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5 Top Tips To Get Your Website Ready For The Holidays

With just days until the start of November, now is the perfect time to get your website ready for the Holiday traffic surge. Nearly half of an average retailer’s sales for 2017 occurred in November & December according to Deloitte, so preparing for this critical sales period has never been so important.

From making sure your website can handle the extra seasonal traffic to checking the payment options you offer, our blog post will ensure your site is fit for the season ahead.

 

Evaluate your site

Many e-commerce stores start small and grow over time, this is an excellent way of minimizing risk and keeping start-up costs low – but before the peak traffic season kicks in take some time to check if you’ve evaluated your website against your competitors in terms of functionality, some key questions to consider:

  • Is your layout intuitive for your visitors? Think names of menu items & position of your site search bar.
  • Does your website load perfectly on mobile devices? Grab a mobile and tablet to take your site for a test drive. A lot of your visitors will be using mobile devices so be sure to cater for them on every page.
  • Are all of your images present and high resolution? Seeing is believing, your visitors will want to take a close look at your products before purchasing so be sure to check that all your products have images uploaded and look crystal clear.

 

 

Make sure you can handle traffic spikes

Check your hosting plan, look at key figures such as bandwidth allowance and resource limits. A good host will surface your usage statistics with you from their control panel, take a moment to look over your usage and ensure you have at least three times the headroom before the holiday season takes hold. For example, if you have a limit of 15GB of bandwidth but see you’ve used 9GB this month already, then it’s time to upgrade your package or change hosting provider if you’re considering the latter be sure to take a look at our generously allocated Europe and USA located website hosting plans!

 

Check your payment options

Having a wide range of payment options is key to ensuring your customers can complete their purchase once they’ve decided what to add into their carts. Alongside offering industry standard payment processors such as Stripe, be sure to offer a backup processor in case your primary has any service issues – you don’t want to stop your online register ringing due to a technical glitch outside of your control. Consider partnering with another processor like Due and Square.

In addition to your main card processors like those mentioned above, we strongly recommend offering PayPal as a payment option on your website’s checkout. PayPal allows its users to pay for your products without having to enter their credit/debit card details on your site, something that appeals to many of its users.

If you’ve already implemented the above and are looking for something a little more unique, why not consider accepting Crypto Currency as a method of payment? CoinGate is a great way to get started.

 

Secure your site

Take a few minutes to check your Secure Sockets Layer (SSL) is applied correctly and expires well beyond the holiday season if it expires soon consider an early renewal so you can be sure your visitors will always see your website as secure.  If you don’t have an SSL right now then get one right away, an insecure website will drive visitors away. All Hugoton Hosting web hosting plans come with free SSL!

Securing your website also goes further than an SSL, head over to our ‘How to secure your WordPress website’ blog post to be sure your online store is secure.

 

Implement a review system

So your website has an array of products with high-resolution images and perfectly crafted descriptions for each – but can your visitors see what others who’ve purchased from you in the past thought of the products they received?

Implementing product reviews is a great way to boost confidence for shoppers buying your products, take a look at WP Product Review Lite and Rich Reviews to get started.

Reviews on their products are something every e-commerce store owner should offer, but you should also host reviews of your website as a whole, TrustPilot and Bazaar Voice are leading the way in this space.

 

Conclusion

Hopefully, the above tips have given you some food for thought on how to get your website holiday ready! We love to hear from our visitors, why not drop us a message and let us know what you’d like to see us blog about next?

 

6 Steps To Speeding Up Your WordPress Website – Infographic

Following on from our very first Infographic published earlier this week (Launching Your First Website) we’re pleased to share a brand new one, this time focusing on how to speed up your WordPress website. No one likes waiting for websites to load, so our 6 simple steps will help ensure your WordPress website loads quickly for all of your visitors, from CDNs and Image Optimization to Lazy Loading and Database Optimization, we cover it all!

As always, if you have a specific topic you’d like us to cover on an Infographic please let us know via our Contact Us page!

You can also download a high-resolution PDF version of our infographic here.

Launching Your First Website – Infographic

We’re excited to share our new infographic below to help you launch your first website!

We will be producing many more of these in the coming weeks. If you have a specific topic you’d like us to cover please let us know via our Contact Us page!

You can also download a high-resolution PDF version of our infographic here.

Why your website should be mobile friendly and how to make it so!

