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Which Ecommerce CMS Is Right for you?

Which Ecommerce CMS Is Right for you?

Which Ecommerce Platform Is Right for you?Every ecommerce store is unique. Merchants have a lot of choices to make before their store even goes live; choices including site design, customer base, and product curation. Yet underlying these choices is another, potentially more important one: which ecommerce CMS is right for delivering on those decisions?

In 2019, ecommerce sales will account for 13.7% of retail sales worldwide. By 2021, that number is expected to increase to 17.5%. Improved access, data-driven strategies, and mobile implementations are only a few of the reasons for this rapid growth. The continued development of ecommerce CMSs to match merchant and consumer expectations is another. 

From Magento to WooCommerce, and beyond, the right CMS allows merchants to create a storefront that optimizes the buyer’s journey and increases sales. 

This article takes a look at seven of the most popular ecommerce CMS available to merchants. It breaks down the pros and cons of each and looks at which merchants should be using which. If you’re looking to set up a new ecommerce store, or are interested in exploring other possibilities, keep reading. 

The Ecommerce CMS Comparison


Magento pros and cons

Magento 2

Magento 2 is one of the ecommerce world’s most functional platforms. Capable of creating and managing more complex buyer journeys, the application is used by some big names, including Coca Cola, Warby Parker, and Nike. 

Currently over 19% of the top 1 million websites use Magento, positioning it as the most popular ecommerce CMS for larger ecommerce stores. Part of the reason for this is its community. At the heart of Magento, vendors, developers, and merchants have come together to create an ecosystem that few other platforms can rival. 

Magento is used by some big names, including Coca Cola, Warby Parker, and Nike. 

That ecosystem has continued to grow following Magento’s acquisition by Adobe. Integrations with Adobe technologies have continued to be expanded and improved, with many finding Magento 2 to be the “complete ecommerce package”. 

Yet Magento isn’t right for all merchants. Development of the type of user experiences and buyer journeys offered by bigger brands requires a bigger investment. For this reason alone, Magento may simply not be the right choice for smaller merchants. Store management is also a more complicated process than with something like WooCommerce.

In addition to this, to truly take advantage of the Magento platform it’s important to find the right hosting provider. This is because Magento is a resource heavy application. If you choose Magento, look for Magento optimized hosting.

We recommend Magento 2 for merchants looking to create cutting edge online experiences that improve the bottom line. But it’s important to remember that this kind of development means a steep price tag. 

Pros

  • Incredible functionality and capabilities
  • Great community that is constantly working to develop even better ecommerce solutions
  • Open source version is free

Cons

  • Often requires a developer for first time store owners

Magento pros and cons

Magento 1

Magento 1 is the first release of Magento, and still manages to hold its own in terms of functionality and performance. Currently, there are over 4,500 live Magento 1 sites in the top 1 million sites worldwide.

At this point, sites running on Magento 1 are generally ones that moved to the platform before the Magento 2 release. While Magento 1 is still a very capable ecommerce CMS, it doesn’t have some of the features and support you’ll find with the second version of the application. This is despite still having strong community support. 

One of the main differences between Magento 1 and 2 comes in the form of security. Magento 2 supports improved security protocols, including a strengthened hashing algorithm for passwords and improved user management for admins. 

To make this worse, the upcoming June 2020 End of Life means that the M1 platform will no longer continue to receive official support. This means many will have to replatform to either Magento 2 or another ecommerce application. 

If you’re still unsure what your options are, learn more about what the Magento 1 End of Life may mean for you

For new merchants interested in Magento, we recommend moving straight to Magento 2.

Pros

  • A history of success with a huge contingent of merchants
  • A supportive community that will continue to support the platform after its End of Life

Cons

  • Will be deprecated in June 2020
  • Doesn’t have a lot of the functionality and support you’ll find with Magento 2

Shopify pros and Cons

Shopify

Shopify is an easy to use SaaS ecommerce tool. Over the years it has grown from a small, simple application into a capable ecommerce storefront. In doing so, it has solidified its position as one of the more popular options available to merchants.

However, while great for beginners, as soon as merchants begin to see significant purchasing volume, Shopify’s problem starts to make itself known. Unlike alternatives such as Magento, Shopify’s custom functionality is still rudimentary. As a result, it does not allow for the same level of curation regarding the buyer’s journey. Over time, this can limit further merchant growth. 

Despite this, Shopify has great support and security thanks to being a closed-source SaaS product. Many of the application’s optimizations all come as standard and are managed by Shopify themselves. This can be both a positive – as you know there is a team of experts behind your store –  and a negative – in that you’ll have to wait for unique and cutting edge performance enhancements. 

Shopify offers merchants a capable ecommerce storefront.

Still, Shopify is host to just over 10% of the top 1 million websites worldwide and the application is only growing in popularity for small and medium businesses.

If you’re looking for a simple, easy to use ecommerce cms, then Shopify may just be the right choice. If, however, you’re looking to expand your online ecommerce experience and create something distinct, we recommend looking towards Magento. 

