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5 Ways to Manage a Large-Scale WordPress Site

You probably know WordPress as one of the most popular blogging and web publication systems in the world. However, are you really aware of all the possibilities and the power that this CMS offers? Indeed, this content management system has improved dramatically over the years, and the number of large-scale websites using it is constantly growing.

To prove the efficiency of this system, statistics reveal that in March 2021, WordPress hosted 40% of all websites on the web. Thus, compared to the 32% observed 3 years ago, there is no doubt that the growth of this CMS is not weakening.

But before going further, let’s clarify the concept of a “large-scale website”.

What is a large-scale website?

A website is said to be large-scale when it meets certain characteristics that include a high number of visitors, a high number of transactions if it is an online shop, or a large amount of published data. To be perfectly clear, a website with a million weekly visitors can be called a large-scale website.

However, does WordPress have any limitations when it comes to scaling? And do the rules of this CMS vary from one website to another? Let’s discuss these questions through the “5 points” to consider when running a large-scale website.

Choosing the right hosting

The infrastructure related to the hosting of the site plays the most important role in scaling up. For various technical reasons, good hosting can continuously improve the performance of your site.

On the other hand, we do not recommend a host that imposes limits on the use of server space. Spend time to find out which hosting partner is best for your project. Among the types of hosting offered by companies, there are a few that can be used for large-scale projects. Let’s introduce them here.

VPS or Virtual Private Server: VPS hosting can be used for medium- to large-scale projects. This type of hosting has an edge over shared hosting and dedicated WordPress hosting, which we’ll talk about next, because it provides a unique space for each project on the server and keeps your data separate from other users. However, while it is a great choice in terms of customization options and storage space, VPS hosting can have problems with high traffic levels and spikes. If you decide to go with VPS hosting, make sure it offers plenty of resources and scaling options in case your site experiences increased demand.

Dedicated WordPress hosting: First and foremost, using this type of hosting requires some advanced skills in server administration and maintenance; it involves renting a server yourself, allowing you to have full root and administrator access to everything. Although everything is under your control, this degree of control sometimes comes at a price: dedicated hosting is one of the most expensive hosting options.

This option is clearly suitable for projects where you need complete control of the server and where you have the necessary technical expertise.

Cloud hosting: This type of hosting involves several machines working together to provide a cloud infrastructure. Since the website and its infrastructure run on combined computing resources, this type of hosting is very good for scaling your project. Cloud hosting allows you to increase the resources of your project with a few actions or even a single click. In addition, the website owner only pays for the resources that are used, and there is rarely a fixed price. Finally, with cloud hosting, since the resources are spread over many servers, the downtime of the project is reduced to almost zero.

Managed hosting: This type of hosting does not rely on its own infrastructure but instead provides hardware and software configuration, maintenance, and technical support for large-scale third-party hosting providers. It is basically a simplified version of dedicated hosting, but here a properly configured server can handle high-level traffic peaks.

Hosting WordPress

Hosting WordPress

Performance management and optimization

In all respects, it is clear that large-scale websites need to be optimized much more than occasional blogs or small marketing presentation websites. And in terms of website optimization, every detail counts. There are a number of things that one needs to check and work on, including:

  • Making sure the software is updated
  • Optimizing the background process
  • Using a CDN (Content Delivery Network)
  • Using optimized themes
  • Choosing faster plugins
  • Avoiding storing media files on WordPress

Better cache management

The WordPress cache is a feature that temporarily stores data in the server’s memory (RAM) to reduce the amount of time it takes for the website’s pages to load. For large-scale sites, your server may have trouble serving requests from all users. This is where caching comes into play. Downloading, installing and enabling a caching plugin will speed up the loading speed of your site by 2.5X and 5X.

By searching on the web market, you will find a multitude of great caching solutions. Some popular ones are:

  • W3 total cache
  • WP Cache
  • WP Rocket
Plugin WordPress

Plugin WordPress

Optimizing the database

The database used by the website, usually run by the MySQL (or MariaDB) system, is where most of the website data is stored and accessed. This data can be classified into two parts: “important” data and “temporary” data (revisions, spam comments, logs, recycle bin, etc.). The latter is often not needed to be kept for a long time and is regularly deleted. As a consequence, if you do not optimize the database, it becomes slow over time, which makes the website pages slow to load.

You can use the phpMyAdmin administration tool to optimize your database. To do that, select all your tables and then choose the “optimize table” option from the drop-down list menu of the tool. With this action, the selected tables are recreated by removing any excess local data.

There are also slightly less restrictive methods of optimizing your database using WordPress plugins such as WP-Optimizer, WP-Sweep, WP Cleaner Optimizer, or WP Cleaner Pro.

