Monday, 31 October 2016

The halloween horror of the web industry

I was talking to my wife the other day about work. She is in the same industry as me, although she’s more a graphic designer, whereas I’m more of a programmer/nerd. She’s also inherently happy, whereas I’m a natural grumpy git.

Anyway, the point is we were both talking about how hard our industry is at the moment. She’s recently had to take a small pay cut as well as reduce her hours to help cashflow . Although things aren’t that bad for me, there has definitely been a noticeable drop in sales over the last few years. This is partly due to the recession, partly to do with it being such a saturated industry but mostly it’s to do with the way the internet has gone thanks to social media and also companies like Wordpress, Wix and other “web in a box” companies offering nice looking and fairly functional websites for next to nothing. I’m sure there are people out there who will blame climate change and Brexit as well but those people probably aren’t worth talking to.

My wife made a fairly valid point that, although things are looking a bit unsettling now, these cheap template sites are probably just a fad. Sure they look quite nice now but they all look the same. You look at most modern websites built or re-designed in the last two or three years and they all follow the same template: A big banner across the top (usually with rotating images), three featured boxes underneath and a bit of text. This is a layout that works well on all devices.

The thing is that in a few years, people will probably get bored with having a website that looks identical to every other site. Also, website visitors might start looking at sites and thinking “you know what, these people obviously haven’t spent much time on their website because they’ve just used a template like everyone else, so what does that say about their attention to detail and general interest to do work?”

In a few years time, it may very well be that people start ditching Wix and Wordpress and all these other annoying companies that are trying to put hard-working web developers out of business. It may well be that they will start wanting unique looking websites. It may be that tastes will change again and people will stop thinking that websites with a big banner image and three boxes look nice.

Of course there is the argument that, if people are used to having nice looking and fairly functional websites almost instantly and for next to nothing, why would they want to go back to paying someone lots of money to develop something different?

At the end of the day, the future of the web developer is uncertain. People are always going to need programmers and they are always going to need designers but is the world going to need as many and will it still be a lucrative industry to be in? Will I be sat here in five years time doing this job and asking people if they’d like a new website, or will I be stood behind a counter asking people if they’d like fries with that?

Monday, 19 September 2016

Leave it to us, that kind of thing is our domain

Every little thing has changed in the 17 years I’ve been in the web industry, from the way websites are built, the coding behind them, the designs, the general direction of the internet and the way people perceive it.

Back in the early days, people would come to us for a website (which was still quite a novelty back then), we’d build it for them, register the domain name, do all the necessary donkey work and everyone would be happy. Nowadays people are so used to having sites and used to everything being quick and easy (because the internet world and computers in general have become so advanced they give the average person the idea that they are actually clever) that people are rarely happy and always want something changed or control granted to themselves in some form. People are also getting used to things being cheap or even free.

One of the big ones these days is domain names. More and more people seem to be registering their own domain names or asking if we can transfer a domain name we hold to their own control. The problem is that these people generally haven’t got the first clue what they are doing. They are generally doing it because it is cheaper for them to buy it themselves rather than get us to do it for them because we (and indeed most) web companies mark the price up to cover a basic management cost.

Whilst it’s not a problem, it does tend to bring up a few issues and it almost always ends up costing the customer more money. My first question is usually “who have you registered your domain name with?” and the number of people who can’t even answer this simple question is worrying in itself. I then have to raise a charge for releasing the domain and processing a transfer because, let’s face it, I have to charge for my time otherwise how would I make money? This cost, whilst small, generally means any cost saving they’ve made on registering the domain themselves is negated.

Then there is the technical side of things. When I explain to these people that it’s fine for them to host the domain themselves but they have to be in charge of all the DNS settings, this usually confuses them. When they ask how they get the domain name to point to the website, my answer of “You need to log into your domain control panel and update the DNS settings to point the A NAME records to our server IP address”, people tend to look at me in the same way I look at Kanye West fans.

What happens is people say “I haven’t got a clue what you just said, can you walk me through it?” Of course if it’s a domain control panel I’m familiar with, I might be able to do it but then I’m giving support so I’d have to charge for my time. If it’s a control panel I’m not familiar with I’d have to say no, whereby I’d either suggest they contact their supplier and I give them detailed instructions of what I want, or I’d request they send me their login details so I could mooch around their control panel myself and make the changes. In both cases, I’d have to charge for my time. Given I’d be charging at my hourly rate, it would end up costing the client more than it would have cost them to take the domain name out with us in the first place. This would inevitably piss them off.

