Posts Tagged ‘Joomla’

Essential Tips for Maintaining and Speeding Up WordPress

WordPress is one of the most popular and widely-used blogging platforms and CMSs (content management system). The reason is it’s easy to install and use, so you can focus on creating content rather than building and maintaining your website. Everything from small personal blogs to big digital magazines like Smashing use WordPress to run their sites. Chances are you’re using WordPress for your own site or are planning on using it. Well, although WordPress is fine out of the box, it’s not optimized – and worse, it can crash when you start getting more traffic. Lucky for you, this article brings you essential tips for maintaining and speeding up WordPress.

Using these simple and free tweaks and plugin installations, you can:

Maintain your WordPress site to be in tip-top error-free shape using automated methods so you don’t need to waste your precious time

Speed up your WordPress site so it not only loads faster but holds up to traffic spikes

Monitor your WordPress site so you’re aware when a problem pops up and how to quickly fix it

All of which will ultimately free up your time to focus more on creating content and great work, not wasting time fixing your site when it goes down. So without further ado, here are the essential tips for maintaining and speeding up WordPress…

1. Regularly backup your database

In case your WordPress-powered blog breaks or you need to reinstall WordPress. You’ll have all of your latest pages, posts and comments in a handy file. Automate this by using the WP-DBManager plugin. You can set it to regularly backup your database and save a file on your hosting or by emailing an attachment.

2. Optimize your database

Again, you can use the WP-DBManager plugin to automate this.

3. Regularly backup your WordPress files

This means your images and plugins. Automate this by using the WordPress Backup plugin. You can set it to regularly backup your WordPress files and email an attachment.

4. Reduce spam comments

Have Akismet plugin running and filtering out the spam comments. This will save you time by helping speed up comment moderation/reading/replying.

5. Make sure you don’t have unnecessary 404′s

This is when people try to access your pages and posts and get a 404 error message page instead. Use the 404 Notifier plugin to identify the 404 errors and fix them with redirection by using the Redirection plugin.

6. Switch to pretty permalinks

That is if you haven’t already. Go to Settings > Permalinks panel and choose a pretty permalink style (like “example.com/date/post-name/“). Like the URL style that Speckyboy here has, rather than the “/?p=X” permalink style that WordPress for some reason still insists on defaulting to. This not only helps with SEO (search engine optimization, since the keywords people would use to find your post will be right there in the URL) but with human readability. It becomes obvious what you’re going to read as well as making it easier to share.

7. Automate basic SEO (search engine optimization)

Install the All in One SEO Pack plugin. Add your title, keywords, and description in the plugin options screen. This will make it easier for people who are searching for what you have to find you.

1. Use caching

Install the WP Super Cache plugin and enable the Gzip option. This will load only the appropriate cached content to visitors rather than loading every single script and element of your WordPress site. Your bandwidth is greatly reduced and you avoid your site going down during traffic spikes (and if you’re making a kick-butt site with kick-butt content, you should expect them more often than not).

2. Reduce the CSS files to as few as possible

Combine multiple custom CSS files into one big one. The less individual CSS files the theme needs to read the faster it’ll load. Simply copy/paste the code from individual CSS files into the main style.css or a custom.css file in your theme.

3. Reduce the Javascript files to as few as possible

Combine multiple .js files into one big one. The less individual .js files the theme needs to read the faster it’ll load. You can copy/paste the code from individual Javascript files (/js/jquery.js, /js/jquery.slider.js, /js/jquery.tooltip.js) into a new single Javascript file (/js/jquery.js,jquery.slider.js,jquery.tooltip.js).

3. Put as much Javascript code as possible in the footer

In the footer.php file of your theme, or in the footer section in your theme’s customization panel if applicable. This is so that the Javscript calls load last. This way, your visitors will be able to quickly read the content while the Javascript loads in the background.

