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Three Tools That Test WordPress Themes For Code Quality and Accessibility

Three Tools That Test WordPress Themes For Code Quality and Accessibility

Three Tools That Test WordPress Themes For Code Quality and AccessibilityWordPress contributor teams recently released Theme Sniffer and WP Theme Auditor, tools that help developers to create themes that adhere to coding and accessibility best practices.

There are thousands of free WordPress themes and thousands more premium themes. Some are excellent, and some are terrible, but most are somewhere in-between on the quality scale. Installing a theme that isn’t coded correctly can cause security or user experience problems, which is why the WordPress project is careful what it lets onto the theme repository.

However, the most diligent theme checkers can’t catch every problematic theme, so lower-quality themes sometimes make it through, especially on premium theme marketplaces that may not be as careful as the WordPress Repository team.

Developers don’t set out to make themes that cause problems. Most want to create a theme that is useful, beautiful, and secure. Problem themes are the result of less experienced developers who don’t understand what is required of a WordPress theme or don’t have the WordPress and PHP skills to create a theme that ticks all the boxes.

Poor-quality themes create a negative user experience, and that’s not good for the WordPress project, which wants interactions with WordPress to be as pleasant as possible. One way to achieve the goal of theme excellence is to provide high-quality documentation for developers. Another is to create tools to help developers spot issues and fix them before they become a problem to users.

Theme Sniffer was recently released by the Theme Review Team. It analyzes a theme’s code to see whether it adheres to WordPress coding conventions, a set of rules the WordPress project believes should be followed by anyone who develops a WordPress theme.

Image: https://ps.w.org/theme-sniffer/assets/screenshot–1.png?rev=2045224

The rules say how PHP files should be indented, whether single or double quotes should be used, how database queries should be formatted, and more. This might seem trivial, but coding standards help developers to maintain consistency throughout their projects, provide guidance about how to handle certain coding dilemmas, and make it easier for developers to collaborate — something that is particularly important for open source projects.

Accessibility is a particular problem for WordPress themes. Many themes that appear to be well-made pose problems for users with accessibility issues because the developer doesn’t follow accessibility best practices.

WP Theme Auditor is an NPM tool that examines WordPress themes with the aXe API, which includes tests to make sure a theme doesn’t provide a negative experience to people who have accessibility issues, including people who use WordPress via the keyboard or a screen reader.

Theme Check is a plugin that automatically tests themes for compliance with the official theme review standards. This one is particularly important because theme reviewers use it before allowing themes onto the official WordPress theme repository. If your theme doesn’t pass these tests, it may be rejected.

We’ve discussed the Theme Check plugin before, so take a look at our earlier post for a more in-depth discussion.

Automated testing helps developers to find coding and design mistakes before they’re released into the wild. The tools we’ve discussed make it easier for developers to create themes that are delightful to use.

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Evaluating eCommerce Product Ideas: Is There A Market?

Evaluating eCommerce Product Ideas: Is There A Market?

Evaluating eCommerce Product Ideas- Is There A MarketEvery product starts with an idea, but good ideas are rare. There is a long road between a spark of inspiration and a profitable product. Investing in a product idea that goes nowhere is dangerous. Few retailers can afford to manufacture or buy products that sit on warehouse shelves for months. For every dud product, there is a product which might have sold well if only the retailer hadn’t wasted their time and money on an idea that didn’t work out.

Product evaluation tries to sort the winners from the duds early enough to avoid a wasted investment.

Is The Product Idea Feasible?

Ideas may fall at the first hurdle because there is a challenge that is too difficult or expensive to overcome. It’s better to find these challenges in the early stages of planning, rather than later when money has been spent.

For example, you are inspired to build an eCommerce business around direct-from-the-farm strawberry delivery. There may be a market for fresh strawberries, but there are also challenges. Sourcing strawberries from farms is a complex logistical operation. Strawberries spoil quickly, so short delivery timelines are essential. They should be stored in chilled warehouses and transported on chilled trucks, which is expensive. It’s not a bad idea, but it may involve a substantial capital investment that makes it impractical.

Regulations can be a challenge to the feasibility of an idea. In some parts of the world, fireworks are heavily regulated. To sell fireworks, you have to carry out identity checks on buyers, apply for licenses to buy and sell commercially, pay for expensive liability insurance, and use secure storage. Compliance may make it difficult to sell fireworks at a cost that is competitive compared to industry incumbents.

When developing a product idea, it’s essential to establish that there is a market, but you should also ask whether you are best placed to serve that market.

Is Anyone Interested?

A product idea may not find a market. Perhaps it addresses a need, but customers aren’t prepared to pay enough to build a profitable or sustainable business. More likely, there is little interest. There are several ways to establish whether a market for a product exists. For a preliminary survey, Google Trends and the Google Keyword Tool are useful.

