How to win at Remote Working

Tips from the CEO of a company which went fully “remote”, nearly 10 years ago.

 With millions of we Brits now working from home, amid the spread of the Coronavirus, we thought it might be helpful to share our top tips on how “The Constant Media “ (TCM) has managed, successfully, to run and grow a remote based development agency for over 10 years. We hope the following helps – somewhat. Certainly: our company has noticed a significant increase in productivity since going fully remote!

Going remote could be one of the best things you do as a business. That said : it could be an absolute anxiety-inducing nightmare. It all depends upon how you approach the start (and the pathway) of each and every day.

What we can say with confidence is that the pros absolutely outweigh the cons. I, as CEO, am personally really proud of our super productive and talented global team. Their energy levels, especially first thing in the morning, are phenomenal; much of that simply comes down to the absence of a long, draining commute.

Effective communication is our not so secret, secret weapon. We’ve tried and tested umpteen different tools, over the years, to find the perfect solutions for our business and they are at the heart of how we work.

Here are our Top 10 ways of surviving the lock down without losing your mind and your mojo in the process.

1.Dress to Impress

It may seem like a perk to login in your loungewear, but just because you can, doesn’t mean you should. Get up, get showered, get dressed. Getting dressed for your day adds a dose of professionalism which will extend to your workday. How you look really does make a difference to how you feel.

Properly prepared, I find that, when I step into my home office, it feels like a professional place of work and I’m off to a productive start.

2.Get Moving like you’re Commuting

Nothing starts the day on a more energetic note than a little exercise. Use the time, which you would normally use for your daily commute, to squeeze in some “me” time. This could involve some light yoga or a full on hard-core boot camp session that streams directly to your TV – or, if you are able to isolate yourself from others – simply take a walk.

3. A Quiet Place & Great Tech

It’s important to have a space that is a dedicated workspace. It doesn’t have to be a full-on office but you will need to have the basics, such as a laptop / desktop and a really good Internet connection.

If you can push the boat out a little, a good headset goes a long way when taking calls from clients and colleagues, as does a good webcam.

I personally use a wireless Jabra Evolve headset which does an incredible job of getting rid of any background noise (including screaming kids).

Your keyboard and mouse matter too, depending upon your setup. If you’re using external displays you won’t want to be stretching across your desk to use your laptop’s keyboard. Not only are the extra devices more versatile, but they can do wonders for your working at home experience.

4.If you Fail to Plan, Plan to Fail

Before you hit the thick of it, take a few minutes to work out what your priorities are for the day. This sounds like a no-brainer but more often than not, we’re pushed and pulled away from core priorities into lots of distracting directions.

Whilst there is always room for spontaneity, contingency, and the odd emergency, there is also huge satisfaction to be derived from ticking off items from your do list. Continue reading “How to win at Remote Working”

Are your Magento Security Patches up to date?

A free security scan will tell you if your online store is safe.

Magento released its latest security patch on 27 February.

If you run your eCommerce business on Magento 1.x it’s vitally important to make sure your website is up to date with the latest security patches.

This essential maintenance work will keep your online store secure from hackers and safe for customers to spend their money with.

Leaving customer data exposed and vulnerable to hackers and criminals is not only bad for business in terms of trust, reputation and lost transactions.

You could be liable to hefty fines from the Information Commissioner under the Data Protection Act (DPA).

With the introduction of the even more stringent General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) looming in May 2018 you simply cannot afford not to ensure your website and customer data are secure on a regular basis.

Get a free security scan

A free security scan will tell us how up to date your patches are.

It will also flag other potential vulnerabilities, software updates and hosting issues. For example:

We will gladly share a free report and key recommendations with you, on a no obligation basis.

Stay up to date

Once we’ve run the initial scan, we can schedule regular checks on your website and notify you when new patches and updates are released.

Just ask to be kept up to date and we’ll email you when updates are available.

If you’re wondering about whether to move to Magento 2, read our article or call us for a chat today.