Unsure which application is right for you? We’ve put together a Magento vs Shopify comparison

Pros

  • Easy to setup and use
  • Reliable support from the Shopify team

Cons

  • Shopify takes a cut of all transactions on your site
  • Not as versatile as Magento

Sylius

Sylius is a new addition to the ecommerce scene, and one that has managed to consecutively score wins against competitors in terms of functionality and design. Currently the application of choice for a small number of sites, that number has grown rapidly; especially considering that the platform has only been around for a few years. 

Perhaps one of the main barriers to entry for merchants looking to move to the Sylius platform is that it requires a developer to create a fully capable storefront. This is a double-edged sword for most merchants. It means that their storefront will likely be an unforgettable one with a curated user experience, but it can also cost a lot to implement properly. 

A Sylius storefront will likely be an unforgettable one with a curated user experience.

Despite this, if you’re a merchant looking for a more advanced platform that offers capabilities that rival even the most advanced ecommerce CMS, then Sylius is probably one of your best choices. If you’re looking for something simple that you can manage yourself, we recommend that you continue reading. 

Pros

  • Offers complete control over functionality
  • A great open source community

Cons

  • Is still relatively new 
  • Requires a developer to create your site

BigCommerce is great for content management

BigCommerce (for WordPress)

If you’re looking to take full advantage of the content marketing opportunities available to merchants, then BigCommerce may be one of your best options. 

Released in 2018, the BigCommerce for WordPress plugin has quickly grown, now offering merchants access to a clear and easy-to-use ecosystem that offers both powerful ecommerce functionality and content management. 

It’s able to do this due to being a headless implementation of BigCommerce. This means that product management is controlled by the BigCommerce back-end, while front-end design and navigation are managed by WordPress. 

BigCommerce for WordPress is a headless implementation of BigCommerce.

BigCommerce does require merchants to pay an additional monthly fee. However, this means that you’ll have access to BigCommerce support (for help with the application) and potentially improved security. 

Interested in learning more about the BigCommerce for WordPress plugin? Read Topher DeRosia’s guest post, currently BigCommerce for WordPress’ Developer Evangelist.

Pros

  • Allows merchants to use both the product management tools of BigCommerce and the content management tools of WordPress
  • Relatively easy to use with great functionality

Cons

  • An additional monthly fee

Prestashop is a great beginner ecommerce cms

Prestashop

Prestashop has been on the ecommerce scene since 2007. During that time, it has gone through several iterations. Available in both self-hosted form and as a SaaS platform, it now offers some great options for beginners looking to get started with a small ecommerce store. 

Firstly, Prestashop helps to simplify daily management tasks by offering an easy to use interface. This includes intuitive labels and the ability to expand functionality through downloadable modules. We took a look at Prestashop and compared it to Magento, and found that in terms of number of downloadable add-ons, the application is almost on par with Magento. 

But that’s about where Prestashop’s advantages end. In terms of customization, there’s not a lot you can do. If you’re looking for an ecommerce platform that allows you to create unique, memorable buyer journeys, we recommend looking elsewhere. Prestashop’s customizations pretty much start and end at color schemes, basic UI elements, and modules.

To date, just 2 Prestashop sites have made it into the top 10,000 sites worldwide, out of over 270,000 total live sites. This trend seems to be in keeping with the purpose and audience the platform is primarily designed for. 

Pros

  • Easy to use and get started with

Cons

  • Limited functionality
  • Not as up-to-date as alternatives

WooCommerce is another great option for content creation

WooCommerce

The final entry on this list should need no introduction. WooCommerce is the most popular ecommerce CMS available, with over 3 million live sites.

Like BigCommerce for WordPress, WooCommerce is a WordPress plugin. It expands the natural content management functionality of WordPress to include advanced configurations for ecommerce.

Because of its nature, it not only manages to serve as a great choice for merchants interested in content marketing and SEO, it also provides a solid foundation for ecommerce and product management. 

It’s especially good for small ecommerce stores that are either just starting up, or looking to manage most of their content and design in-house. Unlike most of the other CMS on this list, WooCommerce merchants have access to a huge range of pre-designed themes and customizations.

WooCommerce is a great choice for merchants interested in content marketing and SEO.

WooCommerce also provides merchants with the ability to expand functionality through extensions. These allow more control over payment processes, the buyer’s journey, and more. 

Yet despite these capabilities, WooCommerce is still a simple ecommerce platform when compared with competitors like Magento and Sylius. Advanced customization still requires coding knowledge, and the WordPress platform limits what can be done. 

If you’re a small business owner then we can’t recommend WooCommerce enough. However, if you’re already an established store, we recommend taking more control with another option on this list. 

Pros

  • Free and open source
  • Easy to use and get started with
  • A huge range of different themes and extensions
  • Includes the great content management of WordPress

Cons

  • Not as functional as some of the alternatives on this list
  • Limited by the capabilities of WordPress

The Right Ecommerce CMS for You

Each application has its own advantages and disadvantages. Much like the products a merchant sells, choosing the right CMS requires merchants to analyze both the resources available to them and their own preferences. 

