Saturday, 24 October 2015

Phishing emails–8 things to look out for

A couple of weeks ago I had an email purporting to be from Apple telling me my ID needed to be confirmed and wouldn’t work until I responded.  I went straight to the app store, logged in and downloaded an app which required my login and it worked perfectly.

Had I responded to the email which looked totally authentic someone out there would have been able to hijack my Apple account.  This was a phishing email and luckily I was suspicious – I always am.  But it might have caught someone else.

With the Talk-Talk hacking affecting so many current and (probably) former customers this is a good time to brush up on your knowledge of phishing emails – what they are and what to look out for.

Phishing is used by fraudsters to try and get confidential information out of you.  Emails can look entirely authentic from businesses you may expect to hear from regularly.  There are those with grammatical and spelling mistakes and email addresses you don’t recognise that are reasonably easy to spot, but in general they’re becoming more and more sophisticated.

My first rule of emails is to NEVER click on a link or reply unless you’re absolutely certain that it’s genuine.  But how to you tell?

So here’s what to look out for.

1.  Bad grammar and spelling mistakes.  Even the biggest companies paying huge amounts of money to highly qualified copywriters make mistakes occasionally, but sometimes there are obvious errors which should make you stop and think.  They frequently contain capital letters and numbers where they shouldn’t, and spelling and errors which look as if they’ve been written by someone whose first language isn’t English.

2.  The ‘to’ field in the email header is blank.  This could indicate that the email doesn’t come from someone who knows you and deals with you regularly.

3.  Be very suspicious of any email asking for personal information such as your pin number or account password.  No reputable company will ever do this and you should NEVER give this information out online.

4.  Fraudsters are unlikely to know your real name.  Be suspicious if the email from a supposedly reputable business who you do business with already doesn’t contain your proper name. 

5.  Phishing emails frequently have an urgent call to action.  They want you to act without thinking, to click without thinking. ‘Your account has been compromised! You need to take action immediately, click here to verify your account’ is a good one.  Think before clicking, always.

6.  Many emails are read on smartphones, so the ‘hover over the ‘From’ area to see if the email sender looks authentic’ tip for identifying phishing emails a few years ago doesn’t work on smartphones.  But if you’re on your pc or laptop obviously you can see who the sender is immediately, and if it doesn’t look right or there’s something funny about the sender’s email address close your browser and type in the proper URL.

7.  Don’t open email attachments or click on email links unless you’re absolutely certain you know who they are from.  These can contain viruses.

8.  It’s this simple.  If you have any doubts at all, don’t click.

Don’t assume that an email that looks authentic, is.  Check carefully before responding.

Fraudsters sending phishing emails are becoming more and more clever.  The most important thing is to not click on anything you have doubts about.  Go the the website independently, login and make sure that everything is normal.  Then report the email as spam and delete it.

Monday, 21 September 2015

Microsoft Surface Pro 3–How to turn a tablet into a Windows lightweight laptop, and accessorise it for less.

Microsoft Surface Pro 3Having travelled thousands of miles over the past few years with a laptop which, although it worked brilliantly, weighed a ton, I decided to look into other options, and of course there are hundreds, from a MacBook to Lenovo, Asus, Toshiba, Dell etc.

I’m very difficult when it comes to tech.  I want something light with a decent speed and memory.  I want a full size keyboard with Print Screen available and keys that are good for fast typing.  And I want a mouse.  No, not a trackpad, a real movable adaptable mouse.  Trackpads and I don’t get along.

I have Apple with my iPad and iPhone and didn’t really want to move completely, as I like to know what’s going on with Windows, so when I spotted the Microsoft Surface Pro 3 in PC World I shimmied over to it and, after some research back home, decided I would give it a go.  And that’s what I’m writing on today.

This was helped by a 25% off offer from a supplier on Amazon, as I definitely wasn’t going to pay the hefty price at most stores for something which didn’t even include a keyboard (!), and that with the suggested attachable keyboard and my minimum requirement of i5 Intel, 4GB ram would be way over my budget.
Teknet lightweight keyboard and mouse

I initially ordered the Type Cover which is supposed to go with the Surface Pro 3 
but which
I rejected as it doesn’t have the Print Screen function, has a track pad (although you can use a nano mouse) and doesn’t protect the back of the Surface Pro which is also a stand.  As I said, I’m fussy.

After too much time to quantify searching for a lightweight keyboard and mouse combo – UK version – with a nano USB I found this Teknet keyboard and mouse which I’m using now, extremely light, very inexpensive and easy to use. 

