Magento Master Miguel Balparda shares his insights into the Magento ecosystem from 2019’s Magento Imagine event. See where this year took him and what he sees Imagine looking like next year.
After a week of rest, it’s time for our Magento Imagine recap. This was my fifth Imagine — and probably the last one as we currently know it…
Pre-game at the Git
This year the event started at 9 a.m. on Saturday with a 2-day contribution event organized by the Community Engineering team. Now in their second year, these contribution days have become an Imagine centerpiece, featuring community-created code for Magento 2 and a steady growth of +100% YoY.
This year, it was organized as a side event in the Country Club at the Wynn, where developers from around the globe gathered to code and contribute to Magento 2, DevDocs, graphQL, Multi-Source Inventory (MSI), among many other GitHub projects. As a maintainer, I love Contribution days because I meet people I had previously only known online and work with them to make Magento even better.
Work began with a new Adobe Stock + Magento 2 integration, a small project to kickstart the collaboration between Magento and Adobe. See GitHub for details.
Contributing wrapped at 5 p.m. Sunday, and I headed to #preimagine at the Encore. Once again, WebShopApps and ShippersHQ organized an awesome community event with beverages and fun with friends, both old and new. See all the action at #preimagine.
Day 1: Yoga, Secrets, and Clubs
Monday marked the official start of the conference and I attended MageYoga with Wagento, Hostdedi-supplied mats, and our fearless instructor Vijay. After practicing the basics, Vijay led us into some Laughing Therapy to kickstart the conference experience.
After Yoga, I headed to the super-secret Magento Masters Breakfast, where we had the chance to talk with Adobe and Magento executives and managers over omelettes and coffee. This is one of the side events I enjoy most: a quiet place to talk with industry leaders about topics affecting the future of our community. The ever-present progressive web app (PWA) discussion made an appearance. However, most of the talk revolved around Adobe’s interest in feedback from the open source community and the possibilities of integrating Magento with Adobe products.
Afterward, the Sponsor marketplace opened to a flurry of presentations. While these are often worthwhile, I stayed on the “hallway track” to meet colleagues and talk about the present and future of Magento 2 development. This was by far the biggest Imagine (in attendees), and I didn’t want to miss my chance to exchange knowledge with both new and familiar faces.
This year saw the adoption of Labs track from other Adobe events, where people can get their hands dirty with some of the new products. Magento and Adobe employees together played host.
As the sun began to set on Monday, I headed to Topgolf for #NexcessLive. There are no words to describe this incredible event, so here’s a video!
Day 2: Masters of the Universe
Tuesday morning, I headed to the Keynote to hear Philip Jackson again as well as attend the Magento Masters award ceremony. I had the honor of standing on stage with 19 other Masters, and in lieu of a theme this year, we rolled with capes.
I spent the rest of Tuesday afternoon meeting with our clients and partners in our suite, and again PWA was a hot topic. Since the release of PWA studio, plus some community initiatives like Deity Falcon and VueStorefront, the Magento community has continued to see a rise in early adopters. As we heard during one of the keynotes, multiple developers and agencies (Inchoo, JH, and others) have been working on PWAs. Our own system operations team has been creating an PWA-optimized hosting environment while working in close collaboration with other Hostdedi teams.
Tuesday night, I attended the annual Legendary Party at The Encore, giving us another chance to interact with developers from everywhere over drinks and music. Once again, I was grateful for the chance to attach faces and voices to the pixels on Twitter and GitHub. If you have ever have the chance to attend, don’t pass it up!
Day 3: Imagine Reborn
Wednesday started slowly, but the event wasn’t over just yet. Marketplace was open again with the final swag giveaways and people buzzing the corridors. After a healing breakfast, we headed to the last keynote, where they announced Magento Imagine will continue as part of Adobe Summit, just like Marketing Nation from Marketo was included in this year’s Summit.
We also got a look at Sneaks, where Magento shares short demos of future technology. This year’s lot included AR, VR, and customer-engagement tools, among many other cool glimpses of tomorrow’s commerce.
After the announcements. only DevExchange remained before lunch and the goodbyes. Now in its fourth year, DevExchange is a space to exchange opinions on various topics around the Magento community. This year’s all-around attendance was record-breaking — beer and nachos probably didn’t hurt — and I was fortunate enough to lead a discussion about working remote.
DevExchange soon wrapped. Like every Imagine, I left Vegas exhausted and slightly dehydrated, but cozy after meeting again with our extended Magento (and now Adobe) family.
Hope to see you all again next year at Adobe Summit, and may you never miss a step in 2019!
A content-heavy site is about more than just creating content. It’s about managing it. Site owners need to ask themselves what type of user experience they want to deliver. This article will look at two distinct options on the market: Craft CMS and WordPress.
WordPress, the most popular CMS around, is free and open source. Originally forked from b2/cafelog in 2003, WordPress quickly saw large adoption from the blogging community. Over time, the platform has grown and increased its functionality and accessibility. However, at its core, it is still a blogging tool.
Craft CMS, while having a basic free version, is not open source. Similar to WordPress, it was originally forked from another CMS: ExpressionEngine. It has since seen good adoption by users, but requires a knowledgeable developer to take full advantage of its functionality.
As we consider the differences between the two CMS, this article will answer:
Why use Craft CMS?
What makes WordPress a powerful blogging tool?
How much does Craft CMS cost?
Where can I find WordPress templates and themes?
Which CMS offers the most in terms of functionality?
Is Craft CMS popular?
What are the Craft CMS plugins?
Does Craft CMS or WordPress have eCommerce functionality?
How can you check Craft CMS and WordPress performance?
In terms of numbers, there is a significant divide between Craft CMS and WordPress. This isn’t surprising when you consider that WordPress is known to hold over 32.5% of the CMS market.
A quick comparison of the number of sites shows that Craft CMS does not even amount to 1% of WordPress sites globally. For many Craft CMS users this is actually an advantage.
