‘A-Z of WordPress’ with Nathan Wrigley and David Waumsley
This is another A-Z of WordPress where we attempt to cover all the major aspects of building and maintaining sites with WordPress. Today is H for… Health. Not your health, although that’s important. This is about your WordPress websites, and how healthy they are.
This is quite a large topic, especially for anyone who runs client care/maintenance plans and carries out health monitoring.
WordPress first introduced a basic site health check feature back in version 5.1 which has a bunch of mostly performance and security checks. For example, is your site:
- Running on a server with the recommended PHP version
- The recommended MySQL database
- Are themes and plugins up to date and active
But site health goes beyond this. What about…
- Monitoring DDoS attacks
- Monitoring dynamic functionality
- Monitoring visual layouts and style
- Uptime monitoring
- Domain expiration
- SEO / Google Search Console / broken links and 404s
- Support – how do you find out what you need? (Google – Core Web Vitals)
There’s so much here, and we’ve likely left a bunch out as well.
This is not an exhaustive list, but here’s some tools that we’ve come across and / or used:
Email deliverability / transactional email services
Do you or your clients find much use in the new Site Health feature of WordPress? Having clients seeing health check results might be useful, but it’s not helpful when it flags unimportant things like not having ‘imagick’ active on the server.
Plugin updates and cached pages used to be an issue; throwing out visual designs with page builders. This seems to be less of an issue nowadays.
Emails not sending from the servers can be a genuine worry. Best to use an SMTP service (see above).
Auto updates – should you do it? This seems like such a good idea on the surface, but if you’re not around when the updates occur, there might be problems that you simply don’t detect, and which make your customers unhappy!
Monitoring client activity / logins. We really should do this, but I’m betting that most of us don’t!
WordPress health monitoring has really become David’s business. He simply does not need to upsell a care plan; he just explains that the client wants the platform that powers 40% of the web, they need it to get on board as all of the above is essential. He sells the plan before the site.
Next Nathan & David discussion…
‘I’ is for images, which will be out two weeks after this one!
If you don’t know how we’re publishing episodes these days… we’re doing one week interview and the following week a discussion with Nathan & David. You can find the podcast archives here.
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Transcript (if available)
These transcripts are created using software, so apologies if there are errors in them.
Nathan Wrigley: [00:00:00] Welcome to the WP Builds podcast, bringing you the latest news from the WordPress community. Welcome your hosts David Waumsley and Nathan wrigley.
Hello there once again and welcome to the WP Builds podcast. This is episode number 224. Entitled H is for health. It was published on Thursday, the 8th of April, 2021. My name's Nathan Wrigley. And before we get into the podcast, main content, a few little bits of housekeeping head over to WP Builds.com.
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See if we can get you on the podcast a bit like these two companies, the WPP Bill's podcast is brought to you today by Cloudways. Cloudways is a managed cloud hosting platform that ensures simplicity, performance and security. It offers cloud service from five different cloud providers that you can manage through its intuitive platform.
Some of the features include 24 seven support free migrations and dedicated firewalls. You can check it all out, out at cloudways.com and AB split test. Do you want to set up your AB split tests in record time? Like in a couple of minutes, use your existing pages and test anything against anything else.
Buttons, images, headers, rows, anything. And the best part is that it works with element or, but you have a builder on the WordPress block editor. You can check it out and get a free [email protected] Okay, just before we begin, I think it's time to mention something that I'm doing later on this year in may.
The specific dates are in fact may the 10th to may the 14th. So that's may the 10th to make the 14th. We're running the page builder summit. We did this last year in October and it was very popular, very successful. We had over 35 speakers in five days and we're doing something very similar. Again, last time we had a different URL, we've decided to go with.
Page builder, summit.com this time. So that's page builder summit.com. There's no hyphens or anything strange. You can go and check that page out. I'm not entirely sure when we'll open the registration for that, but you can certainly fill out the form on the homepage right now, and you'll be able to register your interest.
And what that's basically doing is saying, let me know when registration proper opens. So once more, the page builder summit, we've got heaps and heaps of speakers lined up to talk to you about everything in the WordPress page builder space from just about every single page builder in existence.
It should be a really good event. Once again, the dates put it in your diary. It's the 10th of May to the 14th of May. I'll be giving more details out in the run-up to the event, but page builder, summit.com go and register so that you can be alerted when the proper enrollment starts. Okay, let's get into the main content.
Shall we? We're on episode 224, H is for health. It's another one of our eight is at WordPress series and we've got to the letter H and so we're talking about health. We don't mean our health. We're talking about the health of our websites, and you probably know if you've been in this business for any length of time.
There's an awful lot that can go wrong. So examples might be monitoring against. D dos attacks, looking at things like visual layout and style to make sure there's no changes over time. What about uptime monitoring? Do you watch for domains expiring? Do you do backups? Do you do SEO checks? In other words, do you try to keep your WordPress websites up to date and in good health?
There's absolutely tons to talk about in here and we probably only just begin to scratch the surface, but it's a nice chat. Anyway. I hope that you enjoy it. If you do leave some comments in the thread on WP Builds.com. Search for episode number two, two, four, or go to our Facebook group and leave some comments there.
WP Builds.com forward slash Facebook. I hope that you enjoy it.
David Waumsley: [00:05:10] Hello, this is another a to Z of WordPress chat where we attempt to cover all the major aspects of building and maintaining sites with WordPress today is H for health and there's a lot to talk about in this one.
Nathan Wrigley: [00:05:24] Yeah. Press ups, sit ups, burpees, all of that, a good diet.
David Waumsley: [00:05:30] Yeah. I think when we started this off, we thought we will probably just be talking to a lot about what was added to WordPress itself in version 5.1, which was the bits health check there, but we've expanded out to all kinds of aspects of really health it and the kind of things that. We need to do if we're providing care plans.
So I think it's probably this chat is ready for those kinds of people. People who make some money after looking after other people's sites. Yeah.