Interest over time in Strawberry delivery

Google Trends tracks the interest in search queries over time. Consider our strawberry retail idea. Google Trends shows that there is some interest in strawberry delivery, but it is generally low with a large spike. The spike occurs in February around Valentine’s Day.

Queries related to strawberry delivery

If we look at the related queries section of Google Trends, we discover that people are likely to be looking for “chocolate strawberry delivery” and “chocolate covered strawberry delivery.” That’s not our product, so some care has to be taken to understand what Google Trends is telling you.

Other strawberry delivery queries

Google Keyword Planner can help you to discover how many searches there are for a product keyword and what the competition is for that keyword. If we look at strawberries deliveries again, we see that there is a low number of searches, but competition for the phrase is high. Again, most of these searches relate to chocolate strawberries, not to our idea.

Let’s refine our keywords. If we look at “fresh strawberry delivery” in Google Trends, we see that there isn’t enough search volume to tell us anything.

strawberry delivery queries don't always work out

Google Keyword Planner tells a similar story. The number of average monthly searches for “fresh strawberry delivery” is low, but competition for those keywords is high. Google suggests alternative keywords that include “fresh fruit delivery,” which has a lot of searches and high competition. Perhaps an eCommerce business that focuses on delivering strawberries from the farm to the door isn’t such a good idea.

Keyword by relevance

It’s worth taking the time to try many different keywords to work out if anyone wants a product and what the competitive market looks like. Once you have established that you can implement your product idea and that there is interest in the product you want to sell, it’s time to consider its potential profitability and the competition. We will take an in-depth look at both in a future article.

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Hostdedi and BigCommerce Announce eCommerce Partnership

Hostdedi and BigCommerce Announce eCommerce Partnership

Hostdedi and BigCommerce Announce eCommerce PartnershipMay 2, 2019 – We’re proud to announce the addition of a new hosting solution to our lineup for merchants: BigCommerce. This new addition allows us to provide merchants with multiple options for creating, customizing, and delivering their online stores.

As a powerful, headless eCommerce solution, BigCommerce allows merchants to employ a powerful product catalog while maintaining the simple front-end capabilities of WordPress. To this end, BigCommerce accounts with Hostdedi will include a WordPress environment with the BigCommerce plugin pre-installed and pre-configured.

In additional to the same great optimizations you’ll find across all of our plans, you’ll also have access to our support team and auto scaling functionality.

Keep reading to find out more about how Hostdedi and BigCommerce can work together to power your eCommerce needs.

 

Why BigCommerce?

By 2021, eCommerce will hold 17.5% of the commerce market share. In 2018 it was 11.9%. Part of the reason for this growth is the number of options available to different merchants. More and more, merchants that lack technical knowledge and access to a developer are being provided with accessible eCommerce platforms.

In 2018, we already saw a significant rise in the number of eCommerce solutions leveraging the ease-of-use associated with WordPress. During this time, WooCommerce, another eCommerce plugin that runs on WordPress, saw an 86% increase in the number of services.

With BigCommerce, we hope to support these merchants, by providing them with the  functionality and ease of use of WordPress, as well as the powerful product and SKU management tools of BigCommerce. Together, we hope to empower merchants to create the professional, personalized eCommerce experiences they want.

 

The Same Great Support

BigCommerce merchants will still have access to the same great Hostdedi support they would with any other application. However, in addition to this, they’ll also have access to BigCommerce support ninjas.

Available 24/7/365, support for the new eCommerce solution is designed so merchants are never left in the dark regarding any part of their implementation. Key channels of communication have been set up to enable the best support possible for both the BigCommerce API, and the WordPress front-end.

 

BigCommerce Features

The new BigCommerce solutions come in several different forms, with three primary plans on the BigCommerce side: standard, plus, and pro. Each of these plans offer merchants an increased set of functionality.

All plans will include access to multiple sales channels such as Amazon, eBay, and social channels. Merchants will also have access to coupons, discounts, and gift cards, along with professional reporting tools, and multiple payment processor options such as Apple Pay, Google Pay and Amazon Pay.

Once upgraded to the plus plan, merchants will have access to advanced marketing tools for segmenting and targeting customers. Merchants will also be able to store credit card information within the BigCommerce API, and implement abandoned cart campaigns through their store.

For those that select a higher-tier solution from Hostdedi, they’ll have access to the benefits of the Pro plan. This includes an unlimited number of API calls. In conjunction with Hostdedi Cloud auto scaling, this means that merchants won’t have to worry about sales events and periods of high traffic. Merchants will also be able to implement advanced search, allowing customers to find products faster and more easily.

 

Commerce With a 0% Transaction Fee

One of the big benefits to using BigCommerce is that the eCommece platform has 0% transaction fees. This beats a huge range of other eCommerce platforms, and gives merchants a clear fee at the start of each month.

Similar to all other Hostdedi services, features such as auto scaling and dev sites will also be available at an additional price. A vital part of your move to Hostdedi is going through appropriate sizing with our team of experts. Get in touch to find out what size commerce is best for your store.

