Categories
Blog

A2Hosting: The Web Factors Review

I’m not a demanding customer, in fact, I’ve been labeled as “too nice” by a customer of mine in the past, and my manager suggested that I should be coached on sharing my frustrations.

So when I write a review like this, in my mind it can go two ways: either I’m overly nice, or I’ll let out all my frustrations, even the ones I shouldn’t just to show that I’m not overly nice.

But I won’t do that.

I’ll aim to find the middle-ground to hopefully make this A2Hosting review worth reading. One thing’s for sure: I’ll rather be nice as the saying goes:

It’s nice to be important, but it’s more important to be nice.

Web Factors is audience-supported. Upon purchasing through a link on this site, we may earn an affiliate commission. Of course, at no cost to you. Thank you!

A2 Hosting has been the first web host I have ever dealt with five years ago. I was just setting up my first website and didn’t have that perspective yet on what should I expect from a web host.

From what I could tell, my site was up and running properly and I had the tools I needed. That’s all that mattered, and that was delivered by A2 Hosting.

I think I personified the average customer with my expectations. I didn’t really care about how the “cookie” was made, I just wanted it to taste good. That’s it.

So I was a customer of theirs for all these years, until a few months ago when I decided to move on to something that was a better fit for my “downsized” needs.

I had simple reasons for making the move, but this shouldn’t take away any credit from A2 Hosting. Truth is, that there was nothing they could do for me to be their customer any longer, simply because I had other plans. I sold some sites that were hosted with them. That meant, I didn’t need the service anymore.

When I started Web Factors, I knew that it was the only website I wanted to focus on and wanted to try something new when it comes web hosting.

So goodbye A2 Hosting.

With that being said, all this doesn’t mean that it can’t fit your needs. It was some good years together, and I was impressed with the service.

My First Impressions & Onboarding Experience

First impressions last a long time. It’s a cliche, but it’s true.

The first word that comes to my mind is flexibility.

When I started out with A2 Hosting, I opted for the lowest service level possible. That allowed me to create one website.

It didn’t take long till I realized that it all seems to be working fine. As I planned to launch other sites at one point I had to upgrade to a plan that allowed for more sites.

I paid the difference between the plan I had and the one above it – which is called the Swift plan. All this happened within a few hours. Before this, I contacted A2 Hosting’s chat support and I was given clear guidance on how to proceed.

This was a positive onboarding experience.

The onboarding experience of a web host is an important signal in that it can potentially be a projection of the underlying service as well. I wouldn’t say this is always the case, but I’ve found that there is generally a correlation.

Another Bluehost?

If I had to compare A2 Hosting from this aspect to another supplier, I’d say that they are on the level of Bluehost. Just to avoid any confusion – this is a strong positive statement. Bluehost is a highly popular web host and there are good reasons for this.

With that being said, there is an extensive knowledge base and clean navigation inside the user account. There are also shortcuts for quicker and more efficient action.

I could talk about the details of the knowledge base, but there’s really nothing special about a good knowledge base. A lot of tutorials and frequently asked questions.

What I want to talk about instead are the three things that were the most important for me.

These three things are:

  • Speed and performance
  • Technical support
  • Usability & resources

Speed and Performance

When it comes to speed, A2 Hosting is not faster than any other well-established web host out there. At least, with their ‘normal’ servers. There is the possibility to choose Turbo servers which promise up to 20 times the speed of some of the other web hosts.

The key here is to keep your site’s performance at a level that doesn’t affect the user experience negatively. And that my friends, is not easy to do.

We have continuous pressure to create stunning, feature-rich websites. In some ways to improve user experience, but that doesn’t come for free when it comes to site speed. Since Google made speed an important factor for ranking websites in their search results and ads, it is our interest to keep our websites light and fast as possible.

A2Hosting Review Speed considerations
Search engines like Google prioritize faster websites in their search and ad results

So for example, it is a positive thing that software like WordPress is getting important updates like the Gutenberg update was. But at the same time, the size of WordPress as a software increased. Not by a lot, but still will have some impact.

A recommendation when using shared hosting

If you will be utilizing shared web hosting, I would recommend keeping your website as lean as possible. Fewer pictures and videos, fewer plugins if you’re using WordPress.

