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Kevin Partner

How EKMPowershop leaks personal data

Thursday, July 5th, 2012

ekmpcproOnline service providers have a duty of trust to protect the data we give them – but it appears that some take this more seriously than others. EKMPowershop.com is a long established, UK-based provider of ecommerce software and, just last week, I was signing up for trial accounts with all the major players, including EKM, as part of a forthcoming Real World column.

Imagine my surprise, then, at seeing the contact details of a complete stranger in my trial shop. At first, I thought this might be dummy data but, on emailing the person concerned (I could, alternatively, have rung her using the details EKM kindly provided) I discovered someone as shocked as me that her information was not as private or secure as she imagined.

Naturally, I contacted EKM’s support team but it’s now ten days later and the problem persists. I shan’t describe how to access these private details for obvious reasons but suffice it to say the only sensible response by EKM would have been to remove the trial functionality until the hole was patched.

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The Cookie law: clarity at last (but not from the ICO)

Friday, April 27th, 2012

iccWhen Regulation 6 of the UK Privacy and Electronic Communications Regulations 2003 - “the Cookie law” to most of us – became part of UK law in May last year, the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) immediately invoked a one year moratorium on enforcement. Some might interpret that as tacit acknowledgement that the regulations were unenforceable. Little seemed to have changed as the end of the moratorium approached and website owners waited, in vain, for specific guidance from the ICO on how, exactly, to make their sites compliant.

Finally, something resembling advice has appeared, but it’s not come from the ICO but from business organisation the International Chambers of Commerce (ICC). Despite the inevitable disclaimer on page 2 that it “does not constitute legal advice”, it’s by far the most practical guide to the cookie regulations I’ve seen so far and is the result of research carried out by an organisation looking at this from a practical point of view rather than the compliance-based approach of the ICO.

Indeed, David Evans, group manager for business and industry at the ICO, said at the launch of the guide: “Today’s ICC UK guidance provides organisations with a good starting point from which they can work towards full compliance.” Which is about as close to a ringing endorsement as we’re ever likely to get from the 21st Century equivalent of the Circumlocution Office.

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Adobe Shadow: a free way to test mobile sites

Tuesday, March 20th, 2012

Adobe shadow_128x128Quite apart from the technical challenges of developing mobile websites, the sheer hassle of having to refresh one or more mobile devices every time you make a change is enough to drive designers to distraction.

Adobe Shadow aims to eliminate this wearying process and marks a welcome return to innovative form for a company that, to me at least, seems to have stagnated lately. Furthermore, this is a tool that could only have been dreamt up by someone actively developing websites, and if this means Adobe is getting closer to its users and responding to their needs, that can only be a good thing.

As with so many good ideas, the principle is simple (in retrospect). Once set up, the contents of your desktop web browser are displayed on the screen of the mobile device, rendered natively. So the design process is no more onerous than for standard websites: make a change, hit refresh and watch it appear on all connected devices. This is actually rather magical when you first experience it, but it very quickly becomes an invaluable resource, almost like having several attached monitors.

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Why I’m deleting Adobe from my PC

Monday, February 6th, 2012

Adobe CS5 Design Premium

Rather than buy a new laptop, I recently decided to recondition a four-year-old Acer to see whether it was up to the relatively light duties intended of it. This laptop had been my workhorse during a period when I was regularly flitting between my home office and business headquarters, and had almost no available space on its 140GB hard disk. The first job, then, was to do some weeding.

Microsoft Office was the first package to go, now that I use Google Docs almost exclusively. I found plenty of dross in the Downloads folder of course, but the real shock came when I looked through the list of Adobe programs installed on this machine and realised that I use almost none of them regularly any more.

When I bought this laptop, I reckon I spent around two thirds of my working day using Fireworks, Photoshop, Illustrator, Flash and Flex Builder – with the last of these accounting for the lion’s share. And yet, over the past year, Flash based development has dropped away almost entirely.

