047: Speeding up Websites with Sabrina Zeidan

In this episode we talk to Sabrina Ziedan, a WordPress plugin developer in Ukraine, about speeding up websites and building and managing multi-site installs.


About Sabrina Zeidan:

WordPress scaling fan, she is fond of performance optimization, WordPress Multisite, and swimming.
WordCamp Kyiv co-organizer.
Founder at SpeedGuard, a WordPress plugin to keep an eye on your site speed.

Find Sabrina Zeidan: SpeedGuard | Twitter | Facebook  | LinkedIn


Sponsored by:

Automate the workflow of managing multiple sites from a central dashboard using WPRemote’s 1-Click updates, incremental backups, visual regression, automated malware scan, firewall, site cleanups, uptime monitoring and more. More Time. More Clients. 

WPRemote

Women in WP | WordPress Podcast
047: Speeding up Websites with Sabrina Zeidan
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Show Notes

Quotes

“People don’t really care how it would be done, they just want to be faster and they want to keep their usual workflow.”

“You don’t need to have all boxes checked. I just need to make it faster.”

“I was looking for something for myself to monitor site speed.”

“The point of going out of comfort zone was to start doing this and I think I would never start doing this if I didn’t make a public commitment to do this.”

“I remember a few years ago it seemed like a rebellion to me to use my name.”

Sponsored by:

Automate the workflow of managing multiple sites from a central dashboard using WPRemote’s 1-Click updates, incremental backups, visual regression, automated malware scan, firewall, site cleanups, uptime monitoring and more. More Time. More Clients. 

WPRemote

Transcript

Speaker 1:

Welcome to Women in WP, a bimonthly podcast about women who blog, design, develop and more in the WordPress community.

Angela Bowman:

Welcome to the show. I’m Angela Bowman.

Tracy Apps:

I’m Tracy Apps.

Amy Masson:

And I’m Amy Masson.

Angela Bowman:

Our guest today is Sabrina Zeidan, a freelancer who speeds up websites and is the creator of a plugin called Speak Guard, which monitors site speed daily and sends notifications when it needs attention. Welcome, Sabrina.

Sabrina Zeidan:

Hi, everyone.

Angela Bowman:

We like to start off each episode by asking our guests to tell us about their journey into WordPress. How did you get started?

Sabrina Zeidan:

It was a while ago, I think, 10 years or something. I was a graphic designer, and we needed a simple website for our agency, so I was looking for some options. There was a promise of five-minute install, so I tried WordPress. It wasn’t five-minute install, but it was quite easy to deal with after what I tried before. So I continued [inaudible 00:01:17]. A while after I was taken care of this website, and while after I found out it’s much more interesting to add some functionality, to change random things, then during design. So I moved to programming and learning PHP and stuff.

Amy Masson:

So it seems like, right now, you’re doing the speed up process, which is really important with websites. But what was your track from just getting started to where you are now, developing plugins?

Tracy Apps:

It wasn’t like a straight line.

Amy Masson:

Of course not.

Tracy Apps:

I was just doing what I was interested in. And one of the things I am interested in is a WordPress multi-site. There was one project that we were doing with WordPress multi-site. It was a 100 something websites on the single installation. And it was really resource demanding, because lots of people on all of the websites were doing something. They were not just visiting a website. They were doing something on the website. All this network was slowly becoming very slow. It was gradually becoming very slow. In the end, it was keeping crashing the server and everything. And I started to learn how to make it work again, how to make their whole thing more productive, more performance, and to keep things lean and sane. That’s how I started with a speeding up websites.

Tracy Apps:

I have run into that. I’ve had a multi-site actually. So I have one multi-site that has, I don’t know, any sort of thing, I just spin up. So it’s probably around 50 sites and stuff like that, so I totally understand that struggle. And then it’s like, where do you even start? What was your process? How were you going about that, streaming lining the themes and stuff? How did you get into basically making a plugin for that?

