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Take your daily dose of (only) relevant news, useful tips and tricks and valuable how to's on using the latest web technologies shaping the digital landscape. We're here to do all the necessary information sifting for you, so you don't have to, to provide you with content that will help you anticipate the emerging trends about to influence the web.

Google PageSpeed vs Lighthouse: How Are They Different and Which Tool Should You Use?
Which tool should you be auditing your website with? In a Google PageSpeed vs Lighthouse “debate”, which score is right? What's the difference between running a Google PageSpeed test and running Lighthouse Audit in Chrome?  You have all the reasons to be confused about the fact that they use similar technology, yet they deliver you different results. It's time to shed some light here.  So, keep on reading to get your answers to questions like:   What Is Google Pagespeed Insights? What Is Google Lighthouse? What Are the Main Differences Between Them? When Should You Use Each of Them? 1. What Is Google PageSpeed Insights? Or: “What is Google PageSpeed score?” What does it measure? And what type of data does it use when evaluating your website? Lab and real-world data... In other words, Google PageSpeed will use both real-world data available in the Chrome User Experience report and lab data. Now, if I was to put together a short, yet complete definition, it would be: Google PageSpeed is a tool that analyzes the performance of your web pages, generating a report of the overall speed of your website. As well as actionable advice on how you can improve its score. 2. What Is Google Lighthouse? “How does Google Lighthouse work?” It uses lab data (only) to measure your website's performance, but also its SEO performance, PWA, and other best practices.  And here, you can already identify the first difference that any Google Lighthouse vs PageSpeed comparison reveals:  Lighthouse goes beyond the page speed metric when auditing your website. 3. Google PageSpeed vs Lighthouse: How Are They Different? What's the difference or, better said, “the differences” between these two audit tools provided by Google?   PageSpeed Insights measures the performance metric only, whereas Lighthouse audits other aspects of a website, as well (SEO, accessibility, progressive web app, etc.) Google PageSpeed uses a “combo” of lab and real-world data, whereas Lighthouse uses lab data only (under consistent conditions) to build its report   Lighthouse is now incorporated into PageSpeed Insights. It is PageSpeed's integrated analysis engine. 4. When Should You Use Google PageSpeed Insights? So, you have your answers to your “Google PageSpeed Insights vs Lighthouse” dilemma. You know now how they differ from one another. But how do you know when to use... PageSpeed, for instance? Here are the 4 main scenarios:   you need to share a link to your website's audit report you're only interested in checking your website's page loading speed you want an accurate report of the loading times experienced by your website's visitors you're not a big fan of using Chrome developer tools for analyzing your website's performance 5. When Should You Use Lighthouse? What are the specific scenarios when you should consider turning to Lighthouse for auditing your website's performance? when you want to run audits programmatically when you need to evaluate other aspects of your website, in addition to its loading times when you want to incorporate the Lighthouse API into your own systems   For instance, you can use Lighthouse API to automatically block those releases that don't meet your pre-defined performance and SEO standards. 6. Google PageSpeed vs Lighthouse: Key Takeaway If there was only one takeaway that you'd take from this post it should be that: While Google PageSpeed uses the information generated by Lighthouse, enriching it with real-world data, Lighthouse delivers you more than just one score. It goes beyond measuring your website's loading times. Do you need to know how fast your website loads from its visitors' perspective? Or do you need to dig deeper? To evaluate more than just its speed, knowing, though, that the results that you'll get are based on lab data only? Now, let's say that you've already made your decision. You've chosen the website analysis tool that best suits your needs and you've run the test on your site. With your list of optimization suggestions at hand... what do you do?  You can either put all your current projects “on hold” and ask your own team to implement those recommendations. Or you can drop us a line and leave it to us. Photo by Dids from Pexels ... Read more
Adriana Cacoveanu / May 29'2020
What’s the Best Drupal Managed Hosting Provider? Here Are Your Top 4 Options
You want it to be easy to use, to provide you with as much automated maintenance as possible and... up to 100% uptime. So, what's the best Drupal managed hosting solution for your needs? And, let me guess: your “feature wishlist” is a bit longer actually:   autoscaling capability multi-site support: you want to be able to manage all your Drupal websites from a single dashboard CDN backups and easy restores on a daily basis support for migration Given your list of requirements, what are your best choices here? I've done my research and narrowed down your options to 4. 4 fully managed hosting solutions for Drupal that you should consider first. Here they are:   But First: Why Managed Hosting? What Does It Really Get You? Why would you want to go for a fully managed hosting solution for your Drupal website(s) instead of a... self-managed one? Because:   you gain so much time; time that you'd otherwise invest in setting the Drupal infrastructure yourself, from the ground up you avoid the risk of getting tangled up in software installation, configuration, infrastructure management (which can turn into a time and energy-consuming ordeal even if you have the know-how to set up a scalable VPS on AWS yourself) you avoid the headache of maintaining a whole infrastructure of Drupal sites you get remote administration that covers mundane, regular operations such as module updating   In short: you delegate your managed hosting provider with everything outside the codebase. Why spend time on the ongoing maintenance of your website when you can invest it in... improving it? In growing it?   1. Pantheon Drupal Hosting   Disclaimer: it's the Drupal hosting that we are using here, at OPTASY. But is Pantheon the best solution for your own use case? For your expectations of a hosting platform? It is if it's a simplified, easy to use hosting solution that you need for your Drupal website(s). One that provides you with:   great support solid tooling  almost instant patching great developer experience ease of use with Drupal high availability and scaling intuitive interface, which makes migrating and cloning your Drupal websites so much easier lots of integrations   But let's see precisely what services it provides you with.   