The rot began with Dreamweaver, which I’d been using since it was first launched in the mid 1990s. Since I began creating websites using PHP, and especially when WordPress became the basis of most of my web development, Dreamweaver became irrelevant and I’ve not used it for over five years now. (more…)

Website owners can’t afford to ignore mobile

Tuesday, November 1st, 2011

Apple iPad 2Making a success of an online business is often about noticing trends and acting on them early. Interactive Media in Retail Group (IMRG) has just released figures that show the startling growth of mobile traffic in the past couple of years. If you run an online shop, this is now a bandwagon you need to jump on.

IMRG has been running a quarterly index since the first quarter of 2010. The index tracks a range of critical performance indicators across some of the biggest names in online retail including John Lewis, Marks & Spencer and Matalan. In its first index, covering Feb-April 2010, mobile visits stood at 1.4% of the total, but by the Aug-Oct 2011 quarter they’d quintupled to 7%, with some retailers seeing figures as high as 12%. Whilst mobile users, on average, don’t spend as much (making up less than 4% of total sales) the trend in both traffic and contribution to turnover is heavily upwards.

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Google’s new AdWords algorithm

Friday, October 14th, 2011

pcproads

The peak shopping period is upon us and, for most online shops, the effectiveness of their Google AdWords campaigns can make the difference between a fruitful festive season and a bleak new year.

It’s at just such a critical moment that Google is rolling out changes to its AdWords algorithms having successfully tested them on its users in Spain, Portugal and Latin America. The algorithms are used to determine where in the sponsored rankings your ad will appear so a change can mean a dip in your position and consequent loss of traffic which, as business hots up, can cost a lot of money. The knee-jerk reaction is then to increase the bid price which, of course, reduces profitability – again costing money.

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Five ways to boost online profits – courtesy of Amazon and friends

Monday, September 12th, 2011

shoppingcart

No feedback is more valuable than customer feedback, but mystery shopping comes a close second. Whilst “spot the stooge” was a popular game amongst store staff when I worked for Dixons (rendering the process pretty pointless), ecommerce sites can’t tell the difference so they need to be on best behaviour at all times.

Research firm eDigitalResearch has been mystery shopping leading ecommerce sites for over 10 years now and its latest findings make interesting reading for even the smallest online retailer. For the purposes of this research, they visited 51 of UK’s biggest retail websites — including Amazon, the main supermarkets, online clothing retailers and department stores.

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What businesses can learn from the TouchPad fiasco

Friday, September 9th, 2011

HP TouchPad - card viewI wonder what Bill Hewlett and Dave Packard would have made of the TouchPad fiasco? One of the fundamental tenets of successful business is to start with a good product – the problem with HP’s defunct tablet is that this was also where it ended.

I was lucky. Using a barrage of open browser windows I managed to order one of the £89 bargains via Best Buy. I didn’t fully believe I’d succeeded until it turned up on my doorstep two days later.

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How a spell checker can boost your web profits

Monday, July 18th, 2011

spelling

It must be summer because the stories about how moronic our offspring are and how much better things were in the age of steam are surfacing. Indeed spelling mistakes could apparently cost companies “millions of pounds”.

Whilst you might imagine such hyperbole coming from one of the beleaguered red tops, in fact this is a claim made by an online entrepreneur. With a keen eye for a marketing opportunity, the Confederation of British Industry has swooped in to link these spelling mistakes to the lack of skills of school leavers.

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The time’s right to start your online business

Sunday, April 24th, 2011

retailsales

The Retail Sales Figures for March have been published by the Office for National Statistics, showing a tiny rise in sales over the past year. Some industries were up (mainly non-food) and some down – perhaps surprisingly including DIY sales. All very ordinary, very boring and slightly depressing. Except that hidden within the numbers is a very surprising statistic.

You see, I’ve got only a passing interest in the overall figures. It matters not a jot to me whether B&Q is doing better or worse than last year. I mainly focus on my own companies’ turnover, but I’m also interested in the overall trends in online sales. Fortunately, the ONS presents these figures at the end of its Statistical Bulletin.

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