4. Use as few plugins as possible

The less plugins need to load the more stable your WordPress site can be (and slightly faster in certain cases if a plugin isn’t properly coded). Do that by seeing if you can copy/paste code or hand-code the functionality into your theme, or using a theme that has the functionality built-in, or having it designed or customized for you. This doesn’t mean don’t use any plugins, especially since this article is suggesting plugins for WordPress optimization – just stick to only the essential ones rather than random sidebar widgets and whatnot.

5. Speed up image loading

Use the Amazon S3 storage service to upload and host your files. The images will load faster and your visitors won’t have to wait as long for them to load – especially important for web and visual designers with lots of images and portfolios to showcase. You can use the Amazon S3 for WordPress plugin to streamline image uploading and inserting into your pages and posts.

1. See your basic hosting server info and WordPress PHP memory usage

Install the WP System Health plugin. This can let you see if there are memory issues so you can identify and fix the problem rather than blindly trying things when your WordPress site is slow.

2. See more detailed hosting server info

Install the Hosting Monitor plugin. This will let you know if slowness or any other performance issues are something to do with WordPress or your hosting, and you can fix it or contact your hosting accordingly.

3. Have any WordPress errors logged and notifications emailed

Install the Error Reporting plugin. Since you’ll be notified right when an error occurs, you can fix it right away.

By using these tweaks and installing these plugins, you’ll not only take your WordPress site’s performance and stability from merely okay to great, but you’ll automate a lot of it so that you don’t have to spend time maintaining your site. Not to mention you won’t have to waste time fixing and trying to get your WordPress site back up when it crashes from a traffic spike or whatnot.

All of which boils down to why you should even care about any of this in the first place: you free up time to focus on creating content and great work.

Over to you: what are some other essential tips for maintaining and speeding up WordPress that weren’t featured here? Feel free to share your useful additions in the comments section below.

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Managing Graphics and Icons in your Designs

Projects can get overly confusing if we let them slip too far. This has become circumstance time and again, most commonly among the freelance designers of the world. Web projects are no different and require a strict level of discipline for project management.

Graphics and icons are useful for spicing up the average website template design. However management of all these entities can grow out of control. On larger platforms things may seem unmanageable and lean towards chaotic clutter.

Keep Images within Reason

Websites today don’t need too many images. We are often focused on other page content such as comments, videos, and similar context.

The biggest increase of icons has been with social networking and social bookmarking applications. User profiles have become “web 2.0″ified all throughout the modern web. Icons are not bad or space hogs by themselves. But when placed in the hands of the wrong designer icons can ruin a seemingly beautiful UI.

Try not to over-do things and everything should work out okay. It seems that graphics have become much more clear and unique over the years. Digital artists are offering icon sets for free among the many web communities such as DesignMoo. Web designers are then grabbing these and spreading them around to all their friends.

Use Unique Designs

Stale graphics have been passed around for years via the Internet. Web designers have this plague of unfriendly icons which have been used in web layouts across the board. famfamfam silk icon set comes to mind.

This set was commonly seen among the early generation of the web 2.0 launch. Digg and MySpace utilized these heavily. To be honest they are a great set of icons, beautiful to look at and clear visually. Once they became mainstream designers creating their own apps were using them to develop backend systems and data analytics interfaces all over the place.

Check the web for any new releases. Graphical search engines such as Icon Finder can help in locating related icons to place on your page. Icons are just a smaller part of branding and require matching the site template just like any other page graphic.

Keep Images Neatly Organized

The standard images/ folder to be created in most websites has undergone some transitions. With CDNs allowing cheap image hosting across many mediums we can see a lack of personal hosting in this department. This is a positive shift to holding data in the cloud and giving more control to website managers.

Blog and CMS’ such as WordPress will upload images based on date and file name. This is clever and a great way to store such content. When you don’t have such a handy backend things can get complicated. In these scenarios I’d always recommend creating sub-folders to house each individual section of images.

The best way to stay organized in folder structure is to build a backend system for management. It may seem complex at first but in the end you’ll save yourself a lot of heartache.

