(Another) site update.

NI Ferry Site Icon © Steven Tarbox.

Completed and upcoming maintenance tasks.

It has been a busy week in terms of site maintenance, even though there hasn’t been a lot of added content to show for it! As previously posted the site moved physical location from the USA to Germany over the weekend. However, other work has been happening behind the scenes as well (and more to be done):

  • The main url of the site changed to www.niferry.co.uk. The reasoning for this is detailed below.  Don’t worry though, your old links will still work and will be forwarded seamlessly from www.niferrysite.co.uk.!
  • The static assets on the site are now delivered to your browser via Amazon CloudFront.  This should considerably improve reliability and site loading speeds (AWS have 25 edge servers in Europe alone).  As a result, NI Ferry Site no longer uses the WordPress image CDN.
  • The site database has had a spring clean, resulting in it shrinking in size considerably.  This should also speed up page loading times.
  • NI Ferry Site is now secured with SSL.  This means that the site has its own SSL certificate and information is transmitted between the sites and users using the HTTPS protocol.  The AWS CloudFront assets are also delivered via HTTPS and have their own SSL certificate.
  • The plugin’s in use on the site have been audited and changed were better alternatives existed.  This includes the image compression plugin which is now ShortPixel.  Another key plugin improvement is the caching plugin, a change which caused some issues with image delivery over the weekend.  However, the configuration now appears to be working fine.  Comments made on links from the site posted to the official Facebook page are automatically imported into the site again.
  • Terms & Conditions, Cookies Policy, and Privacy Policy added to top and side menus.  Users will now also  receive notification about cookie usage when they first visit the site.
  • Finally, there has been a small visual refresh on the site and a new logo introduced.  The 3 coloured waves represent the colours of the 3 main ferry companies operating in/to Northern Ireland – light blue for P&O (their current corporate colour), red for Stena Line, and dark blue for SeaTruck.  The waves themselves form the shape of  a waving flag, an object which of course has a strong association with shipping.  The url of the site is now prominent beside the ‘flag’, as this is the part that people tend to remember (and need to remember to access the site without searching or bookmarking it).  The colours used on the site have also changed slightly as a consequence.

Over the next few days performance may slow down slightly on the site due to further optimisations.  The main one of these is that all images are being replaced with their original files and re-optimised and watermarked.  The ShortPixel plugin is able to reduce file sizes considerably more than the previous plugin could manage (in my tests up to 80% less file size with no visual change in quality).  However, compressing an already compressed file is not a good idea!  Because the original files are being restored the watermarks will have to be reapplied.  This is an automated process (thankfully, as there are well over 700 images on the site already) but may use up server resources and impact on loading times.  The CDN will also be disabled until Tuesday night while the images are reprocessing. While the original files are restored some images on the site may be unavailable for a short period around midnight on Monday night.  I am also currently compiling a quick roundup of the major stories in the Ferry industry across Europe in the past couple of weeks which will be published later this week (if all goes well with the image optimisation process).

I’d like to finish with a Thank You to everyone for their visits over the past 3+ years, and particularly to those who have persevered with the site during its recent technical problems.  Hopefully those problems are behind us now, and I can get back to producing content for the site instead of fixing technical issues!

NIFerrySite header logo 2017 - NI Ferry Site, Northern Ireland's Ferry Website. News, views, technical information, and history of Northern Ireland's ferries.

STENA FORERUNNER. Copyright © Scott Mackey

A Look Inside: Stena Forerunner

STENA FORERUNNER is the temporary dedicated Belfast to Birkenhead freight vessel.  She is one of three Stena 4-Runner MkII freight vessels built for Stena RoRo in China.  In these pictures we get a rare glimpse inside a vessel which normally only gets seen by freight drivers and her own crew.  

Read More »

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