Recent news items are listed below for general access. Clients, Partners and Resellers may have access to more details appropriate to their applications in the Client Zone (click to access).
We have a new facility that we can add to your Portal/Website. It consists of a Dashboard collection of user friendly reports round your website traffic and usage. Example screenshot below:
There is currently a collection of some 12 different graphical reports that are being offered at rollout. Some reports are cumulative others report on the last 30 days of traffic only. The graphs are interactive - you can click on them to see exact values. In total, they provide a good overview of website traffic and usage for our website or Portal systems.
If you have a website or a Portal system from us. You will either have - or have been offered - access to Google Analytics reporting. Google Analytics provides an extensive series of reports and tools for tracking usage of websites. However, Google's reports - whilst comprehensive - are not the most accessible to use, nor indeed are they particularly user-friendly. We have thus been aware for some time that many of our business users don't tend to use Analytics facilities as much as they might.
Now, using some relatively new facilities, we have been able to take Google Analytics data and display it in a much more accessible and simplified format for Website/Portal Administrators. This facility, still uses Google's tools to generate the graphical reports. The data is updated overnight using Google data and provides close to a real-time view of your website traffic and usage. We are thus able to display many of the typical reporting items that our clients have expressed an interest in reporting on, into a type of Dashboard of up to (currently) 12 reports.
The facility is being fully deployed (rolled-out) in October 2017. In future, we expect we will be able to offer both a bigger range as well as more customised reports using this method. Please also note that the graphs whilst being interactive are not currently web-responsive - i.e. they won't dynamically resize on e.g. a mobile phone. This is currently a limitation in using Google’s current graphic reporting toolkit. Feedback so far, suggests that Administrators don't expect to use such a facility on a phone anyway. But, we do hope to be able to make the Dashboard more fully responsive over time as Google expands its facilities.
We are making clients aware of who currently run their websites without using SSL security. The reason for issuing this update at this time is that Google with their Chrome browser has very recently advised that they are planning to show warning notices when people browse websites that are not SSL secured. This is due to happen with version 62 of the Chrome browser towards the end of October. To be fair Google has issued advice before now that this might happen - and it hasn't. But it does seem that this time it's much more of a firm intent.
If you are a Client or Partner affected by this please see the expanded update that we have sent you.
Or contact us direct.
You can tell if your website operates with SSL if the web address in the URL bar starts with http://..... If you site operate with SSL the URL will start with https://... It's the last letter "S" in https that shows your website is operating in SSL mode. As per graphic below you will also see a padlock icon .
What is SSL?
SSL (Secure Socket layer) is basically an encryption method that provides additional security to a visitor when using your website over the internet. SSL enabled websites encrypt the connection between the user on their PC/Mac/Phone and the web-server making it much harder for data to be interpreted by an "evil" third-party.
Most commercial clients of ours do already operate their websites using SSL. But not all do. We thus have a small number of clients with whom we have provided website facilities and who have not - as yet - added SSL security. This update is for them.
Do we actually need SSL?
Where we provide data-driven access within websites, we already encrypt the data transfer using SSL type facilities. This is standard across all clients. If you have e.g: a Contact, Careers, Talent or Recruitment Portal your data transfers between browser and web-server are all encrypted already - at the data level by us. This happens irrespective of whether you are running SSL on the actual website - or not.
So in purely data protection terms, you are already safe regarding actual data transfers at the application level within your system. The issue Google and Chrome has is with the overall website and whether this is encrypted. Many websites that transfer data cannot encrypt the transfer unless the whole website uses protection such as SSL (as stated above we already encrypt the application data). In broad terms this is what Google and Chrome are trying to help their users with and to "warn them" when using websites who may not already encrypt their data. The effect according with the new version of Chrome will be to provide a warning notice if the website itself does not use SSL facilities.
If you do wish to look at securing your websites with SSL please contact us. We can arrange everything for you. Depending on your choice of certificates they may be a charge for the certification and renewals etc. We normally prefer to use the same certification authority for your ancillary website as the one you plan to use on your main website and prices of certificates vary. So do please contact us to discuss if you have any queries.
