Testing Website Speed

Today’s fast moving pace and notoriously short attention spans require speed nearly above all else. Having slow website speed can quickly deter viewers from your site, cause them to lose patience, and seek services or solutions elsewhere. Your website’s speed does not only affect the page’s loading time, but also issues that may revolve around scripts, fonts, or plugins.

A variety of things can cause slow speeds on your website. Non-optimized images drag out the loading time. Another possibility is render-blocking JavaScript or CSS. Incorrectly configured Content Delivery Networks also hinder optimal speeds.

A few terms to know before you get started:

TTFB (Time to First Byte) means the time between your browser making the request from the server to the browser receiving information from it.

Page load time refers to how long it takes for the web page to completely load. This includes all CSS, image files, and Javascript, everything required to allow full interaction from the user.

Page rendering time on the other hand is the time it takes for the web page to be ready for any interaction. Some parts of the page may load slower, such as slideshows or images, but the user is still able to interact with the other aspects of the page.

A few helpful services:

Speedtest provides mobile apps or Android, iOS, and Windows cell phones, as well as the usual online services, so that you can measure your device’s connections as well. Once you get your speed results, you can take a look at your service’s performance history and then compare it to locations close by or across the world.

TestMy is a trusty service that has been around since 1996. As an independent third party, TestMy is committed to providing you with an accurate speed. It logs test results, tests internet speeds, and tests your upload speed. Additionally it provides testing tools on Android and iOS devices.

Pingdom splits your results into four categories: performance grade, requests, load time, and page size. The overview helps you to detect the areas most in need of optimizing.

GTmetrix is very detailed, providing information about page speed and yslow scores, recommendations for improvement, details about page load, and in-progress updates for how any changes you make affect the speed.

Remember that whatever scores you come up with should primarily be used as a guide. Some optimizations can reduce your speed score despite having improved the load time or have other incompatibility issues that result in display flaws. The tests are most useful during the process of working to optimize your site. Testing between different improvements can give you a feel for what works best. Remember to clear your cache before and between tests!

Using Design to Promote Readability

An important aspect of running a blog or a text-heavy website is readability. This is the concept of keeping a reader interested with an understandable flow of progression and alleviated strain on the eyes.    

To start off with, avoid large blocks of text.  These are intimidating and also difficult to read as it is easy to lose your place.  Separate your text out into multiple paragraphs.  This will help ease the intimidation factor of a wall of text as well as provide natural breaks for different topics.  Adding in pictures or graphics (with a buffer border to keep the text from crowding around it) or breaking items into bulleted lists will also provide some white space and metaphorical “breathing room” for the eyes.

An easy way to point out the proper path of vision is changing font size.  A step beyond this, text hierarchy, uses several sizes to differentiate between titles, headers of sections, and the body.  This keeps the text organized and clear.

Bolding or italicizing for emphasis can be a tasteful addition, as long as it is used sparsely and specifically.  Inserting bolded or italicized words creates an invisible category in the reader’s mind, so be sure to keep it consistent.  In other words, if you have been bolding terms that you then define, avoid bolding, for instance, a warning or exclamation, as it will feel out of place to the reader and be distracting.

Emphasizing with all capitalized letters is usually a bad idea.  While it certainly draws attention, it can make the word hard to read and can slow down the reader’s train of thought.  In short titles, all caps can be acceptable.

A fun way to add character and style to your text is through changing the fonts so that, for example, the title is more unique and striking than the body text.  The best way to make sure this is complementary and not distracting is to keep all of the fonts within the same font family.  If your body text uses a sans-serif font (as is typical on the web), look for a title or header font that is also sans-serif.  This is an easy trick for finding fonts that look excellent together.

Your line-length or measure ideally should be between 65 and 75 characters.  Any longer will make it difficult for the reader’s eyes to find the continuation of the sentence from line to line.

Be aware of your audience.  If you need to use a word they might not be familiar with, provide a definition in a non-demeaning way.  A simple rephrasing of the word within parentheses immediately after its use is a safe way to make sure you and your readers are on the same page.

Kerning is the space between specific characters in a sequence.  Letters like “A” “V” and “W” fit well with most other letters, but put alongside each other can be too wide, creating an awkward space in the middle of a word.  This is where kerning comes in.  Most design programs have the ability to adjust pairs one at a time, affecting only the highlighted text.  Before you begin, make sure kerning is turned on in your program’s type preference menu.