As we’ll explore in more depth throughout this article, there is a distinct reason why Craft CMS sees a much smaller percentage of the CMS market. That reason translates into unique sites and valuable functionality you can’t achieve with WordPress.
* Requires a hosting solution, which normally starts at around $29 per month.
Craft CMS vs WordPress: Pros and Cons
Craft CMS Pros
As we’ll talk about in the performance section of this article, Craft CMS is incredibly lightweight due to a set of coding standards enforced by the Craft CMS team.
It offers great commercial features
Due to it being both lightweight and packed with functionality, Craft CMS is the perfect platform for running a commercial site.
Everything is tailored by the developer
Due to the way Craft CMS is set up, everything created is often custom made by the developer. This means access to a truly unique site that will stand out from the crowd.
Craft CMS Cons
High barrier to entry
While Craft CMS offers incredible customization options, it also has a high barrier to entry. It lacks 1-click installs and requires a knowledgeable developer to get a site off the ground.
It can be expensive
If using advanced functionality, Craft CMS sites can become expensive. While a free version is available, if you’re creating a professional site for a client, you’ll need to use the pro version, which starts at $299.
WordPress is a free, open source CMS. This includes the vast majority of plugins and a large selection of themes.
It has a huge developer community
Because WordPress powers over 32% of the internet, it has built up a huge developer community. If you end up needing something custom designed for your site, it’s not that hard to find someone to help.
It comes with a 1-click install
You can easily install WordPress with just a click of a button. This means you can get started in as soon as 5 minutes.
It is frequently targeted by attacks
This is not to say that WordPress itself is any more vulnerable, but rather the sheer size of its user base is so large it’s targeted more than other CMS.
From its core up, WordPress is more bloated than some alternatives; especially once you start installing multiple plugins.
It lacks some page customization
WordPress was built as a blogging platform, and in that area it excels. However, when it comes to designing pages, page builders are often needed to create unique designs.
Design and Themes
“Themes are for wussies”: so says Craft CMS. If there was ever a bolder statement with regard to the lack of support for out-of-the-box functionality, we would like to hear it.
Despite this, Craft CMS does offer some awesome design features, including:
Categories and tags
As we will dive into later, the lack of theme support by Craft CMS does have its advantages. It can mean better performance, unique site designs, and improved functionality. However, it limits the time it takes to get a site off the ground.
That being said, if you’re looking to quickly set up a blog on Craft CMS, the Instablog Github repository can help. In addition, there are numerous tutorials and courses available online for developers to learn how to create Craft sites quickly and efficiently.
WordPress, on the other hand, offers a huge number of themes and templates in both free and paid forms. If opting for a paid WordPress plugin, on average, you can expect to pay $40.
The number of WordPress themes available means that it’s easy for site owners of all knowledge levels to create sites that match their design requirements, and to do so quickly.
However, we have found that WordPress does have some restrictions with regard to design choices that you won’t find with Craft.
Overall, while WordPress is certainly the easier platform to get started with, and offers a huge number of themes for beginners, Craft has the edge with regards to design. Craft’s very nature means that customization lies at the core of site development.
If opting for a paid WordPress plugin, on average, you can expect to pay $40.
We’re calling this a draw, with WordPress winning with regard to themes, and Craft winning with regard to design.
Ease of Use
WordPress is known for its out of the box simplicity. It offers an easy to navigate admin panel and an even easier editing interface. Craft, on the other hand, takes a competent developer and some serious knowledge to create professional sites.
In recent years, Automattic (the group behind WordPress) have continued to ramp up their dedication to accessibility. One of the ways they have done this is through the Gutenberg editor. This editor takes a content block approach to creating posts and pages, and has been seen as an improvement by many beginners over the old WYSIWYG editor.
WordPress plugins also make the application easier to use. There are over 55,000 of them available on the WordPress plugin directory, and more elsewhere. These allow site owners to add functionality to their site with just a few clicks.
That being said, the number of WordPress plugins available means that installing them on a WordPress site can easily get out of hand. This can lead to noticeable slowdowns and performance issues. Moreover, each of those plugins needs to be updated regularly so you do not compromise site security.
Comparatively, there are only a limited number of plugins available for Craft, with the bulk of functionality requirements often coded by a developer. This is good for a lot of sites and contributes to the lightweight nature of Craft CMS. Benefiting performance.
The chart below shows a comparison of the main points regarding WordPress and Craft ease of use.
Craft CMS Advantages
Lots of themes
Lots of plugins
Small, easy to navigate plugin store
Despite some issues, WordPress wins here because it is a better CMS for beginners. Craft CMS requires more experience and/or a developer to get the best results.
Despite WordPress having the edge when it comes to ease of use, Craft CMS manages to take the lead in terms of functionality. Part of the reason for this is the development expertise required by Craft CMS developers.
With WordPress, there is a large community of developers. Yet due to WordPress being easy to customize, it can be hit or miss with regards to how far their expertise extends. Not only can this lead to you running unoptimized code, it can mean that some of the functionality you’re looking for won’t materialize.
Craft CMS comes with basic functionality out of the box. This includes:
Custom fields, section types, and relations
Custom order and checkout flows
Built-in headless capability
You can also purchase Craft Commerce, with the intention of running an eCommerce site. This will automatically add Products, Subscriptions, Custom Payment Gateways, and more.
For this reason, Craft CMS is excellent for creating content that integrates across channels. With Craft, it’s possible to show content from multiple categories on a landing page. With WordPress, this requires much more in-depth edits to the site’s code.
Craft CMS is the winner here, as it holds it own as a true content management system.
Winner: Craft CMS
WordPress has over 55,000 plugins, much more than Craft CMS – in part because Craft has a much smaller development community.
And it’s these 55,000+ plugins that give WordPress so much of its functionality and flexibility. Looking to create a news site? Download a news plugin. Looking to increase the functionality of your WordPress forms? Download a form plugin. Looking to create unique page design? Download a page builder plugin.
