There’s a high chance that if you’re reading this, you work on a computer for most, if not all of the day. Even if you don’t, there’s still a high chance you’re looking at a screen of some kind for the majority of the day. And that makes you tired. More specifically, it makes your eyes tired. Which them stresses the rest of your body. It’s likely a cycle we all know a little too well. We have steps, however, that can alleviate and even prevent this kind of eye strain so that your job and habits don’t have to negatively impact your overall well-being quite so much.
1. Blink More
Okay, so the actual solution is a little more complicated than that, but in the end, blinking more often can really help prevent eye strain. Even those minute flashes where you’re eyes are covered give your brain a chance to rest. And that time adds up over the day. It’s literally why when you’re strained and stressed that you can simply close your eyes and feel an almost immediate sense of relief. (You can actually tell your boss “I’m just resting my eyes, not sleeping at work” and not be lying!)
Additionally, blinking keeps your eyes lubricated. Not blinking means that your eyes will dry out more often. If that’s something that you’ve noticed bothering you, get some eye drops to keep at your desk to moisturize them often. While that is just treating a symptom of the eye strain rather than rooting out a cause, relief is relief.
Unless you’re sure that you can consciously make yourself blink more often than you normally would (spoiler: you can’t), you need to make a few changes in your workstation and habits. While change can be hard, making these changes won’t be. They’re both simple and easy. Many of the other tips will cause you to blink more often as a by-product, eliminating multiple stressors at once.
2. Change Your Font Color, Size, and Family
If you’re a content creator or web developer, you probably know that what font you choose makes a drastic impact on how much eye strain you endure. Many font families are not ideal for constant and repeated use. What looks great in a screenshot or is fine for a 3-minute-read article might not work for an 8 hour shift of programming or writing. Choosing a font other than Arial or Helvetica (blasphemy, we know) might make more of a difference than you know. The kerning, spacing, and even shape of various fonts can increase readability and make it so that you don’t have to work as hard to decipher the characters.
On top of that, color and size (both independently and in concert) can be one of the largest factors of preventing eye strain. If you have a high-resolution monitor, there’s a good chance that your default font size is pretty small. On top of that, a lot of what you’re reading online and in other places might be low-contrast (light text on a light background). When this is the case, our eyes have to work overtime.
So to fix that, you don’t have to lower the resolution of your screen. No one wants you to give up your screen real estate. Instead, increase the default font sizes in your OS, your code editor, and adjust different web pages in your browser to accommodate larger text. (Usually CTRL/CMD and +/- will do the trick.)
3. Turn Your Brightness Down
This one’s tough for some people, us included. Whether it’s a phone screen, laptop, or the circle of computer monitors you have around you, the brightness is probably way too high. While doing so absolutely makes the colors pop and the whole experience generally much more aesthetically pleasing.
But it also strains your eyes at an accelerated rate. You will need to find the balance of brightness that works for you. If the monitors are like lamps in a darkened room, you might have a problem. But if you’re straining to see and the OS appears dim and dull, you’ve gone to far the wrong way. Once you find the right brightness, though, your eyes will be much better off.
Also, if your office or workspace has fluorescent lighting that reflects off of your monitor, you can get screens and filters that you can affix to it so that you can eliminate external brightness and glare, too.
4. Dark and Reader Modes
You also have access to Dark Mode in a lot of apps to make reading easier, and adjusts the brightness on a software level. MacOS and iOS even have them built in. This gives you a darker, less-bright screen with a decent contrast ratio of lighter text on darker backgrounds. It’s easier on the eyes in both daytime and in darker environments. We highly suggest working this way. Dark mode has saved everyone at Elegant Themes a lot of money on headache medicine over the years.
You can also try programs like Dark Reader to make any website or app appear in dark mode, whether they support it natively or not. Also, most browsers (mobile and desktop) have a “reader” mode where the text size, font, and color palette are adjustable with other non-essential elements not rendered. Take advantage of these tools. Your eyes will thank you.
5. Consider Your Posture
Where you are in relation to your screen plays a pretty big role in eye strain, too. Not to mention muscle strain and shoulder/neck aches. You want to be looking at your monitor front-on at eye level. Or, well, slightly below. You shouldn’t have to look up or down to see it. Your neck should be neutral. Keep this in mind when working on a laptop because you’re going to have your head titled down a lot of the time. Not only is this bad for your posture, most screens have a slightly different look from various angles. Colors shift a little, glare hits it differently, and so on.