Magento will continue to support Magento 1 with security patches for the foreseeable future and have committed to giving 18 months’ notice if they decide to stop releasing updates.

Book your free security scan and talk to us about your business today.

 

What is AMP or Accelerated Mobile Pages?

AMP could help you rank higher in Google for mobile searches.

AMP or Accelerated Mobile Pages is a project to make the mobile web experience lightning fast.

Why is this important?

Recently, Google announced that starting in July 2018, page speed will be a ranking factor for mobile searches.

This “Speed Update” will only affect mobile webpages that deliver the slowest experience to users. If content on the page has high relevance to the search, then that may outweigh speed. Google’s announcement says:

The intent of the search query is still a very strong signal, so a slow page may still rank highly if it has great, relevant content.

Surely though, when over a third of all online purchases are made using a smartphone these days, you want to make sure your mobile eCommerce site’s responding as fast as possible.

It’s simply good business. You’re going to make more sales and more money if your shop loads up instantly and customers don’t bounce. 

The good news is, The AMP Project is Open Source. It’s a global collaborative project involving developers and high profile brands and publishers all over the world.

This means it’s tried and tested technology, that’s ever-evolving and improving. There are shared tools and resources for developers to use and there are already software plug-ins and extensions available to buy and integrate with your site if it runs on Magento, Drupal, WordPress etc.

If you’re interested in how AMP works, you can watch a video or read about it online.

Want to transform your mobile website or eCommerce store with AMP? Get in touch with us today. 

Moving to Magento 2: Should you do it?

We’ve put together some of the key questions you need to consider.

Are you wondering what to do about Magento 2?

Magento is a leading eCommerce platform and Content Management System (CMS), chosen by 1 of every 4 online businesses.

It works out of the box but is also heavily customisable, making it a very flexible solution for selling online.

Magento 1 launched back in 2008. In 2015, Magento 2 arrived.

Should you move to Magento 2 or stay with what you’ve got?

Magento 2 is vastly different to its first incarnation and moving to Magento 2 is no simple upgrade. It’s a wholesale data migration and a complete rebuild of your website.

The decision to make the move needs to be supported by a strong business case that weighs up the potential benefits of the new and improved features against the cost of a significant web development project.

Here are just some of the new and improved features of Magento 2:

  • Better performance and faster loading speeds to help increase site engagement and improve sales.
  • A more streamlined checkout process designed to decrease shopping cart abandonment.
  • It was built to be responsive so your customers will shop effortlessly on all devices .
  • The admin panel has been simplified and search made more intuitive.
  • Creating products is easier and all on one page, to save you time.

In short, it’s a better, simpler, more secure CMS.

But if what you’ve got works and there are no big business plans on the horizon that require new development, Magento 2 might not be for you just yet.

When should you make the decision to move?

When it’s right for your business.

Magento are committed to supporting Magento 1 for the foreseeable future and will give 18 months’ notice if they decide to change this and stop releasing security updates.

However, with focus on developing Magento 2, Magento 1 will inevitably slip further and further behind its successor as time goes on and no new features will be developed for it.

Still have more questions?

Talk to us about your plans are for the next 3-5 years. We can help you make the right decision for your brand.

Google Chrome HTTPS update: Are your users seeing errors?

If your website contains a form ask us about a website scan today.

Is your website content secure?

The latest release of Google Chrome includes a feature which may give users a warning when they visit a web page that it deems not secure.

But first, some definitions to put this in context.

HTTP is the protocol over which data is sent between your browser and the website that you are on.

HTTPS is the secure version of that protocol that guarantees the communication between your browser and the website you’re on is encrypted.

A website needs to have an SSL certificate installed on its server to activate the https protocol. An SSL certificate is a small data file that binds the domain name of a website to the organisation with a cryptographic key.

Look for the green padlock in the browser bar, next to the website address.

OK. So, what are these warnings about then?

Chrome already gives a security warning for HTTP pages with password or credit card fields. Since the release of Chrome 62 it will now show the warning when users enter data on any HTTP page, and on all HTTP pages visited in Incognito mode.