Sabrina Zeidan:

I was just looking for something for myself, so I was already doing something for other people, speeding up their websites. And after, so usually the process is like this, there is a website that is not doing good and not doing very bad. So it’s not it needs refactoring or complete renovation, but they just want to make it work. So they hire me. I do my beat, and it looks exactly like it was before, but it runs more faster over slower. Right? But afterwards, they, and me also, want to know that everything is going all right, a month later, two months later. So I was looking for some tool that will be monitoring their website afterwards, after I finish the work. But I wanted it to be monitoring only those pages that I would like, and also, I didn’t want all this notifications and to pay much attention to it. I wanted only to be notified if something went wrong, so I can take a look at it. And that was the whole point. I was looking for some tool, and I didn’t find one. So I just built something for myself, and then I was thinking maybe someone else will make use of it also. And so I printed it up and release, and turns out people use it also. Other developers use it, other marketers use it. And I’m happy they do.

Tracy Apps:

That’s really awesome. That seems to be a running theme, especially with all the women that we’ve been talking with. It’s like, yeah, I couldn’t find it, so I just did it. That’s just what you do. That’s awesome. That’s really great.

Amy Masson:

I definitely think that’s a thing women do. What I needed didn’t exist, so I created it. And that’s awesome. So let me ask you about the speeding up. Because what I find, I have people that come to me too with slow sites, and they’re like, “Can you make it better?” And you set up all the different optimizations, but what frustrates me is, I do all the optimizations, and you run the speed test, and you get the green lights and the A’s, but then it’s still slow. I’m passing the test with a nine second load time. What’s your take on that?

Sabrina Zeidan:

I gave a few talks about speed optimization. And I think each of one contains the example of websites that have something from 95 to 100 points, and they load awfully slow. Because green lights, they don’t really mean your website is fast. They can just pay attention to some things, but to test website speed for real users, you’ve got to test real speed in milliseconds, and to see what’s going on there. Now you can do this with the Lighthouse. But the tool I prefer to use is [inaudible 00:07:24], because when you test your website speed, with [inaudible 00:07:32], which is Lighthouse technology, you don’t know from where the testing server is. So the site speed for the same site will be different for you and for me, in the U.S. and in Ukraine, it will be different. And when you run tests in page speed in site, you can’t see the difference, and you can’t see the actual number for your real users. And that’s the whole problem with it.

Angela Bowman:

Yeah. I have a web host who I migrated to, because he has really great performance on the servers, because he has the servers optimized with enough CPU and memory and other tweaks to make the sites run fast. And he does a lot of site speed optimization talks at word camps. And one thing that he says also is those letter scores really don’t mean anything. You just ignore the letter scores. And what you’ll use is that tool that you said WebPageTest.org. And he loves, that’s his favorite tool too. So it’s great to hear you say that, because it can provide you real diagnostics about the site, where if you could really look at the waterfall and see what’s really slowing things down, it gives you a lot more valuable data and repeat tests, and it’s an amazing tool. It’s a little intimidating, because it shows so much, and you have to get to know how to use it, and what settings to use, and all of that. But do you find, when you go to optimize the site, do you ever have to recommend to people that they remove certain plugins, that a particular plugin or third party call is really the source of the problem, that you can’t really compensate for that too much?

Sabrina Zeidan:

Yes, that’s a very usual thing that some particular plugin slows down the things. But usually, people are not so willing to change their system, in general. For example, I don’t know, for example, they’re using some particular booking plugin. They don’t want to switch to anything else, and it’s rather slow. I might, in my report, I might mention that this plugin causes this percentage of problems. But without removing it, we can do some other stuff as well that will speed up. For example, you have your site to loading in six seconds for now. If we replaced this plugin with something else more efficient, we will have five seconds. If we do so, so and so will have, for example, three seconds. So we can do something and have four seconds keep that plugin, which a lot of people would prefer to.

Angela Bowman:

So what things can you do? If you do have a plugin that is very resource intensive, how would you go about helping to speed up the site overall to compensate for that resource intensive plugin?

Sabrina Zeidan:

Caching. Lots of tough-

Angela Bowman:

A lot of caching.

Sabrina Zeidan:

So I do front-end optimization. I optimize the website for users. I don’t do server optimization, for example.

Angela Bowman:

Yeah.

Sabrina Zeidan:

Right. So what I can do, even if it’s very demanding, logging, what I can do, first of all, I can turn on and tune the settings location. Then I can defer the order on which these plugins are executed. Also I can do something completely different, not touching the plugin at all. It will still be slowing down the website, but I can find some other bottleneck, that can remove and [inaudible 00:11:43] and mitigate the impact of that plugin, which is not a bad option, usually, because people don’t really care how it would be done. They just want it to be faster. And they wants to keep the usual workflow. That’s what I’m doing.