You will also want to make sure you’re the right distance away from your monitor. You ideally want to be between 20 and 27 inches away from your screen. It differs from person to person because of monitor size and setup. Generally, though, you want to be able to just reach out and touch the screen with the tip of your finger from your neutral sitting position. If you keep it at this distance, you should be able to take the entire screen into view and not have to search all around for points of interest, saving your eyes motion and wear.
Sitting too close to the screen won’t make you go blind, unlike what our parents told us when we were kids, but it can make your eyes work overtime. And that leads to easily preventable eyestrain.
6. Use Everything Anti-Blue
While the jury (read: science) is out on just what effect blue light has on your health and eyes and sleep, the evidence does point toward limiting your exposure to it as being good for your eyes. Most phones these days have a “night mode” which effectively adjusts the color temperature of the screen after certain hours. You can generally adjust them for any hours or intensity that works for you. It may seem a little odd warming up your screen’s overall tone, but you get used to it quickly, and it does make long hours of looking at the screen easier and less taxing.
Additionally, there are blue-light filters that you can hook to your monitor like the anti-glare ones we mentioned above. You can buy special “computer glasses” that supposedly filter out the light, too, which are fine if you wear contacts or don’t need glasses. For those who need prescription lenses, however, you can ask your eye center about getting the lenses covered in an anti-blue light coating that does the same thing. And bonus, sometimes that coating even makes your eyes flash purple to some people. (No kidding. It’s very surreal for them.)
Eye strain might not sound like a big deal, but anyone who deals with it can tell you just how intrusive it can be. If you have never experienced it from spending too much time in front of a screen, consider yourself lucky. But be proactive about making sure that you don’t. And if you’re a constant sufferer like many of us, it only takes a little effort and a few tweaks to make some high-quality adjustments that will make a big difference in your overall wellbeing.
The Wyze camera feels like a scam. While companies like Nest and Amazon sell indoor cameras that cost anywhere from $120 to $200 or more, Wyze Labs is selling its camera for $20 (plus $6 shipping). This seems ludicrous. I was suspicious when I tried out the cameras, but if there’s a major downside, I’m struggling to see it.
Before we get to my experience, let’s get the obvious question out of the way: How can this camera be so cheap? For starters, Wyze Labs licenses the hardware from a Chinese manufacturer for dirt cheap. All Wyze adds is the app (which we’ll come back to later). The service costs are also extremely low. Out of the box, the Wyze camera can detect motion and save 12-second clips using Amazon Web Services, but that’s it. If you want continuous recording, you’ll need to supply your own Micro SD card. Unfortunately, there’s no option to record or automatically backup footage to, say, Dropbox or your own networked storage. On the other hand, that’s one less location you have to secure to keep your footage away from prying eyes.
Combine that minimal feature set and production cost with a thin margin (which Wyze hopes to make up for in high volume) and you’ve got yourself a recipe for a cheap camera that’s surprisingly not crap. Depending on how much you trust smaller manufacturers, it may even be the best choice for monitoring your home.
The Hardware May Be Inexpensive, But It’s Not Cheap
Compared to something like a smartphone, a home security camera doesn’t need much when it comes to hardware design. It doesn’t need to “feel good in the hand” or even look that attractive. It just needs to mount easily and point in a certain direction. On those points, the Wyze Cam excels. The camera’s base is magnetic so you can attach it to a metal surface with absolutely no setup whatsoever. To test it while I was out of town for CES, for example, I attached one camera to the side of my fridge. This gave me an excellent look of the kitchen and nearby office without having to drill holes or set up mounting plates.
If you don’t happen to have a convenient metal surface near where you’d like to mount the camera, it also comes with a sticky pad and a metal plate. Just stick the plate where you want and turn any spot in your house into a magnetic surface to mount your camera. Normally we’d be wary of a stick-on solution, but the camera is so light that it holds remarkably well.
The base of the camera is where the real magic happens on the hardware. With two joints and a rotating plate on the bottom, you can point the camera in nearly any direction. This simple design gives the camera a degree of flexibility that competing cameras can’t always match—and when they can, it’s not as flexible or doesn’t have the same range of motion. For a $20 camera, it has an impressively simple yet powerful design.
The Wyze App Gives More Expensive Competitors a Run For Their Money
Even if Wyze sold its app as a software suite for $20 without including a camera, it still might just be worth it. You can use the two-way microphone to speak through your camera and hear responses. Unlike other cameras, this is true two-way audio, not a walkie-talkie type solution where you have to take turns. You can also save photos or record your own clips (which will be stored on the AWS servers if you don’t have a Micro SD card) in an album.
