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The Latest Research for Web Designers Feb 2020

One of the most valuable resources you have as a web designer is data. Data informs a lot of what you do for clients, so why shouldn’t it do the same for your own business?

In the following roundup of the latest research for web designers, I’ve included reports and surveys that shed light on: The battle between mobile and desktop, Why so many websites keep getting hacked, What’s keeping ecommerce business owners awake at night, and What Google is now saying about mobile-first indexing.

 

Hootsuite Puts a Spotlight on Mobile

Although Hootsuite is a social media marketing tool, its Digital 2020 report (created in conjunction with We Are Social) reveals much more about the state of marketing as a whole than just social media.

As of January 2020, the total number of users has reached 4.5 billion. That’s a 7% growth from the same period in 2019.

A huge contributor of that growth is the increased adoption of Internet-connected devices all around the world:

Hootsuite Digital 2020 - Global Growth

This graphic alone demonstrates why it’s crucial for websites to be able to cater to a global user base and not just those in developed nations.

Another telling statistic from this report shows how much more Internet users are coming to rely on their mobile phones:

Hootsuite Digital 2020 - Web Traffic Device

Between December 2018 and December 2019, there was an 8.6% leap in the amount of mobile web traffic. Laptops and desktops shrunk in popularity during that same timeframe as did tablets, which saw a massive dip in usage.

It’s not just the amount of traffic on mobile vs. web that’s seen changes either. It’s the amount of time users spend on those devices. As a whole, consumers spend 6 hours and 43 minutes online every day; 3 hours and 22 minutes of which is from their mobile devices.

Key Takeaway

If you’re not already building progressive web apps for clients, 2020 may be the perfect time to learn how to do so. Not only do they provide a superior experience for mobile users, but they also are capable of serving users who may not have the best Internet connectivity or live in close proximity to your web servers.

 

Sucuri Reveals What Was Going on with Hacked Sites in 2019

The Sucuri Hacked Website Threat Report just came out with some interesting data on the state of web security.

Let’s start by looking at the integrity of the content management systems web designers commonly use:

Sucuri Report - Outdated Infected CMS

Out of all the infected websites Sucuri found last year, 56% of them had an outdated CMS. As you can see above, some users do a better job of protecting their core by updating their CMS technology. Others… not so much.

It’s not just content management systems that users are failing to update either. More than two-thirds have websites using PHP versions that are no longer supported (i.e. 5.x and 7.0).

Sucuri - PHP Versions

Then, there’s the fact that websites with vulnerabilities weren’t just found to have one vulnerability. 44% of vulnerable websites had at least two vulnerable components and 10% had four or more.

Considering this, it’s no surprise that once-infected websites have a tendency to be reinfected.

Key Takeaways

On average, Sucuri cleaned up 147 files and 232 database entries for every malware infection detected. Even if those numbers are improvements from previous years, think about how costly the cleanup is going to be for your clients if or when that happens to them.

So, rather than focus strictly on web design or development in the coming years, start thinking about how you can weave website security into the mix. Whether you want to provide maintenance services for live websites or you want to build security measures into a websites in development, it’s up to you.

But something needs to be done to fix this systemic issue.

 

A Better Lemonade Stand Shares Results from eCommerce Survey

For those of you working with ecommerce clients (or who want to), this survey from A Better Lemonade Stand is one to pay close attention to.

Right off the bat, the survey reveals that 62.1% of people who want to start an ecommerce business have yet to do so. As for why they haven’t, there are a variety of reasons given:

A Better Lemonade Stand - Why Not Start

Pay close attention to these reasons as you can use them to sell your ecommerce design services as a solution:

  • The monetary investment
  • A lack of know-how
  • A lack of time to do so

You can also use survey data from current ecommerce owners to better position your business before prospective clients:

A Better Lemonade Stand - eCommerce Struggles

Here you can see what ecommerce business owners report as their biggest struggles. Five of the top ten you can easily help them out with:

  • Getting traffic
  • Conversion optimization
  • Strategy & analytics
  • Branding & design
  • Operations & customer service (through the website, at least)

Key Takeaway

You can present ecommerce business owners in the making with a cost-effective done-for-you option as well as proof of how quickly you can get them an ROI (like with a case study) if they’re really worried about cost. They need to see how your expertise will save them time and make them more money in the long run.

