Hosting WordPress Sites » Go with WP Engine or Dreamhost

There are a lot of hosting companies out there, and some of them are a lot more reputable than others. Certain companies also specialize in hosting WordPress specifically, whether that means they have a 1-click-install option or are fully geared towards WordPress sites only.

In my experience hosting dozens of sites over the years, there are only a handful of hosts that I would recommend. Below are my 2 most frequent recommendations.

1. WP Engine

WordPress Specific Premium Managed Hosting

My top choice for WordPress Hosts these days is WP Engine. Their prices start at $29.99 per month, then go up to $99.99 per month for higher traffic sites, and $249.99 per month for heavy traffic sites.

They are more expensive than shared hosts simply because they hire WordPress engineers and have built a rock-solid system to make sure your website is up and running smoothly all hours of the day. What’s more: they take care of security, scalability, and speed.

I have never seen any downtime with WP Engine for the over 6+ months that I have tested them out. This is a level of service that’s extremely hard to find, hence the price. The upper tiers of service include a built-in CDN which makes your web pages load a lot faster and also gives you an edge with Google since site speed is now a factor in SEO.

2. Dreamhost

Inexpensive Easy 1-Click WordPress Hosting

My top choice for budget conscious people has been Dreamhost. Over the past 6 years, they have delivered the best shared hosting experience I’ve ever had. They have a 1-click WordPress install function right in the dashboard which makes it easy for anyone – even a beginner – to install WordPress in minutes. You can get your site up and running in no time.

They have a “deluxe install” option, which basically means they preload your WordPress “Appearance” (themes) panel with a bunch of built-in themes and also add a number of plugins. I generally opt not to do this and unclick that option since I like to install themes and plugins deliberately. However, this might be a good option to leave checked for a novice who is just starting out with WordPress.

Even WordPress themselves recommend Dreamhost on their recommendations page. Given their track record – though not as reliable as WP Engines with small bouts of downtime – Dreamhost’s service is really solid for a shared hosting environment.

They’ve even been voted as one of the best-shared hosts by Lifehacker readers as well as given the title “best WordPress hosting of 2012“ by other bloggers.

WordPress Hosts to Avoid

Whichever host you end up choosing for your WordPress blog, I highly recommend you do not go with these providers since I’ve had terrible experiences with them or know how unsatisfied my friends have been with using them:

Building First WordPress Site

8 Quick and Easy Resources For Building Your First WordPress Site

WordPress is arguably the best blogging platform out there. With its customizable themes, user-friendliness and SEO rewards, you’ll benefit greatly from learning the skills to work with WordPress. Through building your first site, you’ll learn about theme design and blog layout, and in the long run, enjoy easy maintenance and management. Below is a list of the top resources to help you to become a successful WordPress designer.

Building First WordPress Site

1. WordPress Guide

This is an interactive, step-by-step guide to building your WordPress site from the ground up. It’s extremely helpful if you have not had previous exposure to WordPress, because it walks you through to the launch from setup, to design and navigation, to content and backend design. If you have used WordPress but need help with the more technical aspects, you can easily skip to the steps that apply to you.

2. Tutorials

Many blogs offer tutorials for WordPress, and WPArena contains a wide variety of WordPress tips that are updated regularly. We, not only has tutorials but also gives advice for making the most of your site’s capabilities and themes. With the purpose of providing tips and how-to’s for everyone, WPArena Team also posts answers to WordPress questions so that others who have the same question will get an answer. Thus, it contains a sense of community – full of help and communication for WordPress users.

3. Videos

If you prefer visual tutorials to written ones, the official WordPress website offers an array of video tutorials to show what you’ll be doing. It hosts tips about everything WordPress, from choosing premium themes, effective digital marketing and easy ways to search engine optimize your site.

4. Theme blog

WordPress.org is a great source for learning all about themes, getting downloads and receiving advice on creating your own themes. The WordPress Community are dedicated to developing and improving themes for millions of WordPress users. They offer their own custom downloads to the open source community to ensure you get the theme that best fits your business.

5. Inspiration

If you’re in need of some inspiration, a great way to elicit creativity is to browse a large library of stock photos, like Shutterstock. You can search a collection using keywords, and when you find images you like, you can use the Photo Lightbox to accrue a collection of photos. You can build different categories of lightboxes to refer back to for inspiration. That way, your ideas will not escape you and you can always revisit your collections.
Another great perk about creating a lightbox is that you can email it to yourself or share it on your social networking sites, so you can build a community that gives you greater access to photo inspiration.

6. Blog Help

WPArena offers all kinds of tips and tutorials for WordPress. It also contains a section dedicated to providing all the best tips for writing quality articles for your blog. If you’re not a writer, this is a very helpful resource for helping you write awesome content, as well as implement maximum search engine optimization benefits for your site.

7. Cheat Sheet

After you get going on your WordPress site and you have a pretty good hold on how it works, it’s always good to have a cheat sheet to refer back to if you come to any roadblocks. The sheets from Tuts Plus categorize different codes into theme structure, category based loops, template and blogging tags, navigation menu, etc. so if you ever want to change the structure of your blog, you have the code right there.

