Welcome to Oikos’s new home! A few things have changed – some highly technical, some less so.

TL;DR: Faster, simpler, more secure

[TL;DR, for those that don’t know, means “Too Long; Didn’t Read” and it’s sometimes used as the name given to a short “summing up” of a longer article. Also look up TIL.  Perhaps you can say: TIL what TL;DR means!]

The technical (and some non-technical) detail of what’s changed is below. But the short story is that this site is simpler, faster, and more secure.

It’s not quite a finished work. The Project pages aren’t great. But it’s a good start of something new.

If you care about the details, let me show you around!

New domain: oikos.digital

You may or may not have been redirected here from the old domain, which was oikos.org.uk. When I set up Oikos I was really set on the name, but the .co.uk and .com domains were already taken. At the time I had thought that Oikos might be a proper social enterprise, so I registered the .org.uk domain and it’s stuck, even though I’m actually a proper business.

Recently the new “top level domains” (things that you can use in a domain name instead of .com) started coming out and I have kept my eye on them for something appropriate. When .digital domains became a reality, it made perfect sense, especially as my business is officially “Oikos Digital Ltd”.

Previously I’d shunned the “Digital” part of being “Oikos Digital”,  but I think it’s time to embrace it. I’ll still refer to myself as just “Oikos”, but watch out for more use of oikos.digital!

New theme

The other thing you’ll definitely see – and this is the possibly-controversial bit – is that I’ve deployed Divi from Elegant Themes as my new theme.  For now at least.

Why is this controversial? Well, as an advanced WordPress developer I should really be taking a copy of Sage, adding something like Susy, or Bourbon/Neat, linting my code and optimising my assets and storing the whole thing on GitHub so that other people can fork my ideas.

But the truth is, while this is exactly what I do on larger projects, I do a lot of work for smaller organisations where I use off-the-shelf themes to get them quick build times and low cost. If a small, one-man company came to me to ask me for a simple portfolio website and blog, I’d use Divi. So that’s what I did. It’s been quick and easy and leaves me lots of future potential.

I totally get the arguments against all-purpose themes and page builders, but as a site “implementor” and a WordPress user, I happen to like Divi, and like to think that I use it wisely and judiciously without engaging in page-builder abuse.

I’ve stripped back Divi’s settings and made it look super-simple.  In particular I took a call to remove a lot of images.

I’m not a designer, and using stock images or screen-grabs of sites I’ve built which are really the work of designers that I work with seems unfair.  I’m a developer who engages with the graphic design process but who is actually responsible for very little aesthetic decision making. As such it’s very hard to communicate what I do and what I’m good at. But I’ve made a call to use words and icons and code rather than pictures. Because that’s how I communicate and that’s what I create.

New user journey/experience

I’m really getting into user journey and user experience at the moment. I’m not an expert, but I’m trying to make this site as friendly and simple as possible. This is a work in progress, but the structure, the layout, the calls to action, are all trying to make life easier – and sometimes more fun – for my visitors.

New VPS host

Finding good web hosts is hard and as a technology tinkerer I do occasionally try out new things. Having tried some things out and been happy with it, this site is now running on a Digital Ocean Virtual Private Server. I’d previously shied away from VPS’s because of the configuration and security management overhead, but then I discovered ServerPilot which provides a thin layer of server and application management.  It’s proven to be simple but effective.

It’s also faster: ServerPilot runs nginx in front of Apache for quicker access to assets, and it lets me use up-to-date versions of PHP where suitable, including the new, faster PHP 7.

New security

I’ve been really excited about the launch into public beta of Let’s Encrypt – a FREE SSL certificate provider sponsored by some really big players in the web world. There are some really good reasons to move to HTTPS for your website, not the least of which is that Google are proposing that the Chrome browser will mark non-HTTPS sites as “non-secure” and display this to users.  It’s also good for SEO too, and required for HTTP/2 (see below).

So this has been a bit of a testing ground. My shared hosting doesn’t let me do much in terms of configuration, but on a VPS I have more control, and so I tinkered, and got a certificate set up! I’ll write up this process soon.

New HTTP

With an SSL certificate and the DigitalOcean/ServerPilot combination, HTTP2 is automatically enabled! There seem to be pros and cons to HTTP2, but in my case it certainly hasn’t hurt my load times.

Summing up

I hope you like the new, faster, simpler, securer Oikos website. I think it’s more “me”, and that’s good. My aim has been for it to work better for you too. If you think that hasn’t worked then leave a comment below, or drop me a line.