The same goes for clients with existing businesses. You now know what their top concerns are. If you see a flailing ecommerce site, use this knowledge to get the conversation started and to pose your own solution. Again, just make sure you have proof to back up what you promise to do.

 

Google Updates Mobile-First Indexing Best Practices

Think you know all that you need to know to design a mobile-first website? Well, Google just updated its mobile-first indexing best practices.

Here’s a high-level overview of what the new best practices state:

  • If you’re using the robots metatag, make sure it’s the same for mobile and desktop.
  • Use the same URLs for your mobile and desktop sites.
  • Use the same content on mobile as you do on desktop. If you think there should be less content on mobile, just make sure that whatever is desktop-only isn’t critical for Google or visitors to know about as it won’t factor into indexing at all.

In other words, Google is strictly using mobile for the purposes of indexing. If you do anything that compromises what Google can scan on your mobile website, your rank will suffer as a result.

By keeping things consistent between mobile and desktop, you can reduce the chance of any issues arising.

Be sure to check out the full report for all of Google’s new recommendations. There’s information in there about what kinds of image and video formats to use along with information on lazy loading.

Key Takeaway

If you were adhering to Google’s former guidelines, it’s a good time to check back in with what it’s currently recommending. You may need to reconnect with old clients to let them know about the changes and to provide them with an update strategy.

 

Wrap-Up

There’s always new industry or consumer research that can help you do better work for your clients and make more money in the process. It’s just not always easy to keep your eyes peeled for it when you’re trying to focus on your job.

If you stay tuned to WebDesigner Depot each month, though, you’ll get a roundup of the latest research for web designers to give you a hand.

 

Featured image via Unsplash.



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What’s in the latest Firefox update? Firefox 73 adds to usability and accessibility options

Mozilla this week released Firefox 73, a minor upgrade whose most notable addition was a new default setting for page zooming.

Software engineers working on the open-source browser also patched six vulnerabilities, half of them labeled “High,” Mozilla’s second-most-serious threat rating. As usual, some of the flaws might be used by criminals.

“We presume that with enough effort some of these could have been exploited to run arbitrary code,” the firm wrote of two of the bugs.

Firefox 73 can be downloaded for Windows, macOS and Linux from Mozilla’s site. Because Firefox updates in the background, most users need only relaunch the browser to get the latest version. To manually update on Windows, pull up the menu under the three horizontal bars at the upper right, then click the help icon (the question mark within a circle). Choose “About Firefox.” (On macOS, “About Firefox” can be found under the “Firefox” menu.) The resulting page shows that the browser is either up to date or describes the refresh process.

Mozilla last upgraded the browser on Jan. 7, or five weeks ago.

From this point forward, Mozilla will refresh the browser every four weeks. Firefox 74 will end a gradual reduction to the intervals between upgrades: Mozilla announced the release speed-up in September, when it said the original six-week span would be shortened to five weeks, then to four.

Zoom-zoom

Firefox’s faster release tempo comes at a price: the distinct possibility that each upgrade will boast fewer new features, fewer improvements and enhancements. Firefox 73 is proof, as Mozilla was able to highlight just two changes evident to end users.

The first was a new user-set global default for the page zoom level. Rather than monkey with zoom for each site individually – to, for instance, zoom in to make text more readable for older eyes – users can set a default level higher or lower than 100% as the new baseline.

To change the default zoom (which remains at 100% if the user declines to modify it), users must open Preferences (on macOS) or Options (Windows), then under the “General” tab locate “Language and Appearance.” Select the desired default zoom from the box under “Zoom.”

That number – 110%, for instance – becomes the new baseline for all sites. Users can still manually increase or decrease zoom with keystroke combinations or from the menu.

firefox 73 default zoom Mozilla

Firefox 73’s new zoom default lets users set a baseline to, for example, zoom in to 120% on every site. For anyone who is constantly zooming, this saves tons of time.

