In this web-obsessed world, your company website is often your introduction to the public, and most especially, your prospective clients. If your site is not up-to-speed (literally!), you can lose clients, subscribers, and even prospective clients.
Want to make your WordPress load faster? This post contains our list of 10 things that WordPress users can do to make your WordPress site scream.
1. Pick a host suited to your website’s needs
Choose your website host based on not only your budget and hosting requirements, but on the host company’s ability to meet those requirements. Be aware of what your website needs to run smoothly, and choose a hosting plan that can handle your traffic levels effectively. Sometimes a great host is just not a good fit for a particular client, if the host is not equipped to adequately meet that client’s needs.
While a managed host will cost more, if your website is a high traffic, incremental part of your business, then the insurance provided by a managed host will prove priceless. Shared hosting means exactly what it says, you share the space offered by your host with many other clients, with each website allocated space on the same server. While this might suffice for some clients, a shared host can have slower speeds and frequent down time during high traffic periods and, depending on the amount of memory your website outputs, just may not be equipped to ensure adequate speeds.
Do not choose the cheapest host, instead clearly assess your needs based on what each host has to offer and make your selection on how suited they are to meet those needs.
2. Use a server side caching plugin
Every time someone visits your website, WordPress “builds” everything that appears on the page being viewed. This can be a lengthy and time consuming process which may occur many times per page.
A server side caching plugin will make sure that the page “build” only occurs once, and only gets rebuilt if content on that page happens to change. This means your website will load much faster, and the load on the server will be much less than if the pages were rebuilt every time it is requested.
While there are many caching plugins available for WordPress sites, you should check the WordPress plugin repository’s reviews and ratings to see what the best options are for a caching plugin.
3. Clean up/optimize your WordPress database
The more old posts, revisions, drafts, tables and deleted items left in the trash, the more space is taken up on your WordPress website, thereby slowing down the loading times on your pages.
WordPress generates a revision every time a post is saved, and the program is by default set to retain unlimited revisions. With WordPress retaining revision after revision each time you save, and you have, for example, 20 blog posts on your site, with even 10 versions of each post, that’s 200 posts stored in your database – 180 more than you actually need. In such situations, WordPress is spending time loading content that can be described as nothing more than excess fat!
The “unlimited” default setting for WordPress revisions can be set to a more sensible limit, such as three. This setting can be adjusted by adding the following code to your wp-config.php file: define( ‘WP_POST_REVISIONS’, 3 );
Regularly empty the trash bins, delete spam comments, and keep your eye on the number of drafts and post revisions that are stored on your site. There are plugins available to delete existing excess revisions.
4. Optimize and correctly display images
The size of a website can drastically affect download times, and the use of bigger images will increase the size of the site. Images in general should be used sparingly whenever possible, as sites bloated with images will definitely run slower.
Images can be optimized for the Internet before you load them to your website. Photoshop, and other photo editing applications, offer a “Save for Web” option that optimizes images for web viewing.
Keep images as small as possible, and don’t require your website to resize them. Image sizes can be reduced without sacrificing the quality of the image, and there are various plugins available to automatically compress your images.
5. Limit the number of plugins installed
While plugins can be very useful, all plugins will impact the speed of your website in some way or other. Plugins are a major cause of slow WordPress websites, and the more plugins you have installed, the more work it takes for your website to load.
Before installing any new plugin, consider its use and validity, not to mention how updated and trustworthy the source is. Not all plugins are created equally, and running poorly coded or outdated plugins can drastically affect your site’s performance. Certain plugins are just known to decrease website speeds – those that make calls to external servers and sources, and persistent calls and updates on your WordPress database will adversely affect performance.
Periodically sort through the plugins you have installed, keeping only those that are serving your current needs. If you have several plugins that perform similar functions, pick just one and delete the others. Delete plugins that are no longer being used, and those that are old and have never been updated.
6. Optimize home page for quick loading
As the most frequent landing page on a website, the home page is typically the first impression for site visitors – and not just an impression of your website, but a quick snapshot of your company as a whole. Implementing a clean home page design offers a more focused picture of your company than a cluttered, widget and content-filled home page – not to mention, a clean page loads much faster!
Many websites use social network sharing widgets to track the number of “shares” of site content. While they are a big trend, these widgets can greatly increase loading times as they must make calls to their corresponding external services such as Facebook and Twitter. Reduce your home page size by using text links or locally-stored social media images in place of these widgets.
Another trend that slows performance is showing entire blog posts on the home page. As this of course inflates the size and speed of the home page, it makes more sense to instead of share “previews” of the post, with links to the full text. As well, limit the number of blog posts to, ideally, 5 to 7, and definitely 10 or less. The default WordPress setting for the home page allows for the display of endless posts scrolling down the page forever. To adjust this, go to Settings > Reading, and set the maximum number of posts to 10.
7. Use a cleanly coded theme
Where it is not uncommon for some WordPress themes to be a few megabytes in size, running an old, poorly-coded and/or image-intensive theme can add a few seconds to your page loading times, thereby having a huge impact on the user experience.
If you can avoid it, don’t choose a customized and fully loaded website, instead choose a simple default theme. Certain themes come optimized for good performance and quick speeds. Only use themes from reputable providers and skilled, trustworthy programmers. Choose a theme with a responsive design that has been optimized for use on a wide range of desktop, tablet, and mobile devices, so that all visitors can enjoy a similar experience on your site.
8. Use a Content Delivery Network
The loading speed of your website depends greatly on the geographic location of your hosting data center – in particular, the proximity of your data center to the location of visitors to your site. The closer a visitor’s location is to your data center, the faster they are able to access your website files, and the faster your site will load for them. For those visiting from a far off location, it can take longer for the data to travel to their browser and therefore longer for your site to load for them.
Implementing a CDN will decrease the burden on your server, enhancing your website performance and dramatically increasing your website speed.
9. Minimize the number of HTTP requests (Limit the number of files required to display your website)
Every file that is used in website design actually detracts from that website’s performance, so the key to smart web design is to eliminate all that’s unnecessary, trimming away excess files as appropriate. The quickest way for WordPress users to reduce HTTP requests is to reduce the number of images being used on the site. Ask yourself if you can achieve the same objectives by replacing some images with text – and keep this thought in mind whenever you upload an image to the site.
10. Keep WordPress, plugins, and themes up-to-date
Performing regular updates on WordPress, its themes and plugins should really go without saying, but unfortunately, many users neglect to follow the regular upgrade process and end up suffering for it.
As with any software, browsers and applications, upgrades and updates are provided to both fix bugs and introduce new features. Applying the upgrades as released will ensure that you are running the most current and efficient WordPress code, which serves to enhance your website performance in countless ways – and running the cleanest code ensures quicker speeds.
A slow-loading website can reflect poorly on your brand, adversely affect your Google ranking, and turn away visitors who are frustrated at waiting too long for your page to load. Taking the simple steps above to increase make your WordPress load faster can benefit your audience, rankings and usability, enhance your brand, improve your Google ranking, increase your conversion rates, and even reduce your visitor bounce speeds.