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Passing the Torch – Hostdedi Blog

Passing the Torch – Hostdedi Blog

No matter where you stand politically, you can’t deny that Ruth Bader Ginsberg was a force. I have a special place in my heart for her as we’re both from Brooklyn. Her demeanor, her mannerisms, and her grit take me back to the 1970’s-1980’s New York of my youth. You don’t mess with Native Brooklynites. We don’t all sound like Tony Manero, but our strut is innate.

As working men and women, there are many reasons to be grateful for RBG’s contributions to our society. Her history is now documented everywhere – from no one hiring her after she graduated first in her class from Columbia, to losing her job because she got pregnant. Her personal challenges and beliefs drove her to fight for justice and equal protection under the law for all of us. 

Navigating a Path to Leadership

I have worked in tech for 20+ years and we all know the stories. With the exception of crossing paths with one or two extraordinary female leaders during my career, I’ve seen first-hand the limitations and struggles faced by women, including myself, to navigate a path to leadership. When I landed at Hostdedi, the tides turned. It’s not lost on me that my peers and I are incredibly fortunate to work for a company that hires really smart individuals to do really smart things. Our culture, built on entrepreneurship, supports our strengths, our skill sets, and the ability to learn as you go. 

Our COO is one of those extraordinary women. And we’ve got a plethora of women in leadership roles across the organization – Marketing, Operations, Sales, and Channel. We are surrounded by team members who recognize our achievements, respect our work, and look to us to pave the way as they navigate their own careers. 

We didn’t get here by playing it safe. We all took risks. Got shot down. Were likely bypassed for promotions. Had others steal our ideas and claim them for their own. Maybe we didn’t talk enough. Or maybe we talked too much. Many of us had to figure out how to juggle managing a household and being a parent while still striving for professional success. These challenges are faced across traditional fields for women working outside of the home, but tech offers its own set of obstacles to overcome. Tenacity and confidence are key drivers that ensure you never give up on yourself. Even if others do. 

A North Star for All of Us

RBG’s persistence and attitude towards her professional mission should be a North Star for all of us. A strong sense of self, confidence that doesn’t turn into arrogance, an honest interest in helping others, a passion for learning, and an ability to grow and evolve.These are key attributes for every leader, no matter their gender. 

It is our duty to offer career paths to those that follow us. Opportunities to learn and grow. Mentorship to address issues that may be better than they were yesterday, but still require navigation. To empower our teams, welcome their ideas, be confident enough to recognize better ideas, and allow everyone to pursue greatness. 

Thank you, Ruth. We will take what you’ve given us and pass the torch. 

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The Real Differences Between Cheap Hosting and Good Hosting

The Real Differences Between Cheap Hosting and Good Hosting

Have you ever looked at the price difference between two products and gone, “What the hell?? WHY is that one so much cheaper?”

It’s like buying something on Wish versus at Target – price is everything, but a race to the bottom is not without consequences. You get what you pay for typically, and when it comes to hosting technology, that’s especially true.

With so much technical terminology, it’s hard to really communicate exactly what the difference is between two dollar and 20 dollar hosting. It all sounds pretty much the same, right?

Fast. Secure. Reliable.

We’re normally pretty nice guys around here, but we’re also crazy honest – there’s a reason we don’t feel bad for not being the cheapest, and it’s the same reason that Target doesn’t feel bad for not being more like Wish.

What’s the Difference Between Managed and Unmanaged Hosting?

  • Application updates
  • Plugin updates
  • Malware monitoring

With managed applications from Hostdedi, you’re also getting a support team made of application subject matter experts, who understand coding and these applications enough to help you diagnose problems on both sides of things.

How Much Does Hosting Usually Cost?

Buying hosting is kinda like buying a data plan. You get a connection to a server, you get data limitations and storage space, and some technical infrastructure on the back end to make sure that everything is running smoothly.

On the managed hosting side of things, like what we do here at Hostdedi, you get a lot more than just that connection and storage space. You get a level of administrative service that, though largely automated, keeps your plugins working together nicely and your site up to date (because let’s face it: we all forget).

Hosting plans are structured similarly to data plans in that you get a certain amount of bandwidth and features and functionality at staggered price points.

For a simple website, hosting typically costs between $3 and $45 per month for basic, unmanaged hosting. For managed hosting, the range is more like $7 to $45 per month.

As you’re getting into more complex projects, like ecommerce websites, or sites with a lot of traffic and complex server demands, those plans tend to get more expensive. 

The 5 Skeletons Hiding In Cheap Hosting’s Closet

#1 – Unlimited Bandwidth Isn’t Actually Unlimited

Have you ever increased your data plan for your home internet, only to find that your data overages turned into a slower connection?

It’s not in your head. This is called throttling, and it’s what happens when a user eats up a lot of bandwidth, but can’t be charged any overage fees.

The same thing is true for hosting. Though many cheap hosts claim to offer unlimited bandwidth, the reality is that there’s no such thing. Unless you’re dealing with a host with cloud infrastructure, it’s literally impossible for the bandwidth to be unlimited because you’re dealing with a physical server with physical capacity limitations.

#2 – They Use the Fine Print to Throttle Your Speed

Since unlimited bandwidth isn’t actually a thing, a lot of cheap hosting providers put weird clauses in their terms of service to make it technically legal for them to call their service unlimited, and then still, well, limit it.

For example, Godaddy has an ecommerce plan that offers unlimited bandwidth. The only catch? It’s against their terms of service to upload multimedia content to your website. No product videos for you, buddy.

#3 – Traffic Surges Will Produce 502 Errors

Related to unlimited bandwidth is a physical server’s inability to automatically scale your bandwidth and concurrency needs when you get a surge of traffic.

Long story short, if you have cheap hosting and you plan on killing it this holiday shopping season, you’re more likely to see llost sales due to 502 errors than record-breaking numbers.

