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Does your website work in older browsers?

October 27, 2014 by John McGarvey

Browserline in action{{}}Being a web developer isn’t always easy. One of the harder aspects of the job is making sure a website looks right in as many different internet browsers as possible.

This is important because statistics show significant numbers of people use older browsers. For instance, figures suggest around 22% of people use version 8 of Microsoft’s Internet Explorer, even though version 11 is the latest.

Browser versions matter

Different types and versions of web browsers interpret HTML code in their own ways. While the fundamentals remain the same, your website can end up looking and functioning differently on different computers.

Small issues may not matter, but sometimes the problems can be severe. Older web browsers lack advanced functions, which can render particularly whizzy sites difficult or impossible to use.

All this means that, if you’re creating a new website, you’ll want to make sure it works in a wide range of browsers.

Get it in writing

Ultimately, the only way to be sure is to test your website with different browser types and versions.

This time-consuming task is best left to experts. If you’re working with a freelance web developer or an agency, make sure your contract specifies which browsers your website will function in.

Alternatively, if you’ve chosen to use a website creator tool or a platform like WordPress, make sure any templates or designs you’ve chosen have been thoroughly tested with different browsers.

Then test it yourself

That’s not all you can do though. These days, some excellent tools are available to show you what your site looks like in different web browsers.

It’s unlikely you’ll be able to exhaustively test your site in all combinations of browser. But you can certainly gain confidence that your website looks ok in the most common browser types.

First up is Browsershots. Enter your website address on the homepage and it will generate screenshots showing your site in an enormous range of browsers. It’s a good way to get a quick snapshot of any major problems, although it won’t help you test out functionality.

You can also try Browserling. This enables you to interact with your website within the browser type and version you choose. As a result, you can see how your site functions as well as how it looks.

The bad news? The range of browsers available with Browserling is restricted unless you pay. But it’s still a great way to gain confidence that your site works on other platforms.

Tagged website | 0 comments

IT for Donuts: the power of the triple-click

October 24, 2014 by John McGarvey

Triple-click your mouse{{}}IT for Donuts is our regular weekly feature where we explain a tech term or answer a question about business IT.

This week, you’re probably used to double-clicking your left mouse button to open programs and generally make things happen on your computer. But did you know that triple-clicks can be useful, too?

What is a triple-click?

Yep, you guessed it. A triple-click is where you click your left mouse button three times in quick succession. (A double-click plus one, basically.)

Triple-clicks are most useful when you’re working with text in software like Microsoft Word. You probably know that you select text by clicking and dragging the mouse. You might also know that a double click is a quick way to select a single word.

Well, a triple-click goes one step further. In Microsoft Word, a triple-click automatically selects the paragraph over which your mouse pointer is positioned.

Alternatively, move your mouse into the margin of the page, so it turns into an arrow leaning to the right. Triple-click there to select all the text in your document.

Triple-click your iPhone or iPad

If you use an Apple iPhone or iPad, triple-clicking the home button can be a life-saver if you need to use the device’s excellent accessibility features.

Just go to Settings > General > Accessibility > Accessibility Shortcut.

There you can set triple-clicking to perform a range of functions. These include the ability to zoom the screen, invert the display or access the built-in screenreader (‘VoiceOver’).

Six ways your mobile network could be about to sting you

October 23, 2014 by John McGarvey

Expensive mobile phone?{{}}Earlier this year, new rules came into force that limit what mobile networks can charge when you use your phone abroad.

These rules were widely lauded as A Good Thing. But don’t be fooled — there are still plenty of ways you can end up paying over the odds for your mobile phone.

Here are six of the most common, courtesy of independent telecoms brokerage Equinox.

1. Roaming away from Europe

Outside the EU, roaming costs can still be extortionate. In places, prices have gone up to counter the EU price caps.

If you’ll be travelling for an extended period, make sure you understand these roaming costs before you go. Often, it’s cheaper to buy a local SIM card to use while you’re travelling.

