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The Importance of CDNs for Page Speed

The Importance of CDNs for Page Speed

Let’s talk about content delivery networks, or CDNs in the context of Managed WooCommerce hosting. A CDN is a crucial topic for a WooCommerce store owner to understand because a CDN is key to page speed, and as we know, page speed is everything right now.

First, why page speed?

Simply put, page speed is important for conversions. A conversion is when a visitor to a page — in the case of someone browsing a WooCommerce store, a shopper — takes the desired action we want them to take. In most ecommerce cases, that would be a sale. Sometimes, it can be something else such as: a lead on a contact form, adding an item to a cart, etc. But in general, it’s a sale.

We have information that tells us that slow page load times cost merchants money. Perhaps the most notable and well-known metric is the 3 second metric: 40% of people abandon a website that takes more than 3 seconds to load. Namely, people don’t like to wait. We are not patient. After 3 seconds, we tend to look at another part of our screen, and sometimes click somewhere else. 

In an ecommerce context, that is particularly worrisome because the longer a potential shopper browses, the more of a chance they’ll add something to the cart, and better yet, they will add multiple things to the cart. Then, to add to the human factor of page speed, in 2020, we also have to consider the algorithmic factor. The ranking factors today are all about usability and user-friendliness, so to Google, high page load times are considered a signal of poor experiences. So, not only will your slow sites lose the traffic you earn before the conversion, they will also increasingly be shown to new users less and less.

With these key facts, page speeds starts to look like one of the most important considerations for your WooCommerce store, or any other type of site online. In Hostdedi support, we have a saying: “our customers are addicted to speed.” And with good reason folks: slow pages create frustrating experiences and cost potential revenue. 

My perspective when it comes to the development of WooCommerce stores is that while it is always a good thing when the store is beautiful, feature-rich, or anything else, ultimately, its goal is to process transactions and earn profit. This is why I want to focus in on the page speed aspect of CDNs. CDNs can help with many other items, but when it comes to business, they matter because page speed matters. If you are interested in the nuts and bolts of how CDNs work and the Hostdedi CDN, I would recommend our knowledge base article on CDNs instead.

One last note on page speed

We’re not done talking about page speed yet. 

While this article will cover CDNs, there are many other strategies for improving your page load times and using a CDN is only one of them. The Hostdedi blog contains many resources on how to speed up your store.  A lot of the time our recommendations are simple: change hosts to a high-quality host, optimize your images, implement intelligent caching, etc. All of these components are important, and no single factor will make a page fast, but all of them together working in harmony will.

These “how to speed up your store” lists almost always inevitably include activate a CDN. It is generally well-known and accepted, but do you fully understand how it works? So, we wanted to dig into what activating a CDN actually looks like for a store owner focused on growth. That way, store owners can start to see CDNs how I see them: an excellent tool for growing revenue and retaining customers.

What is a content delivery network (CDN)?

CDN stands for content delivery network. All that it is from a technical standpoint is a way to distribute the work of delivering content to your web browser, and therefore to your eyes, as the end-user. Think about it this way in a traditional method of content delivery: everything is coming from one source. Maybe you can compare it to a single stream of water. A stream is usually only a certain width — based on the robustness of the source — and that means that you’re going to get water at the rate that that one tube can deliver water.

If you want to try to do something like fill up a tub, several factors could come into play. If the source is far away from the tub, it could take a long time for the water to begin filling up. And since you clear out your tub after every time you use it — like an incognito browser might — you have to repeat the filling process every time you want to use the tub again. And, if you’ve ever filled a pool, you know that a great way to speed up that process is to have several sources of water at once.

Through a combination of optimizations that range from increasing the number of sources, their closeness, and caching what content is delivered for easy retrieval, CDNs make the process of delivering content online more efficient. This has become even more important as our modern web has become dominated by high resolution images and video, streaming audio and beautiful animations.

In the most simple way, that is all a CDN in. There are other considerations when it comes to CDNs — due to the nature of the optimizations for content delivery, they can also be helpful with security and uptime concerns — but at its core, it’s simply an essential feature for the modern web. Most of the content you consume today is delivered via one. 

That means that most hosting providers will include a CDN with their plans. If that is not the case, a provider like Cloudflare can be helpful. At Hostdedi across our whole product catalog, but especially within the store owner-focused Managed WooCommerce platform, we specialize in reducing the number of vendors you have to wrangle. So, on our Hostdedi product, your CDN setup is a toggle away. 

Save on other costs by using a CDN

In most cases, working more efficiently for your store’s visitors also means your technology is working smarter for you. Using a CDN not only improves page speeds, but it also uses your other most valuable resource outside of time better: your money. For example, consider bandwidth costs in relationship to CDNs. If, in the tub analogy, the CDN is adding more sources and managing the fill intelligently, you also know that you have to pay for every gallon of water you put through. You usually also a bandwidth recommendation on your hosting plan, and in the case of some hosts, a cap. By managing the delivery of the content better, your CDN also manages your bandwidth expenses better.

Other best practices to consider about load times and content

Think differently about video

With a CDN and bandwidth considerations in mind, there are other content delivery-related items to consider. An important one we see frequently is video. Video files are big, and on most web hosting plans for your store, take up large percentages of storage space and bandwidth. While a CDN could handle delivering your videos, there’s probably even better ways to handle that problem to get that 3 second load time. We frequently recommend using a service like YouTube or Vimeo to host and stream your videos to maximize your efforts. For a more professional-looking option without these streaming services’ logos, something like Wistia is an excellent choice.

You still have to optimize your images

Before we were widely using CDNs on the modern web, we addressed some aspects of the process that CDNs streamlines by manually optimizing our images. This is still a good thing to do, although there’s no need to do it manually — lots of tools are out there to optimize images. On Managed WooCommerce on Hostdedi, we include the Compress JPGs and PNGs plugin that creates multiple different size images from a single upload and then handles the right size image for the browser. That’s another way to make sure your CDN is working smartest for your WooCommerce store. 

Especially within the modern web that we are creating within, there are more and more legitimate reasons to require large image file sizes. Consumers have increasingly growing expectations of how they can view and experience potential online purchases. Especially as more and more products are even available to be purchased online, potential buyers expect to be able to zoom in, view products in 360 degrees, and more. For example, clothes shopping online used to be considered high-risk and therefore online clothing retailers needed excellent return and try-on policies.

Today, an advanced product listing that clearly indicates key information and allows for a detailed view of the product’s texture is reducing that barrier. Online furniture retailers are enabling augmented reality views of their products on a photo of the potential buyer’s space. As these expectations continue rise, it’s important to keep up with the features while also keeping up with performance and security. A CDN, used intelligently among other page optimization strategies, is a great way to get there.

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Scheduling Sales & Marketing For Black Friday

Scheduling Sales & Marketing For Black Friday

5 things you need to start thinking about now, so you can implement before holiday shopping starts this fall.

In February of 2019 I launched my first ever crowdfunding campaign where I was able to raise enough capital to manufacture goods in China and ship them to the US to start my board game company.

