We all need more visits to our websites…..

It’s true isn’t it – we all need more visits to our website because more visits = more opportunities which equate to more inquiries which lead to more sales – right?

Wrong
Before looking to bring in more visitors to your website, take a long, hard look at your website, if it’s not generating inquiries for you today, bringing in more visitors does not mean that they’ll increase tomorrow, they’ll just do what every other visitor does.

You need to….

  • …make sure that your content focuses on your visitors – that’s less “me” and more “you”
  • …stop talking about the things you do – you should be talking about the benefits a client will gain from engaging with you (tip – it’s the latter that people use when making their buying decisions)
  • …make sure your website is easy to navigate
  • …ensure that your site is easy to read – copy and paste key content in to read-able.com to make sure that the average reading age is no higher than 13
  • …have clear calls-to-action on every page so that visitors know what is expected of them. “Buy Now” and “Browse for More” work really well on e-commerce sites whilst “Call“, “Email“, Subscribe Now” work for more serviced focused businesses.
  • …make sure that your pages open quickly – you only have about 3 seconds to capture a visitors interest so you have to be on the ball. Google Analytics and Pingdom are valuable tools to help assess the speed of your site.
  • …make good use of your USP – that special magic that you do that sets you apart from your competition?

If you’ve nailed all of the above – then it’s time to start looking for more web traffic and I’ll be looking at this in a later post although you can get ahead of the game by exploring my website or attending one of my workshops –

RIP HTC One

HTC One M7About 3 weeks ago my phone, an 18 month old HTC One, just died. There were no hints, no clues it just died. The battery was nearly full, I’d not added any new apps or done anything different or unusual, it had just chosen that particular time to shuffle off this mortal coil.

I swore a little and went to Google for help and tried various arcane combinations of button presses but the phone was totally and irretrievably dead, deceased, it was no more, it was an ex-phone.

I called my mobile phone company to ”explore my options”. I knew it was out of 12 month warranty and I couldn’t use “un-merchantable quality” (which I have used for a variety of out of warranty items in the past) because I’d dropped the phone a couple of times and it was showing its age.

I was informed that I was eligible for an “early upgrade”. I got a little excited and asked what that meant. It meant that I could actually buy myself out of the remaining 6 months of my contract for ” just £240″, pay “just £20” for a new phone and another £2 per month on my, now new, 24 month contract. A quick calculation showed that I’d pay more than £300 more over the life of the contract.

So, I decided t go for Plan B but I didn’t have a Plan B so turned to eBay instead.

My thoughts were to find a cheaper phone and then go back to my carrier at the end of my contract and go for a free upgrade, as we all do when contract renewal comes around..

I quickly hit a speed bump – all the phones that did what I needed them too do cost pretty close to the £300 so there wasn’t anything to gain.

Blackview CrownHowever, I did spot a lot of relatively inexpensive non-branded phones from Chinese manufacturers. There were the direct iPhone clones, Samsung Galaxy clones and even phones from a brand called HDC – guess what they did? I steered away from these and focused on phones that had a spec that matched my needs and ended up paying just over £100 for a Blackview Crown.

And it’s worked out pretty well. It has no major drawbacks or performance issues. Battery life is shorter than I am used to but I have a car and portable charger so the reality is that its not an issue. Its not 4G, but my HTC wasn’t either. The screen isn’t as good as the HTC, if you look at the specs, but its good enough in the real world and that’s what counts.

It will do until my contract is up for renewal which is when I’ll probably switch back to a more recognised brand at zero cost. The big benefit to me is that I’ll be able to choose the time that I upgrade which means that I can wait until the 2015 models are released and take my pick from one of those.

