7 Ways to Speed Up Your Website

There’s no doubt about it – website speed matters now more than ever before!

As average internet connection speeds increase around the world, web users are becoming less and less tolerant of slow load times.  At the same time, Google has stated unequivocally that it prefers to reward fast sites with higher positions in the natural search results.

To take advantage of these dual benefits, you need to make site speed a priority on your site.  Any of the following seven tips will help to get you started on this important path.

Tip #1 – Size images before uploading them

If you use a content management system (CMS) like WordPress or Joomla, you’ve probably noticed that you can upload images at full size and then adjust their display size within your website’s backend.

However, doing so forces web browsers to execute multiple commands – pulling up the initial images and then re-sizing them on the fly – which can slow down your site.

To prevent this from occurring, use an image-editing program to adjust images to the correct size before adding them to your site.

Most of us will have access to a simple tool like Preview (on Mac), or even Microsoft Paint (on Windows). With these programs all you have to do is open up the image and re-size it in your editor of choice.

Once you’ve done this you can take your image editing to the next level with a compression tool. Even after re-sizing each image the total file size might be pretty large and this will slow down your site’s loading speed.

One of the best tools available is an online tool called ImageResize. All you have to do is click the link, upload your re-sized image and this tool will reduce the file size without reducing the resolution.

Then, all you have to do is download the image and upload it to your site.

With this tool your images will look exactly the same and will load much faster.

Tip #2 – Eliminate unnecessary plugins

The huge number of plugins and scripts that are freely available today makes it tempting for website owners to add more than they truly need. Keep in mind, every plugin you add requires resources to run – and more resources mean a slower site.

Before adding any new plugins to your site, ask yourself if the functionality you gain is worth the trade-off in site speed, or whether the plugin’s content could be coded into your site’s theme instead.

If you notice your site is running slowly, or you believe it could be running much more effectively, perform a plugin run-through.

This involves you disabling every plugin on your site, one by one. After you disable a plugin, run your site through a tool like GT Metrix. This will show you the speed of your website.

If you find that the speed of your site greatly increases after deactivating a plugin, then you’ve found your culprit. If you absolutely require that specific plugin’s functionality for your site to work, then experiment until you find another plugin that doesn’t affect the speed of your site.

Plus, getting rid of plugins can prevent plugin conflicts that arise when you have too many active plugins at once. The more plugins your site has active at any given time, then more likely their code may conflict and cause them to not work properly.

Tip #3 – Make sure your site’s scripts are up-to-date

Depending on the CMS or e-commerce platform your site uses, you may need to check back regularly to determine whether new releases of your site’s scripts are available.

If they are, upgrade your site as soon as possible (making sure that you have a current backup file in place first).  Site script developers are always working on improving their code for future releases, particularly when it comes to site speed.  Updating your scripts to the latest versions could go a long way towards eliminating coded roadblocks that prevent your site from loading quickly.

Now, remembering to check-in and update your website can be tough. After all, you have so much stuff on your plate already.

Lucky for you this isn’t something you have to do on a daily basis. Often, once a month is enough to do a simple run-though of your site and install any updates that might be available.

If your site runs on WordPress, then you’ll find these updates within the Updates tab of your WordPress dashboard. Just one click and your site will install the latest software updates. No need for anything else on your end.

Set a recurring event on your calendar and set aside an hour every single month. Usually, it’ll take much less time than this, but it’s important to build the habit of always ensuring your site and plugins are running the latest version.

Plus, having all of your software up to date will help to patch up any holes that could lead to your site being hacked.

Tip #4 – Make use of CDNs

Content Delivery Networks, or CDNs, are vast networks of servers that are housed around the world. Typically, if you’re not using a CDN, then your users will have to access your web host’s server at its central location.

This can lead to slow site speeds, especially if your visitors are located far away from the central location of your server. Additionally, if you’re just using a single server, there’s a chance it could get overloaded and cause your site to crash.

CDN’s solve both of these problems by letting your users access a cached version of your site from the web host that’s closest to them. Better yet, if one of your server locations is overloaded, then they can be switched to a new server location.