With a Micro SD card inserted, you can record as much footage as your card can handle. A timeline in Playback mode lets you scroll back and forth through your footage to find the moment you want to see. You can also see a time lapse of all the footage you’ve recorded if you want to get the gist of what happened without watching it in real time.
Wyze also offers several smart features. It can detect motion or sound to save clips (though this can be turned off if you don’t want your footage stored on third-party servers) and creates a timeline of each event. This lets you easily see at a glance whenever something happened inside your home. You can narrow motion detection to certain hours of the day as well, if you’d rather only monitor for action at night. It can also detect smoke or CO2 alarms by recognizing the sound (no smart alarms required) and let you know immediately when something’s happening at your home.
The app interface isn’t always the easiest to use (it would be nice to be able to resize the history timeline for scrolling back through long security footage, for example), but for the included software with a $20 camera, it’s hard to be unimpressed.
Wyze Stores Very Little Data, and Encrypts It All
My biggest question with a $20 camera right off the bat is “What is it doing with my data?” For the most part, the answer to that question is that it doesn’t really collect much data at all. Unlike Nest or Amazon, there’s no option to continuously record video on third-party servers. If you want to store your camera feed indefinitely, you’ll need to supply your own Micro SD card. Your storage will then be limited to whatever fits on that card (with the oldest data being continuously deleted to make room for new footage).
What if you don’t install an SD card? In that case you have the optional ability to record twelve second clips whenever your camera detects motion. According to Waze, these clips use end-to-end encryption, so an attacker that intercepts the footage (or finds it stored on AWS) wouldn’t be able to see it anyway. Clips are also deleted after 14 days unless you save them, so there’s not a huge backlog of footage to pull from. If you’re still not comfortable with that, you can turn off motion detection and no footage will ever be recorded. Again, unless you supply your own Micro SD card.
Finally, there’s live streaming. If you open the app on your phone, you can get a live view of your camera’s feed whether you’re recording or not. According to a Wyze rep on Reddit, the streaming service is provided to Wyze by a company called ThroughTek. The video feed is encrypted so anyone snooping on your video stream won’t be able to see your video, and Wyze has even taken extra steps to make sure that video traffic is only routed through North American servers.
That’s not to say Wyze is without security concerns. Most glaringly, there is no two-factor authentication on your Wyze account. In a world where companies get hacked regularly, this should be mandatory for everyone, but especially an account with a direct video feed inside your home. It’s not quite enough to nix our recommendation (especially since the product is only a few months old), but it’s the kind of thing that needs to be at the top of Wyze’s priority list to fix.
Placing an internet-connected camera inside your home is always going to be a risk. Whether you feel comfortable trusting a company like Wyze is going to come down to personal preference. Personally, the local storage and option to turn off motion detected clips were enough to make me comfortable leaving two cameras trained on my apartment for a week. However, the lack of two-factor authentication on my Wyze account would give me pause if it’s not added before too long.
Wyze Camera Review: The Cheapest Home Security System You’ll Ever FindFor the price, though, you’re making very few sacrifices. Competitors like Nest and Amazon have a more robust feature set, but not by much. They also require ongoing subscriptions for some of their best features, which makes the higher price point for their cameras that much less palatable. If you want to monitor your home for dirt cheap, and you can bring yourself to trust a relatively new company, the Wyze camera might be perfect for you.
Who would have thought, back in October 2010, that Instagram would become the platform that completely changed the way we socialize, shop and interact in 2019. And this is true for both personal accounts and brands.
Now, more than ever before, Instagram is an integral resource to many influencers and businesses. It has the ability to spread a wide reach and influence billions. On top of that, eCommerce business owners are able to unleash the potential of their goods through new features that were announced at Facebook’s F8 conference earlier in May 2019.
In order to make sure you’re up-to-date with the trendiest platform, here are eight new Instagram features to watch out for in 2019.
01. Shoppable tags
This update is mainly geared towards social media influencers (both micro and macro). Known by Instagram as ‘Creators,’ these influencers are used by brands to promote either products or services. Now, these Creators are able to a linked ‘tag’ a product or brand within their post. Thus, by simply tapping on the tag (that displays the name and the price of the article), viewers are redirected to the product’s or service’s page within the brand’s website.
This feature enables a smoother process for browsers to discover what brands or influencers have on offer, along with a better optimization of the conversion process for the announcers.
