Designing for Print

- By Naomi Booth

Conygar Coppice FlyersSometimes it seems I go months without doing any print work and this month I seem to be doing little else. It is great producing something that people will physically use to promote their business or event.

My run of print work started with Anthony Brown's request for flyers to promote his business Conygar Coppice at the River Cottage Spring. He builds roundhouses, runs roundhouse building workshops and does lots of other woodland crafts and teaching.

The request for flyers soon turned into 2 flyers, and then two flyers and a banner for his stall and "livery" for his trusty Landrover.

He asked me to find a printer with a quick turnaround and good quality printing... so I used Auraprint. Jenny from Yummy Jam has printed my recent work for her using them and had been very impressed with their customer care and prompt delivery.

Conygar Coppice Stickers

Conygar Coppice @ River CottageAuraprint's website was easy to use and the order came through very promptly. We did need to reorder the flyers and the team at the end of the phone were fab, especially as we were now getting very close to the show... so they made sure my order which wasn't placed until 11:45 on Tuesday was through the printers and in the post and on my doorstep the following morning... This fabulous and professional service meant Anthony could go and look fabulous and professional in his turn at the River Cottage Spring Food Festival (and I could go on holiday with the peace of mind that everything was sorted!)

Happy Spring Everyone!


Google Search Changes – What happened?

- By Chris Booth

Google Search Changes – What happened?

You may not have noticed but a lot of fuss has been made about recent changes to Google's search engine.  In practice those changes do not seem to be as significant as the hype suggested or as serious as people may have feared.  However the fact is that many older websites are not doing so well with Google as they used to.

If your website doesn't resize itself to fit mobile phones then it may have moved down Google's search results by one or more places.

What did Google do?

Google now keep 2 indexes - one for desktop computers and laptops and another for mobile phones and tablets.

  • When someone searches using a computer the results will be as they always have been.
  • When someone searches on a phone or tablet they get the new index that favours sites that work best on phones.

That is - Google now deliver different search results to different devices.  Phones get different results to computers.

Does this affect me?

If your site is already "mobile friendly" then any affect from this change is likely to be positive.  Your site can only benefit from this change.  Otherwise ask yourself these two questions

  • Are my customers finding me using phones?
  • Do my competitors have sites that work on mobile phones?

If either of your answers is "yes" then you should consider updating your site.  If both your answers are yes then you should probably take the site upgrade for granted and consider when you can get you site reworked.

To answer the question "How does this affect me?" in a more concrete way - try similar searches using a desktop computer and a phone and see where you come in each search.  You can also use a Google tool to check if your site is mobile friendly or not.

What is the affect now?

If you try similar searches on desktops and phones you will find that, on the whole, the differences are small.  Sites are only moving by a couple of positions.

Crystal ball time – where does this lead?

I think that while current changes are small, the future is mobile.  I think we probably have plenty of time to get ready for it.

The writing is on the wall for Microsoft's dream of computers in every home.  The fact is that most people don't need a computer now and probably never did.  I think that, if anything, Google is actually late in making this change and is being a bit conservative here.  For me, that is borne out by the relatively small drop most sites are suffering.

I see four things happening here...

  • The changes aren't finished yet.  Google has a new search but is still tuning it.  If the newly promoted sites appear to serve visitors as well as the demoted ones did then the changes will stick.  Otherwise they will be reversed.  Google will be watching how each and every site fares and they will sink or swim on their own merits.
  • The effect of this change will become more pronounced.  If visitors seem to like the changes I think Google will stop being so conservative.  At this point non-mobile sites will really suffer.
  • This will affect desktop search.  Google are always looking for a way to separate "good sites" from "bad sites" they will use any criteria they can do deliver better search results.   If Google find a way to use their "mobile friendly" data to see who is trying the hardest then I think they will.
  • I think that Google will take their time.  They don't have much competition.  They can afford to move slowly and carefully.

What should I do now?

Check your site - is it mobile friendly?

Search for your site using first a computer and then a phone – is it suffering?

If you are worried contact The Web Booth for advice.

New .uk domain names

- By Chris Booth

You may have heard that Nominet have started to sell .uk domain names like this - in addition to the domains they already manage like this - I should like to offer the following good advice

You don't need to do anything until 2019.

What is going on with the new uk domain names?

Nominet, the company which runs the .uk domain space, is selling second level domain names. Currently if you own a then the equivalent .uk is reserved for you until 10 June 2019.

Nominet have been emailing domain registrants about this and many Internet companies are pushing the new domain names. If you have heard anything, don't worry. If you already hold the then you don't need to do anything until 10 June 2019.

What to do about new uk domain names

If you are planning to buy a brand-new domain then you will need to buy .uk equivalent too (if you want it). If you allow your to lapse then the .uk will also be freed up for anyone to buy. Otherwise, as I said the .uk is reserved for you for 5 years.

Are the new uk domain names better?

The new domains are 3 characters shorter. Really that is all that can be said about them. In-fact Nominet's advertising says "Shorter is sweeter" and leaves it at that. A rather more concrete fact is that Google gives a large weighting to older domains. Switching your old domain over to a newly registered .uk would be catastrophic mistake.

What will happen after 10 June 2019?

Obviously I don't know - but my guess is that some unsavoury gangster type will register all the free .uk domain names and then try and contact the domain owners trying to extract money. Even before then I expect Nominet's advertising to become increasingly like a protection racket - "Nice domain name, pity if something happened to it."

Whether or not this is something that will bother you is your decision and the only real reason to register the .uk domain names.

Being able to get a suitable domain name is a significant barrier for new companies and Nominet has often claimed that the .uk names will help with this. I believe that between existing owners and scam artists there is going to be precious little left for new businesses.

I expect the domains won't matter to much in the long run. With the massive number of new domains being launched by the American registrar ICANN I believe that it just isn't going to be possible to buy up every permutation of your company's name and many people might not want a .uk when they could get one of these anyway.

The trend I see is that more and more people get to by typing "The Web Booth" or even "" into Google so they aren't using our domain name even when they know what we are called. My guess is that, in the long run, the value of having a really good domain name is going to diminish over time.

Scouting for girls

- By Chris Booth

A while ago I stumbled on Nibbler from Silktide.  It is one of those wonderful things that is both completely pointless and also quite helpful; a complete waste of time and far too compelling; wildly inaccurate and yet a good indicator.  It is a total and utter toy that is also both useful and practical.  Allow me to explain…

Nibbler is a website analysing tool.  It runs a wide range of tests on the first five pages it finds on your website.  These tests tend to be a rather eclectic mix.  If you ask me there is a pronounced bias towards social media and HTML5.  The mix of tests has changed several times since I have been using it.  Some of the tests I liked have being dropped in favour of new ones.  For example - Nibbler used tell you how often you published blog posts.

BadgesNibbler then gives each site a score out of 10.  If you prove ownership of a site you can combine your scores to gain points for yourself.  While Nibbler seems far too easy to game I think the end result is a pretty good indicator of the sort of care you are putting into your websites.  The points are gained via badges; there is a badge for making an html compliant site, another for building a site in WordPress, another for using CloudFlare.  All these badges make Nibbler look like a boy-scout's shirt sleeve.  Web developers – we promise to do our best!

It's not all roses and not just because it is so easy to waste time on Nibbler.  From the sort of speed it runs at I think maybe Nibbler is hosted on a Raspberry PI.  Silktide aren't doing this for the good of their health – yes they want you to buy their products.  Oh, some of the other sites on there are well, you know, a bit morally corrupt.  Hmmmm – it's slow, there are adverts some of it's a bit dodgy – yep, that's the Internet!

Nibbler best UK webdesignersWhat gets me is this – why aren't there more women developing websites?  I mean look at that motley collection of logos and mug shots on the UK's top developers.  Yours truly is skulking around at position 10 – there we are and there is our logo as rendered in fuzzy-felt.  How many of the other logos were designed by women.  I'd say “none.”

I know there are skilled women web developers.  I know there are thousands of women making websites but when I surf I just don't see that many sites that are clearly made by women.  Here at Web Booth Towers we have a little game – visit websites at random, for each site - guess the sex of the web designer, try it.

I spend a lot of time getting my code right and I believe it is important but at the end of the day it is Naomi's designs that sell.  The look and feel of the sites we create is what our customers buy.  Our ability to put our customer's message, their personality, their vision and dedication into living pixels – this is what sells.  Those sites then go on to work their little, digital socks off for our customers – selling to their customers.  It comes down to this: Naomi's designs appeal to all sorts of people but mostly they appeal to other women.

We think we know who our Type "A" customers are.  We think we know what they want.  We certainly know what they don't want because they tell us, over and over again. 

  • Web developers turning up in suits.
  • Web developers not being flexible with appointments.
  • Web developers being bossy and know-it-all.
  • Web developers talking jargon.
  • Web developers failing to listen.
  • Web developers delivering the site they want to make not the site the customer wants.

