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7 Deadly Flaws - What's wrong with your business website

Crafting a business website as a valuable asset and a beautiful representation of a business's brand is a confluence of many diverse skills. One of the most important of these is matching the expectations of your audience, leveraging the de facto standards of the web medium. Having assessed many business web presences over the years, we repeatedly see some very easily rectifiable mistakes. In this blog post we explain each and offer methods to resolve them.  

1Too many menu items. The main menu on your website should contain, ideally, 7 items (±2). The reason for this is to avoid information overload - we can only keep 7±2 items in our working memory at any single point in time. The number 7 comes from a famous 1956 Psychological Review paper by cognitive psychologist George Miller which is one of the most highly cited in psychology. To reduce a main menu to fewer items, we can relegate the less important items to other menu areas such as footer menus, and/or we can use drop down sub-menus to futher chunk the items, organising them to assist visitors quick understanding of the information being presented.

 

2Your about us pages rehashes what you do. A surprising amount of "About us" pages don't actually tell us about the business and its people. In fact, we commonly find that the about us page rehases what the company does rather than why they do it. That's a very important distinction. The purpose of an about us page is to display how trustworthy you are as a business. To do that you need to tell me your name and where you are in the world. Even more importantly, tell me why you do this work, how you got into it and why you love it. Tell me your story, tell me why you do what you do. This builds huge trust and helps me to be more comfortable transacting with because now I know you just a little bit better.

 

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SSL Certification explained

A Secure Sockets Layer (SSL) certificate is a file installed on your webserver that makes the protocol used to access your website HTTPS instead of plain old HTTP. Since late 2016, Google has mounted a campaign to encourage the use of secure protocols, including it as a ranking factor in their search algorithm, marking any websites that use passwords as insecure (Chrome 56 onwards), and have future plans to display the HTTP security indicator as the same red triangle that is used for broken HTTPS.

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Sucuri: Website Hacked Trend Report – 2016/Q1

Sucuri have released a very interesting website security report detailing their analyses of 11,000+ systems made up largely of WordPress, Joomla! and Magento. These three systems make up a significant proportion of the world’s 1 billion websites, in fact over one third of the world’s websites are powered by either Wordpress, Joomla!, Magento or Drupal.

“The blanket guidance to stay current and update is falling on deaf ears." Sucuri Q1 2016 report

In almost all instances, the security compromises found were the result of improper deployment, configuration, and overall maintenance by the webmasters and their hosts. Most issues were due to outdated non-core extensions which had available updates solving the security issue that were never applied.

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Adding the custom stylesheet user.css in Joomla 3.5 Protostar

Adding a custom CSS file in Joomla Protostar templateWith the release of Joomla 3.5 we can now use a custom CSS file to override the styles of the default Protostar template. Using the override method by only adding our custom CSS code in the user.css file means the change will not be overwritten and lost should the template itself be updated. It's also easier to maintain with all customizations in one place.

To use the user.css file in Protostar you must create the file yourself and place it in the correct location

User.css location in Protostar

templates/protostar/css/user.css

The system will import the file if the file exists and is not empty, according to the official pull request. Once you have this file in place you can add customizations to override any styles used in the template or extensions. Some extensions can add CSS after a template renders, so if you're not seeing your changes, you may need to implement the !important command. 

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Lost keys - controlling your digital assets

How to find and control access to your website assets

Far too often we get a case where a business owner doesn't know where their website is located, how to access their hosting space, is not the registered legal assignee for their domain name - therefore having no real access or control of their own digital assets. In this article, we show you how to check if you control your digital assets - and what to do if you're not in complete control.

How to check the legal assignee (owner) of a domain nameBusiness domain registration records

Inexperienced web agencies sometimes register domains in their own names rather than the business owner name or the company name. Every time a domain is registered, the legal assignee of the domain is recorded and can be checked via the WHOIS (pronounced as the phrase who is) lookup service. There are many websites where you can check these records, we prefer Blacknight's Who Owns It service. Simply enter your domain name and check the corresponding details in the record returned.

If your company name or your personal name are not the official assignee, you will need to contact the official assignee and have them authorise the registrar to transfer the domain into your name so that you have the correct level of 'ownership' and control over your domain assets. In addition to being the official assignee, you will want to have access to control the domain in order to use it for your website, subdomains and email addresses.

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Reset article hits in Joomla 3

Reset article hits in Joomla 3Since Joomla 3.2.3 the functionality to reset the hits on an individual Joomla article has been absent. Our clients often like to have the hits value set to zero before launch so that the views from testing & development don't count towards the value. There are some extensions available to re-introduce the reset hits in Joomla 3 functionality in the extensions directory, however because this is often a once-off need for us we usually do this directly via a database query, here's how:

Note: Remember to run a backup before working with advanced tasks!

