Who owns your domain?

So, you’ve got yourself a fancy little website for yourself or your company and it’s all going pretty well.

Until you start having some problems with your website hosting provider, or you decide to have a redesign with a different company, and you then realise that you actually don’t have any control over your domain, or worse; don’t even own it.

This is something we’ve seen a few times at Storm, and something I’ve experienced with many friends personally. It’s all too easy to sign up with a web host who will happily register your domain, sometimes even for “free”, but the price is that they actually own your domain and if you’re not very careful, you’re going to be facing a battle to get it back from them when the time arrises.

Here at Storm, we don’t register domains on behalf of clients; We’ll always guide you through the registration yourself with a trusted registrar to make sure you never have this problem.

How Do I Check?

If you’re not sure who owns your domain, you can look up the registered data with a whois tool, such as the one provided by Network Solutions (who will cover the results in adverts trying to sell you their products!)

You’re looking for the “Registrant” field to contain your name, or your company’s name, rather than your web host or provider.

If it doesn’t, then it’s a good idea to check the small print of your web hosting contract, or even contact them to ask if you own it, and how to transfer it into your own name.

In the worst case scenario, you may be able to contact the top level domain provider (such as nominet for .uk domains) and ask them for help recovering your domain –  but that can be a lengthy and expensive process!

Storm news roundup 28-10-11

Our favourite web(ish) stories from the week…

Adam:

“HP have decided that they are not now going to sell their PC business (after making a loss with a firesale on a load of TouchPads). New boss Meg Whitman is picking up the pieces after Leo Apotheker’s rule of terror cost the firm 40% of it’s value and £7bn buying Autonomy ‘focusing the strategy on software and cloud services’.”

Dave:

“‘I’ve finally cracked it!’ Steven P. Jobs, co-founder of Apple, told his biographer, Walter Isaacson.Hot on the heels of the 4S launch, Nick Bilton of the New York Times ponders a Siri enabled television set for late 2012.

Mike:

“Apart from Stallman’s hilarious ‘rider’ demands which did the rounds earlier in the week, the story which stood out for me was this one about paid (or not?) tweets. I can’t even work out any more whether this was deliberate, paid, not-paid, satire, serious…but nonetheless it’s an interesting little story.”

Liam:

“My news is more of a totally cool thing this week. Vitamin T have produced a rather sexy infographic showing a brief history of web standards that’s a really interesting read – complete with fonts for each year stamp which were produced in that year. It’s cool to see how far we’ve come since 1962, and where we’ll be in another 50 years!”

Andrew:

“A great example of the power of social news networks emerged this week when Reddit user zambuka42 posted his positive experience with Amazon customer service and decided to share it on a sub forum of the popular social news site. The story eventually hit the front page and has since recieved hundreds of thousands of views from around the internet.

After ordering merchandise to be delivered to his parent’s house, it was subsequently lost by the postal service and so the Reddit user contacted Amazon customer support to try and find out if he was able to re-order the items without having to manually add everything again.

A screenshot of the conversation is here http://i.imgur.com/aDVuC.jpg

After hearing the user’s predicament, the customer service rep chose to offer to refund the full cost of the lost order, despite the fact that it was the USPS that lost the order.

It is interesting to wonder whether Amazon’s customer service division are purposefully instructed to offer such brilliant service in the hopes of priceless positive advertising such as this going viral, and if not they surely soon will be!”

Plugin of the week: JF3 Maintenance Redirect

When you’re building lots of WordPress sites, there’s often stuff you need to do which is relatively unsexy but nonetheless necessary. Hiding the site while it is in the process of being built is one of those things – partly because clients are understandably funny about half-built stuff going live, but also because Google’s rabid spidering can get hold of sites pre-launch, and once spidered it’s a dog to get Google to un-spider..

There are a few plugins which do this for you in WordPress, and we’ve probably tried them all, but JF3 is easily the best. Presenting users with a message when they’re not logged in is a no-brainer for a plugin like this, and JF3 obviously does this. What sets it aside is the fact you can get it to auto-generate a temporary login key which you can then email to a client:

Everyone without the key is locked out, anyone with it gets to browse the site. Simple, effective – we like.

Get it at http://wordpress.org/extend/plugins/jf3-maintenance-mode/

Google SSL policy has had minimal impact on Analytics. So far.

