Joomla adventures – rebuilding a community (part 2)

The post in this web development mini-series focuses on the products and tools that were used in the process of building and refining the new Metropower site http://www.metropower.info along with some lessons learned along the way.

Managing the project and resources

Early on in the build process it became apparent that our Facebook chat group wasn’t going to be sufficient to keep track of all the works that needed to be done to get the new site live.

To solve this I took another tip from my professional life, using Trello to manage tasks amongst the admin team and tracking the progress of content to be migrated from old site to new. For small projects it’s free, perfect!

We only needed to use the one board for managing the website project, although I have started another one up post-launch to keep track of bugs and website improvements. I initially wanted to use a Bug Tracker such as http://www.flyspray.org/ but ran out of databases on our hosting plan so put that on hold for the time being.

We also decided to set up a centralised Google account to store archive data, purchased plugins and so on. Using a Google account made sense as it would also serve as the account to use for Analytics as well. Drive has been handy as a secondary backup location too.

Social media and analytics

A few years ago one of the admin team set up a Facebook group as a first foray into social media; now we have coverage across a wide range of platforms:

  • Facebook Page – allows us to post “officially” as Metropower
  • Facebook Group – social discussion board that sees a lot of traffic that the forum used to serve. Excellent for quick responses but not so good for reference topics.
  • Facebook For Sale \ Wanted Group – saves our members paying eBay fees when trading parts between members (!)
  • Instagram – this used to be really powerful but appeal is a lot more limited now the TOU have changed and we can’t embed a hashtag gallery on our website
  • YouTube – event videos etc. but needs a bit of work for suitable content and branding

I also use Google Analytics to track site usage having completed a very well-timed training session at work on how to track campaigns and analyse user interaction.

We purchased a couple of Joomla plugins to pull dynamic content from social media onto the website. For example all events are managed via Facebook then embedded into the website so we only need to update content in one place. Using social media on the front page helps to keep it fresh but does come at a cost, more on that below…

Monitoring

If the site goes down for some reason I need to know about it and being used to having tools like PRTG Network monitor at work I wanted something similar for the site. Again fortunately there’s lots of high quality, business-grade free tools out there for personal use – I use two of them to make sure we’re covered:

After some issues with registration emails not arriving for Outlook.com users due to another user on the shared server being IP blacklisted we also set up an account with HetrixTools to keep an eye out for any similar occurrences in future https://hetrixtools.com

Website tuning and troubleshooting

With the site up and running the next stage was to tune its performance as initial page load speeds were somewhat slower than I was hoping. After doing some research via the Joomla documentation and third party sites I found some tools to benchmark the site and see what could be improved.

The main ones I use (in no particular order) are:

Immediately I could see issues such as content not being cached, CSS and JS files not minified \ compressed etc. Some could be fixed manually by adjusting settings on the server but it seemed the easiest way to fix others was to purchase an optimisation plugin for Joomla.

After browsing the JED I chose JCH Optimize and have been suitably impressed by the performance improvements since. We jumped from an F grade all the way up to A by following the recommendations from the tests above in addition to enabling JCH Optimize.

To check that your server supports the necessary GZip compression settings test it with https://checkgzipcompression.com

The only way we could speed things up further would be to move from shared to dedicated hosting (cost being the only reason we haven’t done so already) and to use a CDN to deliver content (a bit overkill really in this case).

One decision I have had to wrestle with was the choice between raw speed and community content. Running the tests above on the home page where we integrate with social media content drags the score right down into the red, due to a combination of multiple redirects (Facebook API), uncompressed images (Instagram thumbnails) and Javascript parsing (YouTube embedded player).

The moral of this story seems to be that if you want a fast-loading home page keep social media integrations well away from it.

Whilst writing this post I just spotted a potential workaround for the YouTube embeds https://webdesign.tutsplus.com/tutorials/how-to-lazy-load-embedded-youtube-videos–cms-26743

After embedding the script into my template’s header there was a definite increase in page load speed and the YouTube scripts no longer appeared in the GTMetrix “Defer parsing of JavaScript” section of the report, a nice easy win there!

Next up

In the third post in this series I’ll go over some of the plugins used and the tweaks I made to get them integrated neatly in the site 🙂

 

Image credits:

Icons made by Webalys Freebies from www.flaticon.com is licensed by CC 3.0 BY
Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: