Shopify and Payment Express

shopify-logoI have been doing some work for a client in Shopify. First time I have worked with it and so far it’s not too bad.

However, some things have had me scratching my head.

One in particular was trying to test the payment gateway to DPS’s Payment Express. (PxPay)

After choosing the right one (There is PaymentExpress and Payment Express???) I kept receiving the error message:

“error – failed to get token – message was MerchantReference too long”

The problem lay in this instance with the Shop name.

dps_logoThe client had a shop name that was 42 characters long, I reduced it to just 15 characters and this worked.

Given the Reference limit is 64, there is obviously other information added to the end of it, what this is I am not sure yet it may appear on the clients statement, but may include product name or a unique code.

Unfortunately, DPS did not write the code and so they are not able to provide any help with any issues connecting to their product via Shopify. I haven’t tried the Shopify support, but I am not sure if anyone in their employ wrote the code either.

Dashes vs Underscores for SEO – Winner announced

We have a definitive answer from Google as to what is better for word separation in URLs.

Matt Cutts released one of his Webmaster videos discussing this and while there is not much in it (to the point he said not to change it if you already have underscores), that if you are starting a new site, dashes are the way to go.

Deepweb’s new Product StorConnect

Over the last year, We have been working with a client, All Secure Self Storage, to enable his customers to move away

from paper application forms and replace them with an electronic form.

To do this, we have created a web application that interfaces with Storman Software, (software that manages the self storage facility). We have called this StorConnect.

This means an elimination of errors on the input side, as the customer is the one doing the inputting, plus a virtual removal of paper in the office as all of the documents are stored electronically. Good for the environment, but also a great disaster recovery option, as they are stored offsite.

After the initial installation at All Secure, we launched the product and the Self Storage Association of Australasia (SSAA) annual conference last week.

This was a great time, meeting facility owners, talking with other providers and the feedback was extremely positive and we were delighted to sign up some facilities to this new product.

The icing on the cake was winning the 2011 Innovation Award at the conference Awards for our new product. We were up against another significant player in the industry for the award and so are delighted with the award.

You can see more information at the StorConnect website.

Your Website is Under Constant Attack

For those with a website, it can be an interesting and sometimes amusing experience to see what people have typed into search engines to get to your site.

Some of the things are so wide of the mark you wonder how you have appeared in a search for that term

Of my current search terms the most offbeat are:

“web designers for trade me” – would be nice, but it’s not me 🙁
“is it illegal to stream tv shows online” – sure is, thanks for asking
“the sharp edge of the wedge” – ummm

Even so, I can guess at what content I have written that may tie in with these

This one I’m not so sure

“nude girls database”

One other area that is interesting is the 404 Errors. These are when someone has tried to access some page or file on your website, but it was not available. (This is a good thing to check over time as it can identify issues on your site)

Apart from old links that have not been redirected, you can find evidence of probes into your website, looking for vulnerabilities, here is a selection of what has appeared on mine:

/phpMyAdmin/scripts/setup.php
/serv/whmcs.sql
/scripts/+1l.3r(
//phpMyAdmin-2.6.2-rc1/scripts/setup.php
//PMA2005/scripts/setup.php

Someone obviously thinks they can get into PHPmyadmin via a vulnerability with an undeleted setup script.

Curiously, they have tried every possible variation of naming convention to brute force their way in.

The same goes with other know scripts like OSCommerce, Joomla etc where known vulnerabilities are tried.

The moral of the story, keep your web based scripts up to date with the latest security releases.

Tips for Choosing a Content Management System (CMS)

I frequently get asked by my clients (and prospective ones) about wanting to update their website.

I had a rant about this a while back, where a journalist accused web designers of ripping their clients off if they didn’t provide the ability to update the site themselves.

I stand by my comments that for some clients, a content management system is not wanted, nor is it in the best interests of that client.

However, for those that do want to update their site, we need to provide a solution that is both easy to use and delivers the complexity required for their needs.

These two facets, ease of use and complexity can be seen to be at loggerheads with each other, and in some circumstances that can be the case. But I will propose two solutions that cater for both ends of the spectrum.

In the past, due to the lack of affordable and easy to use CMS’ we have provided Adobe Contribute (Formerly Macromedia) as a way to allow our clients to edit their sites.

The reason for choosing Contribute was it’s simplicity. In tandem with Dreamweaver (which we use to develop with) it allows for areas of the site, such as menus, header, footer and overall structure, to be protected from the end user.