The other addition trumpeted by Mozilla in Firefox 73’s release notes was labeled “readability backplate” and designed to collaborate with Windows’ high contrast mode. The latter is a setting that replaces the original colors of, say, a website’s text and background, with high contrast combinations for easier reading by people with vision issues.

Previously, Firefox has simply disabled background images when the user enabled high contrast mode. In Firefox 73, the readability backplate “places a block of background color between the text and background image,” Mozilla said. “Now, websites in High Contrast Mode are more readable without disabling background images.”

Days are numbered for TSL 1.0 and TSL 1.1

Mozilla, like other browser makers, is knee-deep in putting an end to the outdated encryption protocols of TLS (Transport Layer Security) 1.0 and 1.1.

More than a year ago, in October 2018, Mozilla announced that the two standards, TLS 1.0 and TLS 1.1, would lose Firefox support in March 2020. That’s next to now.

In a Feb. 6 post, Thyla van der Merwe, the cryptography engineering manager at Mozilla, promised that the upcoming Firefox 74 would give the boot to the pair. “Expect Firefox 74 to offer TLS 1.2 as its minimum version for secure connections when it ships on 10 March 2020,” she wrote.

Although van der Merwe said that Firefox would retain an override button (which has been appearing on warnings when users try to reach a website encrypted by TSL 1.0 or TSL 1.1), she noted that with telemetry trends being what they were, “It’s unlikely that the button will stick around for long.”

The next version, Firefox 74, will release on March 10.



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The Latest Digital News for Web Designers

One of the most powerful tools we have in web design is consumer and industry data. It’s like a gauge that tells us whether we’re still heading in the right direction or it’s time to change course and adopt a new strategy or approach.

Unless you’re combing the web for the latest news and reports in the areas of design, marketing, and SEO, it’s easy to miss this pertinent data. So, in this roundup, I’m going to take care of that for you.

Below you’ll find a recap of 5 recent news stories and reports that need to be on your radar.

 

Comscore Reports on the State of Mobile

Comscore’s annual State of Mobile report focuses on the growing usage of mobile devices to explore the web.

According to the report, users around the globe spend roughly three-quarters or more of their digital time on mobile devices:

Comscore global mobile audience

Even if mobile apps are a key driver of this activity (which they are for certain business types like gaming and social), we know that consumers are glued to their phones more so than they are to their desktop computers.

If you haven’t yet made mobile-first design a priority—especially by bridging the gap between the mobile web and mobile app with PWAs—2020 is the year to do it. Your users already have their smartphones nearby, so why not make your website a must-visit destination there, too?

 

UX Tools Survey Gives Us a Look at the Software Designers Love

UX Tools’ 2019 survey of web designers found an interesting trend when it comes to the toolboxes they use to build websites:

UX Tools - Design Tools Survey

Sketch is the clear frontrunner when it comes to tasks like:

  • User flows;
  • Wireframing;
  • UI design;
  • Prototyping;
  • Design systems.

But Figma isn’t too far behind in all these categories. The surveyed web designers also named it the tool they’re most excited to try and use in 2020.

If you’ve been looking to experiment with new tools for your business, give this short survey a read as there is some really interesting software on the list (that’s not all owned by Sketch, Adobe, or InVision either).

 

MDN Asks Web Developers to Express Their Top Frustrations

The MDN Web DNA Report 2019 is a long read. Since most of it is geared towards web developers (who were surveyed for it), I’m going to zero in on the bit I think web designers may find relevant:

MDN Web Developer Needs

When asked to rank what were the most frustrating “needs” of the web, web developers expressed a lot of anguish over cross-browser design and testing. Bug resolution, privacy and security compliance, as well as tool overload were top concerns as well.

Even if you’re not contending with the problems that go along with coding, these frustrations are really relatable. As for what you can do with them? While I don’t believe we can eliminate these frustrations altogether, I do believe that a greater awareness of what’s happening on the web and more open discussions with our peers will lessen the associated pains.