Angela Bowman:

That makes a lot of sense. If they have lots of megabytes of images or other things, those are low hanging fruit you can fix, and then it helps allow for more resources for the thing that really needs it.

Sabrina Zeidan:

Yeah, exactly. That’s what I’m doing. I’m not trying to answer, also, when I talk about optimization, I never say that you need to have all boxes checked. You don’t need that at all. And I don’t need that at all. And people don’t need that at all. It’s not my life goal to check all boxes. I just need to make it faster. And if there are some low hanging fruit, why not [inaudible 00:12:50] that?

Tracy Apps:

So with the site optimization stuff, and as a developer, do you pretty much solely focus on the site optimization, or do you still do other programming as well as freelance?

Sabrina Zeidan:

I sometimes, rarely, do some other consultive work, but mostly it’s site optimization. I learned how to turn the service into product test service. And I did this, I made a product out of my service, so I sell an audit first. Then I make a list of bottlenecks and what should be done to fix these bottlenecks, what the current state of things, and right now, your website speed is so-and-so. There are a few bottlenecks. I can fix them. Your website speed will be so-and-so. And this will take me so long and that much money. That’s my offer. And if I won’t reach what the forecast I predicted, I am not taking money. So for clients, it’s pretty nice offer, I think. Because from those people who order, performance audit from me, almost everyone afterwards order the performance optimization service.

Sabrina Zeidan:

So I learned how to, everything it’s thanks to, of course, community, I’ve learned a whole bunch of stuff about marketing, and business, and everything. Thanks to the community, actually about the plug in, the community until we started this show with Nathan Wrigley about, so about my plugin, I’m trying to, to grow it. Right? So we started a show in WP Bill’s group to show what I’m doing with it and which results I have. And we have huge, huge feedback from the community. People are coming and people who already did this, who had grown their plugins to some nice numbers, they’re coming to watch the show and to give advice, what I can do next. And I don’t know, this is the most wonderful thing about WordPress community, that you just want to do things and people are willing to help you with.

Tracy Apps:

Yeah, I agree, totally. And so you’re in the Ukraine. What’s the community like there? And I know you travel a lot, because I remember I met you in Berlin at WordCamp Europe. However, gosh, it seems like 17 years ago, but it was just over a year ago. Right? So what’s the community like around where you are? Or do you travel around, when we were able to travel?

Sabrina Zeidan:

So in [inaudible 00:15:59], it’s me and another guy who are organizers of the Meetup. I think it’s just last two years when we started to do this really regularly on monthly basis each month without with no blanks, we’re going to meet up. But as everywhere, we moved to online, sadly, now. But before that, we were meeting each month. It was usually in the park. We were having few talks, and then few beers, and it was so much fun. I don’t know.

Tracy Apps:

That sounds perfect.

Sabrina Zeidan:

Yeah. I think, who was it? I think it was Anna from a Spanish community who told me that it will work much better with beers. You should try to add beer to any talk. And we did. And really, it helped a lot.

Tracy Apps:

Sounds about right.

Amy Masson:

I mean it would help me.

Tracy Apps:

Yeah. I’m in Milwaukee. So of course, it would help us out here.

Amy Masson:

So I’m learning about, I’m reading up on your plugin Speed Guard. Tell us a little bit about what it does, and how you came up with it.

Sabrina Zeidan:

Just like I said, I was looking for something for myself to monitor site speed. Usually when people perform a site speed test, they test homepage. But your home page, it’s not your site, it’s your home page. So also, when I was looking for it to, I was thinking that I want to, more into specific pages, which are important pages on the website. What are the important pages? First of all, it’s landing pages. Right? The one way you put traffic on, or you pay for advertising or something. And also it’s the, if it’s for commerce site, it’s product pages, or it’s archives pages, or input. Right?

