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Moving to Crouch End

We’ve up rooted and migrated to London! Well, I have anyway…

It’s all been very exciting. I forgot how much fun moving house can be – all those boxes, utility amendments and mail redirections! Not to mention the compounded issues of finding a new school for our son, in the incredibly oversubscribed Borough of Haringey. BUT we’ve made it through to the other side in one piece, and now happily settled (with fully functioning internet) just south of the Crouch End Clock Tower. Crouch End is such a lovely area, and we’ve enjoyed visiting it for years, so we hope it’s going to be a great place to live, work and raise our son.

Offering Web Design in Crouch End

It’s also going to be great getting out there and offering our web and graphic design services to the people of Crouch End. In the medium to long term we hope to have a second Design House Studio setup in or around The Broadway, where clients can come and collaborate and hang out at a more leisurely, and creative, pace.

In the meantime I’m exploring different studio spaces, hanging out in cafés and hot desk hopping around Haringey! I’ll be taking meetings in and around the town, so if you’re local to Crouch End and would like to discuss anything to do with web design, graphic design, WordPress training, hosting or anything else in the digital design realm – please get in touch and you can show me where the best coffee’s at.

Design House - Web Design Crouch End, London

The Berkhamsted HQ

Sean, Jake and Megs are very much still stationed full time at Berkhamsted HQ, and will be heavily involved in all London based projects too. We’ve always felt like there’s a strange and interesting connection between Crouch End and Berkhamsted, with similar businesses sprouting up in both locations in recent years, and friends and family having moved from one to the other and back again. So if you’re local to Crouch End and want to come and hang out in leafy suburbs, that can always be arranged too!

See you in the hustle and bustle!

William

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G Suite’s DPA 2.0 Email

So – we’ve been having a flood of emails from our lovely clients, all concerned about the recent emails they’ve been receiving from Google about the changes to the G Suite terms and conditions. Primarily, what Google are calling the “version 2.0 of the G Suite Data Processing Amendment” or DPA 2.0 for short!

Whoop whoop! What a bloody exciting subject to cover in our latest blog. It’s like a side order of onion rings on my vegan GDPR burger.

I have never before received such a confusing and convoluted email. The fact that it’s come from Google, and purports to be an urgent and vital matter that needs your attention makes it even worse. So little effort has been put into the language and communication here, it’s almost like Google WANTS you to feel confused and unsure about what’s going on. If they genuinely wanted you to understand this crap, surely they’d include a couple of little diagrams, infographics, maybe a picture of happy millennials supping iced coffee? When they’re trying to sign you up for a new service or run an Adwords campaign, the instructional guides and illustrations are delivered with amazing clarity and efficiency. Something to mull over next time you’re in your tin foil hat.

Who reads terms and conditions?

Short answer: nobody. We all know this instinctively, but there’s a heap of data that backs it up. They’ve even done scientific test with bunsen burners and stuff. Nobody reads them. And why would we? You’re presented with a infinite scrolling box filled with words you barely understand, and what’s more, you have no choice but to either accept the terms or stop using the technology altogether. As David Berreby wrote in the Guardian last year:

“an individual who depends on Google, Facebook or Twitter is not in a position to negotiate her own separate agreement. Why spend time on a contract you can neither change nor refuse?”

In the case of Gmail, that’s no choice at all – if you require this service to run your business, you can either agree to what they’re suggesting (which is deliberately obfuscated) or just stop using it altogether.

So… in the face of ideological defeat, let me stop ranting and show you how to agree with this stuff…

The DPA 2.0 email and what to do with it

In the email you received there was a link with some instructions, so let’s start there. Click on the miniature button, as illustrated below, and you’ll be sent to a page on the Google site with details of what to do.

They want you to log into your G Suite Admin page to make all of these changes, which you do like this:

Head to http://admin.google.com, and enter your email username and password!

Once in there you want to click on the COMPANY PROFILE button that’s immediately shown on the dashboard.

