To .au or not to .au? The changing domain space in Australia and why it's important.

As most local Australian businesses, you probably have a .com.au domain name. In some cases, you might have purchased a .net.au, or if you are an organisation, it would be a org.au.

Australians love to abbreviate words. Here are some you probably heard many times in the past:

  • Arvo (afternoon)
  • Straya (Australia)
  • Footy (football)
  • Macca's (McDonalds)
  • ... the list goes on

Important announcement!

The latest abbreviation and probably one of the biggest is com.au ⇒ .au. These direct registrations to domain names are not a new thing, but they are very new to Australia. They are also called second level domain names or top level domains (as opposed to third level domain names as they are now).

There are many questions and we'll try and answer some of them below.

doman names australia

When will this happen?

This is what the AUDA say (keeping in mind the initial date was set for November 2019)

... the launch of direct registration and changes to licensing rules are now likely to occur in the first half of 2020.

How much will it cost to buy a .au domain name in Sydney?

Prices will be determined by each domain name Registrar, but as you might have noticed, these seem to vary A LOT. Some registars provide high discounts for the first year, only to lock you in for the next year with high fees. Others sell it at a high price, promising things that should be included by default. Do your homework, read the small print, shop around.

Here are some more Q&As from legends at domainer.com.au

Q: What is “direct registration” – and how does it affect you or any other small business?

A: It is the ability to register an Australian domain name at the “second level” instead of the current “third level” e.g. yourname.com.au or yourname.net.au is “third level”; yourname.au is “second level” or “direct registration”. There are many who would welcome this; and equally, many who wouldn’t.

Q: If you currently use a domain name e.g. yourname.com.au, are you guaranteed of getting yourname.au?

A: No. auDA has an allocation process, and there may be other eligible candidates (including Government departments!). (See real life example on their site).

Q: Could a competitor of mine end up with yourname.au?

A: Yes, it is possible. (See real life example on their site).

Q: If I / we choose to be part of the allocation process, is it going to cost me / us money?

A: Yes. Unlike their counterparts in NZ and the UK,  auDA intends charging a fee to anyone eligible to apply for allocation; and this fee could be ongoing year after year until someone “wins”.

Q: Who gets that money?

A: The supply side of the domain name business – auDA, Afilias (the registry operator), and registrars.

Q: Should I / we be successful in acquiring yourname.au, and decide to keep yourname.com.au as well, do I / we have to pay two registration fees every year?

A: Yes. If you don’t pay both, then one of the domain names will expire, and theoretically anybody (including your competition) can pick it up.

Q: How come I / we haven’t been told directly about this proposed process (and all the small print) by auDA or our registrar? They have my / our email address.

A: Now that’s a really good question! A few of us have been agitating for ages for that to happen.

In Summary

There are of course many other factors to consider, even if you do get your own .au domain with the name you want. Is it worth the investment? Will it rank well for SEO? Will it really take off and become as popular if not more popular than the current .com.au?

In all honesty, we hope it will. Simplfying things is something we were always up for, even if some say why simplify for the sake of simplifying.

But the fact is – there is the .US, .NZ, .RU and many other second level domains in the world. In fact, one thing that kept nagging us since as far back as 1999 – why wasn't it a simple .au to begin with?

Keep your eye on the domain names market and visit our blog from time to time.

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and (deep breath)
twitter.com/shtudio not to miss out on the latest news!

As you can tell from our Social Media handle, we are on top of the game when it comes to keeping our name! 😎


Specialist vs generalist in Graphic Design, Website Development and SEO

We work with specialists, while all-rounders run the projects.

Why is this the case and what is the difference between the two?


An all-rounder is someone who can do it all. You will find most one-person companies or freelancers offering services such as logo design, website design and sometimes even SEO.

As an all-rounder, you know enough to do all of the above tasks. In some rare cases, you are actually very good at all of them. But that’s rare, very rare. Some even call it “finding a unicorn”.

You’ve probably dealt with those in the past. Ever wanted to design a website and got to a point where it was like “hitting a brick wall” trying to get your designer to fix or add something? How about a logo that just didn’t have that look you were after?

Enter the world of an all-rounder.

We are not in any way trying to ditch them, in fact these are often rare skills that someone possesses. And this is exactly why all-rounders, also referred to as jack of all trades, make excellent project managers. Who else to better run a complicated project with various stages of design, development and content than someone who knows just enough about each of these steps? For this reason, we love all-rounders! And for this reason, they are responsible for running your projects.

They work directly with specialists, those other types of special people that know everything and anything about a specific topic. The people who don’t say no, or “this cannot be done”. They may, however, say – this will take me a week, ie. this is very expensive.

