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How We Made WordPress Faster than Static Site Generators (Case Study


On the 10th anniversary of WPBeginner, I shared that WPBeginner hosting infrastructure got a huge upgrade thanks to our web hosting partner, HostGator.

Shortly after, I started getting emails from readers asking me to share the details on how we made WPBeginner load blazing fast.

Yes, WPBeginner load faster than most static site generators and in some cases faster than Google AMP sites too.

In this article, I will give you behind the scenes look at how we made WordPress faster than static site generators and headless CMS platforms.

Speeding up WPBeginner - Behind the Scenes

Note: This article is a bit more technical than what we typically publish on WPBeginner. For non-techy users, I recommend following our ultimate guide on how to speed up WordPress.

Background

Lately WordPress has been getting a lot of bad rep from “modern” developers where they say WordPress is slow.

The statement is usually followed up with, you should switch to a JAMstack static site generator like GatsbyJS. Others in the enterprise world will say that you should switch to a headless CMS like Contentful.

Several of my very successful entrepreneur friends started asking me whether this was true.

Some even started the process of migrating to a headless CMS because they read case studies of how others unlocked huge speed improvements by switching from WordPress to static site generators.

This was very frustrating for me because I knew they were wasting tens of thousands of dollars in migration costs. Not to mention, the endless customization costs that will rack up in the future.

So I took it as a challenge to prove that a large WordPress content sites like WPBeginner can load just as fast if not faster than most modern static site generators.

You can call me old school, but at the end of the day, a static site is just a page loading from cache.

Results

Before I jump to the exact WordPress hosting infrastructure, server configurations, and plugins, I think its helpful to share the results.

Here’s how fast WPBeginner home page loads on Pingdom from their Washington, DC server:

WPBeginner Homepage Pingdom

Depending on the time of day and location you check from, this result will vary anywhere from 400ms – 700ms range which is pretty fast for a homepage.

Here’s a test that I ran for a single post page since it has bigger images and more content:

WPBeginner Single Posts Page Speed Test from Pingdom

We also got a perfect score of “100” in Google page speed test for desktop. Although we do have some room for improvement on mobile score.

WPBeginner Google Page Speed Test

The results above are for cached pages which is what our readers and search engine bots get when they view our website. The perceived load time of WPBeginner is near instant (more on this later).

For the sake of comparison, here’s a speed test result for Gatsby’s homepage. This is a popular static site generator that a lot of developers are raving about:

Gatsby Homepage Pingdom

Here’s the speed test result of Netlify’s homepage, a popular static site host, that a lot of developers recommend. Notice that they have half the amount of requests, and their page size is 30% of WPBeginner, yet it still loads slower than our homepage.

Netlify Homepage Pingdom

The homepage speed of Contentful, the headless CMS which is “how enterprises deliver better digital experiences” is just not optimized at all. This was the slowest website we tested.

Contentful Homepage Pingdom

I am sharing these stats not to discredit the other frameworks, but rather to give perspective that not all new things are as shiny as they may seem.

WordPress with a proper hosting infrastructure and optimizations can be just as fast as any static site generator. Furthermore, no other platform will even come close to the level of flexibility that WordPress offers to business owners through its large ecosystem of plugins and themes.

WPBeginner Hosting Infrastructure

When it comes to website speed, nothing plays a more important role than your web hosting infrastructure.

As many of you already know, I have been a HostGator customer since 2007. I started the WPBeginner blog in 2009 on a small HostGator shared hosting account.

As our website grew, we upgraded to their VPS hosting and then dedicated servers.

Over the last decade, I have gotten a chance to work closely with many of their team members, and they have become an extended part of the WPBeginner family.

So when I took on the challenge to make WPBeginner faster than static site generators, I turned to them for help.

I shared my vision with their leadership team, and they offered to help me build one of a kind enterprise hosting setup for WPBeginner.

They put the best engineers from both Bluehost and HostGator team to work closely with me to make WPBeginner blazing fast.

Here’s an overview of what the WPBeginner hosting setup looks like:

WPBeginner Hosting Infrastructure

As you can see, this is a multi-server setup spread across two geographical regions (Texas and Utah). There are a total of 9 servers not including the load balancer cloud. Each server is a Xeon-D CPU with 8 cores (16 threads) with 32GB RAM and 2 x 1TB SSD (RAID setup).

We are using Google’s Cloud Load Balancing platform, so we can have seamless autoscaling and load balancing, worldwide.

Once the hardware was setup with proper data syncing in place, the Bluehost and HostGator team worked together to optimize the server configurations for WordPress. My hope is that some of these optimizations will soon make it into future WordPress hosting plans :)

Server Configuration Summary

Summarizing the server configurations of this complex setup in just a few paragraph is very tough, but I will try my best.

We are using Apache for our web server software because the team is more familiar with it. I won’t go into the NGINX vs Apache debate.

We are using PHP 7.2 along with PHP-FPM pools, so we can handle high loads of processes and requests. If your hosting company is not using PHP 7+, then you’re missing out on serious speed optimization.

We’re using Opcode caching with an advanced cache warmer to ensure that no real user should experience an uncached pageview.

We’re also using Object cache with memcache, so we can improve the response time for uncached page hits and other API response times in the WordPress admin area for logged-in users (our writers). Here’s a network load tab of our “All Posts” screen in the WordPress admin:

WPBeginner Post Edit Screen

To put in perspective, our admin area experience is now 2X faster than what we had previously.

For our database server, we switched from MySQL to MariaDB which is a clone of MySQL but faster and better. We also switched from HyperDB to LudicrousDB because it helps us improve our database replication, failover, and load balancing.

There’s also a lot of other configurations that helps us with performance and scalability such as HTTP/2 and HSTS for faster connection + encryption, ability to spin up additional servers in new regions in case of datacenter outage, etc.

I feel like I’m not doing justice to the amazing setup that the team has built, but please know that my core strength is marketing. Yes, I am a blogger who writes about WordPress, but a lot of the technical optimizations here are way above my pay-grade.

They were done by super smart engineers in Endurance team including David Collins (chief architect of Endurance / CTO of HostGator), Mike Hansen (core WordPress developer), and others whom I’ll thank in the credits section below.

CDN, WAF, and DNS

Aside from web hosting, the other areas that play a significant role in your website speed is your DNS provider, your content delivery network (aka CDN), and your web application firewall (WAF).

While I have it listed as three separate things, a lot of companies are now offering these solutions in a bundled plan such as Sucuri, Cloudflare, MaxCDN (StackPath), etc.

Since I want to have maximum control and spread the risk, I am using three separate companies to handle each part efficiently.

WPBeginner DNS is powered by DNS Made Easy (same company as Constellix). They are consistently ranked as the fastest DNS providers in the world. The advantage of DNS Made Easy is that I can do global traffic direction when a specific data center on my CDN or WAF isn’t working properly to ensure maximum uptime.

Our CDN is powered by MaxCDN (StackPath). They basically allow us to serve our static assets (images, CSS files, and JavaScripts) from their large network of servers across the world.

We’re using Sucuri as our web application firewall. Aside from blocking attacks, they also act as another layer of CDN, and their overall performance is just amazing. I believe they have the best WordPress firewall solution in the market.

When working on website speed optimizations, shaving off every millisecond matters. That’s why using these solution providers combined with our new web hosting infrastructure makes a huge difference.

To illustrate, here’s the waterfall breakdown of WPBeginner.com vs GatsbyJS.org vs CloudFlare.com:

Waterfall Breakdown of Requests on WPBeginner

Notice that WPBeginner’s DNS time, SSL time, Connect time, and Wait time are all top notch when compared to these other popular websites. Each of these improvements compound to deliver the best results.

Instant.page, Optimized Images, and Other Best Practices

One of the things you might have noticed is the near instant load time when you browse WPBeginner posts and pages.

Aside from all the things I mentioned above, we’re also cheating latency by using a script called instant.page which uses just-in-time preloading.

Basically before a user clicks on a link, they have to hover their mouse over that link. When a user has hovered for 65ms (very short period of time), one out of two will actually click on the link.

Instant.page script starts preloading that page at this moment, so when the user actually clicks the link a lot of the heavy lifting is already done. This makes the human brain perceives website load time as nearly instant.

To enable Instant.page on your site, you can simply install and activate the Instant Page WordPress plugin.

Instant Page Script

This script is pretty neat. I highly recommend checking out their website and clicking on the “test your clicking speed” button to see how it cheats the brain.

Optimizing Images for Web

While there are new image formats being developed such as webp, we’re not using them yet. Instead we ask all of our writers to optimize each image using the TinyPNG tool.

You can also automate the image compression using plugins like Optimole or EWWW Image Optimizer.

However, I personally prefer to have the team do this manually, so we’re not uploading large files on the server.

Currently, we’re not doing any lazy loading for images, but I do plan to add it in the near future now that Google has lazy loading support built-in to Chrome 76.

There’s also a ticket in WordPress core to add this feature on all sites (really hoping that this happens soon), so I don’t have to write a custom plugin.

Limiting HTTP Queries + Best Practices

Reduce cross-domain HTTP requests

Depending on the WordPress plugins you use, some will add additional CSS and JavaScript files on each page load. These additional HTTP requests can get out of control if you have a lot of plugins on your website.

For more details, see how WordPress plugins can affect your site load time.

Now before you jump to the wrong conclusion that too many WordPress plugins are bad, I want to let you know that there are 62 active plugins running on the WPBeginner website.

What you need to do is combine CSS and JavaScript files where possible to reduce HTTP requests. Some WordPress caching plugins like WP Rocket can do this automatically with their minification feature.

You can also follow the instructions in this article to do it manually which is what our team at WPBeginner has done.

Aside from HTTP requests that plugins and themes add, you also want to be mindful of other third-party scripts that you add on your website because each script will impact your website speed.

For example, if you are running a lot of advertising scripts or retargeting scripts, then they will slow down your site. You may want to use a tool like Google Tag Manager to conditionally load scripts only when they’re needed.

If you’re an ad-supported website like TechCrunch or TheNextWeb, then there’s very little you can do about this since removing ads isn’t an option.

Luckily, WPBeginner doesn’t rely on third-party ad scripts to make money. Want to see how WPBeginner makes money? See my blog post on WPBeginner income.

Lessons Learned (so far) + My Final Thoughts

This is a brand new hosting infrastructure, and I’m sure there are tons of lessons I will be learning overtime.

So far I love the speed improvements because it has helped us boost our SEO rankings, and our admin area is much faster.

With the new multi-server setup, we introduced a new deployment workflow to bring WPBeginner up to par with the rest of Awesome Motive product sites.

What this means is that we now have proper version controlling built-in, and there are measures put in place to stop me from being reckless (i.e adding plugins without proper testing, updating plugins from the dashboard without testing, etc).

These changes also set the path for me to finally step out of development and hand over the reigns of WPBeginner site to our dev team.

I have been resisting this for years, but I think the time is coming, and I just need to accept it.

The new setup does not have cPanel or WHM, so this makes me practically useless anyways since I’m not very fluent with command line anymore.

So far we have learnt two big lessons:

First, updating WordPress isn’t as straight forward due to server sync / replication. When we upgraded my personal blog (SyedBalkhi.com) to WordPress 5.2, the update files didn’t sync properly on one of the web nodes, and debugging took much longer than anticipated. We’re working on building a better build / testing process for this.

Second, we need to have better communication across teams because we had a minor crisis with load balancer misconfigurations which resulted in some downtime. To make it worst, I was on a transatlantic flight on Turkish Airlines, and the WiFi wasn’t working.

Luckily everything got sorted thanks to the quick response time by the hosting team, but this helped us create several new Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) to better handle the incident in the future.

Overall I’m very happy with the setup, and I know that some of the caching configurations / optimizations that were made for WPBeginner will become a standard part of HostGator Cloud and Bluehost WordPress hosting plans.

I think this should go without saying that if you’re just starting a website, blog, or an online store, then you DO NOT need this sophisticated enterprise setup.

I always recommend that you start small with HostGator shared or Bluehost shared plans like I did, and then upgrade your hosting infrastructure as your business grows.

You can apply a lot of the optimizations that I shared above on your current WordPress hosting plans.

For example, Bluehost standard plan already comes with a built-in caching plugin that you can use, and they offer PHP 7 by default as well.

You can combine that with a CDN + WAF like Sucuri to significantly speed up your website.

Now if you are a mid-market / enterprise company who wants a similar hosting setup, then please reach out to me via our contact form. I can help point you in the right direction.

Special Thanks + Credits

Thank you HostGator and Bluehost

While in the article above, I have given tons of shout out to HostGator and Bluehost brands, I want to take a moment to recognize and appreciate the individual people that worked behind the scenes to make it happen.

First, I want to say thank you to the Endurance leadership team Suhaib, Mitch, John Orlando, Mike Lillie, and Brady Nord for agreeing to help me with the challenge.

I also want to thank Mike Hansen, David Collins, Rick Radinger, Chris Miles, David Ryan, Jesse Cook, David Foster, Micah Wood, William Earnhardt, Robin Mendieta, Rod Johnson, Alfred Najem, and others in the data center team for actually doing the hard work and making it happen.

I want to give a special shout out to Steven Job (founder of DNSMadeEasy) for quickly answering my questions and helping me better understand some settings. Also want to give a shout out to Tony Perez and Daniel Cid at Sucuri for always having my back.

Last but not least, I want to give special recognition to Chris Christoff. He’s the co-founder of MonsterInsights, and he was kind enough to help me with a lot of the testing and deployment.

I really hope that you found this behind the scenes case study about WPBeginner hosting infrastructure to be helpful. You may also want to see our ultimate guide on how to speed up WordPress which is way more beginner friendly.

Bonus: Here are the best WordPress plugins and tools that I recommend for all WordPress sites.

If you liked this article, then please subscribe to our YouTube Channel for WordPress video tutorials. You can also find us on Twitter and Facebook.



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How to Add a Search Bar to WordPress Menu (Step by Step)


Do you want to add a search bar to your WordPress navigation menu?

By default, WordPress lets you add a search section on your website sidebar, footer, and other widget-ready areas. However, many users prefer to have the WordPress search box in the navigation menu because it is easily noticeable on the top.

In this article, we will show you how to easily add a search bar to your WordPress menu without having any coding knowledge.

Adding a Search Bar to WordPress Menu

Why You Should Add a Search Bar in Menu?

A site search makes it easy for your users to find what they’re looking for without leaving your website. It helps improve user experience on your website and boosts engagement.

This is why most usability experts recommend adding a search option in the navigation menu, so users can easily find it.

However, the default WordPress search widget is limited to only widget-ready areas.

Luckily, there are many different WordPress search plugins which let you add the search bar to different locations on your site including menus.

For this tutorial, we have chosen the Ivory Search free plugin. It allows you to create new custom search forms and enhance the default WordPress search.

With that said, let’s take a look at how to add a search bar to your WordPress menu.

Adding a Search Bar to WordPress Menu

First thing you need to do is to install and activate the Ivory Search plugin. For more details, see our step by step guide on how to install a WordPress plugin.

Upon activation, you need to visit Ivory Search » Search Forms page to create a new search form.

Ivory Search Include Options

The plugin automatically adds the default search form, so you can quickly review its settings and add it to your WordPress menu.

Search settings allow you to select which content on your website should be included in the site search.

The ‘Includes’ section lets you choose which post types, posts, pages, category, custom fields, etc. should be included in the search query. You need to review the options and click the Save Form button.

Next, there is the ‘Excludes’ section, which lets you define the content that you don’t want to show in search results. Once done, click the Save Form button again to store your settings.

Ivory Search Exclude Options

The ‘AJAX’ section lets you enable AJAX functionality for your search form.

Ivory WordPress Search Bar AJAX Settings

The ‘Options’ section lets you define how many results to show per search page along with other advanced settings.

Define Search Results Per Page in Ivory Search Plugin

Now your custom WordPress search form is ready. Once again, don’t forget to save your settings.

After that, the next step is to add the search form to your navigation menu. Simply go to Ivory Search » Settings page to configure the search bar to your WordPress menu.

On this page, you will see the ‘Select Menu’ tab. From here, you can simply toggle the menu where you would like to add the search bar.

Select WordPress Menu to Show Search Bar

This list of menus (Primary Menu and Footer Menu) belongs to your WordPress template. If you change the template of your site, then the list will be automatically updated with the available menus from your template.

After that, you can choose the search style from the Form Style accordion below.

The plugin allows you to display the search form in five different styles: Default, dropdown, sliding, full width, and popup.

Ivory Search Form Styles

If you like, you can further customize the options by going to the ‘Settings’ section below ‘Menu Search’.

From there, you can add your search form to the header, footer, manage mobile display for search, and more. These settings will also help in controlling the search results for your users.

Ivory Search More Settings

Once you are satisfied, make sure to save your settings. After that, you can head over to your website to see the search bar in the WordPress navigation menu.

Search Bar in WordPress Menu Preview

We hope this article helped you learn how to add a search bar to a WordPress menu. You may also want to see our list of most useful tips to speed up WordPress and boost performance.

If you liked this article, then please subscribe to our YouTube Channel for WordPress video tutorials. You can also find us on Twitter and Facebook.

The post How to Add a Search Bar to WordPress Menu (Step by Step) appeared first on WPBeginner.



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How to Build a WordPress AJAX Form (in 4 Easy Steps)


Do you want to build an AJAX contact form in WordPress?

AJAX contact forms allow users to submit the form without reloading a page. This enables you to increase user engagement while offering a better form submission experience to your users.

This comes in handy when you run an eCommerce website and want to collect user feedback without diverting user attention.

You can also use the same AJAX functionality for other custom forms on your website. For example, a custom user login form will allow users to login without an additional page load.

In this article, we will show you how to easily build a WordPress AJAX contact form with step by step instructions.

Creating an Ajax contact form in WordPress

What is Ajax and Why Use it For Your Forms?

Ajax, short for Asynchronous Javascript and XML, is a JavaScript programming technique which allows developers to transfer data without reloading a page.

It is most commonly used in web forms allowing users to submit form data without reloading a page. This makes form submission easy and fast, which improves the overall user experience.

Web applications like Gmail and Facebook extensively use this technique to keep users engaged while making everything work seamlessly in the background.

You can also use Ajax for your WordPress forms. It will save users from unnecessary page reload and keeps them engaged on the page they are currently viewing.

That being said, let’s take a look at how to easily make a WordPress Ajax contact form in 4 simple steps.

1. Install WPForms Plugin

First thing you need to do is install and activate the WPForms plugin. For more details, see our step by step guide on how to install a WordPress plugin.

WPForms is the best WordPress form builder plugin on the market. It allows you to easily create Ajax powered forms aswell.

Upon activation, you need to visit WPForms » Settings page to enter your license key.

WPForms license key

After entering the license key, you’ll be able to receive automatic updates and install add-ons.

You are now all set up to make beautiful ajax forms in WordPress.

2. Create Your First Form

Let’s go ahead and create your first form.

Simply visit WPForms » Add New page in WordPress admin area. You’ll be asked to provide a title for your form and select a template as a starting point.

Choose form template

For the sake of this tutorial, we will be creating a contact form. However you can create any other type of form you need.

WPForms will now load your form with basic fields already added to it. You can simply point and click on any form field to edit it.

Editing form fields in WPForms

You can also add any new form field from the left column by simply clicking on it. The new field will appear at the bottom of your form just above the submit button.

Click to add a new form field

You can easily drag and drop form fields to move them up and down in the form.

Once you are finished editing the form, you can move on to the next step.

3. Turn On Ajax Form Submission Feature

WPForms does not enable Ajax form submission by default. You will need to manually enable it for your form.

Simply switch to the Settings tab in the form builder and check the box next to ‘Enable AJAX form submission’ option.

Turn on Ajax form functionality

Checking the box will turn on the Ajax functionality for this form.

Now let’s set up what happens after the form submission.

First, switch to the ‘Confirmation’ tab under settings. This is where you inform your users that you have received their form submission.

Confirmation settings

WPForms allows you to do that in different ways. For example, you can redirect users to a URL, show them a specific page, or simply display a message on screen.

Since we have enabled Ajax functionality for the form, redirecting users to another page will defeat the purpose of creating an Ajax form.

You need to select the message option and edit the confirmation message. Feel free to use the formatting toolbar on the editor or add a link or two to tell users where to go next.

After that, you can set up how you would like to be notified about a form submission.

Switch to the Notifications tab in the form settings and configure notification email settings.

Form notification email settings

Once you are done, you can save your form and exit the form builder.

4. Add Your Ajax Enabled Form in WordPress

WPForms makes it super easy to add forms into your WordPress posts, pages, and sidebar widgets.

Simply edit the post or page where you want to add the form and insert the WPForms block to your content area.

Add WPForms block to WordPress post or page

After that, you need to select the form you just created from the block’s settings. WPForms will immediately load a live preview of the form in the content editor.

Select your form

You can now save or publish your content and then visit your website to test the form’s ajax functionality.

Ajax contact form preview

You can also add your form to a sidebar widget in WordPress. To do that, go to Appearance » Widgets page and add the WPForms widget to a sidebar.

Add your ajax powered form to a sidebar widget

Select the form you created earlier and click on the Save button to store widget settings. You can now visit your website to see your Ajax powered form in action.

We hope this article helped you learn how to create a WordPress Ajax contact form for your website. You may also want to see our guide on how to create a contact form popup in WordPress.

If you liked this article, then please subscribe to our YouTube Channel for WordPress video tutorials. You can also find us on Twitter and Facebook.



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Announcing WPBeginner Growth Accelerator Fund (Round 2)


Last year, I decided to do something that was never done before in the WordPress community. I created the WPBeginner Growth Accelerator, first-ever growth fund focused entirely on WordPress businesses. Today, I want to take the exciting steps and open up the second round of applications as well as share the results from last year.

Introducing WPBeginner Growth Fund Round 2

Note: Applications will be closed on September 30, 2019

What is the WPBeginner Growth Accelerator Fund?

WPBeginner Growth Accelerator Fund is the first-ever growth fund focused entirely on WordPress focused businesses.

As part of this accelerator, we will invest between $100k to $2M in a small group of WordPress focused businesses. Along with the investment, we will work intensively with founders to refine and optimize their existing product / processes by using the Awesome Motive playbook.

Companies will also get to benefit from our vast media resources and the business network that we have built over the last decade.

The Story Behind WPBeginner Growth Accelerator

Over the last decade, we have spent a lot of time talking to users and figuring out how to make things people want. Usually we can see fairly quickly the direction in which an idea should be expanded to make the biggest impact.

It took us a long time to get to this level, and I would have never been here without the help of my mentors and other amazing entrepreneurs who were kind enough to share their wisdom with me.

This kind of mentorship is available in a lot of other verticals, but it’s not openly available in the WordPress business community.

A lot of WordPress entrepreneurs expressed interest in joining the Awesome Motive family, have me join their board, or getting an investment from me to fast-track their business growth. Few also expressed their frustrations about lack of investor interest in the space.

The problem is that the WordPress market is not very well understood by investors. And frankly, majority of WordPress businesses are not large enough to meet their criteria.

But this doesn’t mean that WordPress businesses don’t have the potential. It’s quite the opposite – they have a lot of potential. There are tons of opportunities to grow in the WordPress ecosystem with the right playbook, and I want to help prove that.

After a lot of thought and discussion, I decided to create the first WordPress-focused growth accelerator fund to help boost the WordPress small business community.

Results from Our First Round of Investments

In the first round (last year), I invested in 3 WordPress focused companies that represented 5 WordPress products including MemberPress, Pretty Links, Affiliate Royale, Formidable Forms, and SeedProd.

We worked closely with each founder to unlock tremendous growth in each businesses by optimizing the marketing strategy, improving internal processes, and even launching new products.

SeedProd launched a brand new product, RafflePress, which I can honestly say is the best WordPress giveaway plugin in the market.

MemberPress and Pretty Links saw tremendous growth in all areas including product, operations, and overall revenue. I’m really excited about the new product launches and features they’re going to be releasing (can’t share too much more).

Here’s a quote from Blair Williams, founder of MemberPress about his experience with the accelerator:

I’m so glad we joined the Growth Accelerator — it’s been awesome for our business! Not only have we had direct access to Syed but also the other companies in the Growth Accelerator & Awesome Motive. Having this type of ‘cross-pollination’ with these other companies and their seasoned owners in our industry has helped us take our business to the next level. We now have a clearer vision for the future, are operating much more efficiently, serving our customers better and seeing more success than ever before!

Formidable Forms has seen some amazing growth in both their product as well as business revenue. They released a brand new form building experience and a whole new website design. The new features they’re working on is very exciting because they’re continuing to push the limits of the advanced WordPress form experience.

We made a joint decision to not reveal revenue numbers or exact percentage growth since each company is privately held, but I can truly say that I’m very very happy with the growth.

Here’s a quote from Stephanie Wells, co-founder and lead developer of Formidable Forms:

Before joining up with Syed in the Accelerator program, I was burned out and in need of a change. We were growing slowly, but nothing I did seemed to make a difference. Within a month of working with Syed, we were gaining traction. For the first time, I was learning how to manage my team and company instead of just being the developer.

With an amazing, experienced advisor, I no longer feel like I’m paddling frantically in circles. When I lose focus or get distracted, our retreats and meetings get me back on course. The rest of the Awesome Motive and Accelerator companies have also proven to be an invaluable resource. I’m ridiculously lucky to get a piece of that endless resource of knowledge and experience.

I can proudly say that the last year has been huge success for all accelerator companies, and I’m really excited for our second bi-annual accelerator retreat coming up in two weeks where I get to spend time with these super smart and talented entrepreneurs whom I have an honor of calling my friends.

We’re going to close 2019 with a bang, and I’m really excited to see all the amazing new features and products that are in the pipeline for each accelerator company as well as my Awesome Motive portfolio companies.

Along with that, I’m also excited to open up the second round of the WPBeginner Growth Accelerator Fund for WordPress focused companies who’re looking to take their business to the next level.

How Does the Accelerator Work (Format and Philosophy)

One of the questions I get asked a lot is how does the Growth Accelerator work? The best way to answer that is by sharing our philosophy as well as the format we use.

Our Philosophy

We know that independence is one of the main reasons why people want to create a business in the first place, and it’s also one of the reasons why businesses succeed. Our goal is to interfere as little as possible with the day to day.

We believe that founders of WordPress-focused companies are great at hacking. We want to empower them with our framework and resources to do just that.

Most investors offer a combination of money and help. In our case, money is by far the smaller component. We want to share our experience, knowledge, and resources (collectively “needle-movers”) to help founders unlock extreme revenue growth.

We will offer a lot of advice, but we will never force anyone to take it.

The kind of advice that we will give literally can’t be bought because very few companies have the WordPress-specific insights like we do. And those that do are not in the business of consulting.

Format

Me along with other Awesome Motive partners will hand-pick a small group of WordPress companies to invest and work with. And no, we won’t ask you to move to the Bay Area or another big city.

If you have an existing WordPress focused business, then you can apply here.

We will review your application and invite the most promising companies to have a series of conversations with us. We will make our funding decision shortly after that.

Once funded, we will work closely with you to identify the growth levers in your business and help you implement the right processes to take your business to the next level.

Below are some of the benefits that you will have access to:

  • Our playbooks for product development, growth, and operations.
  • Office Hours with Awesome Motive Partners (including me)
  • Office Hours with Other Industry Experts
  • Bi-Annual Mastermind Meetings
  • Exposure on our media properties and access to our PR team
  • Private Founders Slack

How to Apply

If you already have a WordPress-focused business, then you can fill out the application below.

