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New site: In-Company Training Services Ltd

I’m delighted to announce the launch of another Togethernet website, for another Teddington-based business. It’s been a pleasure to work with In-Company Training Services Ltd, and their new site is a complete revamp. The company provides expert training in employment law and people management, delivered on-site. Here’s the addess:

The site uses WooCommerce which is an e-commerce plug-in, even though they do not actually take orders online. It’s been great for categorising their courses and showing the courses as products with a different page for each course. And it’s very easy to maintain courses details.

There’s also a blog feed, twitter feed and corporate video built in to the website. And extensive use of SEO.


In-Company Training Services Ltd, Teddington


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WordPress 3.8 – is it any good?

Recently, WordPress released an brand new version – version 3.8. Should you update your installation?

Let’s take a look at what’s new:

3.8 brings a fresh new look to the entire admin dashboard. The layout has gone ‘flat’ with a choice of new colour schemes – these don’t affect your website one bit – just what you see when you are logged into your dashboard.


It’s nice and simple, but I find the default black and petrol blue not too easy on the eye, and the other colour combinations (8 in all) are not to my taste either, but you may like them.
You can change these from your user profile.

The Open Sans typeface is great, quickly becoming one of my favourites.

WordPress on every device


The new interface is designed to look good on our table or smartphone, should you want to access your dashboard in this way. It’s supposed to load faster too.




The new themes screen has been revised and lets you use your keyboard’s navigation arrows to flip through themes. Nice thoug this is, my advice is not to have a load of themes sitting there – delete the unused ones and save space on the server while tightening up security at the same time.


Widget management is more streamlined, but it’s no big deal. One nice feature is that you can just tap a widget to add it, when you’re using a tablet with tap control.

The new theme: Twenty Fourteen

The new Twenty Fourteen theme displayed on a laptop. tablet and phone

Twenty Fourteen is an attractive magazine-style theme that is the new default theme. I find it a bit harsh on the eye, and will watch with interest to see if it catches on.

So – should you upgrade? Yes you should. The latest and greatest is always the most secure. But with the usual caveat which that you need to check that your plug-ins and themes are compatible with 3.8. If they are not then look for alternatives, as it is important to keep your installation up to date from a safety point of view.

It’s worth pointing out that 3.8 updates itself automatically as new versions are released; not a bad idea as long as yo are aware of this.

Need any help with any of this? Just get in touch.

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Which is the best browser?

One of my clients (actually more than one) has had issues viewing their site using Internet Explorer. This site is viewable, it just looks different – and not as good. It’s fine in Google Chrome, and Firefox. But not Internet Explorer. So I wondered whether Internet Explorer is still as popular as it once was – dominating the browser popularity stakes.

I’ve posted the results over on my portfolio site, click this link to see these browser popularity stats.

The upshot is that Internet Explorer is losing ground rapidly, with Google Chrome on the up. Which is the best browser? It depends on your needs. I’m sticking with Firefox for now because it has the best web developer plug-ins, in my opinion.

I’ll still be checking how my Togethernet websites appear when viewed with Internet Explorer, but if you’ve always used Explorer and not tried an alternative, I recommend you experiment with a different browser. It may well improve your use of the Internet.

You can get Chrome here.

And get Firefox here.

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Why do spammers leave vague but highly flattering comments on your blog?

I thought I would share a weird comment that was left on this very blog by a spammer.

But before I do it’s worth briefly explaining why spammers leave comments in high praise of the post, without advertising any product or website. It’s because they want you to approve the comment. Once a spammer has a comment approved, they often have ‘permission’ to continue to post spam to your site, bypassing the need for verification.

If you don’t want this particular behaviour, make sure you change the ‘Discussion settings’ on your WordPress blog.

Here they are:


You’ll find these settings via the dashboard – go to Settings -> Discussion

Look carefully at ‘Comment author must have a previously approved comment’ – that setting is the reason for the flattering spam comment. They are trying to get past this simple spam filter. If you go and approve their flattering comment then you won’t be notified the next time they post to your site. And the next one won’t necessarily be flattering – and you can bet it won’t be relevant to your blog.

