I’m hard at work on the new site/new theme. Instead of launching everything I hope for at once, I’m going to go for a series of stages. This should allow things to settle in before making more significant changes. Stage One will be the new theme. Stage Two, etc. TBD.
New Theme? I Hate Change!
As do we all. I chose a new theme because the current one was no longer suitable for our needs. We are stuck on an older version of it which has lots of issues, but the current version, once loaded into Balloon Juice (on both the old test server, then a new one), killed the site. I spent hours trying to get the damned thing working, but I decided that it was no longer a good use of my time, so now I’m working towards a better future with a new theme that’s well-supported and well-regarded.
As many have noticed, the Recent Comments function has been removed. Until we get a better handle on the site’s performance, this was the “low-hanging fruit” that greatly improved performance. I hope to have an updated Widget for that soon, but for now, Recent Comments (and Posts) has been removed.
To explain – there are approx 5 million comments, and that’s a big table; each time the page is refreshed, that widget would query the table. This added too much extra load and our hosts strongly recommended we remove it. This is not how you would design things, but it is how things currently function.
CDN And Caching
The site should be much faster for most users as we’re now using a Content Delivery Network (this copies the site’s resources and puts these copies “nearer” to you on the Internet so that you are not downloading everything from the main server).
This greatly speeds up the site for many users, and as we get more familiar with it, we’ll tweak the settings to achieve optimal results.
Caching is related; it is a series of settings that greatly reduce the amount of files you need to download when you refresh the page. They work together to provide a much faster experience.
One key change will be the dumping of the current mobile site. The current mobile site is extra work as it is a completely separate thing from the main site. This means many resources are not available on it, and it is much more work to maintain. The vendor for the mobile plugin/theme was recently purchased and their support has been inconsistent since then, sometimes taking 2 weeks between question and answer. And this is for prepaid, premium-level access!
Tablet View Of Mobile Site
In order to reduce the complaints about the iPad/tablet view of the mobile site not working correctly, I’m just going to turn the whole thing off today to see how it goes. I had planned to await the new theme launch, but I truly feel awful that it’s such a pain for users.
If there’s much angst, then I’ll re-enable it until the new site design is live. Either way, that stripped-down, text-heavy view will soon be a memory.
Morning Slow Down
Another issue that I’m unable to fix right now, but that I hope we can improve, is the morning slowdown/poor responsiveness. This is unavoidable because the site is backed up once a day, and that takes a lot of resources (disk spinning, memory and CPU occupied, etc.) that would otherwise be used to make the site speedier. It begins in the early morning hours, when there are the least active readers, and runs until completion.
Each day, there are more pictures/graphics, and more content, and that means that there are more files to backup, and that the database that drives the site is bigger. This means the backup takes more time and CPU attention, every day.
I’ve researched and asked our hosting company if they can do a differential backup, the common solution to this issue, but to no avail – they have a standard backup toolkit and that’s what they use. We shall see what creative means we can employ to improve this, but for now, it’s the way it is.
Video Ads/Memory Issues
Although we’ve removed the insecure video streams from the ads, that doesn’t mean they don’t eat up memory. As soon as I have some time (post redesign!) I will once again see what I can do.
My hope is to have the redesign site/stage one ready next week, and then, once everyone’s rent their garments and pulled out their hair, demanding everything be back the way it was, and I’ve tweaked a few things, I can look anew at the video ads to see what we can do to make them behave better.
So that’s where we’re at. Hopefully I can restart On the Road soon, but no promises – I only have so much time for things Balloon Juice these days!
I will not be around in the comments to this post, but I will review it later. I must go scrounge up some lunch, do a quick koi pond clean, then back to the computer!