Category Archives: Tips and HowTos

Understanding DNS for Faster Website Migrations

Understanding DNS for Faster Website MigrationsAt beAutomated we strive to be consultants first and programmers second because we want to ensure our development work produces maximum benefit. In serving our clients we often get requests to assist with data and site migrations, and we usually end-up educating clients about DNS—Domain Name System—on top of discussing the various types of hosting plans available to them.

Folks usually get confused about DNS whereas it’s reasonably simple for most purposes. Probably the biggest cause for this confusion has been the routine push by web hosting companies to get their customers to move their name servers along with their website files and database data. Instead, one can use their registrar’s built-in DNS hosting to simplify the process and make it faster and easier to switch hosting companies when necessary as well as to divert other services such as email to separate hosting providers. Using this configuration approach can save on costs by providing needed flexibility.

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WordPress Website Performance

Wordpress Website PerformancePerformance is one of the major purposes behind custom software development, alongside functionality, security, interoperability, and support. Performance is of major importance not only to website visitors but to search engines such as Google.

Researchers also claim that website users are affected by speed, while speed decreases they increasingly begin to leave and try other links instead. WordPress powered websites are particularly vulnerable to performance problems due to the plethora of themes and Plugins that often get applied to these websites on top of WordPress’ already extensive core. Many of the Plugins available today do not follow best practices for performance, whether they are free, premium, or even custom.

You might be surprised to learn that every single plugin you have installed gets loaded with every single page request. If the plugin has nothing to do with the page being requested, most of its logic is usually skipped. If the plugin does filter or otherwise hook into the content of the page somewhere somehow, most of the logic within the plugin will be executed in realtime. Individual plugin logic may or may not be optimized for performance. Regardless of whether the plugin is performance optimized, every plugin will affect your website’s performance to some degree.

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Outsourcing Plugin Development

Outsourcing Plugin DevelopmentOutsourcing as it relates to custom WordPress plugin development refers to hiring contract developers from outside your business to fulfill the programming of your custom plugin development project, ideally including some of the engineering design planning as well. Offshoring refers to outsourcing to overseas contractors. Software development is an area of expertise that is most often outsourced and many times is offshore outsourced.

We have a little bit of experience on this topic and thought we would contribute to the discussion. We hope that we might help the WordPress webmaster audience understand some important items to consider when deciding where to obtain external resources.

Being a U.S. based contractor ourselves plus having more of a U.S. based audience, we are proud to advertise that we produce all of our work locally in the U.S.A. We distinguish ourselves from our competition, local and abroad, in certain respects.

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WordPress Security

WordPress SecuritySecurity is one of the major purposes behind custom software development, alongside functionality, performance, interoperability, and support. Our clients mostly shop for new functionality for their WordPress powered websites. While security isn’t typically much of a selling point, it should not be just an afterthought. Security as a concept is part of almost every piece of software in use. Security requires continual attention from all parties, and separates amateur from professional developers. Installing WordPress themes and Plugins from unknown developers opens-up all sorts of security risks that all webmasters should be aware of.

When security problems arise, they tend to be major. So a little preparation can save a lot of fan cleaning! To use another cliché: Once bitten, twice shy. Security is a topic that evokes many stories and charged emotions. Everyone we know has had run-ins with security. For example, ourselves and a couple of our clients were hacked in the past by robots spidering for known vulnerabilities seeking to install malware.

What does the malware that typically affect websites do? It usually causes pop-ups containing scams or trojan horse software that seeks to charge you money, steal your contacts, steal your visitors’ information, or infect your personal computer. While these automated robots don’t usually cause irreparable damage to your website, they do rattle your nerves and waste a ton of your time doing clean-up work on your live website that your visitors and clients are looking at. The vast majority of these security breaches are bots rather than “black hat” hackers. These breaches are intended to go undetected for maximum exposure.

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Theme and Plugin Differences

Theme and Plugin DifferencesRandy and I had a fun discussion the other day about the programmatic differences between themes and Plugins. For the most part, anything you can program within a theme can be programed into Plugins, and anything you can program into Plugins can be programmed in a theme. So how do you decide which to use for a particular purpose? The answer is simple—PLUGINS!

As we tweaked our site’s theme, Boldy, we had to decide on whether to strip functionality that we didn’t need out of the theme, replace functionality with other Plugins, or move functionality into new Plugins for eventual release to the WordPress Plugin Directory for community benefit. For example, the “Share” button on the bottom of blog posts (below). The design of the button was part of the original theme. We moved that functionality over to a plugin, which could potentially be replaced with something such as ShareThis or AddThis. We decided to make this a plugin, because it represents functionality more so than page design, and could be useful to other sites—not just ours. We did the same thing with the contact form that was part of the original theme.

Other examples of functionality built into the theme we found were (1) Smooth Navigational Menu, (2) prettyPhoto lightbox, (3) Twitter integration, (4) Cufon font smothing, (5) Nivo Slider, and (6) custom search box. All of these features should ideally be built into Plugins, not kept within the theme. We might get to moving those someday!

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Tweaking Boldy

Site5 Boldy LogoOur recent site relaunch was based upon a free Premium WordPress theme, Boldy by Site5. Leading up to our new site release and since that time we’ve released significant updates to this theme. There have been so many rather bold adjustments that we decided we would let the world know what exactly the process of tweaking an existing theme entails. We’re also planning future posts on the related topics of performance, security and interoperability.

Here’s what all we did to make “beBoldy”…

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Why WordPress?

WordPress LogoMany months back we refined our core service offering from working on any PHP based website to concentrating on the most popular open-source CMS systems: WordPress, Joomla!, Drupal and Magento. We recently announced narrowing our concentration to WordPress exclusively. Here’s why…

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