Hello Happy Site Owners and Webmasters!
Tips this week include:
- I’m delighted my interview with Kate Ahl was featured on the Simple Pin Media Podcast
- Why rebranding jobs are pouring into BlogAid and why I’m hiring help for them
- What Gutenberg Ninja tutorials have already been updated and what tutorials are next
- Why I’m reviewing new member and community site setups
- My deeper checks into WP 5.5 changes that weren’t in my What’s New video tour
- Why PHP level compliance is so important now, and how to check and change yours
- Why you need to get out of any auto update program at your host
- More on why the jQuery change in WP 5.5 broke plugins and why that is a good thing
- My research into how lazy loading is done with our plugins, WP 5.5, and in browsers
- The future of WP, plugins, and themes and why all of these changes are for the better
- How to get ahead and stay calm through all of the site tech changes
Listen to the Podcast
Join me Live to Discuss Tips Tuesday
I hope you’ll join for tonight’s livestream at 8pm ET / 5pm PT on the BlogAid Facebook Page. It’s a great way to get the deeper story on what’s reported in Tips Tuesday. And, I almost always have breaking news for the day too. So come join us live for the party.
Who I Help
All tips, advice, and suggestions in this, and all BlogAid posts and tutorials, are intended to empower DIY site owners who are not on hosting that is restrictive in what you can and can’t do with your site and hosting setup. If you have any doubts about what type of host you are on and if the tips I give will work there, see this post on What is Managed Hosting?
You may recall a month or so ago that Kate Ahl of Simple Pin Media was my special guest on a BlogAid LIVE interview where we discussed both the site tech and Pinterest sides of what it takes to rebrand your site properly.
I am thrilled that Kate featured that interview on a recent Simple Pin Media podcast!
Rebranding jobs in the works
Because of that interview, and now this podcast, I’m getting a lot of requests for rebranding services.
I had a super chat last week with two of my long-time webmaster/designer colleagues about standardizing a checklist for this service so I can properly vet and prepare the client and then pass the actual rebranding work to these two highly qualified people.
So many of the site owners wanting to rebrand are also ready to jump over to Gutenberg and a better theme too that will make their site radically faster during this change too.
They are also getting into my Gutenberg Ninja course and will need a wee bit of design help as well.
So, I would have been turning over these jobs to the designers anyway.
And because the migration process part of the rebranding will coincide with the theme redesign process, it just makes sense to send these jobs to them from the get go.
Plus, those clients won’t have as much delay in getting the project started as they would being on my wait list for other client services that only I can do.
So, it’s a win-win-win just like all the other amazing opportunities I mentioned in last week’s Tips Tuesday.
Speaking of the Gutenberg Ninja course, I’ve been a tutorial making manic since the release of WP 5.5 last week.
All of the tutorials have been updated in the sections for:
- Start Here
- Gutenberg Editor Basics
That also includes all of the Quick FAQs and Skill Builders that go along with those tutorials. They help you really absorb the lessons as they allow you to learn by doing, not just watching.
This week I’ll be jumping into the Layout Blocks section and updating the tutorials on blocks for:
- Media & Text
As all of those have new functions and styling options now too.
And then I’ll review the Images and Videos tutorials, as well as the Neat Tricks tutorials to see if any of them need remakes.
So, if you’re in the course, look for email notifications when I complete the update on each section.
I’ll let you know which ones you definitely want to watch again and which ones only had minor updates.
Just know that these are based on the WP 5.5 changes, which I hope most of you have not updated to just yet, and I’ll have more on that in a moment.
Reviewing a new member and community site setup
You may recall that in last week’s Tips Tuesday I also mentioned an opportunity to start investigating new ways of doing member sites that include a community forum aspect.
Well, this week I’ll be meeting with one of my clients to see the research she has done on that and how multiple functions can work together to create a super user experience and community for her members.
I’ll be helping her set up that site securely from the get go and then helping with any of the integrations, if she needs it.
I appreciate the opportunity to see it all from the backside and how all of the pieces fit together.
She’ll also keep me informed on how it all runs over time too, as this adds a lot of complexity to this standalone site.
And honestly, the cost of the plugins, plus the setup, plus the admin maintenance as well as member maintenance will help me determine if this is a better way to go than paying for a 3rd party solution.
I’ll keep you posted on that as we continue to vet this setup.
Get your fall site service requests in now!!!
My wait list for site services remains at 6 weeks as new requests are coming in steadily.
At this point, that puts us into the first of October.
So, if you will be needing any type of site service this fall, like:
- A new site audit for speed and security
- A site audit annual checkup
- Moving to new hosting or combining that with an audit
- HTTPS conversion
then you will want to get that request in now.
By October my wait list will be into December.
And I have stopped doing any “slip it in” type scheduling as every one of those over the past month went sideways and turned into bigger projects. And I can’t take that kind of hit to my schedule anymore. It’s just too stressful as it puts me into overwhelm for months at a time.