Access the mySQL database instance you're using for your Joomla 3 website. Typically this is done using phpMyAdmin or a stand-alone mySQL tool. We really like SQLyog for our day to day database tasks. Once you've navigated to the database instance, take note of the prefix each table is using. You'll use that in the query to reset the article hits value. The mySQL command to run, where pre_ if your specific table prefix, is then

UPDATE pre_content
SET hits=0;

That query will reset all the values for 'hits' in the content table to zero. Enjoy!

 

 

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Customizing Virtuemart Invoice PDFs

How to customize invoices in Joomla VirtuemartThe default layout of PDF invoices in Virtuemart for Joomla can be quite ugly, however there are some quite easy ways to add simple branding and slightly more complex ways for customizing the entire layout using the standard template override system.

The simplest things to do are to customize the header and footer areas. Typically I'll add a logo or custom header banner image to make the invoice match the rest of the branding. I also like to add some contact information in the footer such as address, customer service email and phone number and perhaps VAT ID or company registration details. Adding these things is very like editing articles in Joomla and is achieved through the two content editor areas Invoice Head and Invoice footer on the Invoices/Emails tab at Virtuemart > Shop > Shop.

Should you want to further customize the invoice area you will need to edit the file(s) at /components/com_virtuemart/views/invoice/tmpl which create various parts of the invoice. The one that creates the main body of the invoice is invoice_items.php. If you're editing these files, you should use a template override in order to retain the changes after any Virtuemart updates. When editing these files and checking your changes, you will also have to delete any PDF invoices which have already been generated in order to force a new one to generate showing your adjustments. These are stored in the Virtuemart temporary files folder which you may have customized but it by default at /vmfiles/invoices

 

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Offer free return shipping to your customers, without spending a cent.

Using PayPal for payments? PayPal has launched Refund Returns, a new service that refunds customers the return delivery costs on eligible online purchases. The service is said to be a response to concerns that return shipping costs are discouraging over half of online shoppers from making repeat purchases. The service is free for both customers and online shops & you don't need to change your returns policy.

Example Banner for PayPal's Refund Returns scheme

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Eport Ireland relaunch sees a 44% increase in sales in the first month alone.

TL;DR Eport Ireland relaunch results in a 25% year-on-year increase in traffic and a 44% increase in sales in the first month alone.

Eport Ireland retail products across a series of categories including fitness, electronics, clothing, jewellery and crafts. Dermot from Eport Ireland initially approached us with a server error that prevented correct operation of his online shop. We advised this error was caused when the hosting company correctly upgraded their servers but the online shop Eport was running used a deprecated, unsupported version of the Joomla content management system (Joomla 1.5). We hot fixed the error, returning the Joomla system to working order in the short term and also begun work on a long term solution migrating to the latest Joomla version (Joomla 3.4).

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Google soon to prefer mobile responsive websites

How far we've come. The first call was placed on a handheld mobile phone in 1973. The prototype device used was capable of less than 30 minutes of battery life and took 10 hours to re-charge. Today, I have half-a-dozen email accounts, three browsers and countless apps on my phone accessing data almost anywhere, anytime I want.

Mobile responsiveness is soon to become one of Googles Ranking FactorsUsers are accessing your company website via their mobile devices now more than ever. Ireland has signifiant mobile broadband uptake, with the most recent figures from ComReg indicating mobile broadband accounting for 34.5% of all broadband subscriptions (p83, ComReg Annual Report, 2012) which is typically higher than what we see from clients in other jurisdictions. You can check your users use of mobile via Google Analytics reports, see Audience > Mobile > Devices. Set the timescale to about 12 months to see the uptake over time.

A recent official post from Google explicitly states that they are experimenting with responsive indicators to better their ranking algorithm:

"We are also experimenting with using the mobile-friendly criteria as a ranking signal." - Official Google Blog

Fortunately, Google have provided a Mobile-Friendly Test where you can easily see if your site is up to scratch, and maybe you'd like to check your competitors sites too.

  • Avoid Flash and other technologies not common on mobile devices
  • Use text that is readable without zooming
  • Resizes content (i.e. responds) to accessing screen size
  • Spaces links far enough part that the correct one can be easily tapped
  • Implement a responsive template on Joomla or Wordpress or other CMS

If your site doesn't pass the Mobile-Friendly Test from Google, there's no need to panic - Google have not yet added these criteria to their ranking algorithm. However it's certainly something you need to plan for and implement sooner rather than later. It can be a significant project, often involving redesign or rebuild. Luckily for you, we've been making sites responsive for our customers and retaining their existing rankings throughout the process since responsive design first became popular in early 2012. Get in touch through our footer and we'll assess your responsiveness free of charge and without obligation.

 

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