With the help of digital agencies like us here at focus / focusgov who are coming up with effective and engaging ways local authorities can communicate with families, parents and young people, we are seeing more and more local authorities with services based online. This of course is great news, however, with this comes the potential threat of cyber attacks - some more sophisticated than others.
Local authorities are key providers of public services so they can hold a vast amount of personal data containing sensitive information such as health and care arrangements. This alone makes them a very tempting target indeed for hackers.
There are other potential problems such as phishing. Phishing is the fraudulent practice of sending emails purporting to be from a reputable company. Reasons for this could be anything from persuading individuals to reveal personal information, such as passwords and credit card numbers online or to encourage the recipient to open an attachment containing a malicious programme.
This is exactly how Lincolnshire City Council were stung earlier this year. There was widespread disruption and it took almost a week for IT systems to be restored. Lincolnshire’s response to the attack was commendable and led to no loss of data. Staff dealt with issues off-line and kept their services running without impeding the public.
The Cabinet Office’s ’10 Steps guidance on dealing with cyber threats’ put it concisely by saying ‘Put cyber security on the agenda before it becomes the agenda’.
One very manageable way to achieve this is to see cyber as a strategic issue rather than an IT one. Make sure the local authority workforce are aware of the risks and how they can combat them. Perhaps new employee inductions could include details of how to recognise a cyber attack and avoiding opening harmful malware programmes.
Of course various security procedures such as firewalls play an important role but user cautiousness is imperative. As October is cyber awareness month, what better time than now to share with you some tips?
1. Be heedful of email scams
Do you know the sender? Does it seem too good to be true? Does it contain links and attachments? Is it an urgent request?
2. Protect your computer
Always have the latest anti-virus software installed on your computer to keep it up to date and protected from online threats like malware and viruses.
3. Check links
Hover over links in emails and you will see the URL of the actual website you are being directed to. You should see it across the link and bottom left of your screen. If this is different to the link originally shown, don’t click it.
4. Vary your passwords
It’s a pain but the best thing you can do is have a different password for all of your accounts. You should most certainly separate your work from your personal accounts, making sure critical accounts have super strong passwords. You could try lyrics form your favourite song separated by numbers, include a mixture of upper and lower case.
5. Never choose to ‘Save Password’
Browser such as Internet Explorer and Google Chrome are always looking to increase ease of use, this includes offering to save your password, but you should never allow it to. When websites ask if you want to remain logged in, choose no and always log out properly, just closing your browser does not do this.
Created on Thursday October 13 2016 11:37 AM
Last Thursday I was invited along to a Seminar at Google HQ in London by our good friends at Push.
The session, held in what looked like a very cool TV studio, had multiple speakers from Google, Shirlaws and Push, covering a range of topics from how Google is changing over the coming months, business and economic growth patterns, and how Adwords is changing both imminently and in the future. It was really good :-)
Rather than regurgitate the sessions, I thought I'd share some of my favourite facts and stats from the day.
- now has 7 products used by <1bn users (!)
- aims to have those products used twice a day - what they call their 'toothbrush test'
- generates 10% of its Global revenue from the UK
- claims that by 2019, Google Ads will be 39% of all media spend.
Google sees Internet usage fitting broadly within these four areas:
I want to know
- 65% of online consumers look up more information online than ever before
- 66% use their mobile to do so.
I want to go
- 2x more 'near me' searches than ever before
- 82% of smartphone users use a search engine to find local business.
I want to do
- 91% of smartphone users turn to their phone to do a task
- 70% increase in 'how-to' searches year on year.
I want to buy
- 82% of smartphone users consult their phone in a shop when deciding about a purchase
- 9% increase in mobile conversions (that is, users making a purchase on their phone).
The Internet in general:
- there are 60 trillion web addresses and 4 million Apps
- there are 3 billion+ web searches every day
- 15% of those daily searches have never been seen before
- mobile searches have surpassed desktop
- we are checking our phones 150 times per day on average (really?).