They are also often a “unique” bunch, the specialists. Dealing with them is an experience in itself and this is often why they tend to stay in the “back end” and not communicate too much with the customers (honestly, it’s best you don’t talk to some of these people directly).

At Shtudio, we love them all.

The know-alls, the specialists, the geeks and the weirdos. The grumpy backend developer, the confused content writer (they also do what?), the tired from constant changes front-end developer and the overly inspired by the client’s imagination graphic designer. But together, as a team – we produce outstanding results, every time.

Every project is done with love and a little bit (a lot) of passion. We are proud of the work we produce and we love seeing our clients being proud of what they get.

Your investment in your business says a lot about you. We spend on ourselves, we buy the best equipment, team up with the best providers, invest in the best software to run the business. This is important for us, and it should be important to you as well, since you are serious enough about your business to come to us.


Atlassian_and_Slack@2x

Slack vs Hangouts Chat vs Microsoft Teams vs Rocket.Chat 2018

Back in 2017, we wrote our own little review on Slack vs Stride (which also mentioned Facebook Workplace). This was big news at the time and we were pretty excited about the new technologies and what we as users may gain from it. Now, less than a year later, this happens.

Which of course means that our old post is no longer valid, it is now out of date. But we do have something new to add here.

slack stride hipchat

News from 2018: Slack buys Stride.

This means that both Atlassian’s HipChat & Stride (that we didn’t end up trialing after all) will be shutting down and the two companies will work together to migrate all of its users over to Slack.

You’ve probably heard of Slack. We’ve only partly moved from using Asana, but never really got into it as a full-time application.

What we love about Slack:

  • Flexibility. You can post all kinds of stuff and make it stand out
  • You can invite users (clients or friends) from outside to work on your project
  • Plugs into a huge amount of third party applications, excellent for collaboration and a big time saver

What we don’t love:

  • As usual, it’s the price, even though free for 10,000 messages, you quickly realise that you run out of space and need to search for old
  • It’s gone down a few times too many over the past month, but this is generally fixed quick (although could be quite annoying at the time)

The one we’ve been using as of 2018 is Rocket.Chat. It’s a lot like Slack, but it’s actually free (as long as you host it on your own server, set it up and support it). As the team grows, so do the costs, so our development partners have made the switch and we are liking it so far.

Google, of course, has one and it’s called Hangouts Chat. Even though we use G Suite and it’s a part of it, we never even tried it. Mostly because, as far as we know it’s only for your team (ie those on your domain). But we like to invite guests/clients to work on projects with us.

And Google UI is horrible, so even if there are better options there – try and find them!

And now Microsoft, not to lack behind, has their own Microsoft Teams. The story is here quite similar as with Google, the UI isn’t great and it looks like an internal only chat app, which isn’t ideal for us. Aside from that, we are not on Microsoft 365 and probably can’t even use this. Or maybe we can, but it’s not very clear at this stage.


google one drive

Dropbox vs. Google Drive vs. OneDrive vs Google One in 2018

Dropbox

1. Dropbox

Our number one choice and has been from day 1 is Dropbox.

Good

  • Quick
  • Reliable
  • Easy to use
  • Never fails
  • Share large files immediately they are placed in your local Dropbox folder (before it even syncs)

Bad

  • Expensive in comparison to others
  • Custom sync (aka Smart Sync) is only available on the Professional (expensive) option

Google Drive

2. Google Drive

Since moving emails to Gsuite, we switched to Google Drive for business. After using Dropbox for years, this one felt (and feels) slow and unpredictable.

Good

  • Affordable
  • Easy to access, especially when used together with Gmail / Gsuite
  • The new Drive File Stream lets you choose what to sync locally and what to keep online (big plus!)

Bad

  • Need way too many clicks to share a file
  • Can’t share a file until it’s fully uploaded (no such issue with Dropbox)
  • Unreliable when heavily used. Here are the type of errors we often get when working with large files in Adobe. Never has such issues with Dropbox. To workaround, we need to save it as a copy each time. Gets pretty damn annoying.

 

One Drive

3. Microsoft Onedrive

Never properly used this one. I guess if you are an Outlook user — this would be the preference over Google Drive. How reliable this is, how well it performs under pressure and so on — you can only tell with heavy usage. It would be unfair for us to judge this without running multiple projects on it for at least 3-6 months.

We signed up to use it as a backup for some small jobs. Priced competitively, cheaper than Dropbox that’s for sure.

Google One

4. Google One

This is brand new. Coming soon – recently announced by Google. We aren’t going to review something that we haven’t used yet, but the specs look good and affordable. However, paying for something that is reliable vs cheap is not an option when it comes to work. This looks like a product for personal use. How does this differ from Google Drive? Who knows, Google loves launching and cancelling products, just Google “google products that failed”.

Eventually, you should be getting something like this:


So it’s not a competitor to Google Drive (obviously), it’s a replacement. Which makes sense, but what about Gsuite owners? And the newly announced Drive File Stream?

Make up your mind Google! Seriously!


unsecure url website

Is your website considered "Not Secure"?

Chrome is killing the "Secure" notification

Right now, in Chrome browser specifically, a secure URL is highlighted in green with a little “secure” symbol. But — not for long.

Come October 2018, a lot will change, according to their blog.

seo services

What does that actually mean?

Well, to keep things simple, unless your website is “secure”, the browser will automatically tell the visitor that your website is Not Secure (in red). It’s not something you want your customers to see, let us make that clear. But — this is happening and will soon be on all browsers, not just Chrome.

wordpress website design

What can I do to fix this?

The good news is it’s a very easy, quick fix (in most cases). All you need is to get an SSL Certificate and add it to your URL.

WTF is an SSL you ask? SSL certificates utilise a public and a private key, which work together to establish an encrypted connection. In simple language, it gives you that “secure” website status.

Need SSL? We can help.

What happens if my website is already secure?

Nothing too exciting. In fact, you will no longer feel so special with that magical “Secure” sign next to your URL. Your website will be secure, by default, meaning there is nothing to show the visitor and it will be just a regular URL.

website developers

new gmail

New Gmail is here

In case you haven’t heard yet, we’ve got some exciting news.

Google has just redesigned Gmail and added a whole bunch of new very cool (and useful) features. You can read more on their blog, but we’ll cover some of the features here.

UPDATE:

We switched back to the OLD Gmail. Can’t rely on something this temperamental. We’ve had emails that simply would not send.

The network was fine and when switched back to the old version, everything worked fine. Will try and New Gmail again when it’s more stable.

Why do we care about Gmail?

As wanky as it may sound, it's because Gsuite (Gmail for business) is the best email you can have for your business.

It’s easy to set up, costs very little and has too many benefits to mention. This post is not about why pick Gmail, it’s about the New Gmail.

Before people get confused we need to explain that Gmail and Gsuite is the same thing. Gsuite is for businesses (using @company.com instead of @gmail.com) and has a bunch of extra features.

Why people even bother with server-based emails that you need to set up on your Outlook with incoming/outgoing server details (that you almost always get wrong or loose) is beyond us. But that aside — read on to learn some of the cool new features in Gmail that you will love.

And by the way, if you do want to try Gsuite, here is a link. We are partnered with them, so talk to us and get a 20% discount on the already low prices.

Try Gmail for Business (for free)
Gmail_Convergence_Consumer_Image_1

Now you can:

  • Hit the Snooze button to put off emails to read later
  • Get “nudged” by Gmail so you finally reply to that email you forgot about (great for some of our clients)
  • Preview attachments, eg photos or PDFs without actually opening the email

You can even access your Calendar, Tasks and Notes right there in the sidebar. No need to open it in a new window, Gmail makes things so much easier to work with now.

Confidential mode

  • The receiver won’t be able to forward, copy, download or print messages (if you choose the option)
  • The other cool feature is that you can make the message expire after a set period of time (something like Snapchat I guess)

Image from Gmail blog
New Gmail is here

Try new Gmail now

Go to Settings (top right corner of your inbox) and select “Try the new Gmail.”

And did we mention a whole new look (with extra security features)? It’s a little bit more like your mobile app, works like a PWA (progressive web app).

Try Gmail for Business (for free)

How to switch to New Gmail on G suite?

It's a lot more complicated than should be. But here are the instructions directly from Google.

G Suite Administrator Help


online renovation

Online renovation — do you need one?

You renovate your home, you renovate your office. So why not renovate your website and corporate identity?

For many of you — it’s the face of your company. For some of you, running a home business, it’s the only part that customers would actually see.


How do you judge a company, without recommendations or reviews? What is the first thing that you do? For most of us, we look at their website, which has important features such as a logo, general layout, images, content and ease of use. Now, what if all or most of the above failed? Do you then look for reviews or try to find their past work? Or are you so disappointed, that you just move on to find another supplier?

Place yourself in your customers’ shoes and follow the above. Now look at your competitor’s website and see if you get a different feeling about what is on offer. How much business would you be losing just due to the fact that your website and branding are out of date? Is it maybe time to redesign your corporate identity? Revamp your website?

