    • As always, it’s important to keep improving stability and any upgrade (particularly WordPress upgrades) should address security and bugs. This is another load of things resolved hopefully.

Focus of the release

The focus on this release is speed and improving the workflow in order to allow you to manage your CMS much faster – saving you time and money in the process!

Great idea, and I have to say that I’m really impressed by the speed of this release since the last one up to 4.5.

It seems that the WordPress release cycles (time between upgrades) are getting shorter – meaning that the platform is improving and reacting to its environment more quickly – for the benefit of all involved!

 

Need help upgrading? Contact us today to see how we can help.

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General

Bye-bye to CMS Made Simple Websites

It’s with a heavy heart that we have to release this announcement.

We are no longer going to be developing websites in CMS Made Simple unless we are specifically asked to by our client.

We feel it’s appropriate to make the announcement on our blog as people are still approaching us because we are known for creating CMS Made Simple websites. Unfortunately, we feel it’s just not a way of delivering quality websites to our clients at a reasonable pace – despite 2 years of constant development in the platform.

It may (and most likely is) be something we were doing. But in the name of constant business development we have made this decision.

 

Reasons for dropping CMS Made Simple

The reason behind this difficult decision is two-fold:

  1. Speed of delivery – over the past 6 months we’ve been monitoring the speed of delivery of our projects and have noticed that WordPress websites are by far and away the fastest. This, although of course not always the best option or determining factor, meant that for the duration of the test, our customer satisfaction went up overall mainly because we turned things round more quickly AND there is a business case for ‘more, happier clients’.
  2. Bugs / Technical issues – we have been the victim of circumstance over the last 6 months too. There have been big developments in the the CMS Made Simple platform which is great. However, we keep running into problems when the module or modules that you need haven’t been updated in-line with the platform. This has on more than one occasion negatively affected our delivery time and caused issues for projects. We’ve found this to be unacceptable to our business model and brand promises.

 

It’s Been a Journey…

Now, we don’t want to be seen as being derogatory to CMS Made Simple. After all, our first couple of years were devoted to working primarily on the platform.

However, we’ve found that the recent advancements (especially in security) in WordPress have made it such a more viable option. This in turn enables us to worry less on bugs and more on tangible look and feel results. This is better for us and better for our clients.

 

A Fond Farewell

We would like to wish the development team at CMSMS all the success in the world with the platform.

As previously mentioned, we will continue to develop on the platform at a client’s request as well as maintaining existing CMS Made Simple websites.

Thank you for all the support we’ve had from the dev team and I look forward to hearing from you in the future with some revolutionary new updates which maybe make CMSMS a more viable option than WordPress.

 

What Happens Next?

We are now firmly focussed on developing and maintaining our websites in WordPress and as a result of this focus we are able to deliver much better website development and maintenance services.

As we work predominantly on a white label basis, we can help with your website requirements and our team of developers are experienced in working with other platforms like CMS Made Simple.

We may be able to help in solving problems, developing and improving existing CMS Made Simple websites.

Contact us today to see how we can help.

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Website Design

Is the Concept of the Homepage Dead?

In this article, we will explore the concept of the homepage and the misconceptions around having a homepage.

In olden times, say 3-4 years ago, it was important to have a beautifully presented website ‘homepage’.

Effectively your online storefront, it was the equivalent to the main entrance to a physical store – it needed to be attractive and enticing enough to bring visitors through the doors in order to help you make sales.

Nowadays, with the improvements that Google (in particular) have made, every page is now a potential storefront for a website visitor. Let me say that again – every page is now a potential storefront.

Let’s explore this information further.

So, you’re reading this article – imagine (heaven forbid) that you’ve never heard of Showcase Web Development before and you’ve searched for something in a search engine like “website homepage best practice” and this article has come up.

You, as a virgin reader to my content land on this page and imagine – it’s poorly presented.

The content is great but it looks boring and doesn’t present Showcase in the best light.

Wouldn’t you say that this page is effectively a store front? Wouldn’t we have more chance of winning you over and you reading and liking our content with a well presented and enticing blog post page? But we’ve just said that’s what we want to achieve with our homepage correct…..?

That’s just one example.

Imagine searching for “contact web developers in Northampton” and, Google doing what Google does, shows our contact us page because Google understands that you are looking for the contact details for a web developer in Northampton.

Now, you’ve never heard of us and you click on our link.

The page is beautifully presented and attractive, you’re now much more likely to reach out and contact us.

You see where we are going with this?

No longer would Google just present a particular, pre-defined ‘default’ page which is commonly known as a ‘Homepage’. You now need to consider the impact that each and every page that a visitor could land on is making to that initiated visitor.