#4 – When It Comes to Applications, You’re On Your Own

Cheap hosts typically have a very narrow scope of support. What this means is that when you’re having an issue and using an application, like WordPress or WooCommerce, you’re not likely to get much help out of them.

If it’s not server-side, you’re out of luck. They’re going to send you to the application’s support team, who will in turn, likely send you back and forth with a series of things to try, until you eventually scream in agony and throw your laptop out the nearest window.

Not good.

#5 – Cheap Hosting Usually Comes With a Long Term Commitment

In a lot of cases, cheap hosts know what they’re selling, and they know better than to make it easy for you to just walk away. That’s why in a lot of cases, those $3 hosting providers are going to try to get you to commit to a long term agreement that you’ll have to pay to get out of early.

Look, hosting is like the foundation and walls of your house. If someone asked you where you’d like to save money in building your new home, would you start there?

Of course not. Because literally your entire home is built on that stuff.

Hosting is no different, and scrimping on it to save a few bucks a month is akin to hiring the sketchiest contractor you can find to pour your foundation. It’s not worth the risk, and you don’t have to spend a lot to get great hosting anyway.

Buck up ya cheapskate – you’re not building websites because you have a ton of free time. You’re building them because you want your work out there in the world and you have a vision.

Don’t build your vision on a flimsy hosting foundation – build it with Hostdedi.

Sign Up today for 14-Day FREE trial of Managed WordPress or Managed WooCommerce! No credit card needed.

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Safe Harbor is Actively Protecting Magento 1 Stores

Safe Harbor is Actively Protecting Magento 1 Stores

After World War 1 the French decided they never wanted to be as vulnerable as they were during that war ever again. So they invested in an absolutely massive series of defense projects that spanned 280 miles along the French & German border including bunkers, artillery, underground rail lines, weapons platforms, and more, called the Maginot Line.

The entire point of the Maginot Line was to make it so costly for Germany to attack that they wouldn’t do it again. Unfortunately, during WW2, Germany invaded through the neutral country of Belgium and almost entirely avoided the Maginot line. 

The critical weakness of the Maginot Line was that it was built only along the French & German border. Had the French extended the Maginot Line along their entire border they might have avoided being occupied for most of World War 2.

Why am I telling you all of this? Because the Maginot Line is now a symbol of over-investing in one area and leaving a critical weakness in another.

A Battle-tested Plan for Magento 1

Magento 1 store owners have already invested in Magento and want to keep their investment fully functional until they decide it’s the right time for the ‘next thing’. To do that you have to keep your store protected against known attacks which is exactly what Hostdedi Safe Harbor is designed to do.

Arguably the most important feature in Safe Harbor is providing patches for known vulnerabilities. And instead of this being a theoretical plan (like the Maginot Line) it’s now a battle-tested plan.

Earlier today we released a patch via Safe Harbor for CVE-2020-15151. If you’re a Safe Harbor customer you should have received a notification from us, alerting you about the patch, which you can apply manually yourself or reach out to our support team who will apply the patch for you. The promise of security, achieved. 

Maintaining PCI Compliance

PCI compliance keeps your store secure so you can process credit card information safely. To maintain that safety and be PCI compliant you have to follow certain rules.

As per 6.2 of the PCI DSS Guidelines you must stay up to date with security patches: Protect all system components and software from known vulnerabilities by installing applicable vendor-supplied security patches. Install critical security patches within one month of release.

If you want to process credit cards safely & securely this holiday season, it’s your responsibility to keep your store up to date – think of it like someone noticing a critical flaw in your Maginot Line. Once they point it out, you can’t ignore it and pretend you’re perfectly safe.

What we’ve done with Safe Harbor is point out the flaw, write up new defensive plans to protect against critical weaknesses, and give you a button to deploy them instantly.    

Investing in Magento

Keeping your Magento 1 store fully operational means protecting it against known vulnerabilities. If you have yet to invest in Safe Harbor, this vulnerability illustrates the importance of staying secure. We’ll notify you about these patches, and when needed, help you apply them.

We’re actively monitoring Magento releases and will back-port any known vulnerabilities for Magento 1 which keep your store safe. Please contact support with any questions or concerns.

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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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Financial Health for Your eCommerce Business

Financial Health for Your eCommerce Business

So you’ve got a great product, and a great website to sell it, but does your eCommerce business have the right financial processes in place to survive? 

According to a recent survey by Small Business Trends, about 90% of eCommerce businesses fail in their first 4 months. Process-related issues like “running out of cash,” and/or “price and costing issues” were cited by at least a third of their respondents – circumstances that are often preventable by developing & sticking with business procedures.

These processes and procedures are often collectively referred to as “financial hygiene.” Just like our personal hygiene keeps us healthy, we need to maintain good financial habits to preserve our financial health. 

  • Hire a CPA When Launching Your Business
  • Open Your Mail 
  • Maintain Accounting Controls
  • Reconcile All Financial Accounts
  • Anticipate Expenses
  • Keep an Eye on Debt

Hire a CPA When Launching Your Business

A Certified Public Accountant (CPA) can help you set your business up correctly. If you’ve already launched, he or she can still get your bookkeeping going in the right direction before costly problems arise. 

It’s true that software like Sage and Quickbooks make it easy to do your own bookkeeping. In fact, most CPAs are happy to help you learn how to work with accounting software. But failing to properly set up your chart of accounts can leave you in the dark, with a setup that’s poorly designed for your particular industry or situation.

As an example, I once served on a board where the accounting software wasn’t telling us anything about our financial position. All of our revenue went into one account called “general revenue,” and all of our expenses came out of one account called “general expenses.” Sure enough, our reports were pretty meaningless. 