Pantheon Drupal's Key Features   php7 Git 24/7 Drupal support  Once-click core updates  Built-in stagging environments: dev, test, live Global CDN Solr Developer dashboard   2. Acquia, One of the Best Drupal Managed Hosting Solutions   Acquia Drupal hosting is another great option to consider when you're trying to figure out which is the best service for you. Why? Because it provides you with:   some of the best tools: both powerful and easy to use enterprise-level security cloud hosting specifically tailored to suit Drupal websites unmatched scalability: Acquia Drupal 8 hosting powers some of the largest Drupal websites in the world    Acquia Drupal Hosting Key Features   Enterprise-grade security and recovery: a whole set of firewall controls and access and authentication controls; Acquia-hosted websites are known to be better equipped to recover from cyber attacks A hosting platform optimized for Drupal exclusively A turnkey solution: the built-in Node.js support enables you to develop your Drupal back-end apps, as well as your server-side rendered front-end apps, on the same hosting platform Robust development tools: APIs, integrations, and command-line tools that help you build and optimize your apps in no time Real-time monitoring, analyzing, and troubleshooting Close to 100% uptime: Drupal hosting Acquia makes the best choice for you if your uptime and performance requirements are way beyond basic Centralized dashboard for all your websites and a unique Drupal codebase Source: acquia.com   3. SiteGround Drupal Hosting Another popular hosting option for Drupal websites is Siteground, a platform robust enough to withstand the challenges of user-heavy, high traffic sites. It's also the most versatile managed hosting solution on this list, for it meets the needs of both small website owners and enterprise and large organizations. But why would you choose if over other Drupal 8 hosting services? SiteGround Drupal 8 Hosting Key Features   Daily backups 1-Click Drupal installation Responsive support from actual Drupal developers by mail, chat, helpdesk ticket Dynamic NGINX caching (available only on some of the hosting plans) Website transfer assistance with zero downtime   4. Cloudways Managed Drupal Cloud Hosting     Cloudways is not just one of your best Drupal managed to host options. It's also one of the most... different. It allows you to choose the cloud hosting provider for your Drupal infrastructure. You're free to go for Amazon AWS or Digital Ocean, Google Cloud or maybe Vultr, you name it. Why cloud hosting? Because it's easier to scale, more cost-effective, and faster.  In short: it's top performance hosting that scales that you get with Cloudways. But there are also other strong reasons why you'd want to choose to host your Drupal website(s) on Cloudways. Cloudways Managed Drupal Hosting Key Features   Composer support  ease of use: just sift through all the different options that it provides you with through an intuitive UI, select the ones that you prefer via quick one-click access, and set up your Drupal website in no time  HTTP/2 support PHP migration support Free migration SSD-Based Drupal Cloud Hosting CloudwaysCDN you get to host multiple Drupal websites on one server you can add more team members and share server access across your entire team  built-in caching options auto-scalable kyup servers: they downscale and upscale, depending on the amount of traffic on your website(s), with zero downtime managed platform: you can spin up servers and deploy your apps in the blink of an eye   Final Word  The key takeaway is that choosing the best hosting services for your Drupal site(s) is crucial. Imagine that you'd buy yourself a Porsche, but you don't afford a... garage for it. Or its maintenance costs. See my point? When you run your website on a performance powerhouse like Drupal, you need to look for a hosting platform that can match such a robust setup. And speaking of keeping your Drupal infrastructure secure and well-maintained, we have an entire team of Drupal experts that you can delegate your time-consuming maintenance tasks to:   updating Drupal modules running security patches as they get released monitoring your website's performance monitoring it for suspicious activities ...   Just drop us a line and let's tailor a Drupal security and maintenance plan to suit your website(s) needs.   Image by kropekk_pl from Pixabay ... Read more
Adriana Cacoveanu / May 28'2020
How to Perform a Security Audit: 11 Things to Put on Your Checklist (plus, the best tools you could use)
So, you need to do a quick risk assessment of your site. How do you perform a security audit? Are there any quick and easy (and effective) things that you can do to evaluate your website and to detect any security risks lurking in there? And what are some of the tools that you could use? Here are the answers to all the dilemmas stemming from your main question: "Security auditing: what do to?" 1. But First: What Is a Security Audit Report? What do we mean by "audits" in this context?   pentests regular security assessments "security posture" tests auditing logs   And what is a security audit report, more precisely? Source: searchcio.techtarget.com In short: when you run a security audit you evaluate your website's performance in relation to a list of criteria. And, more often than not, you'd want to include other types of security diagnosis into your workflow, as well:   penetration testing: where you (or an expert in your team) simulate the actions of a potential hacker, performing several attacks on your website to test its resilience vulnerability assessment: where you try to identify any security weaknesses  2. What Tasks Should You Put Into Your Security Audit Checklist? Top 11 What should you do in your regular security audits?  