Boy ScoutsNow it's hard enough making money building websites and it's not like we want any more competition but for goodness sake guys 50% of the world's population is women and it's not like their aren't loads of them running businesses, making decisions and holding budgets.  What the hell are you doing?

Before you send off for a jumbo-size-multi-pack of pink pixels I should like to draw your attention to the background image of this very page.  It is a great background.  We love it. Our customers love it.  In the history of the Internet I doubt any other GIF has ever shifted more websites, ever.  We didn't know it at the time but drawing that background was probably the best business decision we've ever made.

These days they let girls join boy-scouts, you know that, right?

Moving Website Hosting

- By Chris Booth

  • Good reasons to move web server hosting
  • Good reasons to stay where you are
  • How to plan a move
  • How Google will react

I was wondering what to write for a second blog entry when all of a sudden we had a flurry of enquiries which required moving website hosting.  Having to move an established site is a problem which all of us face eventually.  It can be tricky.  It can go wrong.  It seemed like a good subject for a new blog.

At The Web Booth we host websites on third party reseller packages.  The hosting companies we use at the moment are TSOHOST, Fasthosts and Verio.  For a fee (usually £60.00 a year) we will host you with one of these companies and manage your site for you.

Some of our customers manage their own hosting and we are happy to work with whatever hosting you have.  This blog may be of use to you.  If you are not yet a Web Booth customer – I hope you find this blog useful, if you would like to move your site to our TSOHOST servers or would like us to update or redesign your site in its current location then contact us for a chat.

In a nutshell – There are many reasons to move hosting and some very good reasons to stay put.  Never move in a rush.  Always have a plan.

Reasons to move

Server downtime

Downtime is an unavoidable feature of computers; everybody has some downtime and you just have to put up with it.  Serious down time is frequently a problem with shared hosting - as a consequence of cost-cutting and over-selling on the part of your hosting company.  Things to look out for are frequent, unscheduled downtime; badly planned, inconveniently timed downtime; and a lack of communication from your hosting company as to what happened and why.  If your site stops working for ten minutes every week for a reboot then fair enough.  If it has a bad week and your hosting company says they are working on it then you should probably give them the benefit of the doubt.  If your site just keeps disappearing and you can’t get a straight answer – your site is probably hosted by muppets.  To get a good idea of what your site is doing, try signing up to and - these services will regularly check you site is up and email reports to you.

Web server responsiveness

Even if your server remains up it may be slow at serving your site.  Again a sluggish web server is a sign that your hosting company has over sold their facilities and is not spending enough on maintenance and new infrastructure.

Delays can be due to DNS, server response, scripting, database queries and many other factors.  The speed of your site can be down to how it is designed and there are many things you can do to improve it.  The fact is that, even if your site is well developed, it will be slow if it has been hosted on a dud web server.

Email server availability

In addition to your website you may have your emails routed through your hosting company.  If you are missing emails and losing touch with your customers then you are losing business.  In addition to mail server up time, with shared hosting, there is also the possibility that one of the other companies using your server might get the whole machine blacklisted.  If this happens none of your emails will be received.


There is so much to say here, but it comes down to this - a hosting company with good support is worth gold dust.  There are so many hosting companies that don’t respond to tickets, don’t take phone calls or can’t speak English properly.  If you don’t get good support then, yes, consider moving.  If you are happy with your support but are thinking of moving – reconsider!  In my opinion good support can make up for quite a lot.

Cost and scale

You get what you pay for, it is true, but some hosting is just expensive.  Some hosting comes with features you will never use.  Some hosting will lack features or require you to upgrade to get them.  You will almost certainly be able to find cheaper hosting than you have now the important question is "Is it worth moving?"  Eventually this issue bites us all; as our sites outgrow their hosting, do we move now or leave it one more year?

Server technologies and features

One reason why you may have to move is if you want a feature that your current hosting company doesn't provide.  Having said that, there are often alternatives - it is worth asking your current company what they do instead.

Changing web developers

If you are changing web developers and your site is hosted in a reseller package you may be obliged to move your site.  This is the downside of convenient and cheap reseller hosting.  At The Web Booth we always offer our customers space on one of our reseller packages.  We know and trust our suppliers.  We have automated scripts to perform backups and analyse log files.  We know how to configure their space to make the most of your site.  What is more, we can offer hosting at a lower price than if you went directly to the supplier and you don’t have to worry about managing it yourself.  Many web developers use reseller packages for similar reasons.

