The best of IoT Tech Expo 2021

According to IoT Tech News, “IoT has crept into various aspects of our lives, from voice assistants to smartwatches, and they are shaping the way we work, talk, and engage with each other. In 2021, it’s clear that is here to stay, with countless practical use cases around the world. There are thought to be 35.82 billion IoT devices installed worldwide and a markets&markets report has suggested that this will rise to 75.44 billion devices by 2025.” In the recent IoT Tech Expo 20201, held in London, conversations focused on the Green New Deal, business IoT and consumer-facing IoT. So what products do we see shaping the conversation going forward? We explore these three key topics in this 5 minute, best of IoT Tech Expo 2021 recap.

Green IoT

A topic that came up over and over at the IoT Tech Expo 2021 was green tech. It’s not a new conversation. IEEE postulates that “complicated operations (such as device interconnection, data transmission and service optimization) will consume substantial energy in contrast with the limited energy storage of IoT devices. To improve architectural sustainability and ultimately reduce systemic cost, the [energy-efficient] (green) design of IoT has become more prominent. In particular, with the continuous penetration of advanced information and communications (ICT) technologies (such as VR/AR, UAVs, and automobiles), our smart world is being surrounded by big IoT data that craves energy-efficient caching, computing, networking and securing.” So, look to technologies and products that enable smart buildings and grids to lessen the environmental impact of these interconnected devices.

Business IoT

Is your workgroup remote now? If so, you’re not alone. And that’s increasing the requirement for IoT devices that allow seamless corporate collaboration. At the IoT Tech Expo 2021, we were able to consider the application of tools like the Cisco Webex Board for in-person and digital whiteboard meeting collaboration. Or door monitoring and access systems that allow you to remotely control building access from any secure location. Lastly, maybe voice assistants to quickly schedule meetings or transcribe meeting notes; it’s all already possible but we never needed to adopt it until now. As teams move to new permanent ways of working, expect to see more business IoT become commonplace.. And budgets will expand to make these tech investments.

Consumer-facing IoT

Lastly, we’ll see the data we capture from IoT devices become business assets. And corporations will employ more IoT to improve the customer experience. Deloitte states, “companies should seek to create a non-financial value for consumers in order for them to feel comfortable giving up their information. This helps achieve a balance between getting the information the business needs while making sure their consumers feel like they are getting something in return.” So, as we saw at the IoT Tech Expo 2021; more personalisation and predictive engagement will provide help, not pushy sales talk. In-home IoT devices will enable this from the client’s side like Google Home and Amazon Alexa. While on the retailer side, tracking and routing IoT devices will improve the shipping and ordering journey for the customer further. Expect a better understanding of the real-time and forecasted conditions down to the street level.

 

Want to talk about the internet of things, collaboration and green tech? Our expert team is standing by.

Top 10 website development trends in 2021

Now that the year is coming to an end, what were the top 10 website development trends in 2021? What design, copy or media elements defined the year or maintained their dominance? If you’re pressed for time, we see the standout trends as:

  1. COVID-19 policies & procedures pages become standard practice.
  2. Artificial Intelligence and bots help with UX and customer service.
  3. Single Page Application (SPA) sites increase in popularity.
  4. Mobile-first development is now the norm but watch out for Apple users.
  5. Serverless applications and architecture enable remote working.
  6. Product test automation reduces development costs.
  7. Motion UI harnessed to funnel users through the journey.
  8. IoT dominates the boardroom with web crossover.
  9. Content optimised for voice search first.
  10. Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP) plugin saves dev costs.

We’ll sort them into the three key development areas of mobile-first, pandemic related and UX inspired trends and provide a bit more flavour to their emergence below.

Mobile-first trends

More than half of all internet traffic is mobile now. We don’t even need to link you to the reports, intuitively you know. Chances are your own browsing habits have migrated to mostly mobile in recent years. So, it’s obvious that Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP), Mobile-First Development and Single Page Application (SPA) are leading the charge in design for phones. We expect these trends to continue with good web development focused on near-instant mobile load speeds, rapid conversion and streamlined UI. Lastly, recent changes by Apple on user privacy rules on their devices have changed a lot about what can be tracked now. Essentially not much is passed on to advertisers, websites and merchants any longer, so it’s a space to watch as well.

Pandemic-related

Privately and in the corporate world, COVID has changed our lives forever. Safety precautions are now listed on nearly every website and our work from home directives have informed tech. AWS (AWS Lambda), Google Cloud (Google Functions) and Microsoft Azure (Azure Functions) lead the charge on serverless computing allowing commerce and business to continue uninterrupted. And collaboration service partners like Cisco are already thinking about syncing their tech with any return to the office with IoT devices like the Cisco Webex Board. We’ve also cut out unnecessary costs in support through automation and bots to help with testing and customer service.

