The Random Technology Blog

We're passionate about technology.

As part of our mission to make stunning technology simple, the WGW team occasionally writes about topics that interest us; hopefully they also interest you.

While our business is Web Management and Web Design, we like to discuss broader issues in our blog entries, from security, to interesting web technology, to new gadgets and gizmos.

When Sites You Trust Give Your Info Away

08 January 2014 by The Random Technology Blog 4798 Views
Kevin Wilbourn

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Two days ago, we talked at some length about password hashing and the danger even a simple “Recover My Password” system can represent. Here’s another, often overlooked user login problem that makes servers unnecessarily vulnerable - telling a user which part of their credentials is wrong.

I’ll admit “Invalid username or password” might by among the most annoying errors I’ve ever gotten from a computer. It is ubiquitous, but I remember the first site I visited that instead said simply “Invalid username” - it was actually nice, but I didn’t realize then that it represents a significant security threat.

I’ll explain.

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Protecting Your Personal Privacy and Information in a Data Collection Age: Part 5 – Changing Ways

07 January 2014 by The Random Technology Blog 880 Views
Ryan Grandusky

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Following the many suggestions in the previous white paper articles (Introduction, part 2, part 3, and part 4) will help to protect your personal privacy but are not 100% in preventing unwanted data collection or theft. If you want to limit the amount of data that can be collected from you then you must seriously consider changing your habits and behavior. A great rule of thumb is that if you are not willing to share something with the entire world then you should not message it, post it, or even send it through any free service including email, messaging, social networking, etc. Remember that many programs, apps, and websites collect information on you even when you are not using them; to be clear, there is nothing held sacred when you agree to the terms of use.Considering open source and paid alternatives after you have reviewed their terms of service and privacy policy ensures that you are more secure by helping to avoid unwanted data collection.   

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Fear the Password Recovery Wizard

06 January 2014 by The Random Technology Blog 1189 Views
Kevin Wilbourn

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It’s happened to all of us. You go to log on to that new site, and used a distinct password like all the security gurus tell you. (You are using distinct passwords, right?) But you can’t remember the darned thing. OK, no problem, “Recover my password”. The site fires back “We’ll send your password to your email address”. So you go and check your email, and there it is, your unique passphrase in all its glory. All is right with the world, right?

 

Wrong.

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Discovering Design Breakpoints

03 January 2014 by The Random Technology Blog 1107 Views
Kevin Wilbourn

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One of the essential concepts when designing with mobile in mind is using breakpoints. A breakpoint is the point at which elements of a design change and adapt in order to conform to various screen sizes. In mobile friendly web sites, we use conditional CSS rules to format the display of information, tailoring it to the user’s individual screen.

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7 Mistakes Web Designers Make

02 January 2014 by The Random Technology Blog 1029 Views
Kevin Wilbourn

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With WGW’s technology and content perspective on web design, we get a unique look at the common mistakes web designers make. Is your web firm making these mistakes?
 
  1. Designing WITHOUT mobile in mind. Mobile browsing is still a growing force, and every day millions of people search, browse, and buy via mobile devices. Your site should at least be mobile ready - and many sites should consider “mobile first” design - literally building a mobile site and then scaling to larger format screens selectively.
  2. Ignoring Data and Code Validation. It looks pretty, but the code is a sloppy mess. Guess what? Google, Bing, and the rest can’t see the hours a graphic artist spent perfecting each pixel. They can see semantic code and meaningful, unique content. Errors in code interfere with browser compatibility, search engine crawlers, and much more.
  3. Fearing Revisions. Plenty of designers are afraid of revision. Most firms like to think they have put their best face forward. They shun criticism and take revisions personally. It’s not. The client and the designer must, by necessity work together. To build something unique and beautiful. Without client input, all projects will move to a generic, boring, unsatisfying midpoint.
  4. The “one and done” approach. This one might be the most hurtful to everyone. Designer builds a site, then simply turns it over to the client, leaving the hosting, caretaking, search engine optimization, and other particulars up in the air. Watching this in action is why we developed our content and site management approach, and why we follow an iterative improvement cycle.
  5. Hiding User Interface. Plain and simple, you have about 2 seconds to decide if you want to do business on a website. If you can’t identify navigation elements that fast, it just doesn’t work. 
  6. Not thinking socially. I’m not talking about social network buttons. I’m talking about face to face interaction. The best projects come from a clear understanding of the client’s business and culture. A firm half a world away may deliver cheap and fast, but they won’t catch lightning in a bottle with regards to representing the people behind a company.
  7. No Project Management Methods. The best companies work with a clear, defined methodology in place moving each project along through stages. Most web designers, especially small house firms common in the SMB and non-profit space, cludge projects along without clear markers, goals, and milestones. Even the simplest brochure website deserves to be treated with respect and tracked to completion alongside major projects.
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Protecting Personal Privacy and Information in a Data Collection Age: Part 4 - Mobile Privacy

21 November 2013 by The Random Technology Blog 913 Views
Ryan Grandusky

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If you have not already please see part 1, part 2, and part 3 of this white paper series to gain all the benefits and advice. Previously my focus has been on computer devices; however, I will change it up in this post by focusing on the mobile world that has become a standard part of our lives. Although convenient and useful smart phones are ultimately electronic tracking and monitoring devices that have become a necessity in our everyday lives. Unfortunately the best way to prevent tracking is to not use a cell phone or mobile device at all, an unlikely scenario, so some things we will just have to compromise and accept but that does not mean there are not things we can do to protect our privacy.