Now, granted there will be pages which perform better in search engines than others and generally these pages will have more visitors and so need more attention than others.

But I would hazard a guess that a significant amount of time these pages will be pages OTHER than your ‘homepage’.

Maybe there is a particular service that you offer that other competitors don’t, so the page which outlines the details of that service would show up and get more attention than other pages on the site. Or maybe there is a blog post or series of blogposts which is attracting a readership and so getting a lot of website attention.

 

The Most Important Pages on Your Website

Now, this is where understanding your website and its visitorship plays a massive part. There is a simple but under-used method to work out which pages are your key entry points for new visitors – and anyone that knows me will know what I am about to say – Google Analytics.

If you don’t know about Google Analytics by now, you should! I’ve written a whole article which just scratches the surface of it – but in a nutshell it is a free software released by Google (with a premium version available) to help you effectively track traffic to, from and around your website.

With Google Analytics, it’s very easy to work out which pages are attracting the most attention and interestingly also, which pages are considered ‘exit pages’ – pages which people are getting too and then leaving.

It’s just as important to identify and improve these pages to increase visitor retention and engagement.

 

How To Manage Your Website Effectively

It can be a daunting task to say – you need to improve the image and performance of each and every page on your website. Some websites are 100’s of pages big and this job would just be too mammoth to comprehend.

So, what can you do?

By identifying which pages are your key entry pages and your key exit pages, you know where to concentrate your energy and control the initial impressions your website is making to new visitors.

By doing this, you are effectively giving your online store a facelift and making sure it looks as good as possible to all visitors.

The entry and exit pages on your website will constantly evolve and change, so this will become an ongoing process, but with every iteration of improvements you will be improving the website’s impression for new visitors.

 

Your Checklist

  • Install Google Analytics on your website and work out how to identify your entry / exit pages.
  • Navigate to the URL for one of the pages in question
  • Ask the following questions:
    1. What are you seeing ‘above the fold‘? Is it drawing you into the page?
    2. Is the page answering the questions you would have navigated to the page for?
    3. How can you improve any of the above? Try split testing to see if the changes you’ve made are helping or hindering your progress.

 

Summary

Modern websites consider each and every page a homepage in terms of designing the look and feel of the page to maximize the positive impact to a potential new visitor.

Long gone are the days of having a specific homepage which takes all the focus from new visitors.

You need to understand which pages are important to your website and improve them – and that may mean improving the poorly performing pages too.

By doing this, you improve the chances of website conversion across your whole website and will inevitable increase the ROI from your website.

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General

Why get bespoke Terms & Conditions?

Often seen as an unnecessary expense by small business owners at the outset of their business, terms and conditions have time and again proven to be a great investment and money saving asset to our business

As a business owner for the first time when starting up Showcase Web Development, I was definitely one of those uninitiated souls who thought that Terms and Conditions were something I could get sorted later on in my business life – when I had some spare cash and I wanted to shore up the business.

In fact, what I came to realize is that by having a set of bespoke terms and conditions delivered, I actually began to understand my own products and services better and was able to identify and fix flaws in them and their delivery.

As a result I am:

  1. safer as a business because I have up to date and relevant terms and conditions and
  2. better able to explain to my clients the in’s and out’s of their service as well as the requirements I have as part of delivering that service.

Our communication is now clearer with clients and this has lead to a reduction in ‘difficult’ clients and problems with service delivery.

If I could start again, I would certainly find the cash at the outset of the business to ensure that both us and our clients are adequately protected and helped by the terms and conditions of quote and sale, and the services and products on offer have been thought through at a level deep enough to stand up to legal scrutiny – directly outlining the legal obligations of the service which we need to uphold.

It’s a powerful feeling when you are an a solid foundation, and getting these T&C’s in place has certainly improved the foundation of our service delivery.

I would recommend any startup and small business to get their T&C’s in order as a priority – it will improve sales, reduce complaints and stress and provide a good foundation should difficulties still arise with clients – which as unpalatable as it may be WILL happen at some point inevitably.

If you want to know who we used to complete our terms and conditions, please contact us directly and we’d be more than happy to make the introduction.

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General

Website Handovers – Do’s and Don’ts

So this is it, the big day!

Your website that you have lovingly crafted with the help of your trusty web development team is about to go live.

Any minute now, the training wheels will be coming off and this business investment will be turned over to you to control.

 

Do’s and Don’ts for a Smooth Handover

DO: Ensure the developer has a backup of the site

Upon handover, most web developers will keep a copy of the website that is handed over in order to ensure that they’ve fulfilled their payment criteria.

