We met on Monday March 19, 2018 at the North York Civic Centre. It was our largest “Let’s Fix Your Site” meetup yet with 25 people in attendance, over 80% who RSVPd showed up at the door! We skipped the introductions to conserve time for attendees fixes. We began with discussion on WP’s growth in the market (30% of all websites now run on the platform) and announced the WP Toronto weekend Meetup April 21st on Analytics – sure to be interesting. Attendees were asked to write their issues on the March meetup page ahead of time to give their fix priority, and it turned out to be an effective way to approach the group session.
Greg of www.pantysalad.wpengine.com was the 1st to post his request on our meetup page so we started with him. He is having trouble formatting his theme. We found he was using twentyfourteen. It was responsive but only to a point and nicer on small screens than large ones. Reg offered a way to modify the display settings and being more precise could help. Some themes are built for WooCommerce. Greg wanted to add columns to his homepage and the 2014 theme was not allowing it effectively. Dan found a code fix online and updated Greg after the meet-up:
“Hi Greg, looking at the CSS, there is a container which is limiting the width of the products to 474px. If you override that class and enter a higher value, for example- 1600px, the products will spread the width of the page. See 2 screenshots: Before After”. Greg is now trying to decide if he wants to work within the code or just find a better suited shopping theme and migrate his content over. www.themeforest.net was suggested to find options.
Jacqueline told us how Divi by Elegant Themes (self proclaimed Best WP Theme Of 2018) gives away great extras on Black Friday including free pre-designed themes with a 1 year subscription.
We continued to discuss the importance of having a staging or dev site apart from the production site, so testing and modifications can be made on the testing site and not on the live production site. The discussion continued into doing development on WordPress themes. We should expect at some point to lose your site when learning development, so it was imperative to have both a back-up and a tested way of restoring it. The best way is to have your host take care of that type of administration. Managed WordPress providers offer back-ups and support, and may offer you a clone site to work on. There are plugins for this purpose but they reside on your site that’ll be down at the time. For this same reason it’s best to have a host who provides both easy backup and instant restore procedures.
Jo G was wondering about what plugins she should keep and which she should add. She had plugins from her theme, plugins from bluehost (who install plugins like bloatware on your site in the hopes you pay them to activate them) and she installed some on top so there were some duplicates (e.g. Akismet has anti-spam so you don’t need another anti-spam plugin) and some that weren’t deemed so great (total cache, hello dolly, bluehost). Advice is to only have those plugins that you need and activate only those features in those plugs that you’re using. Less is more with plugins – they can affect your page load speed.
Mindy wanted to know if you need to hire an SEO expert. Since there is a lot you can do on your own to make sure that your site has good SEO, she was directed to the notes from the February week-end WordPress meetup notes on the subject.
The questions was posed as to which Google Analytics plugin to use since there are so many to choose from. We were advised to choose one that allows you to set and track your goals and can easily present the information you want. It is better to set and track goals on the Analytics platform itself and use a plugin only to add the actual analytics code onto the site. If the plugin also displays statistics, that’s nice to have, but not needed.
We talked about how to figure out our page speed. Reg spoke of finding the page speed in the Developer Console on Google Chrome (under network) but it might be easier to use tools.pingdom.com or webpagetest.org. If you go into Incognito mode using ‘new incognito window’, you can test your own site from your own computer because it won’t rely on caches or sessions.
Rafi had a question about which staging-to-production process is recommended for WordPress. (“I would prefer to be able to make changes and test them on my local machine and then push them to the live site, but that is a hassle as I am using drag and drop via FTP and in the case of posts and pages, duplicating my work. How would I go about using Git to handle version control for WP? Or are there different solutions that are more suited to WP?”)
Rafi was informed that managed WordPress hosts offer staging sites. These sites have ‘Promote’ buttons but there are cautions on relying on it too much because things could go wrong. Having version control is important and its best to have both your staging and production site on the same server because server configurations change often enough.
Bisma is using WordPress Multisite for her company’s main website and their private Customer Portal. She has issues with plugins breaking and strange 404 messages that only happen sometimes for pages she knows exist. She also want to make both sites bilingual. Her company is using multisite on the recommendation of a past developer, but using a plugin to restrict access to certain pages would be an easier way to accomplish permissions. Multisite was made for the very specific use case of a way to have thousands of subsites like at a University and shouldn’t be used for just two sites.
Multisite’s complexity is probably what is causing the issues with plugins and maybe even the 404s (she needs to be able to reproduce the steps to get the 404 before it can be definitively resolved). Unfortunately this means that she has to build a new site: set up a subdomain with a good host and migrate the content. Maybe even have to reset all customer passwords. Plugins suggested for permissions are Ultimate member, Restrict Pro and S2 Member.
As for making the site bilingual, WP Multilingual was suggested although is was cautioned that WPML is a complex plugin and will probably require developer help. Polylang is said to be easier and quicker to configure but also has a smaller developer group working with it compared to WPML since it’s not as popular.
We spoke about email marketing programs and the Mailchimp add-on for forms. Amy was having slowdowns by using Mailchimp’s hosted form. There are alternate forms and lightbox plugins that can be used to integrate a local Mailchimp form.
Charisse is trying affiliate marketing but is struggling to embed the links in her site. There’s an Amazon link builder plugin. Amy encouraged to sign up for Canada, US and UK and not to worry about the administration charges or taxes because she is Canadian. Also she was warned not to send the link in email, social media. Disable your blog post from being distributed by email or have friends click on links because Amazon will find out and ban you for life from the affiliate program.
Reg had a question about permalinks and the inability to set them in WordPress. Check the permission of .htaccess file in the root WordPress directory. It is probably not being overwritten properly.
Sophie is helping a friend on the http://endometriosisnetwork.com/ which has been hacked by Legion BOmb3r @ErrOr SquaD. It was determined that these hackers have created 50,000 nefarious pages on the site. You can see how many pages your site has by typing in the google search box:, site:and then your url.
The theme was behind in its version which opened the site up to the attack. The site’s description is found in wp-admin settings > general and look at the description. So the advice was to update everything, make sure there is no user named Admin and use a strong password. It is probably easier to recreate the site than deal with the corrupt site. Migrate the pages of information to the new site and when you’ve got it looking the way you want, change the DNS to point to the new website. Wordfence is a way to see the attacks on your site.
Patrice has a site for image consulting but has changed the direction of her work to include health and wellness support and training. She was wondering the best way to incorporate this new facet into her existing website. It was suggested that she develop a new site instead and to have her existing image consulting site point to a page on her new site. She was also encouraged to use the business model canvas to determine what should be on the new site. Filling in the information on the canvas provides you with the exact language that should be on your homepage so it’s a handy tool to define your business and create the content of your website.
Next meeting is April 16th. Details on time and room to be published when City of Toronto confirms with us. We look forward to receiving your information ahead of time on the site so we can review your issues and help you out.