Category Archives: Blog

How to Effectively Work from Home

Effectively working from home can be a challenge, especially if you are not already used to it. Our original BCS Engineering staff worked in my house or in their own house in the early years. Working from home has several positives and several negatives. Navigating those to create the proper balance will help you be able to effectively work from home.

Positives of Working from Home

There are many positives from working from home. From personal to professional and in-between. For example, you can throw in a load of laundry when you take a small break from work. This not only lets you take a nice mental break from work to refresh your brain, but it also helps you get a chore done you wouldn’t other wise be able to if you were at work.

  • Get more sleep because you no longer have the work commute time
  • Do small chores during your work breaks
  • Eat healthier because you can cook your lunch
  • Be home with your pets
  • Work from anywhere
  • Use your workout equipment while taking a brief break

Negatives of Working from Home

While there are many positives from working from home, there are also some downsides from both a personal and professional standpoint. For example, over achieving people can fall into the trap of working all waking hours and never truly getting a break and having down time. I originally fell into this trap. I was working from about 8am until about 5pm, then working again after the kids went to bed from 9pm until 12am. It took a lot of work and effort to break this habit of mine and realize, it was OK to not work that many hours in a day!

  • Potential to becoming a workaholic
  • Not taking time for yourself
  • Missing out on a work ‘family’
  • Distractions, especially if you have children at home with you
  • Becoming too distanced from others

Effective Work from Home Tips

If you do find the need to work from home, or even the want to work from home, there are some guidelines and tips that will help you have a productive and healthy home work environment.

Home Office Setup

In particular, to be effective at home and balance a needed rest time in your day, I highly recommend having a separate ‘work’ area from the rest of your house. This could be simply a specific desk that you only do work at, or it could be an extra room. Having a consistent place you sit down to work, and do nothing but work from this location, helps you keep a line between work and personal time. This doesn’t mean you can’t take your laptop and work outside if it’s a nice day, but having a consistent place that you normally do work helps you mentally.

I also recommend your office area be tidied up on a regular basis. This could be daily or weekly. I usually don’t recommend less often than that. And tidy doesn’t mean ‘perfect,’ it just means it needs to be, by your standards, uncluttered. I usually do have ‘that stack of papers,’ but I know what’s in my stack of papers and I know I’ll get to that stack when I need to. The goal here is to not have anything uncluttered and unknown in your brain. That causes internal conflict and stress while you are working as well as while you are not when you see that mess!

Keep things you need daily in arms reach! This will keep you more efficient. If you use it daily, keep it close. Weekly, a little farther away (maybe an office chair roll away). Something you only occasionally need? Keep that even farther. The main goal is to keep things you always need right there so you don’t have to get up.

Work from Home Schedule

Just like you would have a schedule if you worked outside the home, you need to have a schedule at home. This will help you be more consistent, efficient and allow you to give yourself permission to not work when it’s time to not work!

Get up at about the same time every day, eat your breakfast, brush your teeth, shower, etc. Put on comfortable clothes, but I recommend something more than just sweats. You’ll feel more like you are going to work if you do a normal morning routine and put on something more than just lounge clothes!

Plan for your lunch time, make sure you eat your lunch away from your work area. Just like it’s healthy when at work, to get up away from your desk for lunch, it is also healthy when you work from home. You need that mental break from work, so you can recoup your brain and be ready for the afternoon set of work.

Have a scheduled stop time. This can vary a little, but set a time range of when you will stop working. Maybe for you that would be between 5pm and 5:30. But have a consistent time frame. This helps give you permission to get up away from your work, and have time for your personal life.

Take Breaks when Working from Home

Just like you should take breaks in a work environment, you need to also take breaks when working from home. You could go for a 10 minute walk. You could put in a load of laundry. You could load the dishes. Think of something that you either enjoy doing, or something that if you did, you’d feel a sense of relief (which is why I have chores in there too!)

Get out of the House!

Like actually do it! Make sure you get out of the house regularly! You want to make sure you have enough social interaction. Even if you are more introverted, getting out with a friend (or friends) regularly is very good for your overall health.

Summary

In summary, weight the positives and negatives for you. This will vary based upon your personality and normal tendencies. Make sure you have a good home office area set up, have a routine, take breaks and get out of the house! If you feel overwhelmed or don’t feel like you are effective working from home, take a look at each piece, pull it apart, try something new or different and see what works best for you!

Which Shopping Cart is Right for You?

Which cart is right for you?

 

Picking the correct shopping cart for your business can be a daunting task! Especially with the number of eCommerce shopping carts available on the market today! We have customers ask us many times what shopping cart is best, especially given we have been working with and customizing shopping carts since 2002.

Just like there is no correct answer to the perfect car for everyone, there is no perfect shopping cart. It really depends on the features you want, how easy it is to maintain, how reliable it is, and how much you are able to pay.