Obviously when you look at the spam comment below, you’ll see the spammer hadn’t quite mastered art of flattery using his auto spam software. RTFM next time, Mr Spammer! —————————————————————————————————–

{I have|I’ve} been {surfing|browsing} online more than {three|3|2|4} hours today, yet I never
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I {couldn’t|could not} {resist|refrain from} commenting.
{Very well|Perfectly|Well|Exceptionally well} written!|
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{It is|It’s} {appropriate|perfect|the best} time to make some
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{I have|I’ve} read this post and if I could I {want to|wish to|desire to} suggest you {few|some} interesting things
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{here|at this place} at this {blog|weblog|webpage|website|web site}, I
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{Saved as a favorite|bookmarked!!}, {I really like|I like|I
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{Superb|Exceptional|Outstanding|Excellent} Blog!|
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{I love|I really like|I enjoy|I like|Everyone loves} what you uys {are|are usually|tend to be} up too.

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{I love|I really like|I enjoy|I like|Everyone loves} what you guys {are|are usually|tend to be}
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{Kudos|Cheers|Many thanks|Thanks}|
This is a topic {that is|that’s|which is} {close to|near to} my heart…
{Cheers|Many thanks|Best wishes|Take care|Thank you}!
{Where|Exactly where} are your contact details though?|
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{your blog|your site|your website}.. {Very
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Posted on

15 things the cheap web design companies forget (that will cost you dear)

Togethernet Web Design in Teddington does not acceptedButtons not accepted as payment.
Buttons not accepted as payment, thank you.

There’s cheap, and there’s too cheap. Togethernet websites certainly aren’t expensive when you consider what’s included. But I’ve seen people offering to build a ‘professional business site’ for £99. Now I don’t mind fair competition but I get worried when I see some crazily low prices being quoted by some web design companies. So I took a look at what’s on offer and not surprisingly, found one or two shortcomings.

Here’s my list of those, and you can probably think of a few more I’ve overlooked.

1) Your brand.

Be very wary of dealing with anyone who suggests they can build you a website but who doesn’t even take five minutes to discuss your brand with you. They know nothing about what you stand for, let alone how you want to portray your business online. Would you let someone pick out a suit of clothes for you without even seeing you?

2) 30% of local searches are on smartphones

Tthat 30% may already be out of date as the figure is rising all of the time. Let’s face it, everyone now has a smartphone or will have soon. Will a cheap web company trouble themselves to ensure your website is as easy to use on smartphones and tablets as on a desktop? It’s unlikely.

3) The privacy policy

Most budget-priced web designers won’t even point out that you’ll need a privacy policy – but you almost certainly do. You can forget about them bothering with cookie compliance legislation as well.

4) Spam avoidance

Woe betide you if you leave your email address visible to bots crawling the web. But that’s exactly what so many sites built by cheap web designers do. A deluge of spam is more or less guaranteed. You need a well designed contact form.

5) Contact forms

Ok. Some cheap website designers do provide a contact form. But they rarely bother to include well-branded courtesy email responses to enquiries. Or a captcha to cut down on the spam you’re going to get.

6) Content management

You’re going to want to make changes to your site and wouldn’t it be best if you could make these changes yourself? For that you need a content management system (CMS). Something that’s often completely overlooked by those offering cheap website design. They may even offer to make the changes themselves – for a fee – thus locking you in to using them forever – and costing you money. And even if they do include some sort of CMS, will they help you learn how to use it? Make sure that training aids are available and at a reasonable cost.

7) Copyright

Guess what – people seem to think it’s ok to take photos off other websites and put them on their own. Sometimes it is, but most of the time, it isn’t. Being in the public domain isn’t the same thing as being visible to the public. It’s easier than ever now to trace the use of images around the internet, so if you decide to use a cheap website designer just double check that you have the right to use all of the images that are included in your site. Just in case.

