WordPress 4.7 – Top 5 Changes to Get Excited About

WordPress 4.7 is right around the corner. Here is a list of the top five things that you should be looking forward to in WordPress 4.7.

  1. Twenty Seventeen
  2. A new default theme is coming with 4.7. Twenty Seventeen is a sleek new theme that is aimed towards businesses. Check out the theme at 2017.wordpress.net.

  3. Theme Changing in Customizer
  4. The ability to change themes in the Customizer will be available in 4.7. This will make it easier and faster to install and preview themes.

  5. Custom CSS
  6. I was a little surprised to here that this was being added into the core. In the Customizer you will now be able to add custom CSS into a CSS box. Cool eh?

  7. Different Language for Each User
  8. Users on your website will now have the ability to change the language of the WordPress admin into whatever language they want. This will make it easier for people who speak different languages to work on the same website.

  9. Bug Fixes
  10. You should always get excited when bugs are fixed. Especially when those bugs have something to do with the security of your website. In every WordPress release loads of bugs are fixed.


WordPress 4.7 is scheduled to be released December 6, 2016. These are just some of the new features that are going to be added to 4.7. You can see a full list of all the fixes here.

Best Ways To Monitor Your Websites Uptime

Everyone wants their website to be up and running. Nobody likes it when their website goes down. What is even more annoying is when your website goes down and you don’t notice it for a few days.

So I set out in search of a good way to monitor my websites. I had too many cases of a clients website going down and me not noticing until the client contacted me.

Jetpack Monitor

Jetpack Monitor is one of the many features inside of the ever so popular Jetpack plugin for WordPress. Jetpack Monitor is by far the simplest and most basic way that you can monitor your website. It simply sends you an email when your WordPress website goes down and when the website goes back online.

jetpack-monitor

The main disadvantages to Jetpack Monitor are that you can’t monitor non WordPress websites, it doesn’t tell you what is wrong with the website (server side error, gateway error, etc.), and you need to install Jetpack on ever website you want to monitor. So there are a lot of problems that I found.

Advanced Website Uptime Monitor

Advanced Website Uptime Monitor by Justin991q is a script on codecanyon.net that goes for $14 USD. You install it on a server and then access the URL and you are welcomed with a nice login portal.

The advantage to this over Jetpack Monitor is that you can monitor any website you like, you don’t need to load up a monitor script on all your websites, it also keeps track of uptime and tells you what browser error code is going on.

2016-10-02-19_13_52-younginwp-monitor

Although this is still far from perfect, it still is a great solution. If you wanted to use this properly, you would need to get a separate account to host it on that is separate from all the websites you are monitoring. I have a giant reseller hosting account that I loaded the uptime monitor on. Then after a week or so, I realized that all the websites on the reseller plan had 100% uptime over two weeks. This is because of when the reseller plan goes down, so does the monitor.

Online Solutions

The thing to fix all these problems, would be to look for an online monitoring solution. There are many out there like uptimerobot.com and uptrends.com. The problem with these is the price. Most of them can be upwards of $100 per year.

Conclusion

Although non of these solutions are truly perfect, I am sticking with using the Advanced Website Uptime Monitor script. It seems the most reliable and cheapest solution to fit my needs.

Matthew

Main Problems I Have With Hosting Companies

Recent experiences have made me increasingly more frustrated with hosting companies, specifically the cheaper hosting companies (I am looking at you Bluehost). But the point of this post is not to knock Bluehost. Actually, the point of this article is not to knock any specific hosting company. The goal of this article is to list the things that I hate most about what hosting companies do with there hosting plans. So with out anything else, lets begin.

Deceptive Pricing

By far the thing I hate most about any hosting company. I can only find a few hosting companies that don’t do this. Deceptive prices are just horrible. You go to the hosts website and on the front page a big popup appears saying, “up to 50% off all hosting! Limited time offer!”. This stuff is BS.

The truth of the matter is that it is indeed “up to 50% off”, although it is always “up to 50% off”. So you sign-up for whatever extremely low price, and then come renewal the price have gone up exponentially. This happened to me once with a client. Signed up for hosting at like $5/month, come renewal it was $12/month.

Some hosts even go as far as to hide the actual regular price so that it seems like a really good deal. They know that once they get someone signed up for a hosting plan, they are not going to switch to a different host come renewal (in less that person is like me).

