Alana Spencer has been a client of ours ever since she won BBC's The Apprentice in 2016 and asked us to design a new website for her handmade cake business, Ridiculously Rich by Alana.

Ridiculously Rich has been going from strength to strength since Lord Sugar invested in the company two years ago, and earlier this week, he and Alana announced their new Cakepreneur initiative, which promises to drive even greater growth as we head into autumn.

Here's an introduction from Alana and Lord Sugar themselves:

Building the new Cakepreneur system

The Designer Websites team have been hard at work over the last couple of weeks, striving to ensure that the website's new Cakepreneur system would be ready for its big launch.

We were asked to build an add-on for Alana's existing Ambassador system to accommodate a new type of reseller: Cakepreneurs. This was conceived as a more affordable way to join the Ridiculously Rich family - it costs £1,000 to become the Ridiculously Rich Ambassador for your region, whereas Cakepreneurs pay a one-off setup fee of just £150.

Cakepreneur Starter Kit

A Ridiculously Rich Cakepreneur starter kit.

Our skilled web developers created a sign-up area that makes it easy for would-be Cakepreneurs to get the ball rolling. Once the user has filled in their details, the website shows them an introductory video, then prompts them to take a quick online test. Those who pass this test can then pay the setup fee and order their starter kit (pictured above).

What do Cakepreneurs do?

Cakepreneurs earn commission by selling Ridiculously Rich cakes to...

  • Cafés
  • Delicatessens
  • Farm shops
  • Corporate clients

...and so on. Each Cakepreneur is given a unique discount code that entitles their customers to 5% off all online orders.

The system that we have designed and developed makes it easy for Alana's Cakepreneurs to sign in and manage everything. Each Cakepreneur can create their own Ridiculously Rich profile, add meetings to their own personal calendar, and sign up clients who will earn them commission with each order placed. The system also allows the Ridiculously Rich administrators to see how active each Cakepreneur is.

Additional development

In addition to the new Cakepreneur system, Designer Websites also built...

  • A new downloads section that allows Ridiculously Rich to share documents, videos, and other downloadable resources with their Ambassadors and Cakepreneurs all over the country.

  • 'Stockists' page (view here) that makes it easy for users to find nearby shops that sell Ridiculously Rich cakes.

  • A new 'Find My Nearest' page (view here) - simply enter your postcode to see a full list of Ridiculously Rich Ambassadors and Cakepreneurs in your area.

Alana explains why she chose to work with Designer Websites

Visit Ridiculously Rich > Get a Web Design Quote >

 GDPR FAQ

IMPORTANT NOTE: Unlike some companies who have written about this topic recently, we are not running a GDPR course, and so we will not be exaggerating the issues to scare you into parting with your cash. This is merely an advisory post for Designer Websites clients, many of whom have been asking us about the new law that will soon be in effect.

If you're a business owner, odds are you've already heard about the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) that will soon be in effect throughout the European Union. This new regulation is fairly complex, and many different claims are being made about it - not all of them accurate.

With that in mind, we want to do what we can to help you understand the new laws and what they mean for your business, particularly your website. You've probably got a lot of questions about the GDPR, and today we're going to attempt to answer some of them.

Please note that this post is for informational purposes only and should not be mistaken for professional legal advice. Designer Websites Ltd will not be held responsible for any other organisation's failure to comply with the GDPR or any other piece of legislation.

Contents:

  1. What is the GDPR?
  2. When will the new law take effect?
  3. Where does the GDPR apply?
  4. Why does my organisation need to be GDPR compliant?
  5. Who is responsible for ensuring that my organisation is compliant?
  6. How can I make sure I'm ready for the new law?
  7. What steps do the ICO recommend?
  8. Are Designer Websites GDPR compliant?
  9. Do I need to do anything about my website?
  10. Can Designer Websites help with GDPR compliance?
  11. Useful links

1. What is the GDPR?

The GDPR (General Data Protection Regulation) is an EU regulation that aims to improve data protection for individuals within the European Union. The regulation will give individuals more control over their personal information and how it is used.

Under the GDPR, organisations that process people's personal data will be expected to keep that data secure, be transparent about its use, and report data breaches promptly when they occur.

Here in the UK, the new data protection law will be enforced by the ICO (Information Commissioner's Office). An in-depth guide to the GDPR can be found on their website.

2. When will the new law take effect?

The GDPR was adopted in April 2016, but it is not yet in effect. It will be enforced from 25 May 2018 onwards. Your organisation will need to be compliant with the new law by that date.

3. Where does the GDPR apply?

The GDPR is an EU regulation, and thus it will apply to all EU member states. This will include the United Kingdom, even after Brexit.

The GDPR also applies to any organisations who process the personal information of individuals within the EU. For example, Facebook and LinkedIn are both based in the USA, but since they hold personal data on EU citizens and residents, these companies will be expected to comply with the new regulation just as if they were based inside the EU.

4. Why does my organisation need to be GDPR compliant?

Once the new law is in force, your organisation will be required by law to comply with the General Data Protection Regulation. After 25 May, if you are found to be in violation of the GDPR, you will be breaking the law, and may thus be subject to a number of sanctions.

That said, the ICO have made it clear that they view fines as a last resort, and will only use them to punish companies who "systematically fail to comply with the law or completely disregard it". Information Commissioner Elizabeth Denham has stated the following:

"The ICO's commitment to guiding, advising and educating organisations about how to comply with the law will not change under the GDPR...we intend to use [our increased] powers proportionately and judiciously. And while fines may be the sledgehammer in our toolbox, we have access to lots of other tools that are well-suited to the task at hand...the GDPR gives us a suite of sanctions to help organisations comply - warnings, reprimands, corrective orders." [source]

So don't panic when you see people using scaremongering tactics and telling you that you'll be fined millions of pounds if you aren't GDPR compliant by 25 May - this is simply not true. The important thing is that you're making a reasonable effort to comply by being transparent about your data collection practices and keeping people's personal information secure.

5. Who is responsible for ensuring that my organisation is compliant?

Short answer: you are. If it's discovered that your organisation is not complying with the GDPR, it's your organisation that will be held to account.

The long answer is a little more complicated. The new regulation makes the following distinction between what the EU call 'controllers' and 'processors':

  • Controllers determine the 'purposes and means' of processing personal data (e.g. if you collect information about your customers and use that information to either communicate with them or make decisions about them, then you are a controller).