8) Security

Even a very basic website is vulnerable to being hacked. Is someone going to be around to do something about the situation should that happen – and is anyone available to install security updates to prevent it happening? If you’ve gone to the cheap web designer you may just find the answer is no. Or worse, suddenly the cheap guy is the most expensive on the block when it comes to putting things right.

9) SEO

Cheap web designers love to give you a templated site that’s exactly the same as everyone else’s. How can they do otherwise? They don’t put any thought or effort in. They don’t add Titles or ALT tags, and any text is the same or very similar to everyone else’s. Don’t be surprised if the search engines ignore it.

10) The Favicon

Another thing that’s usually missing if you go to a cheap web design company is the favicon – the small unique icon that appears in the browser bar and favourites menu.

11) Loading speed

Nobody likes to use a slow website. But unless you take the time and trouble to optimise the site for fast loading, the likelihood is that it will be pretty slow. For example, image file sizes need to be no larger than necessary to display where they are needed. Guess who won’t take the time and trouble to do all this?

12) Mailing list integration

Why lose a customer you worked so hard to attract? Once your visitor is on your site, make it easy for them to contact you, or at least leave their details so you can contact them. And then, put that information straight into your customer database. This is a fair bit of work – not work that the cheap web companies are likely to include in their oh-so-low quotations.

13) Social media

Not every low priced web designer can be bothered to properly integrate the site they make for you with your own particular choices of social media – such as Twitter, your Facebook page, your LinkedIn account, Pinterest page and so on. That’s just plain daft.

14) Spelling and grammar

It isn’t only the cheap website developers who can’t spell – I’ve seen some pretty major typos on the front pages of websites whose owners should know better. But you can be sure that unless someone is taking a modicum of time and trouble over the job, errors are going to creep in. I’d advise you, at the very least, to make sure your site is being built by someone who can speak your language.

15) Cheap hosting

Hosting isn’t expensive these days so you can afford decent quality. For a start, why not opt for having your site hosted in this country? If you do, it will perform better, other things being equal, simply because of the time taken for every server request to get there, and for the information to come back. If you let the cheap hosting provider sort this for you, make sure you have access to it yourself. Otherwise you are at their mercy – you simply don’t have control of your own site.

I’m already thinking of more – how about Google analytics for instance. But 15 is enough to be going along with, I reckon.


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Beware the home-made CMS

Togethernet recommends WordPress for your CMS
Don’t get stuck with something that doesn’t suit you.

I’ve been looking around at the web design competition in the local area and frankly I’m amazed to find a number of website design companies in Teddington or nearby that suggest you should have one of their websites because they have built their own CMS (content management system). In my opinion a bespoke CMS is the last thing you should go for.

Sure, you do need a CMS because you want to be able to edit the content of your website without having to pay someone to do it. That’s one of the great things about WordPress. It was originally built for bloggers – and very few bloggers can be bothered to learn some complicated system to allow them to post their updates on cake making, sheds, Lego or whatever it is they like to blog about. And they’re not going to pay someone else.

Imagine the situation when you’re fed up with your bespoke site with its special CMS no-one else understands, and you want something new. If you’re stuck with some CMS developed by the company who sold you the website, you’re going to have a hard time breaking away from that company. What’s in it for them to make it easy for you to do so? Nothing. And if you take your site to another developer they will struggle to move your content over because it’s all inside this special CMS nobody knows about except the people who built it.

It’s not the case if you choose WordPress. There are web developers all over the world who will be able to help you if you want a new site. And it’s a straightforward process to move over all of the content.

That’s the way it should be. So when anyone offers you a hand-built CMS – no matter how clever and sophisticated it may (or may not) be – I suggest you politely walk away.


Posted on

What’s painting got to do with web design?

Togethernet web design in Teddington is not really about painting
This chap looks like he knows how to use a roller.

