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Hosting Your Podcast With WordPress

Hosting Your Podcast With WordPress

Hosting Your Podcast With WordPressIn the last few years, podcasts have evolved. Once a niche interest, the most popular podcasts are listened to by millions of people. Anyone with an internet connection, a microphone, and something to say can publish a podcast. Businesses use podcasts as part of their content marketing strategy. Popular podcasts attract a significant amount of advertising money, largely because their niche appeal allows for targeted advertising.

But once a podcast has been recorded, it needs to be hosted online. Unlike a blog post, a podcast can’t just be uploaded to a site — that’s a hosted audio file, not a podcast. Before taking a look at the role WordPress plays in podcast hosting, let’s discuss the various components that make up a podcast.

The anatomy of a podcast

Of course, the audio file is the most important part of a podcast. The audio file can be hosted on the same server as a WordPress site, but most podcasters choose to use external file hosting designed for that purpose. Podcast files are large and they can burn through a WordPress hosting account’s bandwidth.

Although a traditional website isn’t strictly necessary for a podcast, most podcasts have a site. It is used to promote the podcast, to display show notes, and a site is necessary if the podcast is to be discoverable by Google and other search engines.

Next is the RSS feed. Just like a blog, a podcast has an RSS feed. But unlike a blog, the feed is an essential part of a podcast. It is unusual for podcast listeners to visit a podcast’s website to listen, instead they use a podcast app’s search tools, which provide results from a podcast directory.

Podcasts are submitted to directories via the RSS feed. Without an RSS feed, there is no directory listing. The RSS feed is also used by podcast apps to list episodes, discover new episodes, and download the podcast’s file.

WordPress provides two of the important parts of a podcast: the website and the RSS feed — three if you also want to host the podcast audio files on a WordPress server.

WordPress and podcasts

The RSS feed for a podcast is a little different to the RSS feed used by a blog: it contains an “enclosure” for the audio file and additional information that isn’t part of the standard feed. Not so long ago, creating a podcast RSS feed was a bit of a pain, but today there are excellent WordPress plugins that will take care of it.

Seriously Simple Podcasting (SSP) is one of the most full-featured podcasting solutions available for WordPress. It makes it easy to create a podcast feed suitable for submission to podcast directories, including iTunes, Stitcher, and Google Play. It also includes a media player, should people want to listen via your WordPress site. The media files can be hosted on any third-party hosting platform or on the site itself. SSP has its own plugin ecosystem, which includes useful additions such as podcast analytics.

WordPress, combined with performance-optimized WordPress hosting and the Seriously Simple Podcasting plugin, provides everything you need to publish your podcasts.

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Five Plugin Red Flags WordPress Hosting Clients Need To Know About

Five Plugin Red Flags WordPress Hosting Clients Need To Know About

Five Plugin Red Flags WordPress Hosting Clients Need To Know AboutThe fact that WordPress is open source and has such a huge, vibrant developer community is great. For the most part, the huge number of plugins available come with the security afforded by millions of downloads, high ratings, and reliable developers who have worked hard to become known figures in the community.

However, not all plugins are safe and automated protections you may rely on, aren’t effective as pointing out which aren’t. This is because a plugin is a package of PHP code that may also contain files such as images or JavaScript. The code in a WordPress plugin has privileged access to the site and its database. Any JavaScript code is trusted by visitor’s browsers. Because of this, it’s important to make sure that it doesn’t contain security vulnerabilities or malware.

Almost all of the most popular plugins in the official repository are perfectly safe. Plugins with many thousands of users are intensely scrutinized and problems come to light quickly. But there are tens of thousands of WordPress plugins and it’s wise to be vigilant.

The best way to find out if a plugin is safe is to check the code, but it isn’t reasonable to expect that of most WordPress hosting clients. This article looks at how you can identify unsafe WordPress plugins without looking at the code, by identifying the top red flags for knowing what to avoid.

1. Is The Plugin From A Reputable Source?

To be safe, you should install plugins from the official repository or from the website of a developer with a good reputation in the community. Google the name of the developer to find out what has been written about their plugins. If you find mostly negative commentary or no information at all, you may want to find an alternative.

Check the version of the WordPress Plugin you're installing

2. Has It Been Updated Recently?

Abandoned plugins don’t get security updates and may be incompatible with your version of WordPress. Even if a plugin has not been abandoned, infrequent updates are a bad sign.

