Get 5 months of WP Engine hosting for free [Black Friday deal]

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We’ve written before about why we recommend & use WP Engine for WordPress hosting. Today is the perfect opportunity to give your site a much-deserved upgrade and switch to WP Engine with their unbeatable Black Friday deal: 5 months free with the purchase of an annual plan.

Here’s how to get it:

  1. Visit WP Engine’s website (Before 11/28, when the deal expires! FYI – this is an affiliate link)
  2. Choose your plan and enter the coupon code cyberwknd on checkout (Be sure to choose the annual plan!)

Why do we recommend WP Engine?

  • Speed! WP Engine’s built-in caching gives a speed boost to your entire site.
  • Security! Sites are continually scanned for potential vulnerabilities and, if malware does manage to get in, they’ll clean it out for free.
  • Support! The 24/7 live chat team is always available to help out in times of need.
  • Free migration tools! Moving to WP Engine is a piece of cake with their migration tools.

Have questions about WP Engine or the process of moving to their hosting platform? Leave a comment below.

Your responsibilities as a site owner and the liabilities if you are hacked

We’ve all seen the headlines. “Yahoo confirms major breach — 500k accounts affected” … “JPMorgan Chase hacking affects 76 million households” … “Hackers selling 117 million LinkedIn passwords” … and the list goes on. Hackers are out there, scouring the web and looking for sensitive information they can use or sell for profit.

Even with these well-known companies being hacked, many site owners don’t take the steps to protect their own systems to thwart intruders. Many business owners may not consider the potential liabilities if a security breach does occur.

Every site is a target

There’s a common misconception that hackers only target sites with lots of traffic. Continue reading “Your responsibilities as a site owner and the liabilities if you are hacked”

Why we recommend & use WP Engine for WordPress hosting

I was 14 years old when I interacted with my first webhost. Since then, I’ve been a customer of a dozen of hosting companies and interacted with dozens more as a client liaison.

My approach to hosting for clients has always been to handle the entire experience so they don’t have to think about it at all. However, that means that I have to manage all aspects – security, migrations, investigating issues, and requesting support from the provider when there are issues.

My journey has gone from shared hosting to ‘webmaster’ hosting to Virtual Private Servers (VPS) to AWS EC2 to managed hosting. After this lengthy, and at times torturous, road to success, I can finally say that we’ve found our home with WP Engine.

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Our WP Engine recommendation stem from 4 S’s: speed, security, support, and systems.

Speed

When a webhost provides a site speed tool on their site, you know they’re ready to be put to the test. A WordPress website’s speed is affected by a multitude of factors – the hosting environment, the theme, the number of plugins, plugin compatibility, and much more – but whenever we place a site on WP Engine, we don’t have to worry about the hosting environment aspect. Sites load quickly and there’s no issues when you start using a content delivery network (CDN) like CloudFlare to speed things up even more.

Security

When it comes to technology, there’s a never ending battle between security and convenience. Sites that are placed on WP Engine are continually scanned for vulnerabilities and outdated plugins requiring security patches. While some site owners just want a ‘set it and forget it’ approach and would rather not get notified when they need to update their site (a very dangerous and reckless approach), their proactive handling of security issues is a good representation of the company’s overall customer-first culture.

Both the security and speed benefits come with their trade-offs. To live within their ‘walled garden’, your site cannot use any of their disallowed plugins which include caching plugins, related posts plugins, and some security plugins. Generally these plugins aren’t allowed because they are unnecessarily processor-intensive (they use up all of the server’s power for little benefit) or WP Engine’s environment already offers the functionality.

Support

Recently, WP Engine made a huge change to their support approach: they remove the “Open a Ticket” button. Instead, you must start a live chat session with a support rep and they will only open a ticket if they can’t resolve the issue. What seemed like a disaster actually turned into a beautiful support experience: 24/7 reps respond instantly (or within a few minutes at the most), my requests have been resolved within a couple of minutes, and the ticket system isn’t missed one bit!

I met up with Dustin Meza, WP Engine’s Director of Customer Experience, at WordCamp Orange County, and he said that this approach has been a win for both customers and the company.