  • Processors are the ones who actually handle the data on behalf of a controller (e.g. companies like Sage, Salesforce, Infusionsoft and MailChimp are processors because they provide a service that involves processing data on behalf of controllers).

It is quite possible that you are a controller and a processor of some personal data.

Both controllers and processors have some responsibilities under the GDPR. Processors must keep accurate records of the data itself and of processing activities; they are responsible for keeping people's personal data secure, and will be held legally liable in the event of a breach. However, controllers may also be held liable if they use a processor without ensuring that the processor is GDPR compliant.

Since virtually all organisations process some personal data themselves - even if it's just their own employee records - nobody will be off the hook when the GDPR comes into force on 25 May. So now let's answer the most important question of all...

6. How can I make sure I'm ready for the new law?

The most important thing is to demonstrate that your organisation has made a reasonable effort to comply with the GDPR and protect the rights of the individuals whose personal data you store and/or process. As you've already seen, the Information Commissioner's Office will only be issuing fines to the very worst offenders - they're more interested in helping businesses to understand and comply with the new law in order to protect individuals' rights as best as possible. In fact, if this whole thing has you feeling completely lost, you may want to make use of the ICO helpline (open 0900-1700, Mon-Fri).

So what exactly will you need to do from 25 May onwards? Well, the right approach will differ from one organisation to the next, but here's a good rule of thumb: before you collect or process someone's personal data, make sure you...

  • Have a clear reason - and a lawful basis - for doing so. Know why you're collecting other people's information, and know whether that reason is defensible in the eyes of the law. Under the GDPR, there are 6 valid legal reasons for organisations to collect personal data: consent, contract, legal obligation, vital interests, public task, and legitimate interests. Details on all 6 lawful bases can be found here; for the majority of businesses, the most applicable basis will either be consent (the individual consented to you collecting and processing their information) or legitimate interests (you have a valid business reason for collecting the data, and you are not infringing on the personal rights of the individual).

  • Are only collecting what's necessary. You should only ever collect/process personal data if it is necessary to your stated goal. For instance, you might reasonably collect a customer's name and contact details so that you're able to reach them, but that's no reason to also collect information on their race, nationality, date of birth, etc.

  • Know how long you will be holding on to that data. The GDPR doesn't allow organisations to keep people's personal information indefinitely just because. Once you know why you're collecting personal information (see first point), you should also assess how long you'll need to keep the data in order to meet that goal. This doesn't necessarily need to be a specific number of days or months - it could just be 'for as long as that person remains a customer' or 'until that person unsubscribes from our newsletter'.

  • Will be able to keep this data secure. This may mean installing security software or making organisational changes to ensure that only authorised personnel are able to access the collected information.

  • Will be able to respect the individual's rights to access and erasure. Under the GDPR, individuals have the right to view all personally-identifiable information that an organisation holds on them. In addition, they usually have the right to request that this information be deleted. Ensure that your data subject(s) will be able to make these requests, and that you'll be able to honour them in a timely manner - requested information will need to be supplied within 1 month of receiving the request, and while there are certain circumstances under which you can refuse to delete personal data (see 'When can I refuse to comply with a request for erasure?'), you will generally need to comply with deletion requests as quickly as possible too.

7. What steps do the ICO recommend?

The ICO have put together a helpful list of 12 steps that organisations should take ASAP in order to prepare for the General Data Protection Regulation. By now, you hopefully have a reasonably clear idea of what your responsibilities will be under the new law, but if you're not sure what actions you now need to take, this list is a great place to start.

So let's go through the 12 recommended steps in a little more detail:

1) Make sure everyone's aware of the new law.

Speak to the key decision-makers within your organisation and ensure that they understand the new law and what it requires of them.

2) Document all personal data you currently hold.

You probably already have at least some personal data on record. Now is a good time to review:

  • What data you hold
  • Where it came from
  • Whether you still need it
  • How you're using it
  • Who has access to it
  • Whether you have a lawful basis for keeping it

An information audit may help with this step.

3) Review your privacy policy.

People who interact with your organisation should be able to access a copy of your privacy policy (most companies publish it on their website). Read over your privacy notice and revise it if necessary to ensure that it complies with the GDPR.

If you're not sure what your privacy policy needs to include, you may wish to refer to our own privacy policy as an example - however, please bear in mind that every business is different, and your privacy notice may need to cover certain things that ours does not.

4) Make it easy for individuals to make information requests...

As we've already covered, data subjects have the right to know what information you have on them. Try to make it as easy as possible for data subjects to submit information requests - for instance, you might put a contact form on your website for this purpose, or set up a dedicated email address for right of access requests.

Larger companies may choose to provide an automated system to allow their customers to view, update and delete their own personal information manually. However, developing a tool like this would probably be overkill for small/medium-sized businesses who do not expect to receive many requests.

5) ...and ensure that you're able to respond to these requests.

In addition to the above, you need to make sure that your systems allow you to quickly retrieve and, if necessary, delete people's personal information when they request it. Ensuring that this can be done in a timely manner will help you to comply with the GDPR, and it will save you valuable time if and when a request is submitted.

6) Identify a lawful basis for your data collection / processing.

Remember, there are 6 lawful bases for processing data - make sure you understand them, and identify which one applies to your activities. Bear in mind that you can't change your mind later (e.g. if you collected a customer's contact details on a 'consent' basis because they agreed to receive promotional information from your organisation, you cannot use those details for other purposes on the basis of 'legitimate interests').

Your choice of lawful basis should be documented in your privacy notice - see step 3.

7) Check how you establish consent.

If you collect people's personal data on a 'consent' basis (see above), you need to:

  • Give individuals a clear way to give - or withhold - consent
  • Make it clear what individuals are consenting to

For instance, if there is a form on your website that requires people to enter their contact details, you need to be EXPLICIT about what you plan to do with those contact details. If you're going to send promotional emails, say so. If you plan to share the individual's details with your partner companies, make this clear.

Consent should never be the default option. Here's something you've probably seen quite often on the Internet:

☐ Tick this box if you do not wish to receive promotional emails from us.

In this example, users are automatically consenting to receiving emails until they tick the box. Under the GDPR, this sort of thing will not be allowed - the message above would need to be changed to 'Tick this box if you wish to receive promotional emails from us' or something similar. Make sure you're ASKING for consent instead of giving the option to withdraw it.