The Meaningless Company’s income statement only shows general revenue and general expense. It tells you nothing.
The Meaningless Company’s income statement only shows general revenue and general expense. It tells you nothing.

Establishing a few accounts that captured how our funds were coming in and going out made our finances come alive.

The Meaningful Company’s chart of accounts allows much more information to flow to the income statement.
The Meaningful Company’s chart of accounts allows much more information to flow to the income statement.

Same bottom line, but just a few minutes spent looking at it could tell you:

  • Left handed widgets are far less profitable than the regular ones (compare sales and the cost of making them)
  • Even though you took in more money than you spent, you lost money selling widgets. Selling a piece of equipment masked a serious shortfall.

Proper bookkeeping throughout the year allows you and your CPA to anticipate your tax liabilities and plan ahead. It also makes the process of creating your tax return relatively simple, because your business expenses are already properly allocated to the right categories, like automotive expense, travel expenses, meals, and so on. 

Without proper bookkeeping, your expenses must be figured out after the fact (if you still can). Many deductions are lost because a business owner did not keep adequate records and receipts to attest to them.

A CPA or a qualified business consultant should also help you develop realistic budgets and goals for your business, so that you can develop forecasts and know how much capital you need to launch your business.

Open Your Mail

You might be surprised how many business owners neglect to open their mail (whether electronic or postal) and take care of it. Sure, much of it will be junk, But taking care of your bank statements, government notices, and customer correspondence will keep your business on track and keep small problems from turning into bigger ones. 

For example, a government notice that your sales tax payment is missing generally comes with a small penalty and interest charge – if you catch it the first time – but these costs soar if you ignore the initial notices.

Set aside a time at least once a week (preferably more often) to go through everything and process it:

  • Pay bills
  • Deposit checks 
  • Respond to customer complaints or concerns (even the difficult ones)
  • Respond to vendor, bank and government notifications

You may think the advice to “deposit checks” above is unnecessary. But I was once asked to shred a number of old documents for a client, and found almost a dozen unopened envelopes with checks in them totaling over a thousand dollars – checks that were now long out of date.

If something comes in that you simply don’t understand how to handle, talk to your CPA or another trusted advisor. One of my college instructors gave my class simple advice that has always stuck with me: 

“Bad news doesn’t get better with time”

Maintain Accounting Controls

As your business grows, the items mentioned above are often the first things a business owner wants to delegate. However, maintaining good accounting controls dictate that you, the business owner, personally perform certain tasks whenever possible. 

If you have someone else writing your paper checks, you should still sign them. You may have someone else reconciling your bank statements, but you should still read them. The mundane task of checking the PO box has saved more than one business owner from continued fraud or theft within their organization, because they noticed an invoice or other document that didn’t make sense and tracked it down.

Reconcile All Financial Accounts

Reconciling bank and credit card statements should be performed monthly. Reconciling statements means comparing them to your records to ensure the totals are the same. Online banking and the daily transaction download to your accounting software is a good thing, but reconciling keeps your records accurate and provides a check on whether the amounts being stated are going where you believe they’re going. 

For example, Quickbooks may assume that a downloaded transaction for $100 matches a transaction you’ve already entered for $100. But those amounts may just happen to match, and in fact the transaction you entered may still be outstanding. 

Reconciling accounts forces you to track down all of these transactions, and is also a second chance to notice where payments have been made. For example, you may have thought you put Google AdWords on hold, but find that it’s still being charged to a credit card.

Taking inventory of your finished goods, work in progress, and raw materials periodically also helps you to keep your business records on point – and can help you discover it if things are going missing.

Anticipate Expenses

Some expenses, like ordering inventory and paying shipping bills, are predictable. Others, like payroll, taxes, and loan payments, come in at different times (weekly, bi-weekly, monthly, quarterly, or even annually). 

It may be tough to keep track of how much you will owe at different times. To make it even more tricky, payroll expenses are often automatically deducted from your account, ready or not!

One solution for this is to maintain a cash flow forecast that accounts for all anticipated future expenses in the next few months. Another approach that many business owners use, especially for payroll expenses, is to maintain a separate bank account. By transferring the gross (i.e. total) amount of payroll expense to it each pay period, the business owner can effectively save up for monthly and quarterly payroll taxes as they come due. 

Dedicated checking accounts are also sometimes used for significant business expenses like inventory. Depositing a portion of the money from all sales into an inventory checking account means you are always financially ready to order more inventory.

For expenses that are predictable, but that will be realized at somewhat unpredictable intervals (like the payroll and inventory examples), the additional bank accounts are preferred by many business owners because they provide a clearer picture of where they stand, without having to make calculations on the fly. 

For example, if you need a new $2,000 computer in a hurry, you have $6,000 in the main bank account, and you know that your next payroll is already transferred to the payroll account, you know you’re able to buy the computer. 

You’ll still need to do cash flow forecasting, but having a few dedicated checking accounts for those critical functions described above will help you stay organized, and your business should have money for your priorities.

Keep an Eye on Debt

A certain amount of debt may be inevitable in a business, especially when it’s starting up and/or growing. But unless you carefully monitor debt, your access to credit may mask serious issues with cash flow and profitability in your business. You may simply wake up one day and find that your credit cards and/or business line of credit are tapped out. 

To avoid this, you should monitor your debt – check your balances at least once a month to make sure they’re heading down, not up. Keep a spreadsheet so that you see how these balances are changing over time. Creeping debt is much easier to correct before it gets completely out of hand than it will be later when you’re running out of credit and paying a lot of interest.

Financial Hygiene – It’s Good for You!

You went into business because you had a great idea, not because you love accounting. Bookkeeping chores, reading emails, and other administrative tasks may feel like nothing but distractions from reaching your goals. But staying on top of them is the best way to control the risks you run in business!

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Second Half of the Year Day

Second Half of the Year Day

It’s July.  Wait, Whaaaat?

