In this issue
If your client’s web sites collect personal information you have two things to think about:
The Data Protection Act obliges you to register if you are keeping personal information for certain purposes. I will cover that in a later issue if I can figure a way of making it interesting.
Rather than bore you with a description of the policy here are a few examples:
Do you need one?
However, it helps to re-assure the customer that you are a solid upright citizen. Trust is an important factor on the web. If you go into a big store and buy something you know who they are and where to go if there is a problem. However on the web much is taken on trust and anything you can do to help your customers trust you must be worth-while.
A survey by Trust-e suggested that a lot of people (they say 52%) read privacy policies. I doubt that figure, but the other conclusion that consumers see online privacy as an important issue (64%) looks very believable.
The best approach is to visit the world-wide authority on this www.truste.org. They are the best source for resources on this subject. Trust-e is sponsored by people like Microsoft and AOL and can be taken seriously.
Ideally get them to audit and sign-off the policy. There is a fee involved, but this is not just a rubber stamp; a real human being checks it over. To get a flavour download their self-assessment form. Yep: 22 pages of form to fill out.
And of course P3P
The P3P policy is expressed in XML (a future newsletter I think). Needless to say, in the absence of a P3P policy the browser assumes the worst.
Looking into the future I think it quite likely that web browsers will allow you to state your privacy preferences and then warn you before you submit a form if the web site violates those preferences.
When this happens a P3P policy will become almost mandatory, and clients will have to start taking privacy really seriously.
There is an article by Gerry McGovern this month on search optimisation. Note – not search engine optimisation. His argument is that to succeed you need to study the mind of the searcher rather than the mechanics of the search engine. I agree wholeheartedly. Many marketers fill their site with the latest right-on jargon for their industry, forgetting that most searchers are using everyday words. Gerry calls these words ‘carewords’. He gives the example of the travel industry being hooked on 'low cost fares' whereas the punter is searching for 'cheap flights'.
We spend a lot of time thinking about accessibility these days – so we can make the site available to people with disabilities. But what about people with literacy problems? On a business to business site this may not be an issue, but on many sites – say central or local government, this should be a concern. The web has specific problems and solutions for lower-literacy users and this is the first place I have ever seen it discussed.
If you rely on persistent cookies for audience measurement, check out this research from JupiterResearch. Their research indicated that 40% of users delete cookies on a regular basis. Returning visitor counts are going down, simply because of this factor.
Your clients get a mail from ‘International Domain Name Registry’ saying that they have had an application for a domain registration for a similar sounding name to theirs, and that your client can block this if they register it themselves. Think about it carefully. Do you really care if someone has a domain name that sounds like yours? Nahhh…
Technical tips - Waiting for Google
You have your client’s site set up, and you wait for the traffic to pour in. But nothing happens. You are not on Google - what do you do? Here is a checklist:
Next month the technical tip is stage 2 – Google has only indexed my home page, what about the rest of the site?
News from the web
A lot of people are talking about Skype. It is a VOIP service that uses software on your PC, plus microphone and speakers/ headset to connect you to the phone system. Call me old fashioned but if I want to phone someone I would rather just pick up the phone. However Skype has generated a lot of interest and a lot of people are using it – 29 million to be precise, and signing up at 155,000 per day.
Verisign reports that online commerce has risen 88% this year over the Christmas period vs the previous year.
The site isn’t ready till you have finished testing it. Staples learned a hard lesson when they decided to go all-out to publicise their new e-commerce site. It had a few performance tuning problems but nothing they couldn’t handle they said. Well it turned out they couldn’t handle them and the site didn’t go live. Performance is an issue that often gets neglected until it’s too late. Programmers test with a small test pack and of course everything always looks OK. But exposing a site such as Staples to the world is a completely different thing.
VOIP is great, but it has a unique problem. Because the internet is global there is no real concept of geographical location of the telephone handset. Its just ‘out there somewhere’. With a landline or even a mobile there is some way of figuring out where the user is. Because of this it is very hard to implement an emergency 999 service. A Houston teenager found this out the hard way when someone walked in and shot her parents. This tragic story became worse when she couldn’t dial the emergency service because they only had VOIP phones. So if you want to be 100% VOIP check whether the provider has a 999 service.
The next big thing in broadband may be WiMax: Imagine a wireless hotspot that covers your whole town. Sign up for this and you don’t need a phone line, just a wireless receiver. With VOIP for your phone you have all you need. For the developing world it could basically allow the telephone company to wire up a whole city in one shot.
Europe is to get its own domain name - .eu.