The Josh.biz Blog

A simple guide to managing emails using POP3 and IMAP

Embracing Responsive Web Design

Responsive Web Design

The Web Design industry never stands still. Both the way we view and design websites has continuously evolved since I was first introduced to HTML, the language web pages are written in, back in 1995.

An old beige personal computerDuring most of this time we’ve been designing websites for typical desktop and laptop computers. It was the era of the ‘beige box in the corner of the room’ for a very long time. 10 years ago laptops became very popular as mass production began and prices fell.

Web designers have always focused on designing for a minimum resolution/screen size. And on the whole we were dealing with desktop PCs and laptops.

First, websites went wider

Several years ago, we switched from designing websites with a fixed width suitable for 800 x 600 (pixels) resolution to catering for 1024 x 768 (and above) resolutions. Suddenly websites started getting wider. A narrow website became a tell-tale sign of an old website. And there are still a few lingering around even today…

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Add a PayPal variable payment button

PayPal Buy Now buttonPayPal offers an easy way to facilitate payments online at a reasonable cost, without all the hassle of requiring a merchant account, payment provider and shopping cart.

Also, users often like the option of PayPal because the transaction is handled by PayPal’s own secure servers, there’s no need to hand over financial details and it’s very quick. Even if users don’t have a PayPal account, debit and credit card payments are accepted.

One way of taking advantage of PayPal is to offer users a single PayPal Pay Now button where the user can choose how much to pay and provide additional information such as the invoice they are paying or the name of the event being booked. But PayPal certainly don’t make it obvious how you can accomplish this and Google results will lead you down lots of winding misleading paths. Here’s the answer:

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Web page updates not displaying after pressing refresh or reload

Refresh or Reload symbolThis is a question that comes up so often, we’ve at last decided to add an explanatory post for everyone.

As web designers, one of our roles is to keep websites up to date. Nowadays many of the websites we design use a content management system such as WordPress (permitting the client to update content themselves). But many clients still rely upon us to make occasional manual updates for them. In fact, our reliability and promptness in actioning updates for clients is a key service we offer.

Because of ‘Web Caching’

This is ‘a mechanism for the temporary storage of web documents to increase performance’ (see Wikipedia). In the early days of the internet, we were reliant on very slow dial-up connections and one way of speeding up the browsing experience was for software (e.g. Internet Explorer, Google Chrome, Mozilla Firefox etc.) to temporarily store the content of pages you recently visited. If you went back to a page you had already visited (i.e. earlier in the same day), you wouldn’t have to download the page all over again.

But sometimes this ‘feature’ catches us out…

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Beware of those sneaky software installations

Lately, I’ve encountered lots of clients reporting the appearance of software on their computers which they can’t remember installing (or even wanting in the first place). Additionally, browser home pages get usurped and default search engines are replaced.

In most cases the problem can be traced to the updating of key software on your computer – e.g. AVG Anti-Virus, Adobe Flash and Oracle Java (and many more).

This morning I was prompted to update my version of Adobe Flash which I normally proceed with automatically because there’s still plenty of Flash used on the web. Just before I rushed to click the ‘Update’ button, I was lucky enough to notice that, by default, a box was ticked to also download and install McAfee Virus Scan. I already have anti-virus software and certainly don’t need two of them. In fact, the general recommendation is to avoid installing anti-virus software by different manufacturers on the same PC. A lucky escape!

Then, half an hour later, I’m prompted to update my ‘Java’ engine – another essential piece of software which ensures that lot’s of websites will function correctly. But again, there was the discreet tick box (already ticked) to sneakily install the Ask toolbar and to set it as my default search provider. Another lucky escape! But how many users out there are overlooking this and filling their PCs full of unnecessary software which they never wanted (and probably slowing down their PC)? I’ve highlighted the offending tick box in red below:

Look out for them every time you install software. They’re popping up everywhere.

It’s just a great shame that these bona fide companies have to resort to such measures to sell their wares. It shouldn’t be happening and they should all know better. Be on your guard and look out for those tick boxes…

Free marketing – use an email signature!

I’m constantly surprised by the number of emails I receive without a comprehensive signature – no telephone number, no website, etc.. I then have to hunt the information down. That’s crazy!