The result? Faster load times that will make your customers and the search engines happy.

To get started, look into the CDN services offered by MaxCDN, or Cloudflare.

Tip #5 – Enable browser caching

Browser caching is a technology that allows a website visitor’s browser to store copies of your site’s individual pages so that, when the visitor returns in the future, the content can be called up from within the cache rather than reloading the entire page. This saves the number of resources used to display your pages, resulting in faster overall load times for your visitor.

The easiest way to enable browser caching is with a plugin like WordPress W3 Total Cache. To install this plugin on your WordPress site, follow the steps below:

  • Navigate to your site’s Dashboard, then Plugins>Add New, and search for W3 Total Cache. Click Install, then Activate.
  • Once the plugin is activated, navigated to the new Performance tab at the top or lefthand side. This is where you’ll control all of the features of the plugin.
    There are a ton of features that you can turn on or off with this plugin. If you want to fully configure this plugin, then check out this post by WPMU DEV.

Alternatively, talk to your web developer about ways to integrate browser caching into your server-side scripting.

Tip #6 – Turn on Gzip compression

Gzip compression is a technology that minimizes the size of browser-based HTTP responses – sometimes by as much as 70%.  If that doesn’t make sense, don’t worry.

Long story short, using Gzip compression can speed up your site’s load times significantly.

There are three ways to turn on Gzip compression on your site.  You can:

1. Add the following code to your site’s .htaccess file:

# compress text, html, javascript, css, xml:
AddOutputFilterByType DEFLATE text/plain
AddOutputFilterByType DEFLATE text/html
AddOutputFilterByType DEFLATE text/xml
AddOutputFilterByType DEFLATE text/css
AddOutputFilterByType DEFLATE application/xml
AddOutputFilterByType DEFLATE application/xhtml+xml
AddOutputFilterByType DEFLATE application/rss+xml
AddOutputFilterByType DEFLATE application/javascript
AddOutputFilterByType DEFLATE application/x-javascript

# Or, compress certain file types by extension:

<files *.html>
SetOutputFilter DEFLATE
</files>

2. Add the following code to the top of your HTML or PHP page:

<?php if (substr_count($_SERVER[‘HTTP_ACCEPT_ENCODING’], ‘gzip’)) ob_start(“ob_gzhandler”); else ob_start(); ?>

3. Install a Gzip compression plugin like the W3 Total Cache tool for WordPress (just keep in mind what we said earlier about installing too many unnecessary plugins!).

Tip #7 – Keep CSS files at the top of your page and Javascript code at the bottom

Finally, keep your site’s code neat and tidy by adding CSS files to the top of your page’s code and Javascript snippets to the bottom when working with raw HTML pages.  

Adding your CSS files to the top of the page prohibits progressive rendering, saving resources that web browsers would otherwise use to load and redraw elements of your pages.  Adding Javascript to the bottom prevents your pages from waiting on full code execution before loading – leading to a faster browsing experience for your visitors.

Although these are only a few of the different techniques that can be used to speed up your site, they’re some of the easiest to implement.  This list is a great place to start if you notice your site slowing down.

What Is a SSL Certificate, and Why You Need One

As a website owner you’ve probably heard the words “SSL certificate” getting thrown around a lot. When you’re first getting your website built all of this technical jargon can seem like you’re trying to learn another language.

However, if you plan on having your customers input their private information online, then you need to utilize the additional security measures provided by an SSL certificate. Below we highlight what an SSL certificate is, how they work, and what situations it would be smart to encrypt your website with SSL.

What is an SSL Certificate?

Confidence is so important on the Internet. Any site that acquires a reputation for unreliability, insecurity or dishonesty can expect to see traffic dwindle to zero. On the other hand, a site that can prove it takes security seriously can attract more visitors. And that can be good, whether your hosted web site is for a community, a membership service, or e-commerce. Surfers and online shoppers also increasingly recognize the on-screen presence of a small padlock icon or a website address that begins with “https://…” as signs that they can trust the site they’re connecting to. That’s SSL or ‘secure sockets layer’ in action.

