Some of the more eagle-eyed amongst you will have noticed that PaulJardine.co.uk is now rocking a shiny padlock in my address bar.
This is because I’ve installed an SSL certificate. This means that any data passing through the website gets encrypted which protects my visitors (AKA you!) from any unsavoury characters who might want to intercept that data.
You can easily spot a website with SSL (or Secure Sockets Layer if you’re a boffin) because the web address starts with https:// instead of the regular http:// and will always have a padlock.
So why did I get one? There are several advantages to running SSL which I’ve decided to talk about today.
Having a secure website means that it is safe to fill in any forms without fear of having any data stolen.
Online shops that allow customers to pay by credit card on-site (as opposed to paying externally via a secure third party payment tool such as Paypal) should absolutely have an SSL certificate (at a minimum on the checkout page) to keep any payment details secured.
Likewise, when building the new Teenage Market website, which allows users to login and manage their profile, we installed an SSL certificate to ensure any personal information entered by our users remains encrypted.
Increased Credibility and Trust
With increased security comes an improved level of trust between a website and its users.
If you are running an online shop you technically only need the SSL certificate applied on the checkout and payment pages (ie. the pages where customers enter their personal and bank data). However, I feel that encrypting the entire website definitely acts as a badge of honour that you take protecting your customer’s data seriously and will enhance your reputation as a legitimate business.
Making a good first impression in this way means they are more likely to feel comfortable using your website (and buy stuff!).
When building the North Western Models eCommerce website, the owners wisely opted to install SSL across the entire website to boost credibility and trust with their customers.
Another benefit of installing an SSL certificate is that Google now prefers secure websites over those without an SSL certificate. Granted at the moment it’s only a small factor in determining search rankings, but it will still give you a minor advantage over unsecured rival websites.
The website I built for The Hive Bakery allows users to order cakes for collection. It’s important that this website utilises SSL so customers trust that they can safely enter their personal information to make an order as well as their payment details.
Some Things to Consider…
So SSL certificates sound pretty sweet! Obviously there’s a couple of drawbacks:
Possible Reduced Load Speed
From a technical standpoint, one downside is that running SSL will slightly slow down your website load time as the server, sending the website, and the browser, rendering the page, have to work harder to decrypt the data whilst the page loads.
Also, if your website uses a CDN (Content Delivery Network), not all servers support them using SSL, so you have to choose a hosting platform that does.
However, if you’ve got a decent server from a good hosting provider this shouldn’t be a problem. PaulJardine.co.uk loads the home page in less than half a second with SSL turned on, which is very speedy!
The bigger issue for many people is that SSL certificates cost money, which can deter smaller businesses like the nice folk I like working with.
However, in recent times prices have been much reduced, particularly with the introduction of Let’s Encrypt. Mine actually came included as part of my new hosting package so it’s important to shop around.
Other hosting companies I’ve used offer a basic SSL package (there are various levels which I won’t cover here) for around £50 a year, which is suitable and affordable for small businesses.
Should You Get an SSL Certificate?
I feel the benefits are well worth the investment. I personally got one for the increased credibility as it’s obviously beneficial for me as a front end developer to understand the importance of web security! I’m also interested in how it affects my search engine rankings over time.
In short, if you’ve got an online shop you should get an SSL certificate to encourage trust from your customers. You absolutely need one if you take payment via your website or you are risking serious trouble!
If you’ve got a lot of forms on your website where users enter personal data, you should also invest to keep the data private and secure.
If you need help installing an SSL Certificate on your website, please feel free to get in touch!