This allows for editing to be done, knowing that catastropic mistakes can’t be made.

The interface is simple and allows for most functions to be performed including editing of text, images, links and if allowed HTML snippets for things like Youtube videos or Paypal buttons.

The biggest downside is that it costs around $400 NZD for a retail copy. This is also a per license price, so if you want to edit from multiple places, you need additional licenses.

For the schools that we have done sites for this was an issue. Some paid for additonal license to get the software into key locations, but for others it was restricted to the office.

This is where web based content management systems have a significant edge.

Especially open source software, that is free from licensing costs, makes this a much easier proposition.

We currently propose two different CMS’ for our clients depending on their needs:

WordPress – The easiest to use, easiest to modify, my choice for brochure style sites.

Joomla – More complex, but manages user management much better

Overall I like WordPress better. Around a year ago, WordPress became a system that you could leave with a user and they would be able to manage their site with little input from their designer. Before that, upgrade and installation required a level of tech knowledge that was no suitable for all users.

That and the well presented plugins system, mean that a user can improve their site and feel in control of their site, without a reliance on an IT person.

There are plenty of complex sites designed with WordPress as their base system, but there are some things that Joomla does much better straight out of the box.

Joomla seems to be able to manage a multitude of types of data much easily. Especially when their are user logins involved.

Extensions like Community Builder allow for a mature user system to be maintained on a site. Plus add-ons for payment and subscriptions mean you can monetize your user base easily.

So depending on the functionality you are wanting for your site, you can find a system that will make the development of a website easier to develop and easier to use.

There are plenty of other systems out there, I have heard good things about Drupal (though I found it less rich than Joomla, it’s direct competitor) and have seen some great implementations of Expression Engine (a paid CMS, so check out prices)

But for my money, choose WordPress for a simple business website, or Joomla if you need to manage a community of users.

 

Integrating with Facebook

I am working on a project that has now required for integration with Facebook.

So I will be working to utilise Facebook logins and registrations on the external site.

I’ll post information that may be useful through the project as I expect over time, that this kind of interaction will become more common.

My early look at the Developer Documentation looks good, seems to be well documented, plus all source code is found at GitHub.

The basics seem easy enough, not even reuqiring an API key to use like buttons via iframes.

eg:

<iframe src="http://www.facebook.com/plugins/ 
like.php?href=YOUR_URL"
scrolling="no" frameborder="0"
style="border:none; width:450px; height:80px">
<iframe>

But things are not that simple, so I am off to read up on OAuth and the like.

Your WordPress Theme might be Killing your SEO

After repeatedly fixing up themes for SEO reasons, it gets a bit depressing that theme makers are not switched on about the basics.

A common occurance is when the title of the site and the description of the site is formatted with H1 and H2 tags, these tags are important for search engine optimisation purposes.

Repeating the same text in the H1 tag on every page does not allow you to focus each page on it’s specific function.

Here is an example of a header.php file that will generally have the top part of your site (header image, menu etc)

<div id=”header”>
<div id=”blog-logo”>
<h1 id=”blog-title”> <a href=”<?php bloginfo(‘url’); ?>”> <? bloginfo(‘name’); ?></a></h1>
<h2 id=”blog-description”> <? bloginfo(‘description’); ?> </h2>
</div>

As you can see the Blog Title is using the H1 tag and the Blog Decription using the H2.

When you get to the content (especially Pages), you find that the title of the post or page content is formatted using a less powerful Header tag.

The title of your content is an important piece of real estate that you cannot let slip by.

A second issue is that the Title that you enter into WordPress when you are creating your content. It is often used as the menu item for that page. Because of this people create poor titles as they create them as a menu label rather than a keyword rich title.

To get around these problems, I do the following:

Remove any Header Tag Formatting

Remove H1 and H2 tags from the header of the site (see above) and reformat with other styles if the blog title and blog description are necessary.

Remove the Post Title

Remove the post title from the content code (either page.php or single.php)

Example

<?php if (have_posts()) : ?>

<?php while (have_posts()) : the_post(); ?> <div id=”post-<?php the_ID(); ?>”  <?php if(function_exists(‘post_class’)) : post_class(); else : echo ‘class=”post”‘; endif; ?>>

<h3><?php the_title(); ?> </h3> <- remove this line

<?php the_content(); ?> <- this is the content of your post or page

Lastly, write Good SEO titles as H1 tags in the actual body of the post or page.