If you are really interested, here’s a detailed comparison here is a side by side comparison table.
Blackview Crown HTC One M7 Comments
NFC No Yes Did not use
4G No No
Battery Life Lasts less than a day Last a day
Camera 13Mp 4Mp More pixels does not equate to better, but it’s good enough
Screen Size 5″ 4.7″
Resolution 1280 x 720 1920 x 1080
Screen Glass Toughened Gorilla Glass I just have to make sure I don’t drop it
Touch sensitivity OK Really good
Looks Looks average Looks good
Peripheral availability Very Poor Pretty Good
RAM 2Gb 2Gb
Storage 16Gb 32GB
Micro SD Yes – to 64Gb No
Android Version Stock 4.4 4.4 with HTC Sense It’s unlikely that the Crown will be upgraded to the latest version of Android
Processor ARM Cortex A7 1.7Ghz MT6592 Quad Core 1.7Ghz Krait 300 It’s not as good as the HTC but in the real world it’s more than fast enough
Sim Dual Sim, unlocked Single Sim, locked
Sound Average Excellent speakers
Headphones Realy poor Beats – Excellent
Weight 158gms 143gms
Feel OK Feels solid and well put together

Responsive Design – what is it and what’s all the fuss about.

When the internet was quite new, we were working on screens of 800×600 resolution – thats 800 tiny dots [pixels] wide and 600 highcomputer monitors. As screen technology improved we moved to 1024 x 768 and then wide screen monitors began to take over.

Web developers faced a bewildering range of screens and no solution was ideal.

If they designed sites for smaller screens then websites that were viewed on wide screen monitors had large expanses of empty space, if they focussed development on the wider screens then small screen users were left with two options, scoll across the page horizntally or go to a different site. The majority voted with a click and chose to go elsewhere..

Sony Ericson P990iSmartPhones are going through a similar metamorphosis. screens are getting larger and resolution is getting higher which means content [words and pictures] has a tendency to look smaller. One of my early Smartphones, a Sony P990 had a screen that was 2.7″ with a resolution of 320×240 whilst my current phone, an HTC One has a screen that’s 4.7″ across with a resolution of 1080 x 1920, the same as a full HD TV in other words.

This means that desktop sites designed for widescreen monitors do “fit” on the screen but the text is so tiny in most cases as to be unreadable. Yes, i know that I can use my fingers to zoom in and zoom out, but like many people, I find that’s just too much of a faff and websites that don’t make it easy for me to read and navigate simply get ignored.

So, how do you go about making sure that your website isn’t ignored by mobile users? 

There are three options, although one of them isn’t really an option, it’s simply to turn a blind eye to the problem and ignore everyone that uses a phone. They won’t like that, and will probably ignore you and Google will probably ignore you too – and neither of those are good for business.

Mobile version of www.enterprise-oms.co.ukThe second option is to have a mobile version of your website developed and hosted at http://m.yourwebsite.co.uk. This is not too expensive to achieve and can easily and quickly overcome many of the obstacles. www.dudamobile.com will even get you on your way for nothing, nada, zero. It took seconds to produce the simple version of this very site and, with a little more time spent on editing, it would become extremely user friendly and usable.

However, I have opted for the thrid, and for the moment, the best option, using something called Responsive Design.

website using responsive designSimply put, Responsive Design is built in to my site, it’s not a stand-alone mobile only version which makes it suitable for tablets as well as phones. Responsive Design is able to assess the resolution and size of the screen being used to access this website and automatically re-size the site to make the navigation easy and ensure that the content is easy to read.

You can see the result of one of the pages to the left. A word of caution though, it does mean that your website will have to be completely rebuilt and it could add to the cost so it might only be an option when you are ready to revamp your site.

However, don’t leave it too long. You’ll get left behind and your clients may very well choose to vote with their fingers so give me a call on 01793 238020 or email andy@enterprise-oms.co.uk if you want some help meeting this challenge.

Chromebook Diaries – In the real world.

Earlier this year I wrote about Google Chromebooks, as a possible replacement for a Windows Laptop because I was looking to replace my 3 year old Toshiba Satellite that was getting older and slower and reaching the end of its useful life.

I was wary of leaving the comfort and familiarity of Windows behind, having spent a lot of my working life using various releases of Windows and numerous versions of Office and so I dithered. I loved the concept but was unsure how it would integrate with my daily workload of Word documents, Excel spreadsheets, PowerPoints, email and web browsing, I even found a Windows laptop that was almost identical in size to a Chromebook, the Toshiba NB10.