It gets worse because people usually want an email address set up and they realise once they’ve bought the domain that they either have to pay extra for it or they simply can’t figure out how to set it up. They then come back to me asking for help and advice and, in a lot of cases, requesting we manage the email for them which involves them having to update more DNS settings to point the MX records to our mail server. This confuses them even more, makes me a bit cross and also costs them even more in my time charges and hosting which pisses them off even more. Basically nobody is happy any more.

Then there is the added hassle of behind-the-scenes changes. Every so often we have to upgrade servers or migrate data or even move to different hosting providers. This has happened several times over the 17 years I’ve been in the web business and every time it happens I need to update the DNS settings for all the domains we host. Generally speaking this is something the customer is never aware of because the transfer is seamless. The only time it ever becomes a problem is when people have their own domain names and either don’t know where the domain name is held and/or don’t know how to update the settings and/or ignore my repeated requests for them to update because they assume it’s not important and then get really angry when their website stops working. Again, this is something that’s happened a number of times over the years.

So, yes, it is possible for you to register and manage your own domain names. My advice, however, is don’t. Let us do it for you because, although it might cost a bit more up front, in the long term it’ll save you a hell of a lot of money, time, effort and stress.

Friday, 9 September 2016

What are the best blogging sites?

The Datapartners Daily Blog about blogs: 10 of 10

For someone like me who designs and builds websites for a living, I could build my own blogging platform. In fact I did have a blogging app at one stage but it was one of many things I shelved because I simply couldn’t compete with the big players.

So what are the best blogging platforms out there? The most popular ones are Wordpress and Google’s Blogger and there are benefits to using both. Wordpress allows you to build a much more professional looking website and there are a huge number of mobile friendly templates out there. My only complaint with Wordpress is the admin is verbose, unintuitive and I think it’s a tiny bit crap. I’ve used Wordpress a number of times over the last few years for a handful of projects and I usually end up swearing a lot.

I prefer Blogger (well, that’s obvious isn’t it?) Firstly, I’m a big advocate of everything Google. Secondly, whilst it is a lot simpler and not as good looking as Wordpress, it does exactly what it says on the tin. Also, with the blogging network, it’s a lot easier to get found by other bloggers.

Of course there are others. The likes of Wix, Squarespace and Tumblr all offer some good features. Plus Networking sites like Facebook and LinkedIn also have the ability for you to write notes and articles so that is always worth considering. The advantage of doing it through a social networking site is because publishing it automatically shares it with your network.

My personal recommendation is Blogger, especially if you want to earn some pocket money. Google’s AdSense is by far the best and biggest pay-per-click advertising medium out there and it’s very quick and easy to get ads hooked onto the site. The trick is getting people to click on them without violating Google’s terms of service. So please don’t click on the ads on this blog… #ReversePsychology

Thursday, 8 September 2016

Getting other people to write my blogs

The Datapartners Daily Blog about blogs: 9 of 10

The thing with blogging is it requires both a passion to write and, ideally, literacy. Unfortunately not everyone can come up with new material on a consistent basis and, more worryingly, few people in this world are literate.

There’s nothing worse than reading a badly written essay full of spelling mistakes and no punctuation. It also won’t help your readership if people have to try and decipher gibberish masquerading as English.

So what can you do if you want to start a blog but don’t have the inclination or skills to do it? Well you could get someone else to write them for you. This was briefly covered in the “can I make money from blogging?” post last week. There are professional writers out there who offer their services (like me for example). You might also want to consider opening up your blog and allowing other keen bloggers to become contributors. For most people, blogging is a hobby so, if it’s a subject they are interested in, they may be willing to do it for free. Guest blogging is also a good way of expanding your reach. If you ask a contributor of another successful blog to write something for you, they are likely to share it with their followers. Likewise, if you offer to write on another blog, you are sharing your wordage with a whole new group of people. It’s all about networking.

Wednesday, 7 September 2016

What about vlogging?