02. Shop within Instagram
Instagram is perfect for displaying and talking about products or services. But when it comes down to actually closing the circle and buying whatever is being advertised, users have to eventually leave the app to complete the process. Well, not anymore.
Starting with a few selected accounts, Instagram has now released an in-app checkout feature. Previously, influencers had no real way of directly selling to their followers. They could talk about a product in the description of a post and prompt visitors to either click the link in their bio or swipe up on Instagram Stories. This new Instagram feature is a game-changer for influencers. Not only can they show off the brands they represent, but they can also act as a salesperson and drive purchases directly within Instagram.
03. Sharing feed posts in Stories
The platform has (finally) found a solution to sharing content from feed posts into Stories. This is excellent news for brands and small businesses. Imagine you’re an eCommerce store owner selling sunglasses. A customer has bought your glasses and posted a picture of themselves wearing your latest summer accessory. In the description they give a quick word of praise about your brand and tag you in the post. Now, you as the eCom store owner, can utilize this valuable UGC (user-generated content) and directly share that post to your Instagram Stories.
Here’s how to share a feed post to your Stories:
Tap the airplane button below the post (like you would if you wanted to send the post via DM).
Select the ‘Create a story with the post’ option.
Tap it to see the feed post as a sticker with a customized background color that matches the original post. You can then add more features or text to the post if you wish.
All posts that are shared via Stories include a link back to the original post and also state the poster’s name. It’s a great way to show off your clients and further spread the word about your booming business.
04. Interactive stickers in Stories
Users can now add quiz stickers in their Stories. This allows them to ask a question and give multiple choice answers to the viewers. Game players will be able to see if they are wrong or right and brands will be able to see responses in real time.
This feature is an excellent way to interact with your visitors as well as promote your service or product. Questions can be easy and fun or something brand specific. Let’s say you’re a skin care brand – you can ask which ingredient is best for anti-aging. After you reveal the answer, continue with the same train of thought by explaining the formula and showing off your products that include that specific ingredient.
05. New camera design
The selfie-era is here to stay. How do we know this? By Instagram’s upgraded camera design called ‘Create Mode.’ The new camera includes a semicircular mode switcher that makes it easy to find and use the fun filters we all know and love. The main idea behind this update is to make it easier for users to share content without the need for a photo or video. Following the theme of interactivity, users can also add text, stickers and questions to their front facing camera creation.
06. Donation sticker
Considering the amount of people who use Instagram, it’s no surprise that crowdfunding has made its way into the social channel. With the donation sticker feature, you can now raise money for nonprofits straight from within the app.
To get started:
Open up ‘Stories’.
Take or select a picture from your camera roll.
From the stickers selection, choose ‘Donation.’
You can customize the sticker using Instagram Stories’ creative tools.
After it’s live, you can swipe up to see the total amount of people that have donated. Important to note: 100% of the money you raise will go directly to the nonprofit of your choice.
07. Creator profile
In the same way that Facebook released a Facebook business page option, Instagram is now following suite. Insta’s version will be referred to as a ‘Creator profile.’ It’s an influencer’s dream as the profile will give businesses access to an array of insights and in-depth analytics. Some of these include: engagement stats, knowing when your audience is online, and detailed demographic information.
The creator profile also enables businesses or influencers to have access to specific data which shows who followed or unfollowed them as a result of their shared content. The specialized profile allows for DM (direct message) filtering options. Now, creators can rank messages in order of relevance (messages from family, friends or other brands). More control comes with being able to set your preferred method of contact – that could be email, text, call or DM.
However, much like the coveted ‘swipe up’ feature, the creator profile is said to be reserved for accounts with a following of 10K or more.
08. Hiding ‘like’ count
In an effort for influencers and creators to combat a ‘pressurized environment’ according to Adam Mosseri of Facebook, Instagram is testing out the notion of doing away with showing how many ‘likes’ a picture has. The owner of the image will have a total number, but browsers will only be able to see a list of who has liked the image.
The ‘hiding’ of comments seems to be a way to make Instagram a more authentic place where users can connect to their followers without the added pressure of competitiveness. For now, the feature is still in the trial phase. It will be interesting to see how people feel about not being able to ‘judge’ an image based on its ‘like’ success.
One of the most consistent and high-quality publications around, Smashing Magazine works as kind of the gold standard for WordPress blogs. Or technology blogs. Or really, blogs in general. Long-form content that dives deep into each subject they tackle is a mainstay, and even when they have sponsored posts, the content is held to the same standards as their day-to-day work and covers useful topics that just happen to pertain to the sponsor’s niche. Whether you’re a WordPress designer, developer, user, or some combination of all of those, you need to read Smashing Magazine. Stat.
