Speed Matters: Make Your WordPress Site Faster

Does it really matter if your site takes one second to load or two? After all, what difference does a second make, right?

In the online world, you’d be surprised by how much impact a seemingly trivial time delay can have.

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According to Akimai, 47% of users expect websites to load in under two seconds, and 57% of users will abandon a site that takes more than three seconds to load.

That’s right. More than half your customers could be lost in a matter of seconds.

Put simply: Your website’s speed is a big deal. People don’t want their gratification fast, they want it instantly.

Don’t worry if your website is slow right now (use Pingdom to test); today I’m going to help you speed it up by helping you put the right foundations in place.

Hosting

Let’s start at the beginning: Hosting.

If you’ve decided to use WordPress, you need a host that’s up to the job — WordPress is surprisingly resource-intensive.

If you pay for a cheap, crappy host, don’t be surprised if you get cheap, crappy hosting. You get what you pay for, right?

Shared hosting looks like a bargain, but could seriously hold you back; if just one site hosted on your server uses too many resources it can slow the whole thing down for everyone. Even if your site isn’t the problem, it becomes your problem.

If you want the quickest load speed possible, check out the dedicated WordPress hosts — there are plenty out there — and shop around for the best.

Theme

Could your theme be the problem? Sure, it might look sexy as hell, but if it brings your site to a standstill, is it worth it?

WYSIWYG editors are notorious for this; they offer incredible versatility but often create bloated, inefficient code that really slows you down.

There’s a reason why themes like Genesis and Thesis are so popular: They’re clean, elegant and super-quick.

Plugins

Without plugins I couldn’t get my website to do half the things it does now. We all use plugins. We all need them.

But as much as we love them, having too many plugins can really slow your website down.

Every time a user loads up your site, they have to load all your plugins, too. Even a well-coded plugin will slow your site to some extent, but unfortunately many of them are coded inefficiently, and this makes your site noticeably slower.

Never include a plugin just for the sake of it; if it serves no real purpose, uninstall it. It’s just not worth taking the hit on load time.

Images

The larger your image, the larger the file size.

To keep load speed to a minimum, whatever size you want your images to appear, that’s the size your images should be.

Don’t insert an 1500×1500 image when you only want it displayed as 300×300. Not only will visitors be forced to download larger file sizes, but WordPress has to use precious resources converting it to the desired size.

By resizing the image yourself you can really improve the speed of your site — I use the free photo editor Pixlr for the job.

If your file size is still too large, try lowering the quality. You can shave off a good amount of file size without sacrificing quality.

Caching

By default, WordPress generates a dynamic PHP version of your website for each user. As most websites don’t change that often, loading the site dynamically can waste a lot of resources.

To improve your load speed, you really need to be using a caching plugin — the best is the W3 Total Cache plugin.

With the plugin installed, the page is only loaded dynamically once, where a static cache of your website is created; this is the version of your site then displayed to visitors, which loads much more quickly.

Content Delivery Network (CDN)

We like to think that everything on the Internet loads instantly, but this isn’t the case.

If one page is hosted on a server in my city, and another on a server on the other side of the planet, which do you think will load faster?

The first, obviously — it might only be a split-second faster, but we’re playing with fine margins here, remember.

Using a CDN helps you avoid this problem by hosting your website on a number of servers dotted across the world.

When a visitor clicks on your site, the CDN locates the server closest to them, and the site is loaded from there — this will be the fastest to load.

Wrapping Up

There you have it: Six simple ways to speed up your site — the quick wins, if you will.

Make sure your website is built with these solid foundations in mind and you should have no problems with load time.

Would you like to add a tip to help us all improve our load times? Leave your advice in the comments section below!