According to Statisa mobile traffic to websites globally has increased from 31% in Q1 2015 to 51% in Q2 2018. This 20% increase shows the clear need for your website to be mobile friendly, when your visitors open your website on their phone or tablet they want to be able to browse your product and services the same way they would on their desktop or laptop. If they try to navigate around your site on their mobile device, only to find images don’t render correctly or text is too small to read they will likely abandon their visit and look elsewhere.

 

So, what are the main problems if my website isn’t mobile friendly?

First off zooming in and out on sections on your website isn’t something visitors will be willing to do anymore, they expect a clean & easy to use version of your website that compliments their experience when visiting you on their laptop.

Then what happens when a customer wants to call you? Are the phone numbers on your site click-to-dial compatible? If they’re not, then the chances of your visitor manually changing between their mobiles web browser and phone keypad to manually enter the number are slim. Instead, they should be able to click any phone number on your website to commence dialing.

Google also favor mobile responsive web designs, in late Spring 2015 Google altered their algorithms, commonly known within the industry as “Mobilegeddon”, they pushed websites with unresponsive (non-mobile friendly) designs down in results made on mobile devices.

Forbes identified that a whopping 31% of all referral traffic to websites comes from social media, couple that statistic with the fact that over 80% of all social media engagement originates from mobile devices and the need for your website to behave perfectly on mobiles and tablets becomes crystal clear.

 

Okay, how do I make my website mobile friendly?

Making your current website mobile friendly (responsive) may not be as difficult as you are thinking. The best place to start analyzing how complex it may be is by checking how old your website is and what technology/software it runs on. If your site is less than 2 years old and runs on WordPress you have a good chance of making it mobile responsive easily. If your site is more than 2 years old and was written with HTML or PHP code as a bespoke project, then mobile optimization may need professional input, don’t forget you can contact Hugoton Hosting to discuss such a project.

Let’s imagine your site is less than two years old and runs on WordPress; you have three main options available to you …

 

Use a plugin to generate a mobile theme

Using a plugin will create a separate mobile theme, shown only to visitors on mobile devices. The two options we recommend are the Mobile Theme module in Jetpack and WPtouch (or WPtouch Pro).

The benefits of this method are simplicity and cost. The downside, however, is that the mobile site/theme created will be basic in nature and will likely not match the look & feel of your desktop website, so while this method is good as an entry point to pleasing your mobile visitors, you will likely need to have a more ‘natural’ mobile experience developed

 

Modify your current WordPress theme

Your WordPress theme is likely something you’ve grown to love over time, and probably something in which you’ve invested both time and money into. You can look to modify your existing template to become mobile friendly, we recommend you contact a web design company to analyze the work needed to do this. Hugoton Hosting have converted numerous websites to be responsive, typically using BootStrap to make sure mobile visitors browse your site with ease.

Of course, depending on the theme you’re using, mobile optimization may not be perfect and could be seen as “putting lipstick on a pig”, this is why we strongly recommend contacting a Web Designer so you can be sure of the results of mobile optimization before investing in such.

 

Use a new WordPress theme

The vast majority of WordPress themes created in the last 0-12 months come with mobile optimization as standard, be sure of course to check the description and try the demo on your mobile to be 100% sure.

While this option may seem like the most expensive and time-consuming, it is also the one which will deliver the most joined-up experience for your visitors whether they visit your website on the mobile, tablet, desktop or laptop. There is also the opportunity with this option to add more functionality to your site and fix those ‘little things’ that have always bugged you on your current website.

Similar to option 2, we recommend you engage with a Web Designer to assess precisely what themes would work best for your site and to check-in plugin compatibility with your new theme choice.

 

Conclusion

Hopefully you now agree that your website should be mobile friendly, exactly how you ensure this is up to you, but one thing is for sure – your brand is paramount to your business and the look & feel of your website should be as identical as possible for your visitors irrespective of the device they use to visit your website. Cost, time, complexity and compatibility will all be factors in your decision on how to proceed, if you want to talk it through with an expert you can schedule a completely free consultation session with Hugoton Hosting today!

How to secure your WordPress website

If you currently own or will soon be owning a WordPress site you will no doubt have considered security at some stage. Our guide will help you secure your WordPress site so you can rest assured your content is safe!

 

Install Two Factor Authentication (2FA) for site admins

2FA requires all admin users to log in with their username and password (like normal) at first but then asks for a secondary factor – we recommend using the one-time passcode option for this secondary factor. Google Authenticator is a fantastic (free) mobile app for this, providing rotating codes every 30 seconds.

We highly recommend Mini-Oranges 2FA plugin for WordPress to get started with 2FA for free.