The plugin’s page on the official repository will tell you when it was last updated and which versions of WordPress it is compatible with. Avoid plugins that haven’t been updated in the last few months. Even if an old plugin seems to work properly, there may be hidden issues.

3. Does It Have Ongoing Support?

Does your WordPress Plugin have ongoing supportCheck the support section of the plugin page on WordPress to see if the plugin has continuous and active support. You’ll be able to see how many issues have been identified and how many have been solved by the developer community within the last few months. Moreover, by clicking “view support forum”, you’ll be able to see how active the plugin community has been and how much support it has from other users.

4. Is It A “Free” Premium Plugin?

Many developers of premium plugins also release a free version with limited functionality. It is perfectly fine to use these plugins. But if you find a fully functional premium plugin offered for free, do not install it. Plugin pirates install malware in these so-called “nulled” plugins.

5. Did The Plugin Recently Change Owners?

This isn’t always an indication of a problem: developers sell or transfer plugins for many reasons. But in recent months there have been incidents of popular plugins ending up in the hands of unscrupulous developers.

6. Does the Developer Have a Bad Reputation?

Before installing the plugin, it can be a good idea to check up on the reputation of the developer. A quick google search of their name can merit a lot of results here. Similarly, it can merit nothing at all. This, in itself, can be a red flag and suggest the developer is either new to the WordPress scene or isn’t trusted.

7. Is It Popular With WordPress Users?

Rating of the WordPress plugin on whether it is unsafePlugins with few users are more likely to cause problems. There are millions of WordPress sites, so if only a handful of WordPress users have installed a plugin, you should be cautious. There are a couple of possibilities: the plugin targets a narrow niche or it is being avoided by other WordPress users. It may also be a brand new plugin, but that should be a red flag too.

As a rule, stick to plugins that are installed on lots of WordPress sites: problems are more likely to have been noticed and ironed out.

 

8. Is It Compatible With the Latest WordPress Version?

Checking for updated compatibility is a good step towards being able to judge the reliability and safety of a plugin. The “Requires WordPress Version” will let you know how far back you need to go in order to have the plugin properly work with your website. Making sure you have the latest version is as much about security as it is about optimizing your WordPress site for performance.

Avoid this message for WordPress plugins

Finally, if you happen to see the message above, it’s definitely not a good idea to install the plugin. There’s a reason why the developer hasn’t updated it, and it’s probably not one you want to know.

The WordPress Community Is, In General, Reliable

There are thousands of honest, competent, and generous plugin developers. But there are some bad apples, as there are in any large community. Before installing a plugin, run through these seven simple checks to keep your WordPress site safe.


Blog Post SummaryLooking to get started with WordPress Gutenberg? Learn how to use it with our Guide to Gutenberg. We’ll take you through the entire process of setting up your first page with blocks.

Are you a developer looking to code your own applications with WordPress? Explore the benefits for headless WordPress and see if it’s the right choice for you.


 

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Headless WordPress: What Is It?

Headless WordPress: What Is It?

Headless WordPress- What Is ItIn the years WordPress has been around, we’ve seen it grow from a small community project into one of the largest CMS platforms available; currently powering over 30% of the web. In that time, multiple iterations have risen and fallen, and various developments continue to make waves in the WordPress community – even official ones (Gutenberg, anyone?).

Headless WordPress is one of those developments. A form of Headless CMS, headless WordPress allows for expanded creative freedom by allowing you to adopt an alternate front-end suited to your needs. 

This article will cover what headless WordPress is and some of the benefits and disadvantages of adopting this development style.

What Is Headless WordPress?

WordPress is made up of three parts.

  • A database
  • A layer of PHP code
  • A front-end

On standard WordPress sites, the layer of PHP code interacts with the database to create an admin interface, that content of which is then displayed through the front-end.  

To use WordPress as a headless content management system, you chop off (or bypass) the user-facing front-end and replace it with something else.

A diagram of Headless WordPress

This is possible because WordPress has a REST API that other applications can use to request posts, static files, and other content. In simple terms, the rest API allows for content to be converted into raw data for interpretation by alternate systems.

This means that a developer can build a JavaScript web application that runs in the browser, taking the content stored in WordPress’s database and displaying it in any way the developer sees fit.