Nathan Wrigley: [00:05:56] There is a surprisingly large amount in this conversation and it did prompt us both to go and have a look at the site health information again. And it revealed to me that there's way more in there than I had remembered.
My, my only real experience with using site health is when it sends you an email to say something has gone wrong. I switched the widgets off in the dashboard and it doesn't really surface itself anymore, but I switched it back on and went and had a look on. There's actually quite a lot of interesting stuff in there.
If you're a bit of a nerd and you want to know how big your databases and so on, but yeah it covers an awful lot more than just site health inside of WordPress.
David Waumsley: [00:06:32] Yeah we both did it and we went through the little info section on it. So it's in WordPress on the tools and then you can find it there.
And in all honesty, I looked at it because I was a bit grumpy about the fact that it was added because it was going to rate my site and my clients would be able to see it. Those are admin illustrators. So really the first thing I did was just find a way to disable it. So they wouldn't see what the health check was saying.
But looking at it again, looking under the info section, you makes it realize it really does tell you a lot of information. Like you found out that your database was bigger
Nathan Wrigley: [00:07:05] than you expected. Yeah. Yeah. A lot bigger than I expected. When you say you disabled it, that, that wasn't a option somewhere.
Presumably you, I don't know, put something in functions, dot PHP or something like that. And you hit it permanently. Okay.
David Waumsley: [00:07:17] There is a filter around them in a Google search. You know how to. To hide the health check. In fact, to be honest, I didn't hide it until it came out later. I can't remember what version that was five point maybe two.
It was in the next one when it came out and it put it in the dashboard so everyone could see it came out in 5.1 originally. But yeah, so yeah, it's turned out to be something quite interesting, but it is mostly performance really? Isn't it insecurity. Yeah.
Nathan Wrigley: [00:07:44] Yeah. It's not probably going to be useful to your clients.
Hence the fact that you might not want to reveal any of this stuff. And also it continues to do that irritating thing where if you've received an update to WordPress, a 5.6, 5.7 update you you get the new theme. If there is a new theme. So 20, 21 or 2020 that gets installed, and then it tells you that you've got unnecessary themes.
As a problem, which, I don't think that's entirely helpful if it's installed a theme that you're not using. Maybe it shouldn't be flagging that up, but fair enough. It is there, but your clients probably don't need to know why is there another theme in here what's going on there?
David Waumsley: [00:08:25] Yeah, I know. The ideal is that you only have things, themes and plugins that are active.
Anything else is a problem. And I don't think that's always the case. It really does depend on your theme and your plugin. I was always brought up with the idea. People far smarter than me said that it was always a good idea to have one of the default themes in as well. Should you have a problem? So it will default to
Nathan Wrigley: [00:08:47] that.
Yes. I've heard this wisdom as well, but I've decided to disregard it. I just really, for me, it's just about using less resources on the server, you're right. If something went wrong with the theme, at least I'd have something to fall back on. But I've never really encountered that problem.
My themes of choice have always been stable and ready to be used. And so those other default themes have never been implemented by me. And really they just sit there waiting to be deleted and causing an error, not an error, causing a site health notification problem. But yeah, it does.
It gives you things like database size, where all of your files are located, how much data is being consumed, but on the heart desk, as well as things like which plugins are active or sorry, which plugins are deactivated that you should probably go and remove from your website. So that there's actually more in there than I thought it's a, there's two tabs.
There's an info tab, which has got a big accordion of about 12 different things. And there's a lot in there. But yeah, I would imagine if you're listening to this podcast, you probably knew the majority of what was in there. Anyway, you probably were aware of what themes and so on were installed but perhaps not.
David Waumsley: [00:10:00] Yeah, there was one that got us. I think both of us with it was always requesting that we installed now. I think it says on the interface in magic where we looked it up, didn't we? And it's image magic. Cukor
Nathan Wrigley: [00:10:15] k.org. I think it is. And it has the we're not entirely sure what it handles, but certainly it is capable of doing things like rotating, skewing, resizing images.
So I don't know if it is a key and instrumental in things that you might do in the media library, just cropping an image and so on, but you seem to think that you've got websites where that's not enabled on the service side, but it still functions in WordPress as you would expect.
David Waumsley: [00:10:44] My initial understanding was it did the compressing because when you put something into the media library, it's supposed to compress it by 10%. And that's all I thought it did, but anyway, short pixel is taking care of that for me. And without it on my servers. Yeah, it does. It doesn't seem to cause a problem, okay.
Nathan Wrigley: [00:11:01] It's there it's useful. Maybe there's plans for it to become more useful. And certainly if you've ever had a white screen of death type incident at the same time that it enables the updates that came at the same time, enabled you to still access the backend of WordPress and also receive emails, outlining that an error has occurred.
So there were some stantion improvements. If something did go wrong with a plugin, you now have wiggle room to log in and take care of that. If you need to. Whereas before it was, things were dead and you had to go and change the name of a plugin or something via FTP. But that's all been amended.
And so those were quite significant improvements and getting the email to warn you that something has gone wrong again, just it's nice. It's a really, it's a really good feature. I
David Waumsley: [00:11:49] think so. Initially I didn't, I can't. In fact, when we were just talking earlier, I realized the sense of it because I put myself in the shoes of the regular DIY user of WordPress.
And you just think, how would they ever know if things were going to miss on their sites? They just wouldn't would they, they're not informed like we are. So at least it would give them some kind of information over the years that PHP version won't be updated. Unless they do something by the hosts on the whole, and they just won't know unless that status is changing and I can now see much better why it needed to go in the dashboard, even though I want to
Nathan Wrigley: [00:12:24] hide it.
Yeah. I don't know if there's, I know it gives you a sort of rating in my case, the site that I'm looking at the moment is just rated as good and it's got a green circle. And that indicates, I presume that most things that are in order are checked and, things are, as they should be.