Just over a couple weeks ago Google announced that they going to default to serving search results over HTTPS for logged in users. A consequence of the change is that the search query the user was performing is not passed through when the user clicks on a result. The SEO community had a bit of a hissy fit about this and we at Storm were worried that this would hamper our marketing efforts. However, panic ye not, as the reality is not proving to be the predicted end-of-the-Interwebs-as-we-know-it.

Today I stumbled upon a custom Google Analytics report tweeted by Avinash Kaushik which helps you measure the impact of Google’s change.  You can try out the report by  clicking here when you are logged into your analytics account.  Be warned however, the % of visits metric shown on that report represents a % of all visits, not just search.  So to determine the impact on organic search you need to do some manual work.

Armed with this new tool I thought I’d check out the impact on Storm’s site and a number of our clients.  The results: unbelievably dull.

Just under 1% of searchers for Storm Consultancy were logged in and using HTTPS.  If I exclude this blog from the data, that falls to 0.3%.  Looking through some of our bigger clients the highest impact I could find was 1.5%.  Not massively significant!

However, there is a caveat which is keeping these numbers artificially low for the time:  The change has only been applied to google.com – so UK users going to google.co.uk are not yet being served over SSL.  I expect that the majority of our clients and our client’s clients fall into that group.

It’ll be interesting to see what effect there is when the change comes across the pond and then over time as Google+ grows.

Things Storm bookmarked this week / 26-10-11

This week…

Dave pointed me to the fact that Google have given their App Store a bit of a facelift. As he points out – “to say that it had a ‘hint of iTunes app store’ is possibly an understatement” – but he’s also right, it’s pretty well put together and always worth spending a bit of time poking around..

From Adam – a neat little Gem which implements scheduled background tasks in Ruby. “It provides a simple way to specify any number of jobs on easily customisable schedules. It can call into other Ruby functions in your code, perform rake tasks or execute arbitrary command line commands.”

Liam “Apple” Gladdy gave me this: a sexy little iOS-app-screen-like web GUI in coffeescript - Now I find I need to go and look up what “coffeescript” is…

And from me – this utterly awesome video/sound piece: “Entire Musical Compositions Made from Just One Line of Code“. Totally tremendous on sooo many levels :-)

Storm news roundup 21-10-11

Our favourite web(ish) stories from the week…

Andrew:

“Further amusing news in the ongoing saga of this government’s continued attempt to become the Galactic Empire of the UK’s internet with this story from Techdirt yesterday – with news that a parliamentary committee is suggesting that websites need to reveal the identity of anonymous posters, or be liable for what’s in those comments.

With this following the recent passing of legislation that will require UK internet users to ‘opt in’ to be able to access pornographic material at home, it seems only a matter of time before we’re level-pegging with China on the internet freedom scale.”

Dave:

“This week I just want to share an infographic with you. Brought to you by the folks at MacRumors, it shows the pricing point of Apple goodies vs the average Windows PC. It goes to show how much more we value Apple. Whether we admire the innovative, highly polished products or simply yearn for the little Apple logo on the back, is for you to decide:”

Mike:

“Seems that my endless moaning about the new Google web app design has gone entirely unheeded – no great surprise there :-) - Google have just announced that the new design will be rolled out to Google Reader shortly – also this video leaked out from somewhere on the web, showing a similar revamp of Gmail.

I like minimal as much as the next person, but after some months using the new design Google Docs, I still find the total lack of keylines and edges pretty difficult on the eye. When I’ve tweeted, lots of people have agreed – but clearly someone at Google has a vision, and that’s what they’re going to do…”

Felix:

“deviantARt developer David Lynch has discovered an XSS vunerability in third-party ad code used by notable news nodes including CNN, The New York Times, Mashable and Fox News. As an entertaining example, he included an external Javascipt to add spinning CSS animation to all their images; but the method could be misused in a much more mischievous manner.”

Liam:

“Google are going to enable SSL by default for users who are signed in (http://googleblog.blogspot.com/2011/10/making-search-more-secure.html) – Secure? Yes. Web Friendly? No. – You see. By doing this, google are preventing websites find out what you searched for. This is more than a little bit of a pain, because your web analytics software won’t know what you were looking for, which is how we web developers know how to better tailor content to you!”

Plugin of the week: Advanced Custom Fields

As you might have noticed, we <3 WordPress a lot here at Storm HQ. Many of our client sites are built using it: we love developing for it, and our clients love using it to edit content.

