Why you can’t believe what you read in spam!

Had another one passed through today, from a company claiming to offer financial reports of the top 600 companies in that particular business sector, which included the client company they were emailing.

However, although this particular client has a limited company in the trading name, all of their trading actually went through a different company entirely, so the company details listed in the email, who was apparently performing in the top 600 of that industry (totalling tens of thousands across the UK), actually has the equivalent of a dormant company!

Would you think it’d be appropriate to provide money to a company starting off with this false information?

This is why it’s so important to not share your primary email addresses with mailing lists (or anyone who subsequently makes a mailing list out of your details).  Once you’re on the spammer’s list, there’s no escape from junk like the one above (apart from shutting the email address down entirely).

Web Designing – spam email

Although I run Parlour Design, I’m also involved with a number of other businesses too.  One of these businesses has a generic info@ email address (which will get spam, regardless of how well the email address is encrypted on your website).  I’ve advised the client to remove all traces of it, but historically it is still used by some genuine clients.

They’ve ensured that everywhere the email address was published, is now changed, including the main client website.  However, I do also know that this info@ email address appears on a number of spam mailing lists people can buy into.  It was therefore humorous to receive the following email today:

Hi
Hope you are well.
My Name is Joy, and I am a web consultant with a website design/development firm with offices in the US/UK, and development center in India.
I was browsing websites from your domain and came across “www.client-domain-hidden.com“. From what I could notice, your current website does not have an appealing design that visually caters to your client demographic.
One of the great things about the Internet is that it has leveled the playing field when it comes to competing with the big boys. You have one shot at making a good first impression. With a well- designed site, your little operation can project the image and professionalism of a much larger company. The inverse is also true. I’ve seen many big company websites that were so badly designed and hard to navigate that they completely lacked professionalism and credibility. Good for you, too bad for them.
Do let me know if you are willing to discuss a possible redesigning of your website, to make it more appealing and comply with the International web standards. In fact, it would be best if you could send in your phone number, location (city) and a convenient time for you to speak.
Before I end, I thought it may help for you to know that our pricing packages start at USD 199 with no monthly fee and that, we have delivered more than 5000 websites over the past 6 years.
I look forward to your mail and to speak with you.
Kind Regards
Joy
PS A call now could get you our inaugural discounts.
Disclaimer: The CAN-SPAM Act of 2003 (Controlling the Assault of Non-Solicited Pornography and Marketing Act) establishes requirements for those who send commercial email, spells out penalties for spammers and companies whose products are advertised in spam if they violate the law, and gives consumers the right to ask emailers to stop spamming them. The above mail spammers-email@gmail.com  and we ensure you will not receive any such mails

So, apparently, Joy has had a look at the website, and now wishes to help us make it more appealing to web design standards (even though the site has been completely redesigned, optimised, made accessible, etc. in the last two months).

However, even though she’s apparently ‘seen’ the website, she didn’t use any of the contact details from the website (as the email address she contacted the client on, isn’t listed anywhere on the website), similarly, all the other questions are also answered clearly on the contact page!

I thought I’d do a quick check on how many times this email has been sent out.. (by taking a copy of a big bulk of text, and putting it in quote marks into Google)… however, rather than finding websites showing this email, I actually found 14 web design companies from around the world, using the same exact words on their own website!  I doubt all these web design companies are the offices mentioned in the email.

So these guys apparently redesign websites around 1,000 times a year, but they don’t look at them first but want you to contact them with your own details so they can sell you things.  It’s true that the gist of their email is correct.  But for them to claim to be part of the CAN-SPAM movement, send spam themselves, and not actually read anything of the people they contact (just send a generic email to people on a spammers list).. doesn’t give me the impression of an honourable business, just yet more people out to make money on the internet from people who don’t know any better!

Making digital content accessible by everyone

Thankfully, the Government, industry workers, and members of the voluntary sector have come together in an eAccessibility forum, to develop an action plan to help make digital content accessible by more users.