Once the plugin is installed simply install the 2FA code generator app of your choice on your mobile device(s) – as we mentioned earlier, we recommend Google Authenticator – then scan the barcode the plugin generates. Don’t forget to store the backup codes safely in case you ever lose your mobile device!

 

Don’t use a simple username

It’s estimated that over 70% of WordPress sites have a user with “Admin” or “Administrator” as the username, don’t give the bad guys a challenge of only guessing your password, set an obscure username also! If you’re worried about remembering the obscure username try using a personal e-mail address as your username (one that’s not associated with your website).

 

Rename your login and admin URLs

Much like the previous point of websites using a common username for administration, an even higher number use the default “/wp-admin” directory and “wp-login.php” page to login to administer their WordPress sites.

Changing these URLs is super easy. When hackers know the direct URL of your login page, they can try to brute force their way in (try multiple random login details hundreds of times per minute).

Hopefully, by this point, you have already swapped usernames for email IDs and installed 2FA. Now you should also replace the login URL and get rid of 99% of direct brute force attacks.

To do this we recommend using the iThemes Security (formerly Better WP Security) plugin.

 

Change your passwords regularly

This one is applicable to all websites & applications you use as much as it is to WordPress. Changing your password regularly dramatically reduces the change of your login being compromised. Consider using a password manager such as LastPass or one built into your web browser to generate secure passwords also.

 

Use SSL across your WordPress site

We covered this in our Avoid “Not Secure” Message On Your Website blog post earlier this month. Securing the communication from your web browser to the web servers hosting your website is critical to maintaining a secure WordPress website. Don’t forget Hugoton Hosting offers completely free SSL certificates for all websites hosted with us!

 

Logout Admins & Users after a certain length of time

Admins and website users leaving themselves logged in accidentally can leave a gaping hole in the security of your website. We recommend installing the free Inactive Logout plugin for WordPress to easily log out administrators and users after the period of time you choose.

 

Set strong passwords for your database user

When setting up WordPress be sure to use a strong password for the database user. You can, of course, go back and change this also via your web hosting providers control panel, then updating your wp-config.php file with the new password afterward. Use a free tool such as Passwords Generator to make sure your DB password is ultra strong.

 

Monitor your audit logs

Keeping a close eye out for anything suspicious is important, and can be easily accomplished in WordPress using the WP Security Audit Log plugin. The free version is more then adequate for most websites. If you want more features such as automatic e-mail alerts you might want to consider one of their premium plans.

 

Choose a web host with automated protection

As well as making changes and installing plugins within your WordPress instance, choosing a web host with automatic protection is important. Hugoton Hosting provides automated brute force login protection as standard for all WordPress websites, blocking the attackers IP address in seconds.

 

Update regularly

Much like updates to an Operating System, WordPress core updates and WordPress plugin updates should be installed as quickly as possible. WordPress makes it extremely easy to do this and will prompt any administrative user to do so once they log in. Please don’t ignore these update messages, they could save you a huge amount of time recovering your site from a security breach by preventing an attack in the first place.

 

Backup, backup, backup

You can take all of the above steps to secure your WordPress installation, but in the event, the worst happens and something gains access to your website you must be in a position to be able to restore from a recent backup. When setting up backups ensure you’re backing up to an off-site location (don’t back up to the same server your website is hosted on) and please test a restore to be sure what you’re backing up is absolutely everything you need should your site be deleted.

A common blunder website owners make is setup backups to an off-site location, only to realize they weren’t backing up everything they needed to fully restore their site when the time comes. We recommend using one of the below plugins to manage backing up your WordPress site:

  1. BackupBuddy is our recommended premium WordPress backup plugin ($80 one time fee per site). It allows you to easily schedule daily, weekly, or monthly backups to a variety of destinations including e-mail.
  2. UpdraftPlus is our recommended free WordPress backup plugin. It allows you to create a complete backup of your WordPress site and store it on the cloud or download to your computer on demand or on a schedule.

 

Conclusion

Your website content is one of the most single valuable assets your company owns, take 30 minutes today securing your WordPress website, you won’t regret it!

What is a CDN and why should you use one?

If you’ve read our “What is website caching and why should you use it?” blog post you will remember that we mentioned using a Content Delivery Network (CDN) to improve the performance of your website even more after you finished configuring caching.

 

What is a CDN?

A Content Delivery Network (CDN) refers to a distributed set of servers across the globe which work with one another to provide super fast delivery of internet content. A CDN enables blazingly fast transfers of the assets needed for visitors browsers to load your website, from HTML and PHP pages to JavaScript files, CSS stylesheets and videos & images, a CDN will deliver it all.