The biggest reason websites use SSL is to protect sensitive information that’s sent between computers and servers. If information like credit card numbers, passwords, and other personal information isn’t encrypted this leaves it open for hackers to easily step in and steal the information.

With the SSL certificate. your information is unreadable to anyone who attempts to steal it. The only people able to decipher it are the intended recipients at the other end of the connection.

With an SSL certificate, your customers can do business with you knowing that their information is going to be safe from identity thieves and potential hackers.

Read this article why Google punishes websites which are not secure.

How Does an SSL Certificate Work?

SSL operates between a visitor’s browser and your site or application. It’s an industry-standard mechanism that ensures the encryption of data being passed backwards and forwards, so that no unauthorized person can spy on the information and hack it. It also prevents cyber criminals from diverting visitor traffic to their own site using their own encryption, and gaining access to your data that way. All major web browsers have SSL capability built in.

SSL certificates add an additional level of security between your website and the information visitors are sharing. They protect your website in two main ways:

1. Enabling Encryption

It can be scary to share your personal and financial information online. A lot of people prefer to use large-scale eCommerce sites like Amazon, because they feel much safer and protected. With an SSL certificate sensitive data will remain encrypted and secure, thus providing your customers with a sense of relief.

2. Verifying the Identity of the Site Owner

The SSL credential identifies the owner of the website, and create an additional layer of trust. Put simply, your customers will know with whom exactly they’re doing business.

Before the certificate can even be issued the identity of the website owner has to be verified through multiple methods. With digital communication it’s often difficult to determine the person on the other side of the connection, but with an SSL certificate you can be sure you’re doing business with your intended recipient, and vice versa.

Do I Need an SSL Certificate for My Site?

An SSL certificate can help to build trust between your visitor and your website. Building trust online is all about giving subtle cues to your visitor that you can be trusted.

By having the little green lock on the browser bar, you’re guaranteeing to your customer that your site can be trusted.

If your website requires the exchange of any personal information, then you might want to consider getting an SSL certificate. If your user is required to enter their credit card information, then an SSL certificate is almost mandatory.

However, you don’t always need a sitewide SSL certificate. Since going through multiple levels of encryption can slow down your website it may be disadvantageous to have certain pages of your site encrypted. There’s also a decent cost involved in order to get your site verified and operating effectively, so this also has to be considered.

If you’re doing business online and are exchanging sensitive information with your visitors, then an SSL certificate will provide an additional layer of security, while increasing your trustworthiness.

Artkenya includes SSL certificates with our ‘Managed Web Hosting’ plans. Whether you need SSL encryption for your eCommerce site or something else, you can secure your site today.

WordPress SEO Checklist

SEO is – undoubtedly – extremely important for your website and thus for your business. Yet, it is an enigma to most of us. Read this ‘SEO-Checklist’ which sheds some light on this topic and offers tips and tricks for best results:

Click here to read the article (opens in a new window)

At artKenya, we only use premium WordPress themes which are SEO optimised and we install the Yoast SEO plugin, mentioned in this article, as a standard feature and take great care to get the header hierarchy (H1, H2, H3, etc), right.

WordPress Now Runs 30% Of All Websites

By Michael Rojek, Founder at Husaria Marketing

According to a survey of the most popular content management systems by W3Techs, since February of 2018 WordPress is being used on 30% of all websites on the net, up from 25% in 2015. Its market share of the content management industry is over 60% as a result. WordPress is the market leader and also the fastest-growing CMS, beating SquareSpace and Wix combined by threefold in new website statistics. W3Techs bases their statistics off of data collected from the top 10 million websites ranked by Alexa, averaged over a three month span.

What is WordPress?

WordPress is a free and open-source content management system developed by the WordPress Foundation. It makes publishing content online simpler through an easy-to-use and customizable GUI, and a wide range of themes and plugins that give nearly endless possibilities to developers.