Although March and April seemed to crawl along as we all learned to navigate brand new economic and personal landscapes, it’s somehow suddenly summer. 

The goals we set for ourselves and our businesses back in January seem a distant memory now. Wednesday, July 1st is precisely half-way through the year 2020. 

The 182nd day of the year, it is the perfect time to take stock of the past six months.

In so many ways, the first half of this year has been challenging for businesses and organizations. There’s a reason that nearly every email we exchange lately contains words like “unprecedented” and “uncertainty.” But we know that times of upheaval can also be times of tremendous positive change—if we are intentional about the ways we engage with our business, with our employees, and with ourselves.

2020 thus far has been tumultuous. And in six months, it will be behind us. 

It’s never been more important to take the time to pause, reflect, reevaluate, and recognize how to move forward in ways that recognize that the current state of the world may be the norm for some time. 

So, how can we advance our businesses, given the circumstances in which we find ourselves?

Take stock.  Reassess how the year has gone so far.

Look back on your goals for the year.  When originally setting objectives and targets to measure the success of ongoing projects at the start of 2020, no organizations could foresee what our lives and companies and work would look like in a few short months.

Now is a great time to examine those objectives and targets and re-prioritize.  What should you start doing, stop doing, and keep doing?  What goals have been reached and which ones just aren’t realistic anymore?  Which projects need attention, what new opportunities have presented themselves, and which efforts are simply not adding value anymore?  Be ruthless.  

If understandable delays have occurred in your business, think of July 1st as a time to get back on track. Consider July 1st as a restart – a New Mid-Year’s day, if you will. It’s a clean slate on which to adjust goals and come up with cohesive action plans that take our new “normal” into account.

Make an action plan for forward movement.

Do you need to take a different approach?

Recognize the ways you can continue to make progress in the midst of uncertain times. If there are aspects of your business that need attention or adjustment, think about trying a different approach if you’re falling short of some of the goalposts you’ve set. Think about new methods and actionable steps that could help you and your team find new and positive ways of working for the latter half of the year. Try setting SMART goals—ones that are specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and time-based.

Keeping security up to date.

Take some time at the beginning of July to ensure that your online security is up to par. As most companies continue working remotely, cybersecurity protection is more important than ever. Make sure that your cybersecurity is up-to-date and that any necessary updates have been installed. Prevent security issues and make sure the second half of the year is as smooth as possible.  Security is complex and can be viewed as “just another thing to worry about.”  But mitigating risk is a critical component of any successful business and you owe it to your customers to protect them – and to yourself to protect what you’ve worked so hard to achieve.  Don’t make a hard year worse by succumbing to a security breach that could have been prevented.  If you need help, here’s a few good resources.

Holidays! Think ahead.

Planning ahead for the holiday season will be essential for eCommerce stores. From your website optimization to products, July is the perfect time to plan out what your strategy should be for the 2020 holiday season. It is also a good time to get in touch with suppliers and distributors to understand about any potential delays and restrictions due to the pandemic. Online business will be the order of the day.  Is your digital commerce strategy and site ready to go?  No? Let’s get on it.  Here’s how we can help.

  1.  Prepare Your Site for Potential Spikes in Traffic: Hostdedi offers infrastructure that can scale quickly, ensuring server resources can meet demands. Don’t leave customers unable to check out with your products due to slow load times, or worse, a crashing site.
  2. Mitigating a Malicious Attack on Your Server: Handling legitimate traffic can be quite enough without adding on a DDoS attack or code injection. Hostdedi offers basic and advanced DDoS protection to help, along with other add-ons such as firewalls, load balancing, or ServerSecurePlus™ for server hardening.

Get creative about “events.”  

At the beginning of 2020, I approved a Marketing plan that invested heavily in events, in-person Partner Summits, and travel to clients.  Well, that’s not our world anymore. As conferences, face to face meetings, and business-related travel continues to stay motionless, getting creative about ways to connect with your customers and employees is important. We’ve all had to make adjustments to our event planning for this year. While we are unable to come together for in-person conferences, consider using this time to completely rethink the way your business approaches these gatherings. Using a webinar format is a great option for the time being, give thought to how you can make them fun and interesting.  But also consider brainstorming about how best to revamp in-person events when the time comes.

Connect with employees.

It is vital to find ways to connect with employees who are working remotely. Outside of whatever sort of mid-year performance review you may do, consider reaching out to remote employees to have separate, open discussions about their professional goals. Though many things in our businesses have shifted and changed, our employees still have ambitions. Ask them about their hopes and think about ways you can support them.

Many people are using this time to think about personal development. Perhaps there are training resources or seminars that you can offer remotely to help employees build skill sets or try new things.

Celebrate success.

Finally, be sure to celebrate your successes. What have you done well in these challenging times? How have you shown up for your employees and reminded them of their value? It is essential to look back at all you have accomplished during the first half of the year. 

Be sure to celebrate and congratulate yourselves and your colleagues as we continue working through this pandemic. 

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What is PWA? Using Progressive Web Apps for your Magento Store

What are Progressive Web Apps (PWAs)?

Let’s begin by answering the question – what is PWA? PWA stands for Progressive Web Apps. Progressive Web Apps are a pattern for building web applications using HTML, CSS, JS and modern web browser APIs to bring a native-like experience. PWAs combine the best of 2 worlds: web and native apps. Like other mobile applications, PWAs are easily installable and make development work simpler for any merchant trying to reach as many customers as possible.

While the feature parity between Progressive Web Apps and native apps is not 1:1 just yet, PWAs have come a long way since inception. Features like instant loading, push notifications and offline navigation/purchase are now widely available no matter which PWA implementation you choose. 