UX-focused

Artificial Intelligence and bots now dominate the first-touch response for many businesses. They help direct users to resources or manage workflows for service departments. But design is contributing to the user experience too. According to InVision, “motion helps make UIs expressive and easy to use, it’s one of the newer members of the UI design family.” But with new, vast SASS libraries, that’s becoming less of a concern. Lastly, all content is slowly becoming optimised for natural language as sites compete for ‘position zero’ across search engines and home devices. Want Alexa or Google Home to read your content as a result? You’ll need to write for a natural voice response.

Want to talk about design, UX or anything else on the internet? Our expert team is standing by.

What brands need to know about NFTs – non-fungible tokens

NFTs- non-fungible tokens are the latest buzzwords to emerge from the cryptocurrency space. Chances are you’ve heard about NFT auctions generating millions of pounds for seemingly worthless pixels. Maybe the whole thing just makes no sense. Or perhaps you’re thinking of how you could use NFTs as a brand? Here is what brands need to know about NFTs or non-fungible tokens:

  1. NFTs are digital coupons that entitle you ownership of a digital thing.
  2. If it’s vintage, it’s gold. Nostalgia generates revenue.
  3. Digital land grabs are happening.
  4. Celebs are selling out and cashing up

nfts are one of a kind

One of a kind

According to Forbes, “Although they’ve been around since 2014, NFTs are gaining notoriety now because they are becoming an increasingly popular way to buy and sell digital artwork. A staggering £123 million has been spent on NFTs since November 2017.” It’s essentially a coupon that entitles the buyer to own a digital good. That could be a piece of art or something more abstract like a dancing cat video. Because it’s one of a kind, it creates the same scarcity that posthumous artworks do. It’s made up of snippets of code that can’t be reproduced and are stored using the same tech that enables crypto. In fact, most NFTs are bought with cryptocurrency.

nfts thrive on nostalgia

Nostalgia reigns

Maybe it’s just because so many crypto-investors are millennials but 80s, 90s and 00s nostalgia is fetching a hefty price. From beloved YouTube videos like ‘Charlie Bit My Finger” to bespoke collections from Atari for Centipede and Pog; if it’s retro it’s selling like hotcakes. Buyers are snapping up NGTs for digital nostalgia at an alarming rate. Want to own digital Dunkaroos biscuits? It’s possible. For brands with a history in the recent past, this presents an opportunity to monetise old assets in new and exciting ways.

nfts can include virtual land

Acres of bits

A digital land grab is happening too. From parcelling up the real world into fake lots or selling off bits of the ‘digitalverse’; people are buying and selling digital real estate. Why should brands care? Well, it’s expected to boom in the next decade. According to Republic, “Humans now conduct much of their lives through a screen, and virtual worlds that exist only on computers have cropped up. These are places where people can “congregate” by using avatars and have interactive social experiences–entirely virtually. These online communities are called metaverses.” And you can buy them. Is there an opportunity to advertise your product or service in the hubs? Maybe you want to own the metaverse around your actual offices? The possibilities are still unfolding.

NFTs- non-fungible tokens are popular with celebs

Celebrity payday

From selling the rights to unreleased tracks to making digital doodles, celebs are cashing in. And that’s good for their relationship with fans. But is there a way for brands to participate? Think about famous ad collaborations that would make a great NFT. Do you own “Where’s the Beef?” or “Got Milk?” – those clips could net you millions. Consider your back catalogue of popular ads and highlight any that could see new life as an NFT. And if you need to learn how to sell them, this guide is helpful.

 

Want to talk about NFTs- non-fungible tokens, websites or anything else on the internet? Our expert team is clued in.

5 signs you’ve outgrown your web hosting

Web hosting is a modern commodity. You need to have the right abound of storage, bandwidth and speed to enable your customers to buy. Fall down at any of those hurdles and you’re leaving cash on the table. So, you probably know not to simply go with the lowest quote you can get. Chances are, when you make your hosting selection, you carefully compared the packages to make the right fit. But now you may be feeling something is off. The arrangement isn’t as comfortable as it was before. Here are 5 signs you’ve outgrown your web hosting:

  1. Hungry neighbours taking more than their fair share.
  2. Show load times are costing you money.
  3. Poor IP reputation is getting you flagged.
  4. Bad performance at peak times.
  5. Non-standard software is banned.