Once in there, click on PROFILE. You can then scroll down the screen until you find the new SECURITY & PRIVACY ADDITIONAL TERMS. There are two buttons next to each of these – one that lets you ‘review’ the new terms, and another that you can click to confirm your allegiance to dark lord of data security.

I attempted to read and review the new documents, but they make no sense to me. I’ve searched the web to try and find an easy to comprehend summary of what the true implications and motivations behind these changes are, but I’m still confused. Check out this thread on Reddit where some trolls are having a little debate about DPA 2.0: https://www.reddit.com/r/DataHoarder/comments/8iucjk/google_drive_updated_data_processing_regulations/

Or here on this software forum, where some chaps were talking about DPA 2.0 last year: http://discuss.bootstrapped.fm/t/is-it-important-to-opt-in-to-g-suites-dpa-2-0/5366

Or you can just do what I did and click the accept button.

The best possible explanation I can come up with, so far, is that these are purely in place to remove any liability on the part of G Suite. With so much personal data flowing through the Google servers, they must be on GDPR paranoia high alert. They want you to promise you’re not going to use their technologies to nefariously hoard data illegally, and if you do they want to be able to shut you down with a quickness and deny any accountability for your actions. But this is just my interpretation of things. Without any useful, easy to digest, guidance from Google it’s hard to know what all this is really about.

BOOM, and we’re done. That was fun wasn’t it?

If in doubt about any of this, you can always try and contact someone at G Suite and ask them what it’s all about. Because you’re a loyal, paying, customer of the G Suite platform you can contact Support at any time through the dashboard area of your G Suite account. Usually they’re pretty snappy, and pick up the phone within a few minutes of elevator music. You might find someone on the other end of the phone that can quickly summarise the changes in their policy. But judging by the terrible way in which it’s been communicated so far, I wouldn’t hold your breath.

Insert shrugging cat emoji or confused doge here.

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GDPR panic attack!! What’s going to happen to my Email Newsletters!?

GDPR sadness - What's going to happen with those email newsletters

GDPR might seem like a brutal death blow for your email newsletters, but if you ask me it’s going to be awesome. I’m dreaming of an email utopia… a Monday morning inbox containing only the most vital messages to sift through.

But this isn’t about me, this about you and your email newsletters. You’ve spent decades accumulating email addresses from various sources, and now you’re worried that the GDPR police are gonna leave a bloody horse head on your pillow the next time you send out a special offer to your database.

Opt in for email newsletters

The main thing you’re going to want to do is send out an ‘opt in’ or confirmation of consent email to EVERYONE you have on your digital marketing list. You’ve probably seen a bunch of these in your inbox over the last month, as everyone’s having to tow the same line. The gist of the wording is going to be something like this:

“PLEASE click this button and stay on our newsletter list! I know we’ve been spamming you for years and our emails are routinely ignored, trashed or automatically sent to spam, but we LOVE YOU and can’t function as a business unless you click this button”

When your loyal customer clicks this button they’ll be added to a new list (presumably in Mailchimp or Campaign Monitor) and this will become the basis of your ‘post GDPR’ super clean and compliant email list.

We’ve had a flood of emails from companies requesting an ‘active opt in’ (or active ‘opt back in’ if you like) emails that explicitly request us, the users, to rejoin mailing lists, or miss out on future offers/news/correspondence. Here’s a selection of our favourites:

The drop off is going to be huge

Standard open rates for marketing emails are around the 20% mark if you’re lucky. The click rate from within the email is lower still – and that’s when you’re giving them a voucher code or freebie. Ask a customer to click a button to REMAIN on an email list… blimey, the numbers are going to be bleak. BUT, there’s a big silver lining here. Even if you lose 90% of your newsletter list, the 10% that you retain are going to be highly focused, and far more likely to engage with your future email newsletters. Let’s call it a long overdue trimming of the fat.

You’ve still got a bit of time to send out these pleading, needy emails before the 25th May. But once that day has come and gone you’re going to have to delete that old database of names and concentrate your efforts on the new, clean, and fully consensual list.