And that leads to burn out.
So, everyone will wait their turn now, even returning clients.
That’s all the happenings from around here. Let’s jump into this week’s tips.
Today’s Tips Tuesday is all about a deeper look into the changes in WP 5.5 and the future of plugins and themes.
We are in the middle of a major WordPress revolution and it’s messy.
And you have to keep up with the changes or things are going to break on you.
We are most definitely moving in the right direction with WP and this will all be worth going through.
Tips Tuesday is a MUST read
And I’m here to make it as easy as possible for you to take this journey.
But you have to do your part!!!!
Tips Tuesday is mandatory reading. Period.
It’s your best, and easiest way to keep up and make the changes little by little in a way that is not so disruptive to you and your site.
Site Audit checkups are a MUST
If you are a site audit client, you need to get a checkup every 12-18 months.
Security and performance change all the time.
Plugins change constantly.
Some of the plugins we needed to use 2 or more years ago need to come off your site now.
The checkups are fast and cheap because I just do the updates and fixes as I go.
This is not something you can put on ignore.
So get on my list now for your site checkup.
Deeper checks into WP 5.5 changes
We are still holding off on this update as I continue to monitor the issues folks are having with it.
Here’s what I can report to date.
Admin sidebars absent
One of the things that I didn’t show in my What’s New in WP 5.5 video tour is why all of your left and right sidebars disappeared and how to get them back.
Matt Mullenweg, the co-founder of WordPress and the owner of Automattic, the parent company of WP and its products, loves distraction-free writing in WordPress.
He loves it so much that he even overrode his own policy guidelines for new WordPress releases and slipped in making distraction-free writing the default setting in the WP 5.4 release. He had the devs make that change after they did the first Release Candidate which is supposed to freeze any changes and just work on bug fixes. That ired some of the devs greatly, as they have that process in place for a reason.
But, when our Benevolent Dictator, as Matt is often called, says he wants something in the release, they are obliged to accommodate him.
Keep in mind that Matt owns the license to WordPress. He just lets the rest of the world use it for free.
After the WP 5.4 release, your left admin sidebar is turned off by default and you have to click the More ellipsis in the top right and turn off Fullscreen mode to get that left admin sidebar back.
With the release of WP 5.5, now the right sidebar is gone. You know, all of your block tools and such.
Now you also have to click the Gear icon in the top right to get that back on.
Yoast SEO moved stuff around
If you are using Gutenberg, you may have become accustomed to seeing all manner of Yoast SEO tabs in the right Block sidebar.
Most of that has been removed and is now only in the dedicated Yoast right sidebar.
You have to click the Yoast icon in the top right to see all of the tabs now.
Auto Updates in WP 5.5
In my WP 5.5 video tour I did mention the new Auto Updates feature for plugins and themes.
It is elective and we will be leaving all of them off.
And you can see the video for how to get the new column for it out of your Plugins admin page list too.
I do have confirmation that this auto update option is limited to only plugins and themes.
WordPress will remain as it is and will continue to do auto updates on minor releases only.
WP will not auto update on major releases.
However, some of you are on hosts that do WP auto updates.
Get out of that program if you can and put it back under your control.
PHP version compliance is critically important now
About 3 years ago, when the WP devs first started working on Gutenberg, they discovered just how woefully out of date some of the core code was in WordPress, themes, and plugins that would keep them from moving forward with the project.
That also included the external PHP coding version that was required to run WordPress.
Your PHP version is set at your hosting and for over 10 years most of us never gave it a second thought.
Well, that changed three years ago with a major upgrade release from PHP 5.6 to PHP 7.0.
That jump radically impacted both our site speed and security.
Hosts as well as plugin and theme devs began scrambling to update their software to the new version, and we lived through things breaking during the early changeover.
WordPress has always been concerned with backwards compatibility, and that’s why they never kept an eye on compliance in the core code to ensure it was up to the latest standards.
Well, that changed with this big PHP update.
And WordPress finally got on the bandwagon to require plugins and themes meet the new minimum PHP version and work on the current PHP versions.
That was especially necessary for the advancement of Gutenberg.
So, they started a campaign to push hard on minimum requirements.
The minimum PHP version you need to be running at your host is 7.2.
I advise you go up to at least 7.3, as 7.2 has bugs.
The most current PHP version is 7.4 and now that it is considered stable, I will soon be advising that we all switch up to it. Not today, but soon.
For now, go see my tutorial on how to check and change your PHP version so you will be prepared.
This tutorial is for how to do it on cPanel. If your host has a custom control panel, you will need to see their Knowledge Base articles for how to change it.
This is not one of those site tech things that you can bury your head in the sand about.
Your theme and plugins, and even WordPress itself are all being forced into compliance. And if you don’t update to at least the minimum version, those things are going to start breaking on you.