WordPress Themes

WordPress websites employ themes, which let you change the look of a website without having to do any changes to the code. WordPress requires at least one theme to be active, but you can keep as many as you like on reserve, and shuffle through them to decide which is the best fit for you.

WordPress Plugins

WordPress is approaching 55,000 officially recognized plugins. Plugins let users further extend the capabilities of the WordPress CMS, and have dedicated developers around the world. Plugins let you do everything from creating a temporary pop-up notification, to integrations with other business systems you use like MailChimp, and can support an agile and flexible e-commerce storefront.

WordPress makes content management systems more accessible

What Are My Options?

WordPress is the world’s most popular CMS for a good reason: it’s free, open-source, and highly flexible. You can build complex sites in minutes, and have nearly endless opportunities for how you want your website to look and feel.

Here at Husaria Marketing we build our website in WordPress, as well as those for numerous clients. We offer our clients the flexibility and reliability of Divi, the most popular premium theme and visual page builder. Among other useful plugins offered alongside it is Bloom, which is responsible for the e-mail signup popup that showed up on the bottom right (at the time of writing this of course).

Additional plugins to consider for your WordPress installation, and those we install for our clients are the WooCommerce ecommerce platform built for WordPress, AIOSEO Pro for making SEO optimization a breeze, WordPress MultiLingual (WPML) for multi-language sites, as well as more niche options for delivering PDF invoices, handling e-mail signups, and map integrations.

 

Is it necessary for a new WordPress blog to use SSL?

By Sandra Jocic, Digital Marketing Manager at theiuvo.com

Google’s intention to debunk and penalize potentially unsafe websites is going further.

The recent Chrome 56 browser release introduced a novelty, making sure that non-techie users understand that the green padlock hanging in the left-hand corner of the address bar is not a mere gimcrack, as many users perceived it so far.

Google announced the change last fall, and there it is.

 

There’s hardly a possibility to ignore or misinterpret the “Not secure” label that now hangs on the websites without the safe protocol. A few visitors to a flagged website might understand that this means it simply lacks the SSL certificate – but if they weren’t about to enter any confidential info, it would still be OK for them to hang there. However, a great majority will probably take it for an alarm and just make a U-turn from the website, not willing to take any risk.

HTTPS became a ranking signal on Google as early as 2014, but these days the new Chrome version showed us that they are serious about boosting the “HTTPS everywhere” campaign. They started penalizing all non-secure websites, rather than just rewarding the secure ones, as before. By some estimations, this means that up to two thirds of all the websites on the Internet will suffer the consequences.

Which is fair enough. If you are ignoring your website’s and its visitors’ security, the search engines (and therefore, the users) will be encouraged to start ignoring you. Therefore, users’ confidential information won’t be jeopardized in any way, but it will be your SEO which will take the shot. It seems that the only way to persuade people to raise the safety level is to strike them where it hurts most – on the profit side.

So, let’s wrap it up. What does the SSL certificate that Google so strongly recommends you to obtain actually mean?

Opening any website is done by establishing a communication with servers. Just like any other communication, this kind can also be intercepted by potential attackers (who may be human, but in most cases they are actually human-operated programs), who try to steal any valuable or confidential information either by eavesdropping or redirecting you to their own website that is identical as yours.

Now, if you have enabled the HTTPS (Hypertext Transfer Protocol Secure), instead of the traditional HTTP, this means the communication is being encrypted in a way that is decodable only by the computer that is sending the request and the server that’s receiving it. Anyone else would only get an unintelligible code that they can’t put to any use.

The process of obtaining the SSL certificate should be quite easy. You don’t have to enter the mishmash by yourself – the first thing you should do is contact your hosting provider. Some of them even offer SSL for free. Even if you have to pay additional fees (typically ranging from about $100 up to as much as $1.500 per year), just think about the potential damage you’re avoiding, which will soon be measured by decreasing numbers of visits because people got averted from your website.

So, if you care about your online business, the first thing you should have in mind is protecting it by raising its security.

What is the future of WordPress?