It’s worth noting that some companies are NOT doing this. They’re just saying things like “if you continue to use our service, you’re by default giving consent” but these are companies like Open Table and Twitter, who have people constantly logging in/out of their service via a dedicated app. These people are adhering to the app’s terms and conditions upon entry, and as such are handing over communication consent on a daily basis. These apps will also have user dashboard areas where communication settings can be adjusted if needs be.

The end of email newsletters?

There are more and more companies that are doing away with email newsletters entirely. With all this new regulation and ever dwindling open rates, it’s hardly surprising that some people are just giving up on this tired old format. Did you know that Wetherspoons has completely abandoned direct email communication with it’s customers? And that’s quite interesting considering the size (and age) of that particular institution.

The format of email marketing has barely changed in the last two decades. Maybe now’s the time to start using that brain box a bit more, find more interesting ways of engaging with your audience, and leave the emails alone unless you’ve really got something important to say. You live in a world that’s saturated with interesting channels of digital communication, and the ever evolving landscape of social media allows for great ingenuity if you’re prepared to go the extra mile.

Clinging to this email newsletter format, or refusing to embrace newer channels of social media communication could speak volumes about who you are as a business. If you feel like GDPR is too harsh a blow to your direct marketing, this could be the time to cut the cord.

 

Please note: I’m not a lawyer and cannot guarantee this article is going to make you 100% compliant – make sure to assess your GDPR compliance with a qualified consultant.

 

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GDPR Compliance and Data Protection

[text_output]Those pesky EU bureaucrats are at it again, poking their noses into our world wide web and trying to protect our personal data from being exploited by nefarious internet baddies. TYPICAL. It’s political correctness gone mad I tell you! GDPR Compliance? We should probably be spending that money on the NHS and building walls to stop immigrants surely!? I expect to see tractors blockading the streets of Berkhamsted any day now.

I jest of course. But GDPR is on its way, coming into effect from 25th May this year. Lots of people seem to be getting their knickers in a twist, but there’s really not much to worry about. The good news is that the rules on how companies store our personal data are getting an upgrade. The original Data Protection Directives were written in the mid nineties, when we were all stock piling AOL startup discs, so this stuff is loooong overdue. The internet has grown into a behemoth of data collection and direct marketing annoyances, so anything that tries to tidy up and control the Wild West Web has got to be a good thing if you ask me.

There’s more to unpack in the GDPR (or General Data Protection Regulation) than we have the time or inclination to cover here. But the EU’s been kind enough to put together this really snappy and easy to digest 88 page PDF document if you’re interested. Lols. OR, you can watch this video we found on YouTube that covers the bulk of it in a couple of minutes.[/text_output][x_video_embed id=”” class=”” style=””][/x_video_embed][text_output]The minor bad news is that anyone who’s website collects and stores information about its customers, probably needs to put a bit more effort into how they explain this process to their fanbase, both old and new. Not the end of the world by any means, and for the vast majority of our clients there’s only two things that need to be addressed:

DISCLAIMER: We’re not lawyers, or in any way qualified to offer legal advise. What follows is purely our game plan for becoming GDPR compliant with a pretty standard WordPress ecosystem – based on what we’ve read online, and the absolute zero advice from our local MEP and Chamber of Commerce. We believe the following is enough to become GDPR compliant. If you’re in doubt or want more legal advice, we suggest you call a lawyer. Thumbs up!

1st Thing: Explicit Consent

For anyone that’s using a contact or enquiry form on their website, chances are the details of those enquiries are being stored at the server level, and can be accessed through the WordPress dashboard. This is great when you need to come back to it periodically to collect up customer details, or prepare an email newsletter for example. The only thing that might need to change now is the EXPLICIT use of language when they’re submitting their enquiry or Newsletter request. A simple tick box will suffice, coupled with a brief explanation that all enquiries will be securely stored for future direct communication.