But it doesn’t have to be a JavaScript web application: it might be a native mobile app, a desktop app, or any other piece of software that can request content over HTTP and display it to a user.

So it is possible to use WordPress as a headless content management system, but why would you want to?

The Benefits of Headless WordPress

WordPress, in its native form, is already incredibly flexible. However, there are several cases where WordPress doesn’t fit the requirements of a business. In these cases, adding headless capabilities adds to that flexibility in a way that can add value.

You may want to adopt a headless WordPress environment if you:

  • Want to develop in JavaScript or an alternate programming language
  • You’re building a SaaS environment
  • You have a smaller budget but want a customized user-facing website.

These are all great reasons for adopting headless WordPress. To really understand why, we need to look at each in a little more detail.

Develop in JavaScript

Develop with JavaScript on Headless WordPressYou can access the REST API in any language with a HTTP library. However, in practice, headless CMS’s are most often used with JavaScript.

JavaScript is, by some measures, the most popular programming language in the world. Millions of web developers know JavaScript inside out. The same is not true of PHP, the language WordPress is written in.

For this reason, headless WordPress gives front-end developers the powerful content management capabilities of WordPress, without asking them to create WordPress themes or code with WordPress’s API.

Build a PWA With WordPress (SaaS)

Progressive web applications have taken the web development world by storm in the past year. They use modern web technologies to provide web applications with some of the abilities of native applications.  As a result, WordPress renders its pages on the server, but there are advantages to rendering content in the browser.

A PWA can cache content from the API, rendering it instantly on page transitions; cached content works while the device is offline, and PWAs can use push notifications and other niceties typically reserved for native applications.

Build static sites With WordPress

Static websites are a popular alternative to client-rendered web apps. If content doesn’t change rapidly enough to justify dynamic page generation, a static site is a viable alternative. Tools like Gatsby and Next.js can pull content from backends and use them to create a static site. There is a Headless WordPress starter kit based on Next.js, but it is not for the faint of heart.

Use WordPress as the Backend for Anything

Although I’ve concentrated on JavaScript options, a headless WordPress installation can be used as the backend for any project that requires content management, from native applications to corporate intranets to IoT dashboards.

The Drawbacks Of Headless WordPress

A headless WordPress installation has many applications, but it isn’t for everyone. The WordPress front-end and WordPress themes are one of the reasons WordPress is so popular: themes make it possible to quickly get up-and-running with a fast and professional-looking site.

Building a separate front-end for WordPress is much more expensive than simply installing a WordPress theme. It’s really only an option for developers or businesses that are happy to hire a developer.

Headless WordPress is interesting, and it shows just how flexible WordPress has become, but it is likely that only a tiny portion of WordPress’s millions of users will have any need of a headless CMS.

 


Blog Post SummaryInterested in more WordPress?  Check out our guide to Gutenberg, where we cover how to get started with some of the new editor’s most powerful features.

Alternatively, are you looking to optimize WordPress for eCommerce? See if WooCommerce is the right choice before opting for headless WordPress.


 

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Which Is Right For You?

Which Is Right For You?

If you are anything like me, you have a hard time choosing a WordPress theme for your site. There are thousands of premium themes and even more free themes. I’ve spent many an hour scrolling through theme marketplaces, opening theme pages in dozens of tabs, and scrutinizing demonstration sites – all in an effort to find the perfect theme for a project.

Understanding the types of themes that are available can help you to choose more quickly. One way to categorize themes is as niche or general purpose. Niche themes are designed with a specific type of site in mind, while general themes can be adapted to any site.

General Purpose WordPress Themes

A general-purpose WordPress theme can be thought of as a flexible framework. They can be put to work on blogs, news sites, eCommerce stores, portfolios, or any other type of site.

General or multi-purpose themes can be further divided into themes that include a huge amount of functionality and bare-bones themes. Some of the most popular WordPress themes, such as Divi, Uncode, Avada are heavyweight themes with a complex array of functionality that might include drag-and-drop page builders, multiple sliders, and bundled premium plugins.

At the other end of the spectrum are themes like StudioPress’s Genesis framework, which while powerful and flexible, provides a relatively lightweight framework on which a great site can be built.

Niche WordPress Themes

Niche WordPress themes are pre-tailored to a specific type of site. There is a huge variety of niche themes for every type of site and industry, from law to health and real estate to gyms. Niche themes include features relevant to their niche: for example, the popular Woga theme is designed for Yoga Studios and includes a built-in BMI calculator, a daily schedule, and a design suitable to that type of business.