The next important question of course – how much do I want to pay?

It’s hard to guess how much something like that would cost you, but you could do a quick calculation and see how much a customer is worth to you, how many may turn away just by looking at your website and then get a rough number based on that. Maybe investing $2,000 instead of $200 is going to bring you 20x more business in the long run? Cutting corners on your digital design & development is like buying cheap appliances and hiring dodgy labourers. It may look ok at the first glance, but then issues start to appear and things begin to break.

We’ll leave this in your capable hands. But think about the renovation. No-one likes to sit in a hot house, with dirty carpets and broken bathroom plumbing.

corporate visual identity
photo credit: Dominic Sagar 16403 via photopin (license)


mobile friendly

Is your web page mobile friendly? Test it today.

Google recently announced that websites that load slow on mobile devices will now get penalised.

Don’t stress too much, you still have about 5 months to get yours up to speed (no pun intended).

Here is what Google actually said:

Today we’re announcing that starting in July 2018, page speed will be a ranking factor for mobile searches.

mobile friendly

Is your website mobile friendly?

Before you check whether or not your website loads fast on the mobile, you first need to test if your website is actually mobile-friendly.

It still puzzles us when we see business owners spend money on SEO or Google AdWords, but their website is not optimised for all devices. Or it’s optimised, but it’s done poorly and the website either breaks or does not load correctly.

Not sure if your website is actually mobile optimised? Google offers a test for that, obviously.

Regardless if your website is mobile friendly or not, it’s the speed of it that’s in question here. Google ranking will be affected if your website loads slow. It could be a simple as a change in your hosting provider that could fix the issue.

My website is going to be penalised?

So what does it actually mean, “penalised”? Basically, we are talking about SEO (Search  Engine Optimisation). If Google search ranking is important to you, then you should pay attention to this. You might be already spending a lot on SEO, but now your efforts may not bring the desired results they did in the past.

Take a look at your website, get your developers to check if there are any plugins, images or widgets that are slowing it down.

Unfortunately, there is no tool (according to Google) to check the speed of your actual mobile website (yet), but Google does have a few things that they suggest.

Here is one test for your website that you can do.


best seo services sydney

Important questions to ask about your website project

Where to begin?

So you are about to get your first website built. Or maybe you are getting your old website redesigned. With the technology changing at the pace that it does, even for us sometimes it’s hard to keep up with everything.

But the more time you spend researching and speaking to various designers and developers – the more complicated everything seems to become. This is what this page is for. We’ve summarised some of the most common questions and mistakes people do and ask, so you get the most out of your project.

Take your time, read the below and please – send us your questions, we are more than happy to answer them for you.

best seo services company

Does your website developer tick all these boxes?

  • Is the company reputable and experienced?

You can check how long they have been in business, thoroughly go through their portfolio and read customers' reviews on various media.

  • Do they have a dedicated graphic designer and web developer?

Depending on how wild your imagination is, you may often hear replies such as "this can't be done". The fact is, it probably can, just depends on the skills of the designer/developer or what alternative solution is suggested instead.

  • Is your email hosting separate from website hosting?

The last thing you want is to miss an email from a client. Website hosting is not the same as email. We host websites on a website dedicated server and emails on Gsuite.

  • Are you given the ability to easily update and/or edit your website yourself?

You can pay someone each time, or you can get access and perform small changes on your own. Training provided.

  • Do you have access to all of your equity, such as domain name, website hosting and email hosting?

When someone buys the domain name on your behalf, one thing you must make sure is that the domain name is registered under your name and you have access to it. You may not need access to your hosting, but you surely want to know where to find information in case you do.

  • Have you been given tracking and analytics access to monitor your website?

After your website is live, it helps to know how much traffic you are actually getting. Setting up something as simple as Google Analytics will do that.

  • Do they have an SEO team?

You may not want to do SEO (Search Engine Optimisation) today, but building a website correctly today can save you a lot of time and money in the future.

  • Are the hosting servers located in Australia? Are they shared?

Nobody liked to wait. You know first hand that if a website loads too slow, you just go to another one. Hosting located outside of Australia, or Australian hosting on a shared server can be frustratingly slow, especially during peak hours.

  • Is there a support team in case things go wrong or you get hacked?

What happens if something on your website breaks? Who updates your Wordpress installs? Who manages your content and backups?

  • Is your website custom designed and coded?

Unless you are told upfront that your website is built on a template / theme, it must be custom designed and coded for you. "Recycling" websites is a common practice to cut costs.

  • Are there content writers to make sure your content is done for Google search?