While this took a lot of planning to pull off – it actually made the launch of my first game incredibly easy. So easy, I thought I was forgetting something the entire time but it turned out I could actually just relax and let my marketing automations do the work for me.

Today I want to share how you can use the same strategies to automate your sales and marketing for the Black Friday/Holiday shopping weekend and make money without stressing yourself out.

Design Landing Pages

First things first: design any landing pages. Landing pages are a way to highlight products & content specific to a campaign, sale, or interest. Not all stores need landing pages but if you have certain products heavily discounted it’s worth putting them all on one page so visitors can view the best deals, get interested in your store, and then start adding things to their cart.

Unless you only have one or two key products, landing pages are one of the best places to send your fans. And if you plan on doing any advertising or newsletter blasts (hint – you should be thinking about both of these) then a landing page is one of the best places to send them. And it’s why you should start with this a month or so before the sale.

Create Tracking Links

I’m a big fan of tracking & measuring everything possible so that I can figure out what worked and in future years double down on the strategies that made me money and ignore the ones that didn’t work. And since each industry is so different in ecommerce what makes perfect sense for one industry may not work at all in another so you will have to try various strategies and learn and improve each year.

One of the ways to monitor this is with UTM parameters. You can create UTM parameters using a generator for any campaign you’re running and in tracking software like Google Analytics you can see where people are coming from.

As an example I created custom links for all of the influencers who made videos about my products. And while many of them sent over dozens of people who ended up purchasing the product one of the influencers only had one confirmed sale.

In future years I wouldn’t use this influencer again. Since my product is only $15 getting one sale isn’t worth all the admin time spent emailing back and forth and sending them a demo product.

Here’s a few custom links you could create for your site:

  • Links from Twitter
  • Links from Facebook
  • Links from your newsletter
  • Links from influencers
  • Links from forums / discussion groups
  • Links from your email signature
  • Etc.

Schedule Sale Prices

Once you have all of your landing pages & links set up it is time to schedule the sale prices. Whether you use WooCommerce, Magento, BigCommerce, or another online store just about all of them let you schedule both the start & end of sale prices.

Here’s what it looks like in WooCommerce.

If you’re doing a storewide discount, discount an entire category, or other more complicated setups, this isn’t typically included in the core software but there’s almost always apps, extensions, and modules that let you do this.

Plan Your Ad Strategy

Every retailer knows that Black Friday is one of the biggest sales opportunities of the year and many retailers go all out with advertising right before Black Friday. That means ad prices soar right before Black Friday so you’ll quickly find your self spending more than you make if you don’t plan in advance.

Image from AdEspresso

One of my favorite strategies is to come up with new ad concepts in spring, A/B test them throughout the summer, and wind them down in the fall. When Black Friday comes around you can retarget your existing audience which is far cheaper than targeting new people who are probably overwhelmed by the amount of ads and will be unlikely to trust a new company.

If you haven’t started ads and you’re reading this today, there’s still plenty of time. Get some ads out there next week and start building your audience so you can retarget them down the line.

Schedule Email Blasts

You have landing pages, tracking links, and all of your products are discounted. Now comes arguably the most important piece. Letting people know!

And yes, you can and should announce things on social media & on your website but today we’re going to talk about your #1 asset and that’s your email list.

These are easy to schedule in any email marketing tool. And what you want to do is setup a bunch of emails and you can send them to segments of your email list based on how active & how much they spend on your store.

  • Here’s what’s coming on Black Friday (7 days ahead)
  • Here’s what’s coming tomorrow (1 day ahead) – For people who regularly open your emails
  • Black Friday is here (Black Friday)
  • Don’t Forget Black Friday (Saturday) – For people who didn’t open yesterdays email
  • Don’t Miss the Best Sale of the Year – For people who have made multiple purchases

And you can create even more than this and if you have a large list with even more data you can continue segmenting your list and writing emails for those segments. 

Preparation is Key

At the end of the day it’s all about coming up with a plan. Almost all of the tools out there have scheduling functionality so once you make a plan, write a few emails or lines of ad copy go ahead and get it scheduled.

I planned my crowdfunding campaign for 6 months and raised $10,000 off a non-existent product. With a few months to go you have plenty of time to build your audience, come up with attractive deals, and let your audience know about those deals.

Good luck!

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The Best WooCommerce Themes You Need Today

The Best WooCommerce Themes You Need Today

WooCommerce powers a vast number of ecommerce stores and is a very popular WordPress plugin that allows users to easily add ecommerce features and functions to a WordPress site. 

Picking the best theme for your WooCommerce store will make or break how the site looks and performs. Picking a bloated theme that will cause issues for the store is something that you really want to avoid.

The two best theme options that work very well with WooCommerce are Astra and GeneratePress.

Astra

Astra theme is free and can be installed in wp-admin on your site, but the power for Astra comes with Astra Pro. 

Astra Pro is provided at no cost on Managed WooCommerce plans on Hostdedi

Astra Pro is installed as a regular plugin which will unlock and extend the Astra theme. Astra Pro has a huge number of features and modules just for WooCommerce. 

Also, the Astra theme is designed to work with a number of solid page builders like Beaver Builder and Elementor. Being able to use a solid and easy-to-use page builder will allow your store to look exactly as you like.

Astra Pro options can be easily enabled from wp-admin by going to:

Appearance > Astra Options

Make sure that the WooCommerce Pro module is activated in the Astra options setting to be able to control WooCommerce using the Astra theme. 

You can make the WooCommerce related changes in the Astra theme using the customizer in wp-admin.

The Astra theme is designed to be a very clean starter theme which is feature rich but also one which is performance-based, and will not cause issues when using it with WooCommerce.

GeneratePress

The final theme recommended is GeneratePress, which is another very clean starter theme.

GeneratePress theme is also designed to work with most page builders and contains a page builder container setting. GeneratePress can also be extended using the premium plugin, which is installed as a regular plugin on your site in wp-admin.

GeneratePress premium includes a number of modules that will extend out the GeneratePress theme. GeneratePress will also work very well with WooCommerce which means you can use a very clean theme which is also designed to work with WooCommerce.

Astra Pro for the Win

While both of the two themes are solid choices, Astra with Astra Pro includes the most features and the most options to be able to extend the theme and control of how WooCommerce displays. Also, it works without having to use a lot of code snippets to control WooCommerce elements.

Don’t rush when choosing your store theme, as that saves time and money later with potential plugin or layout issues that may appear later as your store grows. No amount of site optimization is going to fix root issues on your store being caused by the active theme.

Managed WordPress with Hostdedi Includes Astra

Forget about researching themes and choose Managed WordPress with Hostdedi, which includes Astra out of the box along with AffiliateWP, WP 101, iThemes Security Pro and WP All Import Pro with the WooCommerce add-on.

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When is it time to leave Shared Hosting & upgrade to Managed WordPress?

When is it time to leave Shared Hosting & upgrade to Managed WordPress?

One of the best things about shared hosting is the low monthly price. One of the worst things about shared hosting is the low monthly price. The reality that both statements are correct presents a constant challenge to customers who are slowly outgrowing their initial decision to use shared hosting. 