For the avoidance of doubt the small number of direct clients with non-SSL secured websites will be engaged directly (week of 11th September) with an expanded update to what is included here (copy also held on the Support Portal). Partners with clients who have non-SSL sites will likewise be engaged.
Hypertext Transfer Protocol (HTTP) is the protocol that governs the connection between your server and the browser of a visitor to your website. It’s the first part of most URL’s that give you the address of a website. Note, on some sites it will be HTTPS, not HTTP (more of later).
Now, for the first time since 1999, we have a new version of this protocol – HTTP/2. Clients and Partners have access to a full paper on this - but here we will look at the basics.
HTTP is an old protocol. It was originally defined in 1991. The last major revision was in 1999 and whilst it was good at the time, websites now are much larger and we expect much faster response times.
HTTP/2 is the answer to this - for now anyway. Skipping to the bottom line, in order to get HTTP/2 you need:
(a) the webserver to support it
(b) your web browser to support it
(c) the website needs to operate in SSL i.e. HTTPS mode
It is important to understand however that a HTTP/2 website will operate perfectly ok on any older browser versions that your users have. It's only, typically, the most recent browser versions that are HTTP/2 enabled. The website will simply operate in HTTP mode on older web browsers. The major issue is SSL. SSL websites used to run a bit slower than non-SSL sites. But on HTTP/2 they should now run much faster.
If you are not sure what SSL is - it is the padlock icon (see above) sometimes shown in the URL bar in your web browser. It provides encryption and arguably some validation that the website is owned by who is claimed to own it. Encryption is generally a good idea, especially for data. Note, we as standard, encrypt almost all screens for managing data and we do this without needing to make your site SSL (though we can also use SSL as well).
However, if you wish to take advantage of this new protocol which promises to speed up your website and you have not purchased SSL certificates - do talk to us. These can be provided much more cheaply than used to be the case. Given HTTP/2 will provide generally faster websites, the SSL speed penalty is not really an issue any more and costs are generally much less.
It really looks like Google are trying kill off popups within their Chrome web browser. We use popups in some configurations - generally for the (Active) Notes and for Adding Files screens. We have found it a nice piece of UI (user Interface) design as it allows minor additions to a record to be done within a (popup) window whilst the main record is still open.
Note that, with very few exceptions, we use popups within the backend portals only i.e those used by a client's own staff. Very few of our systems have implemented popups on public facing pages. Any systems which do use popups in this way on public pages have already been contacted and alternative methods put in place.
The origin of this issue has arisen with the latest Chrome release (ver 54) that was made available from the 12th of October. Changes issued within this release mean we cannot now refresh prior pages when using a popup, i.e. have information that has just been entered in a popup then immediately displayed in the main record's parent window. Prior to this Chrome release, this facility worked fine though we have had to use some clever coding and work arounds for the last couple of years to keep the facility compatible with browser changes. Indeed the facility still works well on previous versions of Chrome and it is important to stress on all the other main browsers we test on. But now it seems neither us (nor anyone else for that matter) can enable a parent page refresh from a popup within Chrome. It has been reported as an issue on the technical forums by us and others and there has been pressure for a fix to be made available. However, we understand from our sources that this is now most unlikely, at least in the short term.
Anyway, for those of our partners and clients who are avid Chrome users, we have as you would expect a solution to this problem.
We have a new facility for recording ‘Pageviews’ of vacancy adverts in RMS, Careers Portal, Jobboard and Talent Portal systems i.e. capturing the number of times candidate or webpage visitor views a vacancy. This new facility will be rolled out across our systems from August 2016.
In its default configuration, the Pageview facility will capture every time a vacancy’s detail page is viewed and provide a running tally for you in your administration area. It is designed to capture a candidate having a proper look and will only count as a Pageview where a candidate views a vacancy’s detail-screen. The system is designed not to count Pageviews where multiple vacancies are listed on the screen as in e.g. the results of a search. The candidate must actually select a vacancy, or be able to see its details (and see the Apply button/link) for it to count as a Pageview.
