Monthly Archives: January 2017

Make Your Site Mobile Friendly With Responsive Design

Virtually every business needs a website, but these days the web isn’t just about what you see on a computer screen. People are using the internet on an increasingly diverse array of devices, from smartphones to gaming consoles. Some experts predict that by 2014, most web traffic in the U.S. will be on mobile devices.

The trouble is, most business websites are still designed with only a desktop or laptop computer in mind. When you view a typical business website on the browser of mobile device, it usually requires pinching, zooming and scrolling just to see what’s on the page. And interacting with the site via a touchscreen can be clumsy at best.

To compensate, more businesses are deploying one or more mobile-optimized web designs, or “themes,” that the web server sends to a user when a mobile device is detected. That’s a first step, but mobile devices come in many sizes and shapes. What looks great on, say, an iPhone may look and perform poorly on a Kindle Fire.

It is possible to create designs for each of the major screen sizes and devices types, but ultimately that’s a losing game. New device types will outpace any designer’s ability to spin off customized themes.

One solution is something called “responsive web design,” which can make your website easier and cheaper to manage, while giving mobile users a better experience. This allows you to create one design that will fit almost any screen and device type, and can also enhance your search visibility. Additionally, it avoids the hurdle of expecting users to type in “m.” before your site URL to access the mobile-friendly version.

When a user accesses a responsively designed website, the site senses the constraints of that user’s device and automatically “responds” or reconfigures itself to display and function reasonably well. It reorganizes the layout, for instance, swapping out images and navigation features.

As new web-enabled device types become popular, such as Android-powered cameras, you’ll only need to tweak your responsive design to accommodate them.

To create a responsive site for your business, you can either hire a designer or use a site-building tool that supports responsive web design. Either way, these five tips can help you make the switch to responsive design.

1. Decide when to make the change.
Responsive design is a radically different way of managing the elements of a website, which means it’s hard to introduce responsive design to an existing conventional website. You’ll probably want to wait until you’re creating a new site or rebuilding your existing one.

2. Track your mobile traffic patterns.
Check your site statistics for the number of mobile visitors, plot how that segment of your online market has been growing and project it two to five years into the future. The steeper that growth curve, the more important it is to implement responsive web design sooner rather than later.

Related: 5 Things to Consider Before Buying a Smartphone or Tablet for Business

3. Check out competitors’ sites on various devices.
Keep a list of URLs for businesses similar to yours. Periodically check them all out on a variety of computers, smartphones and tablets. Which are easiest to navigate and use, requiring the least pinching, zooming and scrolling? Use the best as guidance for your designer.

4. Hire web designers with responsive design experience.
Many designers serving small-to-medium business clients are still focused on designing sites intended for viewing on computers. Be sure to ask for recent examples of a designer’s responsively designed sites. Don’t just get screenshots — ask for the URLs and check those sites on a variety of device types, paying attention both to how they look and how well they function.

5. Use effective, affordable tools if you do it yourself.
If you decide to create a responsively designed site on your own, consider trying the latest version of Squarespace. It’s an inexpensive web hosting service that lets you create a responsive website via a drag-and-drop interface.

There are also many pre-made responsive themes (both free and paid, usually between $30 and $100) for sites built with WordPress, a popular open-source platform. The hosted version of that platform, WordPress.com, is starting to offer responsive themes, as well.

Beefing Up Password Security

From email to social media to all types of apps for business, we need a collection of passwords to protect our sensitive data. And with the number of data breaches on the rise, it’s more important than ever to protect important information with the strongest passwords possible.

That means if you’ve used the same predictable formula to come up with all your passwords, such as a pet’s name or your birthday, you’re putting yourself — and your business — at risk. Good news is that there are several things you can do to make sure your sensitive data stays out of the hands of hackers.

Here, Ed Barrett, vice president of marketing and channel sales for Cedar Rapids, Iowa-based software security company SecurityCoverage, offers three tips for beefing up password security at your company:

1. Make it complicated.
The trick is to come up with something that’s not easy to guess based on other information, such as your name, date of birth or phone number. Barrett suggests creating passwords that:

  • Use upper and lower case letters
  • Contain letters as well as numbers
  • Are at least 14 characters long

“Hackers are in the business of compromising your data and have strong tools and a lot of experience cracking password files,” Barrett says. “The only way to make their jobs harder is to create longer, more complex passwords.”

2. Mix it up.
Since passwords are needed to access all types of applications and devices, you might be tempted to simplify things by using the same password for all of them. Don’t do it, Barrett warns.

“You probably don’t care if, say, your dormant Hotmail account is compromised, but maybe you used the same password for your credit card or Amazon.com, and now that information is in the bad guys hands,” he says. Use different passwords across platforms to decrease the likelihood that hackers will get more of your information.

3. Stay organized.
Remembering complicated passwords for every application you use personally and for business can be a lot to commit to memory. One trick is to pick long words you like and won’t forget, remove the vowels and replace them with numbers you’ll remember. Or you could develop a system for creating multiple passwords using the same formula for each.

Some Reasons You Should Make the Switch to Electronic Signature Technology

If you still haven’t made the switch to electronic signatures, you’re missing out. The electronic signature process enables businesses of all sizes to simplify the task of obtaining signatures and expedites the contract signing process, all in a seamless and efficient way.

DocuSign, a San Francisco-based company that helps businesses collect and manage digital signatures for important documents, announced this week that it has raised $55.7 million in the latest round of funding, bringing the total amount raised to $122 million.

This significant funding signals the importance today’s businesses are placing on e-signature. Since its founding in 2003, DocuSign has gathered more than 20 million users who have signed more than 150 million documents.

But if you’re still unsure about moving the execution and storage of your contracts and agreements into the digital age, consider the following:

1. Is e-signature legal? Yes. Properly managed electronic signatures were given legal equivalence to “wet ink” signatures with the passage of the federal ESIGN Act signed by President Bill Clinton in 2000.

 2. Is e-signature safe and secure? Electronically signed and sealed documents are more secure than their paper counterparts because they tend to contain more information about who signed them, and they can be protected from unauthorized tampering. This isn’t possible with paper. Most ID theft happens to paper transactions because they are so easily lost, stolen or forged. Electronic records are encrypted and stored securely online.

3. Will e-signature work in my current business environment? Many e-signature transaction platforms integrate with the business tools you already use, including Microsoft Word, Google Docs, Dropbox, Salesforce and more. When looking for an e-signature provider, ask for a list of compatible products and platforms. Every business should be able to use its existing applications and documents instead of printing, faxing, scanning or overnight mailing.

Related: Five Tools for a Smarter Business

4. Why switch to e-signature if what I’m doing works? Many businesses are realizing that it can take a week or more to get a document signed and returned, and that in many cases it needs to be re-done because there were mistakes or missed signatures. Such delays in closing a deal with paper are no longer acceptable when a competitor can do it in minutes.

5. Is e-signature affordable? While the cost of an overnight express envelope varies depending on carrier and distance, the real cost isn’t in dollars. The real cost is in the lost time, manual processing errors, re-keying of data, and printing, signing, scanning and emailing of agreements all without the benefit of auto notification upon receipt.