By Nikoletta Triantafyllopoulou, Digital & Social Media Manager, Linguist

There are many changes that are coming to WordPress.

  • The WordPress Gutenberg Editor

2018 is all about the Gutenberg Editor-with its upcoming official release and all the fascinating (yet scary at times) changes stirring up many emotions. The release of the Gutenberg Editor with the WordPress 5.0 update will constitute a massive change in the way users go about altering and creating their websites.

Catching up with what was only delivered by website page builders and following suit, WordPress made a massive decision to shift the way editing, designing and developing a page works.

With WordPress Gutenberg everything you bring into a page is a block. And you can even create a custom block. The whole experience changes as the menus for instance, appear intuitively while you are working on a relevant block. Allowing you to work without distractions and also to dynamically improve your experience as a user.

You can change the content of the blocks and then rearrange them as you wish, altering thus, your website’s layout smoothly. Drag and drop the blocks around the page and Feel free to rearrange them creatively!

To sum up: No one can really predict the massive impact and the potential of the new Editor but I do believe that it will be not only fascinating to see how it will evolve but also to experience all the new possibilities being unveiled.

Once the release is out and for the months following, the WordPress Ecosystem will be taken over by the Gutenberg Editor and the buzz around it.

The changes and the possibilities, the creative ways to leverage the capacities of the new Editor will be in the minds of the WordPress users for a long time.

For more information about some useful tutorials, tools and examples related to the Gutenberg Editor you can read: WordPress Gutenberg — Everything you need to get started.

  • Reactjs

The Open Source JavaScript Library used for creating UIs will increase its popularity. Adding to this is the release of The Gutenberg Editor as developing will require strong knowledge of Reactjs.

  • The Tide

With the number of active plugins and themes available in the WordPress Ecosystem continuously growing, there came the need for those to be tested and categorised. Thus, along came the Tide.

A directory with important information extracted from a series of automated tests run on all plugins and themes. Its primary aim is to provide the developers and all the WordPress users with the knowledge with which they can make more informed decisions concerning the plugins and themes they wish to use.

This process will undoubtedly be a long one but the benefits will be numerous and extensive. This project will in fact improve not only the code used by the WordPress Community but it will contribute to a better Web too.

Find out more about the Tide, Tide: A path to better code across the WordPress ecosystem ~ XWP.

For more information on what to expect fro WordPress in 2018 check out, Two Camps, One Word.

New artKenya demo site: Small Business Demo

We are excited to announce the addition of new demo sites to our collection.

The first one to be published is the new Small Business demo. It is, as all our demos, a fully functional website and can be ‘tweaked’ to your requirements. Click on the link below to view the site and navigate through all the pages.

How to Upgrade or Affordably Replace Your Old PC

If you’re looking to upgrade or replace your computer, take the same approach as a physician; that is, diagnosis then treatment. Do this:

•     Mac owners: Apple Menu > About this Mac
•     PC owners: Open Start Menu and enter “cmd” in the box.
At the command prompt, run: systeminfo.exe

If you see dates from before the Obama presidency, it’s time for a new computer. Or perhaps your computer isn’t that old but is sluggish and has frustrating freeze tendencies. Programs like PC Pitstop will identify the exact causes of your computer lag.

Whatever the case may be, it’s important to understand your options as you research upgrades and replacements.

 

What is ransomware?

The FBI estimates that ransomware cost victims $1 billion last year, up from $24 million in 2015, and warns that attacks are expected to continue escalating. Here is what you need to know about ransomware, why it’s dangerous, and what can make you vulnerable to becoming a victim of this virulent form of cybercrime.

What You Need to Know About Phishing

Social engineering scams that use email or websites into tricking users to reveal personal information or install viruses on their devices are known as phishing scams. Phishing scams can look like bank emails, or other corporate communication, and are crafted to fool the users into believing that it is a legitimate message.

The content of a phishing email is intended to cause a quick response from the user. One common scam will try to convince you that you’ve won a lottery or a prize, with a link similar to a website you already know of. This page will then ask for your personal information, which you will happily provide because you think you’ve won money.