For medium and larger stores, we recommend adopting Magento 2. Not only is it a versatile platform that continues to grow, it also has an incredible community that’s both helpful and knowledgeable.

If you’re looking to be on the cutting edge of ecommerce, we recommend making the move to Sylius. While a relatively new platform, it has already proved itself with merchants worldwide. Contact the Sylius team to learn more about what it can do for your storefront. 

Ecommerce sales will account for 13.7% of retail sales worldwide in 2019.

For those interested in content marketing and taking advantage of its relatively “new” appearance on the ecommerce scene, BigCommerce is going to offer a lot of tools you won’t find elsewhere. At the same time, it’s also going to allow better management of products. 

For smaller stores, we recommend WooCommerce. With an easy to use interface and even simpler product management, it’s better than a lot of other “easy to use” and manage CMS available. Not sure how to get started, follow our WooCommerce setup guide.

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What is a Dev Site?

What is a Dev Site?

What Is a Dev Site?Dev sites allow you to make changes to your site without breaking it.

Whether refreshing your theme or applying a critical security update, sites are living environments that can react unpredictably to well-intentioned changes.

Any change, small or significant, can disrupt or even break your site when carelessly applied. Such disruptions torpedo both your sales and your customers’ trust. Properly executing these changes can be the difference between an unnoticeable hiccup and a prolonged outage. 

If you already enjoy the services of a knowledgeable web developer, then you’re likely all set. If you’re not — or you have reason to suspect their qualifications — read on.

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Does Your Website Need Drupal?

Does Your Website Need Drupal?

At Hostdedi, we host several content management systems, including WordPress, ExpressionEngine, Craft CMS, and Drupal. You can build just about any site with any of these content management system, but each has strengths that make it a better choice for some projects than others. In this article, we will focus on Drupal and the projects to which Drupal is most suited.

Your Website Needs Flexible Content Management

Drupal is often thought of as a content management framework. It provides a set of tools and features that hosting clients can use to manage content, but Drupal doesn’t impose its opinion about how content should be organized. That’s ideal for large organizations with complex and heterogeneous content. Rather than fighting against a built-in content model, they can use Drupal to build a custom content model shaped by the requirements of their project.

Drupal’s fundamental content primitive is the node. All content is in a node (unless it’s a comment, in which case it’s attached to a node). A node can be an article, a page, a forum topic, or a custom content type. Content in nodes can be displayed on pages with endless flexibility.

Lots Of People Will Work On Your Site

Just as Drupal’s content model is supremely flexible, so are Drupal’s user management capabilities. Drupal user management is based on user roles, each of which can have different permissions. A user can be given multiple user roles that determine what they can do on the site. Drupal administrators can create as many user roles as they need.

Drupal’s user role and permissions model is ideal for sites with many writers, editors, and users.

You Need A Decoupled Content Management System

Drupal is architected to make building decoupled or “headless” content management platforms as easy as possible. Decoupling isn’t an afterthought in Drupal; it’s a core design principle. Drupal is an API-first content management system and that makes it much less challenging to build front-end applications and services that take advantage of Drupal as a back-end.

You Need Your Website To Scale

Drupal was built to support the largest and busiest websites. Its target users are enterprise organizations that receive millions of visitors a month, so it’s engineered to scale. Some of the largest publishing and promotional sites on the web are built on Drupal, including the Economist, OpenSource.com, Johnson & Johnson, Lady Gaga’s site, Al Jazeera, and many government sites.

Although Drupal is built to scale, web hosting plays a vital role in the performance, availability, and scalability of a Drupal site. To get the most out of Drupal’s scalability, choose a Drupal hosting platform that can grow with your business.

You Want To Build A Custom User Experience

Although Drupal includes a basic theme and it’s possible to install an off-the-peg theme, organizations that choose Drupal typically build a custom theme that reflects their branding and publication constraints. If your organization would prefer to use a premade theme, then WordPress may be a better choice. But if you value the ability to create a custom content model and complete control over the user experience, Drupal offers many advantages.

In summary, your website needs Drupal if it requires flexible content modeling and management, has many users with a multitude of roles, and you need a comprehensive array of tools to build a custom user experience.

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Four Of The Best WordPress and WooCommerce Backup Plugins

Four Of The Best WordPress and WooCommerce Backup Plugins

WordPress sites and WooCommerce stores should be backed up. Every byte of data should exist in more than one location, including the files in the site’s WordPress directory and the data in its database. Sites that aren’t backed up are vulnerable to user error and security issues. Sites with an off-site backup are robust. If something does go wrong, a backed up site can be restored in minutes, while a site without a backup may be gone for good.

WordPress and WooCommerce can be backed up manually by copying the files and dumping the database, but it is easy to forget to do a manual backup. A backup that runs at the push of a button is better, and automatic backups that need no manual intervention are best of all.

If you have more discipline than average, you might choose to back up your site and its database manually, copying all of the database’s SQL and the site’s PHP files, images, plugins, and themes to a secure offsite location every day or two. For everyone else, a backup plugin is a good idea.