Do you know what? Anyone can be a painter and decorator. You can redecorate your house from top to bottom, by yourself, if you have the time and inclination. You can probably find a few tips on Google and some helpful videos. And it isn’t hard to find a store to sell you what you need. Paint. Rollers. Stepladders. Away you go. And you could save yourself thousands.

Perhaps I shouldn’t be saying this, but the same is true for websites. Anyone can build a website, for very little money. Anyone who is prepared to put in the time and effort. There are plenty of free resources around on the Internet to help you. You could probably start by looking on Youtube, or trying a few sensible search phrases into Google and go from there.

But web designers and decorators are still in business. How come?

Because they are better at it than you. I met a very interesting man at a networking event I attended. He was there to promote his business, which was nothing to do with web design, but the subject came around to websites. Money is tight when setting up in business – any business. And he, quite rightly, took considerable pride in telling the group how he’d built his own website without spending any money. He’s a bright chap and he simply sat down and taught himself what to do, using Joomla. And I have to take my hat off to him because Joomla isn’t the easiest of web development systems. He said it only took him about a week and a half of his time away from his business to get to grips with it.

He was keen to warn the group about unscrupulous web design companies who will charge you an arm and a leg for something you could do yourself, and then because you don’t understand the system they have built for you, you’re locked in to paying them every time you need to make an amendment. Who wants to be in that situation?

It was my turn to speak next and after what had gone before, I felt rather sheepish introducing myself as a web designer. There was a bit of embarrassed laughter. I started by thoroughly agreeing with most of what the last speaker had to say. He built his own site so he knew all about it and he felt confident he could maintain it at no extra cost. That’s a good benefit. (Then again, he’s got no-one to turn to when he’s too busy to put the time and effort in.) I was able to reassure the group that nobody who purchases a Togethernet site is locked in – on the contrary, because it is a WordPress site, if you are dissatisfied you can find another WordPress developer who will be able to make changes should you need to, but the great thing is you can also make your own amendments to the content yourself, because it’s been designed from the outset to be easy. (After all, WordPress started out as a blogging platform – i.e. for people who want to write, not code.)

This chap was quite enterprising, yet by his own admission he had taken more than a week out of his business development time to learn how to build his own site. That’s valuable time that he might have been able to invest doing what he knows best, not into what he doesn’t really need to know. The ins and outs of Joomla?

“He was keen to warn the group about unscrupulous web design companies who will charge you an arm and a leg for something you could do yourself”

Togethernet Web design in Teddington
Sometimes teamwork is called for. Looks like these two have it covered, whatever it is they’ve got planned when they get to the top.

Going back to decorators. I’ve done a bit of decorating myself – who hasn’t? It’s quite satisfying to do some from time to time. But I know my limitations. There’s more to it than first meets the eye if you want to get a great finish. And I tend to skimp on the details. Fact is, I am just not as skilled as a professional. To be honest I don’t even know what it is that I need to know to do a good job. But I do know it is actually darnright hard work.

Though of course I am saving a little money.

Or am I? Our decorators are coming back in a couple of months to fill in the inevitable cracks and other imperfections that have become apparent due to the house renovation work. This revisit is included in the price. (Just like the 3-month maintenance that you get with every Togethernet site). Frankly the last thing I want to do is stop work on my business and find the filler and touch up paint. So I for one am very glad I used a professional. And as I am sure you will have twigged by now, I encourage you to use a professional web developer, and not try to do the job yourself. There are just too many things you need to know.

So here’s some common sense. Would you choose an accountant who hasn’t had any training? Why would anyone let a beginner practice on their business website? Even if that rank amateur is your good (and otherwise very capable) self. Your website is there to make you money. If you put it in the hands of a rank amateur, any savings you may have made by taking on the work yourself could turn into lost revenue if your site is not as persuasive or as useful as it could potentially be.

And you thought I was just going to make some crass statement about ‘freshening up your image with some brighter colours on your website’. Well, more than happy to do that too, if you like.