You can also use free Wi-Fi to stay online. Combined with a VoIP app like Skype, this can be a cost-effective way to call home, too.

You might also take a look at Roamer, an innovative app that uses a callback system to sidestep network roaming costs. 

2. Locking your phone

If you bought your mobile phone direct from your mobile network, you may find it’s locked. This means the handset will only work with SIM cards from that particular network.

Networks will usually unlock your handset, particularly if you’ve reached the end of your minimum contract period. However, it can take up to four weeks and they’ll often charge you to provide an unlock code.

(You’re sure to have seen entrepreneurial shops that offer services to unlock handsets. In our experience these are a reliable, cheap option. However, using an official supplier means there’s always a slight risk your handset could end up as a brick if something goes wrong.) 

3. Charging over the odds for handsets

Equinox claims that mobile phone networks sometimes inflate the value of the handset they supply you. This means that, over the course of your contract, you can end up paying significantly over the odds.

It may work out cheaper overall to buy the handset outright, then purchase a SIM-only deal from your preferred mobile network.

4. Paying a lot for a ‘free’ phone

There’s no such thing as a free phone. When you sign for a contract that includes a ‘free’ handset, you actually pay for it in every monthly payment.

According to Equinox, one reason mobile networks like this approach is that they can keep charging you the same monthly fee, even long after you’ve covered the cost of the handset.

One recent report found that Britons could save nearly £1bn by switching to cheaper tariffs at the end of their contracts.

5. Keeping you in a perpetual contract

Mobile phone networks have a number of different ways to keep you locked in to a contract. For instance:

  • Mid-term renewal. Half way through your 24-month contract, you’ll be offered the chance to sign for another 24 months in return for a new handset. But this means you never get to the end of your contract, so you can’t compare costs on the open market.
  • New handset, new contract. If you’re not careful, you’ll find you commit to a new two-year contract each time you add a handset to your business account. To avoid this, look for a ‘co-terminus contract’ where all phones share the same end date.

Again, opting for a SIM-only deal can help you stay flexible. Many providers offer good deals on one-month rolling contracts.

6. Paying for an unlimited deal

According to Equinox, the mobile phone industry likes to promote packages offering unlimited calls and texts.

These deals sound attractive, but you can end up paying over the odds. Businesses often overestimate the volume of calls they make, and fail to choose a service that corresponds to their actual usage.

The thing to remember here is that you can usually switch to a more expensive package at any time. But once you’ve locked into an unlimited deal, you won’t be allowed to downgrade to a cheaper option until your contract ends.

Government suppliers now have to be more secure

October 22, 2014 by John McGarvey

Cyber Essentials Plus logo{{}}From the beginning of October, many businesses that supply the government must conform to its new Cyber Essentials standards.

The new rules apply if you’re bidding for government contracts that involve handling sensitive or personal information, or providing certain technical products or services.

Cyber Essentials is a pair of new ‘kitemarks’ for cyber security. There are two levels:

  • Cyber Essentials, which requires you to complete a questionnaire that gets reviewed by an external certifying body.
  • Cyber Essentials Plus, which will see your IT systems actually tested for security issues and weaknesses.

These standards are designed to provide a good foundation in security. In a world where many organisations still don’t give enough thought to how they handle information, they aim to drive up basic security, ultimately keeping sensitive data safer from hackers and other threats.

Once your business has achieved one of the two Cyber Essentials levels, you’ll be awarded a certificate and gain the right to show the relevant Cyber Essentials badge on your marketing materials.

It’s still early days, but in time, it’s hoped these logos could become recognisable, reassuring potential customers that your business takes data security seriously.

In any case, it’s probably fair to say that these two standards formalise what would be a prudent approach to security in any case.

“Cyber Essentials is genuinely the minimum level of cyber security that every organisation should have in place,” confirms Alan Calder, founder of IT Governance.

So, no matter whether or not you’re planning to bid for government work, getting accredited could be a good way to give your security precautions a once-over.