So, pay attention, learn how to do this, and keep following Tips Tuesday for when to do it.
FYI, if your host has already updated you to PHP 7.4 and all is well, then stay there. The rest of us will catch up with you shortly.
Get out of SiteGround’s auto updates for anything
And FYI, if your host has you in an auto update program for PHP, like SiteGround does, get out of it.
At SiteGround, for the PHP update, all you have to do is manually set the version yourself to come out of that program and then you are in charge.
And at SG, they have 2 different control panels now, so ensure you are looking at the right tutorial for yours.
While you’re at it, get out of their WordPress auto update program too.
They say they have a tool for that in your control panel.
I checked that recently for an open site audit client project, as we most certainly did not want them to auto update WP while we were in the middle of making other fixes to the site.
I confirmed that the tool said she was out of that program and I even manually removed the directive from the WP file.
And still it auto updated.
She had to go round and round and round with support to get out of it so it would not do it again too.
Move to better hosting
Contact me when you’re ready to get off that goofy pseudo managed hosting at SiteGround and get back in control of your site yourself.
Read the disclaimer on fully managed hosting
If you are on any type of fully managed hosting, you need to pay attention to the disclaimer I give at the top of every Tips Tuesday about who I help.
You could goof yourself up by implementing some of the changes I suggest if you are on such a host. They are not made for you to poke around in things like this yourself. They are do-it-all-for-you services. And you could be conflicting with things that they have done for you on the backside, which is out of your sight and mind.
If you have no idea what type of host you’re on, read my post on What is Managed Hosting? for details.
And this is where a site audit really pays off!!!!!
None of my clients are techies, yet all of them know what is going on with their hosting and their sites and they have zero problems implementing the changes I suggest.
They don’t worry about hacks, breaks, or conflicts.
And their sites run fast.
Wouldn’t you love to have that peace of mind too?
jQuery changes break plugins in WP 5.5
So, back to the WP 5.5 changes.
In the continued effort to bring WP core code up to standards, the devs decided to remove a bridge from the core that helped plugins and themes using more modern jQuery code work with the outdated jQuery code in WP.
Prior to WP 5.5, the jQuery code version in WP was 1.12.4.
The current jQuery code version is 3.x.
That’s a HUGE coding standard gap!!!!!
So, WP also had a bridge in the core called jQuery Migrate that connected the two.
In WP 5.5 they removed that bridge.
So, some ill coded plugins, or plugins that have not been properly maintained, suddenly broke when site owners updated to WP 5.5.
To fix that, you can install the jQuery Migrate Helper plugin. It puts that bridge back.
But if you haven’t updated to WP 5.5 and/or have updated and don’t have problems, then don’t install it now.
I’ll have a whole post with instructions on how to update to WP 5.5 when we’re ready.
Lazy loading of images research
In last week’s Tips Tuesday I reported that I am working with caching/optimization plugin devs to determine whether or not there is a conflict in the way browsers, and now WP 5.5 does lazy loading and the way their plugins do it.
I’ve also been checking with advanced WP devs about this too, as well as other speed pros.
This is not a trivial matter, as so many of my clients have sites that are super image heavy.
Plus, many of them run ads that need to be lazy loaded too.
And then we have embedded YouTube videos and such that also need to be lazy loaded.
And all of these things have an SEO component that is tied to how the lazy load is done as well.
So, as you can see, there’s a LOT of research for me to do on this matter.
How lazy load plugins work
Of course, that screen size is radically different between desktop, tablet, and cell phone.
And the number of images loaded is different on each of those devices too.
This is also why it’s worth paying for a good caching/optimization plugin combo, like the premium version of WP Fastest Cache, as it does this sort of calculation rapidly, and gives you the choice to have a different mobile cache from desktop too, due to the radical difference in what gets loaded between them.
The second job of the lazy load plugin is to put a special tag attribute around the images that will fall below the fold of the device the site is being viewed on. It tells that image not to load yet.
It will load when the user scrolls to that spot in the post.
The third job of the lazy load plugin is to retain the spot for that lazy loaded image and preserve the SEO info for it. The spot is retained with a small placeholder image. The SEO is preserved in the HTML surrounding the image code.
All of this happens with embedded videos too if you use iframes to embed them, as the JS can act on that iframe.
READ: How to Embed Video Using iFrame for Faster Load for details.
How lazy load ads work
The better ad agencies also use JS to lazy load ads so they don’t slow down your site as much.
But, even if you use a killswitch query string at the end of a post’s URL to speed test it without ads, the first part of the JS directive for those ads still has to load. So it’s always at the top of the load.
How browser lazy load works
Browsers, and now WP 5.5 do lazy load a whole other way.
That’s because JS is actually an executable file sort of thing. It has to be loaded and then executed for it to run and take action.