8) Think of the children!

Children under the age of 13 cannot legally consent to the collection and processing of their own personal data. A parent or legal guardian must consent on their child's behalf.

If you think that children may interact with your organisation, it may be necessary to implement some kind of age verification system on your website and/or set up a simple way for parents and guardians to consent to data processing activities.

9) Know how to respond to a data breach.

If a security breach allows unauthorised personnel to access the personal data that you hold, you will be expected to respond to the breach properly. Make sure you have an established procedure in place for detecting, reporting and investigating data breaches. (Remember, if you're based in the UK, breaches must be reported to the ICO within 72 hours.)

10) Familiarise yourself with the guidelines.

You're already reading up on the General Data Protection Regulation, but now is also a good time to familiarise yourself with other relevant guidelines, especially the ICO's code of practice for conducting privacy impact assessments.

11) Designate a data protection officer.

While everyone in an organisation has a role to play in keeping data secure and complying with the law, you should appoint (formally or informally) a data protection officer to take overall responsibility for compliance and security.

12) Determine your lead data protection supervisory authority.

If you solely operate within the UK, your data protection supervisory authority is the ICO (Information Commissioner's Office). If you hold information on individuals in other EU member states, you should identify the authorities for each of those countries and determine which is the 'lead' authority for your organisation.

8. Are Designer Websites GDPR compliant?

Yes, we are. In fact, we have always been compliant; from the very beginning, we were always extremely careful to store / process customer and staff details securely.

We keep our servers (which hold the data we collect and record for our customers) in a purpose-built secure data centre with firewalls, secure access and activity logging. We have our own defined procedures in place for tracking and using the data that we record. We have always had a designated data protection officer, and we have an up-to-date privacy policy.

When an enquiry is submitted via our website, we do not store the submitted information in a database - we simply receive an email containing the content of the submitted form. These emails are deleted after 12 months.

9. Do I need to do anything about my website?

As stated earlier, all businesses - and all business websites - are different. We can offer some general guidance to help you ensure that your website is GDPR compliant, but please remember that it is your responsibility to familiarise yourself with the new law and ensure that every part of your organisation is following it.

With that said, we recommend the following:

  1. Update your privacy policy and cookies policy. Make sure these documents are accurate and exhaustive. Explain all the ways you collect people's data through your website, how that data is used, and how people can contact you to request access to / deletion of their information.

  2. Review the forms on your website. If your website contains any forms that ask users to enter personal data, you must declare why you are capturing that information and what you intend to do with it (e.g. 'we will use this information to inform you about future offers' or 'we reserve the right to share this information with our partner companies'). This should be stated on the form itself as well as in your privacy policy (see above).

  3. Stop making consent the default option. If you use pre-ticked checkboxes on your web forms (or require the user to tick a box to opt OUT of something), you will need to stop doing this before the GDPR comes into force. Ensure that users cannot consent to anything through a lack of action - for instance, users should have to tick a box when they DO wish to be added to your mailing list, not when they want to be kept off it.

  4. Make sure you have consent for any data you already hold. If you have collected people's personal details in the past, you should make sure they are still happy for you to keep hold of them. For example, you may need to make it easier for people to unsubscribe from your mailing list if they no longer wish to be on it.

  5. Ensure that people are able to view and delete their personal information. As we mentioned earlier, you may wish to set up an automated system that allows your customers to manage their own personal data, but a contact email address is sufficient if you're not expecting a lot of requests. Just make sure that anyone looking to access their personal data has a clear way to do it.

10. Can Designer Websites help with GDPR compliance?

It is ultimately your responsibility to comply with the GDPR law, but if you need any help from the Designer Websites team then we will of course assist you wherever possible.

For instance, if you need us to make your web forms compliant, or if you need help with your website's privacy policy, please email info@designer-websites.co.uk and ask for assistance. This work is chargeable (our usual rates apply), and each website is different, so we would have to add you to our list of requests and assess how much time would be needed to make your site compliant. Please bear in mind that we manage hundreds of websites, and it may be some time before your changes can be made.

11. Useful links

Bespoke Online Solutions

Truly successful online businesses don't just need a website that's user-friendly and optimised for search engines. More often than not, they need specialised functionality, a significant level of automation, comprehensive administration portals, integration with other business solutions...the list is long, and of course, every business has its own specific requirements.

In this post, we'd like to show you 10 quick and simple examples of the bespoke online solutions that we've created and implemented for our clients.

More...

Top .NET and Ecommerce Developers

We at Designer Websites are very proud to announce that we've been featured in not one but two lists of the UK's very best web developers. Clutch, who describe themselves as a 'data-driven field guide to business buying decisions', included Designer Websites Ltd in the following lists:

As ecommerce specialists, we were particularly pleased to learn that we'd made Clutch's list of the UK's leading ecommerce developers. Our experienced designers and developers work hard to provide high-quality ecommerce solutions that are tailored to each individual client, and it feels great to be recognised for the quality of the work we do.

Visit our Ecommerce Web Design page to find out more about the bespoke ecommerce solutions we provide here at Designer Websites.

More Useful Links:

UPDATE 30/01/18: We have also been named among Clutch's Top UK Inbound Marketing Agencies!

From October 2017, Chrome will show a 'NOT SECURE' warning on any HTTP page containing a text form

Switch your website to HTTPS

Google are currently on something of a crusade. They want their users to feel totally secure as they browse the web, and so they've been doing their best to force website owners to take user security more seriously. Google Chrome already shows a 'Not secure' warning on non-HTTPS pages that collect sensitive data; for instance, checkout pages and login screens must be served over a HTTPS connection in order to ensure that card details, passwords, and other sensitive details are encrypted. If you're asking users to enter that sort of information on a HTTP page, Chrome will flag up the risk with a notice like this:

Google Chrome 'Not Secure' Warning

As things stand, that 'Not secure' warning is only shown on pages where a user is explicitly asked to enter 'sensitive' data, such as:

  • Passwords
  • Credit / debit card details

However, Google have now announced a major change that could cause a lot of problems for website owners. As of October 2017, the 'Not secure' warning will appear on EVERY non-HTTPS page that contains a text input form, regardless of the form's purpose.