VaultPress is a backup service owned and operated by Automattic. Part of the Jetpack suite of services, VaultPress is the easiest option for low-maintenance backups. It provides automated daily backups with unlimited storage and a 30-day backup archive at the Personal and Professional tiers. If you need longer-term backups, Jetpack Professional includes an unlimited backup archive.

UpdraftPlus provides a complete backup solution to copy all of a WordPress site’s data to any of a wide variety of storage solutions, including Dropbox, Google Drive, and Amazon’s S3. The free version includes scheduled backups and the ability to restore from the WordPress control panel. The premium version of the plugin adds a few storage options and incremental backups, a useful feature that backs up only the changes since the last backup, rather than sending everything with every backup.

BackupBuddy is a premium-only backup plugin that offers scheduled backups to a variety of storage solutions, including BackupBuddy Stash, which is managed by the plugin’s developers. In addition to complete backups, BackupBuddy also allows you to choose partial backups, such as files-only or database-only backups.

Duplicator is aimed at WordPress users with some technical knowledge because it offers far more configuration options than the user-friendly plugins we’ve already looked at. That makes it more flexible than other backup plugins, but also more complex.

Duplicator is a general tool for migrating, cloning, and moving a WordPress site. For example, it can be used by WordPress professionals to create pre-bundled websites so that the same configuration can be installed for multiple clients.

The premium version of the plugin, Duplicator Pro, includes more backup-focused tools, including scheduled backups to cloud storage, email notifications, multi-threaded backup for large sites, and premium support.

All of the plugins we’ve discussed here will make your WordPress site or WooCommerce store safer and more resilient to attacks, malware, and user errors. If you’d rather not pay for a premium plugin, the free version of UpdraftPlus is an excellent backup solution.

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The Real Reason You’ve Been Tricked Online

The Real Reason You’ve Been Tricked Online

Dark Patterns“Be careful online.”

It’s a phrase uttered by parents, corporations, and law enforcement in relation to browsing and interacting with the web. We’re told it almost daily by internet watchdogs and security policies. But how careful are people actually being?

Over the last several years, expectations with regards to user interface (UI) and design have standardized. This has meant that many web users feel they have full control over the actions they perform online. This includes the products and services they buy and subscribe to, and the buyer’s journey they undertake. 

Yet for UX designers, the truth is far “darker”. Years of behavioral research and design have gone into creating user experiences that trick buyers into purchasing and consenting to actions they otherwise would not have. These user experiences are what are known as “Dark Patterns” and they can be incredibly damaging to a store’s reputation and bottom line. 

This article aims to provide store owners with a better understanding of what Dark Patterns are, and why they should be avoided. Keep reading to learn how to provide your customers with a user experience they return to time and time again and avoid delivering one they dread. 

 

What Are Dark Patterns?

Before we go any deeper, think about your own buying experiences. Have you ever started out your buyer’s journey with a specific product in mind, only to find yourself lost in a maze of alternatives you don’t want? If so, you may have experienced dark patterns: techniques used by ecommerce websites to lure customers towards buying products and making decisions they may otherwise not have. 

They do this by taking advantage of a user’s UI assumptions. Modern UI standardization has meant that most users just skim a page’s content instead of reading every word (imagine the time it would take to read each Amazon listing you look at). This allows for sites to make a page look like it’s there for one reason, when actually it’s serving an entirely different purpose.  

“Dark patterns” have been around for as long as ecommerce sites have exisited (almost) but the actual term was first coined in 2010 by Harry Brignull. Along with coining the term, he also registered darkpatterns.org; what he calls a “pattern library with the specific goal of naming and shaming deceptive user interfaces.” 

Don’t think that Dark Patterns are rare. In one recent study over 1,818 instances of Dark Patterns were found across 11k ecommerce websites. What’s worse, the data indicated that the more popular a site is, the more likely it was to employ Dark Patterns in its UX. 

 

 

 

Types of Dark Patterns

So what are these Dark Patterns? Harry Brignull identifies 11 dark patterns and outlines what each of them do on darkpatterns.org. Each of these patterns plays on a specific set of assumptions by users. Learning what they are helps you avoid falling into these traps yourself, or recreating them for your users. 

Sneak into Basket

Where a site adds an additional item to your basket during the checkout process. This is often done through an opt-out checkbox.

Privacy Zuckering

Where a site convinces a consumer to provide more personal information than they want do. Often done by pulling social data. 

Roach Motel

Where a consumer is easily able to get into a situation (such as a subscription service) that they find it difficult to escape. 

Price Comparison Prevention

Where a site makes it hard to compare the prices for two items to prevent a consumer from making a more informed decision. 

Misdirection

A classic: focusing a customer’s attention on something that distracts them from another important piece of information. 

Hidden Costs

Where the last step of the checkout process presents costs that weren’t clear previously. 

Bait and Switch

When a consumer sets out to do one thing but the site leads them towards something else. 

Confirmshaming

Where opt-out options are worded to shame a consumer into staying opted in. 

Disguised Ads

Where adverts are disguised as content to encourage clicks from a customer. 

Forced Continuity

When a free trial comes to an end and the service automatically charges a customer. 

