A clean, fresh WordPress site can be a thing of beauty to look at.
It would probably load in an instant, is not burdened with extra plug-ins, objectionable content or distracting widgets. In short, a great user experience.
However, given time, a majority of a WordPress website’s page speeds become increasingly slow to load and respond. This is primarily due to them absorbing unwanted baggage in terms of customized code, large image, and plug-ins that have little or no use. These begin to eat into your resources and slow down your site.
The best way to tackle this is to keep an eye out for these hindrances and regularly look to maintain and clean up your website using basic site maintenance features.
In this guide, we look at seven common areas that could be affecting your WordPress page speed.
- Select a reliable hosting service
- Use CDNs for static assets
- Don’t host your own videos
- Decrease the number of server requests
- Enable caching
- Optimize images and media
- Minify your files
Most of the techniques discussed here are not overly technical, and you should be able to make these changes relatively easily!
Among the primary and most fundamental steps in ensuring your WordPress site maintains that speed that it promises is to choose and sign-up with a good quality hosting service provider.
There are many cheap hosting offers available on the web, however, hosting service is not an area where you should be overly cautious.
As a rule, when it comes to hosting, you get what you pay for. Hence, investment in quality will be worth it.
To begin, try and avoid a shared hosting service.
You have no visibility, and control over the nature of websites that you are sharing the service with and how it may affect your site’s performance. Frankly, it is not worth the trouble.
At the other end, unless you are technically savvy, or can hire the services of a person who is, investing in a dedicated server can be a bit of an overkill especially for smaller businesses or start-ups.
In cases like this, choosing a Virtual Private Server, or VPS can end up being the best option. It is a comfortable middle ground providing speed and ease of use at a reasonable cost.
A third option is to opt for a managed hosting service.
Managed-hosting providers users with hosting services specialized for WP sites. Service providers like WP Engine have servers that have been optimized for WordPress websites to increase page speed and ensure that these sites load as fast as possible.
CDNs are meant to speed up your website by hosting your assets in different locations across the globe.
Although your hosting provider will be responsible for serving your application, it won’t be the single source of truth anymore. This is primarily helpful in cases where your users aren’t located close to where your servers are hosted.
If your servers are located in USA, your pages will load considerably faster for your clients in USA compared to, say, your clients in India.
Cloudflare, Jetpack and Incapsula offer some of the best CDN solutions on the planet.
You can directly upload videos to your WordPress site and WP will render the video in a HTML5 player.
But you should never do that!
When you host videos on your server, you’ll provider might charge you for the bandwidth because most servers are not meant for hosting videos or bandwidth-intense files.
Instead, use a video hosting service like YouTube, Vimeo, or DailyMotion.
You can then embed the video on your website. This is a simple way to increase your page speed, with little cost, as these video hosting services are free to use.
Alternatively, you can also try a cloud video service like Cloudinary that offers on-the-fly video transcoding services, or a cloud Object Storage service like Firebase/Amazon S3. You can add additional modules like ML-Kit to your cloud storage facility to integrate video tagging and other digital asset management ideas.
The higher the number of server requests made by a visitor’s browser to your server, the longer it takes for the requests to be rendered or fulfilled. Therefore, server requests should be kept to a bare minimum.
There are several practical ways ways to achieve this:
- Decrease the number of posts per page.
- Uninstall redundant plugins and remove plugins that are among the lowest performers. The Plugin Performance Profiler can help you identify these.
- Reduce the number of images and similar elements on your pages.
- Activate ‘Lazy Loading.’ This allows your page to load only the images that your visitor will see. Have a look at this Lazy Load WordPress plugin for reference.
- Get rid of plugins that your website no longer uses or needs.
For additional inputs on where you can cut down on the number of server requests you receive, submit your URL to Pingdom.
The tool will display a breakdown of requests received and the time taken for each to compute.
Additionally, having the appropriate image resolution is key to help with your WordPress page speed. WordPress routinely creates different versions of images uploaded to your site. This assists you in picking the right image size for your page and does not restrict you to use Hi-Def, 5MB, full-screen photograph even when smaller image resolutions will do.
WordPress generally creates an HTML version of your website which is then served up to the browser.
You can circumvent this by saving a completed HTML copy of your site beforehand.
Now, instead of going through the process of creating an HTML version of your site at each request, visitors can be immediately presented with the saved copy whenever a request is received.
This process is known as caching. There are a wide variety of plug-ins and tools for WordPress that you can use for this. The most popular of these are WP Super Cache and W3 Total Cache.
An additional form of caching you can use, which probably has faster load times, is server caching. However, this requires assistance from your host service provider for implementation.
You can also try some managed hosting service providers like WP Engine. These provide in-house caching solutions.
In case your website has images, it is best to ensure that they can be downloaded in the minimum of time through optimization or image compression.
The file size of a raw image can be in the range of a few MBs. When you have a handful of such images, it can negatively impact the loading time and the overall user experience.
Image compression enables you to reduce the file size of the image without any decrease in quality. Hence, the image, though smaller in resolution, looks the same to the visitor.
Image optimization plugins such as WP Smush.it can help you compress your images automatically for WordPress. In addition to reducing the size of the file for existing media, it can also act on images uploaded in the future.
You can also run your images through a tool like TinyPNG, which will reduce the file size without affecting quality.
An additional option is to optimize images before using them on your website manually. This works for static images because you’ll only be doing this once. Photoshop can help do this for most media files.
It can also save images in a version optimized for form. You can use – File > Save For Web or the shortcut – Ctrl+Alt+Shift+S.
However, if you need to compress images dynamically, it might be a better idea to use a cloud image service or a object storage service that we discussed earlier.
After you have reduced the number of your files to a minimum, the next step is to ensure that the files you are left with are as small in size as possible. This process is known as minification.
The term ‘minifying a file’ means stripping a file of all unnecessary space and comments to make them easier to view without hampering their effect on the machine.
Gulp is one of the tools that you can use to get this done. Grunt is another useful example. For the less tech-savvy, W3 Total Cache automatically minifies your files.
Page Speed is definitely a determining factor when it comes to an understanding of the usability of your website.
It is one of the fundamental aspects when it comes to improving bounce rate, customer satisfaction, conversions, and ranking highly in search engines. Ensuring your website loads as quickly as possible should always be among the top few of your priority list.
Even if you decide to implement some of the techniques discussed above, you should be able to improve your site load time by a fair bit. Figure what is possible to complete within the resources you have and start with that.
A word of caution – Speed is not always everything. It is also important to look at other aspects that might slow down your site and remove junk regarding unwanted content, links, images or redundant pages.