This means that, from October onwards, the following pages will need to be secured with a SSL certificate:

  • Any page with a search bar
  • Any page with a contact / enquiry form
  • Any page with a newsletter signup form

Basically, if your page contains ANY element that allows the user to enter and submit some sort of information - whether it's their credit card number, their email address, or the name of the product they're looking to buy from your website - then you'll need to get that page secured with an SSL certificate by October.

With this change looming on the horizon, a lot of website owners will need to think very seriously about implementing HTTPS across all pages if they have not already done so. For instance, it's quite common for ecommerce sites to use HTTPS on their login/register and checkout pages while serving all other pages over an unsecured HTTP connection, but once this Chrome update takes effect, the people who visit those websites will start seeing 'Not secure' messages everywhere they click.

And those two little words will often be enough to put off potential customers and send them running to a fully-secured competitor instead.

What do I need to do?

If you are currently serving text input forms over an HTTP connection, you will need to purchase an SSL certificate and install it on the server where your website is hosted. You will then need to update things like canonical tags and internal links so that they point to your website's new URL (beginning with https:// rather than http://). You will also need to ensure that the proper redirects are in place so that anyone trying to access the HTTP version of your website is automatically sent to the secure HTTPS version.

If that to-do list seems a little intimidating, don't worry - all you really have to do is ask your website developer to make the necessary changes for you. They will know how to install the SSL certificate and update everything 

Do I need to switch to HTTPS if my website doesn't contain any forms?

Perhaps you've been reading this and thinking 'this doesn't concern me - I don't have any search bars, contact forms or anything like that on my website, so I must be safe'.

If so, we have some bad news for you. Google have made it quite clear that the October update will merely be the latest step towards their ultimate goal, which is to mark ALL HTTP pages as 'Not secure'.

This week, Google sent out an email to webmasters warning them of the imminent expansion of the 'Not secure' message. That email included the following ominous statement:

"The new warning is part of a long term plan to mark all pages served over HTTP as 'not secure'."

So while your unsecured website may survive the update in October, you won't be able to escape that 'Not secure' shame notice forever. And given that users are increasingly expecting to see that little green padlock at the top of their screens no matter what they're doing online, it's probably a good idea to get that SSL certificate and upgrade to HTTPS sooner rather than later.

Further Reading: Why Convert Your Website to HTTPS?

Our SEO team at Jump Factory Basingstoke

This week, some of the SEO team at Designer Websites took a trip down to Jump Factory in Basingstoke, for a bit of fun, and to see how the company is getting on since we’re now helping them with their online marketing efforts.

We’ve worked with Jump Factory on their website since before the indoor trampoline park opened its doors, so going to visit the park in person was something we've wanted to do for a while now. So, the team travelled down from Penarth to Basingstoke on Wednesday, and found that jumping about on a trampoline was actually a great way to stretch their legs after a two-hour journey in a car.

jump factory indoor trampoline park
The indoor trampoline park even celebrated their 100,000th jumper just last week! 

Since Designer Websites joined forces with Jump Factory, we have worked to create a user friendly, dynamic and fully optimised website ensuring the company stays at the forefront of their target market. We officially started working on their “Jump Online” campaign back in January and since this time, we’ve witnessed the indoor trampoline park’s traffic make a big jump online, and watched as their customer base has significantly increased over the past couple of months. 

Due to their high-ranking website and active social media presence, Jump Factory have been able to really jump online, travelling up the SERPS and progressing with increasing success each month. Since we began our SEO work, Jump Factory is now gaining double the visitors on their website and has had a huge boost in bookings. To find out more about the work we do with Jump Factory, you can read all about it here in our case study

At the indoor trampoline park, the team took part in basketball tournaments and dodgeball tournaments to make full use of all the parks activities. The girls won in basketball due to Laura’s skillful shots, but the boys stole back the crown in the dodgeball tournament. It was clear that you can be fully grown and still have fun on the trampolines!
jump factory basketball lanes
The team even took on the famous ‘Walk the Wall’ section, which is frequented by parkour experts and gymnasts. It’s safe to say that the team did not realise quite how big the wall was and sadly, realised they were not quite up to the parkour standard. At least they’re better at helping companies jump online than they are at jumping on trampolines!

walk the wall at jump factory

This trip was a great team building activity and it was wonderful to see the parks popularity since they have managed to jump online.

If you’re interested in helping your own business jump online, then our SEO experts are here to help – get in touch today!
Visit www.primaporcelain.co.uk to see our latest work!

PrimaPorcelain's New Website

We recently told you about the new website we created for TimberTech, one of the UK's leading suppliers of composite decking. TimberTech UK is part of Greensquares, a British company specialising in a variety of high-quality/low-maintenance solutions for the home and garden; Greensquares have a whole family of websites showcasing different parts of their extensive product range, and the TimberTech site wasn't the only one they asked us to update for 2017.

PrimaPorcelain is the brand under which Greensquares provide a whole host of gorgeous porcelain tiles and paving slabs to customers right across the country. With nearly 40 different colours and styles - all of which can be used internally or externally - available to order from stock, PrimaPorcelain have the perfect porcelain flooring solution for practically any project, and their low-porosity products are every bit as practical and low-maintenance as TimberTech's composite deck boards.

Greensquares asked us to revamp the PrimaPorcelain website in order to better show off their beautiful porcelain tiles and give customers a keener sense of the possibilities afforded by these products. The new design, which is now live here, is fully responsive and offers a great user experience across all devices. It also shows off PrimaPorcelain's tiles in spectacular fashion, with amazing photographs of the tiles in situ sitting alongside hi-res images of the products that really give you a feel for their irresistible texture.

We also worked to improve PrimaPorcelain's product selector tool, making it easier than ever for site visitors to compare their options side-by-side and order up to 3 free tile samples to assist with the decision-making process.

If you're thinking of revamping your home and/or garden, be sure to visit the new PrimaPorcelain website and see what they have to offer. Alternatively, if you need an expertly-designed website for your business, please click here to get in touch with Designer Websites and request a quotation.
Built by our clients for our clients, Designer Websites' new meeting / training room is finally ready!

We've been struggling for some time with a single small meeting room, so we decided to reshuffle our premises somewhat to create a new room that's perfect for meetings, presentations, and training sessions. Work on the room is now complete, and as you can see, the results look great!

