Monthly Archives: September 2016

Clear Your WordPress Cache

Have you ever published a post or made a CSS update and then gone to the homepage and it not be there? How about signed in and then gone to the homepage to find that you’re no longer signed in, but when you go to another post on the site you’re suddenly signed in again? Chances are good that the culprit is cache. In this article we’ll take a look at how to clear your WordPress cache.
Cache makes a website faster. In our world of fast-loading websites we all know the benefits of using cache to reduce server load for our scripts and images. Unfortunately this can sometimes cause issues such as not showing your latest updates. In order to see the updates you’ll need to clear the cache. Let’s look at the various types of cache and see a few examples of clearing each one.
What is Cache?

In the World Wide Web, cache is a location, or locations, where web pages or other elements are stored in memory so they can be retrieved quickly.
Here’s a simplified description in layman’s terms (in reality the web is more complicated than this, but the point’s the same).
Web servers and browsers use HTML instructions to build pages one at a time from components that are stored in different locations. Without cache these pages will have to be built every time the server is asked for the page. Cache stores that page in memory so it can be used over and over again.
For a WordPress website there are three types of cache:
Browser – a place on your computer or device where your browser stores the information about a website that doesn’t change often. Rather than downloading the same information every time you visit the website, the browser pulls the information from its memory. The web page loads faster and the network uses less data.
Cache Plugin – a plugin designed specifically to deliver premade web pages, speeding up the time it takes to recreate the page from HTML instructions.
Server Cache – using their own cache plugins or scripts your host might store premade web pages in memory to deliver to your visitors, reducing the load on the server.
A problem can occur when one or more types of cache doesn’t recognize a website’s update or doesn’t consider it significant enough to clear its memory and reload the page. As you can see from this short list, cache for WordPress websites are stored in several places. You might or might not need to clear them all. We will start with the most common area to purge and move on to the least common.
Clearing Browser Cache
If only you are affected then you should clear your browsing data. Clearing the cache is different for each browser, but practically all of them have a cache clearing option in their options or settings. Here are the most popular and the steps it takes to clear their cache:
Chrome – Settings (three dots), More Tools, Clear Browsing Data
Firefox – Menu (hamburger), Options, Advanced, Network, Cached Web Content, Clear Now
Safari – Options, Reset Safari, Remove All Website Data
Edge – Options (three dots), Settings, Clear Browsing Data
If you only want to load a page without using cache then simply hit the F5 key. The page will reload without using the cached files. This doesn’t clear the browser cache.
Clearing Cache Plugin Data

If the problem persists on more than one browser or computer then you should clear your cache plugin’s data. Cache plugins provide cached data to browsers so the browsers won’t need to download files from the server every time. Even some security plugins that provide a firewall layer of protection will have cache.
If you’re website is hosted by a WordPress Managed hosting then they might not allow cache plugins to install. If this is the case then they are providing this caching either via their own plugins or on the server side and it can be cleared there. They may or may not have a method to manually clear the cache. If they do then you’ll find a cache clear or flush button within your dashboard or from the top menu.
Here’s a look at a few of the most popular caching and security plugins.
W3 Total Cache

Many caching plugins include multiple cache options. For example, W3 Total Cache includes options for:
Browser
Page
Object
Fragment
Within each feature is a list of features to enable or customize.

You can clear the cache in just about any of the tabs or settings when you make changes. Click Save Settings and Purge Caches or click Empty Cache.
WP Super Cache

The WP Super Cache plugin has a feature to delete cache manually or automatically. The manual method is done by clicking a button on its main Settings screen (in the Easy tab) called Delete Cache.

In the Advanced tab is another round of settings. The first one I’ve selected is labeled Clear all cache files when a post or page is published or updated. This setting is not enabled by default and it will get rid of the problem of needing to clear browser cache when you publish. The second is Extra homepage checks. This one is enabled by default. In the Advanced tab you can also set the cache timeout settings. This is a good option if your updates take too long to be recognized by the browser.
Sucuri

Sucuri uses cache for its firewall features. To clear this cache go to Sucuri Security in the dashboard, select Firewall (WAF), and go to the Clear Cache tab. At the bottom of the page click Clear Cache.
Clearing Server Cache

It is possible that your host is using cache plugins on the server even without telling you. This is especially true if you’re using managed hosting as many use server-side caching. Server-side caching includes:
HTML – WordPress stores your website’s components in different locations. When a web browser asks for a page, the server builds that page based on the HTML code. HTML caching stores these pages so they can be reused rather than having to build the page from scratch every time.
PHP – PHP pages have to be compiled in order to build the page. The pages are cached so the code doesn’t have to be compiled every time.
MySQL – The database is queried for the same results every time someone visits your website. This caches the results until a new post is published or until there’s an update.
Object – WordPress uses an object caching API to cache programmatic objects. This cache normally only lasts for one request. Caching the objects allows them to be reused.
Servers also run file swapping, virtual file systems, firewalls, sitemaps, etc. The control you have over server-side caching will depend on your host. You may be able to clear it in your host’s options settings. You can check for these settings within your cPanel or admin panel for the hosting plan. This is not done through WordPress.
If the setting isn’t provided they might clear it if you ask. They will ask that you perform all other cache options first. Some will provide an easy bypass solution for testing such as typing /?nocache=1 after your URL. Each host is different. I recommend reading their documentation.
Reverse Proxy

Many websites use a type of cache called reverse proxy. A reverse proxy is a server that retrieves resources on behalf of a client and then return them to the client as if they came from the proxy server, creating a shield for the framework.
If you’re using an HTTP reverse proxy such as Varnish then the cached version of your site will expire after a short time and your new content will display. You can adjust the time for the cache to expire in your provider’s settings. To purge the cache manually use a plugin such as Varnish HTTP Purge.
If you’re using a plugin such as Varnish Caching, you can adjust the settings of cache TTL (Time To Live) and purge the cash manually with the click of a button.
Content Delivery Network
If you’re using a CDN the process is basically the same with one caveat: it’s better not to purge the entire cache. The process itself will vary depending on your host. One popular CDN is CloudFlare, which we’ll use as our example although not all will be this simple.

To clear all cache, log in and go to Purge Cache. Select Purge Everything from the dropdown box. To purge an individual file, select Purge Individual Files from the dropdown box and tag the files you wish to purge.
CloudFlare recommends purging a single file rather than all files because the entire site will be slower until the cache is built up again. Purging a single file removes only that resource and the rest of your site’s performance doesn’t suffer.

SEO Strategies to Stop Using

Web technology changes rapidly. I mean, let’s face it: the Internet is different today than it was just a few years ago. So when it comes with website optimization, this leaves many people confused as to which SEO strategies are still relevant. Even if you create a compelling, interesting site – employing outdated SEO strategies can affect you negatively.
Below I’ve outlined 8 outdated SEO strategies you need to cut out right away. Using the following methods would result in penalties that can hurt your presence in the SERPs. Thankfully, they’re easy to avoid once you’re aware. Let’s get to it.
1. Stop Ignoring Other Search Engines
Google has the most comprehensive set of resources for SEO. Anyone interested in SEO should definitely get a Google Search Console account, and follow the Google webmaster guidelines for the best practices. But that does not mean you should ignore other search engines like Bing, and Yahoo.
These search engines are still a major source of organic traffic. Additionally, tools such as Bing’s Webmaster Tools can supplement your SEO efforts – giving you more data to work with.
2. Stop Using SEO Data in Your WordPress Themes