2. The Pagely Blog
You know who understands WordPress? Managed WordPress hosts. That’s just what Pagely is. But their blog isn’t self-promotion at all — it’s a valued resource covering business skills for professionals using WP to make their livings, designers, and more. Their marketing articles touch on topics that many of the best WordPress blogs don’t, so they hit on pressure points you may not even know you need to be pressed. Even their posts on managed WP hosting aren’t tied specifically to them and can be applied to multiple other hosts. All in all, Pagely’s blog is worth a read.
CodeinWP is, as they put it, a hub for WordPressers. Anyone involved in the pressing of words in any way can find something here. The art of blogging? Check. Business acumen and monetization? Yep. Even productivity tips that can make your WordPressing more…well…productive. They also offer neat downloadables every so often (productivity planners and so on), so they really try to be helpful for their readers. They aren’t just in it for the clicks.
4. Cats Who Code
While the title absolutely can mean cats in the general folks or people way, this site was named after actual kitties. That’s a major point in its favor. That said, they also provide fantastic resources to WPers, and not only in the WordPress sphere. They cover ideas in general web development, too, as well as design trends. All of the topics, generally, can be applied to WordPress. I don’t think a week goes by that I don’t click into a CatsWhoCode article at least once.
Not only are they one of the most trusted security plugins in the WordPress world, they also have one of the best WordPress blogs out there, too. When something blows up (not literally of course, but then again you never know with hackers) regarding WordPress, Sucuri will have a blog about it. You should check in occasionally to make sure you’re up to date on the latest threats (and their fixes) to your workspace and livelihood.
Take everything I said above, but replace Sucuri with Wordfence. (That’s a joke.) You can never be too careful when it comes to website security, and having two go-to publications to stay informed is better than having one.
Designed to be accessible, WPLift has a little bit of everything for the WordPress user. If you need to know about plugins, they probably have a write-up. If you want to see about certain themes, again, it’s probably there. They cover security and general tips and even put together guides so that you can be the best WordPresser around. Some of the most lifehack-style WP uses I know came from something I saw on WPLift at one point or another.
Not exactly a blog, ManageWP.org (remember, it’s the .org extension, not .net or .com) is an aggregator of the best WordPress articles that have been published recently. Community submitted and voted on, the best articles tend to make their way to the top across all sorts of different categories. ManageWP is a great way to find some of the best WordPress blogs that you’ve never heard of. They may not be the millions-of-hits-per-day blogs all the time, but if you see it here, it’s generally going to have amazing information.
Published by the top-end managed host, WP Engine, Torque pretty much lives up to its slogan: all the word that’s fit to press. If it’s worth talking about, you can bet that Torque has either written about it — or will in the near future. Daily posts from some of the WordPress communities top names make this one a guaranteed bookmark in your browser. Or entry in Feedly or whatever you use.
10. WP Tavern
Free WordPress news. Free podcasts and free commentary. WP Tavern is one of the top news sources for WordPress because they are fast and accurate with what they report. In general, their community is strong and opinionated, and there can be some fantastic discussions in the comments sections. If you want to keep your finger on the beating pulse of our industry, WP Tavern is where to go.
11. The Layout by Flywheel
If you’ve noticed a trend of managed WordPress hosts having great blogs, it’s because they generally do. Not only is it a great way to give back to their community, but it also helps attract people to their products. Flywheel is managed WP hosting aimed at designers, so their blog, The Layout, targets that same demo. Many of their articles are design best practices, tips to enhance the look and function of your WordPress site, and so on. But they also publish general WordPress tips, too, and a lot are on the technical side but broken down so that non-techies and right-brained people can make heads or tails of them.
12. The Yoast SEO Blog
Yoast is arguably the King of the kingdom of WordPress SEO. If Google (or other search engines) does it, Yoast is on top of it, too. And their blog then explains it all to you in understandable language with videos and tutorials and infographics. With various series being published at different times, you might see an advice column one day, a use case the next, and then an explanation of why Yoast works the way it does the day after that. There’s a running joke on my weekly livestream that I can’t go a week without talking about Yoast and their blog, and there’s a good reason for that. It’s just too good not to share. So here’s me talking about Yoast’s blog again, sharing it with you, too.