Friend Spam

When a product asks a customer to share and send a message to their friends through social media or email.

 

 

Why Are Dark Patterns Bad?

You could be forgiven for thinking that Dark Patterns aren’t that bad. After all, they’re present in many everyday online activities everyone takes part in. Recently, a Norweigan watchdog group called out Facebook for steering “us into sharing vast amounts of information about ourselves, through cunning design, privacy invasive defaults, and “take it or leave it”-choices.”

But by tricking users into making decisions they otherwise wouldn’t, Dark Patterns create a bad user experience. For store owners, this can lead to a loss of returning customers and brand loyalty, and an overall downturn in a store’s performance.

It’s not just a store’s performance and reputation that is at stake. Dark Patterns have also become more relevant following the enforcement of GDPR. Several of the Dark Patterns identified above cause issues regarding consent and to what degree it is given willingly. 

If deemed to be “Dark” enough that a user has been tricked into consent for something they had no knowledge of, it’s very possible for a site to find itself in breach of GDPR. Similar privacy laws are regulations are also finding their feet across the pond in the US

Most recently, this has been in the form of the Deceptive Experiences To Online Users Reduction (DETOUR) Act. This act aims to stop large online platforms from using deceptive user interfaces that trick users into giving away information they don’t want to. Social media companies are particularly under fire. 

“For years, social media platforms have been relying on all sorts of tricks and tools to convince users to hand over their personal data without really understanding what they are consenting to. Some of the most nefarious strategies rely on ‘dark patterns’.”

Sen. Mark Warner

Examples of Dark Patterns

A look at Dark Patterns wouldn’t be complete without some examples identified by Harry and the wider world of Dark Pattern seekers. If you’re interested in seeing a full list – or getting involved – visit the Dark Pattern Twitter to see more.

Free But Not

The example below is perfect for showcasing how font size can be used to manipulate a fast clicker. While the ad offers a free magazine and giant mug, the small print says something else. And it’s not just £1 extra either. That’s on top of the standard £4.99 charge. This definitely counts as hidden costs.

Cancel or Continue?

Another common example of Dark Patterns at work and one that anyone who has tried to cancel online subscriptions has probably experienced. The use of confusing wording here acts as a bait and switch, in which the user is unsure what clicking each button does. Which button do you think you need to press to cancel your service?

Sneak Into Basket

A clear example of Sneak Into Basket by Microsoft. Once ticking the agreement box, the subscribe box is also automatically ticked. This could easily be missed by anyone who clicks through too quickly.

A clear example of Sneak Into Basket by Microsoft. Once ticking the agreement box, the subscribe box is also automatically ticked. This could easily be missed by anyone who clicks through too quickly.

Facebook At It Again

As we already stated, social media networks are often accused of Dark Pattern tactics. In a classic Bait and Switch, the example above leads users to believe they have notifications before logging in. Once they’ve logged in though, there are no notifications waiting for them.

Roach Motel At Work

Ever get into a situation you can’t get out of? That’s exactly what happened to James Urteaga, who signed up to a subscription service easily but then had to call customer support to cancel. These calls are not usually quick calls to say goodbye, they are often packed with sales tactics trying to keep you signed up.

We Want To Invade Your Privacy

A common example from Samsung Health above. Automatically selecting consent options doesn’t mean a user is giving consent. This is a typical example of Privacy Zuckering as it is causing the user to provide more information than they want to.

It’s Important to Avoid Dark Patterns 

Avoiding these patterns is an easy win for a lot of ecommerce stores. Sure, Dark Patterns may lead to an increase in sales or leads in the short term, but long term they have a much larger impact on your store and its reputation. 

For many users, the frustration caused by the experiences outlined above means they will never return or will look for alternatives the next time they need a similar product or service. They may not even know they have experienced a Dark Pattern, instead just feeling that their buyer’s journey could have been better. 

Interested in learning more about how to improve the ecommerce experience? Follow our guide to increasing sales on a Magento store, or pick up some simple optimizations for increasing page speed.  

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How To Test If Your Site’s DNS Is Working Properly

How To Test If Your Site’s DNS Is Working Properly

How To Test If Your Site's DNS Is Working ProperlyDomain Name System (DNS) is a critical component of every website or eCommerce store. If DNS doesn’t perform, a site can’t be fast. If a site is slow or unavailable, DNS is a likely candidate. In this article, we explain what DNS is, how it can affect your site, and how you can test DNS to make sure it’s working correctly.

DNS is responsible for transforming a domain name like nexcess.net into an IP address that computer networks understand. When a user clicks on a link or enters a URL in their browser, the browser asks a domain name server if it knows the associated IP address. The domain name server is usually hosted by the user’s ISP, although there are public domain name servers hosted by organizations like Google and Cloudflare.

If the domain name server knows the IP address, it tells the browser. If it doesn’t know, it asks another domain name server, which might ask another server, and so on until the answer is found. The order in which servers are asked is determined by a hierarchy. In the case of nexcess.net, the root domain server is asked which DNS server knows about the .net top-level domain, and that server is asked about the nexcess.net domain. All of this is complicated by geographic redundancy: duplicates of major DNS servers exist all over the world.