It is a tricky tactic that sadly works quite well in the hosting world. It is also something that you should keep your eyes out for next time you get hosting from someone. Even if you need to contact them directly, make sure that you know what the regular price is before you sign-up.

“Enhanced cPanel”

This is something that only the more advanced techies will find more annoying. When the hosting advertises there “Enhanced/Better/Super cPanel Backend”, I run in the other direction. Very few hosting companies out of the tens-of-hundreds of them actually have a good backend that they made. The rest just have modified buggy backends that frankly suck.

Would it not be easier for everyone if they all just used cPanel. It has all the options and functionality that you need to maintain and run a website. cPanel is simple and very stable. I just don’t get it.

Outdated Versions of Software

Once again, I may be one out of only a few that find this annoying. But why don’t hosts seem to support the most recent versions of PHP, MySQL, and MariaDB. WordPress 4.6 requires you to use:

    • PHP version 5.6 or greater
    • MySQL version 5.6 or greater OR MariaDB version 10.0 or greater

Source wordpress.org/about/requirements/

Most hosting companies default configurations well fall short of these requirements. You need to search through the “Enhanced cPanel” 😉  in order to find the random page that allows you to change the PHP and MySQL versions. And when you finally find that hidden page, they don’t even have the most recent versions.

First of all, please PLEASE PLEASE make your default PHP version something that wasn’t released 5 years ago. Especially WordPress aimed hosting companies, do your customers a favor and do this for them.

Next, make supporting more recent versions of PHP and MySQL more of a priority, instead of spending all your time on enhancing your cPanel 😉 . At the time of writing this article, PHP 7 should be at least an option on all hosting companies.

Searching for Support and Documentation

Make your support and documentation simple. Have a link in the menu to support, where there is a phone number, email form, support forum, and/or live chat. Then have another page for documentation that is well organized and relevant. Don’t make me have to look in the footer, sitemap, and “Enhanced cPanel” 😉 (ok I will stop). This information should be right in the open, easy to find. It is like hosting companies don’t want you to use the support. Instead they want you to bother us WordPress.org Forums people.

?

Conclusion

Make sure that when you are choosing your first or next host that they don’t pull one of these on you. I speak from experience having fallen into many of these traps. And trust me, changing hosts is not a fun weekend project.

Which Hosting?

All this is why I chose Web Hosting for Students. You need to shop around for hosting a lot, and at the time I found WH4S to be the best for my needs. They are one of the handful of hosts that actually don’t pull all these tricks and stupid things on you. Check out this article that I wrote a few months back about WH4S.

Making YounginWP.com

There are many things that need to come together in order to make a website good. Below are some of the things I did to make the YounginWP.com website better.

Speed

Studies show that 40% of visitors will leave your website if the loading process takes more than 3 seconds. Because of these stats, I felt that my main focus for the website should be speed.

Now WordPress, as awesome as it is, is really not that fast. So for the main page of YounginWP I coded up my own HTML, CSS, and JS page. Using tools like Pingdom and Google PageSpeed Insights, I was able to target the slow parts of the website and speed them up.

Below is a before/after comparison of the YounginWP.com webpage test on Pingdom.

As you can see, huge improvements across the board.

So here is what I found out as I was doing this. Compress and combine EVERYTHING. If you have three CSS files linking to the page, combine them into one. If you have a background image, compress it to its max. Every kB can slow down your website. That is why I went for a HTML landing page, to get you on the website as fast as possible.

Now as for the WordPress side of the website, that involved installing a cache plugin. I went with WP Fastest Cache as it is lightweight and super easy to setup. I played around with the settings and kept doing tests until I found the configuration that worked best for me. I also tried to minimize requests on each page by disabling plugins that were slowing it down and finding alternatives.

I must say that I am quite pleased with the final speed result of YounginWP.com.

Responsive

Next up was responsiveness. Responsiveness is important to reach a wider audience that use all different devices. Below is the final responsiveness results of YounginWP.com.

Home Page

What’s Up Page

To test the pages responsiveness, I used the built in Firefox Responsiveness Design Tool. This is a great feature in Firefox that I wish I had discovered a long while ago.

