EP323 – WordPress Site Health

May 24, 2019

On this episode of WPwatercooler, the panel delves into various facets of WordPress performance, notifications, and user experience. The discussion begins with the obsession many users have with performance metrics, particularly the scores from tools like Google PageSpeed Insights and GTMetrix. The panelists argue that while these scores are informative, they’re not the end-all-be-all; the actual loading time is often more crucial. Conversations around WordPress’ site health feature and the nuances of updating PHP versions segue into a broader discussion about the potential for “notification fatigue” among users. Developers share their favorite advanced tools for maintaining site performance, such as Sentry for PHP logging and Ghost Inspector for visual checks, revealing that these notifications are routed directly to Slack channels for immediate action. They also discuss the usefulness (and occasional annoyance) of downtime notifications from tools like Pingdom and Jetpack. Overall, the episode underscores the importance of balancing performance optimization with usability, both for developers and end-users alike.

00:00 Introduction
02:15 The Obsession with Performance Metrics
07:30 Real-world Loading Time vs. Metrics
12:45 WordPress Site Health and PHP Updates
19:00 Notification Fatigue in WordPress
25:15 Advanced Tools for Performance Maintenance
32:40 Notifications Routed to Slack
38:30 Downtime Notifications: Pingdom & Jetpack
44:00 Balancing Performance and Usability
50:00 Conclusion

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Links from the episode

WPwatercooler network is sponsored by ServerPress makers of DesktopServer. Be sure to check them out at https://www.serverpress.com


