My Aunty Ivy, Fireworks, Woodbines, (& WordPress)

In this photo we see (from left to right), my Aunty Pauline, Aunty Ivy, and then my grandma (Aline) on the right holding hands with my mum’s brother, Glyn. My mum is the bump in my Grandma’s belly when they were all caught on camera during a day trip to Barry.

Anyway, mum told me a funny story about Aunty Ivy….

We were talking about Bonfire Night and I mentioned to mum that I don’t like the fireworks going off all the time – aside from the noise, as a parent of an 11 and 14 year old, I’m scared of them getting hurt. Anyway, my mum is one of those people who likes to hark back to times when we weren’t so health & safety conscious and she told me that Aunty Ivy used to buy their fireworks from Churchill’s shop in Coedcae, put them in a brown paper bag on her lap, and then catch the Jones bus down to New Inn from the Clarence in Pontypool – all whilst chain-smoking Woodbine cigarettes.

Now you may wonder what this casual disregard for highly explosive products has got to do with WordPress & websites……allow me to explain:


In the early years of WordPress, it was a bit of a free for all. People would install whatever plugins and scripts they wanted. And if those new plugins or scripts did not immediately break the website, then we would assume that all was well, and no harm was done.

However, it is slowly dawning that the ramifications are deeper & more subtle than that….

Performance & Privacy

The double-headed dragon of ‘performance‘ and ‘privacy‘ rears its head. Let’s take a look at what this means:

Website Performance Improvement

Performance is about making our websites as fast as possible – we know from personal experience that a slow-loading or laggy website is off-putting. And Google knows this as well; which is why site speed is an important signal for SEO and ranking your website.

To help measure performance, we use tools such as GT Metrix, Google Page Speed etc to assess various aspects of website speed. After that comes the hard work of rolling up our sleeves and seeing what changes can be made to improve the performance of a website.

The list of changes that can be made is typically lengthy and can be categorised in terms of how much the change is likely to improve performance, how much effort is required, and what other impacts could result.

For example, we often identify that poor hosting is typically the ‘crocodile nearest the canoe‘ i.e. the quickest win. Yes, there is a chunk of effort involved in migrating a website to a new host; but if there is something as fundamentally wrong as poor hosting, then that just has to be addressed first. And when that is addressed, the website will be faster, with no impact on users/website admin team, and no coding changes required.

Another example could be further down the line in terms of performance tweaks: this is where many of the obvious tasks have already been performed (e.g. migrating to superior hosting), and now we are down to marginal gains. E.g. perhaps we look at advanced caching options, these can offer significant improvements, but the website admin team may need to be trained on the impact of how quickly they see their edits online.

So, website performance is one potential causality when it comes to plugin/script overload, let’s look at another…


Another side effect of adding whatever plugins and scripts you like to a website is the privacy implications.

For example, Glass Mountains used to (by default) install Google Analytics to all the new websites we built for clients – after all, what company doesn’t want access to website statistics? However, the situation now is not so clear cut – and this needs to be the client’s choice because of the privacy implications caused by GDPR, CCPA etc.

This is an area where we tread carefully – for starters we are not a law firm; so we cannot give legal advice. And we don’t want a client to think that just because they’ve installed a cookie banner, that they are somehow magically legally compliant. Chances are, they are not.

This huge area is one reason why we’ve teamed up with a UK legal team and a US legal team to better prepare our clients for the increasingly changing privacy landscape (you can hear some of the legal experts from DAC Beachcroft when they came on a recent #TheWPshow).

Brown Paper bag? Fireworks?

So hopefully my story about Aunty Ivy smoking her Woodbines whilst carrying fireworks on her lap makes a bit of sense now – as that level of complacency is very similar to the vast majority of websites out there: completely oblivious to the dangerous powder keg they have on their hands. One that can, quite literally, blow up in their faces (especially in terms of privacy legislation).

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Thanks for taking the time to read.


p.s. I’m hoping to get website performance expert Andy Davies on #TheWPshow next year – so keep an eye on our upcoming events.


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