Moreover, the bulk of plugins available for WordPress come with basic versions for free. If you really like what a plugin can do, you can upgrade to the pro version for a small fee. The access to expanded functionality with WordPress plugins is incredible, but it’s not all sunshine and rainbows.
Yes, there are 55,000 plugins, but a lot of them do the same thing in slightly different ways. There are also a lot of plugins that are no longer supported. Either they haven’t been updated, or they didn’t make the cut when a new version of WordPress was released.
This can lead to security exploits and performance issues. It’s important that you keep an eye on the plugins you have installed to make sure that they are both maintained and supported.
The Craft CMS plugin store is limited but powerful.
Craft, on the other hand, has a smaller selection of plugins, but they are all maintained and supported. When plugins are no longer relevant or maintained, they are removed from the Craft plugin store.
Yet despite Craft plugins not having the issues found with the WordPress directory, we have to give this round to WordPress due to the number of plugins available.
In terms of performance, both Craft CMS and WordPress are great. With the right hosting provider behind them, both CMS provide performant experiences.
However, once you start diving into the development of core and the way in which each CMS handles additional functionality, you start to see a significant divide.
Craft CMS adheres to MCV coding practices when developing core. MCV stands for Model-View-Controller, and means that all coding has to follow a specific pathway to achieve a result.
Imagine you are a painter. In the MCV model, you would be the Controller, your paintbrush and paints the Model, and the resulting picture the View. This coding model streamlines the process of creating and rendering content by only pulling out the tools it needs.
WordPress, on the other hand, has been accused of being bloated; especially with regards to community developed plugins. While efforts are being made to optimize the codebase, and several plugins exist to improve performance (such as W3 Cache), WordPress just doesn’t have the same development team behind it that Craft CMS does.
W3 Cache is a useful plugin for improving WordPress performance (if you know the right settings).
If you opt for the enterprise version of Craft CMS, you can see further performance enhancements. This is especially true when you bring on a dedicated Craft developer or development team. They are easily able to leverage the lightweight nature of the application to create incredible, performant content experiences.
Once you start looking to build out functionality through plugins, WordPress continues to suffer performance loss. Too many or outdated plugins are often the cause of a bloated WordPress install. Remember that even a 1 second delay in page load time can result in a 7% decrease in conversions.
Craft is the winner here due to its lightweight nature.
Winner: Craft CMS
WordPress is often known as the king of SEO, and with 32.5% of sites running it, it’s not a statistic that’s hard to believe. It’s also not true.
The CMS you use does not necessarily have a direct impact on the SEO value of a site. However, a number of factors can influence to what degree search engines place you in the top results.
The first of these is the ability to easily create and edit SEO-specific content such a meta titles and descriptions. WordPress has a huge number of plugins available that can help you do this (Yoast). Craft CMS also has a plugin that does much of the same thing (SEOmatic). In this area, both CMS are evenly matched.
Where the two start to divide is with regards to performance.
In recent years, performance has become a major factor in the ability for sites to rank. The faster your site loads, the better your chances. Google Lighthouse a good tool for testing how a site racks up against the competition in terms of speed.
As covered in the previous section, depending on the developer you have on hand, Craft CMS is a better option for performance. It can make a site perform faster and, as a result, have a higher chance of ranking number 1.
The winner here is Craft, although it was incredibly close.
Winner: Craft CMS
Security is one area where having a smaller community and being closed source is an advantage.
WordPress, due to the size of its user base, is frequently targeted by cyber attacks. While the community works around the clock to keep the application up to date and secure, it can be hard to keep up.
Moreover, while WordPress relies on its community to help identify and resolve security breaches, it is the Craft CMS team themselves that work with their CMS. Because of this dedicated team of developers – and the smaller user base – security breaches are often identified and resolved quickly.
However, WordPress does offer some great plugins for locking down a site, and the right hosting provider will often make sure that the CMS environment is locked down: for both Craft and WordPress.
For security, we’re going to have to give it to Craft CMS. While the difference is very small, Craft’s development team gives it the edge.
Winner: Craft CMS
WordPress, minus any paid plugins, is free.
Craft CMS also offers a free, basic version. However, this is not suitable for creating professional sites for clients. If you are making more than a personal blog, you’ll need to purchase a license. This starts from $299 per project, plus $59 a year for continued support.
If you decide to use Craft Commerce, you’re looking at a minimum payment of $199 per project, and $39 per year for support.
If you want to use eCommerce for WordPress, you can install the free WooCommerce plugin.
Craft CMS vs WordPress: The Winner
When it comes to deciding which CMS is right for you, it’s going to come down to a handful of factors regarding the resources you have at your disposal.
Primarily, what is your budget. Craft CMS will require you to invest in a developer. Even if you have development expertise, to create a professional site you’ll need to pay for a license.
With WordPress you won’t have to pay anything (except for hosting) but you’ll also be limited in terms of design and functionality.
Another factor you need to consider is the time frame you have to work with. WordPress sites are able to be created and go live a lot sooner than Craft sites.
If you’re able to invest in a Craft CMS site, we recommend doing so. WordPress is a great CMS but it lacks some of the advanced, commercial features you get with a paid, closed source application like Craft.
Have you ever visited an eCommerce store to buy a product only to change your mind at the last minute? The answer is almost certainly yes. Most visitors to eCommerce stores don’t buy anything. The eCommerce industry’s average conversion rate is three percent at best. For every hundred people who visit an eCommerce store, ninety-seven buy nothing.
Conversion rate optimization focuses on improving that metric. Retailers work to discover why visitors don’t buy and then make changes that remove obstacles or give visitors an incentive to make a purchase.
The most effective conversion rate optimization tactics differ from store to store because each has a distinctive brand and caters to its market with a unique mix of products. CRO techniques that work on one store may not work on others, but there are proven conversion rate optimizations that are effective on the vast majority of stores.