Securing your WordPress site, Part 1

Blogs have been an increasingly popular way of distributing information since their inception in the 90’s. They provide many benefits for promoting information, updates, and multimedia sources. Naturally if you are looking to begin promoting your business, services, or your thoughts via a blog, you are going to want a secure, trusted method.

WordPress has been growing rampantly over the last couple years as a blogging platform. According to Google Trends, interest in WordPress from 2011 to present has been consistently twice that of other blogging sites. Its layout is understandable and has many options for customizing and personalizing. Clearly it is a trusted and effective platform to blog from.

While WordPress comes with security methods, there are steps you can take to improve the security of your blog and protect it from attacks. Most hackers are not willing to spend much time or effort in breaking into your site. They are looking to compromise your server and use it to email spam. An attack is most effectively deterred by making your site more than averagely inconvenient to the hacker.

wordpress-logo-simplified-rgbFor starters, avoid using “admin” as a username or part of your username. Most attacks target the username admin with a combination of passwords. Eliminate the first part and you will be protected from the majority of attacks. If you already have that username in use, changing this is fast and easy. Simply create a new user and give it administrator rights. Then delete the old “admin” user and assign past content to this new user so that nothing will be lost in the transition.

You have probably heard this hundreds of times, but it is worth hearing again: use a complex password. Consider this: the three most common passwords of 2015 are “123456,” “password,” and “12345.” Be ahead of the curve and pick a password that is not on SplashData’s annual list of stolen passwords!

Change the table prefix from wp_ to something obscure like nho509b_ to make it less accessible to hackers and harder to guess. This might sound complicated to the less tech-savvy, but it can be as easy as a five minute fix. If you are just now setting up your blog, the customization option will be available during the set-up for database details. Simply change the default setting.

Keep up with updates. WordPress is constantly striving to provide a better blogging platform for your needs. Each new version has updated security methods to address holes found in previous editions. Updated versions are released biannually, with more minor updates released following the two major versions.

These steps are a good place to begin, but for the best security, you will want a quality hosting company. Nearly half of hacking attempts are due to faulty hosting platforms. If you are using a shared hosting platform, make sure it offers account isolation. This extra layer of protection prevents one account from overloading the server and affecting your website.

We will soon be posting a more advanced article outlining addition steps you can take to secure your WordPress site, so stay tuned!

An overview and comparison of Shared Hosting with Virtual and Dedicated Servers

With all the possibilities, different strengths and weaknesses, it can be confusing to select just the right server for you and your specific needs. Here are some of our options broken down to the basics.

Do you run a high-traffic or mission critical website? Need support for self-hosted, high-performance databases? Want the most flexibility and control?

Our premium dedicated servers have the benefits of freedom, flexibility, and security, especially in comparison to shared hosting. Dedicated servers allow a greater level of management and scalability for your site’s traffic. Virtual platforms such as Microsoft Hyper-V are supported. Notable features include:

  • 2-hour emergency response
  • Free internal traffic
  • Remote power control

Are you a small business owner? Run a blog? Host personal sites for family/friends?

Shared Windows Cloud Hosting is unique and economical, offering unlimited disk space and data transfer. This option promotes reliability, high network speed, and smooth performance. With instant setup, unlimited domains and sub-domains, and premium unlimited bandwidth, this server provides fast and reliable service. Other features include:

  • Custom Control Panel
  • Safe Harbor Certified
  • Unlimited MySQL

Another popular option is the virtual server. This server is shared by multiple server owners, but still allows for each owner’s administration and complete control. It is stored on our virtual cloud, saving you space while still providing you with absolute access. Virtual servers have all the benefits of hosting yourself, while saving on space, money, and processing power.

We offer two options:

Windows Cloud Server running Windows 8.1, Windows 10, Server 2008 R2 or Server 2012 R2.

Linux Cloud Server running a wide variety of Linux distributions. Both offer excellent features, including:

  • Virtual isolation
  • Customizable server software with administrator control
  • Hardware-based virtualization
  • Unlimited network transfer

Browse our many options and be sure to contact us with any questions!