Website Update: October 2020

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Submitted by Andrew Simard on 2020-Nov-03 Tue 15:27
4 minutes

Website Performance

While there are currently very few visitors, website performance is still important for a few reasons. First, Google uses (according to some) performance as one of its metrics when rating sites. Better performing sites provide a better overall user experience, the theory goes, so they are deserving of a bump in the rankings. Seems plausible, albeit anecdotal at best. Second, while there are few users now, things can change quickly at which point having an optimized site will allow a bit more time to address the issue, should we be fortunate enough to have it. Load balancers and higher performing VPS infrastructure is not hard to come by technically, but is not cheap so spending time optimizing now could save a bundle down the road. Third, when a site is performing poorly, it is likely indicative of something that is wrong or misconfigured. By working out all these problems now, while not under load, it will be much easier to detect problems later on. And finally, as developers, we take a certain amount of pride in our work and want to put our best foot forward, so to speak. Thus having a top-performing site is a laudible goal for any self-respecting developer. Happy to report that our "Lighthouse" is over 90% (and 100% in some categories) despite having a Drupal site with 150+ contributed modules.


Likely the most visible change this month is the addition of a site-wide Glossary. There was already a glossary page, but that was mostly a holdover from a previous incarnation. This one is much better, and structured to support a great many more terms in a presentable way. Still working out some of the kinks. Lots of links redirect to pages that require authentication, for example. But well on our way to making this a useful tool.


While the purpose of the site, first and foremost, has nothing to do with its popularity, one of the goals at some point is for it to generate enough revenue to at least pay for itself. Hence the Google ads and so on. Part of that particular journey is ensuring that the site is performant (see the first item above) but also that it meets or exceeds whatever nebulous standards currently reign supreme in the land of SEO. To that end, we've signed on with SEMrush, a seemingly comprehensive SEO-type vendor. We've already completed the changes recommended by their Site Audit tool. This included a lot of work with assigning metatags to everything. Also reworked some of the internal links so that all pages are typically referenced many times by other pages. Which happens to be another benefit of implementing a Glossary, for exmaple. The "Related News From Elsewhere" section of those pages is also a result of this work. Overall we managed to receive a 100% score on their Site Audit, notably with some specific test exclusions. The rest of our SEO push is likely to involve creating content as anticipated for the BTO and CTR blogs. The SEMrush tool actually has a list of questions posed to Google on certain keywords, making it almost trivial to come up with a list of blog posts to write that will directly contribute to this effort.

General Maintenance

Lots of overall maintenance completed. A bit disorganized, flitting about from place to place tidying things up. More crossword puzzles and more tweaks to their theming. A better front page slider implementation. Hopefully the last for awhile! Some behind-the-scenes tools to help monitor the website overall, including authentication failures, configuration errors and so on. Proper full backup system setup for the entire server rather than just the website. Ubuntu upgrade from 18.04LTS to 20.04LTS. Just because. And so on.

On Deck

Looks like the list from last month will become the list for this month. Not much progress made on any of the items planned. So I'll just repeat them again here. The commerce portion of the site will be sorted out. A search function that also encompassess the Canvas site will be added. The support form will be enabled. New functionality for accessing our windows-based applications through a web interface will be added. And some marketing materials for these applications will slowly start to become available.

Should be a busy month again, as always.