I don't really know what that sliding scale looks like. At what point does it start to alarm you and post things that look irritating to you and how does it prompt you to go about amending things? And again I'm not sure on what level it provides information to assist you with things that you need to take care of.
In my case, it's literally saying two things. You've got plugins. And themes that you need to remove everything else is marked off as good. I presumed that wizard over time might take care of more things. Maybe it does already, maybe if I inherited a site which had catastrophically bad site health, it would assist me with that process.
But I'm a bit ignorant of that, sadly.
David Waumsley: [00:13:20] I never asked you this earlier, when you've had the email saying you've got a problem with your site. Do you really take that much notice of what's there? Do you read it? Do you understand it?
Nathan Wrigley: [00:13:28] If memory serves, I'm sure I'll be corrected on this. If I'm wrong. It's just like a, one-line almost like plain text email, and I can't remember the content of it, but in every case, I knew already why I was receiving that email, maybe the server was overloaded or maybe I'd done something.
And I don't know, saved something which ultimately caused the site to be white screening. And I knew what was going on. No, I can't say that it's ever prompted me to do something that I would otherwise not have known about. It's interesting
David Waumsley: [00:14:01] because the ones I've had. I've been quite curious, they've usually been running out of memory.
And in fact, I think a couple of the times it's been what I think thought was a fairly enact, it was activated plugin. I think it was backup buddy using it well, but it wasn't set to do any schedule backups. It was on, but it wasn't set to do anything. It was just there to manually do a backup. And then I was really surprised by this, but I went into the site, so there was no issue.
I couldn't find an issue at all. It's just gets flagged up about some extra memory use.
Nathan Wrigley: [00:14:34] That could be potentially a bit alarming, couldn't it? Because that may have prompted you to, I don't know, seek another plugin solution or just basically waste a bunch of time on something which was incorrect.
So having it in WordPress is great, but it sounds like you've got mixed feelings about the confidence you've got in it. And if that's the case kind of pushes you towards ignoring it and disabling it as you've obviously done, rather than embracing it and thinking, actually this is a really useful tool and we'll probably get onto tools which purport to do similar things in the future.
And maybe, rely on those because you feel they're more reliable.
David Waumsley: [00:15:09] Yeah, but it's rare that I've got something, but because it's been no apparent issue with the site once I've gone in, but I do like the idea that it will send you in and you can go into safe mode is there's it's quite cool.
Yes, it's there.
Nathan Wrigley: [00:15:21] Yep. Yeah certainly a step up from, what the process that we had to go through before the fact that you can actually have this safe mode, which enables you to interact. I can't remember what the constraints of that are what it is that you're allowed to do and what it is that you can't do inside of that safe mode.
But, it's handy to have very nice addition.
David Waumsley: [00:15:39] Yeah. Should we talk about the other things that we decided that probably go under this health site health or monitoring things? So there's a whole bunch of things. I just, it always surprises me that we have so many people, so many DIY as who do WordPress, because this is such stuff to learn.
Obviously there's a security stuff that we do with kind of monitoring attacks for security there's monitoring of kind of dynamic functionality in your site. It's something that, to be honest, I've still never solved myself. How do you know that your contact form is working or your add to cart button is actually working on your site monitoring visual layouts and styling to see that your site when you're, not go into it, I'm sure most people don't spend all day looking at their own sites to know that it's still looking good when you've had an update.
There's a whole bunch of other stuff, uptime monitoring, the main expiring backups, SEO stuff, including Google search console stuff, broken links, support, and accessibility. These are all things that we thought were how site health things that we'd have to
Nathan Wrigley: [00:16:47] monitor. There's a real, there's a really large amount in that.
I suppose. In most cases you would hope that WordPress is a kind of set it and forget it. Solution where, you know what was there yesterday will be. What's going to be there in a year's time. Should you not go and do anything? WordPress will update itself. The plugins can now update themselves.
You'd hope that it would look the same and behave the same and everything would just function. But you're absolutely right. You're quite interesting to mention things like contact forms. I have literally no idea if those contact forms are working, but I've definitely been contacted by clients slightly embarrassingly who have contacted me to say that they know their contract form, isn't working because they've received, somebody gone around the houses to find their email address, emailed them and said my contact form isn't working.
And usually it's just something like an SMTP plugin that I don't know, for some reason, the configuration of the username and password has gone astray, something like that. But I don't really have a process for checking that those dynamic things are working and you rely quite a lot on things like forms and if they fail.
Then, that could be catastrophic. You just pray that they are working, you, that extends doesn't it things like making sure that the checkout works as expected, that people are not finding that the shopping cart actually doesn't do what it's supposed to do. And I don't really have a system for monitoring that other than manually doing it.
I used to have this process whereby every time I updated a website, I would go through a kind of very minimal laundry list of things. So it would involve going to certain pages, key pages, like the home page and the about us page or whatever I decided for that particular site. But I've more or less stopped doing that as that task just became.
An absolute verbatim copy of what I did yesterday, which is to say, just click on some links and everything worked as expected comes upon where the attrition of doing that doesn't seem worth it. You just think it's going to be fine, but things like forms. Ooh, I don't know. I don't know if anybody's got a solution for that.
Actually, you mentioned there was a tool didn't you that can mimic user behavior and go and fill out forms and then see if things are behaving as you'd expect. Yeah, I think the
David Waumsley: [00:19:07] real probably the closest we'll get to an industry standard for this kind of monitoring would be ghost inspector.
I don't even think there's a free trial thing that you've got. Maybe there's a trial, but I, she do have it and I to use it on one site because there was a free amount of checks that you could do, and you can decide what you, so basically you record what you want to be checked on your site. So you could submit a form and get it to do it every day for you, and then report back when it was unable to do that.
Nathan Wrigley: [00:19:39] it's barely working on the front end. It's not checking. I wouldn't. No. It's not checking that an email is generated and received. It's just saying, can I fill in this field? Does the button take me to the page I'm expecting to go to
David Waumsley: [00:19:54] there is something, you know what Fluent forms.
