WordPress and Joomla

champlainwebsites.com | Burlington, VT - WordPress DeveloperWordPress has become the most widely used Content Management Systems (CMSs) in recent years. One of many reasons WordPress rose to the top is because it’s open source. It was first released in 2003 primarily as a blogging platform. When version 3 came along, it enabled WordPress to be used for nearly every type of website including ecommerce. That’s when its popularity really took off, and the number of developers working on themes and plugins for WordPress exploded.

If you see a function you like on a popular website that you would like to incorporate into your WordPress website, there are probably already 2 or 3 plugins designed for that purpose. I have a core set of plugins I use for all basic features of any given website, but there are often needs particular to the project that need a specialized plugin. Testing and customization of plugins are a few of the many ways I can help you with your website.

champlainwebsites.com | Burlington, VT - Joomla DeveloperJoomla has been around longer than WordPress and has a loyal core of developers that number in the thousands. It is another open source CMS that, in my opinion, is better suited for large websites because of its intuitive article manager. I only recommend Joomla for large websites with several categories of organization.

Over the years, Joomla developers have created extensions for nearly every conceivable website need. With Joomla’s most recent upgrade (which some feel is a game changer), websites are able to be built natively in HTML5, bringing them closer to being “App Ready”. The biggest downside to Joomla at this point is the small number of responsive templates available, but that problem will decrease over time.

Google Mobilegeddon: Is It Time For Responsive Design?

Posted by on Apr 13, 2015 in Featured, News

Google Mobilegeddon: Is It Time For Responsive Design?

If you haven’t heard already, on April 21st, 2015, Google will be making a change to their algorithm that will affect websites that are not “mobile friendly”. This is a fairly vague term, so Google made a Mobile Friendly Website Testing Tool that takes the ambiguity out of the equation. The tool will list the problems the website has, and suggest corrective measures you can take to pass the test. Getting a B+ on this test isn’t good enough. It’s pass or fail. Responsive design Responsive design is the most common solution to this problem. The easiest way to think about responsive design is that the “design responds to the size of the display”. This is done with CSS rules that target certain screen size parameters, so that different rules apply to the same html code on different screen sizes. Google’s mobile update change will only affect mobile search results, so before you panic, be sure you know how much traffic you get from mobile search. Go ahead and check, I’ll wait. If you are using Google Analytics, here’s where to look: Acquisition >> All Traffic >> Source/Medium: google/organic Then choose ‘Mobile (including tablet)’ for your Second Dimension This website clearly needs to be mobile friendly, since more than half of its organic Google traffic is coming from mobile users. This number also represents almost a quarter of its overall traffic. HungryBurlington.com is a restaurant directory website designed for search engines. Looking at a more typical business website we can see that the same demographic slice is much smaller. The Google mobile search audience on this website is 16%, though combined Google search is responsible for half of its traffic. Fortunately for this business, they already have a mobile friendly website, but if they didn’t, I would recommend they do it soon. How soon do I need a responsive design website? Take a look at your Google Analytics and see how much your mobile traffic has been increasing over time. Compare the last three months with the three months before that and see if the mobile share of your traffic is growing. Do this two or three more times moving back three months at a time and you will probably see that your mobile traffic is growing at about 5% – 10% every three months. If it’s growing faster than that, you should move quickly and get yourself a new website within weeks, not months. If it’s growing slower than that, I would still get it done before Thanksgiving. Can I blow this off like I did with Google Plus? No. Mobile search has been growing every year for at least the past 7 years and actually passed desktop traffic last year. Obviously every website is different, but I’ve never seen the stats of a website say that mobile use is decreasing over a three month period or longer....

Read More »

WordPress: How to do 301 redirects when the old URLs are index.php?variable=something

Posted by on Mar 6, 2015 in Featured, Tutorials

WordPress: How to do 301 redirects when the old URLs are index.php?variable=something

I recently had the opportunity to take over an old website for a client that was ranking pretty well for his targeted keywords. The old website was built using ModX, a CMS with which I’ve had limited experience. The developer of this site chose not to use mod rewrite to make search engine friendly (SEF) URLs, so all of the pages on the website ended with /index.php?id=123. If the website had used SEF URLs, I would have done my usual list of 301 redirects on the .htaccess file to properly forward users to pages on the new website. I quickly found out, that because of the way WordPress uses the index.php file, this way was not an option. It ends up causing an endless redirection loop as it redirects only the index.php of of the address and ignores the variable, so it essentially tries over and over to redirect to itself. I tried Googleing this one for a while, but getting meaningful results out of a search like “301 redirect wordpress index.php with variables” and other variations got me more confused than I was when I started. So, I figured I revert back to the two languages I know to see if either one could help. JavaScript offered some hope, but I’m not as strong with that as I am with PHP. I knew I would have to attack the problem as early as possible in the page serving process to keep things quick and SEO disruption to a minimum. If you’ve ever looked at the index.php file of a WordPress installation, you know that there’s not much to it. It basically points to the header.php file and the chain of events starts from there that make any given page of your website. I decided I would inject my code just before that process starts. First, I used $_GET to grab the variable from the URL and make a constant one of my own. Next, I use a series of if/then statements to assign different 301 redirects based on what the variable...