3 laptop computers

On the left is my 5.6lb/2.54kg Toshiba Satellite, in the middle is the 3.3lbs/1.3kg Toshiba NB10 and on the right is the 2.9lbs/1.3kg Dell Chromebook 11. The Toshiba that I was looking to replace had a 15.6″ screen whilst the other two have 11.6″ screens although the resolution is identical at 1366 x 768 so I’d actually see the same amount of information – just reduced in size.

In an earlier post you can see that I finally made a decision, based on much research,and chose a Dell Chromebook.

What’s to like
It’s very compact and lightweight, takes 7 seconds to boot from scratch and wakes from sleep almost immediately.

Battery life is exceptional, I’ve had more than 8 hours from a single charge – which means that I no longer have to carry a heavy power supply, further reducing the weight and clutter that I tend to carry with me.

The screen is a great compromise between portability and easy working and is good enough for day to day productivity and watching catch-up TV or films in downtime. Sound through the built in speakers is surprisingly loud and good quality and the keyboard is great.

Google apps provides a word processor, spreadsheet and presentation tool to replace Microsoft Office and they’re pretty good. However, with an internet connection you can use Office 365, a cut down version of MS Office that runs in the cloud. If you still want to use Office on a desktop or Windows/Mac laptop then a monthly £9.99 subscription to Office 365 gives you 5 user licenses, unlimited web access AND 1Tb of cloud storage which is a perfect solution for smaller businesses and even home users.

Huawei MiFi

Yes, the Chromebook works best with an internet connection but there have been remarkably few times in the past 12 months where I’ve worked anywhere where there hasn’t been a Wi-Fi service or 3G/4G availability and that’s where my personal Wi-Fi hotspot comes in to play. I have a Huawei E5776 Mi-Fi device that connects to 4 and 3G networks and shares the connection with up to 5 devices. Problem solved.

HDMI to VGA Adapter

I had to buy an HDMI to VGA adapter, my USB hub worked fine, my USB memory sticks worked as designed and my Kensington USB PowerPoint slide changer worked perfectly. I really don’t know why I worried so much,

I can even connect it to one of my monitors and use a wireless keyboard and mouse if I want to use it in my office. Bluetooth 4.0 provides connectivity to a wide range of Bluetooth accessories, including headsets, speakers and phones.

What’s not to like
Not much really – email handling is not as efficient as I had grown used to. There’s no Outlook type application where I can bring email from 3 accounts into one place, which I thought was going to pose a problem but all of my email accounts offer webmail, and that actually works far better that I thought it would, I just have to look in 3 tabs rather than one application so it’s more of an inconvenience rather than a real obstacle.

So, there you are, a lightweight, compact, powerful laptop that’s great for business computing on the move and at a desk and all for around £200.00

Stuff you ought to be aware of.
Of course, the above only relates to the way that I work, and for me a Chromebook is working out well. However, we all work in different ways so it’s important to point out some of the other things about Chromebooks when compared to Windows and Mac laptops.

  • Tiny Hard Drives, in these days of 1Tb hard drives, the 16Gb or 32Gb hard drive in a Chromebook may be an issue. Of course, you can use USB keys, external hard-drives and Cloud storage to mitigate this to a degree but, if storage is necessary, and you don’t want to use external hard-drives or the cloud then I recommend that you look elsewhere.
  • Optical drives, there isn’t one but this isn’t unique to Chromebooks. Manufacturers are dropping optical drives in Macs and Windows machines to lower prices, reduce size and keep weight down and there are always external USB CD/DVD drives that you can use.
  • Business Apps. Unless your business apps are available on-line you won’t be able to use Sage or QuickBooks or heavy weight design apps such as AutoCAD and Adobe Photoshop.
  • Encryption. For those who are more security focused, encryption might be a problem although your connection to cloud storage will be encrypted and because minimal data is normally stored on Chromebooks this may be less of an issue than it seems.
  • USB devices, you should check that your USB devices such as Sat Navs, audio adaptors etc. work.
  • Big Brother. And finally, if you believe that Google is the modern day incarnation of Big Brother, you have to be happy that it will know a lot more about your work than you might like it to.