If you’ve done any WordPress building at all, you’ll know that there is an extensive plugin base which enables you to take what is already an awesome platform and awesomeise (!) it even more.

You’ll also know that the size of this plugin repository (as of today, 16,713 plugins listed!) can make it a bit of a minefield, so  we thought it’d be useful to run a regular spot here on the Storm HQ blog highlighting some of our favourites.

The first one in our series is called Advanced Custom Fields, and it’s a blinder. In fact, I’m so impressed by this one – and use it so extensively – that I’m going to be writing a series of posts about some of the ways you can use it.


Continue reading

Things Storm bookmarked this week / 19-10-11

Things we liked this week:

Adam popped me over this rather nice interview with Peter Norvig giving a run down of AI techniques employed by Google. It’s a long piece but well worth a read as it explains how some of the magic actually works..

For once, Paul didn’t focus on the fail – this time his link (via @elliottkember) is all about testing in Ruby. It’s a tool called Heckle which will systematically break your code in every conceivable way, while running your tests. If a test doesn’t fail * then you need to get writing more. He tells me it’s a great tool for ensuring the quality of your tests, and therefore your code. [ * wait up, a fail! ]

Nicola sent me this interesting post about continual improvement and development – some really interesting stuff in there both for designers and anyone else wanting to up their game..

Liam sent over a couple: Firstly is a rather nice jQuery timeline plugin, called Timelinr (of course!). Second is the new homepage at http://desertbus.org/. Liam tells me that DesertBus is a charity event in which a bunch of Canadians play a mini-game from Penn and Teller’s never-released video game on Sega CD in which you drive a bus in real time, back and forth, until you get bored. They do it for charity every year – he helps them out with a bunch of graphing code of donations over time and other such analytics. Good work!

For me, it has to be the totally non-tech-related story about Fauja Singh finishing the Toronto Marathon in 8 hours 25 minutes. Pretty slow, you might think, until you realise the guy is 100 years old. Singh apparently ran his first marathon at age 89 and has since run seven more. He attributes his success to “ginger curry, cups of tea and ‘being happy’”. An amazing, inspiring story..

Finally, Andrew pointed me to this story over on TechDirt. I’ll let you read it and get cross all on your own, but in short – don’t ever point out a blindingly obvious security flaw on a bank website – it might get you into a lot of trouble. Shocking.

Storm news roundup 14-10-11

Our favourite web stories from the week…

Adam:

Shocking news this week as a post on the Building Windows 8 blog shows signs that somebody at Microsoft ‘Gets it’. The preview of the new task manager looks really excellent.

Whilst this is a very unsexy element of the OS it shows MSFT are starting to pay attention to ‘the little things that matter’ as Apple have been doing for a decade or more. There’s an element of shameless copying in the simple view (see image), but the power users view looks fantastic. A heat map of resource hogs, visible disk and network I/O and actual names for services! No more svchost.exe! Now, let’s hope they’re putting the same thought and attention into the rest of the OS. I think a few people might be surprised by Windows 8, myself among them.

Paul:

“This week saw the death of another giant of the tech world, but one that most consumers have never heard of. Dennis Richie was the co-creator of the C programming language, and the UNIX operating system. It’s hard to overstate the effect both of these had on the world of computing, and just how much we all owed Dennis, even when we didn’t know it. He also co-wrote the programming book “The C Programming Language” which I still consider the high watermark of technical writing: an incredibly clear and concise explanation of a complex subject that you could read and understand in an evening. It is a great example of why learning to communicate clearly is so important to anyone in an engineering profession.” Obit: http://www.theregister.co.uk/2011/10/13/dennis_ritchie_obituary/

Mike:

[iframe src="http://www.youtube.com/embed/yHJOz_y9rZE" width="420" height="315"]

“Epic levels of geek win for anyone that can make two floppy disk drives [1] sound like the Star Wars [2] Imperial March. It turns out the video was posted last month so it isn’t exactly news, but worth a re-post – just because…The crazy assed swine who decided this was a good idea tells all on his blog

(References for Storm UK staff who are under 30: [1] yes, these were big in their day [2] ..and that too…)

Felix:

“The digital newspaper innovators at the Guardian released their iPad app, which has a strong grid system that both looks great and will be easy to publish. It’s also interesting that they chose to base the app on the printed newspaper, and not of the website – it will be updated only once a day and is described as “reflective” by the editor. I think they run the risk of overdoing the colour accents – like they have on their amateur-looking Zeitgeist page.”