Before we start talking about when it makes sense to leave shared hosting and upgrade to a Managed WordPress solution, let’s highlight why so many people start off with shared hosting.

The 3 reasons people start with shared hosting

While there may be many reasons why people choose shared hosting for their first WordPress and WooCommerce sites, there are three that rise to the surface anytime you find yourself talking about hosting.

First, the low price can’t be beat. 

Ask anyone and they’ll tell you they’re looking for lower prices. This isn’t anything new. 

In the days before wireless phones, where people paid for phone lines, there was a constant desire to look for lower prices for both local and long distance calls. That’s partly because no one understood the complexity that was hidden from them. 

Hosting is very similar. Since everything technical has been abstracted away, it all seems easy and therefore, it shouldn’t cost that much. Shared hosting offers monthly hosting at prices lower than a complicated Starbucks order. 

Second, no one knows what resources they’ll eventually need. 

Another dynamic when it comes to hosting is that few people can predict how well their site will do (in terms of traffic) and how that relates to the resources they’ll need. 

This is similar to the challenge that homeowners face when considering solar panels. They’re often asked by professionals to evaluate how many kilowatts of energy they’ll consume in a day or month. Most of us have no idea because it’s a resource that we don’t measure directly or need to keep track of.

When it comes to hosting, it’s hard to know if you’ll need a lot of CPU or a little, whether you will see consistently high RAM utilization or whether it will peak at random intervals. When you don’t know, sometimes it’s just easier to buy an inexpensive plan to start with and see how it goes.

Third, most of us underestimate the need for advanced support. 

The third and final reason most people get their start with shared hosting is that they don’t place a high value on advanced support. If you’ve never hosted anything before, it’s especially easy to hope that everything will work out and you’ll never need to make a phone call.

Most customers of shared hosting assume that support will be there when they need it and rarely test to see if that’s actually true. Then, when they really need support, it’s somewhat shocking to discover that it doesn’t perform the way we assumed it would.

Signs that it’s time to shift to Managed WordPress Hosting

As you can imagine, the signs that it’s time to shift to managed hosting are the very reasons why someone may have chosen shared hosting to begin with:

Low prices create slow performance

Those low monthly prices are available because your website was placed on a shared infrastructure that houses thousands of other sites. The assumption is that you won’t get enough traffic to create a problem, and when you have a problem you won’t notice it. Often you’ll notice your site getting slower over time. That simply means the server your site is on is getting more and more packed. That’s what high density shared hosting is all about – packing the most sites on a set of servers. Slow performance is a sure sign that it’s time to think about making a move. 

Slow performance and connection errors require more resources

Even worse than a site that gets slower and slower over time is a site that stops loading or presents 502 errors (or 503, 504, etc.). Even if you don’t see these errors, your customers will. More importantly, your website will be “down” for those customers, which can impact your brand or revenue. These errors tell you that you need more server resources and likely a different configuration of your setup, but that isn’t available for $4/month.

Poor support experiences mean you need better expertise

The third way to figure out you need to shift from shared hosting to managed WordPress hosting is potentially the easiest one to spot. If you submit a ticket and the majority of the work is put back on your plate, you know it’s potentially time to make a change. Hosting companies that offer managed WordPress plans staff their support with experts who understand what you’re going thru and can help you. Shared hosting often doesn’t want you getting on the phone at all, redirects you to their knowledge base articles, and invites you to solve your own problem.

When is it time to make the move to Managed WordPress?

The answer to the question is rather simple – the time to make the move from shared hosting to Managed WordPress is whenever you experience any of the following:

  • A site that is so slow that customers leave before the page loads
  • A site that seems to consistently get slower, month over month
  • A site that gets connection errors / becomes unavailable for others
  • When support organizations want you to do most of the work yourself

When you experience any of these situations, you may want to check out Hostdedi Managed WordPress or WooCommerce hosting.

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Why DTC Ecommerce Matters More Than Ever Today

Why DTC Ecommerce Matters More Than Ever Today

In 2020, DTC ecommerce has proven to be another sensible way to reach your customers, and many brands are looking at starting from B2B and transitioning to direct to consumer.

Those of us working in ecommerce have been seeing the shift for a while now. As more and more stores transitioned their inventory online, the ecommerce boom wasn’t just happening – it was inevitable.

Fast forward to spring of 2020 though, and NOBODY could have predicted what happened next. 

Massive store closures triggered the single largest exodus from brick and mortar the world has ever seen, with more than 100,000 small businesses in the US alone closing for good as a result of the COVID-19 shutdowns.

But small businesses weren’t the only ones to take a hit. Larger retailers like Neiman Marcus have filed for bankruptcy in the last few months, and that list continues to grow.

All things considered though, the pandemic has thrown into sharper relief the need for a stronger ecommerce presence for many of these retailers. Record-breaking numbers are rolling in for ecommerce for 2020, including a growth spurt that put the industry four to six years ahead of schedule.

The Problem With Wholesaling During COVID-19

Even in spite of many shoppers setting their sights online, manufacturers saw major hits to their B2B sales as brick and mortar stores shut down. Those relying on wholesale relationships to float their revenue took devastating hits in the midst of the shutdowns.

As consumers turned to ecommerce sites like Amazon though, the fallout continued. In mid-March, Amazon restricted their B2B purchasing of nonessential goods in the wake of unprecedented demand for household staples.

As Amazon made room in their warehouses for hand sanitizer and toilet paper, purchase orders for nonessential goods rolled to a trickle or stopped completely, and manufacturers saw B2B sales plummet.

In the scramble to recover these revenue losses and brace for a potential second wave of retail shutdowns, many manufacturers are turning to DTC ecommerce models.

What Is DTC and a DNVB?

DTC stands for direct-to-consumer. It’s an ecommerce model wherein the brand sells directly to consumers, rather than through retailers, essentially cutting out the middleman. Some DTC evangelists will tell you the goal is to handle production, sales, distribution, and marketing under one roof and never go wholesale, but in 2020, it’s proven to just be another sensible way to reach your customers, and many brands are looking at starting from B2B and transitioning to DTC.

A DNVB is a digitally native vertical brand that starts this way. Best typified by brands like Avocado Green Mattress and Allbirds, DNVBs typically start with a simple product line (typically one or two options), clear, crisp branding, and a strong mission-driven component.

With brick and mortar sales remaining unstable and manufacturers now dealing with the fallout from their Amazon backlogs, DTC ecommerce is looking more attractive all the time – and consumers are taking notice, too.

Mission-Driven Shoppers Are Fueling the Fire

Interestingly, DTC brands are creating evangelical customers and devoted fan bases centered around two things:

  1. Amazing products
  2. A unifying brand mission

Consumer data shows that millennials now make up the majority of buying power in the US, and are 63% more likely to purchase from a brand because of their mission and values. 

This data, coupled with the boom the DTC sector has seen from innovative consumer goods startups has created a replicable business model that’s looking all the more attractive to manufacturers who entered the industry through wholesaling.

