Lightning Base Web Hosting

We chose to host this site with Lightning Base after looking at what it offers and after reading the comparison of WordPress hosting performance on Review Signal.

Lots of review websites recommend web hosts. Some are just fronts for a particular web host that the reviewer wants to push, and some simply rely on their readers’ opinions.

Review Signal carries out its own benchmark tests, and we read the reviews of the sites it tests each year. For the category ‘Under $25/month WordPress Hosting Performance Benchmarks’ for 2019, this is what Review Signal has to say about Lightning Base:

A model of consistency in these tests. 99.999/100% uptimes and 0 errors across both load tests. Year after year, Lightning Base earns itself Top Tier status in these tests. Another year, another amazing job.

Chart showing load time and uptime of Flying Twigs hosted on Lightning Base

We monitor the load times for our websites with StatusCake. Here is a screen grab of our StatusCake monitor of Flying Twigs. To the right of it you can see the monitor for another web site that we manage.

I have masked out the name but the other website is hosted with Digital Ocean on a VPS . The speed with which Flying Twigs loads is a testament to the quality of hosting on a shared server with cPanel access.

Consider this: It take approximately 300 milliseconds to blink. That is 0.3 seconds. In other words, Flying Twigs loads is less time than it takes to blink.

For $19.95/month you can host three WordPress Sites, 25,000 Pageviews, 5GB SSD Storage, 25GB Transfer, and 50GB CDN. For the price and service, Lighting Base has given us what we think is the best web hosting for WordPress, and for our business.

Their hosting includes:

  • cPanel
  • staging sites
  • Cloudflare CDN
  • LiteSpeed caching

So I have no hesitation in recommending them. Yes, we are an affiliate with Lighting Base, and if you use our link we will receive a small commission. But that in no way affects our decision to use them. After all, we use them ourselves. And if you use the link it is at no additional cost to you.

What the testing by Review Signal includes

The test includes load storm testing, which simulates real users visiting the site, logging in and browsing. It tests uncached performance. Then there is load impact testing, which tests cached performance by repeatedly requesting the homepage. And it tests uptime, which monitors whether and for how long a website is down during a given period.

Then there is a test by WebPageTest, which fully loads the homepage and records how long it takes from different locations around the world. And there’s a test with WPPerformance tester, which does two benchmark tests. One is a WordPress (WP Bench) and the other a PHP benchmark test. WP Bench measures how many WP queries per second a site can handle, and higher tends to mean better, although this varies with the server architecture. PHP Bench performs computational and database operations.

Finally there is a Qualsys SSL report grade where an SSL Server performs a deep analysis of the configuration of any SSL web server on the public Internet.

Update March 2021

Since writing this article in January 2020, I went back and looked at the WordPress Hosting Performance Benchmarks 2020 at Review Signal. This is the conclusion:

LightningBase continue to be a model of consistent top tier performance. Congratulations for the longest streak of Top Tier honors of any company that has participated in these tests.

Just to round off this post, there is one other element that makes happy visitors, and that is making the site accessible to all kinds of visitors.

The Next Big Thing In Cards

The next big thing in greeting cards: It’s always hard to glimpse what is beyond the horizon. Strategy is about how you get there.

In Good Strategy/Bad Strategy: The Difference and Why it Matters by Richard P. Rumelt‎, the author describes how companies repeatedly confuse their mission statement and their strategy.

Good Strategy

Mission statements are about what you want to achieve. Strategy is about how you are going to get there. Good strategy almost always involves surprise. Like the judo player using the opponent’s weight against him.

And how you achieve your mission statement objectives is not by wishing a change in public perceptions. Rumelt interviewed Steve Jobs of Apple, who answered the question of what his strategy was. Jobs said that he waited for the next big thing. Even Steve Jobs of Apple knew that he couldn’t make waves. He knew he could only catch sight of a wave and make a better product that satisfied that need.

The Next Big Thing In Greeting Cards

That’s what we are looking for: The next big thing in greeting cards. Waiting to catch the wave of what interests the buying public. Recognising that we cannot make fashion. Even Steve Jobs of Apple said that he was waiting for the next big thing.

Yoel Harari in Sapiens, makes the point that social pressure and real needs shade from one to the other. Myths keep us doing things of which, if we stopped for a moment, we might question the meaning.

We know that life is a continual struggle to break out of one myth while falling into another.

Technology And Change

That said, technology has a way of breaking down myths, or the relevance of a particular myth. And that is not least of all because technology means change. So what happens when we get used to the idea of change? What happens is that we feel less rooted in one way of doing things.

