Website Redesign, Part Four

It’s been a little while since my last update, but very little has changed since then. The backend is, for the most part, about where I want it in terms of extensions, plugins, and functionality. Sluggish or conflicting plugins have been torn out whenever an issue crops up. They have been either substituted with better alternatives or I’ve learned to make do without that particular functionality. Less is more, right?

I’m pretty happy with the website backup functionality I have set up, once it all fell into place properly. Besides using Dreamhost’s usual rolling 2 weeks worth of daily backups, I have a backup that takes place once a week that is pushed offsite, and another offsite backup solution that occurs daily and anytime I make a change to the site. It also scans the backups for any malware or security issues, etc.

Except for the current theme, and with a few minor differences, this website is now mostly using the same set up I am using for my web-shop over at American Bogan™ which is also now running on WordPress, by the way.

I may pick a different theme and re-arrange things after a while. Between theme juggling and vacillating between keeping the blog as the homepage, making the About page the homepage, or just building a dedicated homepage, I’m clearly just wallowing in my normal over-pickiness and really should just relax about it, right?

So I guess this is it. After all this techy talk and random political rants, whodathunk that this was actually a photography blog run by a portrait and event photographer in the Boston area, right?

Moving forward, there should be no more major changes to this website, and I can start concentrating on posting about photography and showing off photos I’ve taken to all of you!

Website Redesign, Part Three

I think that I am, for the most part, done with major changes to this website. After Part Two, I created an About page to act as a a quick-and-dirty photography portfolio. I like the built-in block patterns that Twenty Twenty-One has, so I used them to build three sections to highlight the boudoir, portrait, and fire performer photography parts of my portfolio. I may change it around a little more, down the road, but it stays for now.

I am un-decided on if I should make the About page the homepage of this website and put the blog on its own separate page or keep it the way it is. Frankly, I kinda like it this way, but I am not fully sold on it. I guess that until I decide for certain, it can stay in this format with the blog stream front-and-center. It feels very Livejournal in that way, and I miss LJ.

On the back-end, the biggest change was that I removed Jetpack completely. It may or may not be a bloated mess, depending on who you listen to, but it tends to trigger a lot of processes behind the scenes that can bring this website to its knees quickly, if I am not careful while mucking around on the backend and don’t want to bump up to the next managed WordPress account tier just for the extra resources to be made available.

A fairly rudimentary website with a blog and a small print-on-demand merchandise shop’s backend shouldn’t need that kind of heavy resource allocation, especially when another website I built has an e-commerce shop and Jetpack running on a basic shared-hosting account, right?

I also pulled out an abandoned-cart plug-in that I had been using for a little while. It was free, so it isn’t a financial issue, and it did do its job a year ago. Once. To be frank, I really have no need for any abandoned-cart functionality on a website that is primarily a photography-centric blog.

After some thought, I decided to place this website back behind Cloudflare, mostly to give an additional CDN layer that makes up for removing Jetpack, especially where serving images to your web-browsers are concerned. Anything that I can do to reduce the overall load on the servers while improving the security-posture at the same time is helpful.

It also helps that I included modifying some basic PHP settings so that I didn’t have processes running, or waiting, for a ridiculous amount of time and tying down available RAM unnecessarily. I also added some appropriate security headers to other files on the server.

My next challenge will be to migrate my main e-commerce shop away from Shopify to WordPress. I know I have written about it before, but the process is a bit daunting and sometimes I feel like my time is better spent elsewhere (like marketing?) whenever possible.

I may end up deciding to keep it where it is, even though the longer it remains the harder it will be to drop Shopify. *sigh*

Anyway, I should be done with 95-98% of the redesign as far as this website is concerned.

How do you like it?

Website Redesign, Part Two

Still slowly chipping away at this project. A couple of pages needed some light tweaking after changing to “Twenty Twenty-One” for consistency, but that was mostly it.