2nd Thing: Privacy Policy

The second thing you’ll need to make sure is in place is your Privacy Policy page. This is where you can explain in detail your good intentions for peoples’ personal data, how you’re planning on using it, reassuring them you’re not going to sell it, or lose it, and that they have the freedom to request its deletion if they wish. Under the new law, customers have the right to easily request what you have on file about them, and have that data deleted without any fuss is they wish. If you’re familiar with your WordPress forms, you’ll already know how to locate individual submissions you’ve had through the site. If you’re contacted directly by a customer you’ll be able to send them a CSV export of their submission as well as delete it permanently on request.

Get Compliant for only £50

The changes that need to be implemented aren’t terribly tricky, so if you’re confident with WordPress and understand the changes to the law, you should be fine adjusting your WordPress site in house. However, if you’re not finding the prospect too thrilling, or you just want to get it done quickly and correctly – we’re offering to upgrade our existing clients’ sites for the bargain price of £50 + VAT. Easy peasy.

We have standard Privacy Policy and Consent texts ready to roll, which can be edited and expanded upon should you wish. So just give us a call, or send us an email, and we’ll book in the upgrade when you’re ready to enter the brave new world of increased data security!

Congratulations if you made it to the end of this thrilling blog! I applaud you!

Please note: I’m not a lawyer and cannot guarantee this article is going to make you 100% compliant – make sure to assess your GDPR compliance with a qualified consultant.[/text_output]

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Everything you always wanted to know about SSL certificates (but were afraid to ask)

Dawson's Broken SSL Certificate - Design House Berkhamsted

One of the more recent additions to our standard hosting packages is the SSL certificate. It used to be rare that a client would request (or even need) an SSL certificate installed on their website, but as more and more of our clients are selling products online, the SSL certificate has become a more common request.

What is an SSL Certificate?

Well I’m glad you asked! SSL stands for Secure Sockets Layer, and basically alludes to an encryption protocol that will be used on your website if you have the appropriate certificate correctly installed.  If you’ve been browsing around the issue of domain and hosting security already you may have seen the initials SSL crop up, as well as TLS (Transport Layer Security) and also HTTPS. These are all different strands of the same security question; how do we protect our customers and clients when they’re sending us information over the web? The short answer is to have your website and domain protected with an SSL certificate. Once it’s installed correctly you get a little ‘green padlock’ in the URL bar of your browser window, you’ll have access to more payment solutions if you need them, and when people come to visit your business online they can feel that little bit more confident that they’re browsing safely. Unless you’re really keen on having a deep knowledge of the exciting world of internet encryption you probably don’t need to know much more than that, but here’s some epic information about the issue if you have some spare time: The exciting world of HTTPS.

SSL and SEO

A year or so ago, Google officially added HTTPS and SSL certificates as one of their many ranking indicators. This basically means that if you have an SSL certificate installed for your website, you can potentially receive a little boost in your rankings, and in the world of SEO any little incremental improvements are always worth taking advantage of. Google wants a secure internet, one where people feel safe and protected from those nefarious digital ninjas, and their precious tracking data remains encrypted and intact at all times! You can check out what Google had to say on the issue right here.

Hosting with Design House

So this year we’ve decided to offer SSL certificates on all our hosting packages as standard. If you’ve been hosting with us for some time already you’ll be asked if you want to upgrade to one of the new packages on your next renewal date, but if you want to request an immediate bump in your security and SEO potential, of course just let us know and we’ll make the appropriate changes sooner rather than later.

 

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The best way to run your email service

We’ve been building websites for clients for well over a decade, and in the early days it was often the the case that we’d only work within the confines of a client’s existing web hosting provider, or set them up with a new account all of their own, walk them through the setup and billing details and let them go merrily into a future of IT uncertainty. It became abundantly clear very early on that this was WAY too confusing for the average client, so we starting providing our own web hosting solutions – firstly on a shared VPS, and then as time progressed we moved onto our own rack mounted server, which is full of great security features and is backed up daily by trained experts. This has proven to be a really nice and convenient solution for our clients, and it means the sites are always at our finger tips should we need immediate access for updates or emergency amends. Along with this web hosting service there has always been (until now) a standard IMAP email provision, powered by the same private server, available for our clients to use.