The Datapartners Daily Blog about blogs: 8 of 10

Something that is becoming increasing popular these days is video blogging, or “vlogging”. The most successful “vloggers” appear to be attractive lesbian couples making videos discussing their mundane every day life, interspersed with the occasional kiss. In all honesty most of them probably aren’t even lesbians but are just a couple of attractive females who realise that 99% of the internet traffic is made up of horny men who like looking at pretty girls kissing, and are simply cashing in on their desperation. Fair play to them.

So is it worth vlogging if you’re not an attractive fake lesbian? If you feel comfortable in front of a camera and aren’t afraid of people making fun of your face then it’s probably worth considering. I personally don’t like being in front of a camera on account of my face and the fact I hate the sound of my own voice. I’m also much more comfortable and can get a message across much more clearly using written words. Some people may find it easier to convey their message via spoken word.

Also it does usually require a bit of video editing which involves buying some software or downloading some free software that will no doubt infect your machine with Trojans and all sorts of hideous internet diseases. Depending on the material, you may also need some additional software. For example, if you want to vlog about something that requires giving a visual demo, you may need to invest in some software that allows you to record your browser.

With the huge reach of Youtube, plus the fact a lot of people prefer to watch something rather than read (because let’s face it the majority of people can’t read) it’s definitely a worthwhile option.

If you become a fake lesbian, you’ll get plenty of visitors.

Tuesday, 6 September 2016

What benefits does blogging have?

The Datapartners Blog about blogs: 7 of 10

Blogging has many benefits. As well as the therapeutic effects of writing (I usually feel much better after a good old fashioned rant) the benefits to your business or website can also be greatly helped with regular blogs.

For starters there is the visibility in search engines. Everyone wants to get found on Google. The best way to get found on Google is to have lots of good quality content and many back links to your site. Enter the blog. If you are regularly blogging, you are submitting more and more content to Google’s index. There more content you have out there, the more chance there is of people finding it and potentially clicking further in to your site. If you have links back to your own website, the more chance there is of people following them. Also, the quality of relevant back links and referrals will have a positive impact on your overall ranking in Google.

It also helps gets your name out there. When used in tandem with the likes of LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter it can increase your exposure if people share it. Rather than just coming to your site from a single source, people will potentially get to you from a number of different avenues.

It can also help establish authority. A blog like this is providing free advice. Becoming an expert on a particular subject is likely to get you a following with people who are interested. Again, regular updates will keep visitors coming back and reading, and logically looking into your services in more detail. Of course this is the seventh of ten planned blogs on the subject of blogging and I’m mostly talking bollocks. Still, it’s useful advice.

Monday, 5 September 2016

How do I promote my blog?

The Datapartners Blog about blogs: 6 of 10

If you want to make money from blogging or use blogging to sell your products and services, it’s important to make sure people know about it. If blogging is going to be used to promote yourself, the idea of promoting the thing that you are using to promote your products and services may seem like a bit of a pointless step.

The reason it isn’t is because it actually is quite easy, providing you have something worth saying. By simply using social media sites like Facebook, Twitter, Google Plus, LinkedIn and generally annoying your friends and associates, you can start to spread the word and get people visiting your blog. The beauty of viral marketing like this is it’s absolutely free and very effective.

Of course you can also pay to increase visitors. Something like Google AdWords or Facebook or Amazon adverts are the most obvious ways. You can also pay some of these stupid companies who will suddenly boost your hit rate by a million percent or get you a thousand new Facebook likes and Twitter followers overnight. You’d be a fool if you did this though because all those accounts are dead links and won’t actually be real people.

This does all take time and requires you to regularly post about it multiple times in multiple locations but, the more content you have, and the more you promote it, the more visits you get and generally speaking the higher natural listing you may get in Google.

This coming from a blog that gets relatively few hits because I never promote it. Do as I say, not as I do.

Friday, 2 September 2016

Can I make money from blogging?

The Datapartners Daily Blog about blogs: 5 of 10

So you’ve got your blog, you’ve got good content, you enjoy writing. Now you are thinking “hey, I’d like to do this for a living. Can I actually make money from writing?”. The answer, simply, is yes.

In truth, making a living out of blogging is very difficult unless you have an enormous fan base (and I’m talking millions of views a month) or you are getting paid to write blogs for other people and are charging per blog or per word.

