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The ARC Training Centre aspires to provide a high-quality workforce for the manufacturing industry by bringing together research leaders across all career stages. As the centre is a core need for the Australian industry, the site must thrive to its viewers; meaning fast load times, easy to understand navigation and information displayed in a simplified and efficient way.
I was brought onto this project by the SEAM team to help speed up the performance of their website, and fix the incosistencies that occured between page designs.
The main issue with this site was its structure. The site had been built with a page builder, then additional functionality was managed through too many plugins. 20 plugins were being used to manage the latest news, events, people, and partners involved in the centre. Too many plugins leads to slow load times and inconsistent page designs.
Running the site through Google's page speed showed a score of 1/100. During the tests, no content was being shown in the first 14 seconds, while the entire site took 30 seconds to load.
The number of plug-ins meant the site was almost impossible to manage from the perspective of the centre's director.
When I began working on the project, the website was awaiting a PHP and WordPress update along with 90% of the 20 plugins requiring an update. Trying to update WordPress or any of the plugins became a nightmare, as it opened the potential for plugin mismatch issues to occur.
50% of the 20 plugins required updates
Although the original site had some inconsistencies with page designs, SEAM were happy with the overall look and feel. The issue was the number of plugins being used to perform simple tasks. This project required more focus on the code rather than the design. My entire aim for this project was to simplify the interactions required by SEAM whenever they needed to add or update any information.
One task SEAM faced regularly was updating the category of events, changing them from a future event to a past event. Though a seemingly simple task, it was easily avoidable by having the site do it automatically.
Setting the events up as a custom post type allowed the option for a custom date field. Using this in the code allowed the 'future events' page to automatically display any events yet to occur.
This allowed the SEAM team to stop needing to update event categories regularly. They could now create the event and forget about it.
Past and forthcoming events
A plugin was being used to display the people involved within SEAM - it wasn't the right one for the job. Certain people appear across categories, and as the plugin didn't allow this, some people's roles were displayed as simple text pages.
People pages displayed inconsistently due to plugins limitations
By setting up people as a custom post type, it allowed each person to fall under multiple categories. This prevented the need to create individual pages for each category and simply create a person and person role.
The output on the front end would stay consistent regardless of which category was being viewed:
People pages now being displayed consistently
Rebuilding the site allowed me to get the plugin count down to just 8. The results proved successfully with the site now gaining a 93/100 (93x higher than previous testing) from Google's page speed tests. The performance of the site could still be further improved by moving the files to a different hosting provider.