CDNs have continued to grow in popularity over recent years, as the loading speed of a website is one of the most influential factors for a visitor to remain on your site. Think about it, if you visit a website and the content loads slowly with images appearing a chunk at a time you’re soon going to get frustrated and visit another site where you don’t have to wait to see what you’re looking for. The use of a CDN can ensure your content is ready whenever your visitors want to view it, without any delay.

 

So, is a CDN the same as a web host?

In short no, they are two separate things. A CDN does not host content in the same way a web host does and therefore a CDN cannot replace the need for web hosting. However, a CDN does help by caching content at the edge of the network (internet) which dramatically improves website performance & loading times.

 

How does a CDN work?

As mentioned earlier, a CDN is a distributed set of servers across the globe working together to serve content quickly to your users from a location geographically close to them, thus reducing latency (the delay in content being sent from its source to its destination). To ensure content is served reliably and in the fastest way possible CDN providers place their servers at various exchange points that exist between Internet Service Providers (ISPs), these Internet Exchange Points (IXPs) are the primary locations where the ISPs interconnect with each other. By hosting their CDN servers in these geographically strategic spaces the CDN provider can ensure a consistently high speed of data/content delivery.

 

Other than decreasing load times, are there any other benefits of using a CDN?

Yes, as well as increasing the speed of your website using a CDN can also:

  1. Reduce bandwidth costs – Through the use of a CDN the data needed to be transferred from your web hosting server is reduced as the content is served from the CDN
  2. Increase content availability and redundancy – Owing to the distributed nature of a CDN, it can withstand higher peaks of traffic than a typical web host can, allowing it to stay online and available during heavy visit periods. A CDN is also much more diverse in its infrastructure than most web hosting providers so a failure of one (or even multiple) parts of the CDNs network often do not cause any disruption to your visitors.
  3. Force secure content delivery (SSL) – Enforcing content to be served over SSL is an option on most mainstream CDNs so you can be sure your content is being served securely

 

What CDN should I use?

As with most technologies, there are a large number of CDN providers out there. The below 2 are what we consider to be the very best of the bunch for both pricing and feature set:

  1. StackPath (formerly MaxCDN) – https://www.stackpath.com
  2. CloudFlare – https://www.cloudflare.com/

 

Does Hugoton Hosting use a CDN?

Absolutely! To ensure the super fast delivery of our website we have used StackPath as our CDN since July 2018. We also have a number of our customers using CDNs in conjunction with our website hosting packages to deliver their websites from e-commerce to discussion forums.

 

Conclusion

After caching the content of your website, a CDN is the next step to ensuring super fast content delivery of your website to your visitors. Make sure you choose a fast & reliable web hosting provider to start with, then deliver your content over a CDN to see (well, imagine seeing at least) your visitors smile as your website pops up in milliseconds before them!

What is website caching and why should you use it?

Web caching is an amazing technology that every website should be using in one form or another, at least that’s what we think here at Hugoton Hosting! Web caching speeds up site loading times to end users which not only increased user satisfaction, as let’s face it – who likes to wait for a page to load?, but can also lead to increased SEO scores.

Faster loading times can also lead to better conversions for your e-commerce website, which then increases your income from online sales! In this blog post, we will cover exactly what web caching is and of course how you can implement caching on your WordPress site within minutes.

 

What Is Caching?

Caching is a complex technology with many vendors competing in its space, in its simplest form it reduces the content size of your website allowing it to load quicker within your visitors’ browser.

Your website is requested hundreds of times a day (hopefully even thousands!), every time a request happens the web server you host on has to generate all of the page content from scratch (remember this includes headers, footers, and menus as well as the main page content). However, in 99% of these page requests the content that is generated is exactly the same. Wouldn’t it be great to relieve your web server from having to perform this ‘ground up’ generation of page content on every request …. hello caching.

 

How Does It Work?

Caching takes a ‘snapshot’ of the page and delivers this snapshot (usually from RAM memory on the web host versus disk) instead of the generated page content mentioned above for requests of the same nature. As you can imagine, this is far quicker and therefore your visitor sees your page content load in a fraction of the time it takes without caching being implemented.

 

What Do I Do When I Add Or Change Content?

Don’t worry, caching plugins today take notice when you add, remove or change content on your website and automatically create a new cache version of the page to ensure the next visitors see your latest edits.

 

Is It Really Worth It?