Four Components of a Successful DTC Ecommerce Site

Over and over again, we see brands killing the game in DTC ecommerce, and the best of them have a few things in common:

  1. Clean branding. Visually-driven shoppers respond to powerful messaging and clean logos. Brands like Tushy and Anese are leading the pack with memorable branding that leaves a mark in a saturated market.
  1. Smooth UX. At Hostdedi, we know that an ecommerce site’s performance is directly linked to its ability to generate revenue. The best DTC ecommerce sites have an intuitive layout, load fast, and have a smooth interaction with their shoppers.
  1. Simple product lines. They say simplicity sells, and that’s certainly the name of the game in DTC ecommerce. Strong DTC brands typically have one or two flagship products they make their mark with and expand on.
  1. Strong missions. The data supports that today’s consumers are more conscious of their purchasing decisions than ever. Making your mission clear and building your brand around it (instead of as an afterthought) will literally win you more sales, and good karma.

Is It Time for You to Go DTC?

If COVID-19 has taught us anything in ecommerce, it’s that you can’t have enough backup plans. Diversifying how and where you sell your products makes all the sense in the world. Those high-volume retail POs may seem nice for a while – until they vanish, and your revenue vanishes with it.

Build resiliency, connect with your customer base, and get in on the thrill that is DTC ecommerce. Talk to one of our experts today about what it would take to get your brand online and selling DTC.

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Managed WordPress vs DIY vs cPanel: Which Is Best?

Managed WordPress vs DIY vs cPanel: Which Is Best?



BACKUPS

  • cPanel: You can connect to cPanel’s backup tools, but know that it will save the files onto the source destination by default. This might be acceptable, but it should be noted that, in the unfortunate event that your server ever crashed, your backups would go along with it. 
  • DIY: To ensure you have proper backups, you’ll need to configure what you want backed up and when. This will involve continuously testing your backups, verifying them, and manually removing them so as not to overload your space. It’s a continuous and complex process, but it’s better than losing a backup before you really need it.
  • Managed WordPress: We take care of the boring and time-consuming work for you here, backing up every site on your account and removing old backups as needed. You can set up a daily schedule that suits your needs and run one-offs in between as desired. You can also rest easy knowing your backups are saved for 30 days on a separate server, eliminating risks and increasing security overall. 

PLUGINS AND CORE UPDATES

  • cPanel: cPanel offers the ability to install WordPress onto a website. The process involves downloading it, uploading it, and verifying it. It’s work for certain, but it gets the job done. Plugins can be added through the WordPress repo, but updates must be done on a manual basis, backing up the site (as previously mentioned), confirming the details, and agreeing to the update. Once it’s live, you can check your site to make sure everything worked as expected. 
  • DIY: There are many plugins and services that can assist with general updates, but nothing can automate the process for you for all. This leaves you in the driver’s seat to confirm updates for the many plugins you use on every WordPress site you manage. You’ll also need to spend some time after the updates to make sure everything still works right on your site — it’s not something that happens often, but plugin updates can adjust all sorts of functions and features you expect to be safe.
  • Managed WordPress: Nothing is left to chance with the managed approach. We run checks before any given plugin is automatically updated using our visual comparison tool, confirming your site will still look the same after the update as it did before. 

MANAGING MORE THAN ONE SITE

  • cPanel and DIY: Everything required for regular upkeep is done on a per-site basis. Multiple third-party tools are needed to simplify the process, which often comes with additional expenses and management tasks.
  • Managed WordPress: Every Managed WordPress account comes standard with iThemes Sync, giving you the ability to manage all of your sites in one beautiful dashboard at no additional cost. You’re also able to set up reporting and notifications as needed, tailored to your portfolio’s needs. 

CACHE + PERFORMANCE

  • cPanel: If you want to keep your individual sites running fast and smooth, you’ll need to investigate what plugins are available based on your specific capabilities. The best of these will not be free, but the alternative is too expensive. The management of these will all be on you, though some automation may be included with more premium options.
  • DIY: There are many things that require configuration and this will be necessary for every site you manage. All costs associated with the services employed are added to your monthly investment and obtaining support may be challenging, as each service is separate and solely focused on their product alone. The DIY hosting approach will also require regular tests and verifications, because setting these things up wrong is worse than not using any at all! 
  • Managed WordPress: From Varnish to Memcache to Redis and more, we take care of the licenses and support for you, preconfiguring all to help you run the fastest, most stable site possible. 

OVERALL CONTROL

There’s a common misconception that Managed WordPress is really just about giving up control to the host, but that couldn’t be further from the truth… 

In reality, you’re gaining MORE control! With more free time to focus on things that matter and access to SSH, phpMyAdmin, and your database, you can do everything you could with the DIY approach and more with Managed WordPress

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4 Best WordPress Page Builders for 2020

4 Best WordPress Page Builders for 2020

If you’re using WordPress, you already understand how important good page builders are. They allow you to take full control of page layouts, manage site elements as drag and drop modules, and even tweak the website’s header and footer. 

Without a good builder, you can only edit the rows and columns in the page body of your WordPress website and make minimal adjustments to its header and footer. 

With them, you can create great websites without any coding skills or design knowledge. Depending on your needs, this will either save you time or money. Let’s explain how. 

Normally it takes website developers hundreds of hours to learn the basics of website development, but with page builders, you can build a complete website from scratch in just a couple of hours.

Maybe you’re a small business owner and just want to hire someone to create a custom website for you? In that case, it’s good to know that great website builders can cost as low as $50. That’s quite a bargain since getting a custom small business website usually starts at $3,000, with many custom sites reaching $50k or more.

Taking all of this into account, it’s safe to conclude that WordPress page builder plugins are essential for creating custom designs and filling them with wonderfully styled content. For this article, we made sure to test and research all the popular WordPress page builders. Keep in mind, once you choose a page builder, you may want to stick with that one, since switching could cause pages to bread or slower speeds.

Read on to see our choices for the Top 4 page builders of 2020.

Beaver Builder

Features listed on the official website

Live Front End Editing, Shortcode and Widget Support, Mobile Friendly / Responsive, Developer Friendly, Translation Ready, Supports Posts, Pages, and Custom Post Types, WooCommerce Support, Hand Off Sites to Clients with Editor Mode, Tuned & Optimized for SEO, Multisite Capable, Reusable Templates, Save and Reuse Rows & Modules, Import/Export, and much more.

Pricing information

Beaver Builder comes with 3 pricing plans and they are: 

The Standard plan costs $99 one-time. It can be used on unlimited websites, and it includes all premium modules and templates.

The Pro plan costs $199 one-time and includes the same features as the Standard Plan, with the addition of the Beaver Builder Theme and multisite capability.

The Agency plan costs $399 one-time and includes all of the features of the Standard and Pro Plans, plus advanced multisite management and white labeling.

There is a free version available, and all three plans come with one year of support as well.