Think about these figures - do you feel you fit into these statistics? What are your thoughts on internet use, and how many times a day do YOU think you check your phone?! We'd love to hear your thoughts, drop us a line or feel free to comment below.
Created on Friday September 30 2016 02:57 PM
The UK has opted to leave the EU, and there is a great deal of speculation around the impact of this monumental change to our governance. The split will certainly impact upon trade, industry, wages and house prices; but how will it affect our policy on web accessibility?
It seems there has been very little discussion about what Brexit means for those people in the UK living with long-term cognitive, physical, auditory and sensory impairments.
There are roughly 80 million people in the EU affected by disability. In May 2016 an agreement was reached on a new directive for web accessibility which stated the minimum requirements for accessible content for member states to adhere to.
Andrus Ansip, Vice-President for the Digital Single Market, is all for the agreement and said: "Internet access should be a reality for everyone. Leaving millions of Europeans behind is not an option. Tonight's agreement is an important step towards a Digital Single Market, which is about removing barriers so that all Europeans can get the best from the digital world."
In the wake of the Brexit vote there was dispute amongst the digital community over the likely effects it would have on the sector. Fortunately, the UK upholds a progressive attitude towards web accessibility, and our public sector sees it as an important factor in the move towards the digitisation of services.
Despite cut backs in EU funding as a backlash to the referendum, Local Authorities and many private sector organisations are still focussed on ensuring that their products and services are inclusive. Whilst it’s unlikely that any significant changes to online accessibility regulations will come into effect any time soon, the team at focus continue to strive for excellence in web accessibility and inclusive design.
If you want to communicate with an audience on the web, you need someone who understands the importance of accessibility within it.
If you or your team would benefit from expert advice then please do get in touch – we are happy to help at any stage of the project.
With millions of people in Europe having a disability and/or using assistive technology, we will certainly ensure we keep meeting their web accessibility needs!
Created on Tuesday September 27 2016 11:13 AM
When I was asked to write an article about UX for the Fundraiser – the publication from Charity Choice providing practical advice and insight to the third sector – I wondered how on earth I was going to take such a huge topic turn it into something bite size.
UX and UI are expansive subjects, so rather than try to cram them into a side of A4, I decided instead to compile a list that would hopefully get the readers to try out some simple UX testing methods for themselves.
For charities, encouraging visitors to donate and to keep donating is paramount, and ultimately good UX = more conversions which means more donations. Good UX really is as important for charities as it is for ecommerce.
The list is by no means exhaustive, but hopefully it will inspire some readers from the third sector to think more about UX, to utalise its potential and to try out some simple UX tests for themselves.
Created on Thursday September 22 2016 01:23 PM
No we haven't become part-owners of Chelsea, Manchester United or Watford (much to MD Simon's disappointment), but we are this years shirt sponsors for the under 14 team at Axbridge Saxons in Somerset, who play in the Cheddar Valley and Woodspring Leagues.
With our logo splattered all over their kit, no doubt the team will be inspired to great victories. Although things got off to a shaky start with a 6-2 defeat in the season opener.
The Axbridge Saxons are only part of the community work we have supported in 2016. We've also helped rebuild a sensory garden at Mobberley Pre-School with our friends at Carillion plc, and we continue to raise funds for the Neonatal Dept at St Thomas Hospital in London - a unit for which we've raised over £5000 since 2012.
Created on Tuesday September 20 2016 08:41 PM
Negotiators of the European Parliament, the Council and the Commission have just this month agreed on the first EU-wide rules to make the websites and mobile apps of public sector bodies more accessible.
In the world of web, these adjustments are about introducing steps to make a website or service accessible for people with visual impairments, manual dexterity issues or learning difficulties.
The internet has become a key way of accessing and providing information and services, it is now crucial we ensure absolutely everybody can do so, regardless of ability. Accessibility enables people with disabilities to understand, navigate, interact with and contribute to websites and apps.
Statistics tell us that about 80 million people in the EU are affected by a disability. This figure is expected to increase to 120 million by 2020 as the EU population ages.