Episode Transcription

(00:00) three and we’re lemon hey what’s up everyone this is Jason Tucker and this is WP water cooler episode number 303 323 323 you have one job Jason one job oh my god well I looked at the number and I thought are you kidding me really this particular episode we’re gonna be talking about WordPress site health and we’re gonna we’re gonna we’re gonna discuss some cool stuff with it I’m pretty excited about it this particular episode is brought to you by server press makers the desktop server make
(00:31) sure you go to their website at server press comm where you can find out how they make local WordPress tab it easy I think that’s part of my job right is it all the episodes for us to buy certain press is it just this one no it’s my case basis if Marc reviews us each week and says alright I’ll do I’ll do one more week but that’s we were saying it can get a little can you talk with a litany sometime so I would do that wouldn’t sign up for the whole thing let’s go around the room real
(01:08) quick get everyone introduced Steve you are always at the end of the list I am Steve Zhang get on the fender of Zeke interactive Alexi WordPress meetup alleged Jonathan you you had the same issue growing up so how about you tell us about yourself I’m Jonathan Waldo live in North Idaho I did not have the same issue growing up because I was home-schooled I was wondering what issue you were talking about you mean end of the alphabet Jonathan I share maybe we should compare afterwards we learned all about that in
(01:50) the psychology therapy yes we did say how about you tell us about yourself oh I’m say read I make requests each request each request that they read media on all the things I have a fidget for someday so you have to sing tell us about yourself all right so I’m Miriam Goldman I am from Ottawa I worked for a digital marketing agency and I’m one of the co-organizers of where we camped Ottawa it’s in the house sorry how about you tell us about yourself I build websites using WordPress of course since 2010 my first website I
(02:41) built in 1993 so a long time ago a mom I won’t one of the organizers for the bootcamp Las Vegas it’s happening soon you’re gonna know it soon and I’m glad to be here enjoying the show awesome good to have you Casper how about you everybody Jason Casper aka that way back in the building once again WordPress good to have you on Casper I’m Jason Tucker you can find me over at Jason Tucker on Twitter my website is Jason Tucker dot blog I do this show as well as another show called WP blab we actually did something
(03:17) yesterday that was very interesting it’s called the reblog where I went and took an old episode and I just reread it it was because we were we’re both busy and we thought we would we would run do rerun so we’re in syndication now apparently since I forgot this and this is new and I haven’t really appended it to my intro yet I’m also one of the co-organizers for word camp Long Beach allegedly no really when is it C well we haven’t announced it yet but in October whoo you almost got it out of her good job good job
(04:00) yeah let’s talk a little bit about a wordpress site health for a minute so during the pre-show we kind of discussed this a little bit and and the idea of you know WordPress site health how your website works and all that sort of stuff and how is it how’s it keeping up with how it doesn’t work yeah and all that but we also came to the conclusion that there’s not just site health as built into WordPress itself but rather we’ve kind of rolled our own things to kind of manage this stuff as well
(04:27) so I think we’re gonna kind of go through all of those and just kind of figure out you know what’s what with that so many usually when they kind of brought this up this this idea of a site health itself within WordPress how are you kind of approaching this and looking at it yeah the reason that I spoke to I gave this suggest for us to talk about this is because interesting this morning a client came to me and said oh my site is super slow I don’t know what’s going on and as far as I loved me I went to usually we usually we
(04:59) may get Lola hb4 file or something to get that information but then I went straight there she’s using the latest version of WordPress and I could see that she was running on HP 5.6 and then I told her no try to bump it up to 7.2 or something and then she did and anyway website went from 30 seconds to load to 3 seconds – you know so it was like super fast you know and I think this is a interesting for entry-level people because we know that kind of stuff we can try to you know do different ways but this could help her and then show
(05:35) how did you know that and I went to this link and and I could get that information and she could talk to the hosting company in the nest about the HP version you know so how did that client define site site health like metrics yes people were complaining a mother knows the website and then she’s she was I mentioned genetics before at our meetup and she went there you know what ride her website and then she saw that everything was good but the type of first bite was like super slow GT metrics she was specifically looking
(06:17) for its speed right so site load times things like that look okay and and and the this new tool that came up I think 5.2 right mmm don’t right there you could see it was the only problem on her website page beaver no that’s not bad then if it’s just that that was it you know speed and performance is one aspect of sight health right no no something said that’s that’s one of the most noticeable ones but but there’s a lot of there’s a lot of elements to to making a site load fast right you can’t just say oh my
(06:56) sites slow well let’s just flip the speed lever and then and then we’re set right right cos / that’s how it works right oh you wanted you wanted turbo oh right you hit the turbo button a little like a little what are those called like a boost nitro your copy you hit the turbo button your copy of Wolfenstein 3d runs faster what is this what is the new site health tool and WordPress glad you asked yeah has a bunch of criteria that it’s looking at and it’s it’s determining I do I get to it where is it yeah if you
(07:52) go to tools and then you click on site health that’s where that’s where you’ll you’ll get it and it has a it has four different things up on the top which is status info troubleshooting as well as tools and so I logged in the the crappiest site that I have here because I have a bunch of those obviously one and so I logged in to take a look and there there’s a bunch of issues that are happening here like one in particular this one says two critical issues you have WP debug log turned on still you
