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Domain Registration and Micro Hosting

, by scott

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Today we're excited to announce our new domain registration platform and micro hosting packages to compliment our existing hosting services. You can now register your own domain names in just a few minutes directly through our website. We offer a huge range of Top Level Domains (TLDs) from .com to .org and loads of the newer gTLDs like .bar, .club, .expert, .cool and many more - all competitively priced. Run a clothing and jewelry outlet? How about registering a .boutique? Professional photographer? Register a .photos or .photography domain today. Start searching here: https://www.pixelbendstudios.com/page/domain-names

We will be running special offers on TLD registrations from time to time so keep an eye out.

The new micro hosting packages are great for small websites without too much demand for resources and those on tighter budgets. 3 different versions are available to cater to those with higher email needs, more storage requirements or expect more traffic. Not sure which you need? Just ask or take a look: https://www.pixelbendstudios.com/page/web-hosting

We are continuing to expand our internet service offerings and will be announcing the integration of affordable SSL Certificate orders into our site later in the year. Google have said they will soon start giving search rank priority to secure sites so if you don't have one yet, get in touch and we'll set it up - for a lot less than you might think!

The Importance of Securing Your Websites With an SSL Certificate

, by scott

Affordable SSL Certificates

There are a lot of acronyms on the web and as website owners, you can safely ignore most of them - providing of course that your web gurus know what they're doing. But there is one you need to know and in 2015, it's more crucial than ever to understand its importance: SSL. It stands for Secure Socket Layer but what's important is that it securely encrypts all data between you (and your users) and your website. That little padlock icon you sometimes see in the address bar of your browser? That indicates that the connection is secure and using SSL. Any passwords and other sensitive information you type are encrypted as opposed to sent raw for someone to intercept and steal.

That tiny icon is probably the single most important part of your website these days. With websites constantly being targeted by unscrupulous characters, it's your responsibility to make it as difficult as possible for these people to steal data like passwords, credit card numbers etc. and if you've got no SSL certificate, you might as well just email them that sensitive data.

The padlock icon means that you have been vetted by a trusted authority and a certificate of authenticity has been issued. And there's a type of certificate to suit almost every budget. Various organizations offer free SSL certificates but be aware: these are almost exclusively non-commercial meaning if you’re running a business, you’ll be violating their terms by using the free one. We‘ve just partnered with GlobalSign - one of the most highly respected certificate authorities in the world - to offer certificates and we can issue them for as little as £30 per year (yes, that cheap!)

Aside from the obvious security benefits of being secured with an SSL certificate, you're also instilling trust in your customers. Customers are becoming more and more security conscious and most are cautious about entering their payment information into websites without a padlock icon. Just imagine how many people are getting to your checkout, realizing the site isn't secure and bailing on their order. I assure you, it's more than just the odd few.

And if that's not enough to persuade you, here's a reason I quite like: it affects your Google ranking. Yep, that's right: just like they favor mobile-compatible sites, Google now favors sites secured with a certificate and it currently gives you a slight boost in ranking. They've even said they're considering increasing that boost in the near future. So if you’re at all serious about raising your position in SERP results, get a certificate.

There are a few things to watch though as the types of certificate vary quite substantially in terms of features and price but remember: they all do exactly the same thing and that's to secure your site. Generally the more affordable certificates provide cover for a single domain (just the www part, usually not your mail) and only require a basic level of authenticity checking: a reply from an email address on the same domain. But if you have a little more budget, you can opt for a wildcard certificate which will cover a single domain but also any subdomains on it, including your email. These are generally a bit more expensive but require the same level of vetting. The top level certificates can cover all of the above plus multiple domain names. Maybe you run several sites and want to cover them all without having to update individual certificates every year? These are called EV or "Extended Verification" certificates which require a lot more thorough checks on who you are as a business or person. Documents will need to be sent to corporate headquarters and there's probably some Companies House checking too if you're based in The UK. The benefits of an EV certificate are really that you earn a little more trust from your customers. And get a green padlock icon rather than a gray one. I don't agree with the green padlock "priviledge" though and neither does Google which is why Chrome will show a green padlock regardless of the type of certificate - how nice of them!

