What your website developer needs to know

Potential clients or customers generally expect a business to have a website and when they are looking for a product or service it is likely to be their first port of call.

Not only that, but these days, particularly in the UK, they are likely to be viewing it on a mobile phone or tablet, rather than a laptop or PC.

So, a website needs to be constructed and designed to be responsive (easily viewable) across all these. These days, website developers and designers will almost certainly build a site with this in mind.

Similarly, to be acceptable to browsers such as Google and Firefox, a website needs to be secure, as in https: not http.  Again, developers should know this and will need to buy a SSL (Secure Sockets Layer) certificate from an authorised supplier to make the website safety compliant.  The SSL provides secure communication over a computer network.

You should also clarify who owns the copyright of your website design to prevent any problems later and ensure that a cookie policy as well as a proper privacy statement are included, both legal requirements, especially if you are going to ask people to sign up to get access to information.

It may be worth checking with your developer that these features are part of their service, but the developer will also need input from you to do a decent job.

Before you talk to a developer

If you want a design that stands out rather than looking like those of your competitors it is a good idea to do some preparation work before you talk to the designer/developer. This will help you give them the information they will be looking for when they visit your website.

Firstly, you should have a customer profile – a description of your ideal client, their tastes and preferences, their ages, lifestyle, professional level and so on.

Everything should be written from the website visitor’s point of view, defining their problem first before showing how your business can solve it. Work with a professional content writer if this sounds like too much to do on your own.

What your developer needs from you

Either you, or your marketing/content writer should put together a design brief, which will detail your budget, how many pages the site needs and their titles, whether you will supply pictures (always better than stock pictures), perhaps also including examples of websites that you like (and dislike). You will also need to provide images of your company logo and details of your corporate colours.

Do you want to be able to add to and update the site yourself?  In that case you will need a CMS (Content Management System) and guidance on how to use it.

Website developers will generally expect you to supply the words. They will also want guidance on the pictures, preferably original ones that you own rather than stock pictures.  That way you keep copyright of the information but it also helps you to define what pages will be needed, covering what subject matter. A basic website generally includes home, about us. Services/products, testimonials, blog/news and contact pages.

Remember, the clearer you are about what you want your website to look like and contain the easier it is not only to get comparable quotes but also for the website builder to discuss with you what is possible within your budget and to provide you with something that fits your needs.

Before choosing between developers, look at examples of their work and remember, cheapest is not always best. Once you have chosen the developer and agreed terms it is always best to get these details agreed and confirmed in writing.

The first decision is whether you intend to update your website yourself, write and load your own blogs or products.  If so, you will need the website to be built with a CMS (Content management system).  Does the developer provide either an instruction document or training to help you get familiar with it?

Most developers will offer some sort of support or aftercare package, which includes hosting, taking care of security updates, perhaps ongoing SEO work and may also include adding new content or changing existing words.  They will charge a monthly fee for this.  You need to know what services are included and whether there are options, such as a basic package (eg hosting and security) and a higher level package.  You also need assurance that if your developer is going to be adding content for you they will do so promptly.

Other questions to ask

Copyright – some website owners have found when they want to move to a new developer or host that the original developer is blocking them, claiming that they own the copyright to your website.  You must clarify this when negotiating the initial contract.

Cookie policy, these days legally websites must contain information about whether they use “cookies” which are pieces of code to gather information about visitor activity and must offer an option to opt out. Make sure you discuss this with your developer.


Online security is a must for businesses

Businesses should be much more aware of online security after last month’s WannaCry ransomware cyber-attack attacked 200,000 computers in 150 countries, causing chaos for the UK’s NHS.

So many businesses these days rely on their IT systems for record keeping and for communications that it makes sense to do everything possible to keep them both secure and running. Ransomware attacks can take over a machine and lock the owner out until they pay a fee to the hacker.

It is estimated that such incidents have increased by 50% in the last 12 months.

The first thing to do is to ensure that the operating system is up to date, and that any security patches issued by the provider are installed promptly.

Also make sure to protect the system with a reputable anti-virus protection programme.

Remember that as Microsoft rolls out new operating systems, sooner or later it will withdraw support for older ones. This was part of the problem with the NHS meltdown, where some of its system was still using Windows XP, long after Microsoft withdrew support.

The second thing to do is to ensure that all data crucial to the business’ operation is backed up elsewhere, either in the cloud or on an external hard drive, preferably both.

Thirdly, all staff should be trained to be on the alert for suspicious e-mails and above all to never click on any links they contain.  Often such emails will appear to come from a reputable organisation, such as HMRC.

If in doubt about a link, hover the mouse over the link and the complete URL will pop up.  That is often a good indication that it is suspicious. Further checks could be done by either calling the sender or checking its website via a search engine not via any links in an email.

Remote monitoring by your IT support company is another option.  We offer remote monitoring and back-up options via AVG.  Better to be safe than sorry when your livelihood is at stake.


Updated Data protection regulations coming into force

From 25 May 2018 GDPR (General Data Protection Regulations) will be in force throughout the EU and the UK Government has confirmed that it will comply regardless of the decision to leave the EU.

The GDPR is designed to improve consistency in protecting and strengthening consumers’ rights over their personal data, although work is continuing on refining the regulations.

Many organisations collect and keep personal information for a range of legitimate purposes, from use in targeted business marketing, to records kept by organisations providing health and other services and also for research.

But rarely a week passes without news of yet another organisation’s customer database being invaded or “hacked”.

Any business or organisation that collects information from people who either work for or use its services has a duty to ensure it is stored securely and safely.

When the new regulations come into force both businesses and those who process digital records for them will now be accountable. They will have to document decisions that are made about processing the data that has been collected. This means showing that the data has been lawfully collected for specified and legitimate purposes, and that the details of what has been collected are specific and limited to those purposes.

Crucially the information must be protected and held securely and must be stored for no longer than required.

Any organisation or business that keeps lists containing people’s personal data will need to look at their data collection, storage and processing systems to be ready in time for the new regulations.  They must ensure they have proper permissions for collecting and holding personal information and can verify this. Silence or pre-ticked boxes are not proper consent.

They must also give individuals a right of access to and correction of the information being held, the right to its removal and to restricting it and the right to object. So, they will need to put in place acceptable governance to ensure all these rights are acted on, on request and in a timely manner.

Opt-outs from the regulations, known as derogation, will be allowed only in some situations – such as for national security reasons.