Is DNS Slowing Your Site Down?

DNS lookups should be a small proportion of your site’s total load time. The browser does nothing while it’s waiting for a response to a DNS request. If you’ve ever clicked on a link and wondered why your browser seems to be stuck, it’s because it is waiting for a response from a DNS server.

Ideally, DNS lookups should take less than 100 milliseconds from any part of the world from which a site gets substantial traffic. A web performance tool like Pingdom can tell you how long each lookup takes from locations around the world. There are several possible causes for slow DNS lookups. If the lookups are slow for you, but fast from elsewhere in the world, the issue is with your ISP’s DNS servers. If lookups are slow from everywhere, then the problem is most likely a slow DNS host. The solution is to host your domain records with a fast global DNS hosting provider.

Have Your DNS Records Propagated?

DNS is a hierarchical and geographically distributed system with many thousands of individual servers spread across the globe. When a site owner edits the DNS records of their site’s domain, the new records have to be synchronized with servers around the world — a process called DNS propagation.

Propagation isn’t instantaneous; it can take up to 24 hours for domain records to propagate. Until they do, some DNS servers will respond to requests with the old records. In some cases, a DNS server might not be able to find any records at all. In consequence, when the site owner or a user tries to visit the site, they may not get the expected results.

This can be confusing and frustrating for web hosting clients who want their domain to work immediately, but propagation takes time. Hostdedi developed a tool to help hosting clients figure out how far DNS propagation has progressed for their domain. Enter your domain, and the tool will tell you which DNS servers around the world have your DNS records.

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What Is Headless eCommerce and Why Should You Care?

What Is Headless eCommerce and Why Should You Care?

What Is Headless eCommerce and Why Should You Care?vA decade ago, shoppers who wanted to buy something from an online store had no choice but to browse to the retailer’s site on their desktop computer. Today, they are more likely to visit the store on their phone through a native application, a progressive web app, or a traditional server-rendered app. Or perhaps they prefer to buy from a store without ever leaving their social media network. Or they may shout to their smart speaker that they’ve run out of toothpaste and rely on it to relay the message to a retailer.

Today, it’s becoming obvious that shoppers expect to be able to shop using the interface that is most convenient to them.

Traditional eCommerce applications were designed to serve the needs of shoppers from the previous decade. The front-end interface was integrated with the back-end catalog management and shopping cart. Over the years, server-rendered front-ends have evolved to offer a better mobile experience, but eCommerce applications in which both the front and back-end are tightly integrated are difficult to adapt to the expectations of modern shoppers. Headless, or decoupled, eCommerce applications are the answer.

A headless ecommerce application unties the front-end interface from its back-end administration and management features. Decoupling allows retailers to take full advantage of the power of Magento, Drupal, or BigCommerce while freeing them to build independent interfaces that communicate with the server-side application via an API.

With headless ecommerce, developers can create multiple user experiences to meet the changing requirements of shoppers. They can take advantage of fast-evolving web technologies without having to delve into the legacy code of monolithic ecommerce application.

A further advantage of headless architecture is that the back-end and front-end can scale independently. The infrastructure supporting the user interface is not the same as the infrastructure supporting the back-end, a substantial advantage for ecommerce in particular given how resource-intensive large catalogs can be.

Consider BigCommerce for WordPress. BigCommerce is a commerce-as-a-service platform that provides catalog management, logistics support, payment processing, a shopping cart, and more. WordPress is a content management system that excels as the foundation of rich content-first websites. BigCommerce for WordPress allows WordPress to be used as the front-end for BigCommerce, combining the strengths of both platforms by allowing businesses familiar with WordPress to build stores based on a flexible and scalable back-end. The same BigCommerce store can be used as the back-end for multiple WordPress sites, mobile applications, in-store interfaces, and Internet of Things (IoT) retail experiences.

BigCommerce is not alone in anticipating the need for decoupled ecommerce. The same considerations influenced the introduction of both the WordPress and WooCommerce REST API. It is headless that motivated Magento’s API and its transformation into an innovative platform for progressive web applications. Drupal also provides a powerful API for decoupled interfaces.

The Hostdedi Cloud supports a wide variety of headless-ready eCommerce applications, including BigCommerce for WordPress hosting, Magento hosting, and Drupal hosting.

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5 Takeaways From IRCE 2019

5 Takeaways From IRCE 2019

5 Takeaways From IRCE 2019The year of content has passed. That doesn’t mean it’s not still a priority, it just means that other areas are starting to require more attention. The adoption of omnichannel, the creation of unique and memorable purchasing experiences, and the creation and delivery of content in the best way possible.

This year’s IRCE saw all of these topics, and more, touched upon in informative sessions that provided merchants with actionable takeaways. From these sessions, we’ve collected the most insightful and useful learns of the year.

If you didn’t manage to attend this year’s IRCE but still want to know what was being talked about, and how ecommerce is evolving, keep reading.  

