WordPress is a giant on the internet. It’s huge. You might not know just how huge. It’s actually used in 42% of all websites. It has experienced phenomenal growth over the last few years.
The vast majority of these sites are handled by non-technical individuals. So, WordPress has to be generally usable by all, regardless of technical acumen. In particular, site performance and security are areas that have to be within the average site maintainer’s grasp.
This is where site’s WordPress Health Check delivers is invaluable to pretty much all users, whatever your business. It is easy to use, thorough, and reliable. If only, life were like this!
What Is WordPress Health Check?
Introduced in WordPress 5.1, WordPress Health Check is a tool for assessing the performance and security of a site. It is intended to ensure that a website owner can optimize without all the headaches associated with the process. One of the key benefits of using Health Check is that it is non-disruptive—you can use it on a site without having to take it offline or impact UX at all.
There are many factors inherent in the process of building a successful website. Security is of supreme value, both in terms of assuaging user confidence issues and business liability protection.
To ensure a good user experience, site performance is important – visitors are less likely to wait for more than a few seconds for websites to load. Remember, if you’re site is tanking, you’re not ranking.
WordPress Health Check assesses everything and gives forth a verdict. It will let you know what’s great and what’s not so great. The latter might be critical and need addressing straightaway. Or it might not be such a big deal and just be a recommended tweak.
It should be noted that even a perfect 100% does not denote perfect security. It just means that the settings are all in place for you to be able to implement a good level of security. This is then effected via these site security steps.
How to Check WordPress Health
Go to Tools, then Site Health. The Status tab will offera list of recommendations for improvements. At the top, you’ll see a graphic representation of the site’s health. (From version 5.4 onwards, this information was visible from the main WordPress dashboard.)
Now you know how to use WordPress Health Check, you can run it and see your score. It’s that simple! However, there’s lots of info you need to take into account, so let’s take things one by one.
The first tab you’ll see will run a series of checks on your site to ensure the software is up to date. This will include checks on your PHP (Hypertext Preprocessor, a general purpose scripting language that is used in many websites) version, your MySQL database version, and whether the JSON data format is enabled.
It doesn’t stop there though. It also checks on your site’s connection with wordpress.org, so that plug-ins and themes are retrievable from the WordPress network. It checks on your HTTPS status to verify that the connection is secure. It checks on scheduled jobs and background updates to make sure all is functioning properly there. So, it’s a busy little process. But there’s more.
The Debug tab provides information that may be crucial in identifying causes of site problems. Perhaps the most useful feature is the ability it gives to copy and paste this information in a format suitable for WordPress.org’s support forums. It will even automatically delete potentially sensitive material (such as database information) before sending your post to the forum.
The Troubleshooting tabenables a user to identify and eliminate glitches easily and without interfering with site performance.
Problems can often be traced back to plug-ins either not functioning well or, more commonly, not functioning well in conjuction with one another. Once you’ve clicked on Troubleshooting, you see what’s causing your site to malfunction.
Health Check will take you to the front end of the site and will demonstrate how your site should look on a default setting, i.e., no plug-ins activated. You can then use the dashboard widget to try out individual plug-ins and combinations of plug-ins until you can reliably replicate the problem.
The really clever (and downright helpful) bit is that this is done in a protected and isolated environment that only you can access. Any other user will experience the site just as usual, with all plug-ins working.
Once you’ve got the problem isolated, you’re most of the way there. Although chances are this is when you have to call in the tech guys to sprinkle on some coding magic. However, the good news is that you’ll have done yourself and them a huge favor by giving them information that narrows down the problem.
The final tab that you’ll find at the top is for the trickiest of problems, where the usual data’s just not enough. Here you will find everything anyone could want to know about your PHP. It will have not just the PHP version, but the PHP environment, compilation options, and extensions.
The power to edit all manner of aspects of your PHP is yours. Whetheryou know what you’re doing is another story. It’s always best to get some advice before you go blundering in there. Luckily, the WordPress network is full of helpful people who will only be too happy to lend you a guiding hand.
Now you know a little bit more about what Health Check does, let’s take a look at what you can do to ensure you get the best score from it.