Simplify The Checkout
Checkouts are a necessary evil. You can’t have an eCommerce store without a checkout, but it’s also the point at which many customers abandon their purchase. Checkouts ask a lot of the customer, and any doubt or hesitation they have about buying a product is amplified when they’re faced with an unwieldy multi-page form to complete.
A fast and straightforward checkout reduces friction and lowers the barrier to making a purchase. WooCommerce’s native checkout is well-optimized, but it is possible to reduce its complexity still further with a couple of plugins.
WooCommerce One-Page Checkout displays product selection and checkout features on a single page, allowing customers to check out without navigating a series of pages. The plugin can be used to embed a one-page checkout on any page in your WooCommerce store, giving users the option to check out quickly and easily.
The Checkout Field Editor gives retailers more control over what appears on their store’s checkout forms. It adds a menu to WooCommerce which can be used to rename, remove, or edit checkout fields for a minimalist checkout experience.
Use Social Media Logins
First-time customers have an onerous task ahead of them. In addition to completing the usual checkout, they have to register, completing a set of forms with authentication, delivery, and payment details, a task that is even less appealing on mobile.
Social logins allow users to bypass that process by authenticating via a platform that already knows who they are and where they live. Retailers benefit from accurate data taken from the authentication platform — a majority of web users put inaccurate details into web forms, causing authentication and fulfillment problems. Social media logins also provide richer information than most customers are willing to enter into a form on a WooCommerce store.
The WooCommerce Social Logins extension adds login options for a large number of authentication providers, including Facebook, Google, Twitter, Amazon, PayPal, and more.
Provide Social Proof
Human beings are social animals. We look to other people to confirm that we’re making the right decision in the absence of other evidence. Customers are less likely to look positively on an empty brick-and-mortar store than a busy store with a line of people waiting to get in.
It’s harder for an eCommerce store to demonstrate the social proof that can persuade customers that their purchase is a wise decision. Online retailers rely mainly on reviews to generate social proof.
WooCommerce includes review functionality which can be activated in the “General” section of the “Products” menu. The YITH WooCommerce Advanced Reviews extension enhances WooCommerce’s built-in reviews system, displaying star-rating histograms and giving reviewers the ability to upload attachments such as images.
Further social proof can be provided by showing how many users bought a product in the past and how many are looking at it right now. The Social Proof Notifications extension integrates WooCommerce with Proof Factor, a cloud social proof platform that also includes exit intent triggers
Let Customers Talk To A Real Person
Doubt is the biggest killer of eCommerce conversions. Customers wonder if a product is right for them, if it does what they want it to, if they will be able to return it if it isn’t suitable. Reviews and well-written on-page content go some way to satisfy customer doubts, but it’s impossible to predict every issue and customers won’t hunt through large FAQ pages to find answers.
The most effective way to allay doubts is to give customers someone to talk to. There is no substitute for asking a direct question and getting an answer from someone who knows what they are talking about.
Phone sales support is an option, but it may be too expensive for retailers that don’t sell high-value items. Aspect Software, a multinational call center technology provider, estimates that the average customer phone interaction costs $35 – $50.
Instant chat is more economical than phone support and faster than email support. Sales support staff can respond to multiple queries in parallel and chats can be routed to anyone in the company, including to remote workers. There are several solutions for adding instant chat into a WooCommerce store. The LiveChat for WooCommerce extension integrates stores with the LiveChat service, which is designed for customer support and online sales.
Reach Out To Customers Who Abandon Carts
As we discussed at the top of this article, most visitors to an eCommerce store don’t make a purchase, and that includes visitors who have added products to their cart. The industry-average cart-abandonment rate is about 70%. Customers often use carts for online window shopping, reminders, or wish lists — they may never have intended to make a purchase. But that’s not the case with all abandoned carts, some of which can be “recovered.”
Conversion rate optimization is an intricate and continuous effort to optimize a WooCommerce store with three main goals:
Remove obstacles that might prevent a customer from making a purchase.
Transform aspects of the store to exert a positive influence on customer’s purchase intent.
Reduce doubt by providing the reassurance and information that customers need to be confident in their decision to buy.
In this article, we’ve tackled some low-hanging fruit to help WooCommerce retailers meet their conversion rate optimization goals. In a future article, we’ll take a deeper dive into the details of conversion rate optimization, including A/B testing for WooCommerce and more subtle optimizations.
WordPress contributor teams recently released Theme Sniffer and WP Theme Auditor, tools that help developers to create themes that adhere to coding and accessibility best practices.
There are thousands of free WordPress themes and thousands more premium themes. Some are excellent, and some are terrible, but most are somewhere in-between on the quality scale. Installing a theme that isn’t coded correctly can cause security or user experience problems, which is why the WordPress project is careful what it lets onto the theme repository.
However, the most diligent theme checkers can’t catch every problematic theme, so lower-quality themes sometimes make it through, especially on premium theme marketplaces that may not be as careful as the WordPress Repository team.
Developers don’t set out to make themes that cause problems. Most want to create a theme that is useful, beautiful, and secure. Problem themes are the result of less experienced developers who don’t understand what is required of a WordPress theme or don’t have the WordPress and PHP skills to create a theme that ticks all the boxes.
Poor-quality themes create a negative user experience, and that’s not good for the WordPress project, which wants interactions with WordPress to be as pleasant as possible. One way to achieve the goal of theme excellence is to provide high-quality documentation for developers. Another is to create tools to help developers spot issues and fix them before they become a problem to users.
Theme Sniffer was recently released by the Theme Review Team. It analyzes a theme’s code to see whether it adheres to WordPress coding conventions, a set of rules the WordPress project believes should be followed by anyone who develops a WordPress theme.
The rules say how PHP files should be indented, whether single or double quotes should be used, how database queries should be formatted, and more. This might seem trivial, but coding standards help developers to maintain consistency throughout their projects, provide guidance about how to handle certain coding dilemmas, and make it easier for developers to collaborate — something that is particularly important for open source projects.
Accessibility is a particular problem for WordPress themes. Many themes that appear to be well-made pose problems for users with accessibility issues because the developer doesn’t follow accessibility best practices.
WP Theme Auditor is an NPM tool that examines WordPress themes with the aXe API, which includes tests to make sure a theme doesn’t provide a negative experience to people who have accessibility issues, including people who use WordPress via the keyboard or a screen reader.
Theme Check is a plugin that automatically tests themes for compliance with the official theme review standards. This one is particularly important because theme reviewers use it before allowing themes onto the official WordPress theme repository. If your theme doesn’t pass these tests, it may be rejected.
We’ve discussed the Theme Check plugin before, so take a look at our earlier post for a more in-depth discussion.
Automated testing helps developers to find coding and design mistakes before they’re released into the wild. The tools we’ve discussed make it easier for developers to create themes that are delightful to use.
Every product starts with an idea, but good ideas are rare. There is a long road between a spark of inspiration and a profitable product. Investing in a product idea that goes nowhere is dangerous. Few retailers can afford to manufacture or buy products that sit on warehouse shelves for months. For every dud product, there is a product which might have sold well if only the retailer hadn’t wasted their time and money on an idea that didn’t work out.
Product evaluation tries to sort the winners from the duds early enough to avoid a wasted investment.
Is The Product Idea Feasible?
Ideas may fall at the first hurdle because there is a challenge that is too difficult or expensive to overcome. It’s better to find these challenges in the early stages of planning, rather than later when money has been spent.
For example, you are inspired to build an eCommerce business around direct-from-the-farm strawberry delivery. There may be a market for fresh strawberries, but there are also challenges. Sourcing strawberries from farms is a complex logistical operation. Strawberries spoil quickly, so short delivery timelines are essential. They should be stored in chilled warehouses and transported on chilled trucks, which is expensive. It’s not a bad idea, but it may involve a substantial capital investment that makes it impractical.
Regulations can be a challenge to the feasibility of an idea. In some parts of the world, fireworks are heavily regulated. To sell fireworks, you have to carry out identity checks on buyers, apply for licenses to buy and sell commercially, pay for expensive liability insurance, and use secure storage. Compliance may make it difficult to sell fireworks at a cost that is competitive compared to industry incumbents.
When developing a product idea, it’s essential to establish that there is a market, but you should also ask whether you are best placed to serve that market.
Is Anyone Interested?
A product idea may not find a market. Perhaps it addresses a need, but customers aren’t prepared to pay enough to build a profitable or sustainable business. More likely, there is little interest. There are several ways to establish whether a market for a product exists. For a preliminary survey, Google Trends and the Google Keyword Tool are useful.
Google Trends tracks the interest in search queries over time. Consider our strawberry retail idea. Google Trends shows that there is some interest in strawberry delivery, but it is generally low with a large spike. The spike occurs in February around Valentine’s Day.
If we look at the related queries section of Google Trends, we discover that people are likely to be looking for “chocolate strawberry delivery” and “chocolate covered strawberry delivery.” That’s not our product, so some care has to be taken to understand what Google Trends is telling you.
Google Keyword Planner can help you to discover how many searches there are for a product keyword and what the competition is for that keyword. If we look at strawberries deliveries again, we see that there is a low number of searches, but competition for the phrase is high. Again, most of these searches relate to chocolate strawberries, not to our idea.
Let’s refine our keywords. If we look at “fresh strawberry delivery” in Google Trends, we see that there isn’t enough search volume to tell us anything.
Google Keyword Planner tells a similar story. The number of average monthly searches for “fresh strawberry delivery” is low, but competition for those keywords is high. Google suggests alternative keywords that include “fresh fruit delivery,” which has a lot of searches and high competition. Perhaps an eCommerce business that focuses on delivering strawberries from the farm to the door isn’t such a good idea.
It’s worth taking the time to try many different keywords to work out if anyone wants a product and what the competitive market looks like. Once you have established that you can implement your product idea and that there is interest in the product you want to sell, it’s time to consider its potential profitability and the competition. We will take an in-depth look at both in a future article.
May 2, 2019 – We’re proud to announce the addition of a new hosting solution to our lineup for merchants: BigCommerce. This new addition allows us to provide merchants with multiple options for creating, customizing, and delivering their online stores.
As a powerful, headless eCommerce solution, BigCommerce allows merchants to employ a powerful product catalog while maintaining the simple front-end capabilities of WordPress. To this end, BigCommerce accounts with Hostdedi will include a WordPress environment with the BigCommerce plugin pre-installed and pre-configured.
In additional to the same great optimizations you’ll find across all of our plans, you’ll also have access to our support team and auto scaling functionality.
Keep reading to find out more about how Hostdedi and BigCommerce can work together to power your eCommerce needs.
By 2021, eCommerce will hold 17.5% of the commerce market share. In 2018 it was 11.9%. Part of the reason for this growth is the number of options available to different merchants. More and more, merchants that lack technical knowledge and access to a developer are being provided with accessible eCommerce platforms.
In 2018, we already saw a significant rise in the number of eCommerce solutions leveraging the ease-of-use associated with WordPress. During this time, WooCommerce, another eCommerce plugin that runs on WordPress, saw an 86% increase in the number of services.
With BigCommerce, we hope to support these merchants, by providing them with the functionality and ease of use of WordPress, as well as the powerful product and SKU management tools of BigCommerce. Together, we hope to empower merchants to create the professional, personalized eCommerce experiences they want.
The Same Great Support
BigCommerce merchants will still have access to the same great Hostdedi support they would with any other application. However, in addition to this, they’ll also have access to BigCommerce support ninjas.
Available 24/7/365, support for the new eCommerce solution is designed so merchants are never left in the dark regarding any part of their implementation. Key channels of communication have been set up to enable the best support possible for both the BigCommerce API, and the WordPress front-end.