This is a great asset for you because you know that should something go wrong – you are able to effectively ‘reset’ things to how they were when you first got let loose on the website.

Make sure that your developer does have this backup and see how long they are going to keep hold of it for (some developers will only keep this for say 30 days) and also enquire about potential costs to restore the site from backup should the worst happen and the site gets corrupted or irrecoverably damaged.

 

DO: Ensure that there is some kind of follow up support available from the developer
It’s obvious that most issues with using and updating your website will happen immediately after the website is released.

In much the same way that most road accidents happen quite soon after you pass your test and go for a drive on your own, once the training wheels are off everything seems different and you will often forget some of the training that you probably did before the website was released to you.

That’s why it’s important to have some support once the site is released – and why we released the free 30 days support we offer to anyone who’s website we build.

In this time, those niggly questions which allow you to get the most from your site can get answered, and you can get used to using your website on your own knowing there is some support there should you need it.

Make sure your web developer offers some kind of support – even if it’s paid support – you will need it especially in the early stages.

 

DON’T: Go changing everything now that you can

Content management is a beautiful thing.

But I can tell you from experience it can be a curse when as a developer, you spend hours crafting a well thought-out and effective website, only to see giant red and yellow wording appear across the middle of the homepage just after releasing the website to the owner (true story).

If you are going to make changes, make ‘tweaks’ – alter wording, add new pages, that kind of thing as any developer worth their salt would have set the website up to achieve the results you are looking for – if not immediately then in the near future.

Of course, it’s your website and you can do what you want with it, but try and do it in the spirit of the website you’ve paid for an expert to create.

I wouldn’t go and fit a set of monster truck wheels to my new Lexus just because I have the right tool – it’s not going to help the car do anything more and would probably cause more issues in the long run.

 

DON’T: Change anything unless you’ve taken a quick backup of the item you are about to amend

One of the most common customer service queries we receive is the “I’ve changed something on XX page and it’s not worked out too well and I have changed my mind and want to change it back. Please can you help?” query.

There is a simple way to combat this which will save you £100’s – before you look to change the content of a page or post (for example), take a copy. S

imply highlight all of the content (click and drag or press Ctrl+A/ Cmd+A) and paste it into a non-rich text editor – something like Notepad on a PC (textmate on Mac).

These types of editor will not add any formatting tags into the content and so will leave it as it was when you copied it out of the website – unlike Microsoft word for instance.

Now, when you edit the page and something goes wrong, you can simply copy and paste from your mini backup and try again.

 

DO: Use your marketing prowess to get some initial visitors to the website.

‘Build it and they will come’ is a phrase once used often – it’s now totally out-dated.

Websites now are being built at a phenomenal rate and are harder to find than ever – so you will need to generate some traffic to your website especially in the early stages.

Whether that be by adding the new address to a business card, letting your existing customers know that you’ve got a/ re-released your website, telling family and friends – whatever it takes, you need to work hard to generate that initial traffic because you need to show Google just how effective that site is whilst it’s initial boost is active (it’s widely accepted that Google boosts new websites initially in order to get an initial feel for how it is setup to handle the potential traffic to it. From this info, it decides it’s initial ranking…).

Make the most of it!

 

Summary

Getting the website to release is only part of the job.

The work really starts when the site is released, but by making sure you have the right support and backups in place, you alleviate some of the worries you will have in the early stages of managing your own website.

Then, by making the most of any initial Google uncertainty (boost) in the early stages, you are able to help positively effect the traffic to the site in future and will be laying some solid foundations for the future growth of the website.

That future growth should be considered and in the style of the rest of the site to avoid it’s appearance being negatively effected, so take some time to plan changes and try and ‘tweak’ rather than wholesale change where you can.

With great power comes great responsibility – Enjoy your journey onto the web!

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Jargon Busting

Media Queries – What are they and Why should you care?

Media queries didn’t exist a few years ago but now are essential and fundamental elements of modern web design. Let’s explore them and how they can impact your business.

In CSS2, we were introduced to the possibility of targeting display for different media types (separate post), and since the introduction of CSS3 which helped facilitate the move away from tabular web design, we’ve been able to use Media Queries to help improve the appearance of websites on a multitude of different media.

‘Media’ in this context refers to different devices or viewports.

We are able to use media queries to change the styling depending on whether the user is using a mobile or tablet, a desktop or projector and even printed media.

We can change things purely based on the number of pixels available on the device and even the pixel density and even orientation.

By adding code into the CSS file(s), we are able to trigger styles based on any of the above and have them effect the output in order to (hopefully) optimize the experience of the person(s) viewing it.

