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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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Is Office 365 the best thing that’s ever happened to Linux?

Wednesday, March 28th, 2012

Office365

Currently, my office PC is running the betas of both Windows 8 and Ubuntu 12.04 — a situation that is doubtless pushing Dennis Publishing’s IT manager a little closer to his well deserved nervous breakdown.

Yesterday, I spent the day working solely in Ubuntu 12.04 to see how the OS is progressing. I’m a big fan of the tweaks made to the Unity interface; the drop-down killing Head Up Display is tinged with brilliance if currently a little sluggish; and the Ubuntu Software Store is maturing nicely. However, there’s one thing I’ve always missed when working in Ubuntu: Outlook. Despite the protestations of the Linux faithful, neither Evolution nor Thunderbird — the two default mail clients in recent versions of Ubuntu — are a patch on Outlook when it comes to dealing with an Exchange Server.

The only other option was to worm in via Outlook Web Access, but because there’s no Linux version of Internet Explorer, you were forced to use the horribly rudimentary stripped-down version, which was spitefully designed to punish people who had the barefaced cheek to run Chrome or Firefox. The old version of Outlook Web Access made Lotus Notes look cutting edge: even basic tasks such as creating a meeting were akin to a colonoscopy, and you could literally make a cup of tea in the time it took to perform a basic keyword search of your inbox.

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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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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 to earn money from your own tech A-List

Thursday, August 4th, 2011

American DollarsChances are that people constantly ask you what phone to buy, what laptop, even what TV. Well now there’s a way to make money from your recommendations.

It’s the brainchild of Brian Trevaskiss and team at the MoreFrom Group, and the idea is that you rebadge morefrom.co.uk as your own site. If people order from you, you’ll get 1% commission (or more if you manually increase the price), which appears as credit in your MoreFrom account. So you don’t get cash, but you can put that money towards future purchases.

The other clever thing is that you can order from it yourself. So let’s say you’re about to buy a £1,000 laptop. By ordering it from your version of the site, you get £10 credit applied to your account. This could be of particular appeal to small businesses that rack up purchases over the course of a year.

And if your business would benefit from an online shop, MoreFrom is offering a way to rebadge its site to do precisely that. Head to www.morefrom.biz.

So how easy is it to set up your own site? Shockingly so. Allow me to demonstrate: (more…)

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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