Which Is Right For Your Project?

Niche themes are inflexible by design, and that makes them simpler to use. You can install them, tweak a few configuration options, add your content, and you are good to go.

Multi-purpose themes are more complex. The best are designed to be easy to use, but you are still expected to mold the theme into a shape that is appropriate to your project. While themes like Avada are user-friendly, the same is not true of barebones multi-purpose themes, which assume familiarity with the WordPress way of doing things.

As the WordPress’s theme recommendations for developers put it: ““General” or “multipurpose” themes are often hard for a new user to set up easily. Consider designing niche themes.”

If flexibility and features are important to you, a multi-purpose WordPress theme is ideal. But if you want a theme tailored to your use-case or you aren’t familiar with WordPress, a niche theme will provide the best experience.

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The Right Way To Add Custom Functions To Your WordPress Site

The Right Way To Add Custom Functions To Your WordPress Site

WordPress is rightly famed for the vast array of plugins and themes it makes available to site owners. If you want to add a feature to your WordPress site, you will almost certainly find a plugin that does the job.

But, on occasion, you may find yourself in need of a minor tweak or piece of bespoke functionality that isn’t available as a plugin. The solution is to add a snippet of custom code to the site. WordPress is a PHP application and WordPress plugins and themes are written in the PHP programming language. As a WordPress hosting client, you have access to the same hooks and tools WordPress developers use.

You don’t even have to be a PHP expert to do this. There thousands of pre-made snippets around the web that you can adapt to your own purposes. Take care though, there are security implications to adding code to your site and badly written code can stop your WordPress site from working altogether. Make sure you know what a function does and that it is compatible with your version of WordPress before you add it to your site.

Once you have discovered the need for a function and written it from scratch or adapted a prewritten function, where should you put it?

There is a wrong way and a right way to do this. If you do it the “wrong” way, your function may work initially, but it is likely to stop working when you update your site.

How Not To Add Functions To WordPress

The two most common “bad” ways to add functions are editing an existing plugin or editing the functions.php file.

Don’t edit plugin files. If your snippet changes the functionality of a plugin, it might seem sensible to add the new code directly to the plugin. But, when you update the plugin, the files you have changed will be overwritten and your code will disappear.

The functions.php file is not a general purpose dumping ground for custom code. The functions.php file belongs to your theme. If the code you want to add is theme-specific, then functions.php is a good place to put it. But, when you switch themes, the new theme will not have the custom code. Avoid putting general-purpose custom code in functions.php.

The Right Way To Add Custom Functions

There are a couple of ways to add custom functions that will last beyond your next update or theme switch.

The Code Snippets Plugin

The Code Snippets plugin is designed for exactly this purpose. It provides a graphical interface for adding code snippets to a WordPress site. You can add as many snippets as you want, enable and disable them easily, and export them in a format that can be imported into other WordPress sites with the Code Snippets plugin.

Build A Custom Plugin

You might find the idea daunting, but it is not difficult to build a custom plugin that can be installed on a WordPress site alongside third-party plugins.

The basic structure of a minimal plugin looks like this:

  • A folder with the same name as your plugin, e.g. my-plugin. This is not essential but it’s useful if you want to add more files in the future.
  • A PHP file inside that folder called my-plugin.php

In the my-plugin.php file, add the following text:

<?php
/*
Plugin Name: Example Plugin
*/


That is essentially all you need to create a plugin, although it won’t do anything yet. To make it useful, you need to add your custom function to the PHP file and then upload the folder to the plugin directory of your WordPress site, usually wp-content/plugins/.

If you need to add new functions, you can simply overwrite the old version with your changes.

For more information about creating custom WordPress plugins, take a look at the Writing a Plugin guide in the ever useful WordPress Codex.

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Does Your WordPress Theme Meet The Official Standards?

Does Your WordPress Theme Meet The Official Standards?

Themes in the WordPress Theme Repository could be used by hundreds of thousands of WordPress hosting clients. The official WordPress themes have over a million active users. A popular free theme like Sydney is used on over 200,000 sites. If a theme in the official repository has compatibility issues or security vulnerabilities, many thousands of WordPress sites are affected.