BUT, we have encountered an increasing number of problems with this as the years have rolled by, and these days the idea of running email from the same server as your website is considered a major no no – it hogs resources, isn’t secure enough for the modern age, and lacks the reliability that we’ve come to expect in the day to day running of a business. Also, as a lean and mean little design studio we simply don’t have the man power to support this as a service. Regular things like changing passwords, or managing the setup procedure for new users can be incredibly time consuming, and we don’t have the energy or inclination for that kind of activity.

Getting a truly professional email service

The good news is that these days there are some truly top notch, dedicated email service providers out there. No prizes for guessing who’s top of the list on this –  yep… that would be Google. What used to be called ‘Google for Work’ was renamed G Suite at the end of 2016, and includes loads of cool features to improve your workflow. We use their email service here at Design House, and can’t fault it at all. Go and check out G Suite here for the full rundown of what they offer.

Other clients have opted to go for Microsoft 365, as they’re very much in the Microsoft ecosystem already. Both are very reliable services indeed. If you’re interested in seeing a side by side comparison or getting the gist of the differences, check out this article by TechGenix that gives a pretty comprehensive run down of both email providers.

Leaving our server IMAP behind

It’s been a wild ride, but I have to say it’s good to know we’ll be leaving our server IMAP service behind. This is going to give us more time to focus on the day to day design and build tasks we enjoy the most – and give our clients far more control and confidence in their email. If you have any questions about transitioning from the server IMAP to G Suite or Microsoft 365, don’t hesitate to give us a call!

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Blogging

Blogging, Wow, much content - Design House Berkhamsted

One of the more common questions we’re asked at the studio is: “should I have a blog on my website?”. To which I usually answer sarcastically: “do you have anything to say?”. This is often met with look of bafflement, but beyond my irritatingly dry cynicism is a question worth asking yourself. If you feel compelled to blog, then yes, by all means blog away! If it feels like a chore just thinking about it, then it’s probably not for you. Some people outsource their blogging to eager beavers that offer content creation as a service, but personally I think it’s something that needs to be done by in house staff or not at all. The only thing worse than a blog full of boring regurgitated crap is a blog that hasn’t been updated since June 2012.

Blogging for the love

There are a many reasons why adding a blog to your website is a good idea but, in my humble opinion, the number one reason is because you WANT to blog. Ideally you’re already working in an industry you love, your website is an extension of this passion, and your blog is going to be an exciting and engaging way for you to share your working life with the world. The vast majority of our clients at Design House are entrepreneurial individuals who’re starting out on (hopefully) one of the most rewarding career paths out there; running your own business.

If you’re in this category, and you love what you do, then blogging once or twice a month should be a piece of cake. It’ll be fun sharing your thoughts with your customers and friends, and it’ll bring greater depth and context to the language of your business because blogging allows you to extend the often rigid boundaries of how you communicate with your customers. It can be less formal, more experimental and potentially more rewarding for yourself too.

Blogging for Google rankings

Now, we’d never be so foolhardy as to suggest that starting a blog is going to rocket you to the top of page 1 on Google. No no no no no….. BUT, having interesting and relevant articles on your blog could very well mean that these individual pages get picked up and ranked highly for the specific subject matter that they’re exploring. The main principle here is that ‘pages rank, not websites’. This means that each individual page on your website has the potential to rank highly on Google for a different search term. This principle is exaggerated further in the blog, where a wide range of very specific subjects can be explored, and potentially ranked, in tandem with the main website pages.

It’s always surprising when you look at the analytics, how people found you and what they were searching for. If you’re blogging about niche subjects within your industry, the competition for those niche search terms is likely to be quite thin on the ground, and a well structured blog, with quality content, can do surprisingly well on Google as a result.

So there you go. My thoughts on whether or not you should have a blog. If in doubt, try writing the first few in secret, save them up and see how you get on. When it feels like it’s something that’s got legs then release them to the world and try and keep the momentum going!

Somewhat ironically it’s one of those things that we’ve talked about doing at Design House for years, but never managed to get off the ground. If you’re reading this it means we’ve finally pushed the button, and decided to share our ramblings with the world! Happy blogging.