What security audit procedures to include? We've put together a list of 11 steps to put on your checklist. So, when conducting a security audit the first step is to: 2.1. Determine the Assets that You'll Be Focusing On Set the scope of your audit: Which are the high priority assets that you'll be scanning and monitoring? For example, your list could include key assets like:   sensitive customer and company data internal documentation IT infrastructure   You can't expect to future-proof your website's improved level security if you're going to use the same vulnerable IT equipment, right? Next, you'll want to set your security perimeter, as well: What are the things that your audit will cover and those that should be skipped? 2.2. List Out Potential Threats You can't build a shield around your website against a "no-name" threat, right? You need to go ahead and name those threats, so you know what to look for and how to adapt your future security measures: Here are just some examples of security threats that you might want to put on your list:    negligent employees using weak passwords for sensitive company data  malware phishing attacks denial of service attacks malicious insiders 2.3. Assess the Current Level of Security Performance Another key step to put on your security audit checklist. Your team could be using the strongest passwords. They could be sticking to rigorous security procedures and best practices. And yet, they might not be informed about the latest methods that hackers use to infiltrate systems... A good evaluation of your organization's current security performance will help you identify precisely weak links like that one. 2.4. Set Up Configuration Scans Using a higher-end scanner will help you:   detect security vulnerabilities  assess the hardening of the PCs   Are there any malware/anti-spyware programs in there? Turned on encryption, settings that are temporarily changed?  Therefore, keep in mind to run some configuration scans, too, when you do a security audit. They make a great "ally" for spotting any config mistakes that people in your team might have made. 2.5. Keep an Eye on Reports (Not Just on the Urgent Alerts) As you put all your focus on urgent alerts, you might be tempted to underestimate the value of the reports generated by your auditing tools. Now, that's one risky thing to do. Instead, you'd want to keep an eye on those reports, for they can be a tremendous source of valuable information. "Information" that might look non-alarming to you now, but, which — with time, if a suspicious activity becomes a routine — can turn into a major threat. One that you'd ignore by... overlooking to go through your reports. 2.6. Monitor DNS for any Unexpected Changes Are there any signs of sloppiness when it comes to the credentials used for your domain? The quicker you identify them, the lower the security risk. 2.7. Run Daily Scans of Your Internet-facing Network As you'll security audit your website, you'll want to be alerted (on a daily basis, if possible) about any "surprising" changes.   2.8. Mirror Your Website Why is this a "must" task to include in your security auditing plan? Because by mirroring your website you spot some otherwise hard-to-access files and directories. You'd be surprised at how many valuable:   internal IP addressing schemes email addresses and phone numbers of people in your team code-related comments software versions server names   ... you can find in those comment fields. 2.9. Perform an Internal Vulnerability Scan How? By opting for an enterprise-level vulnerability scanner. What it does is install an agent on each computer in your organization, that will monitor their... vulnerability level. How often should you run this type of scan?  Monthly or quarterly would be great. 2.10. Run Some Phishing Tests You'll want to set up a routine of sending out fake phishing emails to people in your team. It's still the most effective type of cybersecurity training that you could give your team:   they get a close-to-real-life experience of a phishing attack they can assess their own vulnerability to scenarios where they'd give hackers access to sensitive information (by clicking on links or attachments in a phishing email) 2.11. Monitor Your Firewall's Logs Watch for any inconsistent or unusual behavior in your firewall.  3. What Are Some of the Best Security Auditing Tools You Can Use? Top 5 Now that you have a plan put in place you need some tools to carry it out, right? We've done our research, put together a list, then narrowed down the options to 5 tools that you should consider evaluating first: 3.1. The OWASP Testing Guide A step-by-step checklist that'll streamline your manual testing efforts. Note: running an OWASP top 10 check is one of those "quick and easy" things you that can do for assessing your website's security performance. You'd be testing it for 10 of the most common security risks. 3.2. Burp Suite What if you wanted to put your security audit on autopilot? You could go for Burp Suite to manually analyze your website, then run an active scan. Note: the tool comes in two "flavors", a pro and a free version. 3.3. Nessus If you're looking for an easy to use tool, Nessus Tenable's the one. Use it to track down security vulnerabilities on your website. It's effective and it generates some detailed reports. 3.4. Qualys Web App Scans  Its main selling points:   great coverage accurate reports 3.5. Rapid7  You might want to try their vulnerability scanner.   And 2 honorable mentions: Rapidfiretools.com and Risksense. 4. Final (Wise) Word The keyword that best describes an effective security audit is "on-going": It's definitelty not a one-time event, but rather a routine made of several "healthy" habits that you stick to. A "routine" aimed at helping you formulate a custom set of security solutions:   network monitoring data backup employee education awareness software updates email protection   What if you don't have the resources — the time and the available people in your team — to run a security audit? We're here to help. Just drop us a line and let's tailor a security audit checklist that meets your website's specific challenges. Image by raphaelsilva from Pixabay   ... Read more
Adriana Cacoveanu / May 22'2020
Cross-Platform App Development: 6 Reasons Why You’d Want to Build Your Cross-Platform App with React Native