Getting a professional content writer is important. But what's even more important, is to make sure the content written doesn't just sound good, but also helps with your SEO. Using very technical language, for example, may make you sound like an expert, but nobody would be searching for those keywords on Google.

  • Is your point of contact based in Australia, understands the Australian copyright laws and how businesses in Australia operate? 

You need to have easy access to your developers/designers. You also need to have the trust that they will do the right thing for your business and you won't get unpleasant calls about copyright infringements found on your website.

Stop searching for the unicorn!

Remember there is no such thing as an expert in everything, but in order to build a good website that is worth your investment, you will need an expert at every step. Even though you’ll only be dealing with 1 person on the duration of the project, there will be a team of us working on every stage of your website.

You’ll always be tempted to go for the cheapest option, especially when one company quotes you $3,000 and another $300, for what seems to be the same website. But before you rush into the decision — do your homework, ask questions, find out what differentiates one company from the other. You’ll often learn that it’s the small details on the websites that you may not notice at first, is what will drive traffic to your website, or away from it. If something sounds too good to be true — it’s probably is.

simple logo design

Things to look out for

  • "Custom built websites" that are actually a rework of another one.

You might as well buy a theme, which at least will come with support.

  • A one-man team that is an expert in design, code and SEO.

As rare as a unicorn (you're still looking for one?).

  • Unlicenced themes or plugins.

Can be easily hacked or break your website.

  • Shared hosting.

Your website will work fine only in off-peak, say after 10pm.

  • Free themes.

Often injected with malicious code.

  • Domain names purchased on your behalf, but not under your name.

May not legally be yours. When it comes to renewing them, you may be forced to pay a high price.

  • SEO companies promising to get you on the first page of Google, without doing a full audit.

We see these all the time.

  • Images obtained illegally from Google search or other websites.

We always purchase photos and they start from only $12/each. There are also free photo options for commercial and noncommercial purposes.

  • Hosting that is not located in Australia.

Will slow down your website immensely.

  • Hosting with both email and website hosted by the same company

Unreliable email that is difficult to set up.

  • Contracts or "deals" where you are locked in to pay a fee for a year or more.

Could be costly to get out of.

Treat your investment seriously.

If a website is just a cost to you, then by all means, go for the cheapest option.

But for most businesses, a website is just like any other investment. Gambling with your investment isn’t always a wise decision. Do a quick calculation of you ROI. How much business can your website potentially bring to you? Now, look at the cost of building one. Is it worth paying the extra money and getting something quality? Or would it make more financial sense to get these done cheaply and often?

Nobody knows your business better than you. And at the end of the day – it is your decision.

gambling


stride vs slack

Slack vs Stride 2017

Let’s talk about team communication tools for your workplace. Below are a few of the common apps you might have heard of, as well as a brand new player in the market.

This is not a detailed review or comparison, but more of an introduction of the big players in the market and more so, the launch of Stride by Atlassian.

Because we work with multiple teams, on multiple projects, with multiple clients — we end up using a lot of different tools, simultaneously.  Trying to teach a client to use a new tool has proven to be difficult, so if they say to us “do you guys use Slack?” — we say yes (and it’s true). Or we just stick to email, which works fine as long as there is just 1 person you need to communicate with and it’s a small project. And we track it all, ourselves, in Asana.

Everyone has heard of Slack. We’ve only recently started using it and slowly (or quickly) falling in love with it. After years of using Asana, this somewhat feels refreshing when working with teams on ongoing projects. Asana is great, but mostly for tracking your own projects or just working with your own team (ie. not external clients/teams).

Some of you might have played around with Workplace by Facebook. We have. But only for a day or two. The good thing about it is it has that familiar interface, so if you are trying to get your office to start using it, the learning curve may be not as steep. However, we quickly stepped away from it. And they don’t make quitting easy either, which is understandable, why would you want to make it easy? Make it hard, so people stay!

Hipchat by Atlassian is one tool we use for team communication. Are we happy with it? It’s OK. Not very user-friendly, it works, but we imagine this wouldn’t be the first option for most.

But today (or yesterday), Atlassian launched a brand new tool called Stride. According to a number of sources, this is meant to be a competitor (killer) to Slack.

In fact, as we try and find the URL for Hipchat, we notice that it now redirects you straight to Stride. Being not very happy users of Hipchat, for us this is, potentially, great news. Now let’s just wait and see how the transition takes place and what the new tool offers.

If you wanted to have a more indepth read into Atlassian Stride, here is a good overview by Techcrunch and another one by TheNextWeb.

Have you used it? Do you love or hate it? Share your thoughts with us, meanwhile, we’ll test it out ourselves.