We live in an age where passwords and PIN-codes are everywhere. Phones, computers, email accounts, government services, bills and utilities, apps, bank accounts and dozens more. All need and expect some form of password. Here’s a cautionary tale for what might happen if you forget one.
Since the year dot, many many aeons ago (back in the 1980’s, I mean), passwords were invented for electronic ‘stuff’ to keep out people who shouldn’t get in. Keeping private things private. Keeping national secrets secret. Keeping unique technologies unique.
There are a few password strategies around on how to create and manage strong (ie. unguessable) passwords. Very often, you will find that these strategies can be challenged or even come unstuck in the face of Password Rules. Every system, every organisation, can create their own Password Rule and it’s highly likely you’ve encountered them – for example, your password must contain at least 8 characters, and in those 8 there must be both letters and numbers and at least one capital letter. Some password rules require one or more “special characters” such as $, & or %.
So we end up with a grab-bag of different passwords whether we like it or not.
What happens when we forget one? A classic example is the password to a GMail account. You created an email account using Google’s free GMail service years ago, put in a password that matched their Password Rule at the time. You added that email into your smartphone and tablet, using their quick-and-easy tools to do so. Then you happily started using the email account.
Of course, you never had to put in that password again. Your computer, your phone, your tablet all remember it for you. Or better yet, if you’re like me you have a password manager app that remembers on your behalf, so you can have a ridiculous password that you don’t even know anyway (and couldn’t reveal even under torture or hypnosis!).
Then you get a new gadget, or more likely try to sign in to your email account on someone else’s computer (let’s say while you are travelling). You are asked what your password is. You simply don’t know or can’t recall.
Now you enter Verification Twilight Zone. You need to prove you are who you say you are, that you should be allowed in even though you don’t know the password. GMail do this verification thing sometimes when you DO know the correct password, but are signing in on some device you haven’t signed in on before. They might even do it on your normal device, for some reason.
How do you verify yourself? Well. It all depends…. but it depends on what you did when you created the account.
Here’s the thing. If you can’t successfully navigate through the Verification Twilight Zone, you can find yourself going round and round in circles trying to guess the correct answers. If you are unable to provide what is requested – you simply cannot get in. Short and sweet, you have lost access.
For some services (such as online banking), there may be someone you can call so you can prove to them that you are the right person, and they can maybe reset your account password. But don’t count on it in these days of identity theft, fraud, and privacy laws.
As for GMail? It’s too bad. You need to register a brand new email address and tell everyone you’ve had to change. A real pain. You’ve lost access to everything that was in that email account unless you can work through the Verification Twilight Zone somehow.
So the moral of the story is to make sure you have an excellent memory, or more practically to make a secure note of not only your password, but also your verification answers. And keep them updated (once a year or so should do it). Dead alternative email addresses and expired phone numbers are of no use at all.
Beware the Verification Twilight Zone!
Let’s focus on my business for a bit. Usually, I’m all about my client’s business (the “if they do well, I do well” perspective), but we’ll flip it around for a change.
The websites/web-marketing industry is undergoing huge changes. Has been for years, of course, along with technology in general. Ask a website designer/builder to go back 5 years and recall how websites were built, and compare to today’s tools and techniques. It’s chalk and cheese.
And cheaper. Like most technology (except iPhones, it seems…!).
In the last couple of years, there have been 2 major developments that have led to a massive surge in the number of people who say they are available to build you a fabulous website. “Page builders” which greatly reduce or even eliminate the technical knowledge needed. And “Software as a Service” which lets you subscribe to functions & tools & facilities that you need, when you need them, without having any hassles with installation, maintenance, upgrades or backups.
You may have seen the Wix ads, or Squarespace, or GoDaddy. Yes, you can DIY – build a website right now, and it will indeed look good, at low cost (to start with). Get up and running in an hour or two. They don’t lie.
So we have a huge number of ‘experts’ out there now. The web industry has such low barriers to entry that it has become an enticing side-gig, a part-time activity that fits in with the full-time job or study. All you need is a reasonable internet connection.
The result is apparently a reverse hourglass effect. Squeeze at the bottom of the market (lots and lots of competition for low-priced projects), squeeze at the top of the market (high-ticket projects attracting increased attention from mid-range players who can easily access more advanced capabilities).
In the middle, though, there seems to be a more positive effect for business such as Winch Websites. A project can now include functions and facilities that would have been financially out of reach to small and micro businesses or non-profits. It’s here that clients typically already have experience with owning a website, and recognise the skills, expertise and benefits that a professional brings to play. Websites are no longer about the technology – it’s about what they are there to achieve for the organisation. More sales? More signups? More donations? More enquiries or leads? The focus is on the outcome, not the tool. Find out what the outcome is first, then find the best tool to make that happen. Then fine-tune and optimise, forever. Something worth investing in, in other words.
Anyway, what I’m getting at is that although the website and web-marketing industries have very low barriers to entry (and therefore many, many participants), it doesn’t mean that getting something good is easy and cheap as chips. A decent investment really should pay dividends.
However, riding shotgun with the low barriers to entry is the lack of regulation and control. If you haven’t come across outrageous claims already, you won’t have to go far to find some. Think “website in a day”, “Google page 1”, “10x your sales”.
How about your own industry? How easy is it for a newcomer to come along and think “Hmm, that looks like an easy way to earn money. I’ll say I can do it and then work it out from there!”?