You've decided to jump on the cross-platform app development “bandwagon” and to build an app that targets both Android and iOS users. An app that works on multiple frameworks and caters to multiple audiences... at the same time. Now, the question that arises is: Why would you go for React Native? Over any other cross-platform app development framework? Why not... Flutter or Xamarin? Or maybe Ionic? What are the key benefits that, as a business owner, you'd reap from going for this particular framework? I've piled together all the reasons why you'd want to use React Native to build your cross-platform app with, then I've narrowed down the long list to... 5 reasons. The strongest ones. Here they are:   But First: What Is Cross-Platform App Development More Precisely? Compared to native app development, cross-platform mobile development refers to: Building a custom app meant to work on several platforms. And to be compatible to multiple software environments. In short: a versatile mobile app that works on both iOS and Android.  Having one codebase, one development team and just one app to test (and to maintain) translates into lower costs. And it bubbles up to the user experience, as well. Now, getting back to the best possible answers to your legitimate question: “What are the advantages of React Native for cross-platform app development?” … here are 5 key reasons why you'd lean towards this framework:   Reason #1: It's Cost-Effective Why? It's pretty obvious:   React Native allows you to code once and use the same codebase for any operating system; you get to (re)use the same code for both Android and iOS development it provides you with platform-specific UI elements there's only one JavaScript codebase to... test; fewer test cases for you to “juggle with” since you only need to fix all bugs and errors once   Reason #2: You Can Quickly Prototype an App React Native accelerates your prototyping process, so you can:   get a functional cross-platform app up and running in no time collect valuable user feedback much quicker   If you run a startup betting on a highly innovative app idea or a product company, the speed at which you manage to turn your idea into a prototype and to release it to the market is crucial.   Reason #3: Brand-Aligned and Consistent User Experience  “Why would I choose React Native as my cross-platform app development solution?” Because it helps you keep consistency in your app's UI design. Users get to interact with the same UI elements, irrespective of the platform that they use your mobile app on. Which instills a sense of familiarity and delivers them a uniform user experience...   Reason #4: You Expand Your Audience  And this is the first reason that you'd get in any “native app development vs cross-platform” debate. As a cross-platform mobile app development framework, React Native enables you to widen your app's reach: You build one app for both Android and iOS users. Reason #5: You Build Your Mobile App Faster Why go for React Native over other cross-platform app development frameworks?  Because it speeds up the development process: Your development team can put together a mobile app faster thanks to the pre-built components that React Native provides them with. Do they need to implement certain functionality into your cross-platform app? They stand high chances to find it, already coded by other React Native developers, and free to be deployed in your own app.   Reason #6: You'll Only Need One Development Team A single team, that has hands-on experience working with a set of technologies. Speaking of cost-effectiveness, right? Moreover, by having a unique team handling all the stages of your project you avoid a scenario where too many teams risk to... sabotage one another. And to compromise the app project itself.   Final Word: React Native's the Right Cross-Platform App Development Solution for You If...   you're a startup you're a small-medium company  the time factor is critical for you and you need to prototype a mobile app in no time ... with as little resources as possible   Don't have a React developer in your team? We've got you covered. There's a whole team of React Native developers here, at OPTASY, ready to help you. Just drop us a line.  Tell us about that innovative mobile app idea of yours, the functionalities that it should incorporate, and... we'll get back to you with a draft plan. Image by ijmaki from Pixabay   ... Read more
Silviu Serdaru / May 19'2020
How to Speed Up a WordPress Website: 11 Universal Ways that You Can Make It Faster (With and Without a Plugin)- Part 2
I'm back with the rest of 5 simple ways to speed up a WordPress website. So, grab your pen and paper and get ready to take notes. As promised, I'll pin-point only easy tweaks that you can make to your website and boost its performance. So, let's dive right in:   Add Page Caching via a WordPress Caching Plugin How to Speed Up a WordPress Website: Minify Your CSS and JS Files Clean Up Your Database Switch to a (More) Lightweight Theme Enable GZIP Compression, The Fastest WordPress Speed Optimization Technique   7. Add Page Caching: Use a WordPress Caching Plugin for That  Here's how caching improves your site-loading speed: It creates – and stores on the server – static files for each page/post on your WordPress site. So, once a user accesses any of those pages, your website delivers the content much faster. In short: by adding page caching, you speed up your WordPress website's response to search requests. For this, you'll need to consider choosing an effective caching plugin for your website. And you definitely don't run out of options there. But if we were to make a very drastic selection, we can honestly say that you'll find the best plugin to speed up your WordPress site with on this shortlist:   W3 Total Cache (vetted by Neil Patel himself) WP Fastest Cache WP Super Cache  Cache Enabler    Tip! Pair your Wordpress cache plugin with a powerful caching mechanism like Varnish and you'll double your website's page loading speed. 