I just started using them on one site and I was impressed by one feature that I hadn't seen one, I hadn't seen gravity forms, which is what I've largely been using. And it does send me a summary every week of yeah. Of, of, so I know, that form is probably working because there's been 20 odd whatever submissions within that week.
And I thought that was pretty cool.
Nathan Wrigley: [00:20:18] Shouldn't, I'd forgotten about that. I received that email and it didn't exist until a little while ago. I'm going to say four months or something, or if it did exist, I hadn't enabled it and I didn't enable it and it began arriving. And in my case, it's going out every, I think it says a seven day summary.
Yeah. And yeah that's a good point. That's a really nice way of skirting around that problem because obviously if you've received no email. To say your contact form has been filled out six times, and yet there they are six centuries and it says it in the email that you receive, maybe there's a problem I'm going to cost.
It doesn't solve the problem of if the SMTP has gone wrong, because probably you won't get that email anyway. But yeah, it's a nice try.
David Waumsley: [00:21:00] Yeah. Maybe about a month ago I had someone and it's been a long time, so that's how I have this. They've said our contact form is not working. So I went and checked and they said they did their own check and they didn't get their email.
So I went to check and it was working, it was recorded. It was in the database. So it was there. Because. The emails, their responsibility with the plan that I have, the only thing I'm responsible for in our case is transactional emails, which for me, I'm using a Mailgun, there is send him blue and other things, mail poet as a plugging.
We'll do that for you as well, even on the free version. So I, at least I could check at least 30 days back, whether things are gone from them and it gives me a routine. So I could see that they'd been delivered. So at least I was able to send it to them and say, look from my perspective, it's sending them.
And it says, it's accepted as well. It's actually delivered. So it's been accepted and then delivered. So it must be your rent. But to my embarrassment, I wouldn't change the email address that was used in to send and it started sending to them. So there was some responsibility on my side, but it didn't worry me the idea that I wouldn't know until they told me.
Nathan Wrigley: [00:22:09] No, that's true. I use largely Amazon SES for transactional emails. There's no free tier or anything. The constraints are on how many you can send per second. And I think on my level, it's 28 emails per second or something, way in excess accessible I'll ever need.
And they charge per email, but it's a ridiculously small amount. I think it's like a hundredth of a us cent or something like that. It's an extraordinarily small amount, but also I've used a service called MX a route. And that enables you via a web interface. I believe it's called round cube. You can see what the inbox has done.
You could see that things have been sent and so on, but you're right. It's a bit of a gray area. You wonder in many ways, actually there isn't an app and then it would probably have to be a desktop app or something which could do what was that thing called ghost? What. Inspector ghost inspector could do, you would literally open up a, I don't know, it would use some sort of automation to open up a browser tab, fill out the form and then open your mail client and just check for some receipt of an email.
Maybe there is something like that, just to check it's all working as expected. Yeah.
David Waumsley: [00:23:20] I'm really feel that's the biggest weakness I've got in looking after people's sites. I just don't know until they find an issue. It's pretty rare but yeah, and I can only go, free tools that I'm using.
I can only go back 30 days to check things while I'm there.
Nathan Wrigley: [00:23:35] The problem is well, is that, that failure could be utterly catastrophic. It could be the difference of, I don't know, somebody just walking away from a, an enormous contract or something. We submitted it two weeks ago and we haven't heard back from you.
We've gone elsewhere. It could be massive. You and I guess there are liabilities to that. And I don't have any of that in any contracts to protect myself as far as I'm aware, but that could be something that I need to look at. The other issue that I have had
David Waumsley: [00:24:03] with that with transactional email services, particularly if you're getting something on a free version that allows you a certain amount or very cheap, is that you're often sharing an IP address.
And if someone misuses that you can find that you end up being blocked out of spam anyway, anything coming from that email address. And again, there's generally not a notification from the services to let you know, this has happened to me
Nathan Wrigley: [00:24:25] once. Have you ever encountered this? This is a hypothetical problem.
I don't even know if it's a real problem, but let's say for example, that you use the example of gravity forms. Let's say that for some reason, your gravity form was being spammed. Some bot had found it and was filling it out with nonsense and your client was successfully receiving those, but in them mail client marking them as spam.
Yeah, because in effect they are spam, but they ought to be marked as spam because they are actually what you wish to receive. So you know, that the spam prevention going on there needs to happen at the point of submission of the form, not of receipt of the email. I've never trained any clients on that crisis, but I just wonder if it is a crisis.
I wonder if anybody's had that problem. Yeah.
David Waumsley: [00:25:14] I don't know. I certainly would my forms, I do limit in number forms that can be filled in on the day to stop it being bombarded. But yeah I, it depends on the mail service, like going to react to receiving a lot of spam. What am I going to do? Yeah.
Nathan Wrigley: [00:25:31] Anyway. Yes. Sorry about that. Okay. What's next on the list. Yeah. What else did
David Waumsley: [00:25:37] mention? Oh yeah, we already mentioned him with that. There was ghostly spectral, something like that could mimic some of your other things, like add to cart to see that your carts running. So that's good. Yeah we've started using a couple of tools.
Haven't we? For the kind of aspect of the visual layouts and style. We both
Nathan Wrigley: [00:25:55] bought Hexo watch yes. Bit of a gamble in that. It didn't quite feel ready in that when we bought it. I think you, more so than our, you had concerns that it was not behaving as it ought to is felt fairly immature, but then it was one of these lifetime deals.
It was a new product, but I'm really happy with it. So it enables you to plug in a URL and then it will deliver all sorts of reports based upon, I don't know if. You can say to it. So for example, look at the top 10% of this page and monitor if anything changes by 10%, then alert me to that. Or it could be, monitor the whole page.
And if anything of any nature moves at all alert me and it's actually quite a, it could be deployed. I always thought it could be quite an interesting competitor tool. You might want to use something like this for your competitors. Let's say you have a shop and you want to see when they've updated their home page, that it could be deployed in that way.