The Directive will cover public sector bodies' websites and mobile apps, this could be administrations, courts and police departments or public hospitals, universities and libraries. They will be accessible for all citizens - in particular the blind, hard of hearing, deaf, and those with low vision and functional disabilities.
Vice-President for the Digital Single Market, Andrus Ansip, is understandably all for the agreement and said: "Tonight's agreement is an important step towards a Digital Single Market, which is about removing barriers so that all Europeans can get the best from the digital world."
The Commissioner for the Digital Economy and Society, Günther H. Oettinger, was equally enthusiastic: "It is not acceptable that millions of European citizens are left behind in the digital society. The agreement that we have just reached will ensure that everyone has the same opportunity to enjoy the benefits of the internet and mobile apps."
The following is the agreed text of the Directive:
- covers websites and mobile apps of public sector bodies with a limited number of exceptions (e.g. broadcasters, livestreaming).
- refers to the standards to make websites and mobile apps more accessible. For example, such standards foresee that there should be a text for images or that websites can be browsed without a mouse which can be difficult to use for some people with disabilities.
- requires regular monitoring and reporting of public sector websites and mobile apps by Member States. These reports have to be communicated to the Commission and to be made public. The Directive on web accessibility along with the European Accessibility Act proposed in December 2015 (press release) which covers a much wider number of products and services, are both part of the efforts of the Commission to help people with disabilities to participate fully in society.
The text will now have to be formally approved by the European Parliament and the Council. After that it will be published in the Official Journal and will officially enter into force. Member States will have 21 months to transpose the text into their national legislation.
So many people avoid using the vast amount of support and opportunities available to them online, all because of unnecessary barriers they are faced with. These can be avoided. If you want to lead in improving accessibility, we can help you with that, a good place to start is to get in touch with us.
Created on Wednesday May 25 2016 10:33 AM
Last year bad User Experience (UX) reportedly cost LInkedIn over £9 million.
Attention to detail is imperative when it comes to producing great design with a smooth UX. But with so much involved in the design process, there is a risk of things going unnoticed.
It doesn't take much to damage the users experience so here are some things worth checking before a design is signed off and deemed good to go...
Don't rely on colour to convery a purpose, heierarchy or content
We are big on accessibility here at focus so to us producing a website that is accessible is not considered a nice-to-have but a must-have. People with visual disabilities for example colour blindness, would not be able to use your site effectively if you were to rely on colour, they would therefore become an excluded demographic.
Test it: colorfilter.wickline.org will let you put a color filter on top of your webpage and test it for different kinds of color blindnesses.
Avoid / reduce repetitive actions where possible
An example of a repetitive action is filling in a form that asks for your address more than once, you may have seen this being tackled with a tickbox you can select to say your billing adddress is the same as your shipping address. If you're not careful, users will grow tired and search for an alternative option (like a competitor!) where they can achieve their goals better and faster.
Test it: Make sure there is a way of facilitating repetitive actions such as an option to use previously entered information.
Accessing help does not get in the way of progress
Users ask for help when they're stuck so of course It is important for help to be an extension of what they are already doing, they should be able to easily return to that once they have received the help they need.
Test it: Put yourself in the place of the user, consider where they will ask for help, and see whether their progress are interrupted.
Users have to be able to find their way around and achieve their goals no matter what page they find themselves on.
Test it: Make sure that navigation is reachable on every page and that your pathways are as intuitive as possible.
Foreground and background are sufficiently contrasted
This is especially important for people with visual disabilities. It also improves a user’s understanding. Clear distinction aids with navigation, draws more attention to buttons and increases usability.
Test it: You could capture the screen, apply a gaussian blur to a Radius of around 3px to 5px then see if you can easily tell what’s in the foreground and what’s in the background. Then alter accordingly.
Don't use much more than two distinct font families
Although this isn’t a strict rule it is best for accessibility. For usability and visual purposes, sticking to two simplifies your typographic hierarchy, which improves comprehension.
Test it: Simply check that your design isn’t mixing more than two type families. You should also make sure that the ones you choose are properly matched, you can find out more on this.