Important Note: this fund is for existing WordPress-focused businesses (i.e WordPress plugins, themes, and services) that have been around for at least six months.

Deadline: Applications will be closed on September 30th, 2019

All information you submit below are confidential. We are also open to signing a NDA if that helps – simply ask in the request below :)

Final Thoughts

I am committed to the WordPress ecosystem, and I have two main goals with this fund:

  1. Help WordPress-focused companies succeed
  2. Help introduce more user-focused WordPress products

If you like a specific WordPress products that you think we should invest in, then please reach out to them and let them know about the growth accelerator fund.

Yours Truly,
Syed Balkhi
Founder of WPBeginner



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7 Best WordPress Invoice Plugins Compared (2019)


Are you looking for the best invoicing plugins for WordPress? An invoicing plugin can make it easy to automatically generate invoices, collect orders, and manage your finances.

As a business owner, there’s a lot to manage and manual invoices can take up significant amount of your time. Your invoices may look different each time, which isn’t very professional.

Using a professional invoicing software allows you to automate all invoicing and payment processes, so you can focus on growing your business.

In this article, we will share some of the best WordPress invoices plugin for various needs.

Best invoicing plugins for WordPress

Choosing the Best Invoicing Plugins for WordPress

There are several WordPress plugins that you can use to create online invoices and collect payments from your customers. All these WordPress invoice plugins offer different features which makes it difficult for beginners to choose the right invoice plugin for their business.

The key features that you should look for in a good WordPress invoicing plugin are:

  • One-time and recurring payment collection
  • Partial payment options
  • Automatic tax deduction and tax reporting
  • Single dashboard to manage all invoices and taxes
  • Credit card and other payment gateways
  • Payment scheduling and late fee option

It would be a bit difficult to find a solution that caters to all your invoicing needs. You’ll need to review the features and find a solution that suits your invoicing and payment requirements.

That being said, let’s take a look at our top picks for the best invoicing plugins for WordPress.

1. WPForms

WPForms

WPForms is the most business friendly WordPress form plugin. It comes with a drag and drop builder which allows you to easily create any type of form including user registration forms, newsletter signup form, request a quote form, donation form, payment collection form, etc.

With WPForms, you can easily generate an online order form which gives you the option to automatically send an invoice to the customer. You and your customers also get an instant email notification upon completion of the payment.

WPForms integrates with PayPal and Stripe to collect payments. This allows you to easily accept credit card payments without using a shopping cart plugin or eCommerce software.

While WPForms is not as robust as some other WordPress invoice plugins below, it has all the essentials features that you’ll need, and it will save you money because it can serve multiple purposes such as help you build contact forms, request a quote lead forms, collect feedback via surveys, etc.

You can use our WPForms coupon to get an additional 50% off.

2. FreshBooks

FreshBooks

FreshBooks is popular accounting software for small businesses. It allows you to create professional invoices in a few clicks. You can fully customize the invoice by adding your business logo and personalized note.

It has an automated system to send reminders to customers for the overdue payments. FreshBooks also charges your clients’ credit card securely for recurring payments and sends notifications to you and your customers.

You can add your work hours and expenses in the invoices to display a proper breakdown of the payment. It also offers tax collection, preferred currency selection, discount codes, and pre-payment option.

Freshbooks is a SaaS invoicing platform that works with all best website builders including WordPress. It is the most robust invoice software in the list, but their pricing is a bit more expensive since they charge you based on the number of billable clients.

3. WP Invoicing

WP Invoicing

WP Invoicing is a feature-rich WordPress invoicing plugin. It runs on your WordPress site and can help you create and send invoices to customers.

It can also automatically manage taxes in the invoices. This helps you save time while automating the process for you and your customers.

The plugin supports multiple payment gateways like PayPal, Stripe, Authorize.net, and more. It can also be used to set up recurring payments and automatically generate invoices for each payment.

While the base WP Invoicing plugin is free, you will have to pay for individual extensions, or you can buy a bundle membership which is a much better deal.

4. Sliced Invoices

Sliced Invoices

Sliced Invoices is a professional WordPress invoicing plugin. It has multiple pre-built templates and designs to generates invoices quickly. You can also create custom invoices with your logo and text, so you can send quotes directly to customers.

It comes with a reporting system to manage all your invoices and quotes in one place. Sliced Invoices is translation ready which would enables you to send invoices in your customers’ language. It also includes extensions for PDF invoices, recurring payments, deposit invoices, and more.

Slide Invoices is a free plugin, but you will have to pay for individual extensions, or you can buy a bundle membership which is a much better deal.

5. Sprout Invoices

Sprout Invoices

Sprout Invoices is a full-fledged invoicing plugin for WordPress sites. It can estimate the cost of your services and generate detailed invoices for customers automatically.

The plugin integrates with 300+ apps for payments, invoice designs, workflows, and more. It has a powerful payment scheduling system to set terms for customers like payment amount, due date, late fees, etc.

6. WooCommerce PDF Invoices

WooCommerce PDF Invoices

WooCommerce PDF Invoices is a WooCommerce extension to send a PDF invoice with every order confirmation email. It has a ready-made template for the PDF invoices, and you can also create your own custom invoice templates.

It manages a sequence number for the invoices, so that you can keep track of all the payments. The customers can download invoices from their account page on your eCommerce website. You can also connect a printer with the plugin to print invoices as soon as the customers confirm the order. If you run an online store using WooCommerce, then this plugin can be the answer to your invoicing needs.

This plugin does not work with other WordPress eCommerce plugins, but most other solutions have their own invoice extensions.

7. WP-Invoice

WP-Invoice

WP-Invoice is a free WordPress invoicing plugin. It’s perfect for digital agencies, general contractors, web developers, and any business that needs to send invoices to their customers.

It allows you to create the invoice within your WordPress dashboard. Once you generate the invoice, your customer will receive an email, and they can follow the link to make payments easily. You can also fully customize the email notification. WP-Invoice is a little limited in terms of features, but it can be an easy to use solution for many small businesses.

We hope this article helped you find the best invoicing plugins for WordPress. You may also want to check out our expert pick of the best WordPress plugins, best email marketing services, and best business phone services for small businesses.

If you liked this article, then please subscribe to our YouTube Channel for WordPress video tutorials. You can also find us on Twitter and Facebook.

The post 7 Best WordPress Invoice Plugins Compared (2019) appeared first on WPBeginner.



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WordPress vs. Blogger – Which one is Better? (Pros and Cons)


Are you planning to start a new blog? Not sure whether you should use WordPress or Blogger as your blog platform? Well, we can help.

WordPress and Blogger are the two most popular blogging platforms on the internet. They both let you create a blog easily; however, there are some big differences between them. Each one has its own pros and cons.

In this article, we will compare Blogger vs WordPress side by side and show you the differences that matter. Our goal is to help you decide which one is better for your needs.

WordPress vs Blogger - Blog Platform Comparison

What to Look for in Your Blog Platform?

Before we begin our WordPress vs. Blogger comparison, let’s cover some important things to look for when choosing a blog platform.

  • Ease of Use: You need a simple and easy to use platform to quickly set up your blog, add content, and grow your audience.
  • Flexibility: You need a platform which lets you add more features or use more resources as your blog grows.
  • Monetization options: Do you want to make money online with your blog? If yes, then you need to choose a platform which has plenty of monetization options.
  • Support: You may need support while creating your blog, designing, or managing it. Check whether you will get support when you need it or not.

Plus, you need to consider cost comparison, design options, search engine optimization (SEO) opportunities, etc.

With that said, let’s compare how WordPress and Blogger stack up against these requirements.

Table of Contents – WordPress vs Blogger

Note: This comparison is between self-hosted WordPress.org and Blogger (not WordPress.com vs Blogger). See our guide on the differences between self-hosted WordPress.org vs WordPress.com.

Overview – WordPress vs Blogger

As we mentioned above, WordPress and Blogger are the two most widely used blog management platforms in the world.

According to blog technology usage stats from BuiltWith, WordPress is the #1 most popular blog software used by about 35% of blogs in the top 1 million sites.

The same report shows Blogger as the second most popular platform used by about 1% of the blogs in the top 1 million sites.

We also compared the search terms ‘WordPress’ and ‘Blogger’ in Google Trends to see users’ ‘interest over time.’

WordPress vs Blogger Google Trends Compare

As shown in the screenshot above, WordPress steadily rose to popularity beating Blogger by 2005.

What is WordPress?

WordPress.org Best Blogging and Website Platform

WordPress is a free open source software which allows you to easily create a website, blog, or an online store. Started In 2003, WordPress now powers more than 30% of all websites on the internet.

You can download the WordPress software for free and use it unlimited on as many sites as you want.

To create a blog in WordPress, you will need to buy a hosting plan and a domain name, so you can install WordPress. It sounds a bit complex at first; however, it is pretty simple with tons of user-friendly tutorials on WPBeginner and other sites.

Our team can even setup your WordPress blog for free. Learn more about our free blog setup service.

What is Blogger?

Blogger Best Blogging Platform

Blogger is a free blogging service by Google. Started in 1999 by Pyra Labs, it was acquired by Google in 2003, and they redesigned it as the product it is today.

Blogger is a free blog hosting service which lets you create a blog completely free of cost. You also get a free Blogspot subdomain for your new blog.

