How to Optimize Your Magento Store
Magento is a good platform for those of you who want to sell products online. The content management system is built from the ground up to support online stores and ecommerce. Although Magento can perform very well under different situations, there are ways you can optimize your Magento store for maximum performance and speed. We are going to discuss some of the best optimization tips to apply in this article.
The Right Magento Hosting
It is easy to settle for an affordable shared hosting simply because Magento works well with any server that supports PHP and MySQL. That said, you can get a much better performance by opting for the right web hosting service for your Magento site.
For example, Magento will perform better with the help of Nginx or Varnish. In fact, a lot of avid Magento developers have proven that running Magento on a good server with Varnish or Nginx configured for caching can increase Magento’s performance by 200% or more. This is because Magento works really well with these caching setups.
You can either go for a Magento hosting service that has a good caching feature preconfigured, or simply opt for a VPS server and configure everything yourself. There are plenty of tutorials that can help you get the most performance with the right server setup. They are very easy to follow and doesn’t require advanced server knowledge in most cases.
If you do however want to use a regular cPanel host, there is a major advantage. Lots of the later releases of cPanel come with a quick and easy way to launch a magento store such methods are outlined here so if you’re not too experienced, perhaps this might be a better option. If you want to go down the manual setup route though then please do read on.
Prepare Your Magento Site for Deployment
There are also several simple steps you can take to prepare your Magento site for deployment. Among those steps are:
1. Compressing Images
Images can help sell products visually, but that doesn’t mean they have to be large and bulky. Tools such as Adobe Photoshop offers assistance in optimizing and compressing JPG and PNG files for web purposes. Be sure to use these tools to help you get the best image quality at the lowest file size.
2. Check for Errors
Be sure to debug the Magento site before deploying it on a live server. Errors, even the smallest HTML errors, can slow down a site greatly. Magento has a very intuitive logging capabilities, so checking for errors before deployment shouldn’t be difficult at all.
3. Disable Magento Logging
Now that you have reviewed the errors and deal with them, you can disable Magento logging for deployment. The basic logging feature is actually very efficient. However, modules, themes and other parts of your ecommerce site may ask Magento to write more logs than just the basic. This, obviously, can slow your site down. Unless you need the logs for debugging purposes, it is better to disable them entirely.
4. The FooMan Speedster
5. Magento Compiler
This is another module you can use to optimize your site. Magento Complier limits the number of directories searched during a PHP execution. The impact of Magento Complier may not seem significant at first, but it will actually help your site perform better – and reduce server load – under heavy traffic.
6. Disable Unused Modules
Last but certainly not least, disable Magento modules that are not in use. These modules can slow down your site even when they are not in use. You still have the option to activate modules that you need in the future, but it’s best to disable them completely for now.
Lazyload for Images
It is always best to have the main contents of your site load as quickly as possible to keep visitors from leaving. One of the easiest ways to do this is by incorporating Lazyload to handle image loading. This being Magento, you can find modules that allow you to automatically structure how images are loaded accordingly.
With Lazyload, images are loaded in the background once as the page is being loaded. Visitors can see contents appearing on their screen, even with images still loading in the background. Catalogues will load faster and the overall performance of your Magento store can be improved.
Use PHP Accelerator
This is more for advanced users, but it is not a secret that Magento works well with PHP accelerators. Opcode caching allows PHP files to be complied into bytecode, which makes the whole system runs faster. The server doesn’t need to compile PHP files on every request and can instead run at the bytecode directly.
APC and ZendOptimizer+ are great for those of you running Magento stores. Both PHP accelerators work really well with Magento and can help speed up your store by a further 50%. With visitors’ attention span being as limited as today, no performance boost is too small to pursue.
6 Tactics to help you get the edge in online marketing
Online marketing isn’t so difficult. All you have to do is get the right people’s attention, direct them to your website and begin building their trust. The following are some great ways to do just that.
Listen to Your Customers
Listening to your customers is the first thing you need to do. While this isn’t just a tactic, listening can take on several forms that many marketers don’t employ. For example, sending occasional one to three-question questionnaires can get a lot of information on who your customers are and how they think. You can also ask customers if they’d be willing to give you an opinion about your website’s look or operation in exchange for a small discount. While this is an investment, it can be a very good one when you substantially increase your conversion rate.
Blogging on a regular basis is a good thing. You don’t have to blog every day, but doing so one to three times per week is considered the gold standard. This way the search engines will always have something new to index and a visitor to your site will have plenty of interesting things to read.