 

Salesforce Recaps 2019 Black Friday/Cyber Monday Results

For those of you who build websites for retailers and ecommerce companies, the annual data on Black Friday and Cyber Monday performance is one you can’t afford to miss. I realize it might only seem relevant for one month of the year, but you can actually learn a lot about where consumer trends are heading based on how sales performed over the holidays.

Here are some of the more pertinent bits from Salesforce’s summary of Black Friday and Cyber Monday:

  • Black Friday sales reached $7.2 billion in the U.S. (up 14%);
  • Cyber Monday sales reached $8 billion (up 11%).

A lot of this growth can be attributed to consumers’ growing trust in mobile shopping what with 73% of all digital traffic on Black Friday originating on mobile devices and 56% of all purchases made on mobile devices.

So, if you haven’t yet made the switch to mobile-first design or optimizing for mobile checkout, now is the time to do that.

 

Jason Dorsey Suggests Millennial $$$ Woes May Soon Be Over

Jason Dorsey, the president of the Center for Generational Kinetics, has predicted a positive change in the state of millennial finances in the next decade.

Why does he believe that this debt-plagued generation will finally see a turnaround? There are five indicators he references:

  1. As millennials move further away from college, they’ll have a better handle on managing their debt (if they haven’t wiped it out completely);
  2. Many millennials are about to hit peak earnings in their careers;
  3. “The Great Wealth Transfer” is anticipated (i.e. older generations passing on inheritances to millennials);
  4. As the job market strengthens and debt shrinks, millennials may finally feel confident enough to buy homes for themselves;
  5. The same goes for those who delayed marriage during uncertain times.

With more money to spend and confidence to spend it with, millennials are going to be a huge driving force in the coming years. And this will most definitely affect web designers.

You may encounter more millennial business owners with cash to spend. And you’re definitely going to be designing web experiences to cater to the millennial consumer base. So, understanding how they think, what they value, and how much money they have to spend is going to be critical for your future success.

 

Wrap-Up

That’s it for this month’s look at the latest digital news and research.

If you’re interested in staying on top of information that’s going to impact your work, be sure to tune into WebDesigner Depot every month for more data and report roundups.

 

Featured image via Unsplash.



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Apple refuses latest government iPhone-unlock request

Apple turned down a request from U.S. Attorney General William Barr this week,  saying it will not help unlock two iPhones used by a terrorist suspect last month in the deadly shooting at the Naval Air Station in Pensacola, Fla.

Barr said the shooter, 21-year-old Mohammed Saeed Alshamrani, acted alone when he shot and killed three service members and wounded several others, including two sheriff’s deputies responding to the attack. Alshamrani, a member of the Saudi Air Force and an aviation student at the base, was shot dead on the scene by police.

The back-and-forth between Apple and the Department of Justice is the latest scuffle involving the company’s privacy stance and government efforts to get around that stance. Beyond the immediate dispute over the current investigation, the standoff has implications for the safety of corporate data on personal devices.

If the government succeeds in forcing Apple to subvert iPhone security, corporate IT managers will be put in a sticky situation, said Alan Butler, general counsel for the Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC). That’s because most employees either use smartphones under “bring your own device” (BYOD) policies or rely on company devices to conduct business and transfer sensitive information, whether it’s communications or data schematics.

“That’s a lot of sensitive information that may be privileged, that may be trade secrets or covered by [International Traffic in Arms Regulations (ITAR)] – so [it’s] things you have a legal obligation to protect,” Butler said. “So companies also need assurances that the hardware they’re deploying is secure. If the government is ordering the company to introduce flaws into the security of the hardware or software … it could compromise that corporate data.”

In a statement posted on Twitter, Apple disputed Barr’s claim that it hasn’t given  “substantative assistance” in the investigation, noting it provided access to the cloud service used to back up data on Alshamrani’s phones.

“Our responses to their many requests since the attack have been timely, thorough and are ongoing,” Apple said. “Within hours of the FBI’s first request on December 6th, we produced a wide variety of information associated with the investigation. From December 7th through the 14th, we received six additional legal requests and in response provided information including iCloud backups, account information and transactional data for multiple accounts.”