If you sell things using WordPress, you likely use WooCommerce. If that’s the case, then you should subscribe to the WooCommerce official blog. Not only will you get development updates and know what’s coming so you can prepare your store, they also publish lots of best practices and business tips that have been tested and tend to work really well with the software.
Pretty much the place for WordPress how-tos these days. If you want to know how to do it in a simple, easy-to-understand, step-by-step way, WPBeginner probably has an article on it. Depending on the problem, their recommended solution may be a plugin to get the job done, while others may be a dive into your PHP files. Either way, when you have an issue, WPBeginner is a great place to see if there’s a solution. And if you can’t find it there…well, you may have just broken the internet.
15. WP Mayor
If you can’t trust a blog that has a mascot with a monocle, who can you trust? WP Mayor is one of the best WordPress blogs because it has a little bit of everything for WordPress users. From beginners to advanced users, the team here has something for you. You may find out about a new plugin that makes your life easier or get a tip that increases your ecommerce revenue three-fold. Additionally, they keep a list of WordPress job boards for you, so if you’re looking for a side gig or even a full-time career, you should consider tossing your vote to WP Mayor.
16. WPMU DEV
You may know WPMUDEV for their great set of premium WP plugins, but did you know they also publish one of the best WordPress blogs, too? Problem-solving is kind of their thing, and if it can happen to WordPress, they probably have a solution for it. And not just a hackey, good-enough solution. But a down-in-the-trenches, in-depth, you’re-never-going-to-worry-about-this-again kind of solution. Their writers will walk you through the steps you need for whatever the task is, and when you’re finished, you can’t not have learned something.
While there are a ton of blogs out there focusing on the everyman WordPresser, WPShout is one of the best WordPress blogs aimed at developers. As you can see in the screenshot, they have quick guides for different topics, free courses you can run through, and they are always posting up new articles with goodies that will keep you clicking. Some of the best posts on WPShout are small commentary blogs that provoke thought and enable discussion, then link out to the article that brought up the idea in the first place. This is a great place to discover so much new stuff that you just have to check it out.
Another managed WordPress host putting out amazing content, Kinsta publishes one of the best WordPress blogs. It contains tips on PHP, back-end development, front-end development and design, plugin awareness, marketing, and even ecommerce. Some of the most intriguing content they do, though, is called Kinsta Kingpin, a series of interviews with WordPress professionals like you. While their normal content is superb, there’s something about these interviews that always makes me excited when I see another one posted. I think you’ll feel the same way.
20. Post Status
Not so much a typical blog as a podcast with really good show notes, Post Status is one of those sites that grabs you and won’t let you go. Run by WP pro Brian Krogsgard, PS has become so much more than just a show or a site. Brian has put together a great community with PS, and he has been publishing and working in WordPress long enough that he has insight into the CMS that many of us only dream of having. He also covers topics that other sites tend to back away from, such as WordPress and Blockchain. Definitely worth a look (and a listen, too).
I hesitated to include this one because it is definitely not the typical WordPress blog. But when I was thinking about the best WordPress blogs around, I realized that I check Make WordPress just as often as I do any others out there. You see, make.wordpress.org is the blog where you see what’s going on with WordPress as it happens. You get Gutenberg updates (in their What’s New in Gutenberg? series), team meeting minutes so you can see what was talked about during the latest design team or community building meeting, and that sort of thing. It’s not really a how-to kind of blog, but if you have even a passing interest in the goings-on behind the curtain, Make WordPress Core is going to impress you
It seems as though user safety and security has been a white hot subject for aeons. It’s certainly always been a popular topic online, and the latest buzzword to learn is “browser fingerprinting.”
A browser fingerprint works much like a physical one. In short, it enables savvy analytics app users to identify individuals simply by studying the information their browsers leave behind when navigating your website.
This post will look at browser fingerprinting in more detail, and discuss when it’s useful and if there are drawbacks. We’ll also talk about how recent data processing laws impact whether you should use it or not. Let’s get started!
What is browser fingerprinting?
Of course, we’re all identifiable from our fingerprint — a unique pattern in the skin on our fingers. Though, you’ll usually only be identified in this way when a crime has been committed, and the police need to match prints left at the scene with a name.
However, this concept of fingerprinting can also be applied to other areas. Because a fingerprint is essentially a unique identifier distinct from your most recognizable elements (i.e. your facial features), the term can also be used to describe the trail of information you leave online.
For example, consider browsing to a website. Unless you’re using a video chat service, there will be no visual elements linking you to that site. However, there are plenty of unique elements that make up your virtual presence, and all it takes is a sophisticated tracker to piece them together.