The most obvious ways of making money from a blog are by sticking adverts on them. Google AdSense is the most popular choice and you earn money every time someone clicks on an advert on your site. As mentioned above, however, you need to be getting a large number of visitors to make any sort of money. To put it into perspective, one of my small personal blogs receives about 2000 page views/ad impressions every month and I am making on average £2 per month from it. That’s not going to allow me to retire early so, using a bit of basic maths, it’s safe to assume that if I had 20,000 visits a month, I might make £20 per month, 200,000 might earn me £200 per month and 2,000,000 page views per month could earn me £2000 per month, which would be an average salary. Of course if I was getting two million page views a month on one site I’d probably need to spend all the money I earned on a bigger web server.

Another way of making money is through some sort of affiliate scheme. Amazon offer something like this whereby you can place product adverts on your blog and when a visitor clicks through and makes a purchase, you earn a commission. Again, however, they only give a 5% commission (up to 10% over a certain threshold) so the amount of money is likely to be minimal.

Other ways of making money are offering your own products and services on your blog. Do you need a new website? Then visit and we’ll quote you happy.

Thursday, 1 September 2016

How often should I blog?

The Datapartners Daily Blog about blogs: 4 of 10

Do you know someone who talks a lot? Do you want to punch them in the face? Or do you perhaps know someone who doesn’t say much and trying to converse with them is like the proverbial blood from the stone conundrum? Do you get to the point where you can’t be bothered with them any more?

The same principle applies with blogging. You may have a lot to say but do people need to hear about it every five minutes? Flooding people with constant updates will probably start to annoy them after a while and will likely stop reading. On the flip side if you don’t do it enough people are likely to forget all about you.

So how often should one post? Well given that between 2014 and 2015 I published less than half a dozen posts on this blog, I probably shouldn’t comment. However, because I’m one of these people who never practices what he preaches, I’d say that at least one a week is optimal. I’m currently doing a “one a day” challenge for two weeks on this blog and that’s probably not excessive either. Again, the subject matter will depend greatly on how often you will be able to blog. For example, one of the publications I write for is a satirical news site and it’s based on relevant stories so it’s only really possible to blog when a related story comes out. Trying to write posts for the sake of releasing something would probably not work because it wouldn’t be relevant to anything.

Conversely, I know a guy who is a huge Star Wars fan and does at least one video blog per day on that - usually ranging from 2 minutes to 10 minutes each depending on the subject. Given all the thousands of books, comics, films, TV series and general nerdy fanboy material there is out there, the guy will probably never run out of material. He also has about a quarter of a million subscribers so it’s fair to say he’s doing it right.

Wednesday, 31 August 2016

What should my blog contain?

The Datapartners Daily Blog about blogs: 3 of 10

Once you’ve established why you want to blog and what your blog is going to be about, you need to consider your target audience. The subject matter and the type of people who will be reading it will affect what you put in your blog. The way you write it will also make a difference to the types of people who will read it and keep coming back.

For example, I keep my blogs relatively light-hearted and quite often make fun of consultants and other inherently stupid people. Therefore, the chances of a serious consultant enjoying my blog are slim, unless they are the rare breed of consultant born with a sense of humour and a personality. In fact the chances of a consultant being able to read is slim so forget everything I just wrote.

Anyway, where was I? Oh yes, content. While some blogs contain humour, it’s only worth doing that if the subject matter allows it and if you are actually funny. Don’t try to force it otherwise it almost inevitably has the opposite effect.

Images and video can also bring a blog to life. Certainly photos are the first things people notice on any website so if you’ve got a nice, bold image, it will almost certainly draw the viewer in, meaning there is more chance of them actually reading your content. Personally I use very little in the way of imagery on this blog because I rarely have use for it. However, I also write articles for other publications where images and photos are much more relevant (news sites and profile sites for example).

Perhaps embed a related video. Either one you made yourself or sharing someone else’s video. People are more likely to respond to something visual (like photos and video) because reading is more arduous for people (especially consultants).

So there you go; Your blog should contain words, photos, video and some light-hearted and easy-to-read material. Pretty obvious really. This blog was a bit pointless… I’d probably make a good consultant...

Tuesday, 30 August 2016

How long should my blog be?

The Datapartners Daily Blog about blogs: 2 of 10

Guys, have you ever actually asked a woman whether size matters or not? Me neither but I’m sure different women would give you different answers. The nice ones will lie just to make you feel better about yourself.