They won’t be the right approach in every case – for example, if you need a feature that’s not available on a Web browser or through an API, you will likely need to go the native route. But PWA capabilities are continuing to expand and what may require a native app today, might be PWA-worthy tomorrow. Project Fugu is a good place to see what’s coming and what’s being worked on right now.

Why are PWAs such a big deal?

PWAs come with an incredible set of features that were once reserved for native mobile apps alone. While regular web apps have tremendous reach in every device with a browser, at the end of the day these apps are just a webpage in a browser. 

Native apps are another way to reach mobile users but they must be developed for one platform / operating system at a time. PWAs enable development of a single app for multiple platforms. This streamlined approach is something mobile developers have been anxiously waiting for – easily reaching every potential customer no matter what operating system they are using. 

They also solve one of the most challenging issues developers face: distribution. Since you don’t need to publish these apps in a marketplace, you can just add a few lines to your manifest and make PWAs easily installable with a couple of clicks. Results drive a consistent customer experience that they expect through a native application but with PWA, they get a standalone experience, completely separated from the Web browser. 

This means a full-screen experience with no URL bar, the ability to install the PWA and dock it to your device home screen instead of visiting a regular webpage plus everything a Service Worker has to offer. 

Instead of the legacy way of updating via form submission and waiting for approval and publishing of the new version to the App Marketplace, changes made into any PWA are immediately available the next time you are connected to the Internet and open the app. PWA installation is now a standard feature available in all major mobile browsers, as well as Chrome and Edge on desktop.

How does PWA help Magento merchants?

Let’s face it: the Magento 2 frontend was already old when it was released and we’ve seen how that plays with frameworks like Prototype.js and Knockout.js. 

The JavaScript ecosystem evolves quickly and constantly following the hottest frameworks, developer trends, and updated best practices. This makes it challenging to keep up when having to maintain separated codebases. 

PWAs are particularly attractive to merchants using Magento 2 because it reduces front-end development complexity, giving you flexibility, extensibility, and opportunity to deploy resources to develop new features. Developers can implement almost everything in the regular Magento 2 frontend at a fraction of the cost and time by using any of the available APIs.

How can customers run a PWA on Hostdedi?

We’ve made it easy to run PWA on the Hostdedi platform. We’ve created a step-by-step guide for how to install Magento’s official PWA PoC, Venia storefront. This resource outlines how to build, compile and transfer this PoC to one of our servers without the need to start and maintain middleware services.

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How to import WooCommerce Products with WP All Import

Ready to add new products to your WooCommerce store? You can import WooCommerce products from any CSV or XML file with any file structure. Here are the steps to import any product with WP All Import:

  1. Create an import with WP All Import and select WooCommerce Products.
  2. Drag & drop the data from your import file.
  3. Choose to import new WooCommerce products, update existing ones, or both.
  4. Run the import to create products, import images, categories, etc.

WP All Import is a powerful tool that allows you to import any XML, CSV, or spreadsheet into WordPress. Read on for an in-depth guide to importing WooCommerce Products, including price, stock, categories, and product image galleries. 

Importing Products with WP All Import

Follow along in your own testing install of WordPress: http://www.wpallimport.com/try/

Here’s the share URL for the import file used in this example: https://docs.google.com/spreadsheets/d/15vSspWyfqyvtox3faDpsfHUdzGgwrxDuH8SN5BWlZCU/edit?usp=sharing.

Let’s get started!

Create a new WooCommerce Product Import

Create a new import and choose your import file. You can either upload a file from your computer, download an import feed via URL, or you can use a file that already exists on your server. 

Google Sheets is readily available, so we’ll use the share URL of our sheet in the “Download from URL” field and select “WooCommerce Products” from the drop-down:

Filtering Options

WP All Import has the ability to filter imported products based on pretty much any criteria. For example, only products with a sale price, products with a certain brand, or anything else. This is all done using drop-downs and pre-built rules.

We don’t need to filter anything from this feed, so let’s continue.

Drag & drop to import WooCommerce product data

Now we need to map the data from our import file to our WooCommerce Products. The data from your import file is displayed on the right, and the import template is displayed on the left. To set up your import drag & drop your data from right to left.

First, we’ll map the product name, product description, and product short description.

Next, we can populate the product information inside the “WooCommerce Add-On” section.

Import WooCommerce Product Prices

In the “General” tab, the first thing you’ll want to do is decide which product type to import. WP All Import supports all of the built-in product types in WooCommerce: Simple Products, External/Affiliate Products, Subscriptions, Grouped Products, and Variable Products.

If you’re importing Variable Products into WooCommerce, WP All Import has several different options to connect parent products and their variations. We’ll go over those options in a separate guide.

First, drag in your SKU and Prices. If you do not have a SKU, WP All Import will create one for you.

In this section, there are some options that give you complete control over your pricing:

  • Click the “Adjust Prices” text to open a section where you can adjust your prices on-the-fly by a percentage or a set amount. 
  • Next to the Sale Price field, you can click “schedule” to schedule sale prices.
  • And, you can use the options below “Adjust Prices” to attempt to automatically reformat your prices to match WooCommerce’s requirements.

Import WooCommerce Product Stock

In the inventory tab, you have full control over the stock settings for your imported products. You can choose to manage just the stock status, or to set the stock amount and let WP All Import set the stock status automatically. You can also decide to set a low stock threshold, whether to allow backorders, and more. These settings can be applied to all products in your import, or you can set them on a per-product basis depending on the data in your import file.

WooCommerce Shipping Class

Next we’ll import the weight and the dimensions of your products, as well as the shipping class. Like everything else, you can choose to apply the shipping class option to all products in this import, or you can set them individually for each product.

Product Up-sells and Cross-sells

In the linked products tab, you can import the up-sells and cross-sells for each product. You can match up-sells and cross-sells by SKU, ID, or Product Name. WP All Import will search for the products in your WooCommerce shop and automatically add their IDs to these fields for you.