If you too have low barriers to entry, you’ll be familiar with all of the above. And like as not, you too will have had customers who’ve tried the cheap and the quick, been burned, and are now looking for experience and knowledge.
When you go looking for website and web-marketing services, please bear in mind that there’s little to stop people saying what they like in internet-land. Take claims with a small pinch of cynicism and maybe do a bit of due diligence. Ask or look for evidence that your chosen service provider has done this sort of thing, and that it’s worked. Be ever-so-slightly distrustful of reviews and testimonials unless there’s evidence to back them up as genuine customers.
At Winch Websites, I’m well aware that the competition for your web-marketing dollars is global, huge, and a minefield of options, technicalities, capabilities and playing with the truth. I aim to provide honest and accurate advice, and if we aren’t a good fit for each other in terms of outcomes and objectives, I’ll happily refer you to services or businesses that are.
I want to take care of your website so that you can take care of your business – over the long term, ongoing. That’s not going to happen unless you get great value from Winch Websites. So next time you’re looking for website design & build, website care or email automation services, please get in touch. At the very least, you’ll get something to compare against. And I’d love to hear what you think when you do compare, business feedback is so hard to come by!
Good luck in your business, and may low barriers to entry be no barriers to your success!!
WordPress is a software package that makes it easy (well, easiER) to build, manage and maintain a website. About a quarter of the world’s websites are powered by WordPress. If your website is powered by its own independent WordPress package, then someone needs to make sure that software is kept up-to-date. Some frequently-asked-questions (FAQs) about all this;
Ask whoever built your website for you – “what content management system does my website use?”. This is something you ought to know, as a bit of background info. There are lots of other systems around, of course – some are for building ‘independent’ websites where you are free to do as you please with it eg. add whatever bells & whistles you like – some are ‘umbrella’ systems, where you get a set of facilities and tools but can’t add your own eg. Wix, Weebly, Shopify, Squarespace and many more.
One clue though is what you see when you login to manage/administer your website (and if you don’t login, then either someone else is looking after your site for you OR you aren’t maintaining it at all. Get in touch if it’s the latter, because someone needs to. Read on!). The typical WordPress Dashboard looks something like this;
There is a very high chance that your WordPress-powered website has more than just the base WordPress system installed. The WordPress package by itself definitely provides all you need to build and launch a website – but you really, really shouldn’t. It’s a bit like buying a new computer with the latest version of Windows or Mac OS and no other software packages installed. You just need more tools and facilities for it to be really useful. For WordPress, essential extras include things like security (much like a PC has to have internet-security software), search-engine-optimisation boosters, webpage speeder-uppers (nobody will wait 10 seconds for your images to load). These extras are called “plugins”. There are THOUSANDS of plugins to choose from. If you want your website to do it, there is bound to be a plugin to make it happen!
So we have this WordPress software package (the “content management system”). And we have these extras on top of it (the plugins). Like any software, the developers that created them are constantly improving things – fixing errors or bugs, adding new or better features, preventing the bad guys from doing bad things. So an “update” is simply a newer version of WordPress or a WordPress plugin that has been improved in some way.
Nowadays, you can set your WordPress to automatically update itself to the latest version of the package whenever a new one comes out (every couple of months or so). Alternatively, when you login to your website as an Administrator, you can click a button or two and make it upgrade. It’s really that easy.
Likewise the plugins – when a newer version is available for your website to retrieve and install – click a link or button, and it gets done. Easy. You will probably find updates for your various plugins several times a week.
Of course not. You don’t have to have internet-security software for your computer. You don’t have to have home insurance. You don’t have to put petrol in the car. But if you want to avoid potentially BIG trouble, you should. Really should. A website that gets built and published and then left is a website that;
It is. Looking after WordPress updates is probably not what you regard as a core activity for your business. Luckily, it IS a core activity for Winch Websites. We will not only make sure that your WordPress system and its plugins are all kept up-to-date, we do a few more things too (like take backups every day, perform security scans, monitor your site 24/7, and more). Get in touch to find out more, or see our Websites Care page.
SAAS is huge, and it IS changing what you do and how you do it. SAAS is Software As A Service, a collective term for anything that you can do online where you used to have to buy, install and manage software packages on your computer(s). If you made the move from Outlook to GMail/YahooMail/Hotmail, you started using SAAS. If you moved your accounting from MYOB or Reckon to Xero, you started using SAAS.
Software As A Service provides you with the tools, facilities, functions that you need via the internet – while someone else does all the maintenance, management, backups, security, etc etc etc. You’ll nearly always pay a monthly fee for the privilege, although there are other charging models of course.
SAAS can give you exactly what you need to run an efficient, effective, low-cost business where you can start small and grow as you need to. Take up the lowest-cost plan, and as you need more, you simply change to the next plan up (and pay a bit more). Perfect for systems to grow as you grow.
Well, the world is your oyster. There are literally thousands of SAAS providers covering an immense array of tools and functions. Just a few examples that might pique your interest;
These just scratch the surface of what you could do in your business to grow it and manage it – the old ‘doing more with less’. SAAS offers you great potential to extend what you do, save you time, save you costs, and scale up as your business needs more. Keep your eyes peeled, there’s a good chance that there are tools out there now that could make a big difference to your business!