5 signs you’ve outgrown your web hosting

Hungry Neighbours

With any shared service agreement, resources are pooled and used across all subscribers. But not everyone has the same needs. You can bet that for every few low-bandwidth users, there’s a super consumer who is pushing that load to its limits. If your host doesn’t have limiters in place, you probably have noticed a drop in service levels as your host has gained popularity.

Slow Loading

If you notice that your site’s page loading time has taken a nosedive, it’s time to consider a switch. You can monitor that here. And don’t be lulled into a false sense of security by good desktop loading times. Mobile traffic is fast overtaking desktop browsing as the primary medium. If your mobile load times are slow, you’re missing out on custom.

Bad Reputation

You must monitor your IP too. If they’re getting flagged for spam and malware, that’s going to affect your business. There are several tools available to keep track of your host’s reputation. If there are any warnings, it’s possible another client of your web host has been exploited. This can happen if they’ve not kept their website up to date or failed to enact good security. But it will hurt you, so it’s best to look at making a change.

Peak Time Struggle

Shared server resources share demand too. So, during busy periods, the RAM and CPU may struggle to keep up. As a result, you’ll see a temporary reduction in loading speed and hang time on processing functions. The downside is that this may cost you consumer trust. If a payment screen hangs, a client is unlikely to attempt the purchase twice for fear of being double charged.

Standard Only

Out of the box tools will rarely suit a growing business. When you began, basic software like MySQL was just fine. But now you need better, non-standard software like Percona. If your web host won’t allow you to integrate the systems you need, it may be time to move on. You don’t need to settle for basic programs.

 

We’d love to help you evaluate your web host. Let’s talk about what our hosting packages can offer if you have noticed any of these five signs you’ve outgrown your web hosting.

Robin Hood, the ‘stonk’ market and terms of use

Last month, Reddit banned together to take the Stock Market (or stonk market, as they call it) for a ride. They identified gamer-centric stocks that were being shorted by big hedge funds and banded together to inflate the price. This effectively caused some hedge funds to lose billions when they had to buy back the shares at a higher price. As a result of this market volatility, Robin Hood and several other trading platforms used by private investors, restricted trades of these stocks. People got mad. And Robin Hood got sued.  Later, they revered their decisions and allowed limited trades to return. Why did people get so mad at Robin Hood in particular? Well, we think it comes down to branding. We’ll discuss this whole mess with Robin Hood, the ‘stonk, market and terms of use from an online branding perspective including:

  1. Defining your brand values
  2. Creating a tribe
  3. Aligning your processes, procedures and terms

Brand values

“At Robinhood, we believe the financial system should be built to work for everyone.” At least that’s what it says on their website. Maybe watch their advert to see them reinforce this idea. They’re building a brand proposition. You should believe they’re on the side of the little guy. They promise to be for everyone. However, the recent restrictions didn’t align with their brand values. And people got angry. That’s why it’s so important to create a brand that your organisation can live up to, even in the hard times. Think about who you are and what your goal is at your core. Then, determine if the market you operate in will allow you to remain consistent.

Creating a tribe

Because Robin Hood’s brand values were so attractive, they easily built a tribe. Fans of the platform (prior to the ‘stonk’ market debacle) were honest about its drawbacks but had warm feelings for the brand. They bought into their ‘rob from the rich and give to the poor’ narrative. Many were open advocates for their software. But when they restricted trades, the Robin Hood mob bit the hand that fed and 1-starred their reviews on Google. Building a tribe is great. It gives you powerful advocates for your brand and great word of mouth advertising. But beware, fail to live up to your tribe’s expectations and you could be in for a world of hurt.

Aligning your processes, procedures and terms

This is where Robin Hood really fell down. Based on the brand values and beliefs instilled in their tribe, it came as a big surprise when they evoked restrictive clauses in their terms of use. Most people never read terms and conditions. So, it’s no shock that users were aghast to find this: “You agree that, without notice, Robinhood may terminate these Terms and Conditions, or suspend your access to the Service or the Content, with or without cause at any time and effective immediately.” Stopping the little guy from investing seems quite at odds with their brand values, doesn’t it? And that’s where aligning your terms, processes and procedures come into play. It’s no use to have brand values and create a tribe that you can’t support in good times and bad. So, when creating the nuts and bolts of how your website/service will operate, make sure it marries with your stated goals.

 

If you want to learn more about online branding, check out this page or speak to our helpful team.