I’ve re-built my Contact page to fit the theme, re-wrote copy to hopefully sound a bit more approachable and with more of an authentic voice. Getting it to work after several test-emails and getting the form to fit the page well took some behind-the-scenes finagling. The Contact Form that I’d been using was part of SiteOrigin’s collection of modules and plugins that I removed so I needed to find a new one.

WP-Forms is commonly installed with most WordPress hosting. It’s basic and heavily spams with built-in ads for the other integrations they sell. Meh. I didn’t want to use Contact Form 7 as it tends to be a fairly heavy plug-in. The point of this project is to speed things up on the website, not slow them down. I also didn’t want to just use a clickable link to email with and open myself up to every email-scraping bot in existence.

Anyway, I think I found one that I like and it has some spam-protection so that should help with reducing the inevitable torrent of spam-via-contact-form emails. It also fits well with the “Twenty Twenty-One” theme.

Under the hood, I removed a couple of heavy plug-ins and either got rid of them completely or found lighter-weight versions to work with. For SEO related functionality, I looked over the following, and decided against them:

  • Yoast – Bloated and ad-heavy
  • Rank Math – Inconsistent

I’m using a somewhat lighter SEO framework, in keeping with the simplicity and efficiency I am aiming for. So far, so good.

Speaking of buggy plugins, I removed Pixel Caffeine as it was causing random crashes that led to heavy slow-downs when editing a blog-post. I don’t really know if it is worth using Facebook’s Pixel on this particular site anyway, as it doesn’t really use Facebook Re-targeting Ads. More important to me is that after making these changes on the back-end, editing and updating seem a lot snappier than it had been for a few months.

And now I’ve got a better Contact Page as a result!

Website Redesign, Day One

Gutting the Website

So far, I am enjoying my photography website’s re-design project. I’ve removed about a dozen plugins and replaced them with smaller, leaner options; removed the Astra theme, deleted all the categories and tags for the blog, menus, widgets in the footer, deleted different pages (Contact, About, etc) and I deleted the SiteOrigin page-builder and it’s many modules.

New Foundation

Instead of using a different page-builder, I’m opting to stick with Gutenberg and it’s block-based system for both the blog and building various pages. Mostly for simplicity’s sake, partially for the challenge, and partially to remove page-builder bloat.

I also decided to go with the default 2021 WordPress theme as the baseline. Colors are pleasing, typography is gorgeous, content is big and bold, it all looks great on a big screen or smartphone, and it does not have a lost of bloat.

Sensing a theme here?

The Plan Moving Forward

Ultimately, I am looking to build this site into a photography-blog centered website but one that still has room for me to write about things as I will. I’m a photographer, but also I am a human being with a lot to say that doesn’t necessarily fit Facebook.

The blog will be the focus, the rest of the site will be built around it.

Please feel free to leave your thoughts in the comments below and I hope you all enjoy this re-designing journey with me!

Back to the Basics

After taking some time to look closely at my website and evaluate what I want to accomplish with it, I decided it was time to give it a complete make over.

What started me on this process was that there’s a lot of talk about missing Livejournal among my friends and so I want to bring back that sense of conversation and community as much as possible. I think that for my website’s re-design, I am going to go for a much more radical simplification and will strip things down to the basics while putting the blog’s content front and center.

The pages it will contain will also be stripped down to the basics: About, Contact, Policies, and a basic Shop (it, too, will be simplified). It will also include re-working the back-end, reducing plugins and functionality down to the absolute minimum needed.

It will remain on a managed WordPress installation with Dreamhost (Affiliate link) rather than reducing it down to a shared-host account, mostly because of the attached WooCommerce shop and server-level caching and reverse-proxy that the DreamPress account provides.

If it means tearing out the page-builder and it’s myriad modules, so be it. If it means reducing the topics and categories, then that too. If it means removing or re-writing past posts, then I’ll do that, too. Switching themes to a default theme and working within it’s limitations is completely an option, too.

Minimal, functional, and deceptively simple.

I feel up to the challenge.