How a flexible and scalable website is key to prolonged success [WordCamp]

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The combination of scalability and flexibility is becoming more and more prevalent, encouraging a single web presence that is not only ubiquitous but adaptable to almost any platform available.

This and similar notions were common in most speaker presentations at this year’s WordCamp held in Cape Town, South Africa.

A resounding concept brought to light by Jason Bagley, was introduced to the crowd in the form of some insightful rendering of CSS to provide websites with a flexible architecture. The responsive design methodology, he mentioned, takes into account relative values for html elements as opposed to the current fixed pixel-based manner of controlling the stylesheet of a website. This static pixel restriction, although stable, has the drawback of being inflexible between different browsers and different devices.

By having all css values in a standardised percentage and em (the css ‘percentage’ value for font sizes), however, along with a css reset (setting all browsers to a base css logic), allows for the browser to render the appropriate dimensions, aspect ratios, dynamic font sizes, and provide images and media at a relative size, according to that specific devices browser.

This precursor to future responsive development is very promising as it will mean the developer can do away with cross browser and cross-platform development by having one flexible presence, reducing the development cycle dramatically.

Having a site that can be easily maintained by non-technical personal is also a crucial element to ensure scalability. By providing publishers and content managers with a controlled and sanitised environment, where they are unable to affect things they don’t really understand, it becomes a much more stable framework to work in. Byron Rode, co-founder of Tangram, believes removing unwanted modules and reducing the clutter of the WordPress CMS Dashboard can go a long way in improving the stability of the site.

A functioning and growable site is only half the battle, however, as illustrated by Ashley Shaw. The owner of development service Lightspeed and MC of Wordcamp stressed the importance of having a stable and secure hosting company who understands your specific site/s needs.

A website is never created to reach a certain quota of views and to then remain static. The desire to constantly grow should be intrinsically understood by the hosting company and it should have the ability to scale memory, improve caching and update other components to account for the increase in site traffic.

This understanding should extend into the software employed on the server and an effective setup, such as handling PHP and content requests on one server and another controlling a CDN for multi-media, has the capability of dramatically reducing resources and improving performance.

As this is delving into the realm of advanced server architecture, it would be prudent to look at the advanced WordPress options, such as a WP Multisite or Vaultpress. The multisite option allows for a group of sites to be hosted under a single WP installation and/or under a single domain.

This means each site can have a separate sub-domain and be compartmentalised into its own theme, its own login and have unique content. The ability to have the sites mutually and exclusively editable can be of huge benefit when maintaining or updating a group of sites since all the core files can all be affected in one place.

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