Why the Parler ban is a bad thing

This month, tech giants banned a fledgeling social media app called Parler. Amazon, Apple and Google all removed the app from their app stores and hosting services. According to Vox, “Amazon booted Parler from its Amazon Web Services, citing the risk to public safety. This followed Parler’s app being removed from the Google Play Store and Apple App Stores for its role in inciting violence.” The network has received criticism for its extreme free-speech position which led to extremist viewpoints gaining steam on the platform. But regardless of your personal political leanings, here’s why the Parler ban is a sign of things to come. And none of them are good. We’ll discuss concerns including:

  1. Tech giants have too much power
  2. Users may be signing away personal rights
  3. Platforms can promote and enforce political agendas
  4. Application of service terms can enable anti-capitalist market control

Centralised Power

When companies become too big, they throw the rulebooks out of the window. No longer does the concept of supply and demand apply to them. They are so essential, so entrenched, that they operate outside the normal market bounds. Don’t think that’s true? Chances are you use Amazon a lot (especially during this pandemic), now imagine if they raised the price of standard delivery and Prime by 30%. You’d probably still pay it. Why? Because they’re the biggest game in town and no one else even comes close to the convenience and selection they offer.

Loss of Rights

Before you join or use any online service, you agree to the terms of use they operate under. Most people never even read them. There are some scary things in Facebook’s terms of use, but most people on this planet have already agreed. These include selling your likeness, keeping a copy of pictures you delete and tracking your GPS movements. And yet we all use Facebook every day, never thinking about all the privacy rights we’ve signed away. And the only option to free yourself, stop using them. We’re not exaggerating.

Political Agendas

Who platforms allow to speak and who they don’t says a lot about their political agendas as an organisation. And before you think ‘platforms are neutral’, no they aren’t. People work at companies and people have biases (positive or negative). This applies to discrimination too. LCFI states, “consistently White portrayal of AI can amplify discrimination, including by: sustaining a racially homogenous workforce, perpetuating oppressive narratives of White superiority, misrepresenting the opportunities and risk of AI, and creating new power hierarchies that place ‘White’ machines in a position of power over non-White humans.”

Anti-capitalist

Platforms can put pretty much whatever they want into their terms of use. This includes restricting your other business activities or selling ads on your content. Some terms even grant ownership of your content to the platform. Once a service gets large enough, they can buy out competitors and shutter them to maintain dominance. These practices fly in the face of capitalist and free-market attitudes that are present in most western countries.

 

We believe in neutral hosting and user privacy. If you want to learn more about us and our services, check out this page or speak to our helpful team.

Why One.com’s acquisitions should worry you

One.com is a vast, sprawling WebHost. And they have been for a while. Now, with yet another acquisition of Zoner Oy, they’re one of the largest players in the market. According to TechRadar, “one.com’s latest acquisition should come as no surprise given that the firm has set about making strategic purchases for some time now. Since being acquired itself by private equity fund Cinven in early 2019, one.com has acquired six other organizations in the past year across Norway, the Netherlands and Denmark.” And One.com’s acquisitions should worry you.  Reasons for this include:

  1. Lack of competition in the market
  2. Server strain and potential increased downtimes
  3. Less personalised services due to volumes

Less Competition

If you’ve played the board game Monopoly, you’ll understand why the concept is a bad thing. According to HG, “As a company acquires a larger and larger market share, they are able to exert unnatural control over the market. No longer does the principle of supply and demand apply, because the monopoly controls all or most of the supply, so if someone wants the product or service they often end up having to pay an inflated price to have it.” Since web hosting is a significant and ongoing business expense, any price rises would have a detrimental effect to the corporate environment.

Strained Services

Web hosts never have unlimited bandwidth. It’s a restricted resource. So with an unrestrained growth, it’s more likely that each individual will get less of the pie. In order to prevent this, more and more businesses will need to choose dedicated services. And this is no small additional price to pay. According to Startups, “The cost of website hosting for small businesses in the UK ranges from as cheap as £2/month, all the way up to more than £400/month. Shared hosting is the cheapest form of website hosting (£2 – £12/month), while dedicated hosting is the most expensive (£60 – £400/month. However, there are additional and optional costs – such as privacy + protection, and sitelock – which you might have to factor into your hosting budget.”

Less Service

There are some benefits to working with smaller web hosts. One key difference is the personalised service. When you’re more than just a number in a sea of accounts, your business can receive personal attention. That’s not possible with a huge conglomerate. They must triage their limited staff resources by account value. So, if you’re not a big spender, you’re likely to get little to no attention. This can cost you a competitive advantage if an upgrade or configuration change could see your web presence improved. To keep ahead of the competition, try not to let yourself become a number.