A Simple Migration Process

Making the move to BigCommerce is simple. As with all migrations to or between Hostdedi accounts, we provide full support from start to finish. However, from a preparation perspective, there are a few things you can go over prior to making the move.

Consider what vendors you want to use for different aspects of the commerce experience. Who will be your shipping provider, who will be your validation provider? If you’re content with the ones you have, that’s great, but see if there is anything you’re going to need to do to make the move as easy as possible.

We also recommend taking a look into the different options available for manual migration. BigCommerce offers a great tool for catalog transfer from Magento. Note that if you’re running a heavily customized storefront on your previous eCommerce platform, the migration may require more work.

 

Get Started with BigCommerce

Interested in seeing if BigCommerce is the right eCommerce platform for you? Solutions start from $58.95 for the XS cloud package with the standard BigCommerce plan, and scale with merchants depending on their store requirements.

Learn More

Start a conversation with our sales team to find out what size is right for your store, and how else Hostdedi can help you to provide your customers with the eCommerce experience you always wanted.

 

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Which WordPress News Plugin Is Right for You?

Which WordPress News Plugin Is Right for You?

Which WordPress News Plugin Is Right for You?If you’re a news publisher, a news section is your bread and butter. If you’re a business, a news section provides a place to publish recent successes and upcoming events. If you’re an independent developer, a news section lets you keep your followers up to date on recent changes.

Regardless of who you are, a news section can add value to your site. The question is, how can you integrate it into your site in the best way possible.

WordPress offers a number of plugins to help improve click-through and reduce bounce rate on news items. Most of these come in the form of sliders, grids, carousels, and tickers.

We checked several different news plugins from the WordPress plugin directory to find out which work best. Keep reading to see a narrowed down list of the top six.

The first plugin on our list, WP News and Scrolling Widgets, is one of the more powerful and well known WordPress news plugins. It allows sites to create, manage, and display news content through widgets, sliders, and grids, in addition to being a news management tool separate from WordPress pages and posts.

Once installed, the plugin adds a News tab to the WordPress admin panel. In this tab, users can easily add, edit, and manage news content. The news editor itself is very similar to the standard editing interface you’ll find with WordPress posts and pages. It allows you to create content, set an excerpt and feature image, and select what categories and tags should apply.

The News tab in the WP News plugin

Once you’ve created content, a range of shortcodes are available for site owners to make customized news widgets. The news widgets can filter content based on category, date, and type. Customizations can also be made to how content is displayed. A guide on managing this process can be found in the How It Works subheading.

By default, WP News does not offer a huge number of features, and its only real benefit is the management section. For customization, you’ll find just four shortcodes for displaying content in either grid or list views. If you pay and upgrade to pro, your options increase significantly.

How WP News Shortcode works

Pro offers over 120 designs, along with 6 shortcodes, Visual Composer page builder support, a recent news display type, 100% multi language support, the ability to add custom CSS, and drag and drop ordering for content organization.

Pricing for pro starts at $149 for a personal, lifetime license. If news is a big part of your site, it may be worth paying for the added functionality. If you don’t want to spend anything, it’s probably better to stick with something else on this list.

Pros

  • Incredible customization options
  • 120+ different layouts and the ability to use Google Fonts
  • Integration with social media
  • Custom CSS

Cons

  • Requires premium to get the most out of it

Fancy News is a simple and easy to use news slider plugin. Instead of adding a complex series of steps to the process of selecting what news is show, Fancy news provides a single, easy to use shortcode generator in the Tools section of the WordPress admin interface.

Unfortunately, this provides only a limited number of options for customization, as well as content curation. For example, recent news cannot be featured without the aid of an RSS feed to pull from. Design-wise, typical customizations can be made, including size, excerpts, speed, color, and links.

Fancy News Customization options

Fancy News is a great free editor, but doesn’t offer some of the functionality you’ll find with WP News and Scrolling Widgets.

Pros

  • Allows for automatic filtering of news content based on your preferences
  • Offers a shortcode builder to maximize the plugin’s capabilities
  • Supports auto sliding

Cons

  • Lacks some of the powerful features found in other News slider plugins
  • Relatively basic customization options

WP News is a stable, easy to use news plugin that allows for news sites to create and display customizable sliders, carousels, and news tabs.

As far as news plugins go, WP News offers a no-frills, easy to manage news curation experience. By default, you’ll find six different WordPress widgets included, with each including its own style options. The customization here is limited, as can be seen by one of the features being “Unlimited Color Variation”.

Despite this lack of customization, the plugin itself is very lightweight and requires fewer server resources when compared with alternatives. Moreover, WP News comes with a unique feature you won’t find elsewhere on this list: it is an Elementor Addon.

Elementor is a custom WordPress page builder. Used by over 2 million sites, it provides users with a drag and drop interface for creating new content and optimizing old.