Be very careful when looking for keyboards that you get the UK or US version you want.  This has a little front stand and fits perfectly in front of the Surface Pro.  Ok so it doesn’t attach?  So what? And it’s about 20% of the price of the made to measure Type Cover which is a huge saving.
Moko Stand Cover for Microsoft Surface Pro 3
Finally I invested in a MoKo stand cover, which I also have for my iPad and which protects front and back, and to carry everything a superbly lightweight Belkin 14” laptop sleeve which had to be a little bigger to take the keyboard as well.
Belkin 14 inch light laptop sleeve and pocket

Notes about the Surface Pro 3 – it has one 3.0 USB port, however it also has another, which can be used for charging your phone, on the charging block.

It also comes with a pen, which I haven’t worked out fully yet – more about that later probably.

Saturday, 19 September 2015

10 Tips and tricks for iOS 9

Apple iOS 9Having updated my iPhone and iPad to iOS9 here are the tips and tricks I’ve discovered in the last day or so.  Some obvious, some not so, some very annoying because they’re not available yet, or not available on any specific device….

Also some of the widely written about features of iOS 9 don’t appear to have made it yet either out of Beta, or to the UK.  So I have only included those where I have accurate information or have tried them out.

1.  The new News icon.
If you live in the UK you won’t have this yet – hopefully in the future.  It’s been announced on all the ‘New in iOS9 posts’ so it’s frustrating to realise you don’t have it.

You can get this right now if you change your region in Settings to the USA and at least see how it functions.  Or you can wait.  Not having analysed properly the effect changing your region would have on everything else I had a quick look and then switched back.  Come along Apple…… we want this too.

2.  Lower case keyboard
You may have noticed that your keyboard is now all lowercase by default.  Personally I didn’t want this change and so changed back by going to Settings<General<Accessibility<Keyboard and toggling off ‘Show Lower Case Keys’.

3.  Apple Maps
Will now give you public transport information provided you’re in a major city such as London or Chicago and note that for the UK this is only for London.

4.  Spotlight Search
The Spotlight Search field is accessible by swiping down from anywhere on your home screen (or any home screen).  Speak to it or type in it and find everything relevant from music to apps and email messages.

You can change the suggestions you get from Spotlight Search by going to Settings<General<Spotlight Search and toggling on or off what you don’t want to be suggested.  Remember that if you do stop Stoplight Search from accessing everything that goes on on your device you won’t get as many ‘intelligent’ responses. 

Read this from MacWorld – iOS 9 makes Siri more proactive.

5.  View a website’s desktop version easily from the mobile site share icon
If you don’t want to use a website’s mobile version but want to see the full desktop site on your iPhone or iPad just click on the Share icon within the mobile site view and click on ‘Request Desktop Version’.

6.  Notes has had a major overhaul
Now you can add photos to Notes, or use your finger to sketch, tick an item, or write a new note.  You can also choose which type of stylus you use, and there’s a ruler to guide you.  On an iPhone this is a little tricky although being able to tick off shopping lists with your finger is a good add-on.

Another way to manage shopping or to-do lists, that you don’t want to delete as you may use them regularly, is to highlight the whole list – hold down your finger over the note until you see ‘Select All’.  You should see a plus sign in the right hand corner.  Click on this and then on the ‘tick-within-a-circle’ on the line of icons which will appear.  A circle will appear beside each of your items which you can tick and un-tick at will using your finger.

7.  The ability to block adsWith iOS 9 you can now install an ad blocker app and block most (but not all) of the pesky and unwanted ads that appear everywhere.  The most popular paid ad blocker ‘Peace’ has been withdrawn from the app store after just launching and thousands of downloads because of ‘conflict of interest’.

I’ve downloaded ‘Crystal’ and time will tell how successful it is but already on most sites I’m seeing fewer ads and general download is quicker.

8.   Low Power Mode
When you get down to 20% or less of your battery life a message will pop up which will offer you Low Power Mode – to eek out as much life from you phone as possible. 

My advice as always is to carry a mini portable charger and a short charging cable around with you so you don’t reach this stage……

9.  Mail Update - Send attachments and store received attachments in iCloud Drive -  Hold your finger down on the screen when replying to an email and scroll across the bar that will appear to add attachments – you can then include any attachment you have stored in iCloud Drive, Dropbox or any other location.

You can also save any attachment into iCloud Drive by holding your finger on it until the option bar appears, and clicking on ‘Save Attachment’.  You will then have the option to move it into iCloud Drive.