 

We’ve said numerous times, how important it is to invest in good web hosting. It can seem easy to just go with the market leader, but that might be to your detriment. If you want a niche team of experts to look after your best interests, have a browse of our packages.

How to Choose Good Images for Website Sales Conversions

The type of images you choose could be reducing your sales figures. Yes, that’s right! People respond to images in different ways and picking the wrong ones could put customers off your product. And it’s not just that. You could be reducing your overall web traffic if you don’t have any images. According to Jeff Bullas, “Articles with images get 94% more total views.” That’s a huge difference in traffic. But having good quality images will make a huge positive impact. So, if you’re wondering how to choose good images for website sales conversions, consider the following:

 

  1. Skip the cheezy, staged stock photos.
  2. Show real people having an emotion.
  3. Don’t just go with what you like, test it!
  4. Use the best quality and clarity image you can.
  5. Make it relevant to the content and true to the brand.

 

Ban cheesy stock

You know the ones. A comedically overstressed worker pulling at his hair, a frazzled housewife surrounded by messy toys or a smiling ethnically ambiguous woman clutching a shopping bag; these don’t really say anything new. Think about communicating a unique message. Look for photos that jump off the page at you. Scroll past any you feel you’ve seen before. There are loads of options for great free stock photos like Unsplash and Pixabay.

Show real emotion

People buy from people. Try to use human faces or human body parts wherever you can. This will help your visitor imagine themselves using your product or service. Try to show them what they’ll feel when you solve their problem. Oh and it never hurts if the people in your images resemble your target audience too.

Test, test, test

Often, people just pick an image they like and go with it. They never actually stop to think if this image will resonate with the customer. One way to test this is to have multiple versions of the same landing page with different images. Keep the one that performs the best. Do this with every page on your site for the best results.

Clear, high quality

Even if you find the ‘perfect’ image, don’t bother with it if the resolution and quality are low. Today’s modern consumers are used to crisp, crystal imagery. Think of all the perfectly filtered Instagram images they scroll past each day. A poor quality image will do more harm than good. Just don’t chance it. Source another image.

Totally relevant

Not only should the image be relevant to the topic discussed within that element or article, but the brand should factor too. Think about your brand colours and values. If you’re a bright and fun brand you shouldn’t select dark-background imagery for example. There’s a visual disconnect there between the image and the overall page. They need to marry up.

 

Images are very important to design and sales performance. But if you want more tips on how to improve your website SEO overall, check out our previous article.

Ways to Speed Up Website Loading Times

Website loading times have a huge impact on your ranking in search. So, it’s one of the most important issues to address for SEO. There are quite a few quick wins that will make your website faster. And a lot of them are free or incredibly cheap to implement. We’ll discuss ways to speed up website loading times including:

  1. Using image compression to reduce file sizes.
  2. Employing lazy loading to reduce the bandwidth burden.
  3. Applying minify to streamline code on your website.
  4. Using browser caching to make repeat visits faster.

Image Compression

Images are some of the most bandwidth-heavy elements on any website. So, you’ll gain a lot of benefit from making these files as small as you can without losing detail. WordPress has a host of free or cheap image compression options available. You simply install and activate the plugin, then chose the level of compression and let it run. Remember that the number of pictures you have makes a difference too, so try to group images together if you can for fewer requests. That way, it is trying to load only one large image instead of 6 small images.

Lazy Loading

Lazy loading does what it says on the tin. When you install a lazy loader, your images and text will only appear for the viewable screen. That means, if someone hasn’t started scrolling down the page, the content isn’t being retrieved. Because nothing is loading unless it’s needed, site speed goes way up. Enabling lazy load is easy for WordPress and most other platforms since it’s core to modern design. If you have an older website, it’s a great idea to check that it’s activated for better load times. Your website administrator can help you with this.

Minify

When you minify code, what you’re actually doing is getting rid of any unnecessary comments, punctuation or pointless characters within the script. Similar to lazy load and image compression, some WordPress plugins offer this with an all-in-one tool. You’ll need to minify all the code on your site including Java, CSS and HTML to see the most benefit. Once the erroneous characters are removed, your site will perform better and load faster. That’s because it’s not having to read as much data to deliver the page. In this case, less is more.

Caching

Caching is like memory. Your visitor’s browser can store all the info it needs about your website and save it for later. That way, on repeat visits, they don’t need to load everything from scratch. You can set the limits on how long you want the data stored. And best practice suggests a year is a great refresh period. If you need more info about how to implement caching, check out Google’s advice.

 

As we said before, page loading times are extremely important to your search engine ranking, so improving it is critical. We hope these tips helped and if you need more, check out our previous article on SEO.