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Why are recipe websites so hard to use?

Looking for a good recipe for banana pancakes shouldn’t be this difficult.

A Google search for “banana pancake recipe” gives a whopping 52 million results – with some great results that are clearly SEO packed with keywords and stock images.

Google search results for “banana pancakes”

But when you look at what’s on offer you soon hit the problems that make it hard to find the recipe.

Problem 1: Popovers covering content

I choose the top result – it had a great image and the right words.

But soon after opening it I’m confronted with everything but a recipe.

Instead I see:

  • a popover to sign up for an email newsletter
  • a video ad fixed to the bottom-right of the page
  • a banner ad fixed to the bottom of the page

Unfortunately, this is fairly common – so I quickly find my way around closing each.

Banner ads, videos and newsletter subscriptions

Problem 2: Ads Ads Ads

I understand websites need to make money to run – and ads are an important part of this – but what we see now is more ads than content.

This website has an ad placed between every paragraph and image – interrupting the flow of content and making it hard to see what is an ad and what is content.

Ads every paragraph

Problem 3: Long form content

A trend in SEO has been “long form content” – the idea that you need a certain amount of content for Google to recommend your website.

Strangely, for recipe websites, this means people write their life story and load up useless stock images – making the recipe almost impossible to find.

For this website, you find the recipe half way down the page, after the authors pondering on how much they like breakfast and several stock images of pancakes.

And even then – the recipe is surrounded by even more ads.

Note how long the scroll bar is – showing how much content there is, other than the recipe!

Recipe website with recipe hidden half way down the page

Problem 4: auto-refresh ads and data usage

OK – we’ve now got our recipe and can start cooking.

You prepare the kitchen, but you should also be prepared for continuous internet usage as ads are auto-refreshed with new images and videos playing.

To put this into perspective – this website used a massive 20 MB of data to load.

But it didn’t stop there.

There was a content flow of data as the 10-20 ads refreshed.

After a few minutes it had used over 100 MB and wasn’t stopping any time soon.

Problem 4: Slow computer with high CPU usage

It’s no secret that ads are optimised for performance – their purpose is to get your attention and click.

But with all these ads loaded, after 5 minutes the computer is slowing down – making it hard to even use the website!

A quick look at the Windows task manager shows the browser is now taking more than half the available CPU power. This is not normal or acceptable for a website with such a simple task – deliver simple text content, with perhaps a few images.

Browser high CPU usage from content ad auto-refresh

What’s the solution?

I see two core issues with this website:

  1. SEO taking preference over content and user experience
  2. Overuse of ads

Unfortunately, this is only a problem for the users.

For the content publisher – this will be working well for them – they’re getting people referred by Google, staying on the website, and plenty of ad units displayed.

Google also benefits – it’s their ad network, they allow these ads to be loaded like this – even if it provides a bad experience for the users. Surely the people paying for the ads wouldn’t like this!

Google has made efforts to curb websites that offer a bad experience, but clearly not enough.

Ultimately what we need is Google to make a major step – like using page load size CPU usage as a core SEO metric.

This leaves the users being left to “vote by clicks” – don’t visit websites that abuse these systems. And when you find this, back right out ASAP to hurt both the content publishers and ad networks profits.

Google “Instant Answers” could end the Internet as we know it

We all do it – there’s a simple question and we turn to Google for an answer.

And it works … mostly.

But what if there’s no answer? What if it’s just unknown.

Unfortunately there’s many websites built around this to lure traffic. Quite simply – it’s click bait.

For example, a Google search for “rick and morty season 6” – a TV show that hasn’t yet made an announcement.

The first result looks promising – an authorative website, important keywords in the title and recently updated.

Google search results for "rick and morty season 6"

But as soon as you load the website you get the typical shoddy website experience:

  • banner ads that push the content below the fold
  • auto playing videos
  • ads beside and throughout the content
  • long form content that rambles without meaning

Pushing through all this, it becomes clear – they do not know the answer.

It was a trick to get you on their website, to stay there for as long as possible so they can build ad revenue.

But perhaps you missed the answer – so you scroll back through, carefully checking through the useless drivel. But only find opinions and speculation.