The WP News addon for Elementor means improved integration, so site builders can create complex user experiences more easily, while also implementing a lightweight news plugin for news curation.

WP News is available for free from the WordPress plugin directory.

Pros

  • Simple, easy to use news plugin
  • Support for sliders, carousels, and tabs
  • Is an Elementor addon

Cons

  • Lacks some of the functionality of alternatives
  • Limited support
  • Requires Elementor to work

Simple News is another lightweight news plugin designed to allow content creators to output unordered lists. It does this by adding a new post type called “News”.

In terms of customization, Simple News offers four image sizes, and a single style for the widget itself. It is possible, however,  to remove the default and insert your own CSS. Unfortunately, this isn’t as easy as some of the point and click customization interfaces offered by alternatives.

Simple News customizer is incredibly simple

Overall, Simple News is great if you’re looking for something simple. Otherwise, it may be better to create your own custom news feeds with the coding knowledge you would put into custom CSS here.

Pros

  • Adds a new post type “NEWS” to the WordPress editor
  • Easy to use Shortcodes
  • Easy to add widget
  • Ability to filter results by Category ID

Cons

  • Advanced Customization requires CSS knowledge
  • Lacks functionality compared with alternatives

One of the best news tickers available, Ditty News Ticker lets site owners create customized news tickers across their site. An unlimited number of ticks can be added, with the ability to edit content, links, and destination (new or same tab).

From a design perspective, Ditty News Ticker also allows you to edit how the ticker appears in pages. You can change dimensions, speed, display type, and more. Once you decide on the ticker settings, you can easily insert into pages, posts, and widgets with either shortcode or a direct php function.

Ditty News Ticker editing interface

 

The ability to add unique ticker content is something you don’t find with several other news tickers, and means you can optimize content based around your goals, instead of just settling on the default.

Pros

  • Great customization options compared with other tickers
  • Ability to add custom shortcode easily

Cons

  • Somewhat difficult to navigate

More lightweight than Ditty, PJ is a news ticker that does what it says on the package and little else.

Edits to the look and feel of the PJ News Ticker must be performed through the settings section of the WordPress interface. From here, it’s possible to edit the header, color scheme, speed, font size, and content.

PJ News Ticker Settings

Once you’ve decided on what you want the ticker to look like, you can easily insert it into your site with shortcode. This allows you to select custom post types, categories, or the 5 most recent posts.

PJ won’t give you the same level of customization as Ditty, but it does provide a solid, easy to manage news ticker capable of automatically delivering your most recent content.

Pros

  • Easy to use interface
  • Lightweight plugin that requires few resources

Cons

  • Shortcode customization can be troublesome
  • Lacks the customization options of other news tickers

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How to Optimize Your Magento 2 Store

How to Optimize Your Magento 2 Store

The Definitive Guide to Optimizing Magento 2

When Magento was first released, it provided an eCommerce platform that offered functionality not seen before. It still does, but as Magento stores have grown, their requirements have changed. The platform’s functionality now needs to be delivered to an increasingly large customer base, and in an increasingly performant way. For this reason, we’ve made sure that our Magento solutions are optimized to make the best use of the resources available to them.

You’ve probably heard the statistic that “a 1-second delay in page response can result in a 7% reduction in conversions.” This may be overused, but it provides vital insight into what eCommerce customers expect. A single second can be the difference between a Magento store that drives traffic and generates as much profit as possible, and one that falls flat.

“Magento is capable of supporting eCommerce stores of any size, but making the most of that power requires careful optimization.“

Since Magento’s creation, Hostdedi has worked to increase performance and optimize Magento environments. Our first guide, released in 2013, helped developers to create incredible, high-performance Magento stores. Stores which beat out the competition when it came to speed, efficiency, and responsiveness.

Our newest guide brings things into 2018 (now 2019), with everything from PHP optimizations, MySQL recommendations, and notes on how to implement Varnish and full-page caching effectively. Moreover, we’ve included all of this in a convenient 68-page book available for any Magento 2 developer who wants to know how to optimize a Magento 2 site.

 

 

What Has Changed With Magento 2?

From a technical perspective, Magento 2’s performance has improved since Magento 1; especially with regards to PHP utilization. Changes in how the application handles PHP threads has led to noticeable speed gains and better memory utilization.

Some of the reasons for this performance boost are that Magento 2 supports full-page caching, database improvements, native varnish, a modern code base, and has improved CLI tools.

This may be why in 2018, we saw the average monthly growth of Magento Cloud solutions remain stable at 21%, while by the end of the year, 64% of all hosting solutions supplied by Hostdedi remained optimized for Magento.

Yet while the second version of the application originally brought the eCommerce platform in line with the increasing demands of a modern online marketplace, these demands continued to grow. Further performance optimizations have become essential to ensuring that eCommerce businesses are now able to keep pace with their competitors.