Barr, however, apparently wants a more permanent method of access, known as a “backdoor,” to be installed in iOS software to allow law enforcement access to encrypted devices in the future. “This situation perfectly illustrates why it is critical that the public be able to get access to digital evidence,” Barr said during a news conference Monday. He called on Apple and other tech firms to find a permanent solution to help in this and future investigations.

Reiterating its past stance, Apple said: “We have always maintained there is no such thing as a backdoor just for the good guys. Backdoors can also be exploited by those who threaten our national security and the data security of our customers. Today, law enforcement has access to more data than ever before in history, so Americans do not have to choose between weakening encryption and solving investigations. We feel strongly encryption is vital to protecting our country and our users’ data.”

Kurt Opsahl, deputy executive director of the non-profit digital rights advocacy group Electronic Frontier Foundation, said Apple is right to provide strong security to its users, requiring a passcode or biometrics to unlock their smartphones.

“The Attorney General’s request that Apple re-engineer its phones to break that security imperils millions of innocent Americans and others around the globe, and is a poor trade-off for security policy,” Opsahl said.

Vladimir Katalov, CEO of Russian forensic tech provider ElcomSoft, called Barr’s request unrealistic because Apple can’t “technically” unlock iPhones because of file-based encryption and secure enclave technology; it boots up separately from iOS and runs its own microkernel not directly accessible by the iPhone operating system.

“Of course, it is technically possible to add backdoors, implement escrow keys and things like that. But first, one cannot legally regulate the technology – secure communication channels and [secure data storage] will still remain… and no government can force any person not to use the encryption, or use only a ‘certified’ one,” Katalov said via email. “Second, such backdoors will be exploited by criminals now or later. The consequences may be catastrophic.”

By including a method to unlock smartphones at will, Apple would be opening up all of its smartphones to potential attacks by any bad actor, Katalov said.

The latest request by the Justice Department is part of an ongoing struggle between law enforcement and Apple.

In 2016, the Justice Department, backed by a federal court injunction, ordered Apple to unlock the iPhone of Syed Rizwan Farook, a suspect in the San Bernadino terrorist attack, in December of that year.

At the time, Apple CEO Tim Cook said his company couldn’t give the FBI any more help, claimed that utilizing the law justifying the court’s order was “unprecedented” and again refused to help unlock the iPhone.

In 2018, two companies claimed to be able to unlock any iPhone using blackbox technology acquired by regional law enforcement officials and accessed through contracts with Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and the U.S. Secret Service.

Atlanta-based Grayshift and Israeli-based Cellebrite claimed they could thwart iPhone passcode security through brute-force attacks and full file-system extraction on any iOS device, or a physical extraction or full file system (File-Based Encryption) extraction on many high-end Android device.

Cellebrite’s UFED Cloud Analyzer tool can purportedly unlock, decrypt and extract phone data, including “real-time mobile data … call logs, contacts, calendar, SMS, MMS, media files, apps data, chats, passwords,” according a document obtained by a Freedom of Information Act request filed by EPIC.

Grayshift’s GrayKey blackbox could apparently unlock an iPhone in about two hours if the owner used a four-digit passcode and in about three days or longer if a six-digit passcode was used.

Apple later announced it had found a way to block Grayshift’s GrayKey iPhone hacking tool.

Copyright © 2020 IDG Communications, Inc.





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What’s in the latest Firefox update? Firefox 72 nixes fingerprinting, obnoxious notification appeals

Mozilla on Tuesday launched Firefox 72, which expanded picture-in-picture video mode to macOS and by default blocked “fingerprinting,” an advanced tracking method practiced by some sites and advertisers.

The open-source developers also patched 11 vulnerabilities, five labeled “High,” Mozilla’s second-most-serious threat rating. As usual, some of the flaws might be used by criminals. “We presume that with enough effort … it could be exploited to run arbitrary code,” the firm wrote of the CVE-2019-17017 vulnerability.

Firefox 72 can be downloaded for Windows, macOS and Linux from Mozilla’s site. Because Firefox updates in the background, most users need only relaunch the browser to get the latest version. To manually update on Windows, pull up the menu under the three horizontal bars at the upper right, then click the help icon (the question mark within a circle). Choose “About Firefox.” (On macOS, “About Firefox” can be found under the “Firefox” menu.) The resulting page shows that the browser is either up to date or describes the refresh process.