There is a down side - if you wish to switch web developers and your site is on this kind of hosting you may find that a hosting move is forced upon you.

Problems with moving

Quite apart from the hassle of moving your site, there are some other reasons to stay put.

  • If you move your site you will almost certainly encounter some down time.
  • It is hard to try-before-you-buy, making sure you really are moving to better servers is difficult.
  • You may incur costs.
  • If you decide to move your domain there is always the risk it might get stuck.
  • It is difficult to test your site on the new server.  There is always the possibility that you move only to find bugs that need fixing.

Deciding to move

Moving where

I’d suggest that you do your research carefully.  There are thousands of companies to choose from so make a prioritised list of features you need.  Use Google to check each company name for reviews and testimonials to see what other people think of them. If you really want a recommendation, then have a look at TSOHOST.

What do you move?

To move your site you adjust the settings of the domain name.  These settings are called DNS, "tags" or "records."
You have three possibilities.

  • Move everything – move the domain name and everything with it.  For .uk addresses this is called the IPS tag.  For .com you need to “unlock” and acquire and “AUTH code.”
  • Move name servers – leave the domain name where it is and move everything else.  To do this you change NS tags.
  • Move web/email servers – change the A and MX tags and only move your web server and/or email server.

There is more risk and hassle with domain transfers.  I wouldn't recommend them as a pastime to laymen.  If you move a .com you will probably have to pay a re-registration fee.

There is also the risk that changing A and MX records may go wrong over time.  My advice is therefore; just modify your name server records.

Planning the move

As moving hosting can cause disruption, even outages, it is worth planning carefully.  For a start make sure you have plenty of time to plan ahead.

You don’t want to move your site while it is busy, even if the extra visitors are the reason you need to move.  Try to ensure that your move coincides with your site's least busy period.  I would say if you need to move your site now – maybe it’s already too late.  Consider weathering the storm and then move so you are ready for next time.

Your plan needn't be anything fancy, just make a list of everything you need to do, then do it.  If you can, do a dry run.  If there is anything you can achieve before you switch your DNS then do it.  The less you have to do in a rush the better.

Try to test your new hosting.  Do they really have the extra capacity, speed and features that you need.  Will your site work on the new servers?

Make sure you have retrieved all your files from the old hosting.  Make sure you have a note of all the associated settings.  You may have databases and mailboxes to retrieve.  Make a list of all the email accounts and forwarders you need.

Decide how you will recover if things go wrong.  Make sure you can revert to your old hosting.  If you are transferring your domain name consider having a second name you can direct people to in case your primary domain gets stuck.

Minimising downtime

There is a simple technique to minimise downtime.  Set up the new site as best you can before changing DNS.  After changing DNS leave your old hosting intact for at least 24hours.  During this period people may visit both versions of the site so remember to check your old hosting for messages, orders or other transactions before you cancel it.

To minimise DNS propagation time change your time-to-live (TTL) value to 5 minutes a couple of days before the move.  Change it back once you have taken down the old site.

If you have a problem with the move, remember that you can always change the records back and revert to the old hosting.

How long will it take?

If you are changing name servers or just an A record – all your problems come down to caching.  Caching helps speed the Internet up - a lot of things get cached, including DNS.  It can take hours, even days, for a DNS change to propagate through everybody’s caches.  You can minimise this by setting TTL to 5 minutes, though you may not have access to change this value.

The real delay, however, tends to lie with web browsers.  The major browsers cache DNS lookups for 24 hours whatever the TTL value may be.  To get a rough idea of how long the change will take add your Time-To-Live value to 24 hours – as a result most people will tell you that DNS takes 48 hours to fully propagate.

To minimise the switch-over time, change the TTL of you domain to 5 minutes a couple of days before you move hosting.  Then change it back once the move is complete and you have cancelled your old hosting.

If you are changing IPS tags then beware!  This usually takes an hour or two to happen and then propagates as any other DNS update.  However, we have seen incompatible hosting companies take a month to get their act together and one company “lost” one of our domains for two weeks.  Plan carefully, have a contingency plan.

Will it hurt my Google Position?

Provided your web server's IP address is the only change then moving hosting won’t hurt your Google position at all.  Hopefully you are moving to faster, better servers which might even help Google’s opinion of your site.

Note that if you move your server from the UK to another country then you may have a problem, even if you have a .uk domain name, because Google will notice that it isn't a UK website anymore.  Note also that if you suffer an extended outage it may cause Google to remove your pages from its database.