Technology also gets us used to the idea that things will change. And will change at a faster and faster rate.

One myth is the need to send cards. We don’t need them to keep warm or fed or housed. But we do think we need them to keep body and soul together. We need them to foster relationships and keep us from sinking into nothingness and negativity.

Books are an example of the resilience in the face of change. Do you remember how eBooks were going to kill the book market? But they haven’t.

Books have fought back. And I am sure as I can be that only part of it is because of the convenience. There is also the physical pleasure of holding a real paper book in one’s hand.

I think another part of it is the desire to get back to authenticity and away from technology,

Now Find Your Envelope

You may remember years ago in card shops when they didn’t display cards in plastic wrappers. You found the cards you wanted. Then if you were lucky, the envelopes for it were stacked behind that card design.

If the envelopes weren’t there you would hunt along the shelves to find the envelope that fitted your card. You might find a lavender-coloured envelope three shelves along, but you wanted a white one. So you hunted until you found one.

If you didn’t find one, you might ask the shop assistant to help you. He or she might open a drawer below the shelves and root around in there.

You might find a card but then you wouldn’t buy it because it was dog-eared. You might find three of the design you liked and they all had scratch marks or were bent or dog-eared. It really hurt when you found that all of the cards of the design you liked were scruffy.

The same with the envelopes, creased and dog-eared.

You couldn’t buy them, could you? After all, how could you show you cared about the recipient when the thing you sent was dog-eared?

Plastic wrappers solved those problems.

Fast Forward To Today’s Environment

Now fast forward to today, with more environmental awareness. Now card designers are thinking it is time. It is time to move to a more eco-friendly solution. No more dog-eared card and the missing envelope in your local card shop.

I recycle. And I add my voice to those who don’t want plastic wrapping every item of food.

That said, I can’t find an easy alternative to buying fruit wrapped in plastic. Who in their right mind wraps four pears in a hard plastic clamshell? Supermarkets do.

The Next Big Thing: Doing Our Bit

And what do I do? I rail against the damage done to the environment, the pollution that risks life itself. Then I have to look at what I do. I have to think about what we at Flying Twigs do to minimise the use of plastic.

That means getting rid of cellophane wrappers around our cards. That said, there is no sense in removing the wrappers from cards that are already wrapped. That doesn’t solve anything. But for the future – what are the alternatives?

Polypropylene bags, which is what are used to protect greeting cards, have a long life. They don’t crinkle and they don’t decompose when exposed to moisture. The downside is that it takes a thousand years for polypropylene to decompose in the oceans.

Of course, it can be incinerated. Did you know there are arguments that this is a better eco-solution than misguided attempts at recycling.

The problem of dog-eared cards is actually easier for online sellers who sell direct to consumers. That’s because the card doesn’t have to sit for weeks in a shop being handled time and time again.

Doing Away With Plastic

But that is still not a reason to be complacent. It has to be better, surely, not to make or use these short-term-use plastics at all?

A substitute has to be from a non-petroleum based source. It has to be biodegradable, look good and be crinkle-free. And it has to have a long shelf life. No one wants it to decompose in the shop. And not also in the box of unsent cards that the customer has at home.

Polylactic Acid (PLA) is a possible answer. It is different than most thermoplastic polymers. And it is made from renewable resources like corn starch or sugar cane.

Apparently it is less clear and crinkles easily. I am not sure about the crinkling, because one of our magazines arrives in cornstarch plastic. Admittedly it is not clear. But it doesn’t crinkle. It is stretchy and we put it in the compost bin after we remove it from the magazine.

Naked Cards

Suppose PLA or some other biodegradable material doesn’t prove to be useable to protect cards. Then will naked cards be the way the market goes? Somehow they don’t seem to fit the description of the next big thing in greeting cards. That phrase surely means something more disruptive than delivering naked cards.

I got a sample of the new Kard Klasp product from the Windles Group. The idea is to be able to do away with the plastic wrapper using a small piece of self-seal paper. We would wrap it around the open end of the card, with the envelope inside the card.

The Klasp is about 10x100mm (about a third of an inch by four inches). And the idea is that greeting card designers would order these in bulk personalised with their own branding.

My brief experience with the samples is that the Klasp kept the card/envelope in place, so that’s good.

There are options for where to put the Klasp are. It can go in the middle of the open side of the card. Otherwise it can go near the top of the open side of the card. Or it can go somewhere near the bottom outer side, etc.

What is not so good is this. Once we’d decided where the Klasp went we would not move it to accommodate different card designs.