Usually, these elements fall into two camps:
The former is pretty simple, as they’re part of practically every HTTP request. However, the latter can provide plenty of specific data relating to your browsing patterns. This includes aspects such as your time zone and date, the browser you’re using and the platform it runs on, the system fonts you use, and the browser’s installed plugins.
Individually, these elements might tell you very little. However, when combined, they can make up a fully unique profile of an individual user, known as a device or browser fingerprint.
How is browser fingerprinting used?
In a nutshell, fingerprinting is primarily used for long-term profit-making opportunities — by which we mean ads. Companies that implement this tactic are looking to ascertain who you are, how you browse the web, what you’re interested in, and what you purchase.
By curating user fingerprints, they end up with profiles that can be used to tailor content and ads to each person’s specific tastes. This obviously increases the likelihood that those users will end up spending money.
Browser fingerprinting can also be used in the place of cookies, and is arguably a better option for ad servers. In fact, fingerprinting can effectively reassemble a tracking cookie after it’s been deleted. What’s more, third-parties can track you across the web based on the nature of the data collected.
Of course, for the end user, this sounds like a scary prospect. However, for a business, this presents a potential golden opportunity to earn money.
Is browser fingerprinting a tactic you should use?
As the saying goes: every cloud has a silver lining. However, when it comes to browser fingerprinting, this aphorism is inverted. In other words, the upsides of the tactic are soured by the downsides.
There’s no doubt that browser fingerprinting and its variants are the ultimate in customer profiling tactics. However, it’s slowly becoming a technique that many companies (including Apple) want to see stopped.
End users are also pushing back against browser fingerprinting.
Tactics to strip away any tell-tale information from your browsing history have become popular, leading to so-called “incognito” or private tabs and windows, which includes the slow-and-steady rise of search engines that enable you to search anonymously, such as DuckDuckGo, and sites such as Am I Unique? and Panopticlick, and much more.
Overall, when it comes to whether you should use this tactic, it doesn’t really matter that it’s a useful way to profile your visitors. End users are concerned, which should be enough to stop you in your tracks. Plus, now that some big-name businesses are getting involved by hard-coding ways to stop the practice, there’s little sense in funneling resources away from more traditional approaches.
How does the GDPR impact the use of browser fingerprinting?
You might not be surprised to learn that the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) has an effect on the use of browser fingerprinting. In fact, we may see the tactic evolve, given that websites now need to be transparent regarding how they handle personal data.
The data you collect through browser fingerprinting methods is classed as personal information, and as such has to be treated like any other data passing through your site.
Rather than seeing a specific mention of browser fingerprinting within the GDPR, therefore, you’ll find the various elements referred to throughout the entire regulation. When handled correctly, you can stay on the right side of the law, but you’re still likely to get pushback from your user base.
Use browser fingerprinting wisely
We’ll admit that these are tricky times when it comes to how we communicate with others, especially when their personal data is involved. However, with the introduction of the GDPR, we at least have some legal clarity on the best approach.
Browser fingerprinting has been a common tactic of user profiling for some time (albeit in varying degrees of application). It’s arguably the best way of finding out how your business is being accessed. However, if you don’t take the correct measures to look after your users’ data, the tactic could do irreparable damage.
Never before has digital marketing been more important. As consumers move from physical to digital channels, engaging content marketing and highly personalized real-time digital communication is the foundation for success.
1. Reach Mobile Consumers with Short-Form Video
Consumers are interacting with content on all forms of digital devices 24/7/365. As such, the dynamics of content marketing have changed. Today, content only succeeds if it delivers what each individual consumer wants, when and how they want it.
One of the most effective forms of content marketing is video marketing. In fact, video marketing is one of the few types of digital content that provides the contextuality, flexibility and entertainment value consumers want while they are on-the-go.
Consumers are consuming more visual media content and financial service customers are no exception. Video content is the ‘low-hanging fruit’ for marketers, offering an advantageous way to humanize and explain complex ideas and concepts using short-form entertainment to get these concepts across.
Video is a highly engaging and palatable medium, and incredibly convenient to consume. Two quick and compelling stats to consider. First, according to Insivia, viewers retain 95% of a message when they watch it in a video, compared to 10% when reading it in text format. Secondly, a survey by Animoto discovered three critical stats: four times as many consumers would rather watch a video about a product than read about it, 1 in 4 consumers actually lose interest in a company if it doesn’t have video, and 4 in 5 consumers say a video showing how a product or service works is important.