PHP is a great language to work in since it runs on most web servers and holds great built-in image libraries with powerful manipulation and upload functions. You should be able to create functionality to upload, rename, and remove images at will from any of the inner directories.

If this seems like too much work initially you may consider working backwards into a CMS. WordPress, Joomla!, and Drupal all offer backend image manipulation and have modules to extend functionality.

Keep Names Related and Focused

When naming each image file you’re placing a small needle into a (growing) haystack of content. With Windows 7 and Mac OSX search API so powerful it’s an easy task to find exactly what you need. What happens, though, if you forget the name or keywords used for images?

Uploading and storing images by date is a possibility. It can get complicated after a while but it’s a sure-fire way to list out every one of the website’s assets. This also gives you powerful control for revisions of older graphics and moving around directory structures.

Resample Images to Web-Safe Standards

With the wide spread evolution of Verizon FiOS we have seen Internet greatly speeds increase over the past year. This means content is not taking as long to download anymore and we’re sharing files at quicker and quicker rates. But should this give you reason to neglect care on your websites?

The truth is images such as .jpg photos and larger .pngs can take up a lot of room. The concern here is with visitors accessing your site through a mobile browser. Either running iOS, Android, or BlackBerry, not many mobile operating systems will be able to download information as quickly as your desktop or laptop at home.

Ensure your pages are loading as quickly as possible and not waiting for long server pauses between buffering images. There are some possible ways to load images via JavaScript while the DOM is still being parsed. This secures visitors won’t be scrolling through without access to any content, thought the download process may take longer.

Here is an example of some simple JS code:

<script type="text/javascript" language="javascript">
<!--
pic1 = new Image(100,25);
pic1.src = "images/photo1.jpg";
//-->
</script>

All of these examples are proof of the importance for organization of graphics on the web. Websites are growing in size and must scale along with these times. Graphics are not going away any time soon. In fact, they are one of the most important aspects to our new-age media powered Internet.

Practice with tutorials in Photoshop and Illustrator for working with icons and vectors. These will come in handy as more designers are releasing free sets of icons for project work. It doesn’t take a very long time to build a strong sense of graphic interfaces. Follow current web trends and combine your own ingenuity to create some graphically stunning web projects.

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15 Market Leaders of Premium WordPress, Joomla and Drupal Themes

Thanks to the active opensource CMS community, especially the big three (WordPress, Joomla and Drupal) website development cost has dwindled down to affordable levels. The more you understand how to use a CMS the better you can control development cost and best make use of your site to promote your products or services.

For people like me who has close to zero code nor design skills the most important thing when creating a new site is to get content published very quickly, it should look professional and also be very usable for visitors. Because I’d rather want to spend time on content and website optimization and not on learning advanced coding.

If customization is not of top priority for you, just search for the innumerable free templates for your content platform and you can have a site up and running ridiculously cheap. But for owners who don’t really want to have their site look very like thousands of others they are looking for a professional looking template and then have someone tweak around until it fits their requirements.

Below is a list of 15 players in the theming industry that I personally can vouch for as they offer unique products and services. Basically there are three types of businesses that offer ready made CMS themes. Either you buy single themes on markets or from shops, or you can join a theme club and get full access to all designs on offer. Then if you need some grade of customization you will contact a web studio or a freelance developer to get your design tailored to your needs.

Generally these markets function as places where lots of designers showcase their collection of themes that can be purchased one on one. They are popular for the sheer endless amount of stand-alone-themes you can choose from, though quality is really of varying levels.
Professional support and bug fixing is not provided by the market owner. The creator of the template himself is responsible for upport and in most cases speed and availability is limited if you report a problem. Some quality theme markets you should know (ordered by Alexa):

ThemeForest


A well respected bazaar, where only high class work can be uploaded as TF has very upper-market conditions in terms of quality standards. Known for having very unique themes for WordPress and Joomla created by thousands of talented designers.
ThemeForest →