8. How to Speed Up a WordPress Website: Minify Your CSS and JS Files Another quick and easy way to reduce page load time on your Wordpress site is to minify your resources (aka CSS and JS files). To cut down on the number of calls and on these files' sizes, as well. How? You can either:   do some manual fixing, following the steps on the Google PageSpeed   or go with a plugin to streamline the whole process   9. Clean Up Your Database Since WordPress is database-driven, it's crucial that you clean up your database of all the:   spam comments old drafts fake users pingbacks post revisions tables transient options   A measure that falls into the “reducing overhead” category, like the technique of removing all the unused plugins, that I've mentioned in Part 1. This way, you keep the size of your database to a minimum. Which will minimize the size of your backups, as well. And why do everything manually when there's at least one plugin for it? One that'll put the whole database clean up process on autopilot. WP-Optimize, for instance.  Once enabled, it'll take you just a few clicks to delete most of your database build-up. Moreover, you can schedule it to remove residual content automatically.   10. Switch to a (More) Lightweight Theme Now, you might wonder also: “How do I speed up a WordPress website without a plugin?” Going for the lightest WordPress theme is but one valid option. In other words, resist the temptation of choosing a theme that “seduces” you with a parade of dynamic elements, social icons, sliders, widgets... glitz and glamour. In most cases, these shiny elements translate into:   higher page sizes a higher strain on the web server   Tip! Go for the most simple, lightest theme/template and build all the additional functionalities that you might need on top of that base.  When in doubt, choose one of the default WordPress themes! Tip! If your WordPress site's a particularly feature-rich one, go with a theme that uses a robust framework like Foundation or Bootstrap.   11. Enable GZIP Compression, The Fastest WordPress Speed Optimization Technique And this is the “simplest” technique, as well. Just enable GZIP compression and start saving valuable bandwidth usage and reducing the page load time on your WordPress site. Here's how it works: GZIP compresses different files on your website, so that when a user tries to access it, his/her browser will first need to unzip the site. This way, you bring down the bandwidth usage.  And, as you can guess, there's at least one plugin that enables GZIP compression. Take PageSpeed Ninja, for instance...   The END! Our list of 11 simple ways that you can speed up a WordPress website ends here. Struggling with low speed on your WordPress site? Do you need help implementing and adapting these optimization techniques to your own website? We're here to help. Just drop us a line and let's put together an optimization battleplan for your site! Image by deanmarston432 from Pixabay    ... Read more
Silviu Serdaru / May 13'2020
How Do You Stay Productive When You Work Remotely from Home? 6 Advice from Team Members at OPTASY Who’ve Been Doing It for Years
The walls start to close in on you... You're overwhelmed. You just can't get as much done as when you were in the office. Then, you start to feel guilty and anxious... all the time. What can you do to stay productive when you work remotely from home? To give you an honest answer, I've run a small “investigation” inside the OPTASY team. I've asked some of my colleagues about the best advice they'd give to anyone who's now adapting to remote work. Most of us work from home, yet for these “interviews” I've selected those team members who've been doing it successfully for quite a few years now. So, here they are: 6 tried and tested tips for setting yourself up to perform when working from home.   1. Resist the Temptation to Work from Bed/Couch Our colleague Dinu Rodnichi, one of the web developers here at OPTASY, stressed out the importance of the “ass in chair time” for higher productivity. So, if you're wondering “How can I be productive working from home?” this is one of the right answers: Sitting at your desk (as you normally would in the office) tricks your mind into thinking that you're "at work". “For me, working from my desktop PC instead of my laptop is critical. It forces me to sit at my desk instead of laying in bed or lounging on the sofa. I've noticed that I always get things done faster by just sticking to this small habit.” Note! It would be unwise of me to advise you to buy yourself a desktop PC if you've been working from your laptop for some time now (at the office here included). But working at a desk, that's so doable (and budget-friendly).   2. Designate A “Work Zone” in Your Home  It could be your kitchen table when it's not used for... home cooking experiments.       Or your dining table, if squeezing in a new desk or turning an entire room into a home office sounds a bit too sci-fi to you. The idea that our delivery manager, Radu Camerzan, insisted on was: “Once you've turned a corner, half of a table or a room into your work space, use it for work and work only. At least during work hours. Don't get your mind all too confused by using the same designated work space to prep your dinner, sort out laundry or... watch Netflix, while still “at work”. Another reasonably realistic solution to implement when you work remotely from home, don't you think?   3. Set a Work Schedule (And Stick to It) The golden rule for staying productive (and keeping your work/life balance) is to force a work schedule on yourself.  And here is Radu's second answer to your legitimate question “Why working remotely doesn't work?”: “Set your work hours and get things done during that time interval. Setting a time limit for your daily tasks challenges you to be more efficient. To avoid the trap of working more, but doing less. It makes it easier for you to maintain the boundary between worktime and family or “You” time.”   4. Use a Good Pair of Headphones When You Work Remotely from Home “What do I need to work remotely from home?” You definitely don't want to be stingy with your headphones (another one of Radu's best advice for working from home novices):   they'll help you soundproof your work zone from domestic noise that might risk getting your out of the "zone" they'll upgrade your video calls (and there're going to be plenty of those these days) they'll do your favorite music justice (if you fall into the “Can't work without my music” category)   5. Hone and Adjust Your Communication Skills This is one of the "working from home" tips coming from Sandu Camerzan, our delivery manager (yes, we have 2 of them at OPTASY). If you have none... you'll need to start developing some.  