What is exciting about video marketing is that it combines the best qualities of digital communication, giving viewers the intimate experience of a face-to-face conversation while providing the non-disruptive, ‘on my time’ engagement style that people love about texting and email. What is more exciting is that this form of communication can now be personalized on a 1:1 level, with highly customizable content that stands out and is memorable.
2. Use Live Streaming to Bring Experts to Mass Audiences
You can move beyond traditional scripted videos by tapping into the live-streaming trend to reach targeted audiences. Live streaming allows viewers to engage with your most respected internal experts or popular influencers on a new level. The impact is multiplied when you allow for live interaction in a form of Q&A engagement.
This form of content marketing is especially impactful in the financial services sector. According to Wainhouse Research, a full 44% of corporations are planning to increase their streaming budgets in 2018. In addition, the entire streaming market is set to grow by 20% each year through 2020. It’s not surprising that financial services, in particular, is leading the charge.
Let’s face it – the nuances, advantages and disadvantages of a complex product like a Roth Ira or small business banking cannot be properly explained with a standard 300 x 250 digital banner ad. Research shows that live streamed videos on Facebook Live get viewed 3 times longer than a pre-recorded video. In addition, a study conducted by Livestream and New York Magazine found that when it comes to brand content, 82% of people prefer live video to social posts, and 80% would rather watch live video than read a blog.
As an added bonus for marketers, data can be collected to gauge individual level of engagement and help optimize and personalize future marketing efforts. Instead of hoping your customers will travel and/or spend money to hear from your key financial experts or popular influencers, why not shift to online conferences and presentations, where they can attend at a time and place that’s convenient to them?
Finally, live video streaming is, by its nature, highly transparent. Viewers can engage with your internal expert or outside influencer in open conversation handled in real time. If you’re looking for a compelling way to build trust with your audience, a live video is a great place to start.
3. Build a Library of On-Demand Webinars
Webinars are becoming the unsung hero for financial brands. They not only draw a captive, deeply engaged audience (the average amount of time spent with a webinar is 57 minutes), they also compliment topics, such as financial service products, that are complex or detailed in nature and provide the education required to convert a lead.
These virtual learning environments are, in essence, a modern, immersive educational experience that can tap vast repositories of content with custom-created elements that can be changed, updated and switched out in real time. They can also be promoted to the right customer or member at the right time, through the right channel using targeting insights built from internal data and advanced analytics.
For example, take a look at Vanguard, who built a library of webinars to engage and teach customers about retirement, investing and estate planning. This library allows customers and prospects to browse and view webinars at their own pace, delivering insights on the topics that truly interest them.
Other companies are using webinars to showcase their well-known internal (or external) experts and as a way to drive traffic to additional content and services. For example, Wells Fargo takes deep dives on personal subject matter like post-college planning, and conduct live virtual seminars on retirement planning and diversification strategies allowing robust two-way interaction – a feature not found in typical static one-way marketing communications.
4. Don’t Forget Mobile Marketing
Last, but definitely not least, in-app marketing provides the opportunity to deliver highly personalized messages and offers using a channel many customers and members access every day – their mobile banking app. Customers and members are just like everyone else … glued to their smartphones. And, they’re not just checking Facebook and texting friends – the number who are banking, making transactions and trading via mobile devices continues to grow.
According to a survey from Bank of America, the number of Americans using a mobile banking app has risen in one year from 54% to 62%, including 75% of Millennials, 66% of Gen Xers, 47%of baby boomers and 40% of seniors. So, it bears repeating, regardless of what content, messaging or offers you are delivering to your prospects, leads and clients, if it is not optimized for every mobile platform, you can guess what will happen. That prospect will simply move on, with lightning speed, guaranteed.
On the other hand, with increased use of advanced analytics to process internal and external data insights, the financial services industry is an enviable position to be able to reach their base in through either a mobile banking app and/or text. And there is virtually zero cost to do so.
With fintech set to grow by 55% through 2020, according to Technavio, and individuals flocking to digital wallets and smartphone credit card readers, all while consuming vast amounts of content on their personal devices, don’t be left in the dust while your competitors find your customers where they live – in real time.
In 2018, it is more important than ever to stand out from the overload of marketing noise, folding these four digital tools into your marketing mix. Each will allow you to better reach your targets through the mediums and channels that are already part of consumer’s busy lives. Focus on the methods that create robust engagement, open conversations and a personal touch, all while providing the scale you need.