Embed video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tCNDDQ7Jrs8

Divi Builder

Features listed on the official website

Drag & Drop Building, True Visual Editing, Custom CSS Control, Responsive Editing, Design Options Galore, Inline Text Editing, Save & Manage Your Designs, Global Elements & Styles, Undo, Redo, & Revisions, Multi-Select & Bulk Editing, Find & Replace Styles, Built-In Split-Testing, WooCommerce Modules, Global Website Styles, and much more.

Pricing information

Divi Builder, made by Elegant Themes, comes with just two pricing plans: 

  • Yearly Access
  • Lifetime Access

The Yearly Access plan costs $89/year and includes these features: Access to Divi, Extra, Bloom & Monarch, hundreds of website layouts, support, and it can be used on an unlimited number of websites. 

The Lifetime Access plan is priced at $249 one-time and includes the addition of lifetime updates and lifetime support. 

No free version is available, but there is a 30-day money-back guarantee.

Embed video here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zf2ay9YyHEE

Elementor

Features listed on the official website

Drag & Drop Editor, 300+ Designer Made Templates, 90+ Widgets, Responsive Editing, Popup Builder, Theme Builder, WooCommerce Builder, In-line Editing, Full Site Editor, Global Widget, Motion Effects, Global Custom CSS, Popup Builder, TypeKit Integration, 100% Responsive, 24/7 Premium Support, and much more. 

Pricing information

Elementor Pro offers three pricing plans: 

The Personal plan, which is priced at $49/year for one site, includes 50+ widgets, 300+ templates, Theme Builder, WooCommerce Builder, and one year of support. 

The Plus plan costs $99/year, comes with the same features as the Personal Plan, and allows you to use Elementor on 3 different websites.

The Expert plan costs $199/year, comes with the same features as the Personal Plan, and it can be used on 1,000 different websites.

There is a free plugin version available as well, and all paid plans come with a 30-day money-back guarantee.

Embed video here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nZlgNmbC-Cw

Thrive Architect

Features listed on the official website

Instant Drag & Drop Editing, Landing Page Templates, Pre-Built Conversion Elements, Ultra-Flexible Column Layouts, Total Font Customization, Style Every Detail, Perfect Mobile Experience, Mobile Responsive Editing, Dynamic Animations & Actions, Inline Text Editing, and much more.

Pricing information

Thrive Architect comes in three tiers:

  • Single License
  • 5 License Pack
  • Thrive Membership

The Single License plan costs $67 one-time and it’s intended for one website only. The 5 License Pack plan costs $97 one-time and, as the name says, it can be used on five websites.

The Thrive Membership plan costs $228/year for up to 25 websites and includes access to all plugins and themes from ThriveThemes.

All plans include 334 landing page templates and come with unlimited free updates and one year of support.

No free version is available, but there is a 30-day money-back guarantee.

Embed video here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VeNWi8TaeO8

Feature Comparison

It takes time and practice to learn which features you need. Some will be immediately obvious and fit your current need, but it’s good to plan for the future as well. 

Using the table below, you can quickly see what may be a great fit for your needs.

Beaver BuilderDivi BuilderElementorThrive Architect
Live demoYESYESNONO
Free versionYESNOYESNO
Pricing starts from$99 one-time$89/year$49/year$67 one-time
Website usage at this priceUnlimited websitesUnlimited websites1 website1 website
User friendlyYESYESYESYES
In-line editingYESYESYESYES
Number of templatesNot stated1198300+334
Product support1 yearWhile subscribedWhile subscribed1 year
UpdatesNot statedWhile subscribedWhile subscribedUnlimited

Understanding Important Features

Having a cursory understanding of the lingo used across the page builders will go a long way to helping decide which you need, and which you can go without.

Responsive Editing means that the website you are building will automatically adjust itself for different devices and screen sizes. It also means that the builder includes additional options for customizing each version of the website separately.

Multisite is a feature that guarantees compatibility with WordPress Multisite and allows you to make changes to several websites from a single WordPress administration panel.

Live demos and free versions are very important because they allow you to test the builder before making an investment. Especially important for tight budgets.

Pricing per website should be considered if you think there is a reasonable chance you will need to use the builder to create several websites. Some of these builders come with a license that allows you to use them without any limits. 

User friendly means that the page builder is easy and quick to learn, doesn’t require specialized knowledge, and allows for a pleasant and intuitive workflow.

In-line Editing is a feature that allows you to add content like text to the live site in real time, without opening additional windows and moving away from the full-page preview. All of our recommendations include this feature, as we believe it is an essential part of a user-friendly workflow.

Templates are pre-built page layouts made from existing page builder elements. The more the better, since this allows you to quickly access dozens of page designs and just fill them with site content or tweak them to your heart’s desire.

Product support shouldn’t be underestimated when it comes to page builders. As you get familiar with a page builder, you will want to set some advanced settings like custom CSS, which might require a developer to get involved. This is where good support comes in, and helps you avoid additional expenses whenever possible.

Other Noteworthy Page Builder Mentions

Here are some other great page builders for WordPress that didn’t make our Top Four list:

  • Brizy
  • Themify Builder
  • Oxygen
  • Visual Composer
  • WPBakery Page Builder
  • SiteOrigin Page Builder

All of the above page builders are great candidates and we highly recommend checking them out as well.

Save Time and Money Using the Right Page Builder for You

Testing Page Builders and picking the one that works best for you can take some time, but there is an enormous return on investment.

We hope that this article will serve its purpose and save you the energy and money required to test out dozens of them. We made sure to highlight the important features so that you don’t settle for the wrong one. 

It is our firm belief that if you try out these four page builders in their paid form, you will get the best experience of features and overall satisfaction of use. This is the best way to find the one that fits you and to, finally, make an informed buying decision.

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Hostdedi Magento Cloud vs. Magento Commerce Cloud

Hostdedi Magento Cloud vs. Magento Commerce Cloud

One of the misconceptions about the Enterprise version of Magento 2 is that you have to use Magento Commerce Cloud for hosting. Or that Magento Commerce and the AWS-based Cloud solution are one and the same thing. Magento Commerce Cloud hosting for your Magento store is built by Adobe and includes powerful features (modules) like page building progressive web applications (PWAs). Hostdedi Magento Cloud is hosting for your Enterprise Magento Commerce store, or your Magento Open Source Store with features for professionals like high scalability, development/staging environments, and PCI compliance.

In this post we’re going to clear up the misconceptions between these two very different platforms.

Magento Commerce Cloud was created about two years ago after Magento was sold to Adobe. It’s their official solution for hosting Magento and it has a lot of good things going for it:

  • Magento Commerce Cloud includes common functionality for your Magento store
  • They allow progressive web apps (PWA)
  • They have a cloud based infrastructure for scalability

But it’s important to remember that Adobe, even though they own Magento, is the new kid on the block. They’re still learning how to build & optimize the infrastructure needed to power a Magento site.

Building a Solid Infrastructure

Magento Commerce Cloud is great at including product features. But they’re still building their entire stack on someone else’s infrastructure. What does that mean?