Whereas if you think your communication skills are excellent, you still need to keep honing and adjusting them to the new context:   new communication channels (e.g. talking face to face, at the office, vs talking over the phone or engaging in video calls) planned communication (the new carefully scheduled scrum meetings and video calls replace the old “coffee breaks” and chats in the office about the projects you were working on) new environment (e.g. having phone calls while driving to the nearest the store, for more supplies, or as you fix yourself a quick lunch)   In short: you'll want to double your flexibility stocks in order to cope with these new types of communication challenges. Make it a goal to develop a new communication style. A more:   flexible: show a little empathy; those from the other side of the line/screen face the same communication challenges clear and concise sincere   … way of communicating with your team and clients.   6. Every Morning, Write Down Your 1-3 MIT (Most Important Tasks) My advice to you, from my own work from home experience (for I, too, work remotely from home... for +3 years now) is: In other words, be realistic: life happens and... even so more when you work from home. Unplanned homework needs to be checked, spills cleaned up, pets entertained. Or your better half has an emergency Skype video call to take. And maybe you two are sharing the same “work zone” these days... So, my best advice to you (which is not “mine”, actually, but learned from Leo Babauta, the one behind the “zen habits" method) is: Every morning (the earlier the better) write down your 1-3 most important tasks of the day. Those that you set yourself to get done that day, no matter what. Multi-tasking is so overrated, so mind you stick to those 3, 2 or just one “task of the day” and don't get your mind focused on anything else before you've carried it out. Better have even just one high priority task done by noon or by the end of your work day, than to juggle with multiple ones and... finish none.   The END! These are the OPTASY team's 6 advice for you on how to stay productive when you work remotely from home. What's your recently discovered hack for keeping yourself up to perform at home?  Let us know in the comments below. For we're constantly revising and adding new powerful habits to our personal routines, that could help us get even more productive while working in our slippers. Image by imperioame from Pixabay   ... Read more
Adriana Cacoveanu / May 12'2020
How to Speed Up a WordPress Website: 11 Universal Ways that You Can Make It Faster (With and Without a Plugin)- Part 1
“How do I make my WordPress site faster?” you ask yourself. And let me guess: you want to address this challenge – how to speed up a WordPress website – the easiest way possible... So, what you're looking for is some effective and universally applicable tweaks that you could make on your own website without much fuss, right? You're in the right place, then... For in this post (Part 1) I'll be listing and detailing 6 of the 11 simplest ways to make your WordPress site faster:   Use a CDN: Deliver Content from the Nearest Possible Server How to Speed Up a WordPress Website: Compress Your Images Minimize External Scripts Upgrade to PHP 7 (At Least): A Simple WordPress Optimization Step to Take Switch To a Better Hosting Provider (With a Dedicated Server) Remove the Plugins that You Don't Need   So, let's dive in:   1. Use a CDN: Deliver Content from the Nearest Possible Server Do you serve content to an international audience? Then using a content delivery network is a must for you. Here's precisely how it'll reduce the page load time on your WordPress site: It serves your static files (e.g. your images) to your visitors based on their geographic locations.  In other words: if a user's located too far from where your website's hosted, a CDN will deliver the static content on your website from the data center nearest to him. A CDN  helps you keep the site-loading speed to a minimum when your website's accessed from different corners of the world. All there's left for you to do is... a little digging. See which are the most popular CDN services out there (Cloudflare, MaxCDN, KeyCDN, etc.) and evaluate their offerings against your specific feature needs. And budget.   2. How to Speed Up a WordPress Website: Compress Your Images More often than not the (too) large, high-resolution images are the “usual suspects”. So, the no. 1 rule is to compress your images.  Or, better said: to optimize your image files – aka to reduce their size with no compromise on their quality. And here you have 2 options:   you either compress them manually, in Photoshop, Chrome PageSpeed, or by using any other tool of your choice or you just use a WordPress plugin: WP Smush, Optimole, EWWW Image Optimizer, etc.   3. Minimize External Scripts Keep your font loaders, ads, and other external scripts to a minimum. They're one of the main reasons why your WordPress website's loading so slowly. 4. Upgrade to PHP 7 (At Least): A Simple WordPress Optimization Step to Take Because PHP 7 is significantly faster than its predecessors (e.g. PHP 5.6). Here, again, you have 2 options:   you either upgrade the PHP version yourself or you ask your hosting provider to give you a hand   Note! Needless to add that it's critical that you opt for a host that supports this version of PHP.   5. Switch To a Better Hosting Provider (With a Dedicated Server) Hosting is the no.1 culprit for a WordPress website's poor performance. And that because:   a badly configured web hosting server has a huge impact on your page load time a shared hosting environment won't guarantee you decent loading times at high-traffic hours; your website's sharing the same server with many other sites...   So, if it's a shared hosting provider that your website's running on, consider this: Unlimited emails, domains, bandwith and the many other features that a sharing hosting plan might “seduce” you with can't compensate for the... slow loading times and the clogging of RAM and CPU. So, one of the best answers to your “How to speed up a WordPress website” dilemma is: 6. Remove the Plugins that You Don't Need Want to make your WordPress faster? Start by decluttering your plugin collection. Are there any plugins that you've... never used? Get rid of them! Why? Let me give you just one example of how a heavy load of plugins can slow down your WordPress site: The more plugins that you have there, the larger the size of your backup will get. And this will only put an unnecessary strain on your server with every backup file that's generated for these non-essential plugins. You might want to consider replacing them with third-party services that serve the same purpose.   