Overall, WP Engine’s support team is competent and can speak ‘geek’ with pros who are familiar with their systems and just want to get into the nitty gritty of a request. Of note, most of my interactions with their support is related to requests (installing an SSL certificate, getting access to WP CLI, etc) rather than issues with a site.

Systems

WP Engine isn’t afraid to push the limits of their software and hardware. They’re already in the forefront of PHP 7 adoption and even released a PHP Compatibility Checker that lets you see if your theme+plugins are ready for PHP 7, which boosts site speeds by more than 2x.

Beyond that, WP Engine’s site tools cover all the bases. phpMyAdmin for database access, SFTP access, WP CLI (for developers, must be requested), nightly automatic backups, manual backups, easy SSL configurations, and more.

Creating a staging environment on WP Engine is a one-click process. You can also transfer your staging site to the live environment if you make updates there then want to bring them to production. It’s all a seamless process for checking plugin updates before you update on live or checking out some new CSS.

The migration process is incredibly user-friendly. Using their Migration Plugin, you pop in some server information into the settings then let the system take care of the rest. Your database and files are all migrated into WP Engine and you’re ready to change your DNS info for the final step.

No more host hopping

After going through countless hosts to find the right home, I have no plans to move away from WP Engine. My interactions with other hosts’ support systems and control panels only work to solidify this decision.

If you’re looking for a reliable and modern WordPress webhost, check out WP Engine’s plans. Save 20% on your first payment with the coupon summersavings.

PS – WP Engine didn’t ask me to write this post and my primary intention of this post is to share with the community my experiences with hosting and why Luminary proudly hosts with them. However, the link above is part of their affiliate program.

Does your minimum order amount not include shipping+tax? Here’s the WooCommerce code.

If you run a WooCommerce store and require a minimum order amount before the customer can check out, you may have come across the WooCommerce documentation that includes code for this requirement. It turns out, this code includes shipping and tax in the “order total.” If you require a minimum order amount for the subtotal only, you’ll need slightly different code.

Here’s the code you’ll want to use in your functions.php code instead:

This code will ensure that the customers are meeting that minimum with just the price of the products they’re purchasing.

Different companies have different requirements and you can choose which is best for you. Despite Woo’s documentation only showing the ‘complete total’ code, I would recommend going the subtotal route instead since you’re not benefiting from shipping and tax fees.

Exploring and acting on analytics data from a site with 1 million pageviews/week

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If a website is only seeing 10 visitors a day, exploring visitor stats through Google Analytics can be boring and unnecessary. It’s true – at that point, the dataset isn’t large enough to make rational judgment calls about what needs to be change don the site and how to get more people converting or accomplishing business goals. But when dealing with a site that has substantial traffic flowing through the pages regularly, the real fun work begins.

We maintain and develop some really high-traffic sites. Today we’ll be exploring an ad-supported blog that receives 1 million pageviews per week on average. The goal of this site is to (1) direct the user to the content they are interested in, and (2) get the most pageviews (aka ad revenue) per visitor possible.

In this post, we’ll explore the statistics, ask a question about visitor behavior, answer the question through the available data and segmenting options, then make recommendations for what changes to the site can be made & further analyzed. In future posts, we can review the effects of our changes to see how things turned out. Continue reading “Exploring and acting on analytics data from a site with 1 million pageviews/week”

Tearing down the child theme misconception – they needs updates, too!

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If you have a WordPress website and are using a theme purchased from ThemeForest or another theme marketplace, the best practice is to use a child theme for your customizations. This allows you to update your theme in the future without overwriting the custom code that adds additional features and functionality. However, there’s a growing misconception regarding child themes and this post will help clarify the situation.

Recently, both Easy Digital Downloads and WooCommerce came out with new versions that changed how code should be written to change functionality within the shopping experiences. We started receiving messages from site owners who had placed code within their child themes and were wondering why the updates would have affected them if they used a child theme.

Some believe that if you place code within a child theme, that means it will always be compatible with future “updates”. This may be true when it comes to theme updates (depending on how much your theme’s developer cares about backwards compatibility), but there is no guarantee that your code will work with future plugin or WordPress core updates. This is a huge difference. Plugin developers are under no obligation to make their plugins work with previous code snippets that placed in a child theme – and it’s likely that any custom PHP code you place there will need to be updated due to a WordPress or plugin update in the future.