Example

It is important to check your theme to see if it has been managed in such a way that you can get the best out of your SEO. Some themes say they are SEO friendly but it is worth checking and making some simple changes if needed.

Is this the needed Push Out the Door for IE6?


Internet Explorer 6 is an old browser, in internet terms it is a dinosaur. Released in 2001, it has been the mainstay of peoples internet experience over the last 9 years.

The masses are often reluctant to change unless something pushes them along.

Firstly, Firefox gave users a good alternative browser to use (Better in my opinion)

Then came regular security issues, each time a further section of the browsing public moving to another browser. Most recently was the security hole that caused a breach in Google and over 30 other companies.

The key thing to note about this last issue was the speed and loudness of some governments urging people to look at other browsers to prevent further problems.

Some say that Firefox has overtaken Internet Explorer as the first choice in some countries.

However, there are still about 20% of the internet population using Internet Explorer 6.

I have now just read of Googles impending chang in in policy to cease support of IE6 from the 1st of March. This specifically deals with Google Docs and Sites, but shows a willingness to help push the remianing 20% into more modern browsers.

I support this as it has the following benefits:

  1. Wider support for the new HTML5 (IE6 would not be able to offer this new technology)
  2. Improved browser compatibilty with web standards
  3. Speed

It would be great if those 20% could not use Google at all, that would really send a message!

If you want to know more you can visit IE6 No More, a site dedicated to helping it disappear as soon as possible

If you use IE6, why don’t you upgrade?

Great Howto for 301 Redirects for Dynamic URL’s

I have recently moved a site over from an ASP content management system to Joomla.

One of the tricky things was creating the redirects for the pages on the old site to the new.

Normally this is easy enough when you are redirecting a static page to another static page. Unfortuntely the mod_rewrite in Apache that is responsible for doing the rewriting of the URL’s cannot manage parameters after file name in the standard way, ie:

I wanted to send oldsite.com/index.asp?id=1 to newsite.com/news

However, everytime I used the standard redirect:

redirect 301 /index.asp?id=1 http://www.newsite.com/news

I ended up with a URL like : http://www.newsite.com/news?id=1

So I found a great resource here >> http://bit.ly/5WLc8q

It broke down the workings of the redirect and included the followign example

RewriteCond %{QUERY_STRING} ^id=1$
RewriteRule ^page.php$ http://www.example.com/content/page? [R=301,L]

Once I used my own page references it worked great.

A big thanks to Alex Juel ( http://twitter.com/seoholicc ) for this tip!

IE6, What Do We Do About It?

Kick it to the Kerb?

That would be nice, as most web designers have come unstuck when a nice design fails spectacularly in IE6.

But unfortunately, there are still lots of people (over 30% in most cases) that are still using it, that is too large a number to upset with messages about compatibility and the like.

Some new designs from template makers will not work properly in Internet Explorer 6 and they provide warnings and encourage users to upgrade.

If you target corporate users, this is not a wise choice as some will still use IE6 across their organisation and IT are not keen to roll out IE7 or 8.

I have even recently visited a primary school that is still using IE6 in all of it’s classrooms.

For designers, testing in multiple browser brands involves installing the different browsers and testing as you go, however, my suite of browsers include:

  • IE8
  • Firefox 3
  • Firefox 2
  • Google Chrome
  • Opera 9
  • Opera 10

Notice that some browsers allow multiple versions to be installed simultaneously. This is a great thing for testing.

However, you can only install one version of IE, (there is a hacked version that allows older ones as well, but that seems a bit scary)

Recently, I found out about BrowserLab from Adobe, (Thanks @kalena) it is a great tool that lets you test browsers online without having to install them on your machine.

You enter the address of the site you want to test and the browsers you want to test on, and let it do it’s magic, you get presented with an image of what the result is for each browser.

Here is a list of all browsers:

  • Firefox 2.0, 3.0 and 3.5 under XP
  • Internet Explorer 6.0, 7.0 and 8.0 under XP
  • Chrome 3.0 under XP
  • Safari 3.0 and 4.0 under OSX
  • Firefox 2.0, 3.0 and 3.5 under OSX

Having Safari and Firefox under OSX is great too. No Opera yet, but I assume they will appear in time.

Good to see a useful resource hitting the web.

Do you have any web resources that you “must have”, let me know in the comments.