(08:21) know and there’s also it’s like hey just so you know like WP auto update course at the faults like oh okay finally something useful isn’t going in tools if I quote incorporate empty little later but I think just like with any with any self diagnosed diagnosis when you’re when you’re doing Web MD essentially Web MD or WP MD if you will the idea is that you’re looking at this going like wait WP auto update course at the Falls what the heck’s wrong with WP well well WP engine is doing something
(08:59) different so just because it says it’s not updating like on the fly like right then and there when it sees an update it’s gonna update it that doesn’t mean it’s a bad thing it just means that your web host is controlling this one thing that was really good that came up on 5.1 is that PHP compatibility finger on the plugins right oh yeah that one’s a big one yeah it came I think on 5.
(09:27) 1 you know so many people they cannot to date the plug-in because it’s not compatible with the PHP version they are running to right that’s just something everyone needs to handle like I have a client who an old clients do not my client anymore but she message me and is like I’m having this problem and blah blah blah and her PHP was set to like five something or whatever and it’s something I don’t even remember it was it was like ancient and I was like well this is something you just need to ask your host
(09:55) to update your PHP and she’s like they won’t and I was like hey so actually I need to change home with the client they were on PHP 5.3 and the hosting provider that they were with said that her current package should not support even PHP 7.0 so she had to upgrade her package to get that I believe that’s called blackmail that’s crazy talk they’re like sorry we’re gonna we’re gonna keep you on this ancient technology unless you give us more money it’s not blackmail that’s exploitation
(10:37) what is that extortion so to me because so a host like WP engine probably wants to filter out that error from showing up or that the configuration thing right and they should be able to be asked and they configuration thing you mean well no that no it’s like auto update disabled like it because they had their own protocol for updates right it’s interesting how we deal with communication in this project in general because like that’s so it there is an oppressive for how to disable like you can go in and in an EM
(11:20) you plug in or however you want to do it and disable notices like that from showing up right and so like my host right now has one that shows it says that there’s a PHP module missing BC math so I’ve asked them about alert alert alert hey if they say oh yeah we should fix that great otherwise I would tell them that the guidance would be to filter it out so I don’t see it anymore they’ve if they believe that I should wait what they’re allowing hosts and anyone else to do is take a nice little
(11:59) piece of black tape and stick it over that check I don’t know how many of you were you know broke in your 20s or whatever and just trying to get through to the next backing you didn’t want to look at the check engine light never had a problem so I mean so far we kind of talked about what you’re seeing inside health but and that’s one tool right that’s one tool that was added recently in in WordPress but there you know there’s another tool that I use as a developer if if we’re starting to
(12:40) experience an some slowness and that is query monitor which is a plugin oh yeah yeah I don’t wanna be you want to be careful with this plug-in it is very heavy it’s very expensive right so you yeah you don’t want to just install it on your production box and forget about it right you want to kind of install it take a look and then shut it back down because it by itself can cause slowness but it’ll give you a some visibility into database slowness right so database queries that are causing problems it’ll
(13:11) also give you a quick view of PHP errors that might be me happening yeah I I used to code in ColdFusion and that is butene to code you could see the output of the debugging commission right there so when I moved to WordPress what I think was like the war not the first thing that I did was actually find out how I could do that and quite a morning to did a wonderful job you know it’s a really good yeah finding duplicated queries and a lot of the information there is really cool provide the fixes or does it like
(13:45) fix this error or is it just shows you what’s wrong no it’s just showing you what’s wrong it’s more a developer tool right as if you’re just running a site and it’s running slow don’t you don’t install query monitor and hope to fix anything that’s not what it’s for no give you a picture of what’s going wrong that’s usually some of the problem with site health is is that like that’s just in there and so the clients can go look at that and then they’re like alert
(14:10) oh my god there’s problems and you know without the the educational component you know of what that means I mean I guess that’s good because just more billing time but like sometimes I feel like we’re just like let me explain that to you the same thing is true of tools like GT metrics and Pingdom tools and Google PageSpeed you’re gonna get a lot more information than you can actually address I mean I think this is more like like that is not saying you don’t know what you don’t know so this is kind of
(14:41) leading them into a way to find the solution for this kind of problem so in hyenas or something like that you know we mentioned GT metrics into a page speed mirror that we had a deal WordPress and a lot of the people there started trying their websites and it’s funny thing that the number one reason that they have their site slow is not what present if it is image because the freaking images yeah I had it I had a client well he wasn’t actually my client just like a person in a workshop asking a question he like showed me his is like
(15:13) results and he was like you know what does this mean what do I do and I was like really you just need your dresser images and he was like no but what about this stuff and I was like don’t worry about that stuff fixture images he’s like I don’t want to fix marriages I just want to fix this stuff and I’m like I don’t know like just like that’s gonna be your bulk of your problem but he was just so obsessed with the technical stuff that was like he wanted to make everything she we’re optimized or whatever and I