So, Chromebooks may not be for everybody but then, neither is Windows/Mac/Linux. The key to success, as with all computing, is to understand your needs and make your selection based on those rather than simply rushing to adopt the latest gadget or fad.

That’s the way that I approached this and it looks as if it’s paid off, for me anyway.

Chromebook Diaries – the tech spec

Dell Chromebook 11

 

OK, so I’ve had my Dell Chromebook 11 for just over a week and am still exploring its capabilities but I think that it’s time to talk specifications.

Physically, it’s a very compact, 24.6 mm x 294.64 mm x 200.7 mm which is 0.97″ x 11.6″ by 7.9″ in old money and tips the scales at 1.3kg – aka 2.9 lbs.

The screen is a perfectly usable 11.6″ with a resolution of 1366 x 768 and there’s an HDMI out with 1080p hi-def resolution. I’ve not used it in bright sunlight but I never used my Toshiba outside either and inside, it’s as bright as it needs to be.

There’s a 1.4 GHz Intel U2955 dual core processor with a 2Mb cache, that’s a Celeron if you like names. Memory wise there’s 4Gb RAM to keep things moving along and a 16Gd solid state drive, SSD. from what I’ve read, it’s like a PC, the more RAM the better the performance and I’ve had 20 tabs open with no slowdown.

To keep things simple there’s no network port but Wi-Fi, 802.11 a/b/g/n so you’ll be able to get on-line wherever there’s a wi-fi network. Bluetooth 4.0 completes the networking so that you can connect to your portable speakers or headset and there’s a webcam, microphone and a decent pair of speakers which is great for Google Hangouts users – not looked to see whether it works with Skype yet.

There’s a headphone and microphone socket, SD card slot to expand the memory or read your camera pics and 2 x USB 3.0 ports.

The battery is rated at 51Whr which is good for between 7 and 9 hours depending on how you use it.

All in all, the specification is ideal for a lightweight, speedy, compact laptop that’s great when working away from the office.

Of course, after winning rave reviews and pretty much selling out the technology bandwagon rolls on and Dell are to going release a new Chromebook with an i3 processor but I’m not upset by that, this one is just fine.

Chromebook Diaries – delivering presentations

POwerpint running in a web browserOne of my many roles away from the office is delivering presentations, whether it’s one-to-few or one-to-many and laptop and projector are key tools along with MS PowerPoint so I wondered how I would get on with a Chromebook?

I’ve found that there are MS Word, MS Excel and MS PowerPoint Apps in the Chrome Store which is here you can access and download Apps for Chromebooks so I’ve downloaded them all. I’ve also learned that my Microsoft Office 365 Cloud Storage has been upgraded to 1Tb at no extra cost which means that I can upload all of my presentations to the Cloud and not worry about running out of storage.

So, back on topic, Chromebooks and presentations. I powered up my trusty Toshiba projector, plugged a HDMI to VGA adapter in to my Chromebook and connected the VGA cable from projector to adapter and almost instantly my Chromebook desktop was extended, just like working with 2 monitors.

Kensington PowerPoint slide changerI plugged in the USB dongle for my Kensington remote slide changer and then accessed the screen settings and selected “Mirror” so that each display [Chromebook screen and projector] were displaying the same image.

Next, I clicked on the PowerPoint Chrome App and waited for a mere couple of seconds before PowerPoint opened and asked which presentation I wanted to run.Because I use a number of videos in my presentations I opened one that I knew included a video.

I then clicked the “Start Slide Show” option and the presentation appeared, just as it does from my trusty Windows laptop. Fantastic.

I click “forward” to move on to the next slide and the slides changed. I clicked through to a slide with a video, the video played and sound worked perfectly.

So, I am now confident that I can run PowerPoint presentations from my Chromebook, through a projector, change the slides as I walk around and let videos play in pretty much the same way that I can with my old Toshiba Windows laptop.

Fantastic!

Chromebook Diaries – The Chromebook has landed

Andy, checking out websites as part of his workMy trusty Toshiba laptop is coming up on 3 years old and is beginning to show its age. Like its owner, it’s heavy, getting slower with age and just looks too chunky.