The WordPress team wants to catch problems before they are pushed out to thousands of websites, so every theme undergoes a battery of tests before being allowed onto the repository.

The tests are carried out by the theme review team, which maintains a list of standards. A WordPress theme does not have to comply with these standards, but if it doesn’t it will not be allowed on the repository, one of the reasons it’s a good idea to get free themes from the repository rather than from developer’s websites.

In the past, reviews were done manually, but since April 2018 much of the process has been automated with the Theme Check plugin. Developers will be familiar with automated testing, and the Theme Check plugin applies the same process to WordPress themes, allowing the review team to carry out thousands of tests with the click of a button.

The Theme Check plugin is available to theme developers and WordPress users who want to check whether their theme sticks to the rules.

WordPress Theme Standards

The theme review team wants to make sure that its requirements are implemented in every theme in the repository. The requirements cover a wide gamut that includes coding, accessibility, proper use of WordPress hooks, ensuring that all expected files are present, and more. You can see a full list of the requirements here.

In addition to the requirements, there are recommendations. The theme reviewers would prefer for themes to implement the recommendations, but they are not necessary for inclusion in the repository. The theme review team also maintains a complete list of recommendations.

Using The Theme Check plugin

The Theme Check plugin carries out thousands of tests for the requirements and recommendations, and additional informational tests to point out minor coding and formatting errors.

The plugin can be installed on the Add Plugin page of your WordPress site’s admin area. When activated, it adds a Theme Check entry in the Appearance section of the admin menu.

From the Theme Check page, WordPress users can run the tests on any theme installed on their site. Thousands of tests are run almost instantly and the results displayed as a report on the same page.

For this article, I ran the tests on the official Twenty Seventeen theme, and as you would expect it passed the requirements tests with flying colors, with only a recommendation and a couple of informational notices.

If you aren’t a theme developer, may never need to install the theme check plugin, but it is good to know that it’s available if you ever want to run a test on your WordPress site’s theme.

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WordPress Releases A Feature Plugin For Progressive Web App Development

WordPress Releases A Feature Plugin For Progressive Web App Development

A new PWA feature plugin from Google, Automattic, and XWP lays the groundwork for turning WordPress into a Progressive Web App (PWA). Major WordPress features often start life as feature plugins: the new Gutenberg block-based editor was developed and tested as a feature plugin. The PWA plugin modifies WordPress to make it more compatible with PWA technologies such as Service Workers and Web App Manifests.

What Are Progressive Web Applications?

Progressive Web Applications use JavaScript and modern Web APIs to create a native-like experience for web applications. PWA’s have lower latencies than server-rendered web pages, they function without a network connection, and they can be installed on mobile device homescreens.

Service Workers play an important role in Progressive Web Apps. A Service Worker is a script that runs in the background independent of web pages. Service Workers can intercept network requests and respond with cached data, allowing web apps to function when there is no network connection.

The combination of the Cache API and a Service Worker can create seamless page transitions: data can be pre-cached and used to render pages in the browser when the user clicks on a link.

Web App Manifests provide configuration data that browsers and operating systems can use to provide a native-like user experience for web applications. When Progressive Web Applications are installed on a mobile device’s home screen, the Web App Manifest tells the browser which icon to use and how the app’s UI should be displayed.

Bringing Progressive Web Applications To WordPress

The current release of WordPress lacks several features it would need to work well as a Progressive Web App.

Each application can only register one Service Worker, which means plugins and themes can’t handle Service Worker registration themselves. The PWA feature plugin introduces an API that allows plugins and themes to register Service Worker scripts with WordPress, which concatenates them into a single script. The WP_Service_Workers API uses the same interface as the familiar WP_Scripts API.

Service Workers require HTTPS connections; they cannot be registered if the connection is insecure. The PWA feature plugin adds an API endpoint for discovering whether a site supports HTTPS.

Why Progressive Web Applications?

Traditional web applications are slower than native applications, can’t be installed, don’t work offline, and don’t integrate well with push notifications. PWAs solve all of these problems (although there are some limitations on Apple devices).

PWAs are also less expensive and complex to build and maintain than native applications. This is particularly beneficial to smaller businesses and retailers that can’t afford to build separate web, iOS, and Android apps.

PWA Today?

The PWA feature plugin was released in July. It is probably not a good idea to install it right away on a production site. Feature plugins are part of the WordPress development process: they change often and aren’t guaranteed to be bug free.