Text fonts are no smaller than 12 pixels
Again, it’s not a fixed rule but generally speaking readability is severely reduced for sizes below 12 pixels. Ideally a minimum of 14px is said to be better for accessibility.
Test it: Pretty obvious I suppose, check all of your content to ensure all fonts used are at least 12px.
Reserve uppercase words for labels, headers, or acronyms
Limiting the use of uppercase words is less visually heavy and easier for the user to digest. It should be used specifically for emphasis or very restricted cases such as acronyms.
Test it: A thorough content check to make sure that uppercase words are kept to a minimum and only used where necessary.
You're stil wondering what LinkedIn did so wrong aren't you? A settlement in California resulted in LinkedIn dishing out over £9 million to compensate users who were manipulated by the site’s deceptive UX into handing over their address books, which LinkedIn then used to spam their contacts with connection requests.
See, bad UX can cost you!
Created on Monday May 09 2016 02:14 PM
This is Focus are one of Bristol's longest established and trusted digital studios, trading since 1996. We provide accessible, content managed web sites and bespoke web applications to a wide range of sectors including local government, commercial organisations and charities. Today we are working with Bristol City Council, London Boroughs of Richmond, Kingston and Camden, the NHS, Marks and Spencer, Scottish and Southern Energy and Hartlepool Borough Council amongst many others.
We have an order book full of new projects for 2016 and want to continue our innovation within the local government sector and so we are looking to expand our technical team who are responsible for creating and maintaining our products and systems. We have a number of opportunities for web developers with different levels of experience to join our friendly and enthusiastic company. We are keen to hear from people who might have several years of relevant programming experience including time spent in an agency, or experienced developers who might be looking to move into a supervisory / management role, or people who are looking to start their career in web development and digital.
Whatever your experience you must have a genuine passion for all things digital and a keenness to be part of an expanding and progressive agency who are increasing their market share within local government. We have a casual but professional office environment and you'll have access to the latest spec machines to work on. We run our projects using elements of agile and we are ISO9001:2008 certified.
We are delivering innovative and outstanding digital products and services to our customers; with the user experience and quality of our work at the heart of everything we do. The sort of things our tech team get stuck into include:
- coding up complete projects from specification through to deployment.
- new product design and development.
- maintaining existing sites with updates, upgrades and fixes.
- product design, including our own content management system and development of new / enhanced functionality.
- working with business development teams on quotations and preparation of proposals, some liaison with key clients.
- automated testing and web site optimisation.
Independent of your technical experience we're looking for people with:
- a genuine interest in digital and a desire to join an enthusiastic, experienced team creating great products.
- ongoing learning of new skills, techniques and technologies.
- excellent communication skills and a demonstrable ability to manage your own schedule of work to meet deadlines and priorities.
We are interested in hearing from developers that cover any of these bases; so if you are experienced in a few of them, but have an interest in learning the others, we would be interested in talking to you - we don’t expect you to have experience in all the technologies we list:
- we are exclusively Ruby on Rails for all back-end development.
- we find ourselves doing more and more front-end scripting including Ionic / Angular (for hybrid app development), jQuery, vue.js, and others.
- responsive site build in HTML5, CSS3 and Bootstrap and also some Sass.
We use Git and Gitlab to manage process and version control.
- Servers are Linux, mainly RedHat / CentOS, running Passenger on Apache.
- Development machines are either OSX-based, or Vagrant on Windows.
- Elasticsearch for data searching / filtering.
- CouchDB / PouchDB for data replication / offline applications
Benefits we can offer include:
- generous starting salary dependent on skills and experience with regular salary reviews.
- 23 days holiday, increasing 1 day with each full year of service, additional and extended Christmas and New Year holiday.
- company pension scheme (from 2017).
- based in new offices located in Temple Quay, three minute walk from Temple Meads train station.
- subsidised restaurant on site and other facilities.
- attendance at relevant events and conferences.
- choice of PC / Mac platforms, latest kit.
- some flexible / remote working for the right candidate (for more experienced roles)
- everyone makes a contribution and can make a difference.