This is more of a preference than anything, but I have seen people lose all their SEO data because they used the built-in SEO features. Adding meta descriptions to hundreds of pages because they were all lost in the move doesn’t not sound like fun. It’s a part of best practices to follow the convention to separate presentation from content to avoid this.
Otherwise when you switch themes, you will either:
Lose all your data
Or have to migrate everything, which isn’t easy.
3. Stop Ignoring Mobile Site Optimization

On January 10, 2017, Google announced that
…pages where content is not easily accessible to a user on the transition from the mobile search results may not rank as high.
Most web designers have noticed the mobile-first trend that took over web design a few years ago. Despite this, a large majority of sites are still not mobile-friendly. Even if the majority of your audience views your content from a desktop computer, you will still miss out on mobile traffic.
What you can do:
Make sure your text has readable zoom.
Use a mobile responsive WordPress theme.
Avoid using Flash or other software that isn’t common on mobile devices.
Place links far enough apart so they can be tapped easily.
Read up on Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP), because it’s becoming increasingly important.
Checkout the Google’s webmaster’s guide on mobile friendly sites for more in-depth information on keeping your site mobile-friendly.
4. Stop Using Intrusive Interstitials for Mobile Traffic

Browsing some sites on a mobile device isn’t always easy. We’ve all been intruded upon by an interstitial at one point or another. Don’t be ashamed, it’s not your fault. In Google lingo, an intrusive interstitial is anything that makes your content less accessible. Whether it’s by design, or by accident, stop using methods that do this on mobile devices. The following images from Google’s webmaster blog show examples of intrusive interstitials.
Intrusive Interstatials
From left to right: Intrusive pop-up, intrusive standalone interstitial, intrusive standalone interstitial
There are many cases where an interstitial is necessary. The images below show examples of interstitials that are acceptable.
Acceptable Interstitial
From left to right: interstitial for using cookies, interstitial for age verification, a banner
5. Stop Trying to Rank Multiple Keywords on a Single Page

Targeting keywords is still as important as ever. But trying to target more than one keyword is not as effective as focusing on a single keyword or phrase.
What you can do:
If you have more than one target keyword you want to focus on, consider breaking your article up into multiple posts.
6. Stop Posting Daily

There’s nothing wrong with posting daily, if you can manage to maintain high-quality posts. In the past, anyone could post poorly curated content to trip the search engines and get better rankings. Nowadays this can actually harm standings with search engines, and your reputation.
While there aren’t many hard, written-down rules when it comes to SEO, we have seen better results from focusing on high-quality content. Fresh content that meets this criteria is great, but it can be equally important to update some of your old content.
What you can do:
Find one of your pages that is doing well in the search results.
Add value to the article or post by adding fresh, relevant content.
Change the publication date.
That not only brings more value to your audience than a hasty post, but it will also rank high in the SERPs. If you are unsure what search engines deem “high-quality,” visit this Google Webmaster blog post to see a laundry list of guidelines and criteria that can help. Joost De Valk also published a helpful article on cleaning up old posts.
7. Stop Submitting Your Site to Search Engines

It’s not hard to submit your site to a search engine, but it’s been practically useless since 2001. Crawlers will be able to find your site. If you’ve made improvements to your website and want that to reflect in the search engine results pages, you can contact Google for reconsideration.
8. Stop Using Outdated SEO Strategies for Linking

The best practice for getting high-quality sites to link back to you is to create relevant content and to network with others who write about the same topic. There’s no shortcut around this. Creating high-quality content will pay off.
Methods of link building like buying backlinks aren’t easy money for SEO companies like it was in 2005. Stop doing these three linking methods:
Unnatural keyword placement for links. Crawlers are much better at detecting natural language than before.
Forum comments with optimized links.
Buying or selling backlinks. This black hat SEO technique can hurt your rankings and it can be difficult to repair.
It’s also important to make sure that anyone you hire for SEO doesn’t use any methods that might result in penalization. Learn more about link schemes so you know what to avoid.
Wrapping Up

SEO has come a long way since the late 1990s, back then it things were much simpler. All you needed to do was tag your site with keywords, submit it to a search engine, and a bot would crawl your site. Now the bots are more sophisticated, and many outdated SEO strategies are no longer effective.