TemplateMonster


The oldest and biggest market place if we compare quantity of themes on offer and traffic numbers. Besides themes for CMS you can purchase loads of templates for other uses.
TemplateMonster →

Mojo-Themes


A great alternative place to buy and sell not only WordPress themes but also for Tumblr, a very popular blogging platform.
Mojo-Themes →

ThemeGarden


A relatively new spot in the market area. They are right now only offering WordPress themes, but this could change quickly once more buzz has been created.
ThemeGarden →

These providers develop themes and frameworks and sell only their products, either as single item or offer a flat fee for accessing the complete collection. These shops are pros in terms of design standards.
As theme shops are professional developers they offer more dedicated support than the one-man-designer. Also there are real good tutorials for customers to get more out of the product. Some prominent theme shops you should know (ordered by Alexa):

Studiopress


Creator of the Genesis Framework, a really versatile and popular framework. Only selling themes for WordPress.
Studiopress →

DIYthemes


Creator of Thesis theme framework, that provides a sophisticated UI to build your own WordPress themes with drag and drop and little configuration. Really easy to use without coding.
DIYthemes →

JoomlaShack


Selling great templates for Joomla, Drupal and WordPress. Very popular for the service JoomlaShack University “the #1 source for online Joomla training!”


JoomlaShack →

GorillaThemes


These guys shine with the perhaps best Real Estate/MLS/Residential theme solutions for WordPress anyone can find. Great looking and ready to go.
GorillaThemes →

FusionDrupalThemes


FusionDrupalThemes →

If you are power user or a little advanced with CMS you really want to join so called theme clubs.
On template clubs it is not intended that you buy a single template. You subscribe to a yearly membership plan and gain access to all club themes, often bundled with custom written extensions. They focus on creating high quality prototype templates and frameworks that are turnkey solutions with lots of functionality and options.

If it comes to support, professional clubs provide much better and faster service as on the other places. Within 24 hours or even 12 hours after opening a support ticket, common problems are normally solved already. All themes have extensive documentation and tutorials. Some prominent theme clubs you should know (ordered by Alexa):

WooThemes


Great modern designs for WordPress and Drupal CMS serving lots of different purposes. You can purchase one theme like in shops or join membership if you want to use more than only one theme.
WooThemes →

ElegantThemes


This site lives up to it’s name, providing eye-catching themes with simplicity and elegance in mind.
ElegantThemes →

RocketTheme


One of the oldest and most respected theme clubs offering over 130 Joomla, WordPress and Drupal templates, highly functional extensions and a very active forum.
RocketTheme →

JoomlArt


Creators of T3, one of the most downloaded frameworks ever and totally free under GPL. Over 120 Joomla, Magento and Drupal themes coming with complementary extensions. Active community with over 200k members.
JoomlArt →

YooTheme


1st-class Design from Germany. They clearly have the best looking Icons built-in their themes, making it really stand out.
YooTheme →

Gavick


Gavick designs very innovative Joomla templates, especially distinguished are their news and corporate templates with great attention to typefaces.
Gavick →

Conclusion

I would say there is no best option where to buy premium themes and which theme provider model is the superior one. It depends on a lot of factors such as purpose of your site, individual taste, number of sites you are managing, web CMS knowledge and development skills and more.

Overall you can generally say people who are less code-savvy and just want to set up one particular site will search a suitable theme on those template markets or shops. Whereas advanced web developers, freelancers and design studios will purchase membership in theme clubs to get bulk access to all products.

Obviously most professional developers do not really start from scratch. In order to reduce time and costs and win projects, they choose a theme or a framework as a starting point. Then they customize styling, add features to meet the different client requirements. Those developers rely on a library of high quality designed, functional and versatile templates which is the reason why markets aren’t the best options for them. If there is no active community around, upgrades to newer versions and support can be slow or non-existing

It’s important to know that a theme that looks good is one thing. Adaptivity, functionality and usability is totally another thing that many designs simply are weak at.

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