Even more questions

My question for these websites is – what makes you think this is OK?

To say your content has the “release date” and “everything you need to know” – then put people through a mountain of useless information and no clear answers.

At very least you could say at the start “we don’t know – no one knows”.

How to find an answer, but it will hurt content publishers

A worrying trend has been happening with Google search – where they will take website content and present the relevant information in the search results.

We see this in our search results as “people also ask”. Where we see instant answers to the question and other similar questions.

This is great for people searching for answers, but it could start a downward spiral for the internet.

Could this undo the free and open Internet we know?

When traffic to websites decreases, publishers have less incentive to produce quality content.

Less quality content, reduces the value of the internet and gives more power to internet giants like Google.

This creates a monopoly – where the voices of few are heard – because the people that control what is found online, also control what is created.

What’s the difference between a JPG and JPEG file

If you pay close attention to the files on your computer – you may have noticed two different – but similar – file types: JPG and JPEG.

But what’s the difference?

The simple answer is – they’re not different at all!

Other than the file extension – they are byte-for-byte exactly the same.

Both JPG and JPEG files are JPEG standard files.

Why are there two different file extensions for the same file?

This dates back to early versions of Windows – which only supported three-character file extensions.

This was known as the 8.3 filename and limited file names to eight-characters and the extension to three-characters.

For example – 12345678.123

While other operating systems like Linux and Mac OS could support the four-character file extension of JPEG – Windows could not.

Therefore for compatibility the three-digit extension of JPG was used.

If you dig a little deeper – there’s more!

The JPEG image standard has been used with other file extensions:

  • .jpg
  • .jpeg
  • .jpe
  • .jif
  • .jfif
  • .jfi

Now what’s with the JIF, JFIF and JFI files?

JIF, JFIF and JFI files are again the JPEG files – however these have capacity additional metadata.

Are JPEG and JFIF the same thing then?

No – JPEG and JFIF are two different things.

JPEG is the compression algorithm (Joint Photographic Experts Group).

JFIF is the file format (JPEG File Interchange Format).

So how do you convert a JPG to a JPEG?

So now you know JPG and JPEG files are the same thing – you might be left wanting to “convert” the file.

For example – if you have an online form which only accepts JPG files, but you have a JPEG.

Because they’re the same – all you need to do is change the file extension at the end of the file.

In Windows 10, to change the file extension:

  1. Open File Explorer (Windows + E)
  2. Open the ‘View’ ribbon
  3. In the ‘Show/hide’ group – tick ‘File name extensions’
  4. Now the file extension is displayed – locate your file and edit the name
  5. For example, change image.jpeg to image.jpg

What are the dangers of someone knowing your IP Address?

Every device that connects to the internet has an IP (Internet Protocol) address.

They’re needed for devices talk to each other and exchange data.

Your IP address may look like

  • 50.201.69.200 – for IPv4 
    or
  • 2001:4860:4000:4uh5:b2fw:0000:8e5d:6432 – for IPv6

– depending on how modern your equipment is.

TIP: Want to know what you IP Address is – check out What is my IP?

But what are the dangers of someone knowing your IP address – and should you hide it?


Denial of Service attack

If someone knew you IP address – they could perform a Denial of Service attack on your router.

This will flood your connection so that your internet stops working – or at best just slows down to a crawl.

This also affects your ISP (Internet Service Provider) – so fortunately most will have systems to detect and manage Denial of Service attacks in their network.

However, these attacks require resources and run the risk of the attacker getting caught and in trouble with their ISP and the law – so fortunately they’re not often directed at home internet connections.

Discover your location

There are online databases which show the geographic location of IP addresses.

Someone with your IP address could uses these to discover your location.

In most cases, these only show your city and state – but this information could be enough to narrow down your identity – such as the school you go to.

Report your IP address as “bad” to websites and services

Some websites, like AbuseIPDB, list “bad” ip addresses – which have been used for hacking, spam and other abusive activity on the Internet.

Someone with you IP address could report it as “bad” – even without you doing anything wrong.

Do this enough times and you’ll have troubles accessing websites which block “bad” IP addresses.