Anyway, the point is that it’s the same answer to this question. Some people like short and sweet, others like it long and substantial. In truth, it doesn’t matter how long a blog is, as long as it’s good quality. If a blog is badly written, it’s less likely to get much in the way of interest. Unless it’s so badly written it goes viral for its utter ridiculousness, but you probably don’t want that.

Having said all that, I would personally never want to write a blog longer than a thousand words. This is because I wouldn’t want to read a blog that is over a thousand words. If I wanted to read copious amounts of text, I’d read a book. On the flip side, I wouldn’t personally write a blog that is less than two hundred words. This is because anything under two hundred words is barely a sentence.

It’s really a matter of preference but I’d say a good guide was between 200-1000 words. As long as the content is good and engages the reader.

This blog is 242 words. Oh and for the record, I’m hung like a genetically modified horse.

Monday, 29 August 2016

To blog or not to blog

The Datapartners Daily Blog about blogs: 1 of 10

Before embarking on a blog, you need to ask yourself why you want to do it. Do you have something to say? Do you enjoy writing? Are you literate? If the answer to any of those questions is “no” then you probably shouldn’t do it.

One of the reasons I haven’t done much in the way of blogging lately is because I haven’t been able to think of anything worthwhile to write about. Partly because of a lack of inspiration and partly because I’ve been busy. For a blog to work, you really need to post on a regular enough basis to keep your readers active, but not too much that you end up pissing people off. Rather than posting crap just for the sake of it, I personally haven’t bothered.

If your blog is more of a personal journal whereby you are sharing random thoughts and events of everyday life, then you’re more than likely going to have more to say. Blogging in this way is quite therapeutic. Writing your thoughts down is a good way of getting things off your chest and sharing it with the world is equally so. Caring is sharing and all that bollocks.

If your blog is more business oriented, you need to ask yourself if it’s right for your business. Also, is your writing style suitable. For example, my blogs are very light-hearted and often involve mild sarcasm, swearing and insults directed at celebrities and other annoying turds. This sort of behaviour wouldn’t sit well if I worked for a stuffy, boring, corporate company because they have a pompous image to maintain. Also, not all businesses have enough happening to warrant a regular blog. For example, I would personally find it hard to write a relevant blog for a company selling, say, wood because there is only so much I’d be able to write before I ran out of things to say, or started writing irresponsible posts involving sexual innuendo.

My business is quite easy because there is a lot of change in the web industry and there are a lot of relevant related topics like computers, software, hardware, other websites, new technology and countless other things.

So basically if you want to seriously consider starting a regular blog, ask yourself whether or not you have enough to say and if you think what you have to say will be of interest to others. Providing you have adequate knowledge of your chosen topic (or topics) and can keep it going for long enough, then you should definitely give it a go.

Wednesday, 24 August 2016

The blogging challenge

For someone who is very keen to promote the idea of blogging and general social networking to my customers, I’m painfully aware I don’t do anywhere near enough of it myself. This is partly because I’m too busy trying to encourage other people to do it and also because, having written several books and managed numerous different blogs covering a wide variety of genres, I never find time to write a company blog. I’m also inherently lazy.

Blogging is great but is it for everyone? A blog, like any form of written work, should be worth reading. That means it should be either informative or entertaining, or both. There’s only so much a single person can write that is useful and informative without getting repetitive. It’s not always possible to be entertaining either. I mean seriously, you try writing humour into the subject of web design and content management systems. It’s harder than listening to a Justin Bieber song without wanting to rip your own face off.

Anyway, to encourage myself to blog more, I am setting myself the challenge of writing one blog a day for two weeks (starting Monday and excluding weekends because, you know, I have a life) on the subject of blogging. These blogs will cover the following topics:

To blog or not to blog
How long should my blog be?
What should my blog contain?
How often should I blog?
Can I make money from blogging?
How do I promote my blog?
What benefits does blogging have?
What about vlogging?
Getting other people to write blogs
What are the best blogging sites?

Friday, 1 July 2016

Will leaving the EU affect your website? No

Firstly I want to point out from the outset that I refuse to call it Brexit. This is because I flatly refuse to acknowledge another stupid tabloid-created word that sounds like a breakfast cereal.