If you’re importing multiple up-sells and cross-sells you just need to separate them with commas.

WooCommerce Product Attributes

WP All Import has full support for Global Attributes and Custom Attributes in WooCommerce. You can choose to use these attributes for variations, and determine if they should be visible on the product page or not.

For Global Attributes, WP All Import will avoid duplicates by using existing attributes when possible. If no existing attributes are found, new ones will be created for you.

If you’re importing products with a different amount of attributes per-product, that’s fine – WP All Import will only import attributes that have attribute values for the products and ignore the rest.

Importing WooCommerce Product Images and Galleries

Next, decide how we want to import our product images. You can download images from an external host via URL, use images that already exist in the Media Library, or use existing images from your server. WP All Import has a wide range of options to cover pretty much any scenario.

If your images are hosted somewhere else and your import file has URLs linking to each image, WP All Import can download those images directly into WordPress and add them to your imported posts and image galleries. You can also match your imported data to images that are already in the WordPress Media Library, or those that have been uploaded to wp-content/uploads/wpallimport/files/. 

You can also choose to have WP All Import scan through the post content of each product and import images that are wrapped in <img> tags. They’ll be imported into the Media Library and their old URLs will be replaced by the new ones in the post content.

In the “SEO & Advanced Options” section, you can choose to import image metadata, including the Title, Caption, Alt Text, Description, including the file name and extension.

Custom Fields

WP All Import can auto-detect custom fields in your products that have been added by your theme or other plugins. You can import data to these custom fields, or define new ones here in the import.

WooCommerce Product Categories and Tags

WP All Import offers full support for Product Categories, Product Tags and custom taxonomies in WordPress. There are a few different ways to import nested categories to WordPress.

No matter the settings you choose, WP All Import will always search for and use existing categories and tags to prevent duplicates from being created. New categories and tags will be created only when no match is found.

You can also use the mapping tool to translate category or tag values from your file to whatever you need them to be. That means you can convert your suppliers categories and tags to the ones on your site and avoid a bunch of redundant ones getting created in your shop.

Import Settings

Any time you use WP All Import to import data to your WordPress site, the settings on this page will determine exactly what’s done with the data as it’s being imported. You can create new products, delete products that you remove from your file in subsequent runs, and update existing products on subsequent runs.

You can also enable the “Choose which data to update” option if you only want to update specific fields for existing products. For example, you can use these settings to limit your import to only update the prices and stock for existing products.

Scheduled WooCommerce Product Imports

Imports can be set to run automatically on a schedule. At the scheduled time a fresh version of your import file will be downloaded and the import will run to create, delete, and update products based on your import settings. Schedules can be created manually using cron jobs, or automatically using WP All Import’s Automatic Scheduling service.

Running the Import

Now it’s time to run the import.

Finishing Up

After the import is complete, go over and take a look at the products that have been imported.

In just a few minutes we’ve imported hundreds of products, including their product images, attributes and taxonomies into our WooCommerce Shop. WP All Import is a powerful tool that allows you to import any XML, CSV, or spreadsheet into WordPress.

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WordPress Plugins to Use for A/B Testing Marketing Efforts

WordPress Plugins to Use for A/B Testing Marketing Efforts

Have you ever wished you could test an alternate a call-to-action or an ad placement on your site without the risking a negative effect on your conversion rate? You don’t have to make decisions blindly when it comes to your marketing. A/B testing gives you the hard data you need to make informed decisions regarding your conversion optimization strategies. As a result, you can lessen the risk that your changes will have a negative effect on conversions.

Today, we’re answering your biggest questions about content experiments: What is A/B testing in marketing? What does an A/B test look like? And what are the best WordPress A/B testing plugins that you should be using on your WordPress site?

What Is A/B Testing in Marketing?

A/B testing is when you compare two or more versions of a webpage, app, or piece of content to gauge which performs better. In marketing, A/B testing gives you the ability to determine what the outcome of your optimizations will be before you apply them.

There’s one important reason to use A/B testing: marketing is often a matter of trial and error, but A/B testing means you can test changes before applying them. This allows you to be certain the changes will deliver the desired results, and effectively eliminate the guesswork.

What an A/B Test Looks Like

Consider a hypothetical example. You have a landing page, and you want that page to convert more subscribers. 

If you used an A/B testing tool, you could create a variant of that landing page by making one single yet significant change to the page. From there, the tool could run both pages — original (or “control”) and variant — by delivering them to your traffic at random and with equal frequency. Meanwhile, the tool would monitor how many conversions each page generates. If the variant page has an increased rate of conversion, then the change you made was effective and can be applied to the actual page.

A/B testing can be done with multiple variants (multivariate testing) but test results are clearer with just one variant. When there’s just one variant with one single change from the original page, you can conclude that change is the source of the performance difference.

What You Can Split Test on Your WordPress Site

A/B testing — also called split testing — on WordPress primarily entails testing your landing pages. Since the goal of a landing page is to convert leads, you can use split testing to compare different iterations of the landing page and find out which generates the most conversions.

Besides landing pages, split testing on WordPress can be used to compare variations of on-page elements like content headings or the location of your social sharing buttons. Another common use for A/B testing is to compare different sign-up form implementations. This test lets you determine whether you get more subscribers when the form is served in a pop-up or when it floats in from the side of the page.

Some of the common elements used in split testing include

  • Landing pages
  • Product pages
  • Buttons
  • Calls-to-action
  • Ads
  • Content headlines
  • Graphics and visual elements
  • Signup forms

Best WordPress Plugins for A/B Testing

There are many great plugins for WordPress A/B testing. Whether you’re looking to test your on-page elements or want to do split testing for a landing page, here are the best plugins for your WordPress A/B tests.