In short, if you place PHP code within your child theme, test your site when new plugin or WordPress updates are released to make sure everything is still compatible and know that you may need to tweak the code in the future to keep your functionality alive.


Did your site’s functionality break due to a recent plugin update – and you need some help getting back in shape? We can help get your site back to normal and maintain it regularly so this doesn’t happen again. Contact us here.

Hide shipping methods when free shipping is available: WooCommerce 2.6 compatibility

If your store offers free shipping, WooCommerce’s default configuration is to show the free shipping option to the customer on checkout, but not automatically select it or remove the paid shipping options. There’s a code snippet that you can add to your theme’s functions.php file to hide other shipping methods when free shipping is available and we’d recommend this to all stores offering free shipping.

With WooCommerce 2.6 being released last month, you may have updated your store and noticed that this code snippet stopped working properly. Turns out, the new version of WooCommerce requires an updated code snippet, even if you haven’t switched over to the new Shipping Zones system. The documentation has been updated on WooCommerce’s site – or here it is for easy copy and pasting:

 

Build it and they will come: an (untrue) story

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The barbecue conundrum

You’ve spent a week planning the perfect barbecue. The location is a prime spot on the beach, the weather at the 1PM kickoff will be sunny and warm, the food is purchased and ready for cooking, and the speaker setup will be absolutely killer. When the time arrives, you pack up your things and head to the spot.

When 1PM rolls around, none of your friends have arrived but you start cooking the food. The hamburgers are ready at 1:15PM, but there’s still no one in sight. At 1:30PM, you realize your mistake.

You never invited your friends. You didn’t tell anyone about the BBQ. You spent all that money, put in all that time, and nobody showed up because they didn’t even know it was happening.

Websites are like barbecues

The scenario above seems implausible, but it happens with websites all the time. Business owners and entrepreneurs with “the next big thing” burn through thousands of dollars developing their next great idea and forget about marketing, how they will attract and retain visitors, and how they’ll make money to sustain.

You can prepare the best BBQ ever, but if you don’t tell anyone about it, it’s worthless.

Continue reading “Build it and they will come: an (untrue) story”

How to report technical issues to your development team

 

There are two ways to write error-free programs; only the third one works. (Alan J. Perlis)

 

Your computer’s software was written by some of the smartest minds in the world. Yet, it has bugs. Errors. Security holes. That’s why your computer prompts you  to update all the time- new patches and fixes are introduced to take care of bugs that are uncovered.

Websites are compromised of software, as well. And just like computers, they can have bugs that affect their performance or usability. But how are bugs discovered and patched?

Uncovering the bugs

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When code for a website is written, it goes through a QA (quality assurance) process by the development team. This means someone is performing each task on the site – adding a product to the cart, going through checkout, writing a review, etc – and ensuring that it’s working as expected. QA will also cover testing on different screen sizes and browsers. A great number of bugs – especially showstoppers that prevent core features from working at all – are found during this phase. This means that the majority of issues never make it to the live server.

However, some bugs manage to get past QA. There’s a multitude of different tests that can be tried during the QA process, but bugs can be discovered when something new or different is attempted. Here’s a short list of things that can affect websites:
Continue reading “How to report technical issues to your development team”

The difference between a web consultant and web developer

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A tale of two business owners

Two competing business owners, Luther and Eileen, are looking to grow their companies with a new marketing platform on the web.  They both have the same vision in their head about how the platform should look and what results they should expect over the next few years.

Luther finds a web developer online who charges $20/hour. After explaining his vision for the platform, the developer gets to work right away with great enthusiasm. Just a few weeks later, the platform is launched and Luther is only out $2,500.

Eileen asks her friend for a referral and is recommended to speak with a web consultant. After listening to her concept, the consultant comes back with a list of ideas for alternative approaches to the platform and how it can be more readily adopted by customers. The platform project has turned into a marketing + sales tool that will take $10,000 to build. Eileen approves the project. Continue reading “The difference between a web consultant and web developer”