Implementation of the default configuration where there is a single total for the Pageview count is free of charge on all new systems sized from mid-tier and upwards. For partners who have a defined configuration used for rollouts you must however advise us that you wish the facility added to your configuration.
Please see Help paper published in the Support Portal (Client Zone) for Partners, Resellers and Clients for full details.
Vivaldi the new web-browser launched in April. We are already fielding enquiries about it so we thought it was best to advise on our experience of it so far and our stance on supporting it.
Its been quite a while since the last major new cross-platform desktop browser launched - that was Google’s Chrome back in 2008. The folks at Vivaldi will be hoping they can emulate Chromes success as its now the most popular browser currently in use.
Vivaldi, runs on Windows, Mac and Linux. It is explicitly being marketed for power users — those who like to customise their browsers to the greatest extent and who value a very long list of features (we particularly like its side panel notes). Their CEO came from Opera as have some other key personnel - hence the name Vivaldi. By way of background, Opera is a browser best known for innovating new features, however it only has around 2% market share. Vivaldi is different in that it is based on Google’s open source version of Chrome, called Chromium. Its not supposed to be any faster than Chrome, just different... Like Chrome, it can gain features and facilities from extensions. However, its aim seems to be to offer so many included features you won’t need the extensions.
So how does it compare?
Well we have been testing it for a few months and can advise that with the Beta and Launch versions it works fairly well with our systems. Nothing adverse to report. However you should be aware that whilst it is based on Chromium - this is a new product and it is currently at version 1.0. You should thus expect that at times there will be some bugs and it wont be quite as polished as Chrome, Safari or Firefox. However those issues we have seen have been fairly minor and been common to other systems, sites - so we are not aware of any particular issues related to our software or sites per se.
Are we supporting it?
Officially right now - No. Although those bugs we have seen relate to more cosmetic errors we would expect this product to change considerably now it has been released and it is thus likely to be a moving target for some time. If it proves a success in the market and matures we would expect to test it with our systems and reconsider our stance. But right now, our focus is supporting the main 4 browsers: Chrome, Safari, Firefox and IE (soon to be replaced by Microsoft).
Issues to be aware of
Clients and Partners can see our White Paper on browsers updated in December 2015 where we reviewed the current state of the browser market (available on the Support Portal). In it we discuss how browsers can be increasingly configured to suit individual preferences. They can also be equipped with extensions that add new facilities or change the way features can work. When you add this to the numerous updates that each of the browser platforms issues it makes for a fairly fluid and moving target. We have designed our systems so that the effect of browser differences should be mostly cosmetic and minor in nature for typical users who have not played around with browser configurations or added many plugins or extensions. Vivaldi does however provide more scope than most when it comes to customising configuration and features. Its marketed for power-users, i.e. those who are reasonably technically adept and who will understand and appreciate its differences - and powerful features. You should thus expect to see from time to time, differences between different browsers behaviour/display differences. In general we think they will likely prove quite minor and non-critical. However, where your users are finding particular differences, please do investigate what browser versions and releases they are using, and encourage your users to stick with reasonably current and stable versions. This fixes most of the very few issues we hear about. From our testing we have seen our software perform well on Vivaldi but this does not mean it will do so on every version or on every possible configuration. So for now our advice is - should you have problems you should move to Chrome, Safari, Firefox or IE (note IE is on end of life).
From 10th April we have decided to stop providing sites with the widget for bookmarking sites on an iPhone/Android. Although this widget has proved quite successful over the years we believe it is a facility that has had its day and is no longer required for use with our systems.
The purpose of the widget was to enable our sites/systems to point out to visitors using mobile phones how they could easily add an icon for the site to their phone's home screen. In essence this allowed them to click and be taken directly to the site/system in a similar manner to other web "apps" on their phone.
The facility to do this - we stress - remains. Users can still save the customised icon that we created for your site/system directly to their phone's home screen. Its just we believe we no longer need the widget to help them do this. We have also experienced support issues with the widget following recent upgrades to iOS that have taken time for our supplier to fix.
You can see an example copy of the popup that the widget produces below.
For the avoidance of any doubt going forward, all sites/systems designed for mobile use will still have the ability for users to bookmark (save) on their phone (both iPhone and Android) a custom site icon on their home screen that when clicked will take them right to your site/system. The only change is that in those sites where we provisioned a specific widget to assist users in doing the bookmarking, the widget has now been depreciated and been withdrawn.
To illustrate how easy it is now, to save a link to your site/system - without the widget. On an iPhone/iPad all the user has to do is click the icon on the iPhone's browser bar and it will save the webpage using your site/system's custom icon that we created for you to the users phone home screen (they can also save to a bookmark folder ). In Android (chrome) their menu includes a "Add to homescreen" option which does the same. Its as easy as that.
We know being able to save your site/system's icon on a phone is a feature our clients like very much. However its still there and its easy to use. Thus we feel, there is no real need to continue with the widget especially given recent support issues it has had with some software versions used on popular phones. If your system was previously equipped with this widget you will have been contacted already and we will have agreed with you a plan for your site/system. Should however any client feel the widget's continued inclusion is a necessary feature we will of course seek to accommodate their requirements within its inherent technical capabilities.
What is the expression: "Its the cobblers children who are the last to get shoes..." Well we have been a bit guilty of that ourselves. However we have finally launched a major update to the First Business Connects website. Its grown to be quite a big site, and if you look around there is a lot of content.
We decided to keep with a very similar visual look but update it so it was "Responsive" for use across a wider range of devices. By using Responsive frameworks and technology the site reformats to fit the device being used. Our website in fact now consists of 3 parts.
1. The main homesite (what you are reading now).
It is on a completely new platform and for those of a technical orientation uses the Foundation framework by some crazy guys called 'Zurb'. We previously had a dedicated mobile site that presented itself whenever mobile phone visitors accessed the site. Given the now wide range of devices this new framework provides a more adaptable a scalable experience to suit the device being used. Foundation is reputed to provide a particularly good mobile experience and is very fast.
2. The Client Zone now relabelled the "Support Portal".
Most users were calling it that anyway so it made sense to change when we did this update. This site is tightly integrated into our Support and Billing systems and we wanted to be able to make these more usable on a wider range of devices. This site is held on a subdomain (support.firstbusinessconnects.com) with syndicated versions also available for selected Partners/Resellers. Because of the data integration requirements we elected to use the Bootstrap framework for this site - though visually it is very similar to the main site. Bootstrap was developed by the people at Twitter and is a very popular toolkit for modern Responsive style sites.
3. The Blog
Its been now getting quite big with over 100 posts. We have now capped it at holding 5 years worth of posts as older posts were getting less use over time. We also tend to write long posts with a mix of graphics, and even video on occasion, and we wanted it to be easily used on mobiles. The Foundation framework used in the main site does not provide blog facilities like the Tag Cloud or Archive. So we have used the same Bootstrap framework used in the Support Portal above. It has also been given its own subdomain called blog.firstbusinessconnects.com. Much of the blog content gets syndicated and repurposed by our Partners and Resellers and this change will help with that too.
The other major change we have implemented is focussing the site(s) to the Asia Pacific region. The site started off being UK and European centric in line with our formation as a business. However First Business is now centred within and very much a part of Asia Pacific and site content will reflect that.
We hope you like the site(s) and please do let us know what you think.
We have finally opened up the online payment facility and put it on the website. We have done a number of projects over the years that have required integration with payment processing facilities. It's not our prime business but we have developed some expertise so it made sense to make use of it ourselves.
Our business is one that deals with regular clients most of whom are Resellers or Partners. Traditional Invoice and Payment facilities seem to work well for them. However we have had a few recent projects where clients have asked if they could pay for particular items using credit cards. An example would be a recent email campaign that was originating from - and hence being paid by - a local office. So we have done something about it and have added a facility within our Support Portal where clients can pay their invoices using all the major credit cards as well as Paypal.