8. Content Filler Plugins

When you’re designing your blog layout, you probably won’t have all the writing needed to fill the pages yet, so it’s helpful to use filler text to visualize what your pages will look like. Here’s a list of dummy filler plugins to fill the text sections of your layouts.

These resources cover a wide range of WordPress help, so use these as you are developing your WordPress design skills to create the best site possible. Enjoy!

improving-site-design

5 User Interface (UI) Tips For Improving Site Design

User interface (UI) design is always changing and evolving to fit the needs of web users. While trends come and go, solid user experience techniques are continually being refined and improved. This progression can be seen through different elements that frequently crop up across web designs. Here are a few tips to make your site easy to use and to improve site design.

improving-site-design

#1: Quick Registration

If there’s one thing internet users don’t like, it’s long registration processes that prolong them from browsing or purchasing. Asking for a lot of unnecessary personal information is also a good way to scare people off. Require minimal information to create an account, and make it easy for return customers to sign in.
Zappos offers several options for checking out, like signing in with your email address (which is easier than remembering a username), creating an account, or logging in via your Amazon account. All these options are quick and easy, and the benefits of each are displayed to help you choose.

#2: White Space and Accent Color

Sites with a lot of information, especially ones like eCommerce sites, often become cluttered with all the products and information they offer. Many successful websites have started using white space and minimal color to de-clutter the design and emphasize its functionality.

Russell Athletic uses Amazon’s eCommerce software to present a clean and open layout. Its navigation is clear and actionable.

Storyville Coffee is successful in using both white space and a signature color throughout. The soft, neutral background highlights products, and the bright red calls attention to essential elements to create an attractive and functional design.

#3: Reviews and Ratings

The internet is a great place for people to connect and sympathize with each other. Customers and readers can share experiences, often with more trust than they have in what the company has to say. Create an opportunity to rate your products or comment on your post to engage visitors and keep your material relevant.

Many people go straight to Amazon’s customer reviews for feedback on products because of its convenient system. It allows you to rate and make comments, and then it shows overall results and groups similar statements.

#4: Breadcrumb Navigation

Guide your visitors to your site by showing them the path they’ve followed. It’s a good idea to implement this into the checkout process as well, to demonstrate the number of steps in the process.

Free People has several subcategories under each category of clothing, so it’s helpful to see a map of what you’ve already seen.

#5: Progressive Disclosure

Showing related items to customers and hiding irrelevant information until sought out is an effective way to de-clutter your interface. It also gives indicators for action and promotes items that the clients are interested in.

Victoria’s Secret suggests both related product items, as well as accessories to complete an outfit. Both encourage people to keep browsing and make a satisfying purchase.

While of course creativity and uniqueness are both vital to great web design—ultimately, easy to understand user interface is crucial is you want your readers or customers to stick around and convert into returning visitors.

5 Tips For Improving Your Bounce Rate

A website’s average bounce rate indicates the percentage of visitors who click off before following any other links — either to go deeper into the site or to move to an affiliated page. With Google Analytics, you can also keep track of bounce rates for each individual page, helping to establish which pages are engaging users effectively and which need work.

If you’re still in the process of familiarizing yourself with Google Analytics’ many functions, take a quick look at this easy-to-follow analytics guide. Once you have a handle on Analytics, there are a few simple ways to begin working towards better bounce rates.

bounce-rates

1. Site Speed

Despite being one of the most important factors controlling site usability and bounce rates, site speed is often overlooked. But if your web pages are slow to load this can mean that visitors to use site lose confidence before they’ve even begun to explore. To see what speed your website is running at try this simple site speed test. And remember that speeds can differ from page to page, so be sure to run thorough checks.

2. Quality Content

If you’re not sure about the quality of your content, try asking yourself a few questions:
• Who is your audience?
• What kind of content do they need? (Simple information or in-depth tutorial? Blocks of text or graphics and video clips?)
• How can you make your content unique? (Particularly in comparison with competitor sites.)
• Does your content fill an informational gap in your niche?
Once you have the answers to these questions, it should be clearer how to work on your content. You should also look into creating a content strategy.

It’s worth remembering that Google also values content quality when compiling search results and Google’s definition of quality could be useful to you as you develop your site.

3. Call To Action

One way to get your users instantly engaged with your site is to make content actionable. This means giving web users something to do. This could be information or tutorials to encourage users to try something for themselves — a yoga pose or a recipe, for example. Or it could be as simple as having a ‘buy it now’ or ‘try it’ button on each page, like Intuit.

But don’t overload your site with multiple calls to action, as this can be confusing. Carefully consider the style, tone, and type of call to action for your site.

4. Intuitive Navigation

Make it easy for people to find what they need on your website. Keep navigation tools simple and clear. Using familiar layouts is a good place to start. If it’s clear what a site can do and how to explore it, users will give it more time.

5. Engaging Design

Make sure your design appeals to your target audience. Aesthetics need to reflect both the brand and who it’s for. Keep things clean, clear and easily digestible. There’s plenty of space to be creative with links and information presentation, just as long is your creativity does nothing to obstruct a clear pathway through your site.