I have been agonising over its replacement for a while. I was taken with Windows Ultrabooks, great performance, quality screen and fantastic battery life, up to 5 hours but less than engaged by their prices, from £700 up.

I’ve also been looking at the Chromebooks which are basically small laptops with 11.6″ screens, fantastic battery life and running Google’s Chrome operating system rather than Windows. I even wrote about Chromebooks in an earlier post.

Larger screen Chromebooks are now available in in all cases battery life is as long as 9 hours, so all day computing without a charger is a realistic aim and they are impervious to viruses and other forms of malware.

Toshiba Satelite NB10 compact laptopScreen quality is perfectly acceptable but build quality, according to reviews, has been variable. However, since Xmas 2013 more and more manufactures have been releasing models using Intel processors for better performance, compared to the Samsung processors used in older Chromebooks, and manufacturers such as Toshiba and HP have released Chromebooks with larger screens, a 13″ from Toshiba and a 14″ from HP

However, I have been wary of the leap away from Windows and that has held me back, particularly after discovering a Toshiba of a very similar size to the 12″ Chromebooks, with a touch screen and Windows 8 for not a lot more money than a Chromebook, around £300 compared to the typical Chromebook price of £200 to £250.

So, I continued to sit on the fence.

Then Dell released their take on the Chromebook, an 11.6″ screen, excellent battery life, Intel dual core processor, light weight and, more importantly, 4Gb RAM.

With excellent reviews and a keen price, my mind was 90% made up. Then I spotted a great deal on eBay just as the Dell delivery date slipped from days to months, my decision was made and on Tuesday July 8th I picked up my ever so slightly used Dell Chromebook.

Quick Windows shortcuts for keyboard warriors

Keyboard - Windows keyboard short-cutsI don’t know about you, but I’m quite a fan of keyboard short-cuts – Ctrl-c, Ctrl-v and Ctrl-x are probably the most well known and most used – making it easy to Copy, Paste and Cut text without lifting your fingers from the keyboard and there’s the reason why some people are fans – speed.

Keyboard shortcuts mean that your fingers never leave the keyboard – saving that transition to the mouse for the essential Copy & Paste commands. Of course, there are many more – just Google “keyboard shortcuts” for complete lists of them.

However, I stumbled across the following 10 very recently and have found many of them immediately useful. Of course, an aging memory doesn’t really help – I still have to look at my cheat-sheet to remember some of them but I’m sure that they’ll be embedded in my memory soon.

  1. Command: Win key + Shift + Right/Left Arrow Key
    What it does: Moves active window to a second monitor, but keeps the window at the same size — i.e. if you have your web browser maximised on one screen, and want to move it to be maximised on the other, this’ll do it. For multiple monitor users it will be a boon.
  2. Command: Alt + Up arrow
    What it does: Moves up one folder level in Explorer.
  3. Command: Ctrl + Shift + Esc
    What it does: Jumps straight to the Task Manager without having to go through the Ctrl + Alt + Delete screen.
  1. Command: Win key + L
    What it does: Locks your computer. Very useful if you work in an office full of pranksters looking to mess with your PC when you sneak off for a coffee.
  2. Command: Win key + T
    What it does: Cycles through programs on the taskbar, just like hovering your mouse over them. Enter or space will launch a new program.
  3. Command: Alt + Print Screen
    What it does: Print-screens only the selected window. Hugely helpful if you’re running a multiple-monitor setup.
  4. Command: Hold down Shift when inserting a USB drive/SD card/CD
    What it does: Stops AutoRun.
  5. Command: Alt + D
    What it does: Selects the address bar, either in your browser of choice, or even Windows Explorer.
  6. Command: Win key + F
    What it does: Opens the Windows Search box when you are looking for that file you created but can’t remembered where you saved it.
  7. Command: Ctrl + Tab
    What it does:Changes between multiple windows in the same program – Switch  between browser tabs, or multiple Word documents etc.