Well, at last we are launching the new facilities we have been talking about for the last couple of months. We were planning on launching on the 31st October but that is Halloween so emails will be going out to partners, resellers and direct clients on the 1st. Nov.
There are 11 items, all are now being used now in our most recent implementations and some facilities may already be familiar to you (see list below). You can see more details on our Support Website. There is also a PDF in the Resources folder of the Support site with full details.
Many items are completely free of charge to current clients though some may require some implementation work. Please note we will not automatically add or change your system with the new facilities. If you wish any of them to be added, then please let us know.
Summary of New Facilities
Following the successful take-up of our File Manager module which was finally extended to all systems last September we have been working at further increasing filestore flexibility and expanding options for clients and partners. The 'File Manager - External Storage' solution is a new module and provides an alternative; quick, easy and above all, low cost route for storing documents against records within your system.
It is a separate facility to the more fully integrated File Manager module and relies on clients using a third-party file storage system that provides an external weblink for accessing files stored at the third party (In File Manager all files are held wholly within the system). Its these weblinks that are held within the system rather than holding the actual files themselves. This does mean that there not the same facilities for workflow and security as in the main File Manager module, but following testing we believe it provides good workable facilities that will be useful and appropriate for some implementations - especially where cost is an issue.
There are three companies where have tested this module and where see it being most applicable: Google Drive, Dropbox and Amazon S3, however the module should work with other similar vendors whom you may work with.
This is a module that can be easily added to existing implementations for a small setup charge and the provision of even just a single additional screenset. From a usage point of view, because the files are stored externally e.g. at Google/Dropbox, there is very little impact on your data allowance and hence on your system usage costs.
From a file security point of view, whilst the module will manage the actual weblink to the file, its underlying security and accessibility of the file is controlled by whoever you enable to have access to it. For example in Dropbox, in practical terms this means your users will need access to the Dropbox account. However from testing it provides a good complementary facility and provides an inexpensive and simple means of storing candidate documents where the more comprehensive security and workflow available in the main File Manager module are not needed.
Do contact us if of interest.
Security Alert - the Heartbleed bug - protecting your data. This is a communication only. There is no specific action we believe Clients, Partners nor Resellers need to take.
We have always been able to offer very comprehensive search facilities within our products; all our systems have the ability to search across multiple fields and data-types. This allows quite complex queries to be quickly and easily performed and is a key feature of our deployments. This announcement augments these facilities with the addition of a new search facility: the "multi-select listbox".
This is an optional model that is used to equip your system with the ability to store and manage multiple files that you either generate or collect during the process of recruiting an applicant.
This facility is standard on RMS deployments and has now been made available as an option for Careers Portal and Talent Portal systems. Within both these systems the core system very adequately deals with managing CVs as file attachments and even can be equipped to hold one of two other supplementary files as needed. However some employers wish to have all the files that are part of the recruitment process stored online and thus we have made available this facility for both these product lines.
When dealing with multiple files and files that may be needed at different parts of the process it is important to be able to quickly see at a glance which files are already associated with a candidates application. The module provides additional facilities and allows for larger numbers of files to be stored and managed along with applications as well as making file attachments stand out more strongly within a record..
Some examples of the types of files that may be produced and stored as part of a recruitment process can include:
After a good look round the market we have adopted the ‘www.join.me’ webservice to allow us to deliver online meetings, presentations, demos and to assist us in providing client support. We tried a number of other providers but we chose join.me as our clients and suppliers can use it without having to sign-up, install plug-ins or create accounts. Its also simple, fast, and light.
It is very easy to use, with no complications that get in the way. We know many of our clients place a premium on ease of use and we feel this service certainly delivers on that front. It also supports ipads and tablets, which we know you all like.
We do a lot of creative work for clients. We collaborate with specialist suppliers and we much international work so working and collaborating remotely is a key part of our business. This new facility will help us in some client support situations, for international support and for demonstrations of new features and configurations.