Meeting Room

Practically everything you see in the photo above was provided by one of our clients. These are businesses with whom we've worked very closely over the years, and we thought that explaining 'who did what' would make a great talking point within the meetings we'll be having in this space.

Who did what?

The first thing we did when renovating the room was install a luxury vinyl floor from Floormaker, long-time clients of ours who supply all kinds of high-quality flooring to homes and businesses throughout the UK. Here's what the stripped-back room looked like once the floor was down:

Meeting Room Floor

Then came the task of plastering and painting the new meeting room, which we split between ourselves. We also took care of hanging the blinds, rewiring the electrics, and sorting out the radiators.

After that, we turned to our friends at ABC Designs, signage specialists based right here in South Wales. They created a sign similar to the one in our main office, along with some entrance signs, door vinyls, and car park signs - all of which, in our opinion, looks absolutely awesome!

Meeting Room Signage

We also commissioned Printmet to build us a bespoke meeting room table (with a parquet insert from Floormaker, who we mentioned before) and a bespoke TV stand, which we designed specifically for the new room.

Meeting Room Table

Then came the pièce de résistance: a quirky, modern-looking partition with a hidden door. This was designed by the brilliant Modelmakers Ltd, who normally specialise in architectural and exhibition models but clearly have a bright future in this sort of work! We already had an idea of what we wanted, so after a few design concepts and discussions with the guys from Modelmakers, a plan was agreed upon and they installed this unique wall in no time.

Partition with Hidden Door

And with that, our new meeting room was finished!

New Meeting Room 2

Our meeting room has gone from being boring and run-of-the-mill to being exceptionally cool and contemporary, and everyone here at DW absolutely loves it. None of this could have been achieved without the help of our brilliant clients, so if you are ever looking for a superb signage company, an amazing model maker, a fantastic bespoke metal furniture supplier, or a high-calibre flooring company, you know who to call!
Infusionsoft integration

A few years ago, we were asked the following question:

"Hey, can you guys integrate Infusionsoft into my website?"

Our answer was "Yes, of course we can!" We at Designer Websites are experts when it comes to API integrations, and we had the initial integration - which used the standard Infusionsoft API - working in no time.

However, we did notice that there were certain drawbacks to using Infusionsoft's standard API functions. The biggest disadvantage? The integration of the enquiries/sales forms were slowing down the site dramatically, and this affected page speed (a critical SEO factor) as well as the overall user experience.

To overcome this problem, we developed a custom integration solution the provided full Infusionsoft integration as required without having a detrimental effect on site speed or usability.

Over the years, we've integrated Infusionsoft forms into websites for a number of clients, and we would thoroughly recommend using a custom integration for this if your are focused on delivering a responsive service to customers who use your website.

If you'd like to speak to the Designer Websites team about a custom Infusionsoft integration, please get in touch today.
Qinec integration

Qinec
 is a comprehensive healthcare management solution that's utilised by many of our clinic- and surgery-based clients. These clients asked us to develop a full integration of the Qinec functionality into their websites, which we were happy to provide. The integrations we developed were unique to each client, but fundamentally, the system enables patients to:
  • Register with the clinic/surgery
  • Book appointments
  • Pay for appointments and products
  • Book specific rooms and/or doctors
These are real-time integrations, so there is no need to worry about double booking or over-selling.

There's no getting away from the fact that the integration of Qinec is quite a complex task - it is a very comprehensive solution in itself.  However, having integrated the solution several times for a number of different clients, we at Designer Websites are extremely adept at Qinec integration. Our API integration experts are capable of integrating Qinec in many different ways to suit each client's specific requirements, so if you are looking to get Qinec integrated within your website then please feel free to get in touch for a free consultation.
UPDATE (12th Dec 2016): Google recently announced that HTTP websites that collect sensitive data (e.g. passwords, payment details) will soon be flagged as 'not secure' when someone attempts to view them on the Google Chrome web browser. This means that, if your website requires users to enter login details and/or personal information, it is now even more important that you follow the advice given below and secure your site by upgrading to HTTPS. Failure to do so ASAP may lead to a sharp decrease in site traffic as Chrome begins to warn people away from your site.

Why Convert Your Website to HTTPS?

There’s lots of chatter on the internet, and particularly within the SEO community, about implementing site-wide HTTPS for websites, and you may be wondering why. In the first instance, website owners are making the shift predominantly because Google have (relatively recently) suggested that, because HTTPS is inherently more secure for internet users, they have added this as a ranking factor within their SERP algorithms. There are other reasons, of course (chiefly the added security), but most website owners whose websites were not previously secured by an SSL are having to think about the switch simply to stay ahead of the competition.

We’ve been building secure websites for ecommerce for over a decade; this is normal practice when handling transaction and customer details, but not so much for basic brochure-style websites. However, we recently converted a brochure-only website for one customer to a more secure HTTPS website; take a look at composite decking suppliers TimberTech.

Timbertech are among the first of our customers to switch to a site-wide HTTPS website, and we’re very closely monitoring their rankings to see if this has any effect on the SERPs. We anticipate carrying out this task for a great many of our customers over the coming months, and we think that if you have not already done so, then you should seriously start thinking about doing this for your website. Here are two reasons why:

1. A more secure browsing experience for your users.

All data sent via HTTPS is encrypted, meaning that it cannot be read by anyone but the intended recipient. As mentioned, we always use the HTTPS protocol at the checkout stage of our ecommerce websites, thus ensuring that each customer's payment details and personal information are handled securely. However, many non-ecommerce site owners are now opting to switch to HTTPS too, and it's not hard to see why: even if no payment information is sent via your site, it can still give users extra peace of mind to know that any other sensitive information they enter (email addresses, telephone numbers, login details, etc.) will be safely encrypted by your website.

2. Potentially higher Google rankings.

The primary aim of any search engine is to deliver the best possible results to the end user, and since online security is a major concern for many web users right now, companies like Google and Bing are always looking for new ways to identify secure, high-quality websites.

Google announced some time ago that HTTPS had been incorporated into their algorithm as a "lightweight" ranking signal, potentially giving HTTPS websites a slight advantage over standard HTTP sites in the search engine's results. We've seen a lot of debate over how much difference HTTPS can actually make to a site's rankings, but while it would be foolish to suggest that HTTPS is some kind of miracle solution, it seems fairly safe to say that converting to HTTPS can at least make a small difference to a site's organic search positions. This blog post from ahrefs.com suggests that HTTPS, when implemented properly, does correlate with higher search rankings.