The new BigCommerce solutions come in several different forms, with three primary plans on the BigCommerce side: standard, plus, and pro. Each of these plans offer merchants an increased set of functionality.
All plans will include access to multiple sales channels such as Amazon, eBay, and social channels. Merchants will also have access to coupons, discounts, and gift cards, along with professional reporting tools, and multiple payment processor options such as Apple Pay, Google Pay and Amazon Pay.
Once upgraded to the plus plan, merchants will have access to advanced marketing tools for segmenting and targeting customers. Merchants will also be able to store credit card information within the BigCommerce API, and implement abandoned cart campaigns through their store.
For those that select a higher-tier solution from Hostdedi, they’ll have access to the benefits of the Pro plan. This includes an unlimited number of API calls. In conjunction with Hostdedi Cloud auto scaling, this means that merchants won’t have to worry about sales events and periods of high traffic. Merchants will also be able to implement advanced search, allowing customers to find products faster and more easily.
Commerce With a 0% Transaction Fee
One of the big benefits to using BigCommerce is that the eCommece platform has 0% transaction fees. This beats a huge range of other eCommerce platforms, and gives merchants a clear fee at the start of each month.
Similar to all other Hostdedi services, features such as auto scaling and dev sites will also be available at an additional price. A vital part of your move to Hostdedi is going through appropriate sizing with our team of experts. Get in touch to find out what size commerce is best for your store.
A Simple Migration Process
Making the move to BigCommerce is simple. As with all migrations to or between Hostdedi accounts, we provide full support from start to finish. However, from a preparation perspective, there are a few things you can go over prior to making the move.
Consider what vendors you want to use for different aspects of the commerce experience. Who will be your shipping provider, who will be your validation provider? If you’re content with the ones you have, that’s great, but see if there is anything you’re going to need to do to make the move as easy as possible.
We also recommend taking a look into the different options available for manual migration. BigCommerce offers a great tool for catalog transfer from Magento. Note that if you’re running a heavily customized storefront on your previous eCommerce platform, the migration may require more work.
Get Started with BigCommerce
Interested in seeing if BigCommerce is the right eCommerce platform for you? Solutions start from $58.95 for the XS cloud package with the standard BigCommerce plan, and scale with merchants depending on their store requirements.
If you’re a news publisher, a news section is your bread and butter. If you’re a business, a news section provides a place to publish recent successes and upcoming events. If you’re an independent developer, a news section lets you keep your followers up to date on recent changes.
Regardless of who you are, a news section can add value to your site. The question is, how can you integrate it into your site in the best way possible.
WordPress offers a number of plugins to help improve click-through and reduce bounce rate on news items. Most of these come in the form of sliders, grids, carousels, and tickers.
We checked several different news plugins from the WordPress plugin directory to find out which work best. Keep reading to see a narrowed down list of the top six.
The first plugin on our list, WP News and Scrolling Widgets, is one of the more powerful and well known WordPress news plugins. It allows sites to create, manage, and display news content through widgets, sliders, and grids, in addition to being a news management tool separate from WordPress pages and posts.
Once installed, the plugin adds a News tab to the WordPress admin panel. In this tab, users can easily add, edit, and manage news content. The news editor itself is very similar to the standard editing interface you’ll find with WordPress posts and pages. It allows you to create content, set an excerpt and feature image, and select what categories and tags should apply.
Once you’ve created content, a range of shortcodes are available for site owners to make customized news widgets. The news widgets can filter content based on category, date, and type. Customizations can also be made to how content is displayed. A guide on managing this process can be found in the How It Works subheading.
By default, WP News does not offer a huge number of features, and its only real benefit is the management section. For customization, you’ll find just four shortcodes for displaying content in either grid or list views. If you pay and upgrade to pro, your options increase significantly.
Pro offers over 120 designs, along with 6 shortcodes, Visual Composer page builder support, a recent news display type, 100% multi language support, the ability to add custom CSS, and drag and drop ordering for content organization.
Pricing for pro starts at $149 for a personal, lifetime license. If news is a big part of your site, it may be worth paying for the added functionality. If you don’t want to spend anything, it’s probably better to stick with something else on this list.
Incredible customization options
120+ different layouts and the ability to use Google Fonts
Integration with social media
Requires premium to get the most out of it
Fancy News is a simple and easy to use news slider plugin. Instead of adding a complex series of steps to the process of selecting what news is show, Fancy news provides a single, easy to use shortcode generator in the Tools section of the WordPress admin interface.
Unfortunately, this provides only a limited number of options for customization, as well as content curation. For example, recent news cannot be featured without the aid of an RSS feed to pull from. Design-wise, typical customizations can be made, including size, excerpts, speed, color, and links.
Fancy News is a great free editor, but doesn’t offer some of the functionality you’ll find with WP News and Scrolling Widgets.
Allows for automatic filtering of news content based on your preferences
Offers a shortcode builder to maximize the plugin’s capabilities
Supports auto sliding
Lacks some of the powerful features found in other News slider plugins
Relatively basic customization options
WP News is a stable, easy to use news plugin that allows for news sites to create and display customizable sliders, carousels, and news tabs.
As far as news plugins go, WP News offers a no-frills, easy to manage news curation experience. By default, you’ll find six different WordPress widgets included, with each including its own style options. The customization here is limited, as can be seen by one of the features being “Unlimited Color Variation”.
Despite this lack of customization, the plugin itself is very lightweight and requires fewer server resources when compared with alternatives. Moreover, WP News comes with a unique feature you won’t find elsewhere on this list: it is an Elementor Addon.
Elementor is a custom WordPress page builder. Used by over 2 million sites, it provides users with a drag and drop interface for creating new content and optimizing old.
The WP News addon for Elementor means improved integration, so site builders can create complex user experiences more easily, while also implementing a lightweight news plugin for news curation.
