Roberts Raw!

› archive for ‘Site’


Worried About Heartbleed?



There's been a lot of talk in the news this week about a nasty computer security exploit called "heartbleed." And for good reason. Heartbleed is a major security issue that affects most of the web, pretty much any site you use that offers SSL security. You know, when your address bar gets the little green safety indicator:



Not getting too technical, but the major concern heartbleed presents is that not-nice people could use it to get access to your personal information, regardless of the security put in place on the server.

As soon as Roberts found out about this exploit we went to work fixing it (some of you may have noticed our site down a little while yesterday while we did so). And Roberts has been heartbleed-free as of yesterday morning.



We do not see any evidence that any of your data was affected by this vulnerability, but like everyone else online we would urge you to update your passwords for our site when you get a chance, just to be safe. We do not store any credit card or other financial data on our server, so you're good there. We will be continuing to put additional measures in place to help protect your data going forward. We want you to always feel safe shopping at Roberts, and will always do our best to be able to protect your data. We leave you now with a comic about it, if for know other reason than to add a bit of levity to what's proven to be a pretty serious concern for everyone on the internet.

I looked at some of the data dumps from vulnerable sites, and it was ... bad. I saw emails, passwords, password hints. SSL keys and session cookies. Important servers brimming with visitor IPs. Attack ships on fire off the shoulder of Orion, c-beams glittering in the dark near the Tannhäuser Gate. I should probably patch OpenSSL.


Want More Eyeballs on Your Pictures?

As of this past fall we have a newly minted motto here at Roberts: Your Vision. Your Camera Store. And part of our reasoning behind choosing that is we don't want to just be guys who sell camera gear and that's that. It's easy to be about gear. Gear is shiny, gear is cool, and, let's be honest, gear has a tangible price (and that keeps the bean counter happy). But, truth be told, all the gear in the world actually exists for one purpose: to make pictures. To capture those fleeting moments of life and capture them as photographs, as videos.

Gear's great, but it's what you do with it we care about. Your vision. What you see, what you do, and what you capture. We love it. We love seeing it, we love making it happen, and, we love helping you show it to the world.


That's why we have a Flickr group, The Friends of Roberts, and why we show recent photos from that group on our homepage at all times. We may not be those big guys out in New York, but we're still talking more than a thousand pairs o' eyeballs a day sort of exposure here, if you're wondering.



So, if you ever want some extra exposure for yourself, don't be shy. Getting on the Roberts homepage is easy. You just need a Flickr account (they're still free, after all), and then you just have to share some photos with our group here. You can submit up to 7 photos a week to it, and as you can see we show the newest 16 on the homepage at any given time. It's just another way we're showing our commitment to what you are about, and what your vision is. Gear is great, but what we really love is seeing where you take it, what you do with it, and what it's like to see what you see. Care to show us your vision?


Roberts Charges Tax For Georgia Now

Sorry for the delay in CES catch-up, I had to do something unexpected: set the site up to charge sales tax for Georgia. We hate to do it, but because of our Used Photo Pro expansion efforts we find ourselves needing to do so, so, all you Georgia citizens will now be assessed a 6%, 7%, or 8% tax depending on your location. Again, we're so sorry to have to do that, but we figured it'd be better if we let you know upfront to expect that. If there's one thing Americans hate, after all, it's unexpected taxation.

More CES announcements to resume in 3...2...1...


Let's Do The Time Warp (Again)

As I'm wrapping up the straggling loose ends of our 2012 UI refresh, I think it's time once for another of those retrospectives I'm so fond of. But, hey, I think it's impressive seeing just how far we've come since this "internet" thing came along and redefined how the whole world does its shopping. Combined with our wonderful mail-order department, our website has helped move us from being the best little shop in Indianapolis to one of the best shops you can order from anywhere in the US. And, while my time at the helm so far doesn't yet account for even half of our online history, I've spent some time trying to keep a record of our progress along the line, from a simple, custom-built web solution to the massive 14,000+ product site we are today. So, to bore you to tears this post-holiday Tuesday, here's a brief history for my amusement.


I was only able to partially recover this from the WayBack machine, and honestly, I'm impressed it had this much left to show. But here you can see the earliest online face of Roberts left recorded anywhere. Anyone have any idea what camera that was before it got the black badges of anonymity treatment?