Nelio A/B Testing

As one of the most widely used A/B testing plugins for WordPress, Nelio A/B Testing is an extremely versatile tool that will help boost your conversion. Nelio can do split testing for your product pages (in addition to your landing pages, on-page elements, and blog posts) with all your experiments tracked right from your WordPress dashboard. As a bonus, the tool supports experiments with multiple variants. 

Nelio offers additional features like multi-site support, a heatmap feature, and experiment scheduling across its three subscription plans starting at $29 per month for up to 5,000 pageviews.

Split Hero

Split Hero is a split testing tool that keeps things simple. It lets you create up to four variants of your page using either the Split Hero plugin for WordPress or your preferred page builder. From there, it’s as simple as inputting the details of your experiment — i.e., name for the experiment, length of time for the test, destination page for after conversion — and running the test. Then the plugin serves those pages to your audience and monitors the data. 

A Split Hero subscription costs $27 per month for unlimited testing capabilities after a free 14-day trial. And if you run a web store, Split Hero supports WooCommerce. 

Thrive Headline Optimizer

Click-through rate on posts and articles is largely dependent on the strength of your headlines. If you want to boost the click-through rate on your content, consider trying Thrive Headline Optimizer. Not to be confused with Thrive Optimize, Thrive Headline Optimizer is an A/B testing tool for headlines. With this tool, you can test different titles for your content to figure out which generates more engagement. 

Popular and highly-trafficked outlets like Forbes, Huffington Post, and Buzzfeed use Thrive Headline Optimizer because it’s easy and effective; just input your variant titles, launch the experiment, and monitor the results right from your WordPress dashboard. It’s included in the Thrive Suite of WordPress tools for $19 per month (paid annually), or you can buy Thrive Headline Optimizer separately for a one-time payment of $67.

Simple Page Tester

Simple Page Tester is an A/B testing tool that lives up to its name. Available for free with a premium version available for a one-time payment of $59, Simple Page Tester simplifies split testing with its user-friendly test setup wizard. 

Installing the plugin is the most difficult part. From there, just tell the plugin what you want to test e.g., a blog post or page, and when (or whether) to declare a winner. Simple Page Tester has native integration with Google Analytics for conversion goal tracking and offers variable traffic controls between variants. With the premium version, you also get comprehensive analytics which let you monitor your tests from your WordPress dashboard.

A/B Press Optimizer

Testing a post or page is pretty standard for split testing tools, but A/B Press Optimizer lets you more easily test variations of specific on-page elements. You can test different graphics, button or link styles, subscriber form locations, and even headlines for your content. The plugin allows for unlimited experiments and unlimited variations in those experiments which makes A/B Press Optimizer essential if you plan on doing lots of split testing on your site. 

Between the limitless number of tests and ability to compare specific on-page elements, A/B Press Optimizer is great for granular conversion and engagement optimizations. You can start using A/B Press Optimizer after a one-time payment that starts at $49.

WordPress Calls to Action

Similar to how Thrive Headline Optimizer focuses on split testing for headlines, WordPress Calls to Action is a split-test plugin made by Inbound Now for your calls-to-action. A call-to-action is designed to convert subscribers and customers, and WordPress Calls to Action Plugin can be used to test different versions of your call-to-action so you can find out which converts the most traffic. But it’s not just limited to calls-to-action. In fact, you can also run A/B tests for your ads, posts, pages, and other elements. WordPress Calls to Action even has templates that you can use to quickly create your variant calls-to-action. 

As a freemium tool, WordPress Calls to Action has a “lite” version available for free, or a premium version is available as part of the Inbound Pro Marketing Suite for $59.99 per year.

WordPress Landing Pages

Also made by Inbound Now, WordPress Landing Pages is a split testing tool for your landing pages. It includes a robust page builder so you can design different landing pages to use for your experiments. There are a number of templates available to use for your landing pages; these templates are built on the Advanced Custom Fields framework. 

In addition to all those useful features, WordPress Landing Pages supports multivariate testing, meaning you can test multiple variant elements on each variant page. There are also in-depth reporting options that can be accessed right from your WordPress backend. Like WordPress Calls to Action, WordPress Landing Pages is a freemium plugin, so the “lite” version is available for free, and the premium version is part of the Inbound Pro Marketing Suite for $59.99 annually.

Marketing Optimizer

Marketing Optimizer is an all-in-one marketing plugin that is completely free to use. It can meet many of your marketing needs with marketing automation, call tracking, and customer relationship management capabilities. However, Marketing Optimizer is arguably most robust as an A/B testing tool. The built-in builder makes it very easy to create high-converting landing pages, pop-ups, calls-to-action, and emails as well as variant versions for your tests. 

Although it has its own builder, you can use elements created with your preferred builder(s) in your Marketing Optimizer split tests. Once you’ve designed and initiated a test, Marketing Optimizer tracks the results and generates visual reports which you can view from your WordPress dashboard. It supports both caching plugins and server-side caching.

Google Optimize

Unique from other plugins on this list, Google Optimize — previously known as Google Content Experiments — is an A/B testing tool that doesn’t require a plugin. Just embed a small amount of code in the header of your site and use the external Google Optimize platform to build and run your split tests. Since it’s a Google-made tool, it integrates fully (and automatically) with Google Analytics, so your tests will generate a ton of valuable and actionable data.

Google Optimize can track up to five simultaneous split tests consisting of up to 16 variants for free, or you can upgrade to Optimize 360 which supports up to 100 simultaneous experiments consisting of up to 32 variants. For pricing on Optimize 360, you must contact the Google Optimize sales team for a custom quote.

Do You Need A/B Testing for Your WordPress Site?

No matter what type of website you run, the search for ways to convert more subscribers, leads, or customers is never ending. But there aren’t any default tools to do conversion testing in WordPress. Testing site conversion is something you’d need to do manually, and even so, it would be complicated, cumbersome, and lack the in-depth reporting.