Omnichannel Is Making Waves

Omnichannel is here and it’s here to stay. Not only has 2019 already seen an increase in the number of stores adopting new channels, it’s also seen a large number of them doing it successfully.

For many stores, executing an effective omnichannel strategy means finding and targeting customers in the best, most efficient way possible. To do this, retailers need to find customers where they are at each stage of their journey. 

In a survey of 1,600 consumers, 29% said they browse items online before shopping in person. For brick and mortar shops, making the transition to ecommerce means making themselves present during both the awareness and decision stages of the buyer’s journey. 

The importance of digital in omnichannel delivery is further supported by two takeaways from Gartner: 

  1. 80% of buyers use digital information during each stage of their journey.
  2. 61% of buyers visit a supplier’s website at least once during their journey. 

Hibbett Sports, a brick and mortar retailer that operates more than 1,000 stores, talked about how they managed to launch an online store smoothly by waiting until others had already done so. Two of their main takeaways included the importance of categories for allowing consumers easy access to products, and speeding up fulfilment to ensure the omnichannel journey still appeals to consumer immediacy needs. 

Site Speed Is Important 

A statistic thrown around this year was that a 3 second delay in page load time leads to a 53% loss in mobile visitors. Previously, we mentioned that a 1 second delay in page load can lead to a 7% reduction in conversions. 

The importance of site speed is real and it’s only growing. 

And it’s not just in terms of visitor numbers or conversions. Multiple SEO experts at IRCE talked about three SEO tactics that don’t require ad spend. They were almost always backlinks, content, and speed

  Experience ecommerce hosting optimized for site speed automatically. Learn more

Not sure how to test site speed? Simple. There are three main tools that can help.

  • Google PageSpeed Insights
  • Google, Mobile-Friendly Test
  • Lighthouse (built into Chrome)

Each of these tools have their own testing parameters and can help site owners to optimize specific areas. We recommend getting started with Lighthouse.

Experience Is Everything

Susan Tynan of Framebridge said: “Don’t nickel and dime your way to an experience where the customer says ‘meh’.”

That was really the theme of this year’s IRCE. The customer experience is important: provide one that will make you and your brand stand out. Doing so won’t only lead to a clearer brand image, but also increase conversions. 

For Digital Commerce 360, optimizing the purchasing experience was one of the easiest ways to do this. At the top of their list was simplifying the signup and checkout process, with an 88% increase in conversion rate, followed by providing better product information, with an 84% increase. 

Other speakers also spoke about optimizing the purchasing experience, with each touching on the importance of efficiency and speed. Wrapped up in this experience is the fulfilment experience. As was discussed heavily during this year’s Meet Magento Australia, Shipping and Logistics are a top priority.  For many ecommerce businesses, one of the biggest divides between businesses is their ability to deliver on customer expectations of immediacy. 

As Andy Dunn of Bonobos said “It will be less about delivering inventory and more about delivering an experience”. That experience is one of immediacy.

And it’s not just the purchasing experience itself which is important. DevaCurl talked about how they have created a community of authentic brand representatives as opposed to transactional influencers. Together, they generate over 500 organic posts every day and contribute to the unique experience that they’re able to share with their customers. 

B2B Ecommerce Is Big But Merchants Need to Improve

The US Census Bureau shows that between 2006 to 2016, the percentage of US manufacturing delivered through digital channels rose by 34%. That trend looks set to continue. 

In one report provided by Paul Demery, 35% of manufacturers and 40% of distributors planned to increase ecommerce spending by 10-25% within the next year. 

But while B2B ecommerce is a big market, a lot of suppliers are not providing the experiences their clients expect. In fact, one statistic from IRCE mentioned that 20% of B2B digital users dropped a supplier after having a poor website experience. 

Part of the reason for this is omnichannel expectations held by clients. Gartner, in one of their surveys, talked about how 33% of B2B buyers would not make a purchase online unless they spoke with a sales rep

Despite this discrepancy, many B2B businesses understand that it is present. One report even stated that streamlining the customer buying journey is top of the list in terms of priority for most B2B businesses. It will be interesting to see how businesses solve this problem in the coming months. 

Content Is King

For years content has been praised as the most effective resource for ecommerce marketers, and been placed at the forefront of talks and presentations. For years, new channels, new metrics, and new guidelines have been published by marketers, business owners, and retail experts; all with the aim of providing a clear framework on how to implement a successful content marketing strategy. 

This year, content didn’t find itself at front and center. Instead, it found itself circling almost every talk and every topic in brief mentions and clear references. 

Talks on experience focused on providing consistent and clear messaging, with one statistic stating that 74% of customers are frustrated by irrelevant messaging. Talks on influencers discussed how authenticity was the most important attribute of content. Talks on businesses development talked about nailing your value proposition through your content, with guarantees of conversion increases. 

Overall, the biggest takeaway from this year in terms of content was that its still big, it’s still important, and it’s still one of the most significant parts of any marketing strategy. However, it’s also different across different channels and for different brands. 

