Ask Dr. Webbie
Is there an Internet question you'd like to see answered in a future edition of Website Compass? Email your question to DrWebbie@WebsiteCompass.com.
To assist him in answering your question as specifically as possible, be sure to include the following: the name of the browser you are using (i.e. Microsoft Internet Explorer 7.0, Firefox 2.0, etc.), the name of the email software you are using (i.e. Microsoft Outlook Express 6.0, OS 10.4 Mail, etc.), and the version of your system software (i.e. Windows 98, Windows XP, etc.)
QUESTION: Do you have any tips on how to get my internet browser to work more quickly?
Yes, there are some simple things you can do which may improve your browser's speed and performance. The specific steps will vary depending on which browser you use — do a Google search on your browser and version — but here are the basics:
- Clear your browsing history. Internet browsers store information about each website you visit. After a few days, that data can begin to slow down how fast pages load. So it's a good idea to periodically delete your history.
- Pare down your bookmarks. Yes, bookmarks are handy for frequently visited websites. But to improve browser speed, limit yourself to 20 or so bookmarks (some browsers call them favorites).
- Empty the cache. All browsers save temporary files to avoid downloading certain parts of webpages repeatedly when they haven't changed between visits, such as logos and other images. These are stored in the browser cache and they can sometimes be responsible for a website not downloading correctly.
- Check for malware. Online malware is a common cause of slow web browsing, since it can interfere with the way webpages download and appear. Make sure your anti-malware software is updated to help keep your computer safe.
While we're on the subject of browsers, it's important to stay on top of updating yours, both for performance and security reasons. To find out which browser version you're using currently and if it's outdated, visit updatemybrowswer.org.
QUESTION: Sometimes when I visit a website, a little window pops up and asks if I have questions or need help. What are those windows called?
What you're describing is called a chatbot. It's a computer program (and low-level form of artificial intelligence) that mimics intelligent conversations with humans, usually through audio or text. A company may use a chatbot so that instead of having you search for information on its website, you can interact with a chatbot to find what you need more quickly.
Chatbots are normally put in place to answer simple questions such as ones involving basic product or company information. In some applications, however, chatbot conversations can be combined with actual humans to answer more complex questions.
An amazing thing about chatbots is that they can get "smarter" over time, learning from previous conversations to gradually become more and more effective. In other words, the more knowledge a particular chatbot gains, the better able it will be to answer future customers' questions.
Many big-name brands, such as Uber and Sephora, are now using chatbots to interact with their customers. Since chatbots are becoming a powerful marketing tool, you can expect to see more of them during your time online.