To make iCloud Drive instantly accessible you can install it as an icon in your home screen by going to Settings>iCloud Drive and toggling the Show on Home Screen switch to on.

Mail Update 2 - Send as many photos as you want

You’re no longer limited to five photos attached to Mail – you can send as many as you want……..

Wednesday, 18 March 2015

The Top Ten Rules of Product Page Usability
Getting a visitor or returning customer to click on that 'Buy Now’ button can be very difficult, with a lot of pitfalls along the way.  Conversion is without a doubt the most important factor of e-commerce and getting your product page web usability right is half of the battle.

A visitor will arrive at your website because they’re looking for something but just how simple do you make it for them to find it, and then once they reach the exact page which holds all the information for the product they’re seeking how easy and inviting do you make it for them to buy?

There are so many e-commerce sites out there competing for your slice of the market, give yourself the best chance of success by following these rules.
1.  Image
I’ve written about this here also as its the image that draws the customer in, and is the most important element of your product page, but in essence your images need to be very clear, have a large sized zoom facility so that detailed close-ups are available, and thumbnails for alternative views. 

If you're offering a product that would benefit from a model shot, or a video then include those as well if at all possible, plus various detailed stills shots. 

2.  Product Name

Should be at the top with clear wording, making it easy for people to search for specific products and arrive at the right place quickly

3.   Price
Immediately below the product name or over to the right – must be instantly visible.

4.   Make your descriptions clear and succinct.
Imagine that it’s you who are buying something, what would you want to know?  If you need to include a lot of information consider bullet points or tabs and don’t make visitors scroll a long distance down the page, losing sight of the image.  As much information as is necessary should be immediately available without any scrolling and pictures sell more effectively than words.

5.   Delivery
Information should be obviously accessible on each product page

6.   Size Availability

Be totally transparent about what’s available and when.  Don’t offer all sizes if some are out of stock. Some websites tell you how many they have left of each item.  When the numbers go down they create a 'need' to buy now.

7.  Ratings and Reviews
If you offer customer ratings and reviews put these in a prominent place – many retailers are afraid of showing these without realising the overall benefits of customer ratings in improving both trust and conversion rates.

8.  Social Sharing Buttons

Put these where they are obvious – you want your visitors to share the products they like with their friends.  It won’t happen if they’re hard to find.

9.  Cross-Sells
Include on every page.  Yes it’s extra work for you, but cross-selling will generate further sales.

10.  Add to Bag Button
Your Add to Bag button should stand out, either by choice of colour or by making it slightly oversized.

Don't allow your web designer to get clever, or think 'I want to do something really really different on my website'.  The basics of product page conversion are to make it as simple for the user as possible, they want to browse, arrive at the page offering what they're looking for, look, read, click buy, input details, and leave.  Fast.

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Wednesday, 11 March 2015

Responsive vs Adaptive Web Design Made Simple home page on PC
There are a lot of buzzwords around when it comes to web design, which can be confusing for the retailer/service provider who wants a website that works on any device.  Two of the most used right now are responsive and adaptive web design and it’s important to understand the difference, before you get baffled and befuddled and start shelling out cash for something you don’t need.

We’re all aware that smartphones and tablets have overtaken pcs and laptops when it comes to using the web and how the user utilises the web is now the single most important factor when it comes to web design. Users now expect seamless and clear navigation and usability whatever device they choose.  Netaporter Home Page on Iphone Responsive Web Design

The point of both responsive and adaptive web design is that the user is able easily to browse a website on any device no matter the size or type.  Responsive design does this fluidly and automatically, and adaptive design specifically targets each device.

At the forefront of any website designer’s thoughts when creating a new website should be the question ‘what is a visitor going to want to do on this website?’ and then ‘and how can I make it really really easy for them?’.  Most web visitors don’t want to have to think, let alone struggle, to find what they’re looking for – if they do, they leave.

Responsive web design is about a design that allows websites to adapt to whatever device is being used.  There is no individual experience or website for iPhone, tablet or laptop.  Just one.  The design is flexible, it works in portrait or landscape and on any sized screen. 

For example, whereas on a laptop a website may display in three columns, on your smartphone, with responsive design you may have a single column and scroll down or swipe across to see more.  Images will automatically resize.

American AirlinesAdaptive web design uses a set of different pre-designed layouts depending on which device is being used.  The main reason for choosing adaptive web design with its increased up-front costs, is that some types of business expect different interaction from their users depending on which device is being used as well as the user demographic. 