END of Part 1! Has any of these 6 steps on how to speed up a WordPress website caught your attention? Do you consider switching to a new hosting provider and you need some expert advice on which one to go with? Or maybe you're having trouble identifying the plugins that are unnecessarily bogging down your site? We're here to help. Whether it's just a recommendation of what CDN to use or putting together and implementing an entire optimization strategy for your WordPress site, just drop us a line. And stay close for the second round of WordPress speed optimization tips in Part 2! To be continued... Image by PublicDomainPictures from Pixabay ... Read more
Silviu Serdaru / May 07'2020
How to Make Icons Accessible to the Widest Range of Users? 10 Best Practices
Material icons, flat icons, thin icons, ready-made or fully custom, on-brand icons... No matter what type of web icons you opt for, the same rule applies: the need to be visible to all users. So, you ask yourself: "How to make icons accessible to... everyone?". For, in vain you go with an eye-catching web icon design if its color contrast is so low that some users just don't see it. Or if it's interactive, but only when... mouse clicked. See my point? Therefore, in today's post I'll tackle aspects like:   what accessible icons are what goes into making icons accessible: most effective approaches and best practices what are the different types of web icons and the specific techniques for making them accessible    Let's dive in:   1. What Are Accessible Icons More Precisely? What makes an icon accessible to screen reader users? What requirements should it meet to be fully inclusive? Here are the 6 most important things to consider when you're designing accessible icons:   1.1. Make Them Noticeable For, it's pretty logical:  If an icon's not instantly perceivable to all visitors, it becomes inaccessible. And by "instantly perceivable", I mean that users shouldn't be constrained to perform some sort of action in order to make the icon... visible. 1.2. If It's Purely Decorative, It Shouldn't Be Read Out One of the best practices for designing accessible icons (decorative icons) is to skip the part where the ALT text gets read out to screen reader users. That's because, in the case of a decorative icon, informing the user about its existence on the page (e.g. "There is a key icon!") is just... superfluous. Which leads us to the next requirement that all "wannabe accessible" web icons should meet:   1.3. Always Add a Text Label The magnifying glass icon is universally recognized as a "search" tool. But that's the only universally recognizable icon... Therefore, it's best to play safe if you want your icons to be accessible to the widest range of visitors. Whether you have a hamburger menu icon or a house-shaped one, accompany it with a text label to prevent any ambiguity.   1.4. Keep in Mind the Color Contrast  This is one of the recommendations on top of any "How to make accessible icons" list that you might stumble upon: Make sure there's enough foreground-background color constrat in your icons, so that visitors with different levels of visual imparirment can easily notice them.   1.5. Make Sure They're Properly Sized And by "properly sized" I mean somewhere around 44x44 pixels. Pay particular attention to the size in the case of icon links: Any smaller than 44x44 pixels and they become inaccessible on smaller devices: some users won't be able to click on them.   1.6. Make Sure They're Mouse, Touchscreen, AND Keyboard Accessible Have you decided to "sprinkle" some interactive icons across your website?  Then make sure that users can easily click on them whether they use their mouses, they tap on their touchscreens or they depend on their keyboards for that. 2. How to Make Icons Accessible: 10 Approaches & Best Practices  Now that we've gone through "what" makes an icon accessible, let's get to the "how-to" part: How can you make your web icons more accessible for screen readers users? Here's a list of simple approaches and valuable tips to consider:   2.1. Consider Pixel Measurements and Square Dimensions  Most icons have square dimensions.  And if you're curious which are some of the most frequently used sizes for web icons, here are some popular examples:   128x128 16x16 512x512 64x64 256x256   2.2. The Easiest Way to Make Your Linked Icons Accessible Is to... ... add an ALT-text that lets the user know what the link does. What its destination is. For instance, you can add "Email us" as the ALT-text accompanying your "@" email icon. 2.3. When In Doubt, Choose an SVG or a PNG File Format  Even if some prefer the SVG icons systems, while others choose to go with PNGs (making icons accessible is easier with that file format), all web designers agree on this: Icon fonts should be the very last option to consider.   2.4. Make Sure Your Document and Your Icon Are The Same Size    2.5. See that There's Enough Icon-Background Color Contrast Will you be adding your web icon to a background?  If it's a yes, then check and adjust the color contrast.   2.6. Check Your Icon's Size Before Exporting It The 6th tip on our "How to make icons accessible" is pretty... predictable: All web icons should be properly sized prior to export, making sure they're not too large.   2.7. Hide the Text Accompanying the Icon, but Keep It Visible to Screen Readers Let's say that you've inserted an explanatory enough copy text within your link icon, but you don't want it to be visible to all users.  You want it to be visible to screen readers only. For this, you can use a visible-hidden class selector.   Word of caution! Going with this solution does call for 2 compromises:   the click/touch area is smaller screen reader users might not understand what that icon does (the VoiceOver will then read something like: "internal link, home"). 2.8. Accompany Your Semantic Icons with Visible Text to Avoid Ambiguity "What's a semantic icon?" you ask?  A standalone icon that has meaning.  