Mozilla now refreshes Firefox every five weeks; it last upgraded the browser on Dec. 3.

(In September 2019, Mozilla said it would reduce the intervals between upgrades. The earlier six-week stretch was shortened to five weeks between Firefox 71 and 72. Starting with March’s Firefox 74, the interval will drop to four weeks.)

PiP-pin for McIntosh?

A month ago, Mozilla introduced Picture-in-Picture (PiP) with Firefox 71, touting the new feature’s ability to display video in a separate, small window while the user continues to surf elsewhere or even works outside the browser. Then, PiP was limited to Firefox running on Windows.

Firefox 72 expanded PiP to macOS – and if Mozilla’s December pledge was honored, Linux as well – and the feature works just as in Windows. Videos that will run in PiP were marked with a small, blue-backed “Picture-in-Picture” message when the mouse cursor hovers over the image. Clicking on that puts a frame on the desktop, video inside, and the frame can be moved and resized at will.

Firefox PiP on macOS Mozilla

Mozilla expanded Picture-in-Picture (PiP) to macOS and Linux with this week’s Firefox 72.

Firefox’s implementation of PiP is significantly smoother than Chrome’s – which requires a pair of right-clicks – in the videos where it’s available.

Scratch sites’ begging to blast you with notices

Another new aspect of Firefox 72 that Mozilla highlighted is its dampening down of the distraction from sites asking users to allow future notifications.

Those irritating pop-ups rarely result in users acquiescing to the request, Mozilla asserted. According to the company’s research, 48% of those prompts are “actively denied by the user” and a whopping 99% go unaccepted. In other words, they’re a vast waste of both websites’ and users’ time.

Firefox 72 blocks the notifications from reaching the screen – and obscuring part of the underlying page – and instead adds a small comic-style speech bubble, one that briefly jiggles for attention no less, to the address bar. Users can click on the bubble to pull up the usual notification pop-up – perhaps to dismiss it entirely and lose the bubble – or just ignore it. (It jiggles just once.)

Users can, of course, check the long-available box marked “Block new requests asking to allow notifications” in Options (Windows) or Preferences (macOS) to avoid all such irritants. (To reach that, from the “Privacy & Security” section, choose “Permissions,” then click the “Settings” button beside “Notifications.”)

Fingering fingerprinters

Mozilla also trumpeted another addition to Firefox’s anti-tracking skillset that it baked into version 72.

“The latest Firefox browser protects you against fingerprinting by blocking third-party requests to companies that are known to participate in fingerprinting,” Mozilla said here.

Like cookie-based tracking, fingerprinting is used by sites and advertisers to follow users as they wander around the web, most infamously to continue to offer a product that an individual looked at previously. It’s akin to a salesperson following a customer not only around the store, dunning them to buy this or that, but leaving the store with them, tracking them across town and even all the way home.

Fingerprinting relies on piecing together clues – ranging from the browser version and device platform to installed fonts and extensions – to create a profile, hopefully one unique enough to distinguish from others’. Unlike cookie-based tracking, fingerprinting can continue to follow a user even after the browser’s been cleared or its privacy mode has been used to, supposedly, surf anonymously.

Firefox 72 has the fingerprinters portion of Enhanced Tracking Protection (ETP), Mozilla’s name for its collection of anti-tracking technologies, turned on by default. Even if the user has switched off ETP by disabling the other tracker types, the “Fingerprinters” option will be engaged.

Mozilla turned to its partner, Disconnect – which already provided the tracker list that served as the foundation of ETP – as the source of the fingerprints. “Disconnect maintains a list of companies that participate in cross-site tracking, as well a list as those that fingerprint users. Firefox blocks all parties that meet both criteria,” Steven Englehardt, a Mozilla senior privacy engineer, said in a Jan. 7 post to a company blog.

“Expect to hear more updates from us as we continue to strengthen the protections provided by ETP,” Englehardt added, without going into specifics.

The next version, Firefox 73, should launch Feb. 11.



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