Here is a typical bootstrap media query declaration where you can see the simple naming convention (hidden small), as well as the desired outcome (display – none) and the pixel ranges this affects (768-991px):


@media(min-width: 768px) and (max-width: 991px){
.hidden-sm {
.display: none;
}
}

 

This functionality really does help us web developers attune your website for the best experience on each and every device.

But, as you can imagine, with new devices hitting the market daily, the number of different combinations to consider is growing ever more mind-boggling.

 

So, how do you implement media queries for each size device?

The main consideration (but by no means the only consideration) is screen size.

With more traffic being viewed on a mobile device than on a desktop device , it’s more important than ever to consider what your website looks like on a mobile

In April 2015, Google launched what’s been dubbed “Mobilegeddon” by many – they started to penalize websites which are not optimized or setup for mobile users by excluding them from the search results displayed for searches carried out on mobile devices.

Their reasoning for this was that they are always looking to promote websites with the best user experience – and a website which doesn’t cater for smaller screens with bigger buttons, a condensed width layout and a ‘low-bandwidth’ version offers a poorer experience to the user than a website offering these things.

What followed was a general shift towards ‘mobile-first’ design – websites designed to be appropriate and effective for mobile devices and who’s appearance on desktops and larger screens includes more superfluous and additional content.

In order to combat the ever-increasing number of devices (with an ever increasing range and proportion of screen sizes), web developers have developed techniques called ‘frameworks’ which help ‘chunk’ ranges of screen size.

We have had the 960 grid system (from Nathan Smith), with its cousins the 1000 grid and 1200 grid systems and I think the most popular and widely used system is now Twitter Bootstrap.

Twitter Bootstrap is a series of css snippets which are freely available and create a 1200 grid which allows elements to be stacked on smaller devices and sit next to each other on larger screens easily.

There are a whole host of other benefits to using these systems, but I won’t go into too much detail in this post, as we are looking to talk about media queries.

Bootstrap uses chunking and where you switch from one range to another, you get what is called a ‘breakpoint’. Because of this standardization of breakpoints, we are able to ensure that websites look as they are supposed to on the following sized devices:

  • Large Viewports (generally considered desktop) = 1200px +
  • Medium Viewports (generally laptops and smaller screen desktops) = 992px – 1199px
  • Small Viewports (generally tablets) = 768px – 991px
  • Extra Small (generally phones) = >767px

By using this approach, you know that a device with a screen width (in pixels) of 995px and one of 1000px will show the same way.

Similarly, we know that most mobile phones will have a screen width which has less than 767px, so we can design the site to look the same whether the screen is 500px wide or 750px wide.

 

Exceptions to the rules

Of course, these are generalist rules and as you would expect there are some exceptions.

Who else but the kings of doing things differently – Apple – seem to break all the rules with their devices.

The apple iPad is considered a mobile device and so would in theory show things on a screen in a mobile-friendly way. However, it has a resolution of 1200px making it a ‘desktop’ sized device in a pixel-sense – which means you need to be careful with how things are displayed in order to optimize the user experience.

Apple’s retina displays do a similar thing in the mobile ranges, giving their mobiles an ‘artificially large’ viewport,  meaning that sometimes issues can arise with getting websites to appear correctly on apple iPhones.

Of course, there are workaround to these issues as responsive design is something of the norm nowadays, but you can see what a minefield responsive web design could be if you don’t know what you are doing.

 

Other types of media query / types

Originally, in CSS2 we were able to target particular types of device – such as print or Projector.

However, this functionality didn’t really get much uptake or support from device manufacturers – probably because website optimization was still in its infancy.

As a result, it wasn’t until CSS3 when a whole raft of new development options were introduced that more widespread support for these types of query was introduced. Now we can display web content differently for:

  • Print – hide unnecessary detail and ensure the main content of the page is printed in a well-formatted manner
  • Projector – re-prioritize content for projectors to ensure that the main content of the page is well displayed on a large projected screen
  • Speech – completely changes the relevancy of the content on the page in order for it to read well to those using screen readers.

 

Media Queries Summary

Media queries in combination with Media Types introduced in CSS2 provide a series of powerful tools which allow web developers to alter the display of the content on your website to be most beneficial to the website user dependent on the device that they are using to view the website.

By using frameworks such as Twitter Bootstrap, we are able to cater for a multitude of different devices and their requirements in order to ensure the device shows your website in it’s best light, no matter it’s resolution, orientation or even whether it’s a screen-reader user visiting the site.

If your website is not responsive to mobile devices, you need to get it amended otherwise you are simply missing out on much needed and valuable traffic and possibly incurring Google penalties at the same time.

Contact us for a quote if you would like us to manage that conversion for you – we can work with existing websites or start from scratch – the choice is yours.