Absolutely, yes. A website will typically load 150-200% faster after caching is installed! There are 2 distinct types of caching to achieve this result, browser caching and server-side caching, we’ll cover those later in this blog post. A great website to use to check the effectiveness of installing caching is Pingdom Speed Test – we’re rated an “A” there (https://tools.pingdom.com/#!/c9tvGM/https://hugotonhosting.co.uk) as we use caching and other forms of page loading optimisation such as CDN (lookout for more blog posts on those soon).

 

Browser Caching

Let’s move onto the 2 types of caching which we mentioned earlier. When a visitor visits your website it’s not just the content they load, there are a number of dependencies to make your site load correctly, items such as javascript (JS) files, CSS stylesheets, and fonts all have to be downloaded and stored within your visitors’ web browser.

Browser caching ‘tells’ the browser which files to store locally so that next time the visitor loads a page on your website their browser uses its local copy of the aforementioned dependency files. Saving bandwidth and time!

Hugoton Hosting uses browser caching, so when you first landed here your browser will have downloaded a number of dependencies, when you refresh this page or take a look around our site however, your browser will use its local copy.

 

Server Side Caching

We spoke about server-side caching earlier, and how content is served from a ‘snapshot’ held in RAM. There are a couple of types of server-side caching, full page and object. The full-page caching option is the way to go here, object caching only caches certain components of your site such as the headers or footers. For optimal performance always opt for full page caching.

 

Okay, So How Do I Start Caching?

In this blog post, we focus on how to cache your website content via WordPress. Depending on your web hosting provider it may be possible to cache none WordPress websites also, if you choose Hugoton Hosting as your web host we can help you out with this for sure!

 

WordPress Cache Plugins

In our opinion the below 3 plugins are the best out there for caching your WordPress content, while there are hundreds more we believe the below providers have delivered caching capabilities in the best & most efficient way via their plugins:

  1. Swift Performance – $29.99 per year – https://swteplugins.com/product/swift-performance/
  2. WP Rocket – $39 per year – https://wp-rocket.me
  3. W3 Total Cache – free – https://wordpress.org/plugins/w3-total-cache/

 

I’ve Installed Caching What’s Next?

If you’ve installed one of the caching plugins from above then you will have no doubt noticed a performance boost when loading your website, nice work! If you want to see what else you can do to increase the loading time of your website even more then you should consider serving your content via a Content Delivery Network (CDN) and using content compression to reduce the size of those ‘dependency’ resources we mentioned earlier. We will have blog posts about both of these technologies very soon, so be sure to check back for those!

 

Conclusion

Caching speeds up your website loading times, with no detrimental effects. This can, in turn, increase user satisfaction and boost sales … it’s a no-brainer!

All of our web hosting packages at Hugoton Hosting support caching, unlike some mainstream providers (like GoDaddy) who actually block WordPress caching plugins from being installed.

If you aren’t already heading off to start caching your website get to it 😊

Avoid “Not Secure” Message On Your Website

Visiting a website to see “Not Secure” in the address bar is the worst thing you could hope for as a website owner. Since late 2017 Google Chrome, and all other mainstream browsers such as Firefox, Internet Explorer/Edge, Safari and Opera have been warning visitors that the website they are visiting does not have a valid SSL certificate installed.

Websites are served over a protocol called HTTP, which stands for “hypertext transfer protocol” – this is a standard way your computer communicates with the website you’re viewing. A secure site uses a security certificate called SSL, which changes the URL to HTTPS. This added security protects your computer’s communications so that it’s much harder for other people to “listen in” and figure out what you’re doing or get the information you’re sending online.

Having a “Not Secure” message appear when users visit your website can quickly raise users’ concerns about the non-secure nature of your site or forms. Anyone concerned about protecting their privacy and information online would likely be leery to input information on your website, including, of course, making a purchase. Additionally, a “not secure” warning could lead users to believe your site is hacked or, rightfully, view your site as vulnerable. Either way, the user experience will be affected. Another way your site could be impacted is in its rankings – Google wants site owners to maintain a secure certificate and views HTTPS as a ranking factor.

With Hugoton Hosting you can host your website within minutes and be sure that no “Not Secure” message will be displayed thanks to our free SSL offering that comes with every single web hosting package that we offer.

Just sign up, then activate your completely free SSL within your Control Panel once logged in. With only two clicks your entire website will be secure, and every visitor will see a “Secure” message in their address bar so they can be confident their personal information is protected while on your website.

Take a look at our Web Hosting packages today and host your secured site with us!