Liam:

Without wanting to appear like an apple fanboy, rather than talk about my favourite news story, i’m going to talk about my most annoying. BBC News, (and other “mainstream” outlets) all have stories along the lines of “Apple’s iOS5 upgrade causing problems“.

The problem is, they’ve got the headline a little bit wrong there. It should read, “Apple’s iPhone users discovered to be incompetent at reading instructions”. The iOS5 upgrade wasn’t really an upgrade because so much had changed. It was a transparent backup -> restore OS -> restore from backup -> sync. The problem is, people ignored warnings about needing to backup, and continued anyway, OR they didn’t let it sync/restore from backup after the restore. If you’re going to be doing something as potentially dangerous as flashing your firmware, at least read instructions.

The only issue Apple had with updates was their signing servers had a little glitch for an hour or so resulting in people not being able to upgrade. Not losing apps, or bricking phones.

On a lighter note, Plus.net show just what happens when Apple release a software update now rather well (hint: The internet struggles)

Andrew

It is a glorious time to be a designer using photoshop- Adobe has spent so many years incrementally improving their photo editing software that it has now reached a HAL level of ingenuity.

Released earlier this week was footage from the recent Adobe MAX 2011 conference, showcasing Photoshop’s latest astonishing feature, the ability to completely correct blurry photographs. The function will analyze and automatically sharpen any blur to a print-worthy final product. The program can actually detect how the blur occurred when you moved your camera and compensate for the movement to correct the blur.

So cheers Adobe, blurry photographs are now soon be a thing of the past, to be remembered jovially alongside pogs and 10p chomps.

Naming stuff. Damn it’s hard!

“There are only two hard things in computer science: cache invalidation, naming things and off-by-one errors” – Phil Karlton

I’ve had several goes at coming up with a naming convention for CSS classes to be applied to buttons and message boxes in applications and I’ve never been completely satisfied with my solutions.

Twitter Bootstrap buttons

Typically I have four styles:

  1. Green* – to indicate success, addition or a positive outcome
  2. Red* – to indicate failure, deletion or a negative outcome
  3. Blue – for help dialogs, additional information or ‘other’ actions
  4. Grey – disabled, inactive, unavailable, subtle hints

I split my CSS to have a button class which provides the default look and feel of all buttons (size, shape, font etc) and then have a series of classes which colour the buttons appropriately.  The same would apply to message dialogs.  This is exactly how the Twitter Bootstrap library works.  But what names should we give to these classes?

Thing’s I’ve tried for buttons:

  • [ .add, .remove, .filter, .disabled ]

    This set evolved as I developed an admin UI.  I need buttons to add new items, remove items and filter the list.  Everything seemed great until I added an extra page that needed a green button to confirm an action and I had to use a the .add class.  That seemed wrong.  So on the next project I evolved.

  • [ .green, .red, .blue, .grey ]

    This set works great. You never have a conflict of meaning, you want a green button, you ask for a green button. There’s no mental overhead of remembering what name you gave the class. It’s fantastic. Except it isn’t. Every time I used a .green class I could hear @sheerman shouting at me for being un-semantic. I could also picture a future where ‘other’ actions buttons might not be blue anymore, but they’d be stuck with the .blue class. This wasn’t the answer.

  • [ .success, .danger, .primary, .info ]

    We’ve recently been trialling Twitter Bootstrap for some admin area UIs. It’s great. However, it’s choice of naming is a little bizaare. Success and danger don’t match. Success and failure, fine. Safe and danger, also fine. But mixing meanings is just awkward. It did get me thinking though and has led to the new proposal.

The next attempt

[ .positive, .negative, .primary, .secondary ]

With the help of Paul Leader, I’ve put together this set.  It builds on the Twitter nomenclature and tries to standardise into groups of adjectives with clear semantics.

Positive and negative reasonably well describe any action that would warrant a green or red button. They also work for success and failure dialogs, in which case the set could be extended to include .informative and .neutral.

My blue and grey buttons tend to be actions or navigation that don’t mutate data. I think that primary and secondary is a good way to think about such actions. For example, a Search button or a Next button in a process is a primary action whereas a Back button is secondary.

What do you think? Am I over-thinking this? Do you have a set of names you use and like? I’d love to hear your thoughts!

* Of course, relying on colour alone is not sufficient as colour blind users will be unable to distinguish states.  Clear use of language as well as commonly recognisable icons are essential for a usable UI.