 


How Can I Optimize My Magento Store?

For a full list of Magento 2 optimizations, we highly recommend downloading The Definitive Guide to Optimizing Magento 2. We will cover only a few of the main environment optimizations here.

We also recommend checking out our article Four Ways We Make Your Magento Store Faster, for a more general overview of the techniques and technologies we use.

 

PHP Optimizations for Magento 2

 

We’ve discovered several PHP optimizations for Magento 2. These are specifically designed around increasing performance and load times for users.

From a high-level perspective, we’ve managed to improve Magento PHP performance even further by turning out back on mod_php, and opting to use php_fpm instead. Php_fpm allows for the serving of seperate php processes to serve dynamic requests, so further performance tuning means improved responsiveness and a reduced memory footprint.

You’ll also find recommendations on php version usage in our guide. With our cloud solutions, it’s possible to set your php version as far back as 5.6. We don’t recommend this as using a newer php version, especially 7.0 or later, will lead to performance improvements and can dramatically reduce memory usage.

At last year’s Imagine, a third-party patch was needed to make Magento 1 compatible with PHP 7.0. As of September 2018, Magento released an official php 7.2 patch, which can be downloaded here.

Some of the PHP optimizations you’ll find in The Definitive Guide to Optimizing Magento 2 include:

  • A PHP runtime limitation of 600 seconds.
  • A script memory utilization limitation of 768MB
  • A POST data size limitation of 512MB

PHP Opcache Optimizations for Magento 2

 

Opcache is a PHP-caching extension able to improve performance by optimizing what static code is stored in shared memory. This can improve PHP performance dramatically by skipping the intensive compilation process and reading files directly from memory.

By default, however, Opcache is not optimized for Magento. Instead of performance gains, you’re more likely to see performance losses. After careful testing, we found several settings that could easily be optimized by configuring the opcache.ini in the php.d directory.

Some of the Opcache optimizations we recommend are:

  • Set opcache.memory_consumption to 512mb
  • Set opcache.max_accelerated_files to 65407
  • Set opcache.revalidate_freq to 4

 

MySQL Optimizations for Magento 2

 

For Magento 2 database optimization, we recommend implementing and optimizing MariaDB as a replacement in the MySQL section of your stack. MariaDB is fast and offers a simplified deployment over CentOS 7.

In general, MariaDB, by default, allocates too many resources to database processes. We’ve found that these numbers can easily be reduced while still providing improved performance.

Some of the MariaDB optimizations we’ve implemented include:

  • Single server environments to incorporate a 50% buffer size pool. For systems dedicated to MariaDB this should be increased up to 80%.
  • Set query cache size to 2% of your available memory, or 127MB.

We offer a full list of the settings for MariaDB in our GitHub repository at https://github.com/nexcess/magento-whitepaper-april-2018

 

Further Magento 2 Optimization Recommendations

 

Tune Your Stack

A well-tuned stack means optimizing the technology that helps to deliver your Magento store. Simply enabling NGINX microcaching can double store performance with no additional modifications. For more information on the stack we offer, see our application stack page.

 

Enable Full-Page Caching

It was introduced with Magento 2 for a reason. Even if Redis is not available and you need to use local files for caching, full-page caching will pull load away from the PHP interpreter and MySQL, increasing site speed.

 

Run Modern PHP

With the official update for Magento 1, there is now no excuse to not upgrade to PHP 7.0 or later. If you’re unsure on how it will affect your store, try using a dev site to test and develop safely.

 

Hostdedi Cloud as Changing the Magento Environment

One of the biggest changes the Hostdedi Cloud has brought to Magento 2 stores is the inclusion of Hostdedi Cloud Auto Scaling. Auto Scaling is a feature which allows for your cloud account to scale the number of concurrent users automatically, whenever your Magento store picks up traffic spikes.

For instance, if you run a sales event which results in your store receiving double the number of guests it normally does, Hostdedi Cloud Auto Scaling will allow your store’s concurrent user capacity to increase. This means no rejected page loads and no loss of potential income.

 

Optimize Your Website

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What Happens When A Link To Your WordPress Site Is Clicked?

What Happens When A Link To Your WordPress Site Is Clicked?

What Happens When A Link To Your WordPress Site Is Clicked?You’re reading this article, which means you clicked a link, a string of characters that uniquely identifies this document, one of the billions on the web. You might have clicked a link on the Hostdedi blog’s index page, or a page of Google search results, or a Facebook page. But wherever you came from, you got here in the same way, and that process is what we’re going to talk about.

The Domain Name System

When you click a link in a hypertext document, you ask the browser to download and display the associated content. Before the browser can download anything, it needs to know which of the millions of servers on the web has that page. The human-readable web address (URL) doesn’t encode that information in a way that is useful to machines. The web address must be translated into an IP address that can be used to route information around the web. That’s the job of the Domain Name System (DNS).