We will be discussing the 2 shopping carts we work with most, X-cart and Magento.

Start by listing in order what is most important in an eCommerce shopping cart to you

  • Built-in Features
  • Shopping Cart Cost
  • Maintenance costs
  • Hosting Costs
  • Developers available
  • Flexibility

Magento eCommerce Attributes

Magento for example, is a very flexible shopping cart with a large set of built in features. You can even get a free version of this shopping cart. There are a very large number of developers available to help you with MagentoCommerce, including us.

However, Magento requires a much more robust server to run on than most shopping carts. Our eCommerce Hosting for Magento requires a lot larger server base. You would need at least the Medium level of hosting to properly run Magento, but more likely need the Large hosting server or above depending on how much traffic you expect to your shopping cart.

Magento can also be extremely expensive for most businesses if you wish to run the paid version of it and is much more difficult to maintain by the average store owner. You’re very likely to need a Magento Developer to help you out.

X-cart eCommerce Attributes

X-cart has been around since 2001 and has become quite the feature-rich shopping cart. Especially the long running X-cart 4 version and X-cart 5 is working on catching up. X-cart can run on a much smaller server than Magento. Our eCommerce Hosting packages for X-cart can utilize our Small Server base for many businesses and can easily expand into the larger servers as needed.

X-cart 4 and 5 are much easier for the average business owner to maintain for most day-to-day tasks and has several options for X-cart Developers including us. Some business owners we’ve seen be able to pick up some small and medium customizations as well!

For more complicated customizations, you will need an X-cart Developer to help you out.

Picking the Right eCommerce Package

Still not sure which one would work best for you? Start by listing out what features you need, and Contact us! We will be happy to help you walk through critical thinking to help you pick the product that’s best for you!

3 Steps to Test Your New eCommerce Site

As a non technical person, being asked to test your new or upgraded website can seem like a daunting task, however it doesn’t have to be! This short article will give you the guidelines needed to make sure you cover all the basics in site testing.

By testing your own site, you can help ensure that all the pieces are there to make sure your business processes are effectively implemented and that there isn’t something missing!

1. Think like an Established Customer

Ask yourself questions like:

  • What products do I want to buy?
  • What information do I need to decide to buy?
  • Are there any features of the website making buying difficult?

Pick your top 10 products you want to be selling and try to find them on the new website. Fully complete a checkout process including creating test orders using all the payment methods you have available.

2. Think like a New Customer

Ask yourself questions like:

  • What would help me build buying confidence?
  • Are the shipping and delivery options clear?
  • Are the descriptions on products clear and concise?
  • Does my About section clearly tell my story?

Browse your site with the eyes of a stranger. Do you trust it? Enlist some friends not familiar with your site too. Do they feel comfortable purchasing from your new site?

3. Think like an Admin of Your Site

Now that you have created test orders in the previous steps, go through the admin side of your site.

Admin tests:

  • Pretend like you are filling those orders you created
  • Create new products
  • Edit existing products
  • Use any custom tools you have

Are there any business processes missing? You are the best person to test this part as you know how your business operates.

Have a staff of many? Enlist the appropriate staff members to test their specific area of the site they use. Usually the more testing the better!

eCommerce Testing Summary

Programmers and developers can thoroughly test your site from a technical perspective and many times user perspective too. However having one type of person test your new website, will limit the perspective of the testing. Having many different types of people, and many different knowledge backgrounds will help your site be much more successful in launch! Everyone sees the website differently, just like everyone sees the world differently!

Need user testing or help upgrading your site? Contact Us today! We have launched and upgraded countless eCommerce sites since 2002!

Top 5 Fall Maintenance Items for your Ecommerce Site

Just like you have a list of maintenance items you would do on your house or building every Fall to prepare it for winter, so should you be doing maintenance and preparation for the upcoming Holiday season! Even if your business doesn’t rely on Holiday Ecommerce Sales, you should be regularly maintaining and reviewing your website. What better time to do it than before the end of the year?

1. Security Patches

Lack of applying Security patches is one of the number one reasons eCommerce sites get hacked. If you run X-cart or Magento, they regularly push out security patches a few times a year.

Security Patches for X-cart and Magento generally are fairly easy to update and install. If you are hosted with us, you automatically get security patches applied. Make sure if you are hosted somewhere else, that you have us apply them for you or hire a developer if you are unsure how to patch your site!

2. New Content

Do you have a blog on your site, a news area? If you aren’t consistent throughout the year at creating new articles, you should at least once a quarter be creating a new article. Having new content on your site shows Google that you are still there and still updating the site. Otherwise you become stale and less important to the search engines.

So having a plan for new content, even if it’s only once a quarter is key. Be consistent and stick with it. Your topics can even vary and don’t have to be directly about your business. Just keep them interesting and tell your story!

3. Review Old Content

Have you looked through your website lately? Do you have any old articles that are so out dated, they do not make sense anymore? Be sure to review your site at least twice a year to remove old, stale and out dated information.

Keeping old content can be good and key for search engines, but if you know it is not in any way relevant, then get rid of it. So when you are reviewing, think from an outside readers perspective.

Ask yourself:

  • Do I want a prospective customer having this page as my first impression?
  • Does this article provide good information still?
  • Do I need to rewrite this to keep it relevant?

4. Test your site for usability

How long has it been since you pretended to be the customer? Have you tested your site on Desktop, Mobile and Tablet devices recently?

Standards change and devices change, it is a good idea to explore your site regularly with multiple different brands and types of devices. You may find some glaringly obvious issues that weren’t there before! It could be preventing you from getting the sales you need and want! Usually just a quick typical testing of your site is key to finding any big issues that may be new.

5. Review your Competitors

Regularly checking in on your competitor’s sites is key. You may find something they are doing really well that you should be doing as well. You may find something they are not doing well, that you do well. In this case, you can work to highlight what you are doing well and be able to stand out from the crowd.

One thing you never want to be though is a copy-cat. Make sure if you do find features or functions that your competitor does well, that you put your own twist or uniqueness when you work to implement something similar. Your customers want to shop with you because of you. Never try to be something or someone else than you are!

Need help with a Site Review?

Give us a call or contact us! We would be happy to set up a consultation for a site review!

Athens Ohio is about to Double in Size!

Our city is about to double in size and go from about 25,000 people to about 45,000! Ohio University classes start Monday! Most of us at BCSE have at least one degree from this wonderful university!

Ohio University is the state’s first university, established in 1804 and is situated in beautiful South Eastern Ohio. Every Spring, the city “breathes out” when the students leave and the locals enjoy a much quieter few months. Then every Fall, we breathe back in around 20,000 students to the Athens campus. We enjoy the diversity and culture that the university brings to this unique area of the state.

Once you’ve lived here and experienced the city, you will never find a place quite like Athens Ohio!

Read more about Ohio University: https://www.ohio.edu/

robots.txt Changes with Google Core Updates

Google has announced a major change to the way it’s web-crawler responds to directives within the robots.txt file.

Under the latest “Core Update“, Google will stop supporting robots.txt rules that are not published in the open-source Robots Exclusion Protocol Specification, including the “noindex” and “nofollow” directives.

Google is providing recommendations for how website operators should handle these changes:

  • Noindex in meta tags. You should use <meta name="robots" content="noindex"> on all pages that you previously listed in robots.txt with a noindex directive.
  • HTTP 404/410 status codes. Google will drop any page which returns one of these status codes. For instance, if a page legitimately no longer exists.
  • Password Protection. Use markup to indicate subscription or paywalled content as Google will remove all password protected content that’s not legitimate subscription or paywalled content from indexing. Thus, password protecting content removes that content from Google.
  • Disallow Directive. Search engines only index pages that they know about. Therefore you should use the disallow directive in robots.txt to indicate that Google cannot crawl that content.
  • Search Console Remove URL tool. The tool is a quick and easy method to remove a URL temporarily from Google’s search results.

In conclusion, Google aims to make the internet a more open and simpler place by implementing these changes. In most cases, the end result will be a much simpler robots.txt file and an easier time for webmasters protecting content.

As always, BCSE is here and ready to assist with your SEO. If you need assistance with your e-Commerce or other website, SEO, or hosting please contact us today!

Carding Prevention with Payflow

Paypal has recently announced that they have added a new feature to their popular Payflow Payment Gateway. The new feature aims to limit the impact of carding, or a process that


fraudsters use to determine whether stolen card numbers are active and not yet reported lost or stolen

Source: 3dcart

Carding can take on many forms, including:

A single card repeatedly used in quick succession for low or identical dollar amounts
Multiple cards repeatedly used in quick succession for low or identical dollar amounts
Cards with the same information (name and/or billing address) from the same IP address
Multiple cards with differing information (name and/or billing address) from the same IP address
Multiple cards with different billing addresses but an identical BIN (Bank Identification Number)

Source: 3dcart

The the new carding module for Payflow e-commerce stores will now get notified of suspected carding activity. Paypal will return a new result code, 170, indicating that “Fraudulent activity detected: carding.” The account will also be blocked at Paypal from purchases in your store.

Don’t worry, you’ll be able to easily unblock accounts in your Paypal Manager.

Look for forthcoming updates to the Paypal modules for Magento, X-cart, and other e-commerce packages. Most stores will still handle this new error code and prevent the purchase from registering to the vendor even without an update.

For more information on Payflow Carding Protection, visit the announcement.

And if you’re concerned about excessive carding attempts occurring with your e-commerce store contact us today to see how we can help!