However, that brings us to an important point: if you're going to make the leap from HTTP to HTTPS, it's important to ensure that it's done properly. Among other things, you will need to implement the proper redirects throughout your site, and make sure that there is a single canonical version of each URL.

If you'd like the Designer Websites team to help you upgrade your site from HTTP to HTTPS, please get in touch - we will ensure that the changeover is handled properly, giving you the best possible chance of achieving higher rankings and meeting the expectations of your users.

Here at Designer Websites, we offer a bespoke web design and development service that provides our clients with unique and highly functional websites, which are scalable, fined-tuned to their needs, and are intended to offer the best user experience/impact possible. 

Whether your aim is to generate a strong and memorable brand image for your new company online, or to offer very unique functionality to your customers, there are multitude of benefits that come from investing in a bespoke website. 

A question we’re often asked by clients who are thinking of commissioning a bespoke website, is what makes this better than a template type site based on a pre-built system. 

On first impression, pre-built solutions can seem like a great idea for people who are starting out online, simply due to their low price point and accessibility. They are the ‘quick fix’ of the web design world, using shortcuts to get a website up and running in an attractive time frame, while allowing the user to build their design based on a set of ready-made foundations. While their popularity is undeniable, what this article will do is highlight why many of the benefits have drawbacks which outweigh the advantages, and why a bespoke web design could offer a more sustainable, professional advantage to you in the long term. 

Exclusivity and Customisation

As mentioned above, a template on a pre-built system can seem like a perfectly adequate solution for your website at first, especially as there are often thousands of designs that are available to choose from to make it feel unique. The fact that it’s pre-made, also means that you can test your site to see how it will look for the user once you have uploaded all the content. There is very little design or development time required and therefore the cost should be very low indeed. In fact many of these DIY type solutions allow you to build a site yourself, albeit you would need to be relatively web savvy to realistically get something operational.

Sounds ok so far right? So what are the drawbacks?

Unique Design

With many of these pre-built solutions there are thousands of template designs, with new ones becoming available every day. Over time of course, with hundreds of millions of websites online, they become less unique as more people choose the template. You can also tweak many of the templates to use different colours, images, etc; making them more specific to your company or requirements, but you can only go as far as the template will allow you. With many pre-built systems you can use a totally bespoke design on-top of the platform, which will give you some uniqueness for a while, again, within the constraints of the systems capabilities. These systems are meant to be easy to replicate and the code structure is always the same, so your design will not be unique for as long as you might like.

If you use a decent designer to create a template on top of a pre-built system, then you may well end up paying over-the-odds for what is fundamentally a template system, without gaining any of the benefits of a bespoke website. This is in fact where most people fall foul; these web designers are selling you what they term, or believe, is a ‘bespoke website’, when in fact it’s only a bespoke design within a rigid structure of a template system.

Moreover, we see companies charging ridiculous fees for what is simply a design, made relatively easy for the designer by the confinements of a pre-built system. After all, they believe that they are selling you a bespoke website, when actually they are most definitely not! 

Responsive or Emulated Responsive

A true responsive web design starts with the user interface designer, who should spend time creating separate designs for each device type, i.e. mobiles, tablets and monitors. The designer will carefully think about the user journey on the mobile, for example, excluding section and including the most relevant areas, making the point of the website more appropriate for that type of user in that situation. It may be a totally different layout to that of the monitor version. Along with this comes the usual menu style changes and resizing of images, etc.

An emulated responsive design, often employed by pre-built solutions or templates, is one where the system makes automated calculations based on the size of the screen and changes the style of the menu and resizes elements on like images and fonts on the screen. So it’s the same design/layout but adapted to the screen size. 

Emulated is better than not having a responsive design at all, but does not give the user the best experience, and does not sell your business of products in the best way.
Bespoke responsive websites are naturally far better than emulated responsive, so be sure what your web designer is offering you, ask them if it’s ‘true responsive’ or just ‘emulated’.

Expertise

Problems arise when you ask your web designer; ‘can we make it do this?’, or ‘can you make it do that?’, and the answer is often an intake of air and.. surprise surprise either 'no', or 'we can' for the cost of a small car! The reason for this is that they are not proper software developers, (although don’t straight up tell them that because they probably think they are) and fundamentally, they did not develop the system. They have merely placed the design on top of it, so it’s actually pretty tough for them to do what you are asking without outsourcing to a software development company.

A true bespoke website will be modern, totally unique, scalable, delivered by the people responsible for the coding and not just the design, and fundamentally if you need a change it is often very easy and quick, but most importantly very doable!
Truly bespoke websites are delivered by companies with a combination of professional software engineers, user interface developers and highly skilled web-specific designers. These tend to be far more stable companies and not your fly-by-night very small design-only firms, so an additional benefit is that you don’t have to worry about your website disappearing one day!

Some large companies take the view that pre-built solutions are a very fast way of making easy money, and therefore still deliver them. Sadly, these tend to be the companies who charge the same as a bespoke development company would for a truly bespoke website, but instead they deliver to you a pre-built template system at an extortionate price! It’s a very fast way to make money if you can sleep at night with this kind of business model...

So are bespoke websites more expensive? Well, they most definitely should be, because they require highly skilled and experienced people to develop them, butquite often they are not more expensive at all! In our experience, they are sadly often cheaper than the pre-built templates systems, because some unscrupulous companies charge a great deal for placing a design on top of a pre-built solution.

Code Age & Technology 

One of the biggest problems with pre-built solutions is that they cost the founding company a great deal of cash to develop, as they try to create a one-size-fits-all type solution. This then leads to them needing to sell that solution over and over for many years to claw back their costs. In turn, this often means that the pre-built solution being sold to you is 5 to 10 years old (or worse) based on old technologies and techniques, albeit its existence in an ever-changing technological world!

A bespoke website will be developed with the very latest technologies, available online techniques and scripting functionality, and there is significant benefit to this online, not least of which is the search engine optimisation benefits.  

Expansion and Optimisation

One of the most significant limitations posed by template systems is the inability to expand and improve your website over time. If you want to say integrate your Sage accounts, your ERP system, CRM or barcoding system, etc, this can often be made overly-complicated or even impossible! 