For example, your blog’s address will look like this: www.yourname.blogspot.com.

However, you can also connect your blog with a custom domain name. For that, you need to register a domain name through third-party domain registrars.

Ease of Use – Blogger vs WordPress

Most users who want to create a blog are not web developers. They are passionate writers and storytellers, or they are non-techy business owners. An easy to use blogging platform can empower them to present their stories to the world.

WordPress – Ease of Use

Setting up a blog in WordPress is a simple and quick process. It requires no coding skills, but it does require you to know how to point-and-click on a computer screen to setup WordPress and install WordPress apps.

You can follow our step by step beginner’s guide on how to start a WordPress blog and you’ll be up and running in less than 30 minutes.

Once the setup is done, you can choose a WordPress blog theme as per your requirement. A theme mostly determines the appearance of your blog in WordPress.

After that, you can install the best WordPress plugins to enhance your WordPress blog’s features.

Adding content to WordPress is simple with default posts and pages.

Default WordPress editor

You can easily create text content, add images, videos, and other media to your WordPress posts and pages using the simple block editor.

Blogger – Ease of Use

Blogger is a simple blogging platform where you can create a blog in just a few minutes. You simply need a Google account to get started.

Go to Blogger website and then sign up with your Google account. After that, you can find a ‘Create New Blog’ option, where you need to click to start the process. Next, choose your blog title, blog address, and a theme.

That’s all, and the setup will be done. Next, you can configure blog settings, edit your blog layout, and add posts.

Creating an Article in Blogger

The setup process is pretty simple; however, Blogger has some learning curve during theme customization. You cannot change much of the design unless you have some HTML skills.

Whereas in WordPress, you have drag and drop page builders that lets you customize everything.

Winner: Tie.

Ownership – Blogger vs WordPress

Ownership of your blog is another crucial aspect to consider while choosing a blog site.

Having full ownership of your blog gives you the freedom to do anything, including how to handle it, how to monetize it, and when to shut it down.

Who Owns Your Blog on Blogger?

Blogger is a blogging service provided by the tech giant Google. It is free, reliable most of the time, and has enough features to publish your content on the web.

However, it is not owned by you.

Google runs this service and has the right to shut it down or shut down your access to it at any time.

It is a point to be noted that Google has a history of abandoning projects without warning, such as Feedburner.

Who Owns Your Blog on WordPress?

With WordPress, you use a WordPress hosting provider to host your site. You are free to decide how long you want to run it and when you want to shut it down.

You own all your data, and you control what information you share with any third party.

Winner: WordPress.

Control and Flexibility – Blogger vs WordPress

Another important thing you need to consider is flexibility options. Does your blog site let you fully control the design and functionalities of your blog? Are you able to add new features to your blog?

Let’s see how Blogger and WordPress compare on this aspect.

Control and Flexibility with Blogger

Blogger is a fine-tuned service with minimal tools allowing you to perform only specific tasks on your website. The things you can do on your Blogspot blog are limited, and there is no way you can extend them.

Blogger has a set of built-in gadgets (similar to WordPress widgets) to add features like ads, subscription links, contact form, etc. But these gadgets have limited functionality, and there are no alternatives available for them.

Adding Blogger Gadgets

More frustrating is that advanced options like popups, eCommerce features, etc. aren’t available on the Blogger platform.

Control and Flexibility Options with WordPress

WordPress is an open source software, so you can easily extend it to add new features. You can add almost any functionality imaginable to your WordPress blog with plugins and third-party integrations.

There are thousands of free and premium WordPress plugins which allow you to modify and extend the default features.

For example, adding a store to your website, creating a portfolio, making popups, adding social share buttons, etc.

If you visit the plugins page on WordPress.org, then you can find over 55,000+ free plugins there.

Official WordPress Plugins Page

If you have coding skills, then you can also create your own custom plugins and use on your blog.

When comparing WordPress vs Blogger for flexibility and customization options, then WordPress is hands down the best long-term solution for any serious blogger/business owner.

Winner: WordPress.

Appearance and Design Options

The appearance or the design of your blog plays a vital role in attracting users and engaging them on your site. You need an elegant blog design to engage users, reduce bounce rate, and improve the time spent on your blog.

Blog Design Options in Blogger

Blogger, by default, only provides a limited set of templates to use. These templates look basic as they have been used on thousands of blogs.

Blogger Themes

You can modify the colors and layout of these templates using the built-in tools, but you cannot create your own layouts or make modifications.

There are some non-official Blogger templates available, but those templates are usually very low quality.

Fewer templates, basic customization options, and lack of layout choices make Blogger seriously fall behind in terms of design choices.

Blog Design Options in WordPress

In WordPress, there are thousands of free and premium WordPress themes which allow you to create professional-looking websites.

There is a WordPress theme for just about every kind of website. No matter what your site is about, you will find plenty of high-quality themes which are easy to modify and customize.

You can find a collection of 7000+ free WordPress themes on the official WordPress.org themes page. You can search ‘blog’ to view the themes designed for blogs. When we searched, we found more than 2000 free blog themes.

Free WordPress Blog Themes

And, you can get more themes from third-party theme providers like Elegant Themes, Themify and Astra Themes.

Not only that, you can use the simple drag and drop WordPress page builders to design stunning landing pages easily in WordPress.

You can even create your own custom WordPress themes without writing any code.

Winner: WordPress.

Security – WordPress vs Blogger

Security of Your Blog

Security is another essential aspect you need to consider while selecting your blog platform. Unless you pick a secure platform, your investment and time can go to waste if your site is blacklisted or hacked.

Managing Security in Blogger

Using Blogger, you have the added advantage of Google’s robust, secure platform. You don’t need to worry about managing your server’s resources, securing your blog, or creating backups.

But it also means that an entire service downtime will turn down your blog as well. You cannot do anything to resume your blog when the Blogger site is down.

Managing Security in WordPress

WordPress is quite secure, but since it is a self-hosted solution you are responsible for security and backups. There are plenty of WordPress plugins that make it easier for you.

For example, you can use UpdraftPlus or VaultPress for creating a backup, and Sucuri for web-application firewall to improve site security.

For complete guide on managing security in WordPress, see our ultimate WordPress security guide.

Winner: Tie.

Support – WordPress vs Blogger

Support is another critical factor to consider while choosing your blog platform. Check whether there is a reliable support system to help you out when you need it.

Support Options in Blogger

There is limited support available for Blogger. They have very basic documentation and a user’s forum. In terms of support, your choices are very limited.

You can click on the Help option in your Blogger admin panel to see support tutorials as shown in the image below.

Blogger Support Options

Since it is a free service, it is not possible for Google to provide adequate support to individual blog owners.

Support Options in WordPress

WordPress has a very active community support system. There are question-answer forums for each theme and plugin on WordPress.org. For example, this is the official support forum of the popular coming soon plugin SeedProd.

SeedProd Coming Soon Plugin Support Page

If you are using paid WordPress products, then you can get even more dedicated support from the respective product companies.

Plus, you can find online documentation, community forums, and IRC chatrooms, where you can get help from experienced WordPress users and developers. Our team of WordPress experts is also helping thousands of users via our Facebook group.

Apart from community support, there are many companies offering premium support for WordPress. Check out our guide on how to properly ask for WordPress support and get it.

Winner: WordPress.

Future – Blogger vs WordPress

The future of your blogging platform determines how far you can go with your blog.

Future of Your Blog on Blogger

Blogger has not seen any major update since a very long time. We have seen Google kill their popular services such as Google Reader, Google Adsense for feeds, and FeedBurner.

Future of Blogger depends on Google, and they have the right to shut it down whenever they want. So, the future of your blog also depends on Google’s decisions.

Future of Your Blog on WordPress

WordPress is an Open Source software which means its future is not dependent on one company or individual (Check out the history of WordPress). It is managed by a community of developers and users.

Being the world’s most popular content management system, thousands of businesses around the globe depend on it. The future of WordPress is bright and reassuring.

Winner: WordPress.

Portability – WordPress vs Blogger

Portability - Moving Your Blog From One Platform to Another

The purpose of this article is to help you choose the best platform, so you don’t need to move your site. But mistakes can happen. So, it is essential to check whether your blog platform has secure options to move to another platform or not.

Portability of Your Blogger Blog

Moving your site from Blogger to a different platform is a complicated task. There is a significant risk that you will lose your SEO (search engine rankings), subscribers, and followers during the move.

Even though Blogger allows you to export your content, your data will stay on Google’s servers for a very long time.

Portability of Your WordPress Blog

Using WordPress, you can move your site anywhere you want. You can move your WordPress site to a new host, change domain name, or even move your site to other content management systems.

Also, if you compare WordPress vs Blogger SEO, then WordPress offers way more SEO advantages.

Winner: WordPress.

Pricing – Blogger vs WordPress

Last but not least, comparing the cost of creating a blog and managing it is crucial.

Cost of Making a Blog in Blogger

Blogger is an entirely free blogging service. It provides free blog hosting and free Blogspot subdomain to get started. And, all the themes, gadgets, and other options are free as well.

If you want to use a custom domain name, then you will have to buy it from a domain registration company like Domain.com. A domain name typically costs $14.99 per year, but you can get a discount with our Domain.com coupon code.

Blogger platform is very cost-effective however it lacks many features you will need to make your blog successful.