It means, if you have a problem with your website, you first have to bring it to Magento Commerce Cloud team. And they have their standard Service Level Agreement (SLA) to respond to you. If in that time, they discover a problem with the underlying infrastructure, they’ll submit a ticket to Platform.sh – the company that maintains their infrastructure.

So your SLA is built on top of the SLA from another company. That means solving any potential problems could take twice as long. Not great if you have a problem that negatively impacts your store and you lose money every minute it’s not fixed.

Hostdedi Magento Cloud is built on our own infrastructure. Hostdedi has one SLA, and because we own the infrastructure, we can solve all of the problems ourselves and we don’t need to rely on any other companies. This means less finger pointing, more informed support, and faster resolution.

Experience

The other big difference between Hostdedi Magento Cloud and Magento Commerce Cloud is that we aren’t brand new to this space. Magento was literally built on our servers back in 2007 – before Magento v1 was even released (Magento v1 was officially released March 2008). 

We saw the opportunity of Magento back in 2008 when brick & mortar stores first started moving online to avoid the worst of the Great Recession. We helped brand new stores get started with Magento and we learned a lot about it in the process, like exactly how many PHP workers were needed, what caching systems were most effective, and which Magento settings are worth enabling. We distilled everything we knew to create the very first Magento specific hosting solution. 

We also wrote the book on Magento Best Practices and shaped the Magento community by siege testing Nginx vs Apache and settling that debate. We’ve improved and continued optimizing and put out a new book for Optimizing Magento 2.

Contributing Open Source Libraries

Besides optimizing hosting for lightning fast websites, Hostdedi also created Turpentine which was the first varnish cache for Magento. You can take advantage of this on any hosting that uses varnish. 

We also created security extensions and continue to contribute to Magento core.

Plan for Exploding Growth 

Most hosts, including Magento Commerce Cloud, give you a certain number of resources that you must remain within. If you go over a bandwidth threshold you might have to pay more – or if you have too many people on your site at a time, it slows down to a crawl. 

Hostdedi created our first Magento plan during a time when everyone was getting online and then immediately started outgrowing their small plans. We’ve also been around for over a dozen Black Fridays so we’re used to seeing retailers needing extra resources on demand. That’s why we built auto scaling into all of our plans.

If you have a post that goes viral or your Black Friday sales really take off, we have you covered with additional PHP workers which keep your website snappy and your visitors happy.

Conclusion

Adobe Magento Commerce includes a lot of nice product features and it can be easily managed in the cloud. Hostdedi Magento Cloud is both more established and leads the way with the most efficient & affordable infrastructure you can find.

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The eCommerce Guide to International Shipping Costs

The eCommerce Guide to International Shipping Costs

If a product in your ecommerce store has global appeal, start thinking about a plan for shipping internationally. Shipping overseas isn’t the same as shipping within the country. 

Here’s a primer on the customs issues, international shipping costs, and other logistics you’ll manage as you begin shipping around the globe. Keep in mind that there’s rarely universal truth in international shipping. Get individualized quotes for your own products so you know how much it’ll really cost. 

What is international freight and what is the cheapest international shipping? 

Since shipping overseas is usually more complicated than domestic shipping, international freight logistics can present some unique challenges for eCommerce businesses. Some companies specialize in international freight and handle the logistical challenges for you. 

For small orders sent to your customers, you probably won’t have to think too much about customs issues. Even if you do outsource this process entirely, however, it’s worthwhile to learn more about how international shipping works for your products. You’ll be more adept at troubleshooting and improving your shipping processes. 

Shipping domestically can be very straightforward. You pay a single amount and your package gets delivered. But costs associated with international shipping may include the following: 

  • Customs charges 
  • Customs brokerage costs
  • Ground transportation
  • Maritime transportation
  • Air transportation 

When you ship, you’ll need to choose a carrier to transport your package for you. There are three different types of carriers, and they all work a bit differently. They also frequently work together. Even if you choose one of these, it’s possible that your carrier will contract out part or all of the shipping to another one on this list. 

International Carrier 

If you choose an international shipping carrier such as FedEx or DHL for the entire route, some or all of your shipping costs may be rolled into your postage. International carriers are responsible end-to-end for shipments and generally permit more visibility across the entire process than a national carrier working with a shipping partner would. 

This option may be more expensive than the other two and doesn’t necessarily allow you as much flexibility, but it’s likely a simpler and less time-consuming choice. 

National Carrier

A national carrier handles your packages within a specific country. They may not provide service outside that nation’s borders, or they may contract with local carriers to transport packages through other countries. You can work directly with a national carrier, but you’ll need to ensure that someone is still transporting the packages once they leave national borders. 

One example of a national carrier is the United States Postal Service (USPS). USPS has international reach by working with local partners to transport your packages. When a partner is delivering a package, USPS may not allow as much visibility into the shipping process which means you may not have access to much information when you ship internationally. 

For a small package that only weighs a few pounds, choosing a national carrier might be cheaper than your other options. Larger or heavier packages may be better off with an international carrier or freight forwarder. 

International Freight Forwarder

A third party can organize the handoff between USPS and the final carrier while also handling any customs issues. This is what an international freight forwarder does. They have permission from you to take on freight and have their own agents handle the customs and shipping logistics along the way. 

You could use multiple carriers and arrange the logistics yourself but in practice, this may be too complicated and time-consuming. That’s where outsourcing can make sense. For example, you may decide to ship a package from within the U.S. to the Canadian border through USPS, then have another carrier take it from there. 

Cheapest Way to Ship Internationally

Shipping to other countries is not just one process. There’s so much that depends on the country. To send your products overseas, consider the end country destination and plan accordingly. 

Consider these country-specific sections for more information. This is just a starting point, so be sure to do your own research just to be safe. 

Cheapest Way to Ship to Canada

Shipping to Canadian consumers can be complex. Although you generally shouldn’t have a problem shipping to most Canadians, Canada is a diverse country with a variety of different shipping arrangements and options. Some Canadians live in very isolated, rural areas that may make shipping a more expensive process while others are in urban areas with an abundance of affordable shipping options. 

Retailers must be prepared to work hard in order to win Canadian customers. Having convenient shipping is a good start. Whatever you can do to make purchasing from you easier is probably worthwhile. 

Online purchases made by Canadians do incur customs duties and other taxes, and paying these is the responsibility of the buyer. Although these costs are not coming out of your own pocket, you should know that these expenses do directly impact how much your shoppers can spend with your business. By keeping costs for your customers low, you could even offset some of these expenses and make it more likely that you’ll win their business. 

Besides import costs, Canadians also pay sales taxes for their province and a Goods and Services Tax (GST) to their federal government. GST represents 5%  of the total. Local sales taxes bring this amount higher. 

If your products are relatively cheap, you probably won’t lose business because of import duties. Recent updates to customs processes and costs mean that Canadian customers ordering from American businesses are exempt from paying customs costs on purchases up to $150 CAD, with some exceptions. This is up from the previous $20 CAD limit set in 1985. The old $20 rules still apply with items shipped through Canada Post, so keep in mind the larger limit only applies to private carriers such as FedEx. 