Sabrina Zeidan:

So I was looking for something where you can just type the name of the page and have it monitored. And that’s what it does. You just type in the title of the page, whether it’s a WooCommerce product, or it’s a page, a post, or any other custom post type, and you set it. And then you have it monitored every day. Right now, it uses page speeds API, and it tells you largest content full paint, which is the time when the largest content on your page, whatever it might be, whether it’s a slider, or it’s the header image, or anything, it shows the time when this largest content on your page is loaded. And this way, you have not only a homepage monitored, but the whole site monitored, and you see the average number for …

Sabrina Zeidan:

Oh, I can hear a dog. It’s Amy’s dog. Okay. We defined. Right. We had [inaudible 00:19:33] a year ago, and I adopted a dog just a week before that. And I was too nervous to leave her at home alone, so I took her with me to [inaudible 00:19:47], to the whole day of conference. She was there, and everyone was playing with her, and looking at her, taking care of her, walk and stuff. And then there was after party. Right? So she was with us, as well. Then after after party, we went up to after party, to the night club. And she was sleeping in the night club under all these bags. Yeah. That was fun.

Angela Bowman:

That’s so adorable.

Angela Bowman:

Hi women in WP listeners. This is Angela with a quick message from our sponsor, WPRemote. WPRemote is a dedicated care plan platform that can help fuel your agency’s growth with maintenance care plans for your clients’ websites. WPRemote provides an automated workflow for you to manage multiple sites from a central dashboard with one-click updates, incremental backups, automated malware scans, firewall, uptime monitor, and more. WPRemote is created by the same great folks behind Blog Vault, MalCare and Migrate Guru. Save time, increase your revenue, and make your clients happy by trying WPRemote for free today at wpremote.com/womeninwp. And now, on with the show.

Angela Bowman:

In developing your plugin, what kind of skills did you need? Did you need to know PHP? What kind of technical skills did you have, and what did you need to learn in order to create that plugin?

Sabrina Zeidan:

Yeah, you definitely need to know some, I’m not saying I’m a huge experts in PHP, but you need to know how to code, obviously. It depends on what your plugin is doing. There are some pretty easy plugins to build, but they give a lot of value for users. Let me think of some sample. You know these plugins that will insert something in your header or footer. This is super easy to build this kind of plugin, but for people who are not coders, this plugin can be really, really valuable. My plugin is not, unfortunately, it’s not like this. It was a little bit harder to build it, but I used Boiler Plate for that, and it took a whole lot of me. And also I used API. First it was Web Page Test API, and now it’s [inaudible 00:22:38] API. So I just needed to bundle all this together and to produce a product.

Angela Bowman:

That’s amazing, because when we interviewed Stephanie Wells with Formidable Forms and we were talking about how few women plugin developers there were in the wordpress.org repo, and she said, “Women just need to just do it. Just do it. You can always get help with it. Women just need to have the courage to just, if you do see a problem, and you want to solve it, then take that step and make it happen.” And that’s really amazing that you decided to do that. Did you feel that in doing that, did you have to learn anything? Was there anything that you felt like you really hit your head up against, as you were going through the process, that you did need to stretch yourself in the process?

Sabrina Zeidan:

Yeah, of course. But I think that just, like you said, the point of going out of comfort zone, for us to start doing this. And I think I would never have started doing this if I didn’t do a public commitment to do this. So at our WordPress Meetup, I said that before our next Meetup, I will do a draft version.

Angela Bowman:

Wow.

Sabrina Zeidan:

I would have felt so bad if I didn’t do this. I understand that no one would ever mention this probably. Probably, guys would forget about this the next day after I said that. But for me, it meant something. If I promise something to someone, even if it’s [inaudible 00:24:31] that I know that won’t impact anyone or something, but for me it meant something. When I said it out loudly, I don’t know. Yeah. This accountability thing, it matters, I think. It’s nice to have to tell someone that you’re going to do this, and there is a date before which you’re going to do this.

Angela Bowman:

Wow.

Tracy Apps:

I agree. I’m the same way. And it’s like, if I have like a deadline, that is what inspires me and helps me to create the steps to be able to do it. Otherwise, I’m like, well, I could just do whatever.

Sabrina Zeidan:

Exactly. I have the whole life to fulfill this. Right?

Tracy Apps:

Yep. And you can’t do that if you’re self-employed. So learning those, what the tricks are of, okay, I’m going to say it out loud, so it makes it real. And I am accountable for that. And here’s the deadline, and here’s what it is. So that’s really, yeah.