If you are interested in finding out more or would like to log your interest with us, then please email us (using this link) in the first instance, with some summary details about your background and level of experience, the sort of role you are looking for and what's important to your working life.
We are likely to be arranging informal Skypes / chats over the phone initially and we are looking to appoint several roles before the summer of 2016.
Agencies - please do not contact us about these or any roles. Please do not ignore this request to not contact us. Please do not cold-call or spam us about these roles, you will be wasting your valuable time.
Created on Thursday April 21 2016 07:50 PM
Time is money for you business folk so let's answer this quickly and efficently: What is accessibility?
It's designing and developing your website so that people with disabilities can perceive, understand, navigate, interact with and contribute to the web. It's providing the same functionality and experience to users with disabilities as those without.
Disabilities come in many forms, so to break it down for you, these are:
Blind or low vision users that are potentially using screen readers, screen magnification or even a braille display.
Deaf or hard of hearing that may require closed or open captions or transcripts for all of the rich, multimedia content that exists such as audio files or video files.
Ambulatory / motor skills
People with difficulties or inability to use a mouse, that may only be using a keyboard to navigate the website. Or possibly even speech to text software.
People with learning disabilities or the inability to remember or focus on large amounts of information. They may rely on thoughtful layout. They may also be using an array of the previously mentioned technologies.
Web content needs to be made available to the senses, sight, hearing and/or touch. Get accessibility right and it can better your business by:
- Improving your brand reputation
- Helping to meet the needs of a constantly evolving market
- Increasing Search Engine Optimisation (SEO)
- Improving use across mobile devices and tablets
- Reducing your litigation risks
The most obvious financial benefit to building accessible websites and web apps comes from the increased market, the more people you can connect with through your website, the more of your content is being consumed. Resulting in more clients, customers, subscribers, and those seeking your services.
Also, who doesn't like to save money? Well that's what web accessibility may do for you too. Some companies have reported noticeable cost savings in the form of lower maintenance costs, a reduced requirement to provide web alternatives, and even in avoiding expensive legal fees and fines.
Financial benefits are of course a driver to make your site accessible but more importantly, we should all be working towards making the web a hospitable place for everyone, whatever their abilities.
Created on Friday April 15 2016 09:15 AM
When Tim Berners-Lee invented the world wide web, he intended it to be an open platform for society to connect, improve communication and build knowledge. It was a way to provide everyone with vast amounts of information, not just some or a select privileged few. It is said that building accessibility was his vision for bettering the globe.
If you want to stay in Tim's good books, you might want to avoid these incredibly common accessibility mistakes:
1. Alt text for images
Images are often not properly marked up with alternative text for those who can't see images, or separated so that only the relevant images are relayed to the user, or conveyed.
2. Keyboard Accessibility
Users can find themselves 'trapped' inside of a page's content and be prevented from interacting unless they're using a mouse.
3. Dynamic Content Focus
Content appears based on a users action without any indication to those who can't see it. This could be form errors or a date picker: Equally frustrating for those who can see it but can't use it.
4. Focus indicators
No knowledge of where a user is on the page when they're only using a keyboard. Making it very difficult to navigate the site.
5. Data tables
Tables that have corresponding column and row heading associations that cannot be deciphered with ease.
6. Poor heading structures
Undetermined list content where it's conveyed like a list but not structured like one.
7. Colour cues
Using colour alone to convey a part of the page, for example 'For further information select the red button below'. Those with a colour deficiency are going to struggle.
Missing captions from instructional or informative web experiences.
9. Skip to content
Someone who is unable to use a mouse is forced to repeat their steps if there is no skip to content option. This would be extremely tedious on pages containing unchanging content such as a content heavy main navigation.
10. Page titles
It's a small but very important element that is the very first thing users hear on a page. It indicates what the user is about to discover. Without it, users don't know what to expect.
Get accessibility right and it can even better your business. We'll tell you how in our next blog - so watch this space!
Created on Tuesday March 22 2016 01:27 PM
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