2006 & 2007

Skipping ahead a half decade, I was able to coax the WayBack Machine into showing me what the site looked like the day I hired in. Oh memories. We still had a Bloomington store! (Fun fact: our current url, was originally used for the Bloomington store, while indicated the primary trio of downtown, Carmel, and mail-order). We still had the classic Roberts "pillow" logo, with the "Since 1957" above and the bullets in the R's foot. Things were in our traditional red, gold, and gray motif. A year later, things didn't look much different except I was still working on a style for the homepage ads. Most of my first year here was spent doing data entry and cleaning up our product information (a torch which has been passed twice now, but which still takes up hours and hours of time every week).

2007-2008 Redesign Concept

Finally, around 2007 and early 2008 I got tired of the broken tables in the long-standing design and how hard they made it to update the site and not have it look... er, broken, I began mocking up what Roberts might look like in the future, the results of which were this sketch. Note the first appearance of our "glass" logo, and the introduction of the tab-and-scoop header (a theme that we would stick with for many years.) You can also see the category icons, which had always been inside the actual store pages, finally brought out front to the main page.


By the time that sketch became a reality, it had received considerably more visual gloss. And user accounts! I also like the faint "51" behind the logo, with the curve of the 5 forming the scoop for the upper menu tier.


The 2009 update was little more than a refresh, visually. But, the second menu tier has finally been devoted to product category drop menus, which is true still today. And, the homepage finally sports a featured banner rotator, and a grid of highlighted products (which was originally updated manually. We've since gotten smarter and automated the grid.) You can also see the ill-fated and short-lived "Need Help?" button in the top right, as we first experimented with bringing our famous in-store help to the web via a series of informative articles. This feature would eventually be replaced by more inline, as-it-is-needed advice, and by this here blog, which we brought in-house in 2009 as well, originally looking like this:


The beginning 3/4 of 2010 saw once more just a very superficial design refresh, with a double-rounded top header and darker background under the implied page. Our Free UPS Ground Shipping promotion had become a mainstay, and got its own box underneath the account box. The featured box has been cleaned up greatly as well, and the scoop has finally been replaced with our featured department buttons.

Last quarter 2010 marked the biggest change in our site's history, as we migrated everything from our custom solution to a more modern, robust, PHP-based solution. Above you can see a sketch for the new start, which broke free of the long-standing tab-and-scoop interface in favor of a more browser-filling site with full-width horizontal headers and footers. I was becoming more and more influenced by the design language no-longer called Metro, and was trying to embrace flatter graphics and more focus on content and less on chrome. It also made use of an implied search bar, utilizing the existing white bar trapped between a search button and the featured section buttons. I loved it, but a significant amount of users didn't recognize it as a search area, and so I admitted it was unsuccessful design and fairly shortly restored a more traditional search box in that area.


2011 saw only light updates to the main site, which had turned out surprisingly close to the original proposal. But, we do have record of the 2010-2012 Raw redesign to match the relaunched site.

In addition to the social icons, the Raw redesign featured the new sidebar modules, including the very visual "What's Hot" section to help infrequent visitors see something new and interesting on their visits.

Oh, yeah, and we launched our first mobile site. But, really, how big a deal could that have been?


And that finally catches us up to 2012, where the big thing to see is we've finally embraced the ever-increasingly "flat" look of our new identity, and gone back to a version of the traditional logo and calmed all our gradients way down. And, of course, Raw and the mobile site got bumps to reflect it.


New features of note include our recently-launched Used Photo Pro service (and the added search toggle for only used items to match), and the new Product Finder to help you make sense of the mess of modern cameras by filtering down based on the most important aspects, plus your budget.

So, there's 12 years of (abridged) web history there. It's also 55 years of Roberts history now. Where will we go next? I dunno. That's half the fun, really. But, what I do know is, where we go will be where you need us to. We're always listening to the feedback we get, and trying to tailor our online experience to make it as easy as can be for you to find what you need. Yup, all your feedback. Yes, even the search. We're currently working on some new methods to help improve our search, which has been increasingly sketchy under the weight of the thousands and thousands more (badly, engineer-named) products we've been adding during my time here. It's harder than it sounds, and it's taking us a while to get it right, but, rest assured, we won't stop until we do. That's just how Roberts works.


Roberts Camera No Longer Under DDOS

Hey everyone! We just wanted to take a little time here to talk to you about last week. As many of you probably noticed, our sites were down for most of the week, from Sunday through Thursday. Turns out, Roberts and several other camera retailers were slammed by a fairly massive Distributed Denial Of Service--or DDOS--attack. For any of you less tech-savvy folks out there, what this means is that some people with a bunch of hijacked computers flooded our servers with traffic. So much traffic, in fact, that all legitimate traffic was unable to get through, and eventually our server ran out of resources and ground to a halt. What it wasn't was us getting hacked, so far as we can tell at this point the only malice that occurred was the online equivalent of too many people trying to squeeze through a door at once.