JS is one of those “render blocking above the fold” elements that slows down page load speed.
You want to do all you can to reduce how many of those scripts are above the fold so that things you can see, like images, can render faster.
That’s one of the big things we dig into during a site audit. We identify and reduce all of the JS we can so that an optimization plugin has a fighting chance to make the site faster by minifying, combining, and/or deferring the JS that is left.
Browsers and WP 5.5 just skip all of that.
It simply ads a “lazy” attribute to the image’s HTML markup.
Browsers can begin loading and rendering images faster than any JS can load and execute.
In other words, in theory, it’s faster.
And now WP 5.5 has that same lazy mechanism in it that will place this tag attribute around all of your images.
This browser and WP way of doing this function is called native lazy loading.
My lazy load research
Ads need to be excluded from all other lazy loading no matter how it’s done.
They need to use their own JS for that.
Plus, we need the directives in those plugins to exclude iFrames from lazy load if we run video ads.
I looked into whether the WP and browser way of doing it would goof any of that up or not.
Here’s what I found.
When JS is present, as it is in our plugins and ads, it is supposed to take precedence and override the browser and WP way of doing lazy load.
While loading the JS may be a wee bit slower, the user experience is better.
With native lazy load, it has no way to determine the viewport size to begin with, and no way to determine the scroll point until well after it has happened.
The lazy loaded images don’t get loaded at all until after the viewer reaches that scroll point.
That causes a delay in the image rendering.
We don’t have that delay when using the plugin JS way of doing it.
Bottom Line on Lazy Load Plugins vs WP/Browser Native Lazy Load
We will be sticking with our paid plugin lazy load for now.
There is no conflict that I’m aware of with the WP or browser way of doing it.
And it is better for the user.
The speed difference is negligible.
And we need the more advanced control the plugins offer for what gets lazy loaded and what gets excluded.
Testers don’t show native lazy load
There’s also a problem with being able to get us data-driven proof on whether WP/browser native lazy load is faster or not.
None of the online testers, such as WebPage Test and Google PageSpeed Insights, support native lazy loading in the browser or WP.
They most definitely do support the JS way of lazy loading.
So, when we put in one of those super caching/optimization plugins, we can see the radical speed difference it makes in the test results.
That’s because the JS is loaded and run during that simulation.
But, if that plugin option is turned off, none of the simulators running Chrome show it doing any lazy loading even though the real Chrome browser does.
Now, I can run Chrome Dev Tools locally and likely see it in action.
But you, as the site owner, are going to run online testers, aren’t you?
And all you want are good scores on those.
The Future of WordPress, Plugins, and Themes
Here’s where all of these changes are leading.
Everything that has been changing over the last 3 years is a good thing.
Those changes include:
- HTTPS for encrypted data transfer
- PHP for security and speed
- REST API for encrypted data transfer from WP to the outside world with plugins and such
- Gutenberg that will prepare WP for Web 3.0 including virtual and augmented reality
Get ahead and stay calm
I know that most of you just want to make pretty pictures and blog.
Let me remind you that sites are technical things.
To most site owners, all of these tech-level changes have been confusing and stressful.
I have been keeping them way ahead of all of the curves I just mentioned for the last 3-4 years.
They had real, and full HTTPS conversions years ago.
They have all of the HTTPS security headers that Chrome requires, plus 2 more. And they have none of the redirect drags.
If you have a free HTTPS change by either the host or a plugin, then you don’t have these things. What you do have is a problem that needs to be addressed.
READ: The Top 10 Reasons NOT to Use Free HTTPS Conversion for details.
My peeps have easily kept pace with all PHP changes too.
They were guided into how to check their sites to ensure nothing would break. And they were informed when and how to go up to the next level.
Many of my peeps have already jumped on the Gutenberg train and/or have that task on their to do list within a year as they want a way faster theme now too.
My site audit clients are already getting perfectly green scores on all Core Web Vitals metrics now too, and those will become a ranking factor next year.
In other words, my peeps are way ahead of the game, and they stay that way.
It’s not stressful.
When everyone else is panicking, they are calmly going about their lives.
They never miss a Tips Tuesday and they come in regularly for a site audit checkup so things stay calm for them.
Tell your buddies about BlogAid
Help your blogger buddies.
Tell them about BlogAid and Tips Tuesday.
Tell them about the site audits.
Tell your theme designer about the Webmaster Training.
The changes are good.
Let’s get you in the know, ahead of the curve, and calm through all of this so you can enjoy these changes instead of stressing over them.
Leave a comment
If you are a site audit client or Webmaster, leave a comment and let folks know what I’m saying is true.
Even better, contact me to see how to send a testimonial for my services and courses. I’d love to put your happy face up on BlogAid, plus you’ll get a nice backlink from me too.
That’s a wrap for this week’s Tips Tuesday.
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