In fact, plugins and themes are the number one factor in my experience for inadequate website performance.

I was able to rank pretty well in Google in the past running on A2Hosting’s shared platform (concretely the Swift plan). I was just being selective in my WordPress theme, number/quality of plugins. At the moment running with three plugins only, my speed test results are solid.

Performance report for Web Factors

Tech Support

This is one of the trickiest parts to review. I had only one occasion where I was asking a technical question. I was asking whether I could use a specific application on their shared servers for a plugin.

It was possible for me to use it. Though, the feature that the plugin added was not fulfilling the promise I have envisioned. So in the end, it didn’t matter. But it mattered for me at the time, and if the answer was a no, I bet I would’ve been pissed about it. Working in a services business, this is how we behave when we are customers – we are often unreasonable.

Going back to my earlier point regarding tech support, the reason I said it’s the hardest part is as it’s very transactional in nature. One customer has a positive experience, the next one doesn’t.


Categories
Blog

The Joy of Creating a Website (or anything)

When I was in college, in the beginning, I wasn’t particularly into anything, except taking care of myself physically. By this I mean I worked out a lot. But besides that, I was just going through the motion day by day.

I wasn’t fascinated by the subjects I was studying, I didn’t have a hobby that would allow me to experience what is like to create something.

Not anything, but something that can be useful for people, is beautiful—something that’s meaningful. Call it art if you will.

Until I was introduced to WordPress and creating websites.

Of course, in the beginning, it was all about learning and experimenting, but I always had this sensation that “now I’m creating something in my room, that can help people, that can have real use and impact, and I might even make money with it.”

How awesome!

It was never possible to do this before in history, ever. And I live in an era when it is possible. This thought only gave me shivers on my back.

I can’t explain it better than Mark Twain did—

The two most important days in your life are the day when you are born and the day you find out why.

Mark Twain

It’s hard to explain the calmness and fulfillment I felt after I created the first website that was really meaningful. It was like I’ve finally found why I’m here, I finally found my inner peace.

A positive spiral in the process of creation

What I noticed is that the better results I got, the better I got with creating, and my fulfillment got even better.

Maybe this is how a lot of the artists fell about their art. To experience it, I took up the guitar not long ago.

I’m a complete beginner on the guitar, but I have to say that with all the clumsyness—being left-handed, I find a lot of joy in the three cords I learned in two weeks.

Too bad I haven’t experienced this long before.

I guess now was the time for it. Strangely, I believe in these things, that there is a reason why it’s happening now, and there is a sequence of things that led me up to this point in my life. It’s no coincidence it hadn’t happen before. It had to happen at the right time.

I wish all people could experience the joy of creation, be it a hobby, or even taking it to the level of saying goodbye to the office job to do what you love for a living.

Times are hard now for many entrepreneurs because of COVID-19.

I know this.

So you may feel it’s not the right time to start your own business. But we need to put our feelings aside and think clearly. It’s not hard to recognize that now is the time to start doing the groundwork for your business. So that when we’re through this, you are already set up up and ready to deliver value to people and get the credit for it.

We’re going to get through it and we’ll be stronger than before.

Do the work! Be ready!

And most importantly, stay healthy.

Did you know?

You can create a website right away. Go with my recommended web host, A2Hosting. They are affordable and trusted worldwide. Please note that the below is a referral link.

Categories
Fonts

Switched to Geomanist: a free font

Recently I came across a free font by Atypo font foundry. I got hooked from the first moment.

The regular and Italic version is free to use and looks just the way I like my fonts: minimal and beautiful. The text with Geomanist flows effortlessly on the screen, suggesting a premium look. If you’re on a budget, but want something unique, I think it’s worth looking at it.

Oh, and let me correct myself: the font is free, in the sense that no money changes hands. You can pay for it with a tweet or a Facebook share. Check it out for yourself.

Categories
Fonts

Behind Smashing Magazine’s New Design – The Font

The recognized Smashing Magazine has been around for a very long time, and during this time, there has been quite a consistent design approach to it. In fact, I can only remember one design prior to the current one from 2012 to 2017.

I liked the old design a lot. To me, it was very organized, minimal yet reader-friendly. If they had sold that theme after they have switched their design, I would’ve been among the first people to buy it. It is no exaggeration that it is one of my favorite website designs of all time.