When you ship to Canadians, you have a lot of options. 

Shipping Options for Sending Items to Canadian Buyers

Canada Post, the national postal service, is one great option for retailers. You can also use FedEx, UPS, DHL or Purolator. Here’s where you may also want to consider Canadian geography when you’re shipping. Some of your customers may live in isolated communities and you may need to account for longer shipping times. As a result, some carriers such as FedEx, have different policies within Canada. FedEx Ground ships in four days or less within the US, but in Canada, takes up to seven days for shipments. 

You can use an individual carrier or use a multi-carrier shipping option that hands off packages to a new carrier at the border. Although the usual U.S. carriers you’re probably familiar with are available, the additional choices you gain within the Canadian border may be worth it. Purolator, for example, is known for reliable next-day shipping by 9 a.m. and 10:30 a.m. to Canadian addresses. When shipping packages, having this option available to customers may be a helpful selling point. 

Cheapest Way to Ship to the U.K.

In the U.K., eCommerce businesses have several options for shipping within the country such as the Royal Mail and DHL. You also have UPS international, FedEx, and even USPS international shipping. Shipping to the U.K. can be an expensive venture with a USPS Small Priority Mail Flat Rate box costing $36 and a Large Flat Rate box costing $94. Your costs will certainly be higher than shipping domestically, but that doesn’t mean shipping to the U.K. is completely cost-prohibitive for retailers. 

Imported goods need to follow the U.K. guidelines. Some of this may involve more work and recordkeeping on your part unless you outsource part or all of this process. 

You should find out if you’ll owe Value Added Tax (VAT) and have to collect it for your customers. Many eCommerce sellers are required to create their own VAT registration and request information from customers to help with location verification and tax reporting — even if you’re not based in the U.K. 

These rules may change. At time of writing, the U.K. was planning to leave the European Union which could result in different policies. 

Cheapest Way to Ship to Australia

When you’re shipping to Australia, you have several options. You can use an international carrier such as UPS, FedEx, or DHL. You could also use USPS. With Flat Rate International options available, you can reduce your costs for shipping a package to Australia. 

Customs costs may not be as much of an issue for you if your products are valued at less than $700 — which is about the minimum taxable amount for Australians who are buying products online and having their purchases shipped. GST imposed by the Australian government applies for more expensive purchases. 

If you use a freight forwarder or shipper, they’ll provide a Self-Assessed Clearance (SAC) Declaration for the Australian government when your package arrives at the border. Otherwise, you’ll be responsible for providing the SAC. 

Cheapest Options for International Shipping

You can streamline your international shipping and save money by creating a process. If you want a game plan for how you’ll ship internationally when orders arrive, take the time to decide in advance which countries you’ll be selling to, and create a system for taking care of shipping. As your business operations grow, you may need a more formal internal process for packaging and shipping including designated job descriptions for team members you have in charge of the process. For automated or outsourced shipping, plan how you’ll transport packages to the carrier, or sign up for a pick-up service. 

Your cheapest overall option may be outsourcing your shipping to a service such as Parcel Monkey or Easyship. These services can take advantage of volume discounts on international shipping and pass the savings along to you. In some instances, this can cut half of your shipping costs. 

Before you make any shipping decisions, carefully consider your options and find out what every shipping service has to offer for your business and your customers. 

Choosing the Best International Shipping Service

Business owners should shop around and consider several important factors when looking for the right shipping service. Start with an example order and calculate the cost and options offered by several different carriers. 

Before you make a list of carriers to compare, you may want to consider what you’ll need in a package shipping service. Specifically: 

  • Product categories you ship
  • Countries you ship to 
  • Countries you plan to ship to later as your business grows 
  • How much of the regulations and customs process you need to outsource 

See how every option stacks up against the others and note any questions or concerns you have for further research. Of course, you’ll also want to compare: 

  • Price
  • Arrival time 
  • Convenience for your customers
  • Shipping experience for you 

Every time you ship internationally, you have the option of using one single carrier or using a multi-carrier shipping option. 

Automating Your Shipping with the WooCommerce Shipping Plugin 

If you’re using WooCommerce, a shipping plugin can help you ship more efficiently. Balance multiple carriers along with a busy array of incoming orders and have costs calculated for you. A variety of different plugins are available with various features designed to make shipping calculations easier and enable quick comparisons among carriers. 

With a plugin, your site can calculate shipping rates accurately and provide customers with multiple choices. This feature allows you to provide different price points and shipping times so buyers can make their own decisions. 

Once you’ve automated your shipping, your online store can run with less guesswork and greater simplicity for both you and your customers. 

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A Beginners Guide to WordPress CSS

A Beginners Guide to WordPress CSS

You want your WordPress website to look great on every device and for every visitor but your out-of-the-box WordPress theme only gets you about 90% of the way there.

There are still a few things you’re concerned about — things that CSS could help you fix.

This beginner’s guide to WordPress CSS will give you a walk-through on how to edit CSS in WordPress to help you build a more beautiful, intuitive, and better-performing website. Most CSS classes for WordPress would take you through these same steps.

An Introduction to WordPress Editing

When using WordPress, you can customize CSS using one of three different editors that the service provides. 

Visual Editor

The visual editor is a post and page edit feature of the platform. It has been described as WYSIWYG (what you see is what you get). That means everything on the page, as you can see it, is exactly the way it will look to a website visitor.

This is an editor that will allow you to create content without coding. There is a toolbar at the top of the page that is similar to familiar programs like Microsoft Word. You can use the tools found there to alter your text and the appearance of the site. 

There is also an Add Media button which enables you to include images or videos in your post. WordPress plugin developers can also add buttons on your visual editor toolbar to help you create more features and styles for your live site. 

Drag-and-Drop Editor

A Drag-and-Drop Editor is one of the simplest ways to edit your site. It uses an elementary concept as the basis of its platform. You grab something, you pick it up, and you place it somewhere else. 

While drag-and-drop is not a standard WordPress feature, there are several editors that can be installed that will give you this easy-to-use editing platform. 

When using the Drag-and-Drop Editor, you can select an element of your site and drag it to a new location. You effectively drop the element in the desired location. If you’re unhappy with how that looks, you can start over again and move it somewhere else. 

Theme Editing

Theme editing refers to your ability to edit the theme or template of your WordPress website. 

There are two different kinds of themes that you would edit: Parent Theme and Child Theme. The Parent Theme is a full and complete WordPress theme, with all of the proper elements in place. A Child Theme has the look and feel of its Parent Theme, but it can be modified. 

The way you will edit your CSS WordPress theme differs based on which theme you’re using. Visual themes use the Visual Editor while drag-and-drop themes use the Drag-and-Drop Editor. 

For more on editing your WordPress theme, check out “Understanding the WordPress Theme Editor.”

What Does CSS Mean in WordPress?

Your WordPress website is built with a variety of languages including HTML, PHP, CSS, and MySQL. 

For now, we’re going to focus on HTML/CSS.