There are two types of DNS server: recursive and authoritative. Recursive DNS servers are responsible for finding out the IP address associated with a URL. They’re usually managed by the ISP that provides the internet connection a browser is using, although not always. An authoritative DNS server knows the IP addresses for a chunk of the web. Recursive servers ask authoritative servers for the relevant IP address.

Recursive DNS servers are like librarians: they know a lot, but not everything. Often they need to consult authoritative external resources to answer a question, and in the DNS system, that’s the authoritative DNS server.

The browser sends a request to the recursive DNS server. If it knows the IP address of the site, it sends it to the browser immediately. If it doesn’t, it has to ask authoritative DNS servers. Authoritative DNS servers are organized in a hierarchy, an upside-down tree. At the top are root servers that know which authoritative DNS servers are responsible for .com, .net, and so on.

If the host’s web address is blog.nexcess.net, the authoritative DNS server that knows about .net addresses is asked which server knows about nexcess.net addresses. Then the DNS server that knows about nexcess.net is asked about blog.nexcess.net.

Our authoritative DNS servers know which IP is associated with blog.nexcess.net, so it tells the recursive DNS server the browser queried, which then tells the browser. At this point, the browser has the information it needs to send a request to the server hosting our blog.

A Note On Simplification

In this article, we’re focusing on DNS, HTTP, and TCP. These protocols and systems are the top of a deep stack of technologies, so our description is partial — we’re missing a lot out because it’s not relevant to most WordPress clients.

The HTTP Request

The browser knows the IP address of the server hosting our blog, so it sends the server a message announcing that it would like to open a connection. There is a bit of back and forth chatter between the browser and the server, following which a TCP connection is established between the two. TCP/IP is the network protocol one layer down from HTTP, the protocol of the web.

The server and the browser are talking to each other, so it’s time for the browser to get to the point. It sends the server a message that looks something like this:

GET /a-blog-article HTTP/1.1
Host: blog.nexcess.net

This asks the server to retrieve the resource /a-blog-article on the server at blog.nexcess.net. Assuming that such a resource exists, the server sends a response, which includes headers with details about what is being sent and a response body — the HTML of the article itself.

Now the browser has the HTML, but before we talk about the rendering process, let’s loop back to look at what happened on the server before the HTML was sent.

WordPress

WordPress doesn’t send the browser pre-made HTML. When the browser sends a request for a page on a WordPress site, the HTML is built on-the-fly in the milliseconds between request and response. WordPress is composed of dozens of files in the PHP programming language and its these files that build the page. When they run, the PHP files combine data from the database with templates to create a complete page of HTML.

It is this ability to generate HTML dynamically that makes WordPress so flexible and powerful. Each request can be answered with different content, providing a unique experience to each user. HTTP itself is stateless: it remembers nothing between requests, which would make a complex session-based web application impossible. But with session cookies and dynamic page generation, WordPress can provide an app-like experience from the server.

If you want to know more about how WordPress generates pages, take a look at What Is The WordPress Loop?

The Browser

The browser has the HTML document, but there is more to be done before it can render the page. A web page is made of more than just HTML. HTML controls the structure of the document and its textual content, but its appearance is determined by CSS. Many pages also include JavaScript for interactive or dynamic features.

CSS and JavaScript files are linked to in the <head> section of an HTML page. The browser sees those links, downloads the resources, and uses them to shape the final page. Once this initial data is downloaded, the JavaScript is executed, and it may want to download more resources from third-party servers. Each resource included in an HTML page kicks off a response-request cycle similar to the one we have already described: DNS, TCP connection setup, HTTP request, and so on. You can see why including lots of third-party resources makes for slow page-loads.

Once everything is fetched, the browser has what it needs to render the document and display it to the user.

Small Delays, Large Latencies

As you can see, a lot happens between a click and a rendered web page. Small delays at each stage add up to substantial latencies. The browser can’t do anything until the DNS server sends it the right IP address. If the web hosting server is slow to respond, the browser is left waiting. If WordPress doesn’t have the resources it needs to quickly execute PHP files and query the database, page rendering is delayed. Web pages that fire off a lot of additional requests and include multiple large JavaScript files introduce numerous delays. Geographic distance between the server and browser slows everything down.

Responsibility for optimizing each of these steps is split between the web hosting provider and the site owner. We take care of DNS performance, network optimization, server resources, and more, ensuring that we can deliver data as quickly as possible. But as a site owner, you are responsible for optimizing page sizes and the number of external resources each page loads.

Together, our performance-optimized hosting and a well-optimized front-end experience make for a fast and responsive user experience.

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Hostdedi Gets Ready to Party During Magento Imagine With NexcessLive

Hostdedi Gets Ready to Party During Magento Imagine With NexcessLive

Magento Imagine is less than a week away. Kicking off May 13th, this year promises to be a big one, with merchants exploring how to “Expand the Experience”.