WP News is available for free from the WordPress plugin directory.
Simple, easy to use news plugin
Support for sliders, carousels, and tabs
Is an Elementor addon
Lacks some of the functionality of alternatives
Requires Elementor to work
Simple News is another lightweight news plugin designed to allow content creators to output unordered lists. It does this by adding a new post type called “News”.
In terms of customization, Simple News offers four image sizes, and a single style for the widget itself. It is possible, however, to remove the default and insert your own CSS. Unfortunately, this isn’t as easy as some of the point and click customization interfaces offered by alternatives.
Overall, Simple News is great if you’re looking for something simple. Otherwise, it may be better to create your own custom news feeds with the coding knowledge you would put into custom CSS here.
Adds a new post type “NEWS” to the WordPress editor
Easy to use Shortcodes
Easy to add widget
Ability to filter results by Category ID
Advanced Customization requires CSS knowledge
Lacks functionality compared with alternatives
One of the best news tickers available, Ditty News Ticker lets site owners create customized news tickers across their site. An unlimited number of ticks can be added, with the ability to edit content, links, and destination (new or same tab).
From a design perspective, Ditty News Ticker also allows you to edit how the ticker appears in pages. You can change dimensions, speed, display type, and more. Once you decide on the ticker settings, you can easily insert into pages, posts, and widgets with either shortcode or a direct php function.
The ability to add unique ticker content is something you don’t find with several other news tickers, and means you can optimize content based around your goals, instead of just settling on the default.
Great customization options compared with other tickers
Ability to add custom shortcode easily
Somewhat difficult to navigate
More lightweight than Ditty, PJ is a news ticker that does what it says on the package and little else.
Edits to the look and feel of the PJ News Ticker must be performed through the settings section of the WordPress interface. From here, it’s possible to edit the header, color scheme, speed, font size, and content.
Once you’ve decided on what you want the ticker to look like, you can easily insert it into your site with shortcode. This allows you to select custom post types, categories, or the 5 most recent posts.
PJ won’t give you the same level of customization as Ditty, but it does provide a solid, easy to manage news ticker capable of automatically delivering your most recent content.
Easy to use interface
Lightweight plugin that requires few resources
Shortcode customization can be troublesome
Lacks the customization options of other news tickers
When Magento was first released, it provided an eCommerce platform that offered functionality not seen before. It still does, but as Magento stores have grown, their requirements have changed. The platform’s functionality now needs to be delivered to an increasingly large customer base, and in an increasingly performant way. For this reason, we’ve made sure that our Magento solutions are optimized to make the best use of the resources available to them.
You’ve probably heard the statistic that “a 1-second delay in page response can result in a 7% reduction in conversions.” This may be overused, but it provides vital insight into what eCommerce customers expect. A single second can be the difference between a Magento store that drives traffic and generates as much profit as possible, and one that falls flat.
“Magento is capable of supporting eCommerce stores of any size, but making the most of that power requires careful optimization.“
Since Magento’s creation, Hostdedi has worked to increase performance and optimize Magento environments. Our first guide, released in 2013, helped developers to create incredible, high-performance Magento stores. Stores which beat out the competition when it came to speed, efficiency, and responsiveness.
Our newest guide brings things into 2018 (now 2019), with everything from PHP optimizations, MySQL recommendations, and notes on how to implement Varnish and full-page caching effectively. Moreover, we’ve included all of this in a convenient 68-page book available for any Magento 2 developer who wants to know how to optimize a Magento 2 site.
What Has Changed With Magento 2?
From a technical perspective, Magento 2’s performance has improved since Magento 1; especially with regards to PHP utilization. Changes in how the application handles PHP threads has led to noticeable speed gains and better memory utilization.
Some of the reasons for this performance boost are that Magento 2 supports full-page caching, database improvements, native varnish, a modern code base, and has improved CLI tools.
Yet while the second version of the application originally brought the eCommerce platform in line with the increasing demands of a modern online marketplace, these demands continued to grow. Further performance optimizations have become essential to ensuring that eCommerce businesses are now able to keep pace with their competitors.
How Can I Optimize My Magento Store?
For a full list of Magento 2 optimizations, we highly recommend downloading The Definitive Guide to Optimizing Magento 2. We will cover only a few of the main environment optimizations here.
We’ve discovered several PHP optimizations for Magento 2. These are specifically designed around increasing performance and load times for users.
From a high-level perspective, we’ve managed to improve Magento PHP performance even further by turning out back on mod_php, and opting to use php_fpm instead. Php_fpm allows for the serving of seperate php processes to serve dynamic requests, so further performance tuning means improved responsiveness and a reduced memory footprint.
You’ll also find recommendations on php version usage in our guide. With our cloud solutions, it’s possible to set your php version as far back as 5.6. We don’t recommend this as using a newer php version, especially 7.0 or later, will lead to performance improvements and can dramatically reduce memory usage.
At last year’s Imagine, a third-party patch was needed to make Magento 1 compatible with PHP 7.0. As of September 2018, Magento released an official php 7.2 patch, which can be downloaded here.
Some of the PHP optimizations you’ll find in The Definitive Guide to Optimizing Magento 2 include:
A PHP runtime limitation of 600 seconds.
A script memory utilization limitation of 768MB
A POST data size limitation of 512MB
PHP Opcache Optimizations for Magento 2
Opcache is a PHP-caching extension able to improve performance by optimizing what static code is stored in shared memory. This can improve PHP performance dramatically by skipping the intensive compilation process and reading files directly from memory.
By default, however, Opcache is not optimized for Magento. Instead of performance gains, you’re more likely to see performance losses. After careful testing, we found several settings that could easily be optimized by configuring the opcache.ini in the php.d directory.
Some of the Opcache optimizations we recommend are:
Set opcache.memory_consumption to 512mb
Set opcache.max_accelerated_files to 65407
Set opcache.revalidate_freq to 4
MySQL Optimizations for Magento 2
For Magento 2 database optimization, we recommend implementing and optimizing MariaDB as a replacement in the MySQL section of your stack. MariaDB is fast and offers a simplified deployment over CentOS 7.