(15:37) wouldn’t just do the kind of simple answer wouldn’t believe that it was his own content it was causing a problem it was like this I was like I don’t that’s why he was not my client so no I know I’m a cosplayer at something but related to images I just want to say real quick the other thing the other thing that I’m finding problematic these days is Google tag manager it’s a Google tag manager gives you you you the layperson the ability to add any 30 third-party tags you want to your site right and so when
(16:07) you start to look at GT metrics or Pingdom tools or Google PageSpeed you’ll find that those third-party tags actually are hurting your your site health in your in your speed saying go ahead cos when I cut you off earlier no I did well you did but then I come so by the transitive axiom of so many good points were made that I lost my train yes unless you had a new train of thought Kaspar okay so Casper the Friendly we so with there one of the controversies around site Health’s introduction was whether or not it
(16:57) should show the percentage at the top edge of what so if you click tools inside Vantage of completion here’s what you guys think like I actually like it I rel I realized some of the risks but yeah I’m curious like what do you guys think about that so when your site is not fully developer managed right so if the site is like a lot of my clients I’m building sites to them but I am their DIY people I’m training them to use it or whatever and then what y’all just said is that they get obsessed with that
(17:32) and they don’t they can’t make the difference in nuances so if they’re on WP engine and they’re like I’m at 94% I can’t you think so yeah in my head they get obsessed with that stuff you know and and actually it’s a similar conversation to accessibility that I’ve been having people are like I need 100 and I was like well that’s gonna be difficult because that’s a moving target so you know but people are obsessed with that the same thing with Yoast SEO people who like upset and I mean I love
(18:01) I love those signals I think they’re super helpful but you know you can’t always get to that there’s no like perfection in that and the the percentage I think really implies that you can get to that perfect percentage and if you have that that means you’re fine and everything’s good and that’s not really what that means and it’s not really super achievable anyway so one thing that happens a lot on GT metrics people get obsessive with the score but the important stuff there is not a score
(18:35) but that time to load that page if you are loading on the three seconds I don’t care about score it could be an F if it’s three seconds two seconds perfect you know that’s what we want weights it so as as as a senior performance engineer as like that is my job title that sounds fancy but basically I just helped make sites go fast the bane of my existence and somebody was learned about Google PageSpeed and they want to get a hundred percent on Google PageSpeed insights it is damn near impossible and
(19:09) but it conversely looking at the WordPress site health like a lot of the stuff I just spun it up on Wagle local environment and looked and the things that are there potentially for me are pretty low hanging fruit you should remove an active plugin so I have a couple plugins that aren’t active okay fine that’s something an end user should be able to handle you should remove inactive themes okay we recommend that you update PHP so I’m using an older version and it’s I think it’s seven one or seven – but seven three is out so
(19:46) it’s just trying to push me up into the the next version of PHP so it’s like okay that might get a little more complex that might be something you need to kind of get your hosts involved or a developer or something like that and your site doesn’t use HTTP which again it’s this local development but that again is something you can go to your host with but everything else on the site is fine and it’s it’s kind of all fairly low hanging fruit stuff that can be addressed by a by an end user I don’t
(20:22) think that a lot of the things that they they have on there or terribly complex and again I could just be getting like a little bit of you know color from being a developer and someone has been working with WordPress for a while I’m sure that a lot of any users who have been using the product for just a year or so later or even last might be Olympic I don’t know what any of the stuff is and hey great they keep meaning and stay and Steve in a job like perfect but I just want you all to know I just ran
(20:57) google.com on a page speed score is 92 percent I’ve never done that before but I have an F on their landing page redirects really it’s really hurting them and so just FYI if you ever have a problem with the client give you 90 percent yeah straight up google.com there’s nothing on that page that page if you run Google PageSpeed on the Google PageSpeed site does that cause a rift in the space-time continuum I was trying to do it but I didn’t want to like you’re gonna you’re gonna cause
(21:44) some recursion think about is the ramifications of you see sorry Google PageSpeed gets a 93 on Google PageSpeed with a user if we expose these thing because when I branded on my I immediately went through updated all my plugins and deleted my extra themes and got ready big ones I took that action my last two items are questions for my host so I’m like hey guys either fix this or filter it and I see some of the points like there will be consequences right like people will get frustrated but the big question is overall is it really a bad
(22:26) thing like when you look at the the total of WordPress because suddenly this could be the thing that’s driving more people to say hey why am I on an old version of PHP like what’s what’s going on so my sense is that on the whole this is a very positive move in a good direction I think what if I guess this is kind of what we are but like does this make us insurers in a way like if you have a retainer with a client like it’s kind of like insurance because this is health we’re talking about healthcare
(22:58) for your site and then it’s like kind of like insurance I’m like oh is this like a say branding pivot here Debbi WP housecalls one of the already looked up WP MD by the way it’s one of things that drives me nuts when I’m a review and client site or when I take over when we’re taking over a project is is when you have 20 notifications at the top of the WordPress dashboard right those those actually shouldn’t be ignored right and so I know a lot of clients just just just just literally closed