It’s also important to note that installing the plugin on your WordPress site won’t turn it into a PWA. The plugin simply adds features that make it easier to build a PWA on WordPress.

If you want to implement PWA features on your site today, the Super PWA plugin is a better option.

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A Five Step Guide To Taking Over A WordPress Site

A Five Step Guide To Taking Over A WordPress Site

Taking over a WordPress site can be a daunting prospect. Whether you bought the site or inherited it, it’s unlikely that you will find everything as it would be if you had installed and configured it yourself.

Have you ever driven someone else’s car and had to spend five minutes adjusting the seats, the mirrors, the steering wheel position, and the air conditioning just to make the experience bearable? People tweak their environment to make it more comfortable, and that’s as true of a WordPress site as it is for a car.

But before you get down to moulding your recently acquired WordPress site to suit your preferences, there are a few more important tasks to take care of.

Information gathering

A WordPress site has a lot of moving parts and you need to understand how the site is hosted and how you can get access to the relevant accounts.

First, gather together usernames and passwords. You will need:

  • The hosting account’s portal credentials.
  • SSH and FTP passwords, if there are any.
  • Credentials for the domain registrar.
  • Access to any email addresses associated with the site.
  • Access to the DNS hosting account if it isn’t hosted by us.

Visit each of these accounts to check that the supplied credentials work. You don’t want to find out that you can’t access the domain registrar, for instance, just before the domain is due for renewal.

This information is essential to running the site, so if any important credentials are missing, get in touch with the site’s previous owner.

When you talk to the site’s previous owner, ask about any custom code or plugins that the site is running. Custom code may be fragile or incompatible with new versions of WordPress, so it’s a good idea to know where to look if something goes wrong.

Change logins and delete old users

It’s time to assert your control over the site: the only people who should be able to access it are those you have given explicit permission to. Change the admin passwords and delete any admin users you don’t want to have access.

You can add and delete accounts in the Users section of the admin menu. When you are deleting users, be careful not to delete all the content associated with that user: there’s an option to associate their content with a different user in the “Delete User” dialogue.

Update the site and its plugins

An out-of-date site is a vulnerable site, so one of your priorities should be to check that WordPress is up-to-date. I would also recommend turning on automatic updates if they have been deactivated.

Carry out the same process for plugins and themes. Make sure plugins are updated and also that they don’t have any known vulnerabilities: occasionally a plugin is removed from the repository and without investigating you might not know that it’s vulnerable. Google is your friend here.

If a plugin has not been updated for many months, it may have been abandoned by its developer: it is advisable to find alternatives to abandoned plugins because any security vulnerabilities are unlikely to be fixed.

Run malware scans

If the site’s previous owner was not diligent about updating and other security best practices, it may already have been compromised. The WordFence and Sucuri plugins include malware scanning and many other useful security features.

Create backups

If the site already has a backup system in place, test it. Carry out a full site restore on a local installation of WordPress to make sure that the backups are working and up-to-date.

If there is no backup system, creating one should be a priority. We have covered several excellent WordPress backup solutions on this blog.

Now that you have complete access to the site, it is secure and malware free, and the backup system is humming away in the background, you can start to publish content and focus on attracting more visitors.

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Auditing WordPress Site Performance With Lighthouse

Auditing WordPress Site Performance With Lighthouse

Performance-optimized WordPress hosting is an essential component of a fast and reliable WordPress site, but hosting isn’t the only variable that affects performance. A host of other factors are involved in ensuring that the data your site sends to the browser is received and rendered as quickly as possible.

Because there are so many factors involved, WordPress site owners should take a data-based approach to optimization. Ad-hoc optimizations based on vague ideas about optimization best practices are unlikely to get to the heart of the issue. Without information, you will almost certainly waste time and energy on “optimizations” that have no real-world effect.

Therefore, the first step in any optimization project is a performance audit. There are several performance audit tools you might use – we have discussed Google PageSpeed Insights before – but today I’m going to focus on another tool from Google.

Lighthouse

Lighthouse is a site auditing tool that runs websites through a series of tests, producing a report to guide your optimization strategy. Lighthouse is particularly useful for testing mobile-friendliness, because by default it throttles network connections and CPU power to emulate a slow smartphone, although that can be changed in the settings.