Public speaking takes you offline, but that’s a very good thing. One of your best sources of referrals is existing customers because they already trust you. And out of all the ways to grow trust in your competence, public speaking is the very best. You can tell stories, share challenges you’ve overcome and relate lessons that will show how your experience will help your listeners. You can even record videos of these presentations and upload them online, further growing people’s respect for you. (more…)
How The Role of the Web Hosting Company has Changed
There used to be a time choosing a hosting plan was way down on the list of priorities when it came to creating and launching a new website.
Back in the day, websites were largely static affairs. More often than not, they existed as a bunch of independent pages designed using an offline editor like Dreamweaver, or even the humble, bare-bones Notepad, then strung together using a series of links. Only once everything looked good and seemed to work fine would website owners hit the ‘net in search of some web hosting.
Early days of hosting
Providing a hosting plan was affordable and reliable enough, there wasn’t too much else to consider. If you found a deal that suited, it was simply a case of signing up, configuring an FTP client, and uploading the site.
Nor did web hosting play a particularly big role in the lifespan of a given site. As long as it didn’t experience any major downtime or other serious flaws, users could quite happily manage a site on their local hard drive, FTP any changes, and never even think about logging into their hosting account again until it was time to renew.
But of course, that was then, and this is now. As the Internet began to change, so too did the role of top hosting companies.
Evolution of the Internet
Over a relatively short period of time, always-on broadband and far-reaching WIFi access began to infiltrate many of our lives, bringing with it a move towards working online. Whereas once upon time users had little choice but to install programs on their computers to carry out most tasks, they soon began to find that it was much easier -and often more affordable- to do much of that work online. (more…)
How to Locate the Best Web Design Company
Know What the Website Is For
Determine your reason for building the website. Will you be building it to add credibility to your company? Or will you be having it built to be a marketing tool that sends leads to your virtual doorway? Maybe you are building it to gather data. Maybe it is all of these things. Regardless, it’s a good idea from a customer’s perspective to know what the website is for. Not all Web Design companies are the same. Understanding what you’d like can help you pick the right company for your requirements.
Ask the Developer If They Will Provide You With a CMS (Content Management System)
Having a CMS (Content Management System) for making changes to your website is essential. While meeting with Web developers, you should definitely ask what CMS they will supply you with at the conclusion of the development process. It is crucial that you have an easy-to-use CMS when you need it to make changes to content. If you are unsure which CMS to ask for, consider asking for WordPress. It’s the top CMS on the planet.
Don’t think of your new website as merely an on-line sales brochure. Think of it as an untapped marketing tool. A website is a great way to uncover new business opportunities. Those in the field of SEO (search engine optimization) are in business to help their clients generate more leads (and more sales) through the creation and implementation of a sound internet marketing strategy. If you construct your website with SEO in mind from the start, you stand a better chance to see your website deliver leads (and sales) to your virtual doorway.
Ask To See a Portfolio
Most Web Designers present an online portfolio to highlight their work. Make sure you ask to view this portfolio, and then take the time to review their work. Does their design style suit your needs? Tastes can be subjective, but you should be sure you like their work prior to hiring them. If they do not have a portfolio, proceed with caution.
Don’t be afraid to ask for references. Most Web Developers are happy to supply them. Should they refuse, you should probably continue your search. After you receive the references, don’t forget to follow up on them. Ask previous customers if they were pleased with the website, if the project was completed on-time, and if they developer was easy to do business with.
Accessible websites: what do I need to know?
You may have overheard your web people talking about accessibility. Or you may have been told that your website needs to conform to the Disability Discrimination Act (DDA) or Section 508 (in the US). But what exactly can these things mean? And what do you have to do about them?
This article explains what is meant by an accessible website, the standards that your web design agency should be adopting and outlines some of the benefits that accessible websites hold over other websites. It is for owners of existing websites, commissioners of new websites and website developers.
In the UK, the DDA makes it an offence to prohibit access to services to disabled persons. Any website providing a public service is covered by this Act. This implies that if your website is deemed inaccessible then you are liable for legal action.
What do we mean by an “accessible website”?
Simply put, an accessible website is one that allows meaningful access to any device capable of reading web pages.
Sounds like a no-brainer? But according to recent research by the Disability Rights Commission (DRC), 80% of websites fail to achieve even the most basic of accessibility standards.
What this statement means is that your website should be able to convey the information it contains, and provide the same level of functionality to a disabled person as it does to an able-bodied person.
How do I know if my website is accessible?