A good example which demonstrates this is  the American Airlines website, using a totally different layout for desktop and smartphone, and where most people will use the site by browsing and booking a flight using a laptop or pc, and will want other quick options such as check in on their smartphones.  American Airlines on Smartphone

The options therefore that are displayed per layout/device will be designed to reflect the way that a website is used on a certain type of device by the majority of users.

For websites where most people will shop, or browse, (in other words carry out the same activities) whichever device they are using, then adaptive web design isn’t necessary.  But for websites where analysis shows there is different user activity and requirement depending on the device then adaptive web design may well deliver benefits over and above responsive design.

The main question is ‘do your website users use your website in a different way depending on which device they’re on?’  If the answer is yes, then consider adaptive web design.  The user comes first in every way, every time.

Friday, 27 February 2015

The Night Light App You Won't Want to Travel Without

A night light app is something very few of us think about until we need it, and it's likely to be most useful whilst travelling.  This is one I suggest that you download onto your iPhone and/or iPad in readiness for your new trip away, or for kids who don't want to sleep in the dark and don't want to sleep with the door open.  And it's free.

Having just spent some time in New York in a hotel with a brightly lit bathroom but liking just enough light to see at night time (and not wanting to leave the bathroom door open) I discovered this app.  And it's brilliant (excuse the pun).  You can set the night light app to a colour if you want to, I left it white, plugged my iPad in, activated the light and left it on all night.

Here's the link for the app.  I now have it on both my phone and iPad.  It doesn't take up a lot of space and, as I said, it's free.

Monday, 16 February 2015

Website Design – Five Elements you Never Want to Find on an e-Commerce Website

You would expect that by now the basics of website design should be pretty much written in stone.  e-commerce websites are there for one purpose only – to persuade people to buy from them.

There’s also no reason why a small retailer shouldn’t succeed online, both locally and globally.  But without the backup of the big boys (large web design agencies, SEO agencies etc) it can be hard to see the wood from the trees.  Some website designers will try and use a small retailer’s lack of knowledge to encourage them to reinvent the wheel with the clever, quirky and sometimes whacky.  Some small retailers will have clear ideas in their head of what they want….not knowing that what they want will hold them back.  The main rules for web design were written long ago and for the main they haven’t changed.

So here are my five elements of website design you never want to find or include on an e-commerce website.  Obviously there are more, but these will do for starters.

Black Background Website
1.    Black or coloured backgrounds – there are, I will admit, fewer and few of these.  However, frequently they’re offered as an option and should be avoided.  The main problem is a visual one, they’re a strain on the eyes, they make reading text much harder.  And although we tend to be tempted by images, rather than words, we still want and need to be able to read them. 

2.    Complicated Navigation – If you want people who arrive on your website to stay there, you’ll make navigation as simple as possible.  Navigation menus need to be short and clear, if necessary divided by sub headings.  If you make it difficult for people to find things they’ll go away.  E-commerce is about clarity and speed, none of us have time to waste, so make it easy for us do what we’ve come to do and leave quickly and you’re more likely to get the sale.

3.    Small text in a flowery font.  Many e-commerce retailers believe that people are going to look at the images rather than read the text, however we still need the detail.  Anything that makes it difficult for us to read the words will shorten the time we’re going to spend on that particular website.  Good website design will incorporate a font that is clear – and Sans Serif is easier to read than a Serif font, and of a size that everyone can read.  Don’t just consider 12.  But try out 14 and even 16 across all devices.  Ask your mum, your brother, your cousin, colleagues and friends which they find the easiest to read.

The easiest to read text is going to sell the most.  It’s as simple as that.
Net-a-Porter Earrings
4.     Images with not enough detail.  A single image won’t do any more, not if you want to compete, and if you’re selling clothes and accessories (and jewellery)  you need to show them back front and side, and how the proportions work on a normal person.  Don’t even try and sell jewellery without a shot on a person, look at what the competition is doing.  They wouldn’t think of it because they know it doesn’t help a sale.  No one is going to spend decent money on a pair of earrings without seeing them on a real person. 

This again is one that seems obvious, but smaller retailers, wanting to cut photography costs, and without much time, quite often take this short cut.  It’s going to get them nowhere.
mobile website design
5.    Mobile should be as easy to use as PC or Laptop.  However good your website design is for PC or laptop if it’s not just as good on mobile  (shartphone or tablet) you will be losing sales. 

Mobile internet usage, including shopping, has overtaken the traditional.  We browse, read, compare prices and buy on whatever device we have nearest, and that’s most often a smartphone or tablet.  It may cost money to ensure that your website design works across all devices, but in the long run it will pay you dividends. 