Find the Host with the Most
In any service, the provider is key. When it comes to a call center, for example, it’s no use hoping for good quality inbound call center services if the host providing the telephone link is not up to the task.
It’s the same with a website. The most impactful decision you can make about your website is who you choose to host it. If, perhaps, in the interests of economy, you end up with an inferior hosting service, you may find that the latest PHP modules are not functional with it.
SSL Is Good as Well
By obtaining an SSL (Secure Socket Layer) certificate, you can up the security angle: it encrypts the data transfer from server to user. You know when an SSL is involved as the address goes from http to https, and a reassuring padlock is visible. The impact this has on security and user confidence is beyond measure.
If your provider doesn’t automatically provide an SSL certificate, the good news is that you can get one without any financial cost.
Out with the Old
Plug-in obsolescence or irrelevancy are your enemies. If there are any in your system that you haven’t even looked at for months, then you should probably excise them. Why? Well, they take up space, prolong security scans and they can conceal malware. Plus, nobody likes clutter.
If this sounds tedious (maintenance can be a bit of a snooze, after all) there are tips available that canmake WordPress maintenance a breeze.
In with the New
WordPress updates are frequently issued, so make sure you keep an eye out for prompts to install them and thereby keep your operation shiny and new. Bug fixes and enhanced security features are usually part of these updates, so they are well worth staying on top of.
The same principle applies for active theme and plug-in updates. You are not compelled to adhere to the default theme, but do be vigilant for theme conflicts. And do make use of third-party plugins available out there. As WordPress is open source, there’s no shortage of them. While most are terrific, be aware of older ones that can render your site vulnerable to attack.
There is an automatic updates feature. Some prefer to disable this. However, unless you have a very strong personal reason to do this, don’t. And look out for obstacles to automatic updates and background processes. These are all manner of scheduled tasks that are essential to the effective running of the system. The host may have introduced something that stands in the way of cron jobs completing, so do be wary of that.
Ace Your Database
All your WordPress site content, core files etc., are kept in a database. The database management software that is supported by default is MySQL (or MariaDB). It is imperative that the version of dms that your site is using is the latest. Having the most recent dms means better data management which, in turn, means better website personalization and improvements.
You can find out how old your DMS is by heading to the info tab in site health. If you find that it’s an older version, you need to contact your hosting service provider and ask them to update it immediately. An older version will possibly result in your website behaving erratically.
Mind Your Language
Sometimes, we only concentrate on what is being said rather than on the means by which we say it. In other words, while the ability to use current and persuasive expressions is clearly important, don’t overlook the need to update the language that underpins the website as well.
Also, check that the language that is being used for the site (which in the case of WP will be PHP) is the latest version. This will ensure optimal performance and compatibility with the latest plug-ins. Older versions can usually be updated through contacting the service provider.
Additionally, keep on top of modules and libraries that enhance the functionality of the language. You’re sure to find a list of them on the WordPress website. If you are missing any, you can ask your service provider to install them for you.
It is tempting to think that any troubleshooting mode is a good thing. To take our call center parallel as an example once more, one would be forgiven for thinking that a debugging facility is always needed to ensure call center quality control. However, this can sometimes best be addressed by other means (such as tracing UX with the business VoIP phone service and talking to the caller about their journey).
Sometimes, a debugger will be for expert use only, which is the case with WP sites. There is a debug mode that will spot if any areas of your website are producing rrors. This mode is mainly for developers and expert users.
If you are a beginner or your technical ability is a little lacking, you should disable this mode. Otherwise, you may find yourself bombarded with warnings that will mean nothing to you and will only cause you concern.
REST API – What’s that?
This one’s a bit controversial. REST API is a feature that allows developers to interact with your site via HTTP requests. The idea is that your site will communicate more effectively with various applications. For this reason, it is often recommended that one keeps this activated.
Some, however, are suspicious that an enabled REST API may leave a site more vulnerable to attack. So, it is worth looking into further, particularly when it comes to best practices for combining REST API with security.
WordPress’s Health Check is not the only way to audit your site’s quality. However, it is a monumentally good one that really delivers. It is simple and effective. And you now know how to use it!