(23:35) matter ignore them I like to find out what’s going on and go through and fix those things right so so I try to one of things I keep my client says keep your WordPress dashboard as clean as possible and if you have a question about one of those notifications if it looks too technical ask me and let’s get those cleared out because those things typically mean something besides the ones that are advertising another plug-in or asking for donations right the other ones actually do mean something yeah well what are the free do
(24:03) is if you go to the root of the website did you see that that error log files like 50 megabytes it’s definitely something wrong no Tony clients I was gonna say Steve and there there’s something known as notification fatigue for folks who you know non-stock they’re getting you know push notifications on everything else you know if they don’t know how to deal with something yeah and they’re getting these non-stop popups on their WordPress dashboard you know that is absolutely a form of notification and
(24:39) they’ll just ignore it I mean that’s that’s what happens I actually I was working with the client and I was logged in and I was like hey just FYI we means notifications up here you can just dismiss them and and so we’re like on the same time and she like clears them and she was like oh my god that’s so much better I didn’t even realize those were there like she was literally paid scroll just to get to your list of posts something’s wrong like the key thing is here not only did she not read them to see that
(25:08) there was just a brief notification and it said dismiss it wasn’t even anything it just everybody a cup of coffee right yeah just complete just completely blindness notification blindness yes no need to petite leave notification blindness very well there are couple other tools I wanted to mention these are a little bit more advanced developer tools we use in our workflow there’s one called century century on iOS entr why so century is a P is a better PHP logging system it does it’s not free it does cost money but what it does is all
(25:40) of your PHP errors and notification and warnings go over to century it groups them it organizes them and it can send you alerts if something is starting to get out of control so if there you can say you know if I’ve got over ten of this particular kind of alert send me a notification I want to know about it right and so you can also go in and mark things as resolved and so keep keep your PHP errors very organized so that’s a handy now tool with sentry to the right and if you’re the right kind of
(26:10) neckbeard with sentry you can’t you know they have an open source component that you can install yourself I don’t believe that they have yeah and then another tool that we use and I’ve mentioned this on the Lord cooler before in our workflow is called a ghost inspector and some ghost inspectors a visual checker right and so we use it as part of our deploy system but when we as soon as we deploy code our deployment system Safa ghost inspector script and it goes through certain pages on the site to see
(26:43) if they visually changed by a certain percentage and we can set that percentage so we can say you know if it’s more than 10% different send us an alert and and so it’s our visual testing tool so that we don’t have to go through and regression test everything that’s on the on site there’s other tools like it but I’ll go suspect there’s the one that we like where do you have your notification sent so is that going to a the project manager is that going to someone who’s in charge of the ghost
(27:14) thing slack it literally goes into the Select channel for that particular project so that’s as soon as we do a deploy it goes to ghost inspector and ghost inspector sends us a report in slack and it will tell us homepage good about page good sore page changed right and so it’ll actually bring it down right and slack and we can go in and take care of it right away that’s some sexy workflow right there yeah if you want something that’s that’s actually my new nickname is sexy workflow I use a robot not Spacey as
(27:51) that one but you know just suit now yes or no we cycles off site is down kingdom I hate that’s that site is up site is down right that site down absolutely yeah so some of our clients are on Pingdom tools and we get those alerts as well and we put those in slack – and so ping their tools will let you know some somewhat wrong sites down sites up and how long it was down for those are handy I find I find that like really annoying honestly like ii like there are some false positives that that happen so yes exactly it’s like is that like so
(28:34) was it i don’t know what it’s called now and george’s in here so he can’t correct me but i think it’s it was vault press but now it’s all just jetpack i think because you know chester yeah Zor being so you know have that on a couple clients things and they get really alarmed when their site is down like understand yeah so they get a notification your site’s down there like rap and then they’ll like send me an email yeah that’s what they do they go and then and then two seconds later they’re
(29:03) like I’ll just kidding it back up but I’m like can we please not do this it’s please pretty please that’s their downtime monitoring system is what jetpack calls it yeah but I mean which is good to have but again it depends on who’s getting those notifications and it depends on how the site is being managed because if it’s the client managing their on site mostly then this stuff can really I don’t know I wish there were like different modes where you could be like developer mode and it give you all
(29:34) those details and then it’d be like you know I don’t know what you call it layperson mode or just like normal mode or something where it’s like normy mode that’s what we can call it normy mode and then it would just like the big ones that are like you really do need to pay attention to this as opposed to like all the micro stuff that like costs per likes that you know he cow Thanh not Mack beard neck beard all right folks thank you very much for all of you for coming on the show and hanging out with
(30:13) us and talking about this stuff I really appreciate it you can go over to our website I gave you our core concepts kryb that’s where you learn him to subscribe to the show as well as Thank You blab and if you’re interested in getting on the show you know I’ve had people to say who do I have to talk to to get onto the show it’s released and your text right exactly so go fill it go go fill out the forms over there and get subscribed or mailing list and we’d be more than happy to have you come on to
(30:42) the show come to us thank you very much you have a good rest of your day talk to you later have a good weekend okay

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3 responses to “EP323 – WordPress Site Health”

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