HTML acts as the content structure for your website (text, images and other media, hyperlinks, etc.) and CSS dictates how that content looks (e.g., colors, fonts, positioning of elements, margin, and padding). 

Let’s use a quick example. 

A simple line of text in HTML might use a <span> tag. But to change the visual characteristics you must use CSS. The <span> only defines the content, not how it should look. 

Here are some examples of visual properties we could change with CSS.

  • Font color
  • Font size
  • Font family
  • Background colors

Imagine it like a house. HTML represents the rooms, layout, and architecture. CSS represents the paint, choice of trim, and flooring. 

CSS gives the house its “look.” Every house has floors, rooms, and walls, but how you paint and arrange those floors, rooms, and walls is what makes the house uniquely yours. CSS can be used to add elements or take others away. You can hide page titles on WordPress with CSS.

Where Do I Find CSS in WordPress?

To find the CSS files for your WordPress theme, look under Appearance then select Editor and select the file marked style.css. 

From this window, you can edit the files directly and then Save

An Introduction to CSS Syntax and Selectors

CSS is comprised of style rules that are interpreted by the browser, and then applied to the elements of your document. 

The Parts of a Style Rule

  • Selector − A selector is an HTML tag at which a style will be applied. This could be any tag like <h1> or <table>.
  • Property − A property is a particular characteristic of an HTML tag that can be changed. An example of this might be “color” for text elements. 
  • Value − Values are assigned to properties. For example, color property can have value either red or #F1F1F1. View the complete Mozilla CSS reference to view all properties and possible values for each property.

Syntax

The syntax of CSS is a series of rules consisting of a selector and a declaration block. 

The selector block points the code toward an HTML element. The declaration block changes the property of that selector based on a series of values. 

selector { property: value }

To add more rules (as many as you want), it is standard practice to give each property, value, and declaration its own line. That would look something like

selector {
  property1: value;
  property2: value;
}

Selectors

There are many different selectors you can identify through syntax in order to change the properties of an HTML element. 

Some of them include:

  • Type selectors
  • Universal selectors
  • Descendant selectors
  • Class selectors
  • ID selectors
  • Child selectors
  • Attribute selectors

How Do I Use CSS in WordPress?

You can use CSS in WordPress to control

  • Color, size, and style of text,
  • Spacing between paragraphs and headers,
  • How images and other media look,
  • How your site looks on different screen sizes, and more. 

1. Control the Color, Size and Style of Text

First, you would want to decide on a HEX or an RGB color value that matches the color you want. You can use a free tool like Canva to see a number of different values for colors on the spectrum.

To target all paragraph tags (<p>) we need to write the CSS rule so that the selector targets those <p> elements.

p {
  color: value-will-go-here;
}

Let’s pick a nice red out from a color wheel. We’ll use #ea1520. 

That would mean the rule is

p {
  color: #ea1520;
}

And we’re good to go! 

Add that to your theme stylesheet (style.css) and all the <p> tags should be red once you reload the page.

Now, what if we also want to change the size and the font style adding elements like bold or italics? We just need to write rules for all of those properties on their own lines in the same target above. 

p {
  color: #ea1520;
  font-size: 26px;
  font-style: bold;
}

The documentation for the font-size and font-style CSS rules can be found on their appropriate documentation pages at developer.mozilla.org

2. Control Spacing Between Paragraphs, Headers, and More

The colors and sizes all look great — but what about the spacing? 

Is everything too cluttered? Or worse, is everything way too far apart and making the website hard for people to navigate?

This is where you want to embrace the use of the margin property. 

The margin is the space around an element, including the top, bottom, left and right. 

If you want more space between headings and the paragraph that comes after them, you would want to increase the bottom margin on that heading tag.

The Mozilla documentation for the margin property has an interactive example that lets you test several margin rules on a particular element to see how it reacts on the page. 

Once you understand the margin property well, let’s write a rule that adds margin-bottoms to every heading.

h3 {
  margin-bottom: 25px;
}

Now our H3 headings should have at least 25 pixels (px) of empty space below them for all screen sizes.

3. Control How Your Images Look

Through CSS you can affect the placement of your images along with the borders around them, how tall and wide they are, and more. 

Here are some examples of coding that you can use for the borders, scaling, and centering of your images.  

Border:
img {
  border: 1px solid #ddd;
  border-radius: 4px;
  padding: 5px;
  width: 150px;
}

<img src="http://blog.nexcess.net/paris.jpg" alt="Paris">

Image scaling:
img {
  max-width: 100%;
  height: auto;
}

Image centering:
img {
  display: block;
  margin-left: auto;
  margin-right: auto;
  width: 50%;
}

4. Control How Your Site Looks on Different Devices and Screen Sizes

You’re able to control the look of your site across various devices. That’s important in today’s climate with users accessing web content through their computers, cell phones, and tablets. 

Below is an example of CSS code that can rearrange your page for a device with a maximum page width of 480 pixels. 

@media only screen and (max-device-width: 480px) {
        div#wrapper {
            width: 400px;
        }

        div#header {
            background-image: url(media-queries-phone.jpg);
            height: 93px;
            position: relative;
        }

        div#header h1 {
            font-size: 140%;
        }

        #content {
            float: none;
            width: 100%;
        }

        #navigation {
            float:none;
            width: auto;
        }
    }

How Do I Edit CSS in WordPress?

You can edit CSS in WordPress manually via an FTP client or with the assistance of a plugin.

Adding CSS to WordPress Manually

In order to manually add CSS to WordPress, you’d have to be using a Child Theme which is more malleable than a Parent Theme and can be changed easily. Custom CSS that you add to a Child Theme will override the styles set down by the parent. 

Here’s how to add custom CSS to a Child Theme:

  • Use an FTP client like FileZilla to connect to the site. 
  • Locate the root folder. Usually, it’s called “www” or features your site’s name
  • Once there, navigate to the wp-content/themes directory where you’ll find folders for all of your themes. Select the Child Theme you set up. 
  • Right-click on the file and select View/Edit. The file will open with your text editor. 
  • Add your WordPress custom CSS directly to the theme. 
  • Save the changes and close the editor.

Adding CSS to WordPress With a Plugin

There are a number of plugins that you can use to add additional CSS to your WordPress site or defer unused CSS from WordPress. 

The Top 5 CSS Plugins for WordPress

  1. Yellow Pencil
  2. SiteOrigin CSS
  3. Simple CSS
  4. Theme Junkie Custom CSS
  5. Custom CSS Pro

Using any of these options, you’ll be able to gain access to the backend of your site and add your custom CSS WordPress code. Other plugins are able to complete advanced functions like optimize CSS delivery on WordPress using style.css files. 

In Conclusion

This walk-through to CSS for WordPress provides a simple guide for beginners much like early WordPress CSS classes would. 

With CSS, there’s always more to learn and more exciting ways you can use it. Our recommendation is to start small. For instance, make a simple change to your WordPress theme which defines the color of your footer’s background. If you find your WordPress CSS not updating, go back and re-read these sections to get a better handle on what went wrong. 

If you have any questions along the way, feel free to reach out to our CSS experts!

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