And if you would like a copy to pin on your office wall – just download Keyboard Shortcuts here

Chromebook Diaries – Chromebooks, an alternative to a Windows Laptop

3 laptop computers

Do you find your laptop’s too big to carry with you and the battery life too short?

Is your tablet not quite large/comfortable enough for more than a little light document editing, email work and web browsing?

Did you know that there’s an alternative that might just bridge the gap, its device that took 2/3rds of laptop sales on Amazon during December 2013 and it’s called a Chromebook.

Chromebooks come in screen sizes of 11.6″, 13.3″ and 14″, currently manufactured by Acer, HP, Samsung and Toshiba and prices start from £199.00 inc.

They are light weight, [around 1kg] have Wi-Fi and a small number have 3G/4G connectivity.

Battery life is typically 6 hours although the HP 14″ boasts a battery life of up to 9.5 hours.

They run Google’s own operating system, Chrome OS, which means they boot up in around 7-8 seconds, don’t slow down over time – unlike some computer operating systems we know – and are pretty much invulnerable to viruses and other malware that’s out in the wild.

Of course, there’s a drawback, you can’t install Microsoft Office, in fact you can’t install most software which limits you to software that’s either available in the Chrome Web Store or applications which run in your browser, because that’s pretty much what Chrome OS is, it’s Google’s Chrome browser that’s been tweaked to run a laptop. You can use Microsoft Office 365 though, because that’s a cut-down version of Office that runs in your browser so all is not lost.

Huawei MiFiIt’s also best if you can be permanently connected to the internet, although a number of apps do run off-line but you can always buy one of the 3G versions, tether your ChromeBook to your mobile phone or use one of the Mi-Fi devices which create your own personal Wi-Fi hotspot that connects to the mobile phone network through 3G or 4G

So, if you want a lightweight laptop for email, document creation/editing, web browsing and a little light gaming perhaps you should give a Chromebook a try.

Windows XP – fast becoming a liability

RIP XP, October 25th 2001 – April 8th 2014

Windows-XP becomes a security riskIn a life that’s seen 2 US Presidents, 3 UK Prime Ministers and 3 Popes Microsoft is finally stopping support for Windows XP on April 8th 2014.

According to a survey conducted by Net Applications more than 30% of computers around the world are still running Windows XP. This is mainly simply because “it works” and for many there’s been no compelling reason to change.

However, that time is NOW and it’s because since 2001 Microsoft have been constantly working away

After April 8th this service ceases so when the hackers find a security hole that will enable them to take over your Windows XP PC, without your knowledge they’ll be able to monitor your activity, read your emails, learn your online banking security codes and be “you” if they want to. behind the scenes to deliver patches that resolve reliability issues and fix security holes.

You may never notice until your bank accounts have been emptied, payment demands for loans that you never took out start dropping through your door, or the anti-piracy police come storming in because your computer has been hosting pirated software, films or something much worse.

Windows XP - RIP April 2014Anti-Virus software will protect you from many risks but they’re powerless in this scenario.

So, if you’re using Windows XP and are more than a little concerned about your security it’s time to start thinking about moving on – and it may not simply be a case of buying and installing Windows 8.

  • What about all those programs that you use, will they run on your upgraded operating system?
  • Is your hardware of a sufficiently high specification to support the new version of Windows?
  • What happens if it all goes wrong?
  • Do you have a Disaster Recovery plan in place that’s more substantial than simply backing up your data?

All of these reasons, and more, mean that the time to start planning is NOW. Check your businesses to see which desktops and laptops are still running Windows XP – we know there are loads out there – our web Analytics shows that more than 25% of visitors to our website are still using Windows XP.

We can help with your migration,

  • we’ll talk to you to understand your IT requirements,
  • audit your XP PCs to see which ones can be upgraded and which ones will need to be replaced.
  • audit your software to ensure that there are suitable versions that will run on a more up to date version of Windows
  • help you implement and manage the whole process to ensure that it goes as smoothly as possible.

So, if you are more than a little concerned about your IT security then drop me an email to andy@enterprise-oms.co.uk or give me a call on 01793 238020  to start the ball rolling and to ensure that your network is secure in 2014 and beyond.