For 2019, one of my “goals” if you will is to spend more time noting more of the resources and tools I find valuable. The first category I’m targeting has to do with WordPress. Over the last 10 years of using WordPress in various capacities, I’ve seen, tested, tinkered with, and used more than a few WordPress themes, both free and for money.
In that time, I’ve used a lot of themes from big names like Elegant Themes and Genesis, and they’re fantastic products. This tweet from Tom McFarlin got me thinking about the smaller shops and independent developers:
Here’s my list of some of my favorite smaller/indie (or niché as Tom put it ?) WordPress theme developers/shops.
For every shop I listed, I know there are three more that would probably make the cut. These are just the ones I’m most familiar with and would recommend to WordPress users looking for high quality product.
ThemeForest and Creative Market often have high quality products from indie developers, too, so their marketplaces are always worth checking out, too.
It seems like such a random amount of time to review (and it kind of is) but I wanted to start of 2019 right and review a topic I touched on in 2018: Cloudflare‘s smart-routing product, Argo.
In my previous post about Argo, I covered the vast improvements to response times just by enabling the service. Response times were practically cut in half. Since then, I’ve made some more tweaks to my site so it felt fair to review if Argo is still picking up the slack it claims to. If you’re unsure of how Argo works, my previous post has a good explainer.
Considering Aggressive Caching
One improvement I made was to lean heavy on Cloudflare’s Page Rules functionality. I purchased myself a set of five Rules for an additional +$5.00/month and got to work. I focused on wielding caching for everything that isn’t likely to change often if ever. In this case, most static assets will live on Cloudflare’s servers and in a visitor’s browser for quite a while.
With the majority of /wp-content being taken care of with page rules, it was time to re-evaluate the now decreased load and its effect on the benefits Argo provides.
Argo Post-Aggressive Caching
There’s a reason Cloudflare recommends Argo regardless of how you cache. Even with aggressive caching in place, I’m still seeing about 25% response time improvements:
The average runs between 23-27%, depending on the days I’m checking, but the 23.28% in the image above is pretty close to “most of the time.” What’s also worth pointing out is the peaks and valleys largely follow the same percentage improvement across the board, and it’s no wonder: 75% of requests end up going through Argo’s pipeline.
With the aggressive Page Rules and Argo, I’m comfortable in saying Argo has a permanent home with this site and any future projects I take on. It’s a no-brainer and still remains highly cost-effective.
Over the last 10-ish years, I’ve deployed more WordPress sites than I can count. If there’s one service I could have used to make my life easier, it would have been an all-inclusive deployment tool that makes not only servers appear, but a complete and secure WordPress installation, too.
That’s not to say that easy solutions don’t exist. If you’re a Digital Ocean user, you know WordPress-specific images are already a thing and only require a few clicks. The problem there is WordPress isn’t configured with anything useful1Digital Ocean’s WordPress image does come with fail2ban pre-configured, though, which is nice. like caching, and passwords are up to RNG.
This is where SpinupWP comes into play, built by the folks at Delicious Brains, makers of the WP Migrate DB Pro and WP Offload Media WordPress plugins. They build amazing plugins, so you know they built a great service, too.
SpinupWP does one thing really damn well: make servers with WordPress pre-installed and pre-configured appear on Linux servers. Out of the box, they hook up with Digital Ocean, but if you have your own box elsewhere, just feed them the IP address and credentials. They’ll handle the rest.
For the sake of my review, we’ll be focusing on Digital Ocean deployments, but most of what I cover is the same elsewhere.
Part 1: Creating the Server
Creating a server starts simply: tell SpinupWP how large and where:
At this stage, you’ll provide things like the database name and it’s password, as well as any SSH keys for access to the server from a Terminal. Make note of the password before continuing.
Once all the details are plugged in, SpinupWP will take care of the rest. It starts by using the Digital Ocean API to create a server in the region you selected earlier and with the correct size. Once the server is up, SWP will update and patch the server, then deploy the version of PHP and MySQL you chose. This can take some time, so feel free to come back in a few minutes. They say it can take up to 10 minutes, and I found that often to be the case.
Just the fact that you can go from zero to a fully-functioning and ready-to-go WordPress server without any sites is awesome. It gets even better when we get to the next half: creating WordPress sites in a few clicks.
Part 2: Creating a WordPress Site
Creating the WordPresss site is also just as easy as the server itself and only requires a few bits of information:
Choose the PHP version and site type (single- or multisite):
Name the database and its user and password:
Name the site and create the admin user and its username and password:
And that’s it! After a few minutes it’ll appear on your dashboard:
Once the site is live, you’ll be able to control certain aspects about it like SSL and caching settings. If the site ever needs to disappear, this is also where you’d delete it.
From end to end, this process takes about 20 minutes. If you’re in the market to host an array of WordPress sites for clients or you have a lot of unique blogs you keep operating, this is the way to go. I’d even go so far as to say it’s worth migrating your WordPress blog to a SpinupWP-created instance of WordPress just for the pre-configured caching and security hardening.
This service is killer and priced very competitively. Since they’re still fresh, everyone that signs up gets special pricing, starting at $6/month for the first three months with unlimited sites on one server or $9/month for the first three months with unlimited sites on up to three servers (+$5/month for every server thereafter). The fact that one can pay $6 to have a WordPress site appear in mere moments is awesome. If your goal is to only ever deploy one site, paying $6 for one month and cancelling is still absolutely worth it.
Sign up for SpinWP right now and safe yourself time and sanity. You’ll be glad you did and even more, you’ll wonder how you managed to deploy WordPress on servers before today.
It’s about that time of year when I look back on the posts that attracted the most eyeballs. Some of the most popular pieces of content this year were also the most popular last year, too. Admittedly, not much of this was actually from this year. By my count, half of these posts came from 2016 and 2017. I didn’t get back into blogging hardcore until the last 1/4th of 2018.
Here are the top 10 most popular posts on this blog based on the number of views in the last year:
When I got my hands on yet another awesome Anker product, I was almost certain I’d enjoy it. True to form, Anker built a charging brick that is a bit larger than Apple’s standard 5w unit but provides so much more power, it’s almost a no-brainer. Each port is good for minimum 6 watts at 1.2 amps or one port is good for 12 watts at 2.4 amps. It won’t break any speed records, especially compared to larger 18 and 30 watt chargers, but for its size and price (2-pack for $16) I don’t know if it gets much better.
It was especially neat to see Affinity coming out with another killer desktop creative application to give Adobe a run for its money. Even though Publisher is still in beta, it’s extremely stable and worth taking a look at if you have some time.
For the third year, this post makes its way onto my top 10 list. There seems to be just enough people out there–especially in the Raspberry Pi community–that want to stream video and ran into a lot of the same problems I have.
There hasn’t been a day when I wasn’t a fan of keeping my computers fresh and clean. MacPaw makes great software, and their newest version of CleanMyMac is no exception. It’s entirely worth the price, and if you’re a Setapp user, download it right now. If you’re not, go pick it up anyway.
This was a fun post to write. I’ve hopped back and forth between the two providers a couple times over the years, and it was good to see just how each of them shined. Since both are equally priced, a lot of it comes down to one part workload and one part personal preference. Take a look at some of the benchmark results for yourself and see what makes the most sense for you.
The third of four of my posts to make this list for the 3rd time. This is one of the series on my struggles in figuring out how to stream video from a Raspberry Pi to a couple different locations. Specifically, this part involved tackling hardware-accelerated streaming.