Make mobile shopping in any way difficult for your visitors and customers and they’ll go somewhere else that doesn’t.

In order to compete online in today’s market you need to use the same basic tools and knowledge that the big contenders have.  In a way this is easier to do if you’re a small retailer, as there’s less necessity to be anything but simple and direct, which is what the web is looking for.  but you have to take time to know what you’re doing, and not rely on a website design agency without doing your own homework first. 

Monday, 9 February 2015

Netgear EX6200 Wifi Range Extender–Product Review–Extend your Wifi Range

Netgear EX6200 Range Extender
Netgear has a name for producing reliable networking products so when I was recommended this wifi range extender by my friendly techie I had no problems in trying it out.

If you’ve had the problem, as I have recently, of improving your wireless signal by going fiber-optic, or even if you have a normal broadband router, there may be areas of your home (or outside your home) where you still want a strong signal but it just doesn’t reach.

I’ve done trial and error with range extenders from Amped Wireless to ASUS but without any doubt the Netgear EX6200 is the best I’ve come across. 

After setting it up which took about 10 minutes – others could have done it more quickly I’m sure – which involved
plugging it in near the router,
finding the signal,
setting up on my laptop,
moving to the right location,
testing and hooking up on iPhone, iPad and Laptop for signal in the areas that I wanted to improve

I haven’t had a second’s downtime or problem since.

The Netgear EX6200 range extender comes at a price, there are far cheaper options and those that are more expensive depending on your requirements. The best place to buy it is Amazon (or and make sure you’re taking delivery into account when you’re comparing prices) but for worry-free continuous wifi from a powerful piece of kit I doubt you’ll be able to improve on the results.

The other element that I like about it is that with it’s modern, sleek black and red design this range extender will look good just about anywhere, and you can use it standing, as I do, or flat. 

Added Specification
Dual Band
5 Ethernet ports for wired connections.

Monday, 26 January 2015

5 SEO Rules for 2015

SEO has changed out of all recognition from a few years ago.  Then it was enough to know the basics of optimising a website and apply these rigorously, operating in a virtual bubble.  Now this is simply not enough, as Google has introduced over and over again new algorithms requiring new knowledge and increased application, plus a never ending need for SEO managers to keep up.

Many of these changes have been for the best, for everyone except those trying to get in through the back door and practise ‘black hat’ SEO.  Those businesses who took short cuts by ‘spinning’ content a million (small exaggeration perhaps) ways, keyword stuffing and using spammy links are still regretting it, and many have practically had to start again from scratch. 

There are still those out there offering ‘content with links’, to ‘write for your website’, and cheap SEO. Avoid all of these like the plague.

Nowadays you really have to know what you’re doing and who’s doing what for you or you can damage your SEO reputation and status on Google, and disappear from sight.  And it can take months to recover.

Basic SEO is still a matter of keyword research and meta data.  That hasn’t changed and is unlikely to.  The aim is always to offer people quick and relevant paths to what they’re searching for which can only be achieved by matching searched for terms with results.  Long tail keywords will continue to be more important, although this is a long term proposition and hard for smaller businesses to incorporate.

Content Marketing is becoming as important a skill as SEO – your content marketing strategy should contain a mix of, for example, blog posts, articles, social media and, hopefully, videos.  Just as SEO is a necessity for any online or multi-channel business so is content marketing, an ability that many companies do not have and need badly. 

Content marketing is a way of connecting directly with the customer and building loyalty which in turn drives referrals.  It is only going to become more important throughout 2015.

Focus on the User at all times.  Relevance, providing an enjoyable experience, making it easy to buy, read, learn are all more important than ever.  To Google and your customer, and therefore to you.

Whilst the technical aspects of SEO and content marketing strategy are important, everything should have the user as the end game.  Every action you take with regards to SEO and content creation should ask a question: ‘will this make life more enjoyable for my customer’?  And go from there.

Mobile optimisation is no longer a luxury.  It’s a necessity.  Mobile websites took over in 2014 as the place people went to search online and yet it’s taken some businesses a while to catch up.  Those who have made it simple and easy to browse and shop on smartphone or laptop are clear winners in the bottom line stakes and those who are lagging behind will continue to lag behind. 

If you’re not fully optimised for mobile search and sales then you’ll be penalised by Google and customers alike.

SEO is becoming more of a team effort, combining keyword research with content marketing strategy and the knowledge needed to avoid Google penalties.  There will no longer be an SEO department and a content creation department.  They will work together as one both in terms of implementation and knowledge base.