Need for speed

There have been some major changes on this blog in the past few days… some noticeable, some not so noticeable.

The obvious change is on the design front… i’m now running a modified version of Chris Pirillo’s excellent wicketpixie theme.

There are a few reasons why i like this theme and why i made the switch to it from my old custom designed theme;

  • Fixed nav bar with subscribe and search functions – always two nice features to have ‘on tap’.
  • Twitter updates – Chris included a twitter update box and pulls a gravatar to go with it, which sits beautifully at the top of the page.
  • My Profiles – from the back end, i can add every profile i’ve ever created and have it appear on my sidebar.
  • Flickr updates – this theme automatically pulls and displays the latest images from my flickr account.
  • Professional layout – the theme is very straight and organised layout-wise, the colour scheme is also pretty professional looking, although i’ve lightened it up a bit with my background images.
  • Homepage different from rest of site -If you look at my homepage and then my about page for example, notice how my flickr pictures disappear and the sidebar changes… Some may argue that’s poor design as it’s inconsistent – valid point. It’s something i’ve pondered over and i’m not completely sold on the idea yet, but i’ll wait and see how it goes…

Ther are too many other things to mention, but the above points are the major plus points of this theme. So moving on from the wicketpixie theme itself, what changes have i made to enhance the blog further?

Firstly, i’ve optimized all images on this blog for the web. The logo and background combined, only add up to around 45kb. Not bad. To put that in some sort of context, the header and footer on my old theme weighed in at a massive 308kb’s – over 6.5 times LARGER!

I had to ‘work’ though to get them down to that size… using a combination of illustrator, fireworks and photoshop – the background image is 1800 x 1025px so getting it down to a reasonable file size took a bit of trial and error using various image formats.

Secondly, i’m now running a plugin called wp-super cache. This is a modified version of the wp-cache plugin that you’ll find on most wordpress blogs. What it does is really clever… it converts all php pages to html pages and displays html rather than the much heavier php. The downside is that the pages are no longer ‘dynamic’ so if you want fresh content using php, this plugin isn’t for you.

But the only thing that needs to be dynamic on this theme is the twitter feed at the top – it must change whenever i add twitter updates… luckily it’s not php – it’s javascript so it remains dynamic 🙂

So between optimising image file sizes and installing wp-supercache, the site should load significantly faster for you guys most of the time. It also ensures that the site is somewhat ‘digg-proof’ if i ever get any spikes in traffic. Having said all that that, the homepage now must pull data from twitter and flickr, so that *may* cancel out any time i saved doing the above, i’ll not know for a while.

Apart from upgrading to a dedicated server or virtual private server, there’s not much else i can do to make the site run any faster. A VPS would cost around $40/month, so until this blog can pay for itself, there’s no point in ugrading as it’s going to leave me out of pocket even further 🙂

2 thoughts on “Need for speed”

  1. Not immediately, no… we want to see how the server can handle ‘normal’ BeerChief traffic before we go throwing all our own stuff on to it as well.

    So until BeerChief is up and running a few weeks, i’ll not be adding anything else to that server.

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