6 minute read
Notification bars run across the top of a website. They display valued information. Such as a link to a newsletter, latest blog post, or promotion.
Notification bar strategies include downloads for an ebook or webinar. Or link to a landing page. Setting a link to PayPal to sell case-study reports was our original goal.
Widget or plugin overload: In this category you’ll find common household names like a comment plugin or Hello Bar — notorious for killing page speed. – Author: Demian Farnworth
Testing profit improvement inspired our experiment with a notification bar. We heard claims of 11-percent revenue gains using a bar. And another user claiming around 20-percent extra revenue by using a bar, too. That sounded pretty good to our greedy ears. We wanted to find out what plugin might add these features – but not affect page speed.
When you search for speed plugins, you’ll find the best ones with unusual or odd-geeky names. Usually with few active installations, and residing in obscurity. They are misunderstood. Plugin authors aren’t always good communicators about benefits. Below we explain how to find these lost “speed” treasures.
The most classic notification bar is “Hello Bar.” It’s the granddaddy plugin of this type. Hello Bar, the plugin, is free. But the SaaS cloud-based service is not. They charge by the click. If you receive 7,500 clicks per month, HelloBar may costs you $50 per month. Ouch! So we went shopping for free plugin alternatives.
Pricing for the Hello Bar free version is no longer publicly available on their website. Suspicious behavior.
Most notification bars we tried had ugly, distracting author’s logos. Egotists! Our solution was to color a logo placeholder the same as the background. Then upload it via FTP overwriting the original image file. A lightweight 0.8k PNG image substitute is invisible to the eye.
If you use Hello Bar’s free version, it includes their own advertising. You’ll be showing slow-loading ads on your site that aren’t earning you any money. And, worse, they use premium real estate you’re trying to use for your own Call-To-Action. It’s designed to get you to sucker for their pro plans. Bait and switch.
Hello Bar uses a freemium version with unpublished monthly limitations. But charges are still based on clicks per month. And a $12 per month *pro* version allows 250,000 visits per month ($5/mo for each additional 25,000 visits). We still don’t like it. Slick-marketing stink is all over the company’s home-page signup. We trust our intuition. Run.
The plugin that “smells-like” a good substitute is “Attention Grabber (Hello Bar Alternative)” free plugin. After installation during testing, the plugin added 500k to the page weight – appalling us. At the time, we were working on a test page well under 100k. It instantly bloated to 600k. So that plugin went into the trash bin.
Other notification bars are lighter for speed. One that fit the bill was Notification Bar by WPFruits. This plugin is no longer free ($20). It’s only 2.5k installed with compression. There are 53 free notification bars in the WordPress plugin directory. When you finish this article, there may be another one!
How do you figure out which notification bars are worth testing? Fortunately, this isn’t our first plugin rodeo.
First, define your goals.
- We want a simple notification bar. No coding!
- We want to customize the colors to match our theme.
- We want either a text link or button for call-to-action responses. If there is no “click-thru”, we’re not interested.
- It would be nice to have a plugin updated or introduced recently. Our collection of plugin candidates vary in staleness from super-fresh (less than 1 month) to over 60 months (crusty 5 years!).
- Is popularity important in this culling? We think so. There are many with less than 10 installation. Those count if they’re fresh baked. 5 years and 10 installation is a loser.
So what plugins did we cull from the list of possibilities?
- Three notification bars didn’t have “click-thru.” That got rid of Sitewide Message, InfoBar Top Notification, and WP Sticky Header. And a few more penalized were mystery meat. Their fuzzy descriptions and confusing screens shots weren’t obvious: WP Notification Bar (singular), Notification MSG Interface Benaceur, and Bonjour Bar.
- Four plugins that use third-party slow-loading APIs hit the trash. Those include: Sticky Ecommerce Targeted Offer / Discount Widget, The NotiBar, Powr Notification, and Notification Bar.
- We axed three plugins having less than 10 installs and being heavier than 100k – and being over 1 year since update: WP AdPunch LITE, SocialTVs, Ciusan Notification Bar. We kept any that were lightweight. We wanted to look closer at those. Stale doesn’t always mean bad. It may mean the plugin author’s on a a deserted-island vacationing for 2 or 3 years. Nice lifestyle.
- We know sorting by package weight kills most popular plugins. But we don’t have a lifetime to figure out a “good-enough” plugin. We’re not searching for perfection. We eliminated 13 already. We’ll use an arbitrary cutoff of the top-10, lightest, zip packages. These all weigh less than 50k. To give you an idea of the range, the heavier plugins were 1.5M to 3.5M in size. Huge! We pity the poor sap who unknowingly chooses a plugin boat anchor.
Top-10 sorted by weight
|TOP-10 Hello-Bar Knockoff Plugins for Speed||ZIP k||ACTIVE||MONTHS|
|Notification bar by DJJMZ||3||10||24|
|Guerrilla’s Sticky Bar||5||10||24|
|WP Header Notification||25||100||36|
|Responsive Notification Bar||29||70||24|
|WordPress Easy Sticky Notification Bar||39||200||6|
|Peanut Butter Bar (smooth version)||39||700||12|
|Quick Notice Bar||44||500||24|
We’ll test all ten candidates on Twenty-seventeen default theme. Two are looking pretty good just from weight, installs, and freshness: Top Bar with 6,000 installs and updated 9 months ago. The other: WordPress Easy Sticky Notification Bar with 200 installs and updated 6 months ago. But we’ll check them all anyway to be certain.
6 Failed Plugins
- Notification bar by DJJMZ – no workee.
- Notifications – didn’t show.
- WP Header Notification – didn’t show.
- Responsive Notification Bar – ugly green and yellow colors and not selectable. Load time changed from 1 second to 4 seconds. It was repeatably bad but it’s unclear why.
- Quick Notice – Too much Facebook and button overhead: up.png: 2.5k, down.png: 2.5k, facebook.com/link and facebook.com/plugins/like.php (11.7k), https://static.xx.fbcdn.net/rsrc.php/v3ibIg4/yP/l/en_US/BVqXzc99u04.js (126k), https://static.xx.fbcdn.net/rsrc.php/v3/yD/r/FEppCFCt76d.png (1.6k). We hate Facebook!
4 Working & Lightweight Plugins
- Guerrilla’s Sticky Bar (1 request: 1.0k) dismissal with day-delay timer, customizable colors.
- Top Bar (1 request: 1.1k) no dismissal, limited-selection colors.
- WordPress Easy Sticky Notification Bar (1 request: 1.2k) no dismissal, custom fonts (slow), fixed colors.
- Peanut Butter Bar (smooth version), (1 request: 1.9k) works nice. no dismissal, default fonts, color customizable.
We thought Top Bar would be the winner because it had 6,000 installs. But it wasn’t as “feature-rich.” Really, it’s not that customizable. Guerrilla’s Sticky Bar is slightly more lightweight, older, and more obscure . We’re stunned.
Guerrilla’s Sticky Bar
Less than 10 active installs, compressed download 5k
Poor product naming made this fast plugin harder to find and obscured it’s purpose. It works great. A hidden treasure?
Mobile WordPress Speed – without coding!
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