In this article, we’re going to cover the new design, with the font selection in focus.

The Old Smashing Magazine Font

Proxima Nova, probably one of the most popular premium web fonts out there was in use on Smashing Magazine.

No wonder that if we search for “Proxima Nova”, one of the results on the first page will have ‘free alternatives’ in the title. Yes, I’m guilty too. I was looking for free Alternatives in the past as well, just to learn that there are no real free alternatives.

Most sources mention Montserrat – a free Google Font. Montserrat is not an alternative for Proxima Nova as far as I see it.

The beauty of Proxima Nova is that it fits perfectly with any type of design. The text flows effortlessly with this font. Not many fonts can say the same about themselves if any.

The Redesign of Smashing Magazine and its New Font

In late 2017 the new design was rolled out. With the new design came a new set of fonts.

Say hello to Elena.

Elena is also a premium font, that fits in pretty well with SM’s current look, but I do find it less readable to the eye than Proxima Nova.

From my perspective, the previous design was unique, it stood the test of time and was strongly associated with the Smashing Magazine brand.

We all need a design that speaks about our brand instantaneously.

The New Look or the Old Look?

For me, certainly the old look was more appealing.

Looking at the fonts only, Proxima Nova was a clear success in the site’s history. For anyone looking the answer to the question above, I’d recommend going with Proxima Nova.

Categories
Fonts

Font pairing: PT Serif and Source Sans Pro

Google Fonts might not be the best when it comes to speed, but there is a vast selection of fonts, and they are free. Consequently, I like using Google fonts. A lot. Not surprisingly, two Google fonts are used here on Web Factors as well.

Serif and Sans Serif

The main font used for the content is PT Serif. It’s a widely used, popular font on the web. The reason I love it, it’s because it goes very well with white space. I can make the font size pretty big and easily readable, but still, keep it visually neat.

The other font in use is Source Sans Pro. This is used in the header area where the menu is, and the sidebar. It gives a very good balance to PT Serif’s “Serifsness”.

Other examples where the same pairing is used

You may have heard the saying:

The secret to creativity is knowing how to hide your sources.

C. E. M. Joad

Sidenote: many attribute this quote to Albert Einstein, but according to Quote Investigator, this is rather an assumption, and there’s more evidence that the original source was the above gentleman.

Anyway, the reason for the above quote is because I won’t be hiding my sources here. Truth is, I was inspired by Copyblogger to use PT Serif, and some Sans Serif font on the side.

So in case, you like the font pairing you see here, now you can create the exact same look when it comes to fonts.

Of course, it will also depend on your website design whether this font pairing hits the mark or not. If you are in doubt, get in touch with me and let’s figure it out together what font pairing suits your project the most. Also, check out my general design recommendations and typography tips.

Categories
Blog

How to Avoid the Worst Black Friday Web Hosting Deals?

Question: why would anyone want to look for the worst Black Friday web hosting deals? After all, Black Friday is about the best deals of the year.

Answer: because if you don’t know the ones that you should stay away from, you might find them among the best deals among ads.

Here is my 3 tips to avoid the above:

Use common sense

If the web hosting plan that you are looking at was selling for $500/year, and now they say it’s $30/year, that’s a red flag. Typically the biggest discounts are given on the value products. So for example, if it was $4.95/month, and now it’s $1.95/month, that’s perfectly realistic.

Check the web host or web hosts and products well in advance

I like to look at the products well in advance. It’s too late to look at it one or two days before the event. Web hosts are preparing their Black Friday offers weeks in advance.

Although it’s illegal, some providers might increase their prices before the event so that they can claim that they have reduced their prices by a larger amount. I’d say it’s rare but seen it done.

Watch out for up- and cross-sells

Most web hosts will try to sell you something additional when you are signing up. If you don’t check your cart, you might end up with some additional packages at your service. Of course, it’s possible that these are of value to you, but it might not be the case in many instances.

+Bonus tip

Keep an eye on the renewal price when signing up on discount rates. Providers will give you very low prices for the initial term, but they will try to make a profit on every client. It’s not that they are unfair, it is perfectly fine as every business’s goal is to make a profit.

I’d just make sure not to commit to renewal when signing up on the discounted rate.