And NexcessLive is back for another incredible party and the chance to talk with merchants about how we can help them to optimize the eCommerce experience.

If you haven’t already, keep reading to see what we’re going to be doing to keep the party going outside of the Wynn, and see if scheduling a time to talk is right for you.

 

The NexcessLive Party – May 13th

The Hostdedi Live Party is a chance for you to let loose and channel your inner golfer – regardless of how well you can actually golf.

Taking place at Topgolf Las Vegas, from 7:30 pm – 10:30 pm, enjoy complimentary drinks, hors-d’oeuvres, and take the chance to go club to club against the Hostdedi team. If golfing isn’t your thing, don’t worry. We’ll have a pro on standby to help you learn, or you can just enjoy the ambiance of the cabanas.

 

Hostdedi Live Party

 

Transportation will be provided from the Wynn at 7:00 pm and then back from Topgolf at 10:30 pm. All guests will also receive a bonus golf-themed gift set, with more than a few luxury surprises.

Sign Up

There Will Be Prizes

This year, we’re invited BigCommerce along, who will be providing a number of prizes. This includes:

  • A Nintendo Switch
  • A Moleskin Eclipse + Set
  • A GPS Golf Smart Watch
  • An Oculus VR set

Interested in getting your hands on one of them? Three will be raffled off and one will be offered to the winner of our golf-themed competition.

Reserve your spot on the guest list today. Places are limited.

The Suites Meetings – May 14th

Besides being a great chance to get off your feet during conference hours, the Suites Meetings let merchants demo new Hostdedi innovations and see how we can help you to realize the promise of Magento.

Interested in scheduling a time? Click here and let us know what works for you.

Make the Most of Vegas

You might be in Vegas for one of the biggest eCommerce conferences of the year, but don’t spend all your time with Hostdedi. Make the most of your time in Vegas by exploring a little. Swing by the casinos, view some of the city’s unique and interesting shows, and soak in the atmosphere of one of the world’s most luxurious cities.

We recommend taking a trip to see the Fountains of Bellagio for its incredible evening water show. If you’ve got the time, the Fall of Atlantis show at Caesars Palace is also something you don’t want to miss.

Unsure about where else to go? You might be able to get some good suggestions from the Hostdedi team on unique places which usually fly under the radar. Just ask. Rigo knows some great restaurants. 

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What Conversion Rate Should eCommerce Retailers Expect?

What Conversion Rate Should eCommerce Retailers Expect?

What Conversion Rate Should eCommerce Retailers Expect?

Conversion rate is an important indicator of the health of an eCommerce store. An eCommerce store is, essentially, a machine for converting visitors into buyers. Whatever other roles an online retailer’s site has, its ability to move people through the purchase funnel determines whether it can be considered a success.

Typically, conversion rates are compared over time: Is this month’s conversion rate better than the same month last year? But it is also useful to compare conversion rates to industry averages, answering a different question: Is my store performing as well as the competition and the eCommerce market generally?

What is a conversion rate?

A conversion rate measures the proportion of visitors to a store who buy a product. In fact, the definition is broader than that, covering any event in which a lead responds favorably to a marketing message. But, for eCommerce retailers, a sale is the most important conversion and a good measure of a store’s efficiency — although conversion rate has limitations as a performance indicator, as we’ll discuss in a moment.

A conversion rate measures the proportion of conversions relative to the number of visits in a given period.

(Number of sales / number of visits) * 100

 

If a store has 13,000 visitors in a month and makes 400 sales, it has a conversion rate of approximately three percent.

(400 / 1300) * 100 = 3.07

 

Three percent of visitors to the store bought something.

What is a good conversion rate?

The most accurate answer to this question is — it depends. But that’s not very satisfying, so let’s look at the industry average. According to Econsultancy’s Performance Benchmarks, the global average is between one and three percent. The store in the example calculation above is successful by that measure; its conversion rates are at the top of the average range. In fact, most stores have lower conversion rates. If your store is somewhere in that range, you shouldn’t be too worried, although there are other factors to consider.

The limitations of conversion rates

Conversion rates are important, but they are just one metric among several that eCommerce retailers should monitor. To take an extreme example, an eCommerce store that receives ten visitors a month and makes eight sales with an average order value of $1.50 has a conversion rate of 80%. That’s an excellent conversion rate, but it doesn’t bode well for the business.

An increasing conversion rate indicates that a greater proportion of visitors are buying products. That might mean conversions are increasing as total visits remain static (good). Or it might mean that conversions have stayed the same while traffic has decreased (not so good). Or it might mean some mixture of the previous two possibilities.

The store owner can’t be sure what their conversion rate says about the health of their store without viewing it in context with other metrics, including revenue, average order value, and, perhaps most important, profit.

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Four Ways We Make Your Magento Store Faster

Four Ways We Make Your Magento Store Faster

Four Ways We Make Your Magento Store FasterMagento is still one of the best eCommerce platforms available for merchants looking to optimize the eCommerce experience. Between incredible functionality and unrivaled product management, it provides the ability to create storefronts that can’t be created in other, comparable applications.