But in my case it's being used as a tool to see if anything's gone wrong and it's matured over time. And I rather like it, I only use the visual tool that there's the option to see how the HTML has changed over time. But I don't use any of that. I'm just using the visual tool and it's got a nice little way of zooming in and it discolors certain things so that you can, so it really highlights which bit on the page has changed.
It illuminates in red and it's good.
David Waumsley: [00:27:21] Yeah. And he's taken on some of the aspects of, I think, ghosting aspect to where you can change different States or you can, I think delay the snapshot, it will take to account for pop-up coming up. So it has, it's got really quite clever and it has solved an issue, particularly that visual layout and style, because that's embarrassed me a couple of times, something with page builders certainly happened with Beaver builder when they did an update.
If you've got a caching plugin, it might not clear that caching plugin for you now they've solved that they automatically clear all the well-known Cashin plugins. So there's not been the issue of come again, but so embarrassing. If a client comes and says to them, my homepage is all completely distorted due to an update and the Cashin.
Plugging, interfering with it. But yeah, this solves against all that problem because, even if it sends me the odd, false, positive, at least it makes me look at a site and I feel safe. The other ones who aren't reported just running as they should
Nathan Wrigley: [00:28:15] do. Yeah. It's really nice to be able to get in front of something before the client notices it.
Maybe they'll notice it before this software notices it but in my case, it's never falsely reported something, I've received an email and it really has changed. There's no doubt about it. So that's quite nice. And then you could go to the client and say, look, we just noticed something on your sites.
We've been poking around a little bit and we've seen that there's been a minor change. Don't worry about it, we're on it. And we'll have a fix and we'll notify you when it's done. And it's rolls up very nicely inside of a care package. It makes you seem like you're really engaged in their website and taking interest in it.
And that's all for the good.
David Waumsley: [00:28:55] Yeah, I really liked that. I said the only reason why I was hard on it. In fact, I refunded it, the life deal, and then I had to buy it as a greater expense later because I've seen so many of these kind of visual tools where they would do a screenshot. Cause I don't think it's that difficult to build that basic app to do that.
There are some open source systems out there that they can build on Python, but they've always failed in my experience. They've those businesses, but managed to make a profit for long enough because people just won't pay that money for that one thing and because of the false positives, but I think they, first time I've actually seen someone nail that at an affordable price.
Yeah. And they've got a, another product which came first, which was Hexo meta which does many of the other things that we might use individual tools for. So it does uptime monitoring. It will be checking, broken links and all kinds of wonderful accompany member, all the things it does.
But these are also other things that we. For help, we need to check
Nathan Wrigley: [00:29:53] on yet. And there's just so many tools which do that kind of thing. Really so many uptime monitoring tools and I could probably mention half a dozen just off the bat. The ones that I've settled on is I have used uptime robot quite a lot.
I remember, I don't know if this is still true because I've basically discontinued using it. I think at the time it was, you could get 50 sites for free. Yeah. And so that was more than enough for me. One account would satisfy me because in many cases I'm just monitoring if the server is working.
And so if I've got three sites, four sites on one. DigitalOcean droplet or something like that. If if one's gone down this quite likely, the other two or three will go down, but I've I've used that I've used the main WP one. I think I've also used WPM. You dev have one, obviously your hosting company probably has something that they will alert you about and I've settled on another deal, which came recently, which is called, what is it called?
Better uptime. Yeah, we both got it. Yeah. And I'm really pleased that I got that. They re they send out an email every fortnight, at least where they've added some feature. I have to say most of the features are completely beyond my understanding. In that a lot of them are obviously designed for teams and people who really understand how to connect this to external services.
And, they want to do all this automatically. Whereas for me, I just want to be notified and I want to go into the UI and click on menu links and so on and see what the problem is on which particular site. But they do nice things like that. They allow you to create a dashboard, which you can put on a site.
You could do it for example, on a sub domain so that your website is shows over a period of the last 30 days, how much time it's been up, you can have teams in there. So that certain people get an, a text message and it decides who ought to be getting that message based upon the time of day and things like that.
It's really, yeah. Yeah.
David Waumsley: [00:31:52] It is really clever. And. It's one thing. I was quite interested in about that and I don't know how well it does on that. Measures as far as I understand from three different locations. So it checks three different locations to see if they all say the same before we report something cause downtime.
But they did come up across this, I think last week there was a site and he was saying it was down for quite some time and I was looking and they were right. For our was, but then I put a VPN on the look from the UK where that's the main audience for that site was, and it was up. And then I went and did the search and it, they were correct.
But the interesting thing I haven't thought about too much, again, another health consideration is the fact that sometimes your domain name service has issues in certain places in the world. It's you know, within this, the first time I saw that I kept going back and just running a check and notice that it was down in lots of different places in there clearly had nothing to do with our site or our host in it.
But it had absolutely everything to do with who was providing the domain
Nathan Wrigley: [00:32:58] name server. Yeah. W we had it wasn't, we developer that I work with had a problem with it in that it was reporting things to be down and they were absolutely up. And I forget the, I forget how it worked, but it was a server configuration thing.
It was something that was mis-configured or needed to be reconfigured. And when it was dumb, To their satisfaction, then it started to behave correctly. But, I don't know if he contacted better uptime or if it was just something that he fixed, I'm not entirely sure, but something which didn't report correctly, or at least it was reporting errors, which didn't exist on the front, you could see the websites, it was reporting them as down and they weren't, but it now behaves for him at exactly as it should.
David Waumsley: [00:33:39] Yeah. And it really made me look good the other week as well, better uptime because it's got something I didn't even know it was in there. I got an email saying there was about 20 hours, probably a little bit more to renew a domain name that the client had. So I was able to say you're going to lose your domain name quickly.
And I just thought it was so wonderful. I could send them that email. It's not my responsibility just to let them know that I'm looking, covering their backs really on their site.