Angela Bowman:

That’s how this podcast happened. Amy cracked the whip. She’s like, “We have a date. We’re going to make it happen.”

Amy Masson:

I put it on Twitter.

Angela Bowman:

She put it on Twitter.

Amy Masson:

We had to do it. We couldn’t bail. Now look where we are.

Tracy Apps:

This is what happens.

Amy Masson:

So what are you most looking forward to, as you are now a plugin developer, and you’re doing this? What do you hope to become, to move … Eh, I can’t even say that well. How do you hope this will evolve for you, down the road?

Sabrina Zeidan:

I don’t really know. I’m excited to know. I know what I enjoy doing, for sure. I like coding. I like teaching. I like speaking. And, of course, I like speed, not just site speed. I like speed in every type of speed. But I don’t really know. I would like to see this used by many other people. Right? But also, I think I will just go with the flow, and we’ll see how it works out.

Tracy Apps:

I think that’s a good business plan, especially now. See where it goes. So you’ve spoken. Where all have you spoken?

Sabrina Zeidan:

Oh.

Tracy Apps:

Do you have a list?

Sabrina Zeidan:

No. Not really. It was in Berlin, in Vienna, London a few times, Brighton and Long Beach in California.

Tracy Apps:

Awesome. All over the place.

Sabrina Zeidan:

Yeah. All over the place. But the hardest talk was the first one, the very first one at our WordCamp, WordPress Kiev Meetup. I was involved with WordPress since 2010, I think, but I never knew there is such thing as WordPress community. I had no idea at all. And then I was just in such stage of my life that I was thinking that I know something that I can share. It was about building a network of websites with multi-sites and I just looked for the place where I can share it. And all the sudden, there was WordPress community in Kiev, and I applied to talk then. And then someone got back to me and said, “Yeah, we will be happy to listen to your talk.” And I never did public speaking before. And I was so nervous about this. This was like the … I can’t even say it was a challenge, because it was over my challenge expectations at all.

Sabrina Zeidan:

I was so nervous that I even went to the theater before that. You know, there’s tries like audition in theater they have, where I have to sing, to dance, to tell the story, to tell the [inaudible 00:28:58] and stuff. I never did anything like this before. And it was so embarrassing to me. But I was thinking if I can believe this through, if I can pass the theater thing through, and live after this, survive after this, probably it will be not that scary to talk about something I know, like WordPress multi-site at that Meetup. So I went to that theater audition thing, and it was such a humiliation. It was awful. I felt awful. And my story and everything was awful. They were not even able to listen to the end, it was so bad.

Amy Masson:

Oh my gosh.

Sabrina Zeidan:

Yeah.

Angela Bowman:

This is Amy’s worst nightmare.

Amy Masson:

Yeah, it really is.

Sabrina Zeidan:

It was my worst nightmare. But after that, it wasn’t that scary to go to WordPress Meetup and step in front of people whom I never met before about WordPress multi-site. It was much, much easier to do that. And it turned out that the people there, I never met them before, but it turned out that they were so friendly. And they met me as friends from the very beginning, and we made friends from the start. And I just got involved in this WordPress community thing from the start. And I never wanted to leave it again.

Amy Masson:

So you’re saying that in order to be successful at speaking, you need to go and sing and dance somewhere and embarrass yourself?

Sabrina Zeidan:

It was my way to do this. I think, probably, someone has a better way to do this, but, yeah.

Amy Masson:

Okay. I am actually giving a talk next week that I can’t believe I agreed to. I’m speaking to a group of teachers about being an entrepreneur. So I’m trying to work on that now, so I’m ready. And I don’t know, why would teachers care about this? That’s what I’m trying to figure out. But I already agreed to give the talk, so I have to do it. So any tips?

Sabrina Zeidan:

See, this is the commitment. You can’t bail it. Right? This is the first tip. You just need to deal with it. And that’s it. And no matter how bad it will be, you will survive.

Tracy Apps:

True.

Amy Masson:

That’s true. I will survive.

Tracy Apps:

Practice recording videos of you dancing or something.

Amy Masson:

Oh yeah. I’m definitely, definitely not dancing.

Angela Bowman:

Yeah. Get some TikTok on before that talk.