Parlour Design works hard to ensure all their websites are accessible in a wide variety of formats, using:

  • Logical page structures for all the content (even with style sheets switched off), 
  • Not using ‘flash’ animation for layout or content purposes (just for pleasing design aesthetic features)
  • Always using ‘alternative text’ for images (and only then when text is not appropriate in the first place).
    • (rather than the common technique by many designers of using images for text, because they’re being lazy designers and can’t work out how to make the text appear how they want to, in it’s pure form!).
  • Placing the bulk of navigational links at the base of the page (even if on display, it seems to be before the main text)
  • Helping the page render differently, depending on the type of browser being used.
  • Using flexible font sizes (rather than fixed pixel dimensions), so users can easily increase the size of any text with a simple mouse action.
Thankfully, this particular group mentioned at the outset are also working on expanding the roll out of these simple methods, along with many other ideas as featured in this initial report:
(The report is also due to be updated every 3 months, with new developments).
One key area I was interested in, is point 3, Website Services:

3. Websites services work stream

Websites are the gateway to almost every business, voluntary organisation, or provider of information about public services. Whether or not they are direct sales and marketing tools, they are key contributors to the financial efficiency of each body. A well designed website draws in more users, and reduces the need for other means of customer support such as call centres. Although there are internationally recognised standards and guidelines of website accessibility, these are poorly adhered to by the public sector or by the private sector. This work stream will explore the reasons for this and assist both government and private sector to develop websites and online services that conform appropriately to web standards, guidelines and best practices, such as WCAG 2.0 AA and relevant W3C specifications. It will also take forward plans for a One Stop Shop for information on eAccessibility, and look at how the website designers of tomorrow can be trained to design accessibility into their products and services.

I’m very often so disappointed with the incredibly poor ‘housekeeping’ of so many website developers, and just how much extra code has been thrown in to most of the source code, particularly when using ‘design software’ to try and make things look like they think (rather than understanding the language behind it, to just use the ‘pure ingredients’).

I look forward to the further adoption of these developments, and seeing how the working party get on.

Super fast broadband nationwide by 2015

You may have heard in the news today that the government is trying to get everyone in the UK (including rural areas) access to super fast broadband in the next five years.

Obviously, this will be of great benefit to the online world as such, and will enable a great degree of rich website content (with video streaming, faster downloads, etc.), also paving the way for increasingly popular technologies like TV on demand, and interactive contents.

For those who have been using broadband for a while (I’ve personally had broadband for 10 years, and was one of the first 1,500 BT Broadband customers!), almost no-one would go back to dial-up now.

I was fortunate to meet a very senior person within the telecommunications industry a few months ago, who helped explain to me how this could be achieved, (as I was puzzled over the knowledge that broadband quality decreases significantly, depending on your copper cable distance from the phone exchange.  similarly, it wouldn’t be affordable to run fibre optic cable many km to just one house in a remote valley).

As you may know, from 2012 analogue tv is being switched off entirely (many parts of the UK are already digital), and when this happens, the digital signal will actually become stronger (because the analogue signal, interferes with the broadcasting of the digital signals, from the same arial).

Because the analogue signal uses up quite a large portion of frequencies for TV (ie like your FM radio broadcasts on a range of frequencies), when the digital switch happens, because digital can be broadcast on a smaller isolated frequency, it opens up a lot of spare frequency space.  Which can be reused.

In the more rural areas, you might also already be aware of satellite phones (that enable two way communication with satellites, virtually anywhere in the world).. well this same type of technology will also enable very fast broadband speeds in rural homes (and is capable of speeds much greater than we can can currently get via cables at the moment in the UK).

All this means that my dream of living in a remote sustainable farmhouse in the valleys of North Wales, whilst maintaining my website design and development on-line, will soon be a real possibility! 🙂

Interflora Vs Marks and Spencer – Adwords row

Some of you may haven heard in the news today about the Interflora Vs Marks and Spencer row, over the use of the search term ‘Interflora‘:

This screen clipping was taken a few moments ago, and as you can see, in the ‘sponsored adwords’ listing, both Interflora, M&S, and ASDA are all bidding on the search term ‘Interflora’, in the ‘Pay Per Click’ ‘sponsored links’.