Nathan Wrigley: [00:34:05] Yeah. But that works. That was a manual process for you. You had to. Receive the email and then send it to them.
How is that? Because you get them to buy their own domains. Yes. Okay. So
David Waumsley: [00:34:17] it's their responsibility, it's happened before that clients have gotten to renew, it's going to happen. Isn't it? I always say you're different on this, but I've always made that their responsibility that they should have the ownership of that.
But of course, I've now come to appreciate that many of those in the, in their organizations, one employee will set that up and then they will leave and no one knows what's going on.
Nathan Wrigley: [00:34:40] Yeah. Yeah. It's a nice little feature, I guess my registrar of choice at the minute, all our might be changing that we won't go into that is Google domains and they just send me things and I don't, if it's expiring for a customer, I don't really get involved.
But if I were to get something from better uptime, then that would be good. I think there's a lot of services, which do things like that. So for example, web box, I know has sent me similar messages in the past. I can't say that I can think of anybody else, but certainly web box have done. I think that, I think I remember it was seven days or maybe it was 30 days.
I knew it was it was certainly significantly more than 20 hours. Feel like 20 hours is a bit, it's a bit late, isn't it? But my domain registrar will let me know. And so I can handle on that. So I didn't mean most cases if I wasn't buying the domain, I'd certainly request the client to put it on auto renew anyway, just in case because what's the harm in that.
David Waumsley: [00:35:36] Yeah, I was wondering about, do you do anything in particular for SEO and all your sites set up for search console? Do you
Nathan Wrigley: [00:35:44] get anything from those? No, not really early. I'd try to, I try to leave SEO in the domain of a plugin and then leave it to the clients. If they're creating blog posts and things, just to fill out those boxes.
Now we w before we started recording, we talked a lot about. Not just SEO, but all of the new metrics that it would appear that everybody's getting really concerned about the literal wealth of data, which you can bring to bear to a, it might be SEO. It might be performance GT metrics or Pingdom or whatever lighthouse and so on.
And just, there's just so much of this stuff. I feel that industries are developing careers are developing in these areas. There are people who now, obviously our SEO specialists that's been around for ages, but now we've got this new kind of career of people who are speeding up websites and that's all that they do.
And we've got other people who are maintaining, that their job is to go out and increase the how accessible your website is. That's a career there's just so much thrown into this, but no, to your point, I don't really do much with that. No.
David Waumsley: [00:36:50] And I just w the broken links, we covered that, something for SEO, but I used to use that broken link checkup, plugin, but having realized how much that can consumes of server resources.
I've broken away from using that, because typically I'll just ignore the information. It gives me anyway. Because it's not my site, then they're not paying me the clients then to go and check on their broken links. So I get the information and what do I do with it?
Nathan Wrigley: [00:37:14] Really from there.
Yeah. Yeah. And it sounds like in your model, that's not your purview anyway, that's for the client to sort out. And I would imagine, I don't know. I just don't know how severe the, and when I say, I don't know, I literally don't know how severe the impact is on SEO of one link on a website being. I don't know, leading to something which doesn't exist anymore or going to the wrong page.
I just don't know what the impact of that stuff is, but it feels to me like something which in a busy working day, doesn't really command that much importance.
David Waumsley: [00:37:51] Yeah, probably. If you put out a new piece of content than my, if it took you so long to find these broken links or change those, could you put out some new content in that time and would that probably do you more good?
And that's the kind of balance we don't know with these things,
Nathan Wrigley: [00:38:05] but probably somebody out there who really does understand this and I'd be keen to know how harmful things like broken links really are.
David Waumsley: [00:38:13] And yeah. And we mentioned this as well. You had the same with Google search console that can tell you I had a few emails just saying about how my texts will not be very readable on mobile.
This is a problem. And I go look in and I just cannot see what they can see.
Nathan Wrigley: [00:38:29] Yep. Get those emails periodically. And usually for me, it seems to be things that I've failed with on mobile and some of them, like you say, it might be a contrast thing. And I just don't see it. I think it was the most recent one that I got was, I don't know, a week ago or something where it was telling me that a font was too small to be readable.
I think that was what it was. And yet it. Was totally readable to my eye. So I don't know what automation goes on to, to make this stuff happen. And no doubt, there are ways that I could improve things, but it's like almost like a needle in a haystack. I'm not going to get everything right.
And although Google would love me to get everything right. Maybe I'll just have to resign myself to the fact that font sizes is 1.2 small, and that color palette is just a tiny bit on the wrong side of what the algorithm would allow. But to my eyes, it's totally readable. But then again, there are people who this stuff really matters for.
And if, I guess if the algorithm has been written, it's been done with some research and people really can't read that size of it up close, and people really suffer. There's a color clash there that I'm not having a problem with, but somebody else is having a problem with. But I'm sure for most of us, it's about finding the time and the data prioritize these and make them important enough to deal with.
David Waumsley: [00:39:49] Yeah. And I learned something recently, which I didn't know, maybe a lot of people do know this and I'm just behind, but Google Chrome itself, the inspector gets you a lot more information than I thought it has ways to inspect the contrast and whether that's what they think is right, which is what's fooled me.
I get something from Google telling me it's not good, and then I go and use Google Chrome. And I've just discovered now that I can inspect and hover over things. And it will tell me whether the contrast is acceptable. So I've only, and also that there is lighthouse now built into Google Chrome, but that's it.
Yeah. So you have
Nathan Wrigley: [00:40:24] to do a speed check. You were the person that showed me that was even available. And I was I was quite surprised that it was there and it was, I think it's, I remember listening to Sabrina's or Dan talking about this, or the day it kind of matters. It just, it is impacted by where you live and so on.