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June 2019’s Best WordPress, Magento, and CMS Content

June 2019’s Best WordPress, Magento, and CMS Content

It’s time for our monthly roundup! If you’re looking for the same great articles the rest of the year, follow us on Twitter and Facebook. Enjoy and let us know if we missed anything important in the comment section. WordPress and WooCommerce  Harness the power of blocks with WooCommerce Bookings Availability – WooCommerce Bookings Availability…

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Debunking WordPress Hosting Security Myths

Debunking WordPress Hosting Security Myths

Debunking WordPress Hosting Security MythsWordPress hosting is complex. Every WordPress site depends on a stack of software and hardware created by companies and communities with standards and values that are difficult to understand from the outside. This gives rise to misunderstandings and myths, especially where security is concerned.

In this article, we look at some of the most pernicious WordPress hosting myths, with a particular focus on myths that lead to security mistakes.

Small Sites Don’t Get Hacked

The media often reports on significant security breaches where the attacker’s goal seems obvious. The victims store gigabytes of personal data that can be used for identity theft. Many store credit card numbers, which are stolen for obvious reasons. Some attackers are engaged in industrial espionage.

None of that applies to smaller websites with a handful of user accounts: not much useful personal data there. They rarely store credit card numbers, wisely opting to use a payment processor. So why would a criminal invest the effort to hack a small site?

First, it isn’t much of an effort. Most hacking is automated: bots trawl the web for vulnerable sites, compromising them with pre-programmed attacks. The attacker sets his bots loose and waits for the IP addresses to come rolling in.

Second, even a small site is valuable. It has an audience, who can be infected with malware. It can be dragooned into the attacker’s botnet and used to compromise other sites or to take part in DDoS attacks. It can be used for SEO spam. Every website represents a package of bandwidth, storage, and processing power — all of which are useful to criminals.

If It Works, Why Upgrade?

People who don’t spend their lives staring at code on a screen are quite satisfied when technology does what it’s supposed to. They may feel that updates, which bring changes, are an unwelcome disruption. WordPress isn’t hard to learn, but it’s hard enough that the thought of change worries some of its millions of users.

People who use WordPress every day become accustomed to it. They prefer to avoid change for the sake of change, and so they are often reluctant to update. After all, why alter what works.

The developer’s answer to this is two-fold. Software never stands still and has to change to keep up with changes in the world. And, more importantly, updates fix bugs that cause security vulnerabilities. A site that has not been updated for a few months is almost certainly vulnerable. In the previous section, we talked about botnets and automated hacking. It is unpatched content management systems that those bots seek. Eventually, they will find an unpatched site, and it will be hacked.

I’d Know If There Was A Problem

What does a hacked website look like? For the most part, it looks like a website that hasn’t been hacked — especially to its owner. As we have discussed, bad actors breach a website because they want its data, resources, visitors, or SEO potential. If the site owner finds out they have been hacked, the bad actor loses access to those resources. So, they’re sneaky. They try to hide.

If you’re looking closely, you might notice spikes in bandwidth or memory use. If you regularly scan for malware, you might find their malicious code. But if you use the site normally, you’re unlikely to see anything is amiss.

Take SEO spam as an example. When a site is compromised, links to sites the attacker wants to promote are injected into its content. Those links are visible to Google, and they might be visible to ordinary visitors, but they are hidden from people logged in to the site.

That’s why it’s a good idea to regularly scan your site with a tool like Sucuri or Wordfence. They spot malicious code and let you know about it. If you don’t scan, then you are most likely to find out about an attack when Google starts warning your audience that your site is unsafe.

SSL Keeps Your Site Secure

SSL certificates have two jobs. They encrypt data traveling over the network from a server to a browser and back again. And they are used by browsers to verify that they are connected to the host they expect. That’s all SSL certificates do. They are an essential security and privacy tool, but they don’t protect data stored on the site’s server. Nor do they protect a site from attackers seeking to exploit vulnerabilities.

Every WordPress Plugin Is Free

This is a pernicious myth that causes people to download malware-infected plugins. Most WordPress plugins are open sourced under the GPL license. When the developer distributes the plugin, they also distribute the source code. They are required to do so by the license.

Often, open source software is free. It doesn’t cost any money to use. WordPress itself is open source and free. But some open source software is not free to use. Premium WordPress plugins are in this category: they are open source, but the developer expects users to pay a license fee to use the plugin.

When users pay the fee, they get the source code, as required. But open source doesn’t mean the developer has to give everyone the source code — just the people to whom the plugin is distributed, the people who have paid. This is commonly misunderstood. It is perfectly legal to take the code of a premium theme and give it away for free once you have paid for it, but this is discouraged in the WordPress community, for obvious reasons.

You might be wondering what this has to do with security. Bad actors know that people want to use premium plugins without paying for them. So, they take the plugin, add a sprinkling of malware, and give it away for free. These “nulled” or “pirate” plugins contain backdoors and other malicious code. When an unsuspecting WordPress user installs the nulled plugin, they give control of their site to an attacker. Installing pirate plugins on your site is a bad idea.

We’ve covered five common WordPress hosting myths in this post, and there are many more that we might have included. If you’d like to see a follow up post that dives into more WordPress hosting myths, let us know in the comments.

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