Granting Access to Google Analytics

Frequently, we find ourselves needing access to our client’s Google Analytics accounts. In order to provide access to us, follow these simple steps:


Step #1: Login to your Analytics Account.

Step #2: Navigate to “Admin” in the lower left corner.

Step #3: Select User Management for either a particular Analytics Account, Property, or View. (Generally, if you are unsure, you can simply add a user to your analytics Account and they will be able to see everything you see.)

Step #4: Select Add User from the large “plus sign” menu.

Step #5: Enter in the user’s email address, adjust permissions if you desire to give the user more control than simply viewing the data, and then select “Add”.

That’s it. You’ve now added a user to your Google Analytics account!

Consulting Services

Consulting Services from BCS Engineering

BCS Engineering is the largest third-party developer of X-cart modules and customizations. Since 2002, we’ve been helping e-commerce retailers improve their sales, customer engagement, and customer satisfaction.

And we’re not just X-cart experts! Our staff includes Magento-certified developers, and we can honestly say that for one project or another, we’ve worked with every major e-Commerce platform, web framework, and sales tool under the sun.

That’s why we’re uniquely suited to help you.


Our Diverse Expertise

Strategy and Planning

Our team has over 65 years of combined e-commerce experience. This expertise allows us to deliver an unbiased, comprehensive assessment of your e-commerce strategy. We can help you refine your processes to be more efficient, most cost- and consumer-friendly, and most importantly deliver better results year-over-year.

Design and Implementation

Above all, e-commerce implementations are complex. Our team has the experienced needed to not only assess your needs, but also to deliver the functionality that those needs demand as well. We are expert e-commerce developers with experience using the X-cart, Magento, Shopify, BigCommerce, and PinnacleCart platforms.

Development and Customization

We’re engi-nerds at heart. We love making existing tools do new and useful things for our customers. That’s why we pride ourselves on knowing our platforms, building useful tools, and making the machinery of e-commerce work efficiently and in customer-friendly ways.

Marketing and Search Optimization

We’ve implemented thousands of e-commerce projects that are generating tens of millions in digital sales for our customers every year. Therefore we have the know-how and have e-commerce best practices down to a science. Our e-commerce consulting team will help you transform great digital experiences into amazing revenue generators.


How can we help you?

Give us a call or send us an email today, and let us discuss how we can help your e-commerce business. Whether you’re a new store looking to acquire customers or you’ve been doing this a while and would just like an outside perspective, we can help. Our 4-hour engagement will typically include:

  • firstly, we provide an site assessment and evaluation of your current e-commerce practices,
  • secondly, a one-on-one discussion with a member of our engineering team about concrete next actions you can take to improve your business and online presence,
  • next we’ll provide recommendations for new integrations of development that we can assist you with,
  • and lastly we’ll engage with you in open, honest discussion about any questions or concerns you bring to us about your business.

We want to see your store succeed. We can help your store succeed. Our consulting services are designed with your best interests in mind. So reach out to us to schedule an e-commerce consultation or discuss other ways that BCSE can help you today!

WordPress 5.0: “Bebo”

Wordpress 5.0 "Bebo" Released Today

WordPress 5.0: featuring the Gutenberg editor, a new theme, and new developer features!

Hot off the heals of Magento’s recent 2.3 release, WordPress is the one shaking up the world this week with the all-new WordPress 5.0. Lots of new features are added with this major release, for example Gutenberg, the all-new editor. (That’s right, it’s time to say goodbye to TinyMCE!)

 

Gutenberg Editor

The new editor for WordPress 5.0 is based around “blocks”, or small content-insertion areas of different types, i.e. media, text, quote, or code. This is akin to how many of the most popular site-builder plugins work. The idea is that it’ll allow non-web developers create, slick, modern content with no code.

Twenty Nineteen

WordPress 5.0 also includes the new “Twenty Nineteen” theme. Designed to integrate nicely with the Gutenberg editor, the new Twenty Nineteen theme features custom styles to take advantage of all of the varied “block” types available in the editor. It wraps these in a versatile, slick, and responsive package.

Should you update?

A major release like this is always likely to introduce new bugs and changes. You should always be particularly cautious about “dot zero” updates especially. While we’ve seen no major incompatibilities between our integrations and the new WordPress, we are recommending that our e-commerce clients remain cautious.

In particular, there is a good deal of controversy surrounding the new editor. And some blogs are claiming that the new block editor is not ready for prime time, as of just yesterday.

We generally follow the no-“dot zero” philosophy… avoid releases with numbers like x.0… and that holds true here. We are advising clients with production sites to exhibit caution, and delay updating, until the community has more thoroughly-vetted WordPress 5.0. Until then, if you have a development environment for you store or blog, and wish to explore WordPress 5 and it’s interaction with you store, you can download it here.

Unsure? Let the experts at BCS Engineering help. Contact us today!