Anyway, the majority of the country voted to leave the European Union and now it seems the majority of the country is disgusted with the vote and thinks we should stay. This is typical of us Brits. It’s like the weather: We complain when it’s cold and wet all the time but as soon as the sun comes out we all complain that it’s too hot. There is simply just no way of pleasing a nation of whiny, fussy, weather obsessed queuing addicts.

The mainstream media don’t help either. They are all spreading doom and gloom and telling us the pound is worthless, our costs will rise and we’ll all die of poverty which is simply making people believe that’s what will happen. It’s a self-fulfilling prophecy. What people need to do is say “right, we’ve got what we wanted so let’s make this work. Let’s get our heads together and make Britain great again.” But of course that doesn’t sell newspapers.

So how is leaving the EU going to affect the majority of us? How is it going to affect my industry? How is it going to affect the many companies who rely on my business. How is it going to affect their businesses? The truth is probably not at all. I personally don’t think Joe Average will notice much difference at all, if any. People who have a vested interest in Europe in terms of their market sector will be affected; those who work abroad, foreigners who work in the UK, those who have clients elsewhere in Europe, multi-national companies, overseas investors and the like. People who run small to medium sized businesses and whose businesses are local probably won’t notice. I’m certainly not worried. It’ll be just like when Labour takes over from a Tory government or vice versa; Despite all the uproar, nobody really notices any difference in their everyday life because it doesn’t matter who runs the country, they will all find their own unique way of screwing us.

Of course this doesn’t mean that people won’t tighten their belts and be a bit more frugal. It’ll be just like when the recession hit a few years ago (again, I refused to call that the “credit crunch” because that also sounded like a breakfast cereal). Everyone started shopping at Aldi and Lidl because they realised there was no point paying £5 for something that they could get for £1. It was the same in the web world. People realised they could get a cheap, nice looking Wordpress site rather than pay silly amounts of money for a proper site. This is great except I personally think Wordpress is crap.

These were all subjects I was discussing with a friend of mine the other night whom I know from a business networking group I go to. He’s someone who might be affected by the EU referendum because his market sector is overseas. He was asking me what I charge for websites and hosting and was stunned when I gave him ballpark figures of a few hundred to a couple of thousand for a design and between twelve and thirty pounds a month for hosting. He was stunned because he is used to dealing with figures of tens of thousands. This is because he deals with big companies who have more money than sense and probably assume that they are getting something far superior because they are paying more for it. This is nonsense. What I do is more or less exactly the same, except I do it a lot quicker and without the layers of bureaucracy, politics, middle-men and general bullshit.

So I’d like to reassure all our clients and all those companies who aren’t our clients yet and are spending far too much on their websites, that leaving the EU is unlikely to affect them anywhere near as much as the press would have us believe, if at all. I’d also like to say that if you are spending silly amounts on a website and/or would like a nice one built quickly and at little cost, give us a call.

Fear not, Webxit will not happen.

Tuesday, 16 February 2016

Nominet price increase and CRAM-MD5 support

OK so this is more of a public service announcement rather than a blog. We sent some of our customers an email recently, informing them that Nominet (the official registry of UK domain names) is increasing the wholesale cost of UK domain names by 50% this year and we, in turn, have been hit with more like a 100% increase from our upstream provider. Unfortunately, we've had to increase our prices as a result but we've managed to keep it as low as possible. To be fair, it's the first time Nominet has increased its prices for UK domains since 1999 so we can't complain really. Well, we can and I'm sure some of our customers will too, but that's just life unfortunately.

Also, some of our customers were contacted recently about changes being made to older mailboxes. This will affect many other people as well so, being the nice people we are at Datapartners, thought we'd share our knowledge on this matter too.

Basically, something called CRAM-MD5 support (yeah I don't know either) is being switched off on 22nd February 2016 in line with industry security requirements. Therefore, anyone using this must update their email clients (Outlook, Windows Mail etc) to use secure sockets in order to improve email security and to continue using mail after February.

As complicated as it may sound, the necessary changes are simple to make on your computers, phones and tablets and we have found some great step by step instruction videos on how to do this:

For Android devices

For iPhones / iPads


For Windows 10:

For Apple Mac:

We suggest watching the relevant video through first and only make changes to the settings if required because it may not affect you at all. Of course if you only access your email using online webmail then you're fine anyway.

You're welcome :-)