It's not like a Bulletproof piece of data that's coming through. Again, I defer to Sabrina's who superior intelligence on this, or maybe misquoting her,
David Waumsley: [00:40:49] but it's not all speed. Is it, this performance is if you go and click on it in Google Chrome on the lighthouse and go and do a test, you get a choice to look at other things you've got best practice, as well as, and accessibility things that we'll do give you a quick measure there.
So it's a really a good way of checking the health of your site from, from the front end. Anyway,
Nathan Wrigley: [00:41:10] the problem that we're revealing is that there's just so many component parts of maintaining a website, and it feels to me as if the one that, that really rises to the top. Is updating and backups.
Everything else seems in my world at least anyway, to get pushed to the I'll. I'll take a look at that if, and when I've got a load of free time and I'm, or somebody specifically comes to me and says, I want this on my website. I want it to be a hundred percent on this metric or to be a hundred percent accessible by this study.
And I wonder if that's the case for most people listen to this, you're a jobbing web designer, web builder using WordPress, and really your concern is having enough throughput of work to make your career viable. And. But maybe this goes two ways. Maybe this creates an edge for you and you can demonstrate to people, look, and I will make sure that these boxes are checked.
All of these different things I'm going to do. I'm going to do SEO. I'm going to do accessibility. I'm going to check with some software to make sure that your forms are working. I want to check with some software to make sure that, any changes that appear on the page, which aren't intended, I'm going to fix up front.
I'm going to do all the backups, blah, blah, blah. If all of these little ticks, just create more opportunity for you to have work, as opposed to just create an opportunity for you to have more work that you're not really getting paid for. I don't know if I explained that very well. No you did.
David Waumsley: [00:42:43] And it's a big question.
I think here, the moment I remember listening, I think a YouTube, a couple of videos where people were saying, design trends on this, I'm going to do something different than to talk about. What I think is really the design trends in web these days. And that is accessibility and speed making good sites is growing.
People demand this more and to a certain degree hearing so much about things like Google core web vitals in various groups makes me think, yeah, there is more attention on that kind of help side of things, not so much accessibility. But I'm not sure it's used a lot for marketing. They didn't have products for WordPress that is faster than anybody else.
And speed is so important, but I just wonder if. Everyday clients still put it up there high when they're considering somebody to build a website for them. Yeah.
Nathan Wrigley: [00:43:36] I think this absolutely would matter. Let's say for example, the, I dunno, there's a website proposal out there at the moment.
There's a for goodness sake, what's it called? Oh the document that clients send out when they want to get proposals in that document, the name of which has escaped me at the moment for a local government website near where I live. And I just read through it. And it was pretty clear that the person who has created that brief has really taken this on board.
And, they've mentioned all about the SEO. They've mentioned all about the accessibility and the accessibility bullet points went on and on. So this was really important to them, but it was a government thing and the government cannot be seen to, to fail on any of these points.
Whereas. The guy that's phoning me up. Who's a plumber or I don't know, a heating engineer or a lawyer that just want the website that just wants to see it and it, for it to work and the forms to function and them to get some leads. So I really think it matters which kind of client you're getting, but obviously you can't do the same price point for the local government one, which wants all of these tick boxes, as compared to the plumber.
Who's not really bothered about that so much. And whilst I'm not denigrating the purposefulness of those things, if the budget doesn't allow it you can still build the website. Interestingly, the government website that I'm talking about carries the budget to make it worthwhile. They are allocating enough money.
This is not a compromise they're paying for this to be done correctly, which I thought was good.
David Waumsley: [00:45:09] Yeah. Google do play a part in it and I think they are. That's, we've had notifications that the text is too small to read and so clearly an accessibility thing. And I think they, they have that ability as they have done with performance.
Everybody seems to be talking about performance more than I've ever known. So maybe those people that are predicting that it's the future of design that are more people are going to be aware of it. And they're going to consider this as an important thing about their website. More, not sure if it's true, but it'd be nice if it was, it'd be nice to build better accessible sites and know that someone was prepared to pay for that.
Or they saw that as a priority over some, I don't know, perhaps trivial animations that they saw and thought were cool and they wanted on their website. It would be lovely if somebody was seen as a client on a budget saying that the most important thing is that everybody can get to my website and read it.
Nathan Wrigley: [00:46:00] And there's the rub. How many people are showing up at your door? Saying exactly that the answer is very small. I expect I've had a
David Waumsley: [00:46:10] few people, but again, it's a little bit of lip service paid because if you are a government body or you're connected in that way, they know that they need to do something to there, but there's also another kind of industry, which they can be fooled by.
So there are one click solutions to make your sites fast. There are one click solutions or mostly by this product and your site is going to be accessible. There was a, an article wasn't that about access? It'd be, yeah. One of those products there and I've worked for, we did a website for someone who that was their main consideration.
They came to us about accessibility and they weren't a client for long, but actually they previously bought one of these all in one solutions, which really wasn't giving them the accessibility they thought they had. Yeah. Yep. Hard to know.
Nathan Wrigley: [00:46:57] Yeah. Like I said earlier, it feels to me like there's an industry now for people, if you're in an agency, maybe somebody in your agency is the expert on accessibility, and over there is the expert on SEO and so on.
And maybe there's a career. I know there's a career people speeding up websites that can be your job. Now take on a website, make it faster. People who bring to you a website that is demonstrably, not accessible. That can be a job. You can make it accessible and charge accordingly. It's a career.
It's a really fascinating that's even possible because failed five years ago those jobs would, it was just, that was everybody's job. If you built websites, you had to do all of those things. And more and more I'm feeling that the big ticket websites are gonna going to be farming all this stuff out to experts within the industry.
David Waumsley: [00:47:45] but it really should start from the building of a site. Isn't it? I always feel with a lot of the health things that we take particularly, I guess speed and accessibility. I always felt plastered on the site after the event. So if you get somebody to come in, but a lot of it should have just been in the fundamentals of our building, off the site.
And that's probably the problem with a lot of page builders. We do that for the speed of building a website, and then we have to superimpose the way of making them faster, more accessible.