Plugins are often available within open source pre-built solutions, which are intended to offer the user the ability to extend the possibilities set out in a template, these can soon prove to be unreliable, insufficient, bug riddled and even highly insecure. Developed by third parties, these plug-ins could not only clash when used in combination with other plug-ins, but also with general system updates across the template platform. This puts the user in a lose/lose situation, due to the fact that while an update may affect the freedom granted by these additions, neglecting to conform to system updates could increase the chances of your site’s security being compromised (actually a common problem with templates). These plugins can not only compromise security and reliability but are often not optimised and therefore contain unnecessary code, making the system sluggish and unresponsive.

As far as online optimisation is concerned, your website should be light, fast and responsive to the user, making it easy to use. You want to offer your customers a speedy and useful journey through your website, and this too is what the likes of Google want. They don’t care about you or your business, they only care that the website they are affectively recommending is providing a useful experience. After-all, if they constantly linked to slow and poor quality websites, then we’d all stop using them to search for things on the internet right?

The problem with a one-size-fits-all system, is that it lends itself to providing quick and easy solutions, meaning that you don’t need to be very skilled or experienced to provide one, again meaning that the site will not be properly optimised. These systems contain lots of bolt-on’s and plugins to handle newer technologies that didn’t exist when it was created 10 years ago, which  just adds to the slowness and the bulkiness. Add to this the inherent security issues which arise with these systems, and you have to wonder why they sell so well.

Support and Security 

As I have already mentioned above, template websites can cause serious problems when it comes to security, simply due to the fact that they present an attractive target for hackers. If you own a bespoke website, then hackers would need to target it specifically and run lots of tools to find out where the admin area is, where the database is stored, etc. This makes the process far more time consuming, and therefore less appealing. Template websites tend to have the same admin login area, the same database location and the same codebase etc, so they are very easy to hack. As part of a wider network of replicated sites, they form a super easy target once a vulnerability has been identified. 

No website is safe from a really good hacker, all you can do is provide as much security as possible and make it more time consuming for them; if a good hacker wants your information they’ll get it! If they can get into military instalments or FBI systems, then they can most definitely get into your website if they really want to. The point is, why would they waste their time trying to get into a relatively secure and obfuscated website, when all these template type sites exist on the internet? These pre-built solutions make it easy for them, and the designers developing them actually know very little about the technical security of a website in the first place.

In fact, an inherent security issue is posed by the fact that many of these systems are open source, and provide free plugins. If you want a widget within your website to perform a specific task, you can simply look online to see if someone has created a plugin for it. Often you will find it has been done and most of the time these will be fine, but how would you or your designer know if that plugin had some backdoor access type code hidden within it, or keyboard tracking, or a million other security risks? Bear in mind that your designer didn’t write the code, and more than likely wouldn’t understand it even if they did try to read it.

Another disadvantage of using a template is the lack of support when things do go wrong, like some of the issues I have mentioned above. If you discover a problem with your website, without the proper expertise it can be very difficult to diagnose and fix. 

Summary

So a bespoke website will have the following benefits:


- Truly bespoke design – not easily replicated
- A true responsive design – not emulated
- A proper development and design team for support and assistance
- More modern and technologically advanced code
- True scalability and the ability to integrate any online technology as it becomes available
- Security from common vulnerabilities
- Importantly, an optimised solution that is light, fast and responsive
- And lastly.. value for money! We’re not simply pushing a design onto a pre-built solution and then charging you the price of a small car for doing so!


We’re happy to answer any questions you may have on this subject, if you do have any further enquires, please don't hesitate to get in touch.


Multiple ecommerce websites

It's easy to imagine the benefits of having multiple ecommerce websites - if one ecommerce website can drive a hundred sales a day, then a trio of ecommerce websites should theoretically be able to drive three hundred sales, right?

However, setting up a multi-site ecommerce solution is both expensive and time-consuming, so before you get started, you need to be absolutely sure that it's the right choice for you. Here are a few different ways in which multiple ecommerce websites can benefit a business - do they apply to yours?

1. Target multiple audiences

Some products are suitable for many different audiences. There are lots of disparate groups who might be interested in purchasing drinking accessories, for example; you've got university students, hen parties, stag parties, nightclub/bar owners, and goodness knows who else. This is great news if you specialise in drinking accessories, because it means you've got loads of potential customers to sell to!

However, this can pose a problem when it comes to your ecommerce website. If you're simultaneously trying to market your business to all of the groups listed above (and probably several others besides), you won't look like a particularly appealing choice to any of them - instead, the hen parties will probably go to a website that deals specifically in hen party accessories, the bar owners will go to a trade website for industry professionals, and so forth.

Setting up multiple ecommerce websites is a fantastic way to tackle this problem. If you've got three completely separate websites stocking the same products, this allows you to target three completely separate audiences. You can make one pink and glamorous to appeal to the hen night market; the second can look slick and professional, so as to rope in the nightclub owners; and the third could be used to highlight your biggest discounts, which is sure to please those thirsty students!

Of course, that's not the only benefit to a multi-pronged approach...

2. Compete for different keywords

Search engine bots are a lot like the customers mentioned above: they'll be more interested in your website if it's specifically targeted at the market you're aiming to conquer. For example, that generic drinking accessories website of yours will probably never rank for terms like 'hen party shot glasses' or 'wholesale pint glasses', because these things form only a small part of your overall offering. Unless you're Amazon or someone similarly huge, you'll generally find it very difficult to compete for keywords that are only tangentially related to your business.

You'll find it a lot easier to rank for those keywords if you've got an entire website dedicated to each set; just as the hen party planners of the world are more likely to click on a website that's specifically designed for them, Google are far more likely to show your website to those party planners if you look like a hen party specialist.

3. Focus your product ranges

If you're one of those companies that sells all sorts of different products, squeezing your entire range onto a single website can be a serious headache. If you've got the budget, it may be much easier to spread your stock over several ecommerce websites rather than trying to cram it all into one place.

As a bonus, this will make it much easier to label each website when it comes to marketing yourself. If everything's neatly divided up, you'll be able to say...

"This one's a flooring website, and this one's a wallpaper website, and this one sells furniture!"

...instead of...

"This is a website that sells...um...stuff for decorating your home with."

Fewer product ranges per site equals stronger overall focus, and focus is key if you want to make a big impression on potential customers.