In general, MariaDB, by default, allocates too many resources to database processes. We’ve found that these numbers can easily be reduced while still providing improved performance.
Some of the MariaDB optimizations we’ve implemented include:
Single server environments to incorporate a 50% buffer size pool. For systems dedicated to MariaDB this should be increased up to 80%.
Set query cache size to 2% of your available memory, or 127MB.
A well-tuned stack means optimizing the technology that helps to deliver your Magento store. Simply enabling NGINX microcaching can double store performance with no additional modifications. For more information on the stack we offer, see our application stack page.
Enable Full-Page Caching
It was introduced with Magento 2 for a reason. Even if Redis is not available and you need to use local files for caching, full-page caching will pull load away from the PHP interpreter and MySQL, increasing site speed.
Run Modern PHP
With the official update for Magento 1, there is now no excuse to not upgrade to PHP 7.0 or later. If you’re unsure on how it will affect your store, try using a dev site to test and develop safely.
Hostdedi Cloud as Changing the Magento Environment
One of the biggest changes the Hostdedi Cloud has brought to Magento 2 stores is the inclusion of Hostdedi Cloud Auto Scaling. Auto Scaling is a feature which allows for your cloud account to scale the number of concurrent users automatically, whenever your Magento store picks up traffic spikes.
For instance, if you run a sales event which results in your store receiving double the number of guests it normally does, Hostdedi Cloud Auto Scaling will allow your store’s concurrent user capacity to increase. This means no rejected page loads and no loss of potential income.
You’re reading this article, which means you clicked a link, a string of characters that uniquely identifies this document, one of the billions on the web. You might have clicked a link on the Hostdedi blog’s index page, or a page of Google search results, or a Facebook page. But wherever you came from, you got here in the same way, and that process is what we’re going to talk about.
The Domain Name System
When you click a link in a hypertext document, you ask the browser to download and display the associated content. Before the browser can download anything, it needs to know which of the millions of servers on the web has that page. The human-readable web address (URL) doesn’t encode that information in a way that is useful to machines. The web address must be translated into an IP address that can be used to route information around the web. That’s the job of the Domain Name System (DNS).
There are two types of DNS server: recursive and authoritative. Recursive DNS servers are responsible for finding out the IP address associated with a URL. They’re usually managed by the ISP that provides the internet connection a browser is using, although not always. An authoritative DNS server knows the IP addresses for a chunk of the web. Recursive servers ask authoritative servers for the relevant IP address.
Recursive DNS servers are like librarians: they know a lot, but not everything. Often they need to consult authoritative external resources to answer a question, and in the DNS system, that’s the authoritative DNS server.
The browser sends a request to the recursive DNS server. If it knows the IP address of the site, it sends it to the browser immediately. If it doesn’t, it has to ask authoritative DNS servers. Authoritative DNS servers are organized in a hierarchy, an upside-down tree. At the top are root servers that know which authoritative DNS servers are responsible for .com, .net, and so on.
If the host’s web address is blog.nexcess.net, the authoritative DNS server that knows about .net addresses is asked which server knows about nexcess.net addresses. Then the DNS server that knows about nexcess.net is asked about blog.nexcess.net.
Our authoritative DNS servers know which IP is associated with blog.nexcess.net, so it tells the recursive DNS server the browser queried, which then tells the browser. At this point, the browser has the information it needs to send a request to the server hosting our blog.
A Note On Simplification
In this article, we’re focusing on DNS, HTTP, and TCP. These protocols and systems are the top of a deep stack of technologies, so our description is partial — we’re missing a lot out because it’s not relevant to most WordPress clients.
The HTTP Request
The browser knows the IP address of the server hosting our blog, so it sends the server a message announcing that it would like to open a connection. There is a bit of back and forth chatter between the browser and the server, following which a TCP connection is established between the two. TCP/IP is the network protocol one layer down from HTTP, the protocol of the web.
The server and the browser are talking to each other, so it’s time for the browser to get to the point. It sends the server a message that looks something like this:
GET /a-blog-article HTTP/1.1 Host: blog.nexcess.net
This asks the server to retrieve the resource /a-blog-article on the server at blog.nexcess.net. Assuming that such a resource exists, the server sends a response, which includes headers with details about what is being sent and a response body — the HTML of the article itself.
Now the browser has the HTML, but before we talk about the rendering process, let’s loop back to look at what happened on the server before the HTML was sent.
WordPress doesn’t send the browser pre-made HTML. When the browser sends a request for a page on a WordPress site, the HTML is built on-the-fly in the milliseconds between request and response. WordPress is composed of dozens of files in the PHP programming language and its these files that build the page. When they run, the PHP files combine data from the database with templates to create a complete page of HTML.
It is this ability to generate HTML dynamically that makes WordPress so flexible and powerful. Each request can be answered with different content, providing a unique experience to each user. HTTP itself is stateless: it remembers nothing between requests, which would make a complex session-based web application impossible. But with session cookies and dynamic page generation, WordPress can provide an app-like experience from the server.
Once everything is fetched, the browser has what it needs to render the document and display it to the user.
Small Delays, Large Latencies
Responsibility for optimizing each of these steps is split between the web hosting provider and the site owner. We take care of DNS performance, network optimization, server resources, and more, ensuring that we can deliver data as quickly as possible. But as a site owner, you are responsible for optimizing page sizes and the number of external resources each page loads.
Together, our performance-optimized hosting and a well-optimized front-end experience make for a fast and responsive user experience.
WooCommerce security is a partnership between a hosting provider and a hosting client. The client is responsible for updating their store and taking care which plugins and themes they install. But that’s only part of the work involved in keeping a WooCommerce store safe. A hosting provider and their platform play a pivotal role, but…