Here’s what a security warning will look like for a user:

Treatment of HTTP pages with user-entered data in Chrome 62 via Chromium Blog

In response to this, we’ve been examining all our client sites and making appropriate updates to ensure content is secure and users are not affected.

Eventually Chrome will mark any HTTP pages as insecure so now is the time to get your website checked, updated and all functioning on HTTPS.

If you’ve got a website with a form on it, we recommend getting your whole site scanned for insecure content and implement recommended updates as good housekeeping.

You’ll be amazed what can be uncovered with a scan, not just old http pages but lurking 404s, untidy old redirects and more. It’s a great opportunity to give your website a through health check and clean up.

Top tech tools for Digital Brand Managers

Try these free, online tools for a better digital life.

Top tech tools to try

There are hundreds of free online tools out there to help you with your digital campaigns. We’ve selected some of our favourites here. They’re all super useful, top tech tools that can help you manage your brand website and online activity smarter.

Web metrics

No surprises here. We recommend you look at Google Analytics to get a handle on your website traffic and visitor behaviour.

It can tell you so much more than what the most popular content is and which countries your users are clicking onto your site from.

It’s hugely powerful if only you know what to look for and how to set up the things you want to track.

We found the free online Analytics Academy Google Analytics for Beginners course to be really helpful.

If you’re not keen on the Google-opoly, try Open Web Analytics. It’s free, open source, web analytics software.

Competitor comparison

Check out how competitor website are performing compared to your brand with Similar Web.

Add your URL and a competitor’s and see comparisons of your ranking, traffic overview, and referrals side-by-side .

Is your webpage mobile friendly?

See what the Search Engines think about your website’s responsiveness:

Google Mobile-Friendly Test page.

Bing Mobile Friendliness Test Tool.

Is your website fast loading?

Fast loading on mobile is really important. Most sites lose half their visitors while loading up.

How quick is yours?

Try the Pingdom Website Speed Test or a Google Mobile Speed Test.

Search Engine Optimisation

There are lots of SEO tools out there but here are a couple we like SEOptimer and Nibbler.

Both are quick and free and provide useful top level information on SEO basics, like header tags, image alt tags, keywords and links. They also analyse overall site performance and make suggestions for improvements.

Download Moz’s Beginner’s Guide to SEO for additional good ideas.

Ever wondered what your website looks like to Google?

Find out with Google Search Console.

Google AdWords

If you sign up for an AdWords account, you can use Google Keyword Planner to discover new keywords, find clever long-tail keywords relevant to your brand and keep an eye on keyword trends.

Try Moz Keywords too, which gives you 20 free keyword searches a month.

Social Media monitoring

This is a tricky one.

The social media platforms offer their own analytics for free: Facebook Insights, Twitter Analytics etc. Social media management platforms offer their own version of insights too.

A lot of the time, it’s down to personal or team preference, what works best for you. We’re plumping for Hootsuite as our favourite.

In the hectic world of social media management it brings all our social media channels into one place alongside analytics and monitoring.

It’s only free for 1 user and up to 3 social media accounts but quite frankly, that’s enough for any one person to handle!

Media monitoring

The simplest thing you can do to keep an ear out for someone talking about your brand is to set up a Google Alert or two.

Set one up for your brand name and perhaps a couple of industry-related terms, then select how often you want to receive the results by email.

Image editing and graphic design

Canva is an amazingly quick and easy-to-use, free, online graphic design resource. It has hundreds of free images, designs and layouts and you can upload your own images and photos too.

It also has a simple Photo Editor which works brilliantly and offers a range of image filters.

Reducing the file size of images without losing image quality can be really tricky without specialist tools and knowledge. Well, unless you use Optimizilla, of course, which does it in seconds for free.

Got a problem you need to report to your web developers?

Use this when you do. Your web developer will thank you:

www.whatismybrowser.com

It gives them all the information about your computer’s environment that they need e.g. browser, operating system, IP address and more.