Cost of Making a Blog in WordPress

WordPress software is free, but you need to buy a hosting plan and domain name to start a blog.

With Bluehost, you can get a WordPress hosting plan for just $2.75 per month and a free domain along with it.

Get started with Bluehost

Once the setup is done, the cost entirely depends on the services you want to use. If you’re going to use paid themes and plugins, then the cost of making a blog will go higher.

For more details, see our complete guide on how much does it really cost to build a WordPress website.

Winner: Tie.

Conclusion: Blogger vs WordPress – Which One Is Better?

WordPress and Blogger both are widely used blog platforms. But since you need to choose one, it comes down to the purpose of your blog entirely.

If your goal is to make a personal blog and share your stories, then you can choose a simple platform like Blogger.

But if you aim to make a professional blog which can earn a living, then you need a robust and scalable platform like WordPress.

With WordPress, you can add a shop to your blog, create membership website, and add tons of marketing tools to your blog, and earn money.

We hope this WordPress vs Blogger comparison helped you understand the pros and cons of each and helped you make the right decision for your blog.

To learn more about WordPress, we recommend you to read our guide on Why is WordPress Free? and 9 most common misconceptions about WordPress.

If you liked this article, then please subscribe to our YouTube Channel for WordPress video tutorials. You can also find us on Twitter and Facebook.



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How to Create a Custom Home Page in WordPress


Often users ask us if it’s possible to create a custom homepage in WordPress.

By default, WordPress shows your blog posts on the homepage. However as a business website, you may want to create a more engaging homepage that helps users find what they need and boost your sales conversion.

In this article, we will show you how to easily create a custom homepage in WordPress. We will show multiple methods, and you can choose the one that’s easier for you.

Creating a custom homepage in WordPress

What is a homepage?

A homepage is a default introductory page or the frontpage of a website. It is the page that appears when someone enters your website’s domain name in their browser’s address bar.

Homepage example

The main purpose of the homepage is to introduce users to your website or business. Ideally, it should provide users essential information about your business, so they can continue exploring other pages on your site.

By default, WordPress displays your recent blog posts on the homepage. This is not good as it only shows a few of your current articles.

If you run a business website, then the default homepage does not tell users about your business, products or services. It also doesn’t provide users a way to contact you.

The good news is that WordPress already comes with a built-in functionality to create custom home page.

Selecting a Custom Page to be Used as Homepage in WordPress

WordPress allows you to easily use any page on your website as your homepage. You can simply go to Pages » Add New page inside WordPress admin area to create a new page.

Let’s give this page a title ‘Home’ and publish it. You will use this page as your custom homepage.

Don’t worry about layout or design at the moment. We will show you how to design your homepage later in this article.

Now, if you want to run a blog on your site, then you need to create a separate blog page to display your posts.

Once again, go to Pages » Add New page and create a page titled ‘Blog’. Go ahead and publish the blank page.

After creating the pages, you need to visit Settings » Reading page in your WordPress admin. From here select ‘A static page’ option under ‘Your homepage displays’ section.

Select home and blog pages

Next, you need to select the homepage and the blog pages you created earlier.

Don’t forget to click on the ‘Save changes’ button to store your settings.

Now that you have set up a page to be used as your custom homepage, let’s start designing the custom home page for your WordPress site.

Method 1. Create a Custom Homepage in WordPress using Gutenberg

WordPress introduced a new block-based eidtor called Gutenberg in December 2018. This new editor allows users to not just write content but create beautiful layouts as well.

It uses blocks for each content element which enables you to organize content blocks to create a page structure that you like.

WordPress includes blocks that can be used for design purposes like cover images, columns, tables, text and media, galleries, and more.

Editing your custom homepage layout using Gutenberg

Each block comes with its own settings, which allows you to customize its appearance to meet your design requirements.

You can extend available blocks with Gutenberg block plugins to add more blocks to your arsenal. These plugins allow you to use advanced elements like testimonials, sliders, services, and other common design features.

Using advanced block library plugins to make homepage layout

You can also use Gutenberg ready WordPress themes which give you more flexibility to work with blocks.

We recommend using Astra, it comes with Gutenberg website templates that you can install using their Astra Starter Sites plugin.

Once you import a template, you can edit it using the default WordPress editor and create a highly professional looking homepage for your website.

Method 2. Create a Custom Homepage in WordPress using Page Builders

This method is very easy and does not require any coding or design skills. For this method, you will be using a WordPress page builder plugin.

A page builder plugin allows you to easily create custom page layouts by using a simple drag and drop interface.

We recommend using Beaver Builder because it is the most beginner-friendly page builder plugin on the market. It comes with dozens of custom homepage templates that you can install with a single click.

Once installed, you can edit the template using point and click tools. You can replace content and images with your own content, and even extend the template by adding more modules, widgets, and sections.

Creating a custom homepage using Beaver Builder

Beaver Builder also gives you access to Beaver Themer, which allows you to make your own custom WordPress theme without writing any code.

For more details, see our guide on how to easily create custom WordPress layouts using Beaver Builder.

As an alternative, you can also try Elementor. It is also an immensely popular WordPress page builder plugin. It also comes with drag and drop templates and an easy to use interface.

Creating a homepage layout using Elementor

For details, see our tutorial on creating custom page layouts with Elementor.

Method 3. Manually Create a Custom Homepage in WordPress (Coding Required)

This method is not recommended for beginners as it requires coding. You need to be familiar with the WordPress coding practices, PHP, HTML, and CSS to use this method.

Let’s see how this works.

Your WordPress theme is made up of different files. Some of these files are called templates and control the display of certain areas of your website. See our WordPress template hierarchy cheat sheet for more details.

One of these templates is called front-page.php. If your theme has this template, then WordPress will automatically use it to display your custom homepage.

front-page.php template

However, if your theme does not have it, then you can create one for yourself/

Simply create a blank file and save it as front-page.php. After that you need to upload it to your current theme’s folder on your WordPress hosting account using FTP.

As soon as you upload this file, WordPress will start using it to display your homepage. However, since this file is completely empty, you will see a blank white page.

To fix this, you can start adding your HTML code to display contents of your custom homepage. An easier approach is to use the existing code and templates in your WordPress theme.

For example, you can use the same header and footer. WordPress makes it super easy to include those templates.

Here is a sample code where we removed the content and sidebars while preserving the header and navigation templates from the theme.

<?php /* 
This page is used to display the static frontpage. 
*/ 

// Fetch theme header template
get_header(); ?>
	<div id="primary" <?php astra_primary_class(); ?>>

	<div class="custom-homepage-container"> 

	You custom homepage code goes here

	</div> 

	</div><!-- #primary -->
//Fetch the theme footer template 
<?php get_footer(); ?>

Tips on Making an Effective Custom Homepage in WordPress

Your website’s homepage is the most important page on your website. Users look at it to learn more about your business, products, and services.

We recommend keeping your homepage design as simple as possible. On our own websites, we have learned that our users find simpler layouts more helpful.

Try to avoid clutter, but don’t hide important information that your users would want to see on the homepage. You also need to prioritize which content appears first in your layout.

Write down the goals you want to achieve before making a custom homepage for your website. This exercise will help you come up with a clear design goal.

For most businesses and blogs, the number one goal is to convert website visitors into customers. To achieve this, you’ll need OptinMonster.

It is the best WordPress popup plugin and lead generation software. It helps you convert website visitors into subscribers and paying customers.

Next, you would want to track how your custom homepage is performing. For this, you need to install Google Analytics on your website. It helps you see where your users are coming from and what they do on your website.

You would also want to make it easier for your users to contact you. For this, you will need the WPForms plugin which is the best WordPress form plugin on the market.

You can also add a click to call button your website, so people can easily call your business phone.

Lastly, we recommend you to look around at your competitors and other popular sites in your industry/niche. We are not asking you to copy their design, but to learn from their best practices and then apply it on your own homepage layout.

We hope this article helped you easily create a custom homepage in WordPress. You may also want to see our proven tips to increase your blog traffic.

If you liked this article, then please subscribe to our YouTube Channel for WordPress video tutorials. You can also find us on Twitter and Facebook.

The post How to Create a Custom Home Page in WordPress appeared first on WPBeginner.



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How to Add Infinite Scroll to your WordPress Site (Step by Step)


Do you want to add infinite scroll to your WordPress blog?

Infinite scroll is a web design technique which automatically loads your next page content when users reach the bottom of a page. It allows users to see more content on your blog without clicking on the pagination or ‘Load More’ button.

In this article, we will show you how to easily add infinite scroll on your WordPress blog (step by step).

Adding Infinite Scroll to Your WordPress Blog Easily

What is Infinite Scroll?

Infinite scroll is a web design trend which uses AJAX page load instead of numeric page navigation to automatically load your next page content and display it at the end of current page. Infinite scrolling makes it easier to browse more content by simply scrolling down. It loads content continuously and infinitely as users keep scrolling.

Traditionally, users would have to click on ‘next,’ ‘previous’ buttons or page numbers to see older blog articles.

When using AJAX short for Asynchronous Javascript and XML, webpages can communicate with the server without reloading the entire page. It enables web apps to process user requests and deliver data without refresh.

The best examples of infinite scroll design are the popular social media sites such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, and more. If you are using any of them, then you know how content loads endlessly on your social media timeline.