If you’re interested in achieving one of the Cyber Essentials standards, you can learn more from the Cyber Essentials website.

Tagged security | 0 comments

IT for Donuts: get alerted when any web page changes

October 17, 2014 by John McGarvey

IT for Donuts is our regular weekly feature where we explain a tech term or answer a question about business IT.

Sometimes, you want to know when a web page has changed. Maybe you’re keeping close eyes on a competitor’s products and prices. Or perhaps you’re waiting for an item to come back into stock at an online supplier.

This week, we show you how to set up email alerts when web pages change, so you don’t have to check them manually.

Get started with ChangeDetection.com

Ok, let’s imagine you want to receive an email whenever the Tesco special offers web page is changed. (Don’t we all love a bargain?).

To get started, visit this page. Then select the web page address in your web browser and tap CTRL+C to copy it. It should look something like this:

Tesco URL{{}}

Then, go to ChangeDetection.com. In the monitor a page section, click the Page Address box, then press CTRL+V to paste in the page URL.

Enter your email address into the Send alert to box, then choose Next:

Change detection{{}}

On the next screen, you can enter an Alert name (choose something you’ll recognise) and select various options for your alert. In general, you can stick with the standard settings here.

If you’re waiting for a specific change, you can enter keywords into the only send alert if box.

For instance, if you want to know when a Blu-ray appears on the Tesco offers page, you could tick added and enter Blu-ray into the box. Then select Create.

Change detection{{}}

At this point, the ChangeDetection.com website will send a confirmation email to your address. Click the link in it and you’ll be prompted to create a password.

Once you’ve done this, your alert is set up. You should receive an email when the page changes.

To change the alert settings or cancel it altogether, just use the password you entered to sign in at ChangeDetection.com.

If you’d prefer not to be bombarded by messages about every small change to a web page, we’ve previously explained some other ways to monitor websites regularly

The tricks to finding the right business broadband

October 15, 2014 by IT Donut contributor
Tortoise{{}}

Broadband like this? We sympathise.

It goes without saying that every successful business needs a strong internet presence. (Ok, so I said it anyway.)

The internet is likely to be one of the main ways customers find you, contact you, and check up on you via reviews and recommendations. And that’s why having fast, reliable broadband is of critical importance.

Not all broadband is equal

If you’re looking for a new broadband provider, keep in mind that not all services are created equal.

It can be tempting to use a home broadband package for business, particularly if you work from a home office. If you’re considering this, weigh up the pros and cons carefully.

Although business packages do sometimes cost a little more, they typically offer priority support, fewer download restrictions and guaranteed speeds.

How to compare packages

You can compare business broadband deals on websites like broadbandchoices.co.uk, Gocompare.com and uSwitch.com.

This is an excellent way to get a feel for what packages are available and which fit your budget. As you explore the options, you can begin creating a shortlist of packages that might work for your business.

When comparing packages, don’t just take the connection speed into account.

If you can find the information, look at each provider’s contention ratio, too. This measures how many customers share available bandwidth in a given area.

A provider with a contention ratio of 20:1 is likely to offer a connection that’s more consistently fast than one with a contention ratio of 40:1.

Also be aware of data limits, particularly with lower-priced packages.

If you hit your download limit during any given month then you’ll be forced to pay for an extra data allowance. Unlimited packages are worth the money, especially if your business sends and receives lots of large files.

Check out support and service

You can almost guarantee that if something goes wrong with your broadband, it’ll happen at an inconvenient time. And that’s when you’ll be glad you paid a little extra for 24/7 support or priority service.

See if your chosen providers publish average response times on their website. You can even give them a ring to see how long it takes them to pick up.

You might also be able to get a government grant to boost your broadband. More information is available from the Connection Vouchers website.

Once you’ve narrowed down your supplier list, take your time over the decision. Don’t be afraid to call the broadband companies with any questions you have.

After all, you’ll need to rely on them, so your clients can rely on you.

Copyright © 2014 Rachel Calderwood, who runs an online floral business.

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