Read More »

Content Delivery Networks – The Need for Speed

Posted by on May 16, 2014 in Featured, News

Content Delivery Networks – The Need for Speed

The biggest reason I decided to compare Incapsula and Cloudflare was to see which CDN could most improve page speed. My tool of choice for testing page speed is Google Developer PageSpeed Insights. Only one of the websites I tested had been optimized for speed ahead of time. That one had no real improvement on desktop page speed with either CDN, but a big improvement in mobile page speed on Cloudflare and a moderate increase with Incapsula. The other websites had modest increases in mobile page speed. Desktop page speed increases were small to non-existent. Content Delivery Networks are definitely a factor where page speed is concerned, though adding a website to one doesn’t have as big of an impact as I had hoped. See the details of my experiment regarding Bandwidth and Uptime in my article over on Champlain Host. Check out my overall views on Cloudflare and Incapsula and details on the setup of each on Champlain Marketing. Website Profiles Pre-Tuned CMS: WordPress Size: Medium Graphics: Heavy Traffic: Low For a website that was already very fast on a desktop with a score of 91 (out of 100), it was surprisingly slow for mobile with a 69. Cloudflare increased the mobile page speed by 9 percent. Incapsula increased it by just under 8 percent. Bandwidth was unaffected on both CDNs. Bandwidth Hog CMS: Joomla Size: Huge Graphics: Heavy Traffic: High This was the test I was most interested in and the one I had really hoped would show a reduction in bandwidth. No luck. The page speed, which is abysmal on both desktop and mobile (36 and 49 respectively) was only increased by less than 2 percent on both CDNs. This website is in the midst of a long overdue redesign and a CMS switch from Joomla to WordPress. Featherweight CMS: WordPress Size: Tiny Graphics: Light Traffic: Medium This tiny WordPress site hadn’t been optimized for speed before testing and the initial page speed score reflected that with a 59 for mobile and 69 for desktop. The Incapsula page speed improvements were more than twice those of Cloudflare with a mobile score of 64 and a desktop score of 75. Both CDNs gave this site over a 50% reduction in bandwidth. The Sedan CMS: Joomla Size: Small Graphics: Light Traffic: Low This responsive Joomla website started off with a mobile score of 48 and a desktop score of 57. Both CDNs only gave this site a few percentage points of improvement on mobile and desktop scores. There were no bandwidth savings. Artisan CMS: Joomla Size: Small Graphics: Heavy Traffic: Medium The initial score for this Joomla website was 53 for mobile and 67 for desktop. The modest improvements were nearly identical between the two CDNs. About 4 or 5 percentage points for mobile and 3 percentage points for desktop. There was however, a 50-30% reduction in bandwidth...

Read More »

Content Delivery Network: Testing Cloudflare

Posted by on Jan 23, 2014 in Featured, News

Content Delivery Network: Testing Cloudflare

I first heard about the concept of a Content Delivery Network (CDN) when researching page speed a few years ago. I didn’t get very far since it seemed at the time to be a fairly expensive addition to my websites. I decided to revisit the subject now that mobile is poised to overtake desktop use, making page speed more important than ever. Free Content Delivery Network I chose CloudFlare primarily because it’s free and HostGator thought well enough of them to offer their services in their CPanel. I also read a hilarious review from Jeff Dickey, a web developer whose sense of humor fits me perfectly. I will be testing at least one other free CDN in the coming weeks and will write a separate post for that. I will update this post as my observations on page speed and bandwidth proceed. A Content Delivery Network works by making a cached version of your website and storing it on servers throughout the country or world. This, in theory should cut down on your hosting server load and bandwidth and should also serve the pages faster since the database won’t need to be queried to render a page. The biggest drawback I’m worried about is when I’m editing a page, cache might get in the way of seeing live changes. There is a workaround for this built into CloudFlare. They set up on their end a subdomain that gives you direct, uncached version of your site. This presumably will take care of that worry, though I will be testing it for myself. So far, I’ve set up two websites on CloudFlare, but have seen only slight improvements in page speed on Google Developers PageSpeed Insights Tool. Ultimately, page speed is not the only thing I’m after. As a website hosting reseller, I would like to be able to set up some of the websites I host on a Content Delivery Network to help minimize their bandwidth (and mine). Benefits and Advantages for Hosting One other big reason for using a Content Delivery Network is to help avoid down time when hosting servers experience outages. HostGator and Bluehost (who are owned by the same company) have had a couple of major outages in the last year. They have never said the outages were the result of hacking, but being the biggest hosting operation in the country paints a big target on their back, so I would imagine that it’s either already happened or only a matter of time. These outages usually only last a few hours, The Content Delivery Networks might fill in that gap so websites that use them won’t miss a beat. CloudFlare doesn’t supprt https page with its free plan, but they do offer that if you have an ecommerce site that needs this kind of...

Read More »