For the landing page responsiveness I made it have zero scrolling. This gives the webpage a much cleaner feel. Also thanks to some @media (min-device-width: ) CSS, I was able to resize the text to make it perfectly fit on all screens.

Lastly, for the WordPress part of the website, I picked a simple theme that is fully responsive and looks similar to that of the home page. It did require me to make a child theme and edit out some stuff, but in the end it turned out to be the perfect theme.

Configurations

The third and final thing I encountered while making this website was configuring a WordPress and HTML site to work together as one. This involved me reading through some Codex articles until I figured out what I needed to do. Turns out just changing the URL in the WordPress settings, and organizing the files in the back-end properly was all I needed to do.

Now I am not going to list all the big and small things I needed to do to make the website work smoothly, although I will say this. Google and the WordPress.org documentation are your friends when creating WordPress websites. Even me, who has made countless websites in my four years of using WordPress still can’t live without using online documentation.

Conclusion

In the end, YounginWP.com turned out to be a fun and mostly useless project. I learned a lot from designing and developing it. Hopefully I get to do some more fun projects on YounginWP.com later on. Maybe I will try and combine it more with my blog. Or make a fun client portal or something on it. We shall see!

Matthew

YounginWP Website Launched

Over the past month I have been slowly working on a mostly random yet fun project. Just over a month ago I made a big change in my client work which resulted in me buying the younginwp.com domain name.

The main point of the younginwp.com website is to provide a website for my client work. I can create test sites, client portals, and show off my work. Also, if you have read the Web Hosting for Students is Awesome post, you can understand a little bit more of where my client work is going.

There is really not that much to check out on younginwp.com yet. I tried to keep the website clean, simple, fast, and responsive. I hope to write a post soon on some things I learned while making the website. I needed to go into some new territory so I am looking forward to sharing some things that I did.

Besides that, yeah, not much else. Give the website a look if you see this and feel free to provide any feedback. The website is a little experimental so feedback is welcome.

Time for bed!
Matthew

Web Hosting For Students is Awesome

Over the last few months I have been trying to make some more money on my client work. Since most of my client work is for friends and family, I don’t really feel it is right to charge them that much for my work. So because of that, I have changed my approach to making money through client work.

Reseller hosting plans allow you to host multiple websites on the same account. Now most reseller hosting plans that are half decent are $200+/year. But since I am a student (#YounginWP), I was eligible to use Web Hosting for Students. Like its name suggests, Web Hosting for Students is a company that offers huge discounts for student web hosting. This means that I was now able to get a reseller hosting plan for $100 instead of $200+.

So because I have a reseller hosting plan I can charge my clients a rate of $60-$100 per year for hosting (which is about the same as a cheap Bluehost or GoDaddy plan). So if I get more then two clients (I have a lot more), then I start making money. Mind you it is not a ton of money made, but it was a wise move by my part if you ask me.

So the point of this short article was more to give a tip to young students that make websites (like ME!). Check out Web Hosting for Students and also look into reseller hosting plans so that you can make a few extra bucks.

Matthew

My New FREE WordPress Backup Solution

As you may know if you have read past posts on my website, I use UpdraftPlus to backup all the websites I manage. Recently with my host switch I have gotten more serious about a solid backup solution for my clients.

I use to use UpdraftPlus to run a weekly backup on all the website. Then it would save one copy in a folder on the host, and I would download another copy. There are a few problems with this though. One is that I need to remember to go on each website weekly and download a copy of the backup. That takes up quite a lot of time. Two, what happens if my computer goes kaput?

So about a week ago I set out to find a better solution. A solution that would keep the backup safe and that would not take up my time. Also a solution that is free.

In order to solve the problem of the backup not being secure, I thought that it would be best to keep it on Dropbox, OneDrive, or Google Drive. The problem with using Dropbox or OneDrive is that it would cost to get enough space. Although for Google Drive I can get 15GB which should be enough for now. So using Google Drive and configuring it with UpdraftPlus, I can have a system that runs fully in the background.

So that is my new backup solution for now (until I find a better solution). 15GB of space will be just enough to backup all the websites I manage. If I do need more space I can always upgrade to the 100GB plan for only $1.99 a month, which is a affordable price.

Anyway, I would encourage you to find a good backup system. There are tons of plugins and storage options out there to allow you to prefect your backup system to make it how you want.

Matthew