Report your IP address to law enforcement

Taking things a step further – someone with your IP address could also report it as “bad” to law enforcement.

This is unlikely to be taken seriously without evidence – but it still may attract unwanted attention.


Can I be hacked using my IP address?

No – at least least it’s extremely unlikely.

For this to happen you would have to have an existing vulnerability – such as an unsecured router with a default password or open ports.

Fortunately this is extremely rare. Modern routers are designed with security in mind – for example making you set a password before it can be used. And ISP’s often use a firewall to help protect your connection.


Should I hide my IP address?

Sometimes – depending on what you’re doing.

For example, if you’re doing Internet banking you would NOT want to hide your IP address – as you want to have a “clean” connection to the bank. But if you’re browsing websites you don’t trust – YES you should consider hiding your IP address.

The best way to do this is using a VPN – such as Private Internet Access.

Private Internet Access is a highly trusted VPN service which:

  • hides your IP address
  • gives you access via 46 countries – further hiding your location
  • is the only proven no-log VPN service in the world!

I’ve used Private Internet Access for several years and highly recommend them – they offer extreme value for money with prices from $4.42/month.

How to search and filter the WordPress Plugins Directory

The WordPress Plugins Directory is the place to go for thousands of free plugins for WordPress.

But it’s large size also makes it hard to select the best plugins.

This is made worse by it not having filter or sort options.

Here’s some tips to help you work through the WordPress Plugins Directory.

These links offer a basic form of filtering – allow you to narrow down key areas.

Popular

This link lists by the number of installs the plugin has.

https://wordpress.org/plugins/browse/popular/

New plugins

This link lists plugins recently added to the directory – up to two months ago.

https://wordpress.org/plugins/browse/new/

Tags

This link can be used to filter by tags.

Note that tags are not always added by plugin authors and may not truly represent the plugin.

To use – replace ‘seo’ with the tag of your choosing.

https://wordpress.org/plugins/tags/seo/

Zepper Plugin Search is a third-party website which allows you to search and filter plugins.

The website takes a copy of the WordPress plugin directory once a day – and has added filter options:

  • Category
  • Rating
  • Number of installs
  • Last updated

https://pluginsearch.com/

Why you can’t use 100% of hard drive capacity

If you look closely you’ll see that hard drives never show their full advertised capacity.

Perhaps you’ve bought a nice new 1 TB hard drive to copy files to – but it only shows 930 GB of available space.

But why can’t you save 1 TB of files on that new 1 TB hard drive and where has the missing space gone? Continue reading “Why you can’t use 100% of hard drive capacity”

WordPress 5.3.2 Maintenance Release

WordPress 5.3.2 was released on 18 December 2019.

5.3.2 is a maintenance release that includes 5 bug fixes and enhancements – including improvements to the Site Health feature.

What does it fix?

Issues fixed in the WordPress 5.3.2 Maintenance Release include:

For the full list of changes see

https://core.trac.wordpress.org/query?status=closed&type=!task+(blessed)&resolution=fixed&milestone=5.3.2&col=id&col=summary&col=owner&col=type&col=priority&col=component&col=version&order=priority

How to install update?

As a minor release, by default, the update will install automatically.

If this has been disabled you will need to install by logging into your WordPress administration console and go to the Dashboard -> Updates page.

WordPress 5.3.1 Security and Maintenance Release

WordPress 5.3.1 was released on 13 December 2019.

WordPress 5.3.1 is a security release which addresses four security issues.

As with any security release – it’s important that you update immediately.

What does it fix?

Security issues fixed in the WordPress 5.3.1:

  • a bug where an unprivileged user could make a post sticky via the REST API
  • a bug where cross-site scripting (XSS) could be stored in well-crafted links
  • a XSS vulnerability using Gutenberg block edito
  • hardening wp_kses_bad_protocol() to ensure that it is aware of the named colon attribute

There were also 48 maintenance updates covering the block editor, Twenty Twenty bundled theme, accessibility, Admin CSS, internationalization, media library and date/time handling.

How to install update?

As a minor release, by default, the update will install automatically.

If this has been disabled you will need to install by logging into your WordPress administration console and go to the Dashboard -> Updates page.