Some Web Design Tips to Help You Achieve Success

When it comes to creating websites, whether for yourself or for your clients, success doesn’t come easy. To increase your productivity and keep your output looking fresh and modern, not to mention optimized for search engines and conversion rates, it’s essential that you’re always learning as many new tips and techniques as possible.

So, let’s explore a few different web design tips that can help you out in 2016.

1. Use Style Guides
Style guides are popular in the publishing world. They can come in the form of large books or documents that media publications follow to maintain uniform styles throughout their content. This can include everything from how states and countries are labeled to how numbers are written.
Web designers can create their own style guides to ensure the sites they build have uniform styles throughout. This is especially useful for designers who collaborate with other freelancers. A well-written style guide can help keep a disparate team on the same page.
The style guide Google produced for its own Material Design is a great example of a thorough, well-written style guide. If you’re looking for a more generic style guide or set of rules to apply to your work, be sure to check out our guide to the essential typography books for 2016.

2. Phase Out Sidebars
Sidebars create clutter. They were meant to improve the usability of a site by displaying additional navigational elements, such as links to recent posts and popular content.
Over time, it’s fair to say they’ve been hijacked by savvy marketers looking for a way to display email optin forms and other promotional content that doesn’t always offer much to the user experience.
While in theory sidebars containing links and other useful content should enhance the user experience, in reality, very few site visitors actually use them, at least according to heatmap tests conducted by ConversionXL. Therefore, compromising your site’s design in favor of a sidebar for marketing purposes may not deliver the results you desire.
Try phasing sidebars out in your designs, especially if a site doesn’t really need one. Make your content the most important element on a page by using designs that force readers to focus on it.
If the thought of abandoning sidebars altogether sounds a bit extreme, look for a theme that gives you the option of publishing full-width content, alongside more traditional layouts that feature an accompanying sidebar.
You can do a lot with the humble WordPress sidebar and one web design tip for 2016 is to get smarter with the way you do or don’t use them.

3. Start Your Designs Offscreen
Try starting your designs outside of the code editor – image by MoonRock / shutterstock.com
Do you create code and designs on the screen at a rapid rate, without a care of how things will turn out as you know you’ll edit and clean things up later on? If so, why not try a new approach in 2016.
Instead of jumping right in and figuring things out as you go, why not turn to the trusty pencil and paper or use a whiteboard to plan an overall site layout offscreen first. Use this approach to get an idea of where you want specific elements to go, much like how an architect uses floor plans to plot out where windows, doors, and rooms should go.
If adopting a pen and paper doesn’t appeal, there are plenty of great wireframing and prototyping web design tools out there that can help you quickly get your ideas out of your head, before you get started in your development environment.

4. Use Larger Font Sizes
Big typography isn’t a new trend or aspect of design, but it’s still a great practice to follow in 2016. This is because it has the power to grab the reader’s attention and places the focus on your content.
Readability on smaller screens, such as mobile devices, has played a huge role in this trend’s rising popularity, but it also fits in nicely with the ever-popular minimalist and flat design trends.
One web design tip for 2016 is to try incorporating larger font sizes in your designs, such as a minimum font size of 18 points for body text, where it makes sense. This includes any text you place in header images or even the text on a homepage when using a large, hero image. Just make sure you focus on choosing a web-friendly typeface that scales well, rather than agonizing about which size to choose.

5. Create More Space
Too much clutter can distract readers and make a site appear overly complicated. That’s one reason why phasing out sidebars is recommended. However, you should also try creating more space in general rather than trying to include as many elements as you can on a page. Again, it helps a reader focus on what’s important while giving you the opportunity to build better-looking designs.
This space is typically referred to as “whitespace” or “negative space,”. However, this space doesn’t always need to be white, especially if you’re building a website that uses large images on its homepage and headers.
Minimize the amount of clutter in your designs and include more space around and between elements to help guide your users through your site. Whitespace can make it clear where a reader’s attention should be focused.