Is Infinite Scrolling Suitable for Every Website?

Many content websites on the internet are using infinite scroll technique to improve the browsing experience and increase engagement. This leads many beginners to ask the questions like is it suitable for every website, or is it good for my site?

Infinite scrolling is excellent for sites that present content in a timeline or feed, like the social media apps. It offers a fantastic browsing experience to the users looking for time-based content.

Next, infinite scroll design is perfect for mobile and touch devices. For mobile users, scrolling is more user-friendly than taping on tiny page links.

Touchscreen Web Interaction

The most significant advantage of infinite scroll technique is a smooth browsing experience. Users don’t need to click on the pagination links manually. Content loads quickly with scrolling and keeps users engaged.

But on the other side, it can also make your site navigation harder. With continuous loading, it is hard to figure out where (on which page) a blog article is. Some users even find it overwhelming to see many articles all at once.

Another disadvantage of infinite scroll design is that you cannot have a footer. Even if you have it, it will be hidden under endless articles continuously loading. Many sites add essential links on the footer, so not having it can disappoint some users.

Perhaps the most concerning issue with infinite scrolling is that it can slow down your website or even crash the server. When we added infinite scroll to one of our smaller blogs, we experienced server crash after users scrolled unnecessarily causing memory exhaustion on a small WordPress hosting account. We recommend that you use managed WordPress hosting if you’re looking to try infinite scrolling.

Now that you know the pros and cons of infinite scroll design, you can decide whether you need to add it to your blog or not.

If you have decided to add infinite scrolling to your WordPress blog, then you can do it easily. We will be showing you multiple plugins that you can use, so you can choose the one that best suits your needs.

Adding Infinite Scroll to Your WordPress Blog with Catch Infinite Scroll

First thing you need to do is install and activate the Catch Infinite Scroll plugin. For more details, see our step by step guide on how to install a WordPress plugin.

Upon activation, WordPress will add a new menu item labeled ‘Catch Infinite Scroll’ to your WordPress admin panel. You need to click on it to configure the plugin settings.

Catch Infinite Scroll Settings

First, you can choose a trigger option for loading articles. The plugin lets you load content automatically as users scroll down the page or add a ‘Load More’ button.

Load on Scroll or Click - Catch Infinite Scroll Plugin Settings

You should select the ‘Scroll’ option to trigger autoload with scrolling. Alternatively, you can select the ‘Click’ option if you want to add a load more button.

Next, you can see the navigation selector, next selector, content selector, and item selector. You don’t need to change anything on these options because default options work quite well.

After that, there is an Image option where you can add content loader icon. By default, it has a loader GIF image. If you have a better picture, then you can change it.

Upload a New Loading Image for WordPress Infinite Scroll

‘Finish Text’ option includes the message which will be shown once a user completes viewing your articles. By default, the text says ‘No more items to display.’ You can easily edit this text as needed.

Articles Loading Finished - Finish Text Option Catch Infinite Scroll

Once done, click on the Save Changes button.

That’s it! The infinite scrolling is now active on your blog. You can visit your blog and see the infinite scrolling in action.

WordPress Infinite Scroll Preview

Alternative WordPress Plugins to Add Infinite Scroll in WordPress

Catch Infinite Scroll works well with most of the WordPress themes; however, it can fail with some themes. In such a scenario, you can use any of the following infinite scroll WordPress plugins.

1. Ajax Load More

Ajax Load More settings

Similar to Catch infinite Scroll, Ajax Load More plugin also lets you add endless scroll and clickable Load More buttons to your WordPress site.

The plugin offers more customization options, including many page loading icon styles, button styles, etc. For a detailed guide, you can see our tutorial on creating a load more posts button in WordPress using Ajax Load More plugin.

However, the plugin has some learning curve for beginners. It has an advanced interface with many options, including repeater template, shortcode builder, WordPress queries, and more.

It will require some coding skills to apply infinite scrolling with this plugin.

2. YITH Infinite Scrolling

YITH Infinite Scrolling is a simple alternative to Ajax Load More or Catch Infinite Scroll plugin.

Similar to Catch Infinite Scroll plugin, it has minimal options to set up scroll-based web interaction on your site. You just need to install and activate the plugin and enable infinite scrolling.

YITH Infinite Scrolling Plugin Settings

Anyone, including beginners, can easily set up infinite scrolling using this plugin. However, it doesn’t have a ‘Load More’ button option, which is included in the other two plugins mentioned above.

We hope this article helped you to learn how to add infinite scroll design to your WordPress blog. You may also want to see our guide on how to add scroll-depth tracking in WordPress.

If you liked this article, then please subscribe to our YouTube Channel for WordPress video tutorials. You can also find us on Twitter and Facebook.

The post How to Add Infinite Scroll to your WordPress Site (Step by Step) appeared first on WPBeginner.



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How to Fix the 401 Error in WordPress (6 Solutions)


Are you seeing a 401 error on your WordPress site?

It is one of the most confusing WordPress errors that could lock you out of your WordPress website.

The 401 error has multiple names including Error 401 and 401 unauthorized error. These errors are sometimes accompanied by a message ‘Access is denied due to invalid credentials’ or ‘Authorization required’.

In this article, we will show you different solutions to easily fix the 401 error in WordPress. We will also discuss what causes it, and how to avoid it in the future.

Fixing the 401 error in WordPress

What Causes the 401 Error in WordPress?

The 401 error in WordPress is caused by improper authentication while communicating with the WordPress hosting server.

For example, if you have password-protected your WordPress admin folder, then not entering a password will show a 401 error page on WordPress login and admin pages.

401 Authorization failed error

However, in some cases you may see this error even without adding any special password protection to your website.

For example, WordPress security plugins can lock down your admin area during a brute force attack.

Another common cause of this error is security measures taken by hosting companies to protect your WordPress website. These security measures start showing this error when your WordPress login pages are accessed excessively.

Mostly, 401 error appears on WordPress admin and login pages. However, in some cases, it could appear on all pages of your website.

You’ll need to troubleshoot exactly what’s causing the error and then fix it.

That being said, let’s take a look at different solutions to quickly fix the 401 error in WordPress.

1. Temporarily Remove Password Protection on WordPress Admin

If you have password-protected your WordPress admin directory, then this could be the solution you need.

You may have forgotten your admin directory password, or your server configuration may have changed.

Head over to your WordPress hosting control panel and locate the Directory Privacy or Password Protected Directories icon.

Our screenshot is showing our Bluehost hosting account, but most hosting panels will have this option.

Directory privacy

Once you open it, you will see all the files and folders on your hosting account. Browse to your wp-admin directory and select it by clicking on the name.

The control panel will now display its password protection settings. Simply uncheck the box next to ‘Password protect this directory’ option and click on the Save button.

Disable password protection

After that, click on the Go Back button and scroll down to the bottom of the page. From here you need to delete the username you used to login to your password-protected directory.

You have successfully disabled password protection for your WordPress admin directory. You can now try to log into your WordPress site.

If everything works normally, then you can go ahead and enable password protection for your WordPress admin area by creating a new user and password.

2. Clear Firewall Cache to Solve 401 Error in WordPress

If you are using a cloud-based WordPress firewall service like Sucuri or Cloudflare, then 401 error may be triggered when the firewall fails to communicate with your website.

Purge Cache in Sucuri Firewall

If you are using Sucuri, then login to your Sucuri dashboard and visit the ‘Performance’ page. From here you need to switch to the ‘Clear Cache’ tab and then click on the ‘Clear cache’ button.

Sucuri clear cache

Purge Cache in Cloudflare

If you are using Cloudflare, then you need to login to Cloudflare dashboard and go to the ‘Caching’ section. From here you need to click on the ‘Purge everything’ button to clear all cache.

Cloudflare clear cache

After clearing your firewall cache, go ahead and clear your browser cache or WordPress cache as well. See our complete guide on how to clear cache in WordPress for more details.

3. Deactivate All WordPress Plugins

A misbehaving or poorly configured WordPress plugin can also trigger the 401 error. You will need to temporarily deactivate all WordPress plugins to find out if the error is caused by one of them.

You can simply deactivate WordPress plugins from inside the admin area by visiting the plugins page.

Deactivate all plugins

However, if you cannot access the WordPress admin area, then you’ll need to use FTP to deactivate all WordPress plugins.

Simply connect to your WordPress site using an FTP client. Once connected go to /wp-content/ folder and rename the plugins folder to plugins.deactivated.

Deactivate all WordPress plugins via FTP

Renaming the plugins folder will deactivate all WordPress plugins.

You can now visit your WordPress website’s admin area and try to log in. If everything works fine, then this means that one of the plugins was causing the issue.

Now you need to switch back to FTP client and once again rename the plugin’s folder to just plugins.

Next, return to the WordPress admin area and go to the plugins page. You can now activate each plugin one at a time until you start seeing the 401 error again.

This will help you find the plugin causing the issue. Once you found the plugin, you can contact plugin’s support or find an alternative plugin.

4. Switch to a Default WordPress Theme

Sometimes a function inside your WordPress theme may trigger the 401 error on your website. To find out, you need to temporarily switch to a default WordPress theme.

Default themes are made by the WordPress team and are shipped with the default WordPress install. These themes include Twenty Nineteen, Twenty Seventeen, Twenty Sixteen, and more.