Firstly, from the people I’ve already spoken to today, there is some misunderstanding between paid listings, and natural listings:

  • Natural listings are the search results that appear with a white background, on every search results page.  Whereas sponsored listings are paid for advertising links (which may or may not take you to the product or service you’ve searched for).
  • Natural Search listings can be improved through having a great website, and naturally working on your Search Engine Optimisation (SEO).  This are the most valuable placements to have, as many users will prefer to click on the natural links, rather than the paid links.
  • The PayPerClick (PPC) advertised listings, as seen in the above example (with the faintly shaded background) are the search results which either appear above, or to the top right of every search page. 
  • With PayPerClick, Companies can thus pay Google (which is part of the reason the stock value of Google is so high) to appear high on this listing.. the more you offer to pay Google for each person who clicks on your link, the higher in the rankings you will appear.

The minimum bid is 1p (or in reality it’s more like 2p), but there is no upper limit I’m aware of (you just need to work out the value to yourself of someone clicking through..

  • If you have a product that sells for £10, and you make £1 profit on each item: if 10% of the visitors to your website purchased one item, then the value to you of each click would be 10p (so you’d need to set your bid to a lower value to ensure you can still cover your costs, unless of course this £10 product is a ‘loss leader’ to help get customers to buy other products too).
  • However, if your product sold for £10,000, with a £2,000 profit margin, and 10% of the visitors who visited your site from your chosen search term, then the average value of each click would be £200, so the amount you bid on each click could of course be much higher.

This is the reason why companies cold call many businesses, and guarantee you ‘first page on Google’.. this is easy, if you pay enough for the relevant search term, you can appear as high as you like for those search terms.

However, the interesting thing about this case is that Marks and Spencer are using a worldwide registered trade-mark as a means to promote their own competitive services (even though the trademark phrase itself doesn’t appear in the advert, nor on the associated page with it).

I know that Red Letter Days used to be very clear to their resellers, that as part of the agreement to resell Red Letter Day vouchers, the resellers were not allowed to bid on the search terms directly related to their brand (ie ‘Red Letter Days’).  However, in this case, M-and-S have not entered into such an agreement, as they are attempting to sell their own competitive product/service instead.

So it’s understandable for the case to now reach the high court.  Trademark and Copyright rows are rarely simple.
By my understanding, you are typically only allowed to quote someone else’s trademark; with their permission, if you are a licensed reseller of their product (ie Starbucks coffee), or for a news feature or similar.

But then, many trademarks/brand names have become a generic description of a product (ie ‘Tannoy’ rather than a ‘public address system’, ‘Hoover’ rather than ‘vacuum cleaner’, etc.) so in these cases, you could argue it would be ‘fair’ to associate your competitive product or service with such a name.

I look forward to seeing how the case continues.

New Xtrahair website

I’m very pleased to announce the launch of the new Xtrahair website, at www.xtrahair.co.uk.

xtrahair

As you can see, this is a very fresh looking design, with a conceptual design by our great colleague Matt.

In the process, he also wanted to update the Xtrahair logo, as seen.

The site is now also in the hands of the client, who has the facility to update each page of her website through an integrated content management system (CMS).  And of course, we’ve kept the old blog on their too (but now restyled it to fit in with the new design).

Certainly quite a significant improvement on the old design!

If you’d like us to improve your current website, or if you’d like a new one built entirely from scratch, do let us know.

New ‘written contract’ now available through our website

To help keep things clear to our clients, we’ve just added a new plain English written contract, to our website.

This was very kindly provided, under the creative commons licence, by Andy Clark of Transcending CSS.  We’ve subsequently modified his version to fit more appropriately within our own policies and procedures, but are very grateful to Andy for his excellent direction in this, and of course his inspirational book: Transcending CSS, the fine art of web design.

Many thanks Andy.

.co domain names are nearly ready for purchase

If you’re not a regular purchaser of domain names, you may have missed that .co domain names are about to go on to public release, so anyone will soon be able to buy their own .co domain name (ie www.my-new-domain.co).

.co is the new domain extension, that’s been released from Columbia.Columbian nationals have the rights to www.my-domain.com.co however, you’ll soon be able to purchase your own domain, ending in .co

There are of course many other domain extensions you can buy, such as the most famous .com, and .co.uk, as well as .net, .org, and slightly more recently .info and .biz.  This newer range of domain extensions (such as .me, .tv, .us) are related to countries that have decided to allow open purchase of their second level domain names (ie the bit, just before their country abbreviation).

There have been four phases to the launch of .co:

  1. The first round that allowed registered Columbian brands to buy their name in the first round ,
  2. The second round allowed national trademarks to buy their domain,
  3. The third round was an auction style landrush (ie customers interested in domains with a high global value, to bid against each other)
  4. And now the fourth round, where any person or company, anywhere in the world, can purchase their own domain on a first-come first-served basis, from 7pm British Summer Time (6pm GMT).
We’ve had a number of pre-purchase requests made with our domain registrars, so hopefully we may be successful in purchasing a few domains.

According to the official .co website www.cointernet.co, 87,489 domains were registered in the first 15 minutes of the domain name extension going live on the public market!

Microsoft Tag, for your mobile, on Parlour Design

You may now have seen the multicoloured triangular shaped as one of the contact numbers on our contact us page. This is part of a new free application for your mobile, called Microsoft TAG.


The idea being, you download and install the free application via your mobile, from http://gettag.mobi, and when you scan the bar code above, it will automatically offer to dial our main contact phone number to reach us at Parlour Design.


The barcode can be designed to do other things too, such as:

  • Open a URL suitable for your mobile, in your mobile internet browser.
  • Have a text automatically sent to your phone, with further information about whatever you’ve just seen
  • Open a new contact card, with the relevant company details, names, numbers, email, etc. onto your phone.
Microsoft are expecting this tag to take off in a big way.  
(other applications have already been developed to read standard bar codes from products, and then compare prices with local stores automatically, this system however should offer quite a lot more)

Official launch day was yesterday, and over a million posters have already had this kind of tag printed on them.  Mobiles are of course a part of every day life for most people now (recent research shows that a 7 year old is more likely to own a mobile than a book in the UK!).  So having a simple way for people to walk around with their mobiles, see a tag, and get the relevant information directly onto their mobiles could well be the future of things to come.
If you’ve got a ‘new generation’ phone (ie one with a built in camera, internet access, and the opportunity to install applications), then just visit http://gettag.mobi on your mobile.
To learn more about it in your normal web browser, just visit http://tag.microsoft.com


Spam is getting more selective – Annual Design Awards

Spam emails are certainly getting more selective.

The email harvesting robots which trawl the web are now (on a strangely positive side) aligning harvested email addresses and targeting them at specific groups (ie email addresses that have not been opted in, but just collected in plain text from different websites it finds).
I’m sure my email address has now just been ‘sold’ (for a very small price no doubt), to lists claiming I’ve been opted in.

One of the hidden email addresses on the Parlour Design website (one that a typical human browser would have no reason to find), has just been invited to the ‘Annual Design Awards’, whereby for a fee, we can enter into a competition and submit our best design.
Using their special promotional code sent via email, we can also get a discount!

So if we were genuinely being invited by a human, they would have used one of the publicised email addresses on the main website.

Similarly, my belief is that if this was a genuine industry award, we wouldn’t pay to enter, but that the cost of looking through my entry would be covered by their advertising and sponsorship of the event.

I will of course be keeping clear of it.
That particular email address has now been blocked from further spam indefinitely, and the area it was used for, has now been updated to a new email address again.
I wonder how long it’ll be before this new email gets spammed again!