We introduced the Support Portal across all clients in 2012 (initially it was only used with Partner Reseller accounts). Since then it has been the system we use to issue and keep records of invoices we raise for client accounts. The Support Portal is also where we have the online problem management system for sorting out queries and issues and where we store files and resources that you can use with our services.
Since the launch of the Support Portal and its role of issuing and managing invoices we have been asked if it could also show the status of invoices i.e.which ones have been paid and on what dates etc. Following trials, this facility has now been launched for all Support Portal clients including Partner Support Portals . For UK clients, all payments are already recorded against invoices. Clients with Euro, US or NZD/AUD billing have payments recorded from the start of 2013. We hope this service enhancement will assist you in managing your contract/account with us.
We started providing last year as a custom enhancement, the facility to add individual Freetext Application Specific Questions in our Recruitment Management and Career Portal products. We are however taking the step of including this facility as standard on all deployments.
Many clients make extensive use of the scored application question facilities we include. The addition of freetext application questions augments this with the ability to add more lengthy questions and response sections to applications and set these by individual vacancy. Implementations can now have 3 freetext slots per vacancy in addition to the 5 scored question slots. You can add what ever question you wish and vary what you ask by individual vacancy - or you can chose not to ask any and they wont appear in the application form. The response slots enable candidates to make more lengthy responses, the size of which can be determined at organisation level - the default is 1000 characters but you have this amended to up to 10,000 characters if needed. We have also included a facility to provide candidates with a character count so they can easily see how many characters they have left to use. This is enabled by default but you can choose to have your deployment set with this turned off if you so wish.
Our major news this month is the launch of our new corporate site for firstbusinessconnects.com (launched 5.5.12). We have been developing for a while both the design and the facilities included within the site and thanks to the clients, partners and those in our networks who contributed their ideas and feedback.
New facilities include:
We have integrated an easy to use and deploy Content Management System (CMS) with our products to enable clients to update their own web content. We have experimented with various CMS systems in the past and clients have asked us about using particular platforms. We now however have a platform that we believe offers the best combination of security, reliability and ease of use for our clients purposes. The system can now be made available for a very low, no commitment monthly fee in line with our own philosophy on charging and not tying clients into systems.
We are certainly not retreating from our "fair-use" support policy but recognise that clients need to be able to make frequent updates and that in many instances they can easily do themselves and indeed would prefer to do themselves.
If you are interested in being able to add/amend and update your own content please get in touch - click Content Management.
We would like to wish a Merry Christmas to all our clients, suppliers, marketing partners and friends as well as a thank you for their support over the year. It is traditional to offer gifts at this time of year and we would like to offer our direct clients a discount on add-ons available across our range of RMS, Career and Recruitment Portal systems. Any of the following added to your monthly agreement before the end of Jan 2012 will be supplied with 20% off.
In addition to this and completely free of charge do consider reviewing your site content. If you have not added or amended much of your content in the last 12 months now is the time to consider making some changes. Changes within our “Fair-Use” support model are free of charge. We have lots of experience to draw on to help you if you wish to discuss options. Ensuring content is up-to-date typically improves candidate views and response so call us to keep your site fresh.
Our list of add-ons has increased over the year and now includes the following. Click on the images to go to our website for more details or call us to discuss and remember its 20% off if you act before end of Jan.
We have not been immune to seeing more and more mobile phones being launched with internet access. Indeed many clients are seeing a steady increase in mobile usage in site access. We use technology that seeks to render site designs in a mobile friendly way and for many clients their sites will display quite well on mobiles.
If you are interested in this exciting new technology please get in touch - click Mobile Recruiting capability.
Yes, its not a typo, the cognoscenti spell it with a small f… We have offered social network linking as standard in all product generations. However with interest in facebook lately much increased we have added a facebook app. Integrated with a clients own public Portal site it displays their vacancies in their own “app” that can be freely distributed around facebook. In this way you clients get facebook coverage and free advertising from those who distribute and access the “app”.