First, go to Appearance » Themes page. Now if you have a default WordPress theme installed, then you can go ahead and activate it.

Activate default WordPress theme

If you don’t have a default theme installed on your site, then you need to install and activate it. See our guide on how to install a WordPress theme for instructions.

After switching the theme, you can go and test your website. If everything works OK now, then this means your theme was causing the 401 error.

You can report the issue to the theme developer, they may be able to help you fix it. If that doesn’t work, then you can permanently change your WordPress theme.

5. Reset WordPress Password

WordPress hosting companies can sometimes block access to wp-admin and login pages if someone is repeatedly trying to enter a password.

In that case, your access will be temporarily blocked, and you can try after a few minutes.

However, instead of guessing your password it would be best to recover forgotten WordPress password.

Lost password

WordPress will send you an email with a link to change your password. The problem with this method is that sometimes WordPress may fail to send emails.

If you don’t get the email, then don’t worry. You can also reset the WordPress password using phpMyAdmin.

6. Contact WordPress Hosting Provider

Many WordPress hosting companies automatically detect suspicious activity on a WordPress website and block access to prevent attacks.

These security precautions sometimes only affect the WordPress admin area, and your login page may become inaccessible for a while.

Too many login attempts

However, if it does not return back to a normal state, or you are seeing 401 error on all your site pages, then you need to contact your WordPress hosting provider immediately.

Their staff will be able to check the access and error logs to fix the issue for you.

For future prevention, you can follow our complete WordPress security guide to protect your WordPress admin area from unauthorized access.

We hope one of these solutions helped you fix the 401 error in WordPress. You may also want to see our complete WordPress troubleshooting guide with step by step instructions to fix common WordPress issues by yourself.

If you liked this article, then please subscribe to our YouTube Channel for WordPress video tutorials. You can also find us on Twitter and Facebook.

The post How to Fix the 401 Error in WordPress (6 Solutions) appeared first on WPBeginner.



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7 Best GoDaddy Alternatives in 2019 (Cheaper and More Reliable)


GoDaddy is one of the biggest hosting and domain name company in the world. They offer a wide range of services including domain name registration, hosting, website builder, SSL certificate, emails, and more.

However they are not always the best nor the cheapest on the market.

There are many GoDaddy alternatives that can offer you better features at lower costs and with excellent service.

In this article, we will share the best GoDaddy alternatives that are cheaper, more reliable, and more ethical.

Best GoDaddy alternatives for website owners

Why Look for GoDaddy Alternatives?

GoDaddy is one of the most popular domain name registrars and hosting service providers. They manage the largest number of registered domain names in the world.

However, they are not always the best option when you are building a website or starting a new business.

There are many other GoDaddy competitors offering better service at lower price.

As a business owner, you should always look at all your options. If a GoDaddy alternative is cheaper and better in terms of features, then you should make an informed decision.

Over the years, GoDaddy has also been involved in many ethical controversies which is why many socially responsible buyers choose to avoid GoDaddy and do business with GoDaddy competitors instead.

That being said, let’s take a look at some of the best GoDaddy alternatives, and what they do better than GoDaddy.

1. Bluehost

Bluehost

Bluehost is one of the best web hosting companies on the market. They offer fast and affordable hosting services that you can rely on to make a website.

If you are looking for an alternative to GoDaddy website hosting, then Bluehost is our #1 recommendation.

They have highly optimized hosting plans for WordPress which is the best website builder available. Not to mention, Bluehost is an officially recommended WordPress hosting provider.

To make it even better, they offer a free domain + free SSL certificate with each hosting plan. This means you don’t need to register your domain separately or purchase a separate SSL certificate.

Most importantly, they are offering WPBeginner users a 60% off discount. Basically, you can get started for just $2.75 per month.

→ Click Here to Claim This Exclusive Bluehost Offer ←

Advantages over GoDaddy:

  • Free domain name registration
  • Free SSL certificate
  • Free business email address
  • Faster more reliable hosting
  • 1-Click WordPress website installation
  • One dashboard to manage everything

You may also want to see our full Bluehost review, or our exclusive Bluehost coupon.

2. Domain.com

Domain.com

Domain.com is the best GoDaddy alternative for registering a domain name or purchasing SSL certificates. They are one of the most popular domain name registrar offering all top domain extensions (TLDs).

You can use their powerful domain name generator to find the best domain name for your business. Simply enter your preferred keywords or phrase, and it will generate a list of matching results.

Domain.com has an intuitive and easy to use domain management area. From there you can manage DNS settings, renewals, privacy, and other domain settings.

WPBeginner users can use our Domain.com coupon code to get 25% off on your purchase.

Domain.com is also a great alternative for GoDaddy SSL certificates. Domain.com offers cheaper SSL certificates than GoDaddy.

Advantages over GoDaddy:

  • Easier domain management
  • Competitive domain registration and renewal prices
  • Faster domain search with better suggestions
  • Point your domain to any hosting provider
  • Easily transfer your domain name to any other company
  • Cheaper SSL certificate

3. SiteGround

SiteGround

SiteGround is the best GoDaddy Alternative for business websites. They are one of the top hosting companies and an officially recommended WordPress hosting provider.

Known for their heroic support, SiteGround offers fast and knowledgable technical support via phone, live chat, and email. They offer one free website migration, free SSL certificate, and more.

As a website owner, you can select from their data centers across multiple geographic regions. Their intuitive new control panel is full of tools that will help you migrate, manage, and run your website more efficiently than GoDaddy.

WPBeginner users can get an exclusive 70% discount on their StartUp plan which is ideal for beginners and small businesses.

→ Click Here to Claim This Exclusive SiteGround Offer ←

Advantages over GoDaddy

  • Faster website hosting
  • Better for businesses and eCommerce websites
  • Easier user interface and website management tools
  • Much better and quicker customer support

You may also want to see our full SiteGround review or our exclusive SiteGround coupon.

4. HostGator

HostGator

If you are looking for GoDaddy cheap web hosting alternative, then you’ll love HostGator. They are one of the best shared hosting companies on the market, offering cheap web hosting plans for bloggers and startups.

Their plans are priced to get more customers to start their websites. However, they don’t just offer starting websites.

HostGator also offers dedicated and VPS hosting plans. In fact, WPBeginner is also hosted with HostGator’s dedicated servers. We are a loyal HostGator customer since 2007 and can confidently recommend their services.

Advantages over GoDaddy:

  • Cheaper website hosting
  • Suitable for starting a blog or starter site
  • Excellent customer support
  • 1-click WordPress website setup

You may also want to see our full HostGator review or our exclusive HostGator coupon.

5. Constant Contact Website Builder

Constant Contact Website Builder

Constant Contact Website Builder is the perfect GoDaddy Site Builder alternative. Powered by Artificial Intelligence, Contact Contact Website Builder comes with a simple website building wizard.

You can sync your Facebook page to make a website or use a step by step wizard to set it up.

Answer a few questions about your business, select a design picked up for you, and then set it up without writing any code. It is incredibly easy to use and quick to set up your online presence.

Constant Contact also offers the best email marketing service for businesses. This means you can easily generate leads for your business from your website without much effort.

Advantages over GoDaddy:

  • Easier website builder much quicker and beginner friendly
  • Uses artificial intelligence to generate professional website designs
  • Makes it easier to utilize your Faceook or email marketing channels
  • Simple tools to edit, manage, and update your website

Aside from being a good alternative to GoDaddy website builder, Constant Contact is also a great alternative to GoDaddy Email.

6. DreamHost

DreamHost

DreamHost is one of the oldest and most reliable hosting companies. They are a great alternative to GoDaddy’s shared hosting plans.

They offer robust hosting on fast servers with free domain name + SSL certificate. This significantly reduces your website costs and makes it easier to manage all things under the same roof.

Dreamhost has an intuitive and easier control panel than GoDaddy. It gives you access to several tools that you can use to manage your website.

Advantages over GoDaddy:

  • Free domain name and SSL certificate
  • Simple and elegant dashboard
  • Suitable for starter websites as well as growing businesses
  • 1-Click WordPress website builder allowing you to easily set up a website
  • Faster and knowledgable support via live chat and email

7. WP Engine

WPEngine

WP Engine is a more reliable alternative to GoDaddy Pro. It is the best managed WordPress hosting provider with a robust platform to easily manage client sites under one dashboard.

It offers superior one-click staging websites, easy deployment, easy management of production and live sites. Their platform is built on the state of the art infrastructure allowing you to easily scale to match your requirements.

It is a fully managed concierge service for websites which means they take care of updates and backups while you focus on other more important things.

WP Engine offers agencies developer tools, co-marketing opportunities, lead referrals, and more.

Advantages over GoDaddy:

  • Cloud hosting platform highly optimized for WordPress
  • Fully managed hosting so you don’t have to worry about updates
  • 1-Click WordPress installation
  • Each plan gives you access to 36 premium themes by StudioPress
  • Fantastic customer support provided by people who know their stuff

We hope this article helped you learn about the best GoDaddy alternatives that you can use for your projects. You may also want to see our list of the best MailChimp alternatives and best business phone services.

If you liked this article, then please subscribe to our YouTube Channel for WordPress video tutorials. You can also find us on Twitter and Facebook.

The post 7 Best GoDaddy Alternatives in 2019 (Cheaper and More Reliable) appeared first on WPBeginner.



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