6. Responsive Design isn’t Optional
Mobile device usage continues to grow, especially when it comes to accessing websites. This means that it’s never been more important to ensure your websites are mobile-friendly.
So one key web design tip for 2016 is to fully commit to responsive design. In the past, this simply meant checking off the responsive design box on your to-do list. However, as this technology matures, you need to start considering more than just fluid layouts. Think mobile optimized images, whether hamburger menus are the right choice, and much more.
For 2016, you might even want to embrace the concept of mobile-first web design.

7. Take Advantage of Google’s Material Design
Google ramped up the use of the Material Design philosophy in 2014, and digital designers have been quick to follow suit.
If you’ve embraced the flat web design trend, then it’s probably time for you to jump on the Material Design bandwagon and update your style for 2016. The core concepts of this web design framework include using layers to create elegant shadows alongside the edges of elements, helping to add some much-needed style and depth to the minimal flat design trend.
If you want to get started, there are some great, free Material Design UI kits around that can help get you up to speed.

8. Expand and Reevaluate Your Toolkit
Are there tasks in your workflow you feel could be more efficient or at least, more enjoyable? Then one web design tips that can help you out is to do a little research and find out if there are any new tools that better meet your needs.
Just as new web design tips are emerging all the time, so too are new web design tools. From hot new free apps like Pixate, through to updates to industry favorites like the Adobe CC apps for web designers, it’s always worth keeping an eye out for something new that could help improve your workflow and enjoyment levels.

9. Simplify Navigation
Placing tons of links in your navigation menu, sidebar, blog posts, and even the homepage may seem like a great way to keep people on your site, but it can actually go the other way. Complicated navigation systems create way too many options for people, so much so that they may decide to leave your site altogether.
Placing fewer items in your navigation menus and eliminating sidebars are great ways to cut down on the amount of clutter that exists on your site. This can allow you to build better-looking designs without compromising user experience or conversion rate optimization.

10. Up Your Imagery Game
Upgrading the quality of the images you use in your work is a great web design tip for elevating your projects. Instead of simply using the free images that everyone else has access to, it might be time to invest in a premium stock image service.
The next level up could be to create or commission your own images from scratch, whether that’s going out and taking high-quality photographs, drawing them yourself, or a combination of the two. Combining typography with your chosen images can be another effective way to make them more original and assist you in delivering your message.
Choosing beautiful imagery for your website is a proven way to assist you in achieving your goals and help your content stand out from the crowd.

11. Phase Out Sliders

The decision between whether or not to use sliders is a highly-debated topic.
However, in most cases, they should really be phased out in 2016, especially if you want to decrease the amount of distractions on your site and make it easier for users to find their way around. Sliders don’t do either of those things. They’re very similar to sidebars. They create way too many options for your visitors to choose from, and very few people actually use them.
If it’s your homepage you’re concerned about, opt for a large header space that uses a unique, well-crafted static design that clearly defines your brand of that of your client. Again, play around with big typography to make static images more visually appealing and come up with better page designs that make sliders redundant.

12. Learn A/B Testing

A lot of these web design tips are general advice based on current and upcoming trends in the digital space. However, there’s no guarantee they’ll work for your site.

You also shouldn’t necessarily feel obligated to use or forego certain design elements simply because it’s a current trend or now an unpopular style. A/B testing is a skill you can learn to find out whether or not your designs are working or not.
Maybe you or your client want to use a slider or a busy sidebar and don’t want to give in to the conventional wisdom that states they’re outdated and ineffective. A/B testing is a great way to implement a new design and test its effectiveness yourself. Split testing is also an effective way to negotiate compromises between you and your clients, thanks to the evidence that can help back up your recommendations.