I was born in Cork in the 80’s so by the early nineties it was time to head to the city with the lads and start buying clothes to wear to the annual underage disco. At that time Levis were in their heyday, 501 red tabs were the ones to be seen in, and the destination shop in Cork City was, and still is, The Denim Store on Cook Street. When you mention The Denim Store to people of my generation the first reaction is usually `OMG, remember that guy in there, the sales guy`. The Denim Store Guy was a sales person on top of his game.
Most shops you can go in to have a browse around, view the produce and leave at your leisure without talking to a single person. A passive sales environment - in, browse, buy / don't buy and out. Not, in The Denim Store, oh no!. When you walked into this shop you were met with a sales force to be reckoned with. You had to go in there with a fair intention that you wanted to purchase something, as not only did you get what you wanted, but you more than likely came out with something you needed, that you didn't know you needed until you entered the shop. A sales person in the groove!
Websites, up to relatively recently, have been very similar to that passive sales environment I referred to above. Users logon, browse around, contact / don’t contact and leave without dealing with a single person. As a punter, this has been a large part of the success of the internet being able to browse around completely anonymously at your leisure - engage when you want to engage. For website owners however this has been very frustrating as we could only analyse data retrospectively to make decisions, see what the user did during the visit and infer as to how we could make the website better at its job. A big move to solve this was the development of the `Real Time` feature in Google Analytics - this gave you more real time info but always struck me as similar looking through a two-way mirror at your client but not being able to say anything to them. Working with website data like this was quite an inefficient process - build, analyse traffic, tweak, analyse, tweak etc - there was no way for website owners to interact with the users while they were visiting their site. There was no way to become the online Denim Store Guy … until now!
As you browse around the internet this year, one really noticeable development is the prevalence of the online live chat option on every second or third website you visit. This is partly due to the fact that there are so many vendors out there offering solutions, they are so easy to integrate with the technology becoming very reliable. A good online chat solution will notify you when a user enters the website, shows you what the user is looking at and allows you to interact with them via live chat to see if you can offer a helping hand in anyway. Some solutions have developed beyond the instant messaging method to offering a live video chat channel also. These systems offer a range of features including automated welcome messages, trigger pages, ticketing systems if agents are offline etc. They really do add a new level of interactivity to even the simplest of websites.
So, after years of hoping people will like your website and make contact, break out the inner Denim Store Guy in you and make it happen.
Practicing what we Preach ...
Sitting at the dinner table recently I decided to impart some basic table etiquette to my four year old daughter. The conversation went like this :
- Me : come on pet, elbows off table,it's good table manners
- Child : but I can’t work my fork without having my elbows on the table
- Me : you only have a fork in one hand, so take the other one off the table
- Child : now I’m all wobbly
- Me : well then take the other one off and see if your fork works
- Child : [Angry Frustrated Face]
- Me : good girl
- Child : [inquisitive, the penny drops face] … Dad?
- Me :Yes Pet?
- Child - How, come you have your elbows are on the table?
- [opportunity to impart life lesson missed … completely]
Then I began to think of all the people that offer advice throughout life and pondered whether they actually follow that same advice - do they practice or just preach? Does your dentist ever skip a nights tooth brushing or does your personal trainer ever have a sneaky burger?
We have dealt with many clients over the years and sat across the desk from them preaching to them about the importance of blogging and how it would help their online profile. We describe how it will 1) display their interest and knowledge in their business area 2) gain them domain authority 3) generate regularly updated content perfect for their SEO ... and it all makes perfect sense - but we never actually got round to blogging ourselves.
So, welcome to our blog and thanks for reading our first entry. We don't intend this to be a stratospherically enlightened,ground breakingly eloquent piece of online literature, but more a collection of thoughts, observations, how to's, explainers and industry updates that will be of interest to our clients and anyone else who stumbles across it. It will be based mostly on our knowledge, experience and what we come across in our daily online wanderings that may be of interest.
And remember, if you are imparting words of wisdom to a four year old just make sure you have your own shop in order.
You may have noticed recently, possibly when accessing something like a website login page, that a fairly prominent Not Secure warning, or a little lock with an ominous red line through it, is now appearing in the browser's (Chrome and Firefox currently, I'm sure the others will soon follow) address bar. Or possibly one of your website viewers may have emailed you asking why this is appearing on your website. Here's is a quick explainer.
The internet, in it's default state is unsecured, meaning that the communication between your computer and the internet is transferred in plain text (i.e un-encrypted). This makes the channel that transfers the data relatively easy to tap into, and listen to, if one was so inclined. This was regarded as acceptable for websites that only presented information about a topic to a user and no sensitive data was transferred. As the internet developed, particularly with the advent of online payment, there became a need to secure this channel to allow data to be transferred that wasn't susceptible to this intrusion.
The industry solution was to allow website owners purchase and install Digital Certificates (commonly known as SSL Cert however the SSL protocol is now defunct and has been replaced with TLS) to secure the data transfer between a computer and the internet. This allowed us to send personal information, credit card info and other info safe in the knowledge it was secured in transit and only went to its intended recipient. The indication of a secure website has evolved slightly over the years, differing from browser to browser, but generally is identified by https:// at the start if the web address and the presence of a lock in the address bar, sometimes green sometimes not.
With a digital cert installed on a website the browsers can inform the user that a web page is secure, otherwise, it was to be assumed it is not secure, but traditionally this was not communicated explicitly to the user. The browser did inform the user if the website tried to use encryption but there was an issue with the security setup (with this message becoming more and more alarming over time), which was a logical step to try and stop users accessing compromised sites impersonating legitimate websites. Even with these measures in place, these sites are still duping unsuspecting users daily in submitted data to websites they really should not.
With this difference in secure and non secure websites exploiting this knowledge gap, there has been a shift by the big players in the internet project to move towards a situation whereby most, if not all, websites integrate digital certificates, not just websites that process sensitive data. Evidence of this can be seen in the likes of Paypal, removing their support of non encrypted requests to their service, Google building in the use of digital certs in to their ranking algorithm and now this latest update of the main stream web browsers to mark some non-encrypted webpages as Not Secure.
This small tweak in the browser interface will spark many queries from user to website owners and in turn from website owners to developers. The solution that will be offered to website owners, by the developer, will be the purchase and install of a digital certificate to remove this warning. As a result a large number of websites will move to secure status taking another large step towards a more secure internet.