So if - until now - you've thought you couldn't afford security for your website, you should now see that getting an affordable SSL certificate isn't difficullt or expensive, you just need to shop around a little. Some companies will charge you a fortune trying to sell you the most elaborate certificate they offer but if you're a small business (like us!) you likely don't need an EV, multi-domain, super wildcard certificate for thousands of bucks every year. As I said before, we are now a GlobalSign partner and can issue and install signed certificates same-day so if you're still missing that padlock, get in touch and we can sort you out - most importantly: without breaking the bank.

Spark CSS Framework v2.0 Released

, by scott

Image titleWe just released version 2 of our in-house developed, open source CSS framework, Spark. This is a huge update, adding many new features and vast improvements to all the features you're already using - many of which have been rewritten from the ground up.

The navigation bar has been overhauled with loads of new options that can be used by simply adding a class to the nav element including sticky, transparent and centered. Drop down menus have been redesigned and automatic logo positioning has been greatly improved.

We've replaced the Modal with its own simple yet powerful jQuery plugin and added a new Facebook-style notifications jQuery plugin too.

Forms have been greatly improved and now come in light and dark flavors and a new form style, "tight": useful for signup or address entry forms.

Some other new features include GitHub-style tags, a larger default width for limit, accessibility additions, breadcrumb navigation and round touch buttons.

As always, detailed documentation with example code can be found at http://www.codewithspark.com and the source is available on GitHub at https://github.com/twistedpixel/spark

We really hope you continue to enjoy Spark and find the new update helps in your quest for web design efficiency and excellence.

Clean vs Empty Design

, by scott

Clean vs empty designWeb design has taken an interesting journey since the first public web page made an appearance in 1991. In its infancy, the World Wide Web served up simple pages of text with virtually no aesthetic differential. Static blocks of text and a scattering of those default-blue links that are unfortunately still seen way too frequently today.

But there was a certain beauty in the simplicity of it. No vomit-inducing, mismatched, rainbow-colored diagonal lines that serve no purpose: least of which: aesthetic. No irritating buzzing noise from a fly swatting Flash advert hidden among a poorly constructed, overlapping, hundred-column layout. And even on your 28k dial-up modem, pages weren't too slow to load.

Then designers got adventurous. Overly adventurous and plastered every page with unnecessary elements and intrusive, content-blocking modals (Groupon, I’m looking at you). Not long after the turn of the millennium, the majority of websites had taken on the shiny, Apple-esque "Web 2.0" look. Everything looked like a Bondi-blue iMac and while many used it with grace, others went a bit nuts with it. Hundreds of images used to create effects that were largely unnecessary and had a tendency to detract from the main reason for a website: the content. Of course the speed of page loads increased with improvements to broadband and the introduction of browser-handled effects that replaced many of these images but still bottlenecked with early cellular data networks.

Then suddenly, around 2012, all that went away. The era of "lickable" pages began to disappear and was replaced with large, spacious, flat designs with less unnecessary images glued all over the place, helping pages to load super fast. But this came with a catch. There was now the risk that web pages could look empty and incomplete. And this is where the skill of "clean" design became crucially important. It was (and is) now necessary to construct an effective balance between content and space; minimal elements and a clean content flow. It's easy to get a bit too comfortable with the minimalist approach and end up with a truly empty page but a carefully placed splash of color and some top quality images for good measure come together for an overall better experience for visitors.

It can be difficult to move to this type of design if your current site is still using the last generation style and I often have clients question the design change because they're accustomed to the look of their old site, which they - understandably - grew quite attached to. Just remember though: the competition are moving the aesthetic of their brand forward and great, modern design is becoming more and more important to customers. If your website feels out of date, it gives potential customers the impression that you're not very innovative or ambitious. Those customers will go with the competition.

I personally love this mostly flat, spacious era and find (and many agree) that it provides a much more digestible experience. Visitors are not overwhelmed with cramped blocks of text and overloaded areas and in general, appreciate the new style. One of the most important aspect to this design style though, is the correct balance of content and space. Too much space can lead to visitors missing content and too little can make it feel cramped again. It takes time and patience to get it right but when you get that perfect balance, you realize it was worth it.

It's this careful balance that creates the difference between empty and clean design and separates the mediocre designers from the elite.