The position of the Klasp might be OK on one card design. But it could obscure the design on other card designs. And we would not have time to make endless creative decisions. Furthermore, they would be mini decisions about where best to place the Klasp for each card design. That’s not a very rewarding use of time.

I tried pulling a Klasp off a card/envelope combo. It came off intact and didn’t lift any print, so that’s good.

However, peeling the Klasp off the card left little scratch marks on the card from my fingernail. I was trying to get a purchase on the Klasp to lift it off the card. So the Klasp failed, which is definitely not so good.

Naked and Dirty: The Next Big Thing?

The real problem though is that we would be moving backwards. We would be heading towards ‘naked and dirty’, covered in finger marks. And that is what prompted the use of plastic wrappers in the first place. That is surely not a desirable outcome.

Imagine the scene repeated a million times in card shops. There would be complaints about dirty cards, or the new plastic bags that fell apart in the drawer at home. Or disappointment that there are no cards with glitter any more.

There has to be a solution, but I don’t think that naked cards are the way to go. And if not naked cards, then what is beyond the horizon? It’s easier to see poor solutions than it is to see what the next big thing is.

We look and hope to catch sight of a wave. We try to detect the next big thing in greeting cards and make a better product.

Mixing E-Commerce Trade and Consumer Sales

Mixing trade and consumer sales in e-commerce can cause all kinds of problems. It is different to running a bricks-and-mortar shop. In a nutshell, you risk poor presentation, complex coding, and disappointed or annoyed customers.

Imagine A Shop On The High Street

Imagine a shop on the high street where anyone can look around at all the products. And imagine there are tags on some of the products marked ‘Trade Customers Only’.

Or imagine there’s a limited number of products for sale in the front of the shop. And you keep your trade products in a different room where only trade customers have access to see them. You have probably been in a builder’s merchants where they have a different door or a different counter for trade customers. Or maybe you have been to a shop like that and they ask whether you have a trade account.

Think Of An E-commerce Shop

trade and consumer sales in e-commerce illustrated by a door with a curtain drawn across and a notice 'Trade Customers Only'

Now think about this same scenario in an e-commerce shop. How do you present your products? When a visitor comes to your site, you don’t know whether they are a consumer or a trade customer.

So what do you do? Are you going to put a sign on some products saying they are only available to trade customers? That is going to be a slap in the face for your non-trade customers. They can see them but they can’t buy them.

Or try a different approach. Hide your trade-only products from visitors until they prove they are a trade customer by logging in or registering.

If you hide products from visitors until they prove they are a trade customer, the home page is going to look bare. And customers who are potential trade customers might look at the bare home page and not stick around long enough to see the ‘Trade’ section.

You could put a notice up telling potential trade customers that there is a lot more inside once they log in or register. But as any usability test will show, people miss the most obvious messages.

Also, you are asking trade customers to register before they know what products are available for them ‘inside’ once they have registered. You are asking them to register before they know whether it is worth registering. In a nutshell, and to repeat – mixing trade and consumer sales in e-commerce can cause all kinds of problems.

Where Would We Be Without Categories

There’s another problem. Your products will almost certainly be arranged in categories and they will look pretty empty if there are only a few products that consumers can buy.

If you are selling a limited range or a few experimental products to consumers, there might only be one or two products in each category.

You could, of course, create one or two special categories for consumers. But then it would be the tail wagging the dog. You may struggle to shoehorn your products into categories they are not suited to.

You could create two sets of categories – one for trade customers and one for consumers. And if you do that you risk confusing trade customers when they first come to your site.

Offer The Same Products To Consumers and Trade Customers

Of course, you could have all the same products for sale to consumers and trade customers. But prices are going to be different and probably so is postage. And it’s certain that the terms of business will be different between consumers and trade customers.

If you have two sets of categories, then you need two sets of coding logic running in parallel. You need to think about different postage rates for trade customers and consumers. And you need different returns policies and terms of business. There are rules and regulations (certainly in the UK) about selling to consumers that don’t apply to business-to-business transactions.

Specifically you want consumers to see the information that’s relevant only to them. And you want trade customers to see the information relevant only to them. All this makes the coding more complicated.

Is It Worth It

Is it worth mixing trade and consumer sales in e-commerce in one shop that caters to both? Is it worth the extra coding? Is it worth confusing or alienating customers? Is it simply easier to run two shops – perhaps under different domain names such as mydomainfor tradecustomers dot com or one of them on a subdomain such as trade dot mydomain dot com? There are lots of possibilities.

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