In 2018, we found that the top reason merchants chose Magento was functionality. Yet great functionality requires a lot of server resources. As a result, Magento is a known resource hog.

Luckily, with over 10 years of experience supporting Magento stores, we understand the application’s complex performance requirements. In fact, we even wrote the book on the subject. For this reason, merchants continue to choose Hostdedi for reliability, security, and performance.

Interested in learning more about how we create Magento environments you can’t find anywhere else? This article looks at four of our optimizations and how they make your store faster with Hostdedi.

 

PHP-FPM

PHP code lies at the foundation of Magento, and there are multiple ways that a web server can be configured to execute that code. Even minor changes to default configurations can lead to significant Magento performance improvements.

Usually, when you install PHP support on a web server, an apache module called mod_php is set up. This module offers a simple set of configurations that will provide a Magento installation with the type of performance you’ll see with any web host.

We don’t accept the default mod_php file configurations. Instead, we use PHP FastCGI Process Manager, commonly known as php-fpm, on our servers.

PHP-FPM allows Magento sites to make use of memory and CPU resources more efficiently than its mod_php counterpart. This helps Magento sites to better manage content and serve websites faster.

In additional, we optimize the mod_php setup so it makes the best use of memory and CPU resources. Usually, a mod_php setup is also configured so that each Apache httpd process also contains a copy of the PHP interpreter. This inevitably means a larger memory footprint – even for Apache threads serving requests for static assets.

Under our configuration there are separate PHP processes to serve dynamic requests so the web server can serve only requests for static assets. This also allows us to tune settings related to how these processes behave to improve responsiveness or reduce memory footprint.

 

A Fine-Tuned OPcache

PHP is an interpreted programming language. This means that when PHP code is executed it must be parsed by an interpreter. This interpreter organizes the code into an internal representation that can then be executed by the PHP runtime.

Parsing must take place within the interpreter before the code can even begin to run. Usually, parsing repeats every time a request is made. That means that every time someone visits a new page on your site, the parser kicks in.

This is where OPcache can help. OPcache helps by saving the internal representation of the code so it doesn’t need to be parsed for each request. For an application like Magento, which has tens of thousands of PHP files, this translates into a significant performance improvement.

As part of our strategy for optimizing performance for Magento, we’ve tuned the settings for OPcache to support a large number of compiled files. This translates to less time spent parsing PHP code and more time spent running useful code that helps customers access your Magento store.

 

NGINX-Based Cloud Accelerator

One of the biggest resource demands on any eCommerce store is the delivery of static assets such as images, CSS, and JavaScript. On default Magento configurations, these assets are delivered through Apache after reading the file on disk.

By implementing built in microcaching using NGINX, static assets can be stored and served directly from memory for a short period of time. This is particularly useful for highly trafficked stores that have a selection of very popular products, with NGINX meaning that each visitor page load is faster and uses less server resources.

Nginx also provides HTTP/2 protocol support, which allows for optimizations such as server push, where a web server or web application can tell a browser to download additional assets in response to a request.

Traditionally a browser would not start downloading additional assets until it encountered them during a page load. Server push means a browser can be told to download static and other assets immediately.

In addition to these optimizations, we also have compression enabled automatically for relevant assets. This means that instead of serving a raw JavaScript, css, or other test file, we transparently and automatically compress the file so the download becomes smaller. This results in a significantly faster overall page download time.

As an example, the latest version of jQuery, a popular javascript library, is 86 Kilobytes in an uncompressed state. Compressing this with gzip yields a 30 Kilobytes file, or savings of over 65%.

 

Automatic Processing Priority

All multi-tasking operating systems have a mechanism called a CPU scheduler. This component determines which tasks are allowed to use the CPU at a given time and to what extent. On Linux, this is done by assigning a “niceness” value to a process. The value is called this because it determines how “nice” the process is, or how big a share of CPU resources that process will get. The idea is that nicer processes use less CPU resources.

Hostdedi has created a system that automatically changes the niceness value of running processes so that web critical processes (NGINX, apache httpd, php, mysql, etc) get CPU priority over less critical tasks. (compressing files, backups, etc).

Additionally, we run most maintenance tasks with a low CPU priority. This helps ensure that your website responds quickly even when administrative or scheduled tasks are running.

 

Get Started With Optimized Magento

Magento optimization starts on the server and finishes in the application. Server optimizations can help to provide merchants with a solid foundation for creating the Magento experience they want, but the development process is still vital.

We always recommend testing new code and implementations on a dev site before you push to your production site. Dev sites allow Magento merchants and developers to test speed and performance in a secure environment.

Interested in learning more about how we help merchants to optimize the eCommerce experience? Visit our Magento hosting page to see what features come with a Magento install.

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