Amy Masson:

I’m no Tracy. I’m not quite up to her TikTok skills. Tracy’s the TikTok queen now.

Sabrina Zeidan:

Oh.

Tracy Apps:

I’m way too old for that app, but yep. I love it.

Amy Masson:

I’m a TikTok lurker, so I watch it.

Angela Bowman:

Sabrina, I love that you started with the five-minute install. I wanted to circle back to that, because I also started with the famous five-minute install. I don’t know that people these days … Honestly, these days, I don’t know that anyone knows about the famous five-minute install. Because 10 years ago, it was the only way, maybe. Was it the only way? Maybe I’m going back a tiny bit further, but for a while there, it was the only way to install WordPress. There weren’t these auto installers at web hosts. And so, I feel like you learn a lot, just by having to install WordPress in a more manual way. So I think that’s cool. It took me, honestly, two hours to do the famous five-minute install, but it got done.

Sabrina Zeidan:

Exactly. I can’t remember how long it took me. But I can remember that after I completed the whole thing, everything was going wrong all the time, like some errors and white screens. It was a nightmare. But I didn’t know. It was so interesting to dig into this, and to learn why it’s not working.

Angela Bowman:

Yep. You’ve been through all those mistakes. When it doesn’t work is when you learn. When it works, you learn nothing.

Sabrina Zeidan:

Exactly.

Tracy Apps:

Well, and it’s funny, because I did have to troubleshoot and do things in the database and figure out that. And so now, when things go wrong with an auto install, especially when I was teaching this at the university, I was like, “Yeah, so this is how we used to do it. Understand at least the process, and understand how, because then when things go haywire and everything is on fire, this is what’s going on behind the scenes, so you can actually go into the server, and do this, and find this and this.” Yeah. It’s invaluable. It was frustrating at the time. But now, so much more prepared for when things are on fire.

Angela Bowman:

Yeah, because you really understand that there is a database, and there is a WordPress application.

Angela Bowman:

Thanks so much for being here today. Before we go, can you tell our listeners where they can find you online?

Sabrina Zeidan:

They can find me online at my Twitter handle. And it’s Sabrina_Zeidan or LinkedIn or Facebook. It’s my name and last name everywhere, Sabrina Zeidan, and my website, which is surprisingly SabrinaZeidan.com.

Angela Bowman:

Yeah. And we do have all the links to your WordPress.tv.

Sabrina Zeidan:

Oh yeah, right. It took me so long to decide what my personal website would look like when I was using a domain name. A few years ago, I was thinking, all right, I need a personal website. How should I call it? And I had a whole bunch of names that I came up with, how I should call my personal website. Then I saw my brother’s. He’s a DJ in Paris. I saw his website that was name and his last name, HadiZeidan.com. And I was thinking, all right, why this never occurred to me to call my personal website SabrinaZeidan.com? I think this is something that takes just like speaking and some other stuff we are afraid of. It takes courage to call something by your name. And now it seems so natural to me, everything is SabrinaZeidan.com. Is it even leave comments when I code, I leave comments, SD, with my name, and it, is it defined, and it seems to me like a normal thing to do right now. But I can remember that a few years ago, it seems like a rebellion to me to use my name.

Tracy Apps:

Yeah. I get that. My name is my business, because then it’s like, my name is on the line. This has got to be good. That’s cool. I love it. It’s a good way to look at it.

Amy Masson:

And I think there’s something very valuable about being online in your own name. And I find that I am less likely to say something or write something that I’m going to regret when it’s there for everybody with my name on it.

Sabrina Zeidan:

But also, I think from other hand, it gives you a freedom as well. When you use company name, you need to consider the whole company, the whole bunch of people who are the company’s name. But when it’s your personal name, you answer for yourself only. And you can really tell what you think is needed to be told.

Tracy Apps:

Yes, I agree. Love it.

Amy Masson:

Awesome. Well, thanks for being with us today.

Sabrina Zeidan:

Thanks for inviting me. Thanks for having me.

Speaker 1:

Thanks for listening. Follow us on Instagram and Twitter, or join our Facebook group. We would be honored if you subscribe to the show. You can find us on Spotify, Stitcher, Google, Play, and iTunes. Finally, if you want to be on the show or know someone who would, visit our website at WomeninWP.com. Until next time.

 

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