Now, if you want to make sure you'll prevent all situations where users might just overlook it, just add a visible "Menu" text next to it. This way, its meaning will be 100% clear to anyone.   2.9. The Simplest Way to Make Icon Fonts Accessible Is... ... to add aria-hidden="true" to the element. Note: again, whenever possible, avoid icon fonts and opt for inline SVGs instead.   2.10. Skip Adding ALT-Text to Text-Based Icons Let's say that you have an "Email Us" linked icon.  Now, it would be quite superfluous to have an ALT text added to, saying the same thing to the screen reader user, wouldn't it? In this case, the icon is purely decorative, since the copy text around it already conveys the meaning on its own.   The END! Now you have at least 10 different answers to your "How to make icons accessible to the widest range of users" question. But maybe you need help choosing the best approach and implementing these best practices in order to make your brand icons more accessible.  We're here to help! Just drop us a line and let's find the most suitable solution for making your web icons available to everyone visiting your website. Image by Виктория Бородинова from Pixabay  ... Read more
Adriana Cacoveanu / May 06'2020
How Good of a Website Analysis Tool Is Google Lighthouse? 6 Reasons to Use it (plus, OPTASY.com Lighthouse score)
“What's the best audit tool that I can use to check my website's performance?” you ask yourself. Why would you consider Google Lighthouse? How reliable is its scoring system? And how accurate are the results that it provides? Now, let's get you some answers on:   what is how to use  why you'd want to use … the Google Lighthouse testing tool. 1. What Is Google Lighthouse? Before we get into the “Why”, let's see “What” the Google Lighthouse score is, actually: It generates separate scores for different aspects on a web page, like:   SEO rundown of best practices accessibility performance PWA   In other words: it evaluates precisely the factors with the strongest impact on the user experience (page load time, anyone?). What you get is a report on the measures to take in order to fix the identified issues. And to hopefully get a maximum Google Lighthouse score next time...   2. How Do You Use Google Lighthouse? And here we tackle one of this testing tool's biggest selling points: ease of use. Now, there are 3 ways that you can run a Google Lighthouse report:   2.1. Use it Right in Chrome DevTools  The simplest way to run this audit tool on your website is to:   Download Google Chrome for Desktop (if you haven't done that already) Enter the web page's URL in your browser Click F12 to open up your Chrome Developer Tools (or just click “Inspect” anywhere on the page) Hit the “Audits” Tab Click “Perform an audit” (you'll see there the aspects of your website that it's about to check: SEO, Accessibility, Performance...) Hit “Run Audit” to have Google Lighthouse generate your audit report directly through your browser   Easy peasy... 2.2. Install the Lighthouse Chrome Extension If you prefer to run this website analysis tool as a Chrome extension, just:   Download Google Chrome for Desktop Install the extension from the Chrome Webstore Go to the web page that you want to test Click the “Lighthouse” icon newly added to your Chrome address bar Hit the “Generate Report” button   Just wait for about 30-60 seconds for the tool to inspect the page and generate the results in a new tab. Source: developers.google.com   2.3. Run It Via the Node.js Command Line  If you're more of a CLI person, you'll find this workflow more suitable:   Again, if you haven't downloaded Google Chrome for Desktop already, now it's the time Install the latest version of Node.js   Install Lighthouse by typing npm install -g lighthouse into your command line Next, enter the lighthouse <url> to run an audit   Note: use the lighthouse –help command to get an overview of all the options. That's it! Note: it's an HTML version of the audit report that you'll get when you run Google Lighthouse via the command-line tool. Just so you know it. Tip! There's also a... forth way to use the Google Lighthouse audit tool, probably one of the quickest ways to run your report:   Just go to web.dev Click “TEST MY SITE” Enter your URL  Click “RUN AUDIT”   And voila: you'll have your Google Lighthouse score generated for that particular web page in no time! 3. 6 Reasons Why You'd Use Google Lighthouse (And Why We're Using It) Now that you know precisely what it is and the different ways that you can use it: Why would you choose this particular website auditing tool over... all the other testing tools out there? To give you an honest answer, let me share with you the key reasons why we, the OPTASY team, are using it on our clients' websites and even on our own site:   it's so easy to use: why compromise ease of use for accurate audit results, when... you can have both? it's Google-developed (not just a no-name third-party testing tool) it's open-source it's fully automated it tests how the scanned web pages look and perform on mobile devices, as well it's user-centric metrics that it provides: what's the point of optimizing a website merely for our own “fame and glory” and... risk losing sight of the user's own expectations?   Whether we're:   building a new website for one of our clients optimizing a client's existing website optimizing OPTASY.com itself   … and we want to check how well its web pages perform, we just run a Google Lighthouse audit. And speaking of using it on our own website, here's a sneak peek into the Lighthouse Score that it's got after we put it through some major optimization work: In short, the scoring system and suggestions of improvement that Google Lighthouse generates make the best "barometer" for us to:   assess the quality of the audited pages (in case of an existing website, so we know what we're dealing with) evaluate our work (after we've built/improved a website) identify existing issues and prepare our “To Do” lists to get them fixed   4. Final Word  Do you want to learn more about how to use Google Lighthouse to its full potential? About how you can boost your Google Lighthouse performance score, like we have for OPTASY.com? Or maybe you've already generated a report, you have the list of recommendations at hand and you need help to implement them on your website? Either way, we're here to help. Just drop us a line. ... Read more
Adriana Cacoveanu / May 01'2020