But, we want you to know that while we're back up now, we're not done following through on this. We've been busy working on putting methods in place that will prevent this in the future. We're following up with the proper authorities and channels. We're doing a lot, and we're doing it for one simple reason: you. This attack was aimed at us, but you're the one's who suffer for it. Five days of interrupted business is nothing compared to the fact that we weren't able to follow through on our dedication to just plain old being there for you when you need these things. That's an aspect of our business that we've prided ourselves on for over fifty years, and plan to continue priding ourselves on for over another fifty. And it's all because we're here for you, and as long as we have so many awesome people to be here for, we'll be able to do whatever it takes to get through any hard spots. You make that possible. Thank you.

And, we're so very happy to be back up. You can't even know...



Roberts Gearing Up To Go Mobile

We live in the mobile age, no doubt about it. According to some Pew research numbers from this summer, about 40% of American adults have what should be called a smartphone. And that number keeps going up. More and more people are browsing the web from their phones as a result. And, while we love our current web site, and think we've got the best looking one in our business, we got that by tailoring the experience for modern desktop browsers. If you've tried using our site on a mobile device, you might notice that things work less well on a 3-4" screen that needs you to click things with your fingers.

So, we've been working hard for a little while in the background now to fix this by designing mobile versions of our sites specifically to how people use smartphones. We've spent a lot of time trying to make sure every reasonable feature you'd want from the desktop site is still there, but we've reorganized everything for a vertical flow, and optimized all the interactions to use big, easy to hit buttons, and not teeny-tiny little links. We're working to make a mobile experience that goes beyond the sterile, drab, clunky one most sites offer, with confusing layouts and loads of missing features, and to make you a mobile site that feels just as powerful as our actual one, and just as intuitive as a well-made app.

And, we think we're getting close. We've got some beta testers going over things right now, and you can expect to see these go live in the coming weeks. But, until then, how about some screenshots from an actual mobile device to show you what's coming up?


Wednesday Used Highlights - Two New Categories!

For those who were paying attention last week, we've got two new categories in the Used section of our website. Those being Scanners and Large Format and don't think we made 'em to leave 'em empty.

We have two scanners - the Super Coolscan 4000ED (pictured right) and a Super Coolscan 9000ED.

In the Large Format area we've got Graphic View II.

If you're looking for medium format lenses, we've got some too - a Hasselblad C 80 f/2.8 for example.

Or perhaps you've been seeking a 105mm macro for your Canon but your budget is under $400? We've got a Sigma 105mm  2.8 for EF mount here for you.

What about that caption contest? Check it after the break.


read more


Wednesday Used Highlights - 04/06/2011

Nikon AF-S 500mm F/4 D

Orange clamp sold separately

Step right up, folks! Check out the Used department highlights for the week:

Pictured left - a Nikon AF-S 500mm F/4 D in BGN condition.

An all new (ha ha) category in Used - the Lighting and Studio category - temporary home to a Dynalite M2000X power pack among other packs and heads.

We've added some BGN rated medium format Bronica and Mamiya gear to the Medium Format used folder.

Next week should have us introducing another new category and highlighting some more rockin' gear.  A special photo after the jump...

read more


Used Gear Highlights for Week Ending 03/26

Mmm, translucent mirror technology...

Welcome back, folks. I'd like to point out a few pieces in our used department just waiting for a good home.

We've a Sony SLT A33, the intro model featuring their Translucent Mirror Technology.

A Nikon AF 20mm f/2.8, sure to please your wide-angling inclinations.

If you missed Canon's rebate program- you can still pick up a 24-70 2.8L for less than $1400.

And should you find that the AF-S 70-200 VR II too expensive, we've got the previous model here.

Also, there's a real good lookin' EOS 1D Mark II N waiting for someone to appreciate its 45 auto-focus points and 8 frames a second.


Used Gear Highlights -Middle of March

Maybe I should submit this to the photo contest...

Maybe I should submit this to the photo contest...

I've been working with Scott in the Used department at getting more of our used gear onto the website. There are photos!

I'm going to be highlighting the more exciting items here on RAW weekly on Wednesdays. This week we've got a (holy crap!) Seagull 4A-105.

We're still offering our Sony NEX-5 with 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 and HVL-F7S flash for people looking to get in on the sweet, sweet Interchangeable Lens Compact action on the used.

For folks with mini-DV tape to burn, we've got a Canon GL2 for under a grand.

And if you're looking for a standby of the standard zooms...check out the Canon 24-70 f/2.8 L