Nathan Wrigley: [00:48:16] I remember Gutenberg when it was rolled out, it's designed to be useful for the 40% of the web developers out there who are using WordPress.
And I should say websites and it had real problems with accessibility. I've not really kept a very close eye on that debate, but my understanding in as far as it is that it has improved over time. But you've got to imagine that WordPress. With its reach into all sorts of different websites, government non-government, NGO is everything that this would be something where the default version of WordPress will.
We'll take a lot of this into consideration. It is fast and, but I don't know too much about the accessibility side of things. Time will tell. Yeah,
David Waumsley: [00:49:00] I remembered something we didn't talk about earlier. We were talking about for falls and that kind of issue. There are a couple of tools out there that will crawl your site.
So they are website crawlers, the screaming frog, and there's one that I bought called website auditor bias. Folks called link assistant or Lincoln system.com and are tools that we'll just go round. And it's really revealed in actually it's shocking. Sometimes it's sites that you think might be quite healthy when it's crawled through the whole of your site.
You realize, particularly with WordPress, how many kind of links you've got and dead links you've gotten once they're not optimized, it is quite scary. Just
Nathan Wrigley: [00:49:40] archives that you didn't want to be public facing pages. Yes. You really remember removing from a site map. And yet there it is.
That really should never have been viewed by the public. It was some sort of a landing page which shouldn't have ever been scraped, but yeah, just amazing, absolutely amazing. There's so much stuff. I've got one of those tools as well, and exactly the same thing. It was like, how did that get in there? How do they even know that's there?
And there's some internal little link, which you entirely forgotten existed that revealed the existence of all these different things, just. On styled archive pages, which just look horrible.
David Waumsley: [00:50:16] Yeah, exactly. And just basic stuff. I like to think that I've set it up. So I always put old tags at the Steven, if they're not as meaningful as they should be for accessibility on the images.
And then you go and run one of these and realize that, that 30% of your images don't have them. It's what?
Nathan Wrigley: [00:50:33] Yeah. There's another job for you, David, what we've done in this episode is we've outlined all of the ways in which we're failures and all of the things which we need to, which we need to add to our laundry list of to-dos so many.
And we didn't get into a whole bunch of stuff. Like we never talked about PHP versions and recommended database types and things like that. There was, it was absolutely a whole load of stuff. We didn't get into monitoring of distributed denial of service attacks and all of that sort of stuff with, there's loads that we could have gone into, but type time is running out.
David Waumsley: [00:51:10] It is mind you have, I have been thinking that I might just to give them, get the domain name that Dr. Colbert's
Nathan Wrigley: [00:51:16] vitals. That sounds really good. I think there's a career. Yeah. Yeah. Make sure that site is accessible and fast and good in search rankings though. Otherwise,
David Waumsley: [00:51:26] failure. Yeah. I like health monitoring.
I think that's just for me, bringing this to the end for fall. I think I can say is that it's really become my business, which I didn't expect, but it's like builds on this part of it, but really looking after sites has become really the key thing.
Nathan Wrigley: [00:51:42] I'd have to say, I am always surprised by the amount of knowledge that you bring to bear on this because a lot of it is just stuff that I know, I shouldn't know about.
But you actually do know about it. You've actually taken the time. And I guess it's just the way that your business is structured. You're obsessing about these details and you want things to work and you want them to behave as they should. And I think you really are becoming a bit of an expert in many of these areas.
It's great. Well done.
David Waumsley: [00:52:10] I wouldn't say that, but it's definitely moved that way. And I think, it's not what I expected when I started this. You just thought, wouldn't it be nice to build sites for people that would be a nice creative thing to do. And now it's just turned into how can we look after these sites?
Nathan Wrigley: [00:52:23] Yeah. There you go. Shall we? Are we done indeed. Okay. Yeah, I'll see you in a couple of weeks and and we'll have a regular podcast next week and I guess we'll be on to what have we got? A, B, C, D E F G H I what's our. Images, we're sticking with that. Are we're not going to change between this time might change.
Yeah. Okay. It's images for now, but see how we go. All right. See you soon. That was a fun episode to record. There is so much going on. Yeah. In the health of our websites. I think we do this sort of stuff automatically often that we know that we need to take backups. So we automate that. We know that we need to do uptime monitoring.
So we automate that and there's a whole bunch of stuff that we just automate, but then there's a whole load of stuff going on in the background. And the health of your website, I feel is one of the areas in the future as websites become easier and easier to build with the great array of tools that we're getting page builders.
And so on. I feel that this side of things is an area where we can really sell to our clients and make sure that we've got some kind of retainer, some kind of care plan going on into the future because a lot of this stuff will be second nature to people like you and I, but it won't be to clients and they probably won't want to be involved in it, either keeping their website backed up and keeping it updated and watching for uptime and all of this.
So yeah, a really interesting show. I hope that you enjoyed it. If you did leave some comments, look for episode number two, two, four, On the WP Builds.com website or alternatively go to our Facebook group. WP Builds.com forward slash Facebook. And let us know what you thought in there. The WP build's podcast was brought to you today by Cloudways.
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Dot com. And by AB split test, do you want to set up your AB split tests in record time, then you AB split test plugin for WordPress. We'll have you up and running in a couple of minutes. Use your existing pages and test anything against anything else. Buttons, images, headers, rows, anything. And the best part is it works with or Beaver builder and the WordPress block editor.
You can check it all out and get a free [email protected] Okay. That's really it for this week. We will be back next week, but because we do an alternating schedule of interview and then a discussion with David Waumsley and I next week, it will be an interview. It will be episode two to five and it will be an interview.
And we'll also be joined on Monday for our this week in word pressure, which is live every Monday, 2:00 PM. UK [email protected] forward slash live. I'll be joined this week by some notable WordPress guests, along with my cohost Paul Lacey. So join us for that. And I hope you have a good week. Stay safe.
I'm going to feed in some cheesy music and say, bye-bye for now.
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