4. Multiply your social media reach

If you have several different ecommerce websites then you also have the ability to create several different brands, and this in turn gives you the scope to set up several different accounts on Twitter, Facebook, and the other big social platforms. The benefits of this are reasonably obvious: you can accrue multiple sets of followers from multiple demographics and interact with them in multiple different ways!

One of the best ways to make the most of having multiple brands on social media is to establish a distinctive voice for each one. For example, if one of your ecommerce websites sells gadgets and techy stuff, you can adopt a 'geeky' persona for that brand, weighing in on the latest tech news and pop culture gossip on Twitter whilst also sharing your own products. Then, if you're selling those same tech products in a slightly more professional capacity (e.g. to businesses) on a second ecommerce website, you can set up another Twitter account for that site and use a more formal tone to speak with your customers in the industry.

5. Make money via an affiliate system

If you want to get really ambitious, there's another fantastic way to profit via multiple ecommerce websites that we haven't yet touched on. We at Designer Websites have helped several clients to set up 'affiliate' systems - this means that we create a white label ecommerce website for that customer, who then sells that website design to clients of their own. Each client (or 'affiliate') can brand and customise their own website in any way they please, but they're all selling the same products, and all of the affiliate sites are built upon the same original code.

Here's the upshot of all this: you can drive more sales for your business by allowing others to market and sell your goods via ecommerce websites of their own. Your affiliates will be happy because they're getting a cut of the money you make, and you'll be happy because your sales are going through the roof and other people are doing all the legwork for you!

If you have a large product range, multiple target audiences, and/or the desire to set up an affiliate marketing system, then a multi-site ecommerce solution may well be a great choice for your business. Click here to get a quote for your project, or visit our Multi-Site Ecommerce page for more information and some examples of our previous work in this area.
Online payment systems
 
An ecommerce website is a great way to boost your business's revenue, but before you start making sales online, you'll need to select an online payment system for your site. Eager ecommerce entrepreneurs have many different payment providers to choose from - here are some important things to consider before making your decision:
  • Will this payment system make it easy for my customers to pay me?
  • Does this payment provider have a good reputation for security and reliability?
  • Is this payment system reasonably cheap to use?
  • Is the interface for managing payments and refunds easy to use?
Here at Designer Websites, we are extremely well-versed in the selection and implementation of online payment systems. We have built ecommerce platforms for hundreds of businesses, and in this blog post, we will look at three of the most popular payment providers on the web. Do they meet the above criteria? And how will their services suit your business?
 
 
Sage Pay logo
 
Sage Pay is a well-known payment gateway provider that caters to more than 50,000 customers across Europe. We at Designer Websites recommend Sage Pay to most of our ecommerce clients. Why? Well, let's go back to those three all-important questions...
  • Will this payment system make it easy for my customers to pay me? Yes. Sage Pay's user interface could scarcely be more straightforward - it's simply a case of entering your details and clicking 'Proceed'. The system also has tokenisation capabilities that allow users to save their details and skip all that tedious typing next time around.

  • Does this payment provider have a good reputation for security and reliability? Sage Pay have a Trustpilot rating of 9.6 out of 10, which should give you a good idea of how trustworthy they are. Furthermore, the Sage system uses a variety of fraud prevention tools and security measures to ensure that payments are completely protected. 

  • Is this payment system reasonably cheap to use? Sage Pay's ecommerce system is one of the most cost-effective on the market, offering a range of reasonably-priced payment plans to suit businesses of all sizes. In our opinion, their charges are more than reasonable.
  • Is the interface for managing payments and refunds easy to use? We believe that the MySagePay console is one of the best features of their payment gateway. It is incredibly intuitive, comprehensive, and simple to use.
 

Worldpay logo

 
Many of our clients ask us to integrate Worldpay into their ecommerce websites, so we have a lot of experience with this system as well.
  • Will this payment system make it easy for my customers to pay me? Again, yes; Worldpay is relatively good and makes taking payments online easy. However, the Worldpay interface is not as user-friendly as that of Sage Pay. 

  • Does this payment provider have a good reputation for security and reliability? Worldpay's ecommerce system is very secure, but their Trustpilot rating of just 4.1 out of 10 reveals some serious problems with their service levels, reliability, and customer management. 

  • Is this payment system reasonably cheap to use? Worldpay isn't the cheapest payment provider, but they are far from the most expensive. It does depend on your payment plan, but this can be quite a cost-effective choice for some online sellers. In some cases, they are cheaper than Sage Pay.
  • Is the interface for managing payments and refunds easy to use? Um...no! We think that the interface is very poor (at the time of writing this article), and sadly this lets Worldpay down significantly. They do have some nice features, but the interface is generally very clunky and awkward to use. 
 
Paypal logo
 
PayPal needs no introduction - it is probably the best-known payment system on the web. If you've ever bought anything on eBay, there's a good chance you used PayPal to pay for it. But is it the right choice for your business?
  • Will this payment system make it easy for my customers to pay me? Yes - if the customer already has a PayPal account, transactions can be completed in a couple of clicks. Even if they haven't registered an account already, it's very simple to sign up, and once they've registered, they'll never have to enter their card details again (unless those details change).

  • Does this payment provider have a good reputation for security and reliability? They wouldn't be so popular if they didn't! That being said, PayPal have an extremely poor rating on Trustpilot (just 2.1 out of 10), with many people complaining that the company's customer service is very bad indeed.

  • Is this payment system reasonably cheap to use? This is the biggest problem with PayPal: they know how popular they are, and they know that many online shoppers now expect all ecommerce websites to include a PayPal option. For this reason, they are perfectly happy to make you pay through the nose for their services, taking a sizeable percentage of every sale they process (more than 3% in some cases - this can really add up if you're taking a lot of orders via PayPal). In particular, Paypal is very expensive to use if you take a lot of transactions; if you don't, they may be a good choice.
  • Is the interface for managing payments and refunds easy to use? Yes - they have clearly spent time designing this for ease of use and it shows. The interface is both very functional and very easy to use. 
 
Further Reading:

We have just completed the first phase of a rebuild for hen party accessories company www.henstuff.co.uk. The website has a new improved buying journey, some new visual tweaks and a great deal of new products in new categories.

The next phase will see the inclusion of the personalised t-shirt builder as well as a few other personalised product pages. The next phase is due to be released at the end of February 2013.