Most web design agencies now claim to create accessible websites but how do you know if this is true?
You should ask what the agency has done or will do to test your website. You should hope to hear that they have used the WAI checkpoints and that your website conforms at least to the A level. This is regarded as the minimum standard and would cover you legally.
You could also ask what the agency does to actively research accessibility on the internet, do they have any accredited examples of previous websites?- thereby getting a feel for their actual engagement in the field.
You can also have your website audited for accessibility. This should include manual and automated testing of every page, a report of any issues relating to the WAI guidelines and suggestions as to how the accessibility could be improved.
Benefits of an accessible website
The most obvious benefit of an accessible website is that you are providing access to your content or products to the entire populace. In the UK, 8.6 million people are registered disabled, that’s about 14% of the population.
There are additional benefits that go hand-in-hand with an accessible website:
- Search engine ranking improves
- General usability is improved through better content structuring
- Website is cheaper and faster to maintain as it will be using standardised programming code
Search engine ranking
Search engines will look at the code of your website and depending on how understandable it is to them, will rank your website higher or lower. The way a search engine does this is often equated with the way a screen reader (used by blind people) works. Therefore, a website that has been built with accessibility in mind will be coded in such a way (semantically correct) that assists search engines in understanding what the website is about and so can improve your ratings.
Again, if the coding of the website is accessibility-driven and semantically correct it can inform the development of your content. You will be thinking more about how your content is consumed from the start and how you expect customers to go from point A to point B in your website.
Cheaper and faster maintenance
Semantically correct website code is easier to read and understand than incorrect code. Therefore when it comes to updating your website it is quicker. An accessible website will have a clear structure further assisting the developer.
Additionally, the file sizes of your website are likely to be considerably smaller meaning your website will load faster.
An accessible website will mean your website is open to all potential customers, easier to use, attractive to search engines and cheaper for you to run. An accessible website is not just for disabled users; the effect of DDA legislation is to improve access to services to all users of the Internet.
For a website to be successful it should remove all barriers between the customer and the primary call-to-action. Therefore, an accessible website improves the effectiveness of your business/organisation online.
WordPress Hosting Requirements
With so many web hosts out there claiming to offer “WordPress Web Hosting” it can be hard to find out the essential and best practice web hosting technical requirements for a WordPress site.
Let’s review the essential and recommended WordPress Web hosting requirements.
Hosting a simple WordPress site is actually pretty easy, but very often web hosts don’t routinely offer some of the essential features needed to get WordPress running well, especially when it comes to adding some of the most useful WordPress features and plugins. When you do run into a problem with your WordPress site caused by inadequate web hosting configuration, it can be really difficult to troubleshoot the cause of the hosting problem, because when you are with a shared web host (99% of WordPress sites are on shared hosting for economy and convenience), because you aren’t ever told what the technical specs of your server are, and it can be hard to find reliable information about the best WordPress hosting server configuration.
To help you identify the best WordPress hosting, we’ve prepared a list of the minimum WordPress Hosting Requirements and also added a second list with the “nice to have” WordPress hosting options. This is by no means exhaustive, and reflects our own (extensive) experience installing, running, tweaking, troubleshooting and optimising WordPress sites on a wide range of WordPress web hosts, including popular shared international web hosts like Hostgator (Shared, Reseller and VPS) as well as more specialised US, EU and Australian web hosts.
Some of key points to note about choosing the
WordPress web hosting plans:
- You definitely get what you pay for with WordPress web hosting. Don’t expect high quality hosting for much under $10-20 per month.
- In particular, one of the primary costs of web hosting is providing support services. Any company offering decent support services simply cannot offer budget web hosting
- “Unlimited” hosting is a marketing term: any hosting claiming to be unlimited is likely to be extremely limited in the most critical resources: memory and CPU. One thing you will notice as you start to pay more for hosting is that the limits of memory, CPU, disk space and bandwidth are more clearly stated.
- Australian web hosting will cost more: Australian infrastructure is still more expensive to provide and the economies of scale aren’t there (yet). In our experience though, Australian web hosting is worth the extra price, especially if your market is Australian. If most of your visitors are from the US or EU, then go for web hosting there.
- Don’t expect your web host to have the first clue about WordPress. Some may, but their expertise will be from the hosting perspective which often means they speak a different language to you, even if you are highly competent with WordPress (unless they are specialist WordPress hosts)
- WordPress support isn’t included with your web hosting. For that you should rely on the WordPress.org support forums or your web designer. Exceptions to this include some managed wordpress hosting providers.