Use a well composed email signature  to reflect your personality, provide essential information (including social media links) and much more. For more information, visit this excellent guide: The Art And Science Of The Email Signature.

See also: What Does the Perfect Email Signature Look Like in 2017?

Learn to love Facebook!

I meet a wide cross-section of different people in my profession and social life – different sexes, ages, outlooks and positions in life. One of the most interesting and diverse attitudes is towards our old friend, Facebook.

Youngsters embrace it instantly and can’t imagine a world without it. Those of us in the middle have mixed opinions but largely embrace it. After all we were around when the ZX Spectrum arrived 30 years ago. And at the upper echelons of the age bracket, some love it as much as teenagers whilst others can’t see the attraction at all – ‘I don’t need Facebook. I live in the real world. What a load of nonsense’.

I’m not too bothered about any of this but I’m fascinated by those who claim to despise Facebook.

Yes, if you’re crazy for it, you can spend all day (every day) reading about your friends and family. But on the other hand, you can take it or leave it. Owning a Facebook account doesn’t condemn you to logging in continuously.

And if you dip in occasionally (in one of those bored moments) you could find it quite interesting to catch up with those hordes of people who have appeared in your life and met your approval of being a ‘friend’. Sometimes it’s great to just flick through their photos.

Just be very selective about who you add as a friend. And occasionally, have a cull on your Facebook friends (they don’t get notified). And when you receive a friend request, never feel obliged to automatically say yes – if they don’t fit your criteria, just ignore them.

There’s one thing for certain; if you want to maintain contact with those special people you’ve encountered in your life, Facebook offers the best chance of doing this. E-mail addresses, telephone numbers and postal addresses can change frequently and become lost, but being friends on Facebook can be forever.

And even the Facebook advertising isn’t so bad. I rarely click an advert on Google search pages but find the Facebook adverts much more alluring. Is the targeting such a bad thing? How else are we going to know about the wonderful products invented for us?

WordPress and e-commerce

E-commerce websites provide visitors with the facility to purchase products directly from a website. A shopping cart allows the seller to list their products (usually in a hierarchy of categories), providing full details of the products (including multiple images, descriptions, sizes, colours, shipping charges, taxes, etc.). The user adds products to their cart (or basket, as we say in the UK) which can be managed easily, allowing addition and removal of items. Finally, the user proceeds to a checkout where they may have to register an account, but certainly have to provide delivery information before making their payment.

All of these facilities demand a reasonably high level of complexity, and therefore time to develop and design. A high level of care and attention is needed to ensure that the user has the confidence to buy. Any inadequacy or slight scruffiness is enough to put the user off purchasing.

In comparison to the requirements of a brochure website, powered by a content management system (and often running a blog), there are usually many more complexities to be dealt with when it comes to e-commerce.

Whilst some web design companies use their own bespoke shopping carts (developed by themselves), the majority will usually choose from one of the many popular ‘off the shelf’ shopping cart systems available. These include popular systems like Magento, Zen Cart and PrestaShop.

But what if your website is powered by WordPress? Is there an option for integrating a shopping cart into WordPress? Our conclusion is no – well, not at the moment, unless the requirements of your shop are extremely basic (e.g. if you’re only selling a very small range of products).

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Set image links to open in a new window in WordPress

Both text and images can be linked to a web address of your choice. But sometimes we like to set the link to open in a new window (making it easier for the user to return to your website).

It’s easy to do this when setting a text link as below:

But, there’s no option to do this when inserting an image. Here’s the answer:

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Good web content isn’t a luxury – it’s essential

Don’t make the mistake of spending your entire budget on the design of your website only to forget about the text. Even on a fantastic looking website badly written web copy will turn off customers and lose you business.

It’s not just the more common spelling mistakes and errors in grammar you need to be aware of:

  • Is your written content talking to YOUR customers?
  • Is it TAILORED to the demographic you’re aiming for?
  • Does it tell your customers WHAT THEY WANT TO HEAR or only what you think they want to know?
  • Overall is it: CLEAR? CONCISE? CREATIVE? CUSTOMISED?

Copywriters can supply effective website text which, as well as getting your key messages across, is keyword rich to help with that all important Search Engine Optimization (SEO).

To see more and learn about copywriting services visit the website of one of our favourite copywriters, Nigel Woollsey:

www.nigelwoollsey.co.uk

 

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