Managing security settings

Although WordPress is a highly secure environment, many external factors can undermine the security of your website, such as outdated server software, outdated WordPress plugins and kernel, or poor server administration. So, to maintain a high level of security for your site, it is important to:

  • Keep WordPress up-to-date
  • Ensure high security standards for passwords and user authorization
  • Backup WordPress using a good backup tool
  • Use WordPress security plugins
  • Enable Web Application Firewall (WAF)
  • Use secure protocols (SSL/HTTPS)
  • Limit connections
  • Use two-factor authentication for access to your admin account

As we said at the beginning, WordPress is a powerful CMS with many possibilities. It can be used to build web applications ranging from the simplest to the most sophisticated. On the other hand, it is important to follow a number of rules and techniques to optimize your website and keep it performing at its best.

If you need help in WordPress web development and optimization, contact us!

The 6 key stages in the development cycle of an application

Whether it is the work of a technology agency like ours or a project implemented by an entrepreneur with his development team, designing a web or mobile application requires certain key steps. Taking all these steps into account allows you to define a list of things to plan and do to successfully complete your development project. Let’s review them.

1- Delimiting the scope of the idea

What is the purpose of your application? Designing an application means providing an ergonomic solution to a specific problem, such as putting a person looking for an apartment rental in a geographical area in touch with the rentals offered in that area. If we think of rental search applications, there are many examples. It can also mean improving an existing solution to facilitate or democratize its use. Once the general category of the application has been identified, it is important to list all the ideas related to it and study them to find the idea best suited to your context, your target, the features or services required, the state of the competition, your budget, etc. This step may take some time and require several brainstorming sessions between the project initiators. Nevertheless, it is important to invest the necessary time and effort.

2- Definition of functionalities

The second and equally important step is to define the functionalities of your application. Here, you start from the initial objective or idea at the base of your project to find the different possible variations. You will define the functionalities to be implemented to meet the expectations of the various users. For a better categorization of the functionalities, it is advisable to start with the most important ones for the first version of your application.

In addition, we recommend using an agile approach, avoiding cumbersome documents that are difficult to consult and follow; you can use the right combination of user stories and user interface description tools (such as Balsamiq or Wireframe.cc).

3- Application design

This is a capital step since it allows you to make the fundamental technical choices for the development of the application, such as the type of application, the technologies to use, the development environment, and the technical architecture.

For each of these choices, there are different options to consider. It is advisable to take a step back and take time to analyse the advantages and disadvantages of each option concerning various criteria such as the implementation time and skills required today and later (for future maintenance) as well as the allocated budget.

If you use technologies such as WordPress or Django (two examples corresponding to our web projects at Content Gardening Studio), you will have the advantage of relying on existing documentation, as well as contributions and feedback provided by members of the developer community.

4- Application integration coding and testing

We come to the fourth step, where the developers focus on the specifications provided to code the application. Contrary to popular belief, this is not just an activity where the developer writes code all day to produce results. It must tie in with everything else: the specifications as already mentioned, the server infrastructure on which the software will run, the audience for the application, the users’ devices, and the constraints associated with these elements. And there is an important, but sadly underestimated, part of this engineering activity that we call “testing”.

Coding and testing go hand in hand in the development of your tool. In fact, there is a whole category of so-called “tests” that go along with the code (and, yes, it is also code!) to simulate the conditions of use of the application and verify that the application code produces the expected result. The developer runs these tests as he goes and can thus check the quality of his work daily. These are essentially (automated) integration tests. The other part is “human testing”, which is also essential.

The coding step revolves around the following actions for each of the application modules:

  • Identify the functionalities to develop for the module.
  • For each feature, write the code and set up the necessary tests.

After the development of each module, deployed on the application test environment, the “Project Manager” will verify that the result obtained corresponds to what is expected. There is thus at least partial verification as the project progresses.

5- Pre-launch user testing

Whatever the quality of your technical team, the success of the development of an application can only be guaranteed if what is produced is tested by someone without technical skills (also called “an end user”) and who is representative of the target audience.

The pre-launch testing stage is therefore unavoidable, even if it may seem optional. It allows you to get feedback on the use of your application early enough to make important corrections before moving on to the launch phase.

6- Launch

Before putting your application on the market, it is important to plan its deployment. It’s important to note that you should not rush at the risk of losing sight of certain details. It is advisable to make a checklist of the steps and procedures involved in deploying your application.

Another important point is to carefully study the budget for promotional actions around your application, as well as the duration of the promotion period, to maximize your results (numbers such as web app use, mobile app or software download, etc.).

What’s next?

Of course, the work doesn’t stop there! As expected, once your application starts to be used, you’ll get additional feedback and bug reports. You’ll enter another phase related to the cycle of any application development project and launch. Among other things, you’ll take the feedback and pass it on to the developers so they can make the necessary corrections, then plan the release of new versions and deploy them at the right time.

And for all of this to be managed smoothly, you may need the help of a dedicated organization and possibly more skills than were previously needed.

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