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Protecting Personal Privacy and Information in a Data Collection Age: Part 3 – Additional Security

21 November 2013 by The Random Technology Blog 892 Views
Ryan Grandusky

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If you haven’t already please see the introduction and part 2 of this white paper series to catch up. Picking up where I left off and getting serious about personal privacy and information security we turn to protecting the things we value most such as our personal files, documents, and pictures. Our files are often considered to be worth more than the device that holds them, so it is of highest importance to put in measures to protect what is ours. As mentioned in the previous white papers strong passphrases are the first step in securing files and data.

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Protecting Personal Privacy and Information in a Data Collection Age: Part 2 – Where to Start

21 November 2013 by The Random Technology Blog 1004 Views
Ryan Grandusky

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Picking up from the introductory white paper, let’s start with some basics to protect our data and private information. Everyone using a computer or device connected to a Network, the Internet, runs software or applications should ensure they are kept up to date. Not only do theses updates fix bugs and problems, they also keep security risks to a minimum by patching any found security risks in the software and apps. Security holes in Windows, Java, Adobe, Web Browsers, and other programs and apps can be exploited by anyone wanting to steal your data. Use automatic updates when available and checking for updates often can ensure you have the most up to date secure and bug free version of any app, software, or operating system that you are using.

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Protecting Personal Privacy and Information in a Data Collection Age: Part 1 - Introduction

21 November 2013 by The Random Technology Blog 913 Views
Ryan Grandusky

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It is becoming common knowledge that personal private information is being collected and used by all sorts of businesses, organizations, criminals, and even government agencies. There have been many recent news stories and data leaks on government agencies collecting, stealing, seizing, searching and storing data on pretty much everyone and everything around the world. More importantly we often see stories on identity theft and online fraud and scams using personal data. Cyber crime such as identity and data theft is on the rise leaving the average person with a growing concern for security. My intentions are to encourage you to become aware of what private information you are giving away or making readily accessible and to inspire you to restore some personal privacy back into your lives. I think it is worthwhile for everyone to consider just how much information we voluntarily give away every day and how little we do to protect our privacy in our present online always connected world.

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Web Content Lifecycles

27 August 2013 by The Random Technology Blog 1587 Views
Kevin Wilbourn

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There is one great misconception that plagues our industry,and it is a symptom of most web teams process. Sites often aren’t developed with an eye towards message or content. Even sites with usability and message statements developed often take a “one and done” approach to their content.

Content on the web is completely different than anything that came before; simply because it is iterative. Authors move through a draft workflow and arrive at final copy. Next editors do their job. It may or may not go back to the author for iterative revisions. Finally, the publisher has their turn and the final product ends up in the hands of customers. I don’t think most people realize how unlike this process the internet is. With the web, content isn’t carved in stone. Messages should evolve as the situation changes.

If you are running a site dedicated to a niche - let’s say a specific motorcycle, and a new model comes out, the niche has changed. Your content must change to reflect the market. If a new aftermarket part comes out, once again, the niche has changed. If you get stuck in a “final copy” mindset, not only will the content lose relevance over time, it may never get published. Approach content authoring as a process rather than a result.

So how do we break that traditional draft, edit, publish workflow mindset?

The answer is process. Even experienced online content authors may struggle to stay innovative and generate fresh content. Here’s the approach we’ve adopted, in 5 simple steps:

  1. Draft a message statement: What content are you creating, what is the core message, and why is this message important?
  2. Define your audience: Even if the subject matter is the same, audience impacts tone and content. If you are writing for doctors, your content will be more technical than if you are writing for worried parents, even if discussing the same condition.
  3. Keep it concise: Use your message to develop your idea into 3-5 points. Build each point into a complete thought, then introduce the message and draw a single conclusion. Don’t expect this to be perfect.
  4. Follow up and improve: Let the drafted content sit overnight if possible (it usually is). Now, re-read it. I like to read from back to front, 1 paragraph at a time. Make sure everything makes sense.
  5. Solicit Questions: Nobody is perfect. Get your audience engaged and give them the opportunity to ask questions. Clarify, and add these questions to your notes on audience profile for your next content piece. 
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