Lighthouse is available as a standalone app, but many readers will already have Lighthouse installed on their computer as part of Google Chrome’s developer tools.

To access Lighthouse, open a page on the site you want to test in Google Chrome. Then, open Chrome’s menu, navigate to “More Tools”, and select Developer Tools.

Click “Audit” on the panel that appears, and you should see a window that looks like this.

Lighthouse Overview

Click “Perform an audit…” and you will be presented with a list of options. If this is your first time auditing a site, I’d advise you to leave everything checked: the tests will take longer but you will develop a clearer idea of what Lighthouse can do.

LightHouse auditlist

Once the tests are finished, Chrome displays a report of the results, including performance, accessibility, and SEO metrics. Next to each result is a disclosure triangle. Click it for more information and a link to additional resources that will help you to perform the required optimization.

google lighthouse audit

Lighthouse is particularly useful because it focuses on real-world metrics such as “time to first paint” and “first interactive” that have a real impact on a user’s perception of a site’s performance.

Lighthouse also gives site owners the opportunity to see their WordPress site from the perspective of a less-than-ideal connection on a low-end device. If you only test your site from a high-end PC on cable broadband, you will develop an inaccurate idea of what your site looks like too many of its users.

While Lighthouse is a useful tool, I would still advise site owners to leverage a range of performance testing tools, including Google PageSpeed Insights and Pingdom tools, to gain a comprehensive view of site performance that can be used as the foundation of an evidence-based performance-optimization strategy.

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Diagnosing Errors On Your WordPress Site

Diagnosing Errors On Your WordPress Site

Diagnosing Errors On Your WordPress SiteSometimes, your WordPress site may behave in ways you don’t expect. Perhaps a widget has disappeared from its customary page, or an inscrutable string of letters and numbers are output onto the page, or instead of your WordPress site, all you can see is a blank white page. Usually, the cause of these problems is easily reversible, but before you can fix a problem, you need to know what caused it.

The Usual Suspects

If a WordPress site won’t load at all, there may be a problem with your internet connection or – less likely – with your WordPress hosting. If WordPress loads, but it doesn’t look right in some way, the cause is probably one of the following:

  • Plugin errors or compatibility issues.
  • A missing or damaged theme.
  • Missing or damaged files.
  • Database issues.

Plugin compatibility issues are the most common problem and the most likely occur when you haven’t made any obvious changes to your WordPress site’s code.

Retrace Your Steps

If you are actively working on your WordPress site when the problem arises, perhaps editing a PHP file or installing a plugin, then undo what you just did. It is often useful to maintain a “log” of the changes you are making to a WordPress site, so that when something goes wrong you know exactly what you need to do to backtrack until you find the mistake.

Activate Error Reporting

By default, WordPress doesn’t report errors to the display for security reasons, but you can activate error reporting by SSHing into your account, opening wp-config.php, and editing the following configuration option.

define( ‘WP_DEBUG’, false );

Change false to true so that the line reads:

define( ‘WP_DEBUG’, true );

This will make WordPress report errors that may be useful in tracking down the cause of the problem. Don’t forget to revert to the default when you have found the problem.

Diagnosing Plugin Errors

Incompatible and otherwise faulty plugins are the most common cause of errors on WordPress sites. If you haven’t recently made any significant changes to your site, plugins should be at the top of your list of suspects.

But which plugin is causing the problem? There are two ways to manually figure out which plugin is misbehaving. The first is to disable plugins one at a time until the problem goes away. The second is to disable all plugins, and reactivate them one-by-one until the problem returns.

Occasionally, the problem is so bad that you can’t access the admin interface to deactivate plugins — the so-called White Screen of Death. The solution is to manually deactivate all plugins by logging in to your hosting account by FTP or SSH and renaming the wp-content/plugins folder to something different: the WordPress Codex recommends wp-content/plugins-old.

For sites with many plugins, it takes a lot of reactivating and deactivating to discover which plugin is causing the problem, especially if it’s caused by the interaction of a couple of plugins. Plugin Detective can help. It’s a WordPress plugin that leads you through a binary search of installed plugins, narrowing down the culprit more quickly and reliably than doing the same thing manually.

This article should help you quickly diagnose and fix the most common issues you might have with your WordPress site, but if you need more help, don’t hesitate to get in touch with Hostdedi support.

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