An A/B testing tool for your WordPress site gives you the opportunity to more easily find tweaks and make improvements to your site so you can achieve your goals. Most importantly, these tools make the process of conversion optimization something that’s based on real historical and experimental data rather than a game of guesswork. A/B testing tells you what’s working and what’s not, so you can make smarter and more informed decisions.

Hostdedi Can Provide the Performance You Need for Robust A/B Testing

Before you can run an A/B test on your landing page, you need a great hosting plan for your website. That’s where Hostdedi can help.

Hostdedi is your premiere web hosting provider, offering plans for Managed WordPress hosting & Managed WooCommerce hosting. With a Hostdedi hosting plan, you get fully unlimited and unmetered traffic, built-in optimizations for fast loading, automated framework, and plugin updates, and so much more. Once you’re ready to start split testing your landing pages, Hostdedi’ performance-oriented hosting will give you the peace of mind that your site can handle just about anything.

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Virtual Team Building: Putting the Fun in Fundamentals

Virtual Team Building: Putting the Fun in Fundamentals

This was originally posted on the Liquid Web blog.

Liquid Web’s Executive Vice President and General Manager on creating a virtual team building atmosphere where individuals feel valued, supported, and part of a community.

A company culture in which employees feel challenged, work with people they enjoy, and work for people who “have their back” creates an atmosphere of high performance, loyalty, positivity, and frankly, fun.

In my last blog, fundamentals of management, we talked about the fundamentals being more critical than ever given our current global pandemic situation. Now, as we face the reality of an extended stay-at-home work-life situation, it is also imperative that we maintain a strong community for the sake of our employees. A company culture in which a worker feels valued and supported as an individual is vital in even the best of circumstances. Given the current global situation, the importance of maintaining your culture and your “community” magnifies. 

In my experience, keeping employees motivated and with high morale take priority, and it’s essential to make sure you have these bases covered:

  • Ensure each employee knows how they fit into the bigger picture, and how their role contributes to the success of the company.  
  • Reinforce with employees that management “has their back,” that employees are empowered, can take some risks, and that you’ll be there to support them.  
  • Take the time to ensure employees feel valued and are compensated fairly for the job they are doing. Sure, everyone would like to make more money, but sometimes that’s not what it’s all about. Make sure their compensation is fair and equitable to their peers for the job they are doing.  

And then, to tie it all together, most employees want to have a sense of community – not just from the neighborhood in which they live, but in their place of work, as well. Layering on a strong sense of community in a way that matches your culture can take your team from good to great.   

People are happiest when working in an environment that is in line with their values. A company culture in which employees feel challenged and are working alongside people they enjoy creates an atmosphere of positivity and productivity. And a part of liking someone is knowing someone—like really knowing them—on a level deeper than what their role is in the company. In times like this, it is essential that people feel connected to one another. 

Here’s where the FUN in fundamentals can come in…

Now is a great time to spend time thinking about how you all stay connected. Here are some things we are doing at Liquid Web to ensure that our team doesn’t feel isolated, and that every single employee knows that we have their back while keeping morale high and infusing some fun into a virtual work setting. A little something for all interests and personality types.  

I’d love to hear what you’re doing – hit me up @cawheeler99 on Twitter and share!

Themed Meetings

If you have a recurring meeting on the calendar, consider adding a bit of fun by giving it a theme. Every Friday, wear a certain color. My team enjoys Hat Fridays. Try different themes based on a decade or destination.

Games

At the beginning of meetings, ask someone to send in a photograph. Everyone has to guess who sent it in. When the sender is identified, they get a chance to share a bit about the photo they sent and why it’s meaningful to them. 

Gift Exchanges

Draw names using a gift exchange generator, set a budget, and let the fun begin. If budget is an issue, try doing a DIY gift exchange in which gifts must be made using only items that the giver has on hand in their home. This is a really fun way to let employee creativity shine. 

Netflix Watch Parties

This is a fun way for employees to stay connected. We’ve also opened this up to families and have kid-friendly viewing options. 

Roulette Hangouts

Groups of 4-6 participants are randomly selected to have a 15-30 minute hangout session to talk shop, interests, or favorite Baby Yoda memes. Sample questions are provided as a starting point to get the ball rolling, but participants are free to talk about anything they want to get the conversation flowing.

Virtual Home Tours

Ask employees to share their favorite part of their home, whether that’s a room, a piece of furniture, or an object. Find out what’s bringing employees comfort in these times when so many of us are housebound. 

Art Exchanges

Employees fill out a questionnaire about their interests and personality. They are then matched with an employee from a different location. The two swap questionnaires and, based on the other person’s answers, they paint or draw a small 4×4 piece of art for their new friend. 

Volunteer Initiatives

Set up Slack channels based on locations that allow employees to share information about ways to help in their communities. 

Hidden Talents

Hosting a virtual Talent Show is an excellent way to get to know your colleagues better. Everyone gets five minutes. Acts can range from serious to silly. Laughter is inevitable and you might just discover a secret opera singer in your midst. 

Happy Hour Team Meetings

This is a great way to unwind at the end of the week. Close out the week with a meeting that allows teams to check in about the week over their beverage of choice. 

Themed Photo Contests

Every week, choose a stay-at-home friendly theme (like food, pets, from my window) and host a photo contest. Feature the best submission at the start of a team meeting.

Resource-Sharing for Parents and Caregivers

Start a Slack channel for sharing resources like online learning, tips for keeping kids entertained, and how to balance working from home while managing education at home. 

For large companies with lots of employees, variety is essential. Try different approaches and see what resonates. One silver lining of these very trying times is that, if we can find ways to forge the connections that this season calls for, we will know one another more deeply—and we may even be more productive—than we ever have before.   

Be safe out there, and have some FUN!

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