WordPress speed optimization

WordPress is a versatile and powerful platform, which gives you the freedom to create virtually any type of websites. With today’s modern WordPress Themes, building a complex website is pretty easy. Anyways, there is one significant weakness – it could be quite slow sometimes.

Without the right measures you could easily end up with a sluggish site, which your users would barely tolerate. Latest reports show that any additional second in page load speed could greatly decrease the user satisfaction, clicks on your site and your visitors would probably be gone before you even get a chance to show them your content.

Unfortunately that’s not the only problem slow sites create. Google’s latest algorithms include the site speed as a major ranking factor.

So, What Can We Do?

Before you start, you’d first need to know how your site performs at the moment. There are number of testing online tools available for free like Pingdom, GTMetrix or PageSpeed Insights.

It’s pretty easy to be fooled by your own perception on how your site loads. Your browser may have cached many parts of your site, even without caching plugins, so it loads much faster for you, than it loads for other users, especially first-time visitor. Using test tools also gives you the ability to check the effect on each of the changes you made.

1. Carefully Choose Your Hosting Provider

This is probably the most neglected part of the website optimization, especially from non-experienced users. However, the hosting quality would greatly affect your site’s speed and overall performance. This is the number one factor when it comes to website loading speed.

If your hosting server is slow, you can do whatever optimizations you want, achieve A-grade GTMetrix results and still your site would be slow and rank bad in Google. The optimized WordPress hosting is the bread and butter of your site.

There are many different types of hosting plans available and the right one for you would depend on your specific needs and target audience.

While shared hosting could be an acceptable and very affordable solution for a small blog or company website with not a lot of dynamic content and not to much visitors, it could easily make your life a real nightmare when your content and auditory grow up enough.

For a professional web site, popular blogs or e-commerce sites we would always recommend using a more powerful hosting solution like Managed VPS or cloud hosting for example. It would not only guarantee dedicated resources and more speed, but also a lot more reliable connectivity and scalability.

For more information on how to choose the best WordPress hosting for your site, read our detailed article.

2. Remove All Unnecessary Plugins

We have faced this many times with clients sites. WordPress installations bloated with tons of plugins, some of them not even active, but still left there. This could be a major speed factor, but also makes your website more vulnerable to attacks. Not to mention the incompatibilities it may cause. Keep your WordPress installation as clean as possible and make sure all themes and plugins are up to date.

3. Use a Proper Cache plugin

Using a proper caching plugin could really make the difference and earn you the so tough to achieve Grade A on speed tests. We are a huge WP Super Cache fans and use it with all our WordPress Themes. While there are many caching plugins available and some of them are really great, this one is by far the most hassle-free one you can imagine + it’s completely FREE.

Flexible enough and adaptive, it could serve the purpose on literally any hosting environment and setting it up is a “piece of cake”. Most probably because it was built by Automatic – the company behind WordPress itself. We would discuss the recommended settings for this plugin in a separate post, so stay tuned for more info.

Autoptimize is another great plugin we use on daily basis for JS and CSS combining and minification.

We will discus our recommendation on how to set up both plugins in a separate article.

Of course there are complete and more professional solutions like W3 Total Cache, but most of them are too complex for the average user. Moreover, the hosting plans that most of our users have doesn’t even support it’s features. In the right hands and the right server environment it may be a great tool, but for the average user we can’t really recommend it.

4. Image Optimization!

Even if you’re a Photoshop master and carefully prepare each and every image for your site, there is still a lot to be optimized. We are strongly recommending using tools like Smush, TinyPNG or similar, which are really great tools even in their free versions.

Images are responsible for over 75% of your page content size, so using optimized files would give you a great advantage.

5. Choose Your WordPress Theme Really carefully!

Not all WordPress themes are created equal and this applies to page speed optimization too. Always do a deep research before you choose and purchase a theme. Check the theme demo speed, learn more about the theme provider and it’s other projects, check it’s rating as an author and what kind of support you could expect.

Keep in mind the great support is what makes the difference between a good theme and a really brilliant one. We have a community of more than 10 000 loyal customers and almost every one of them needed some form of help.

A well written and optimized code could be a major factor in your overall website speed. With major part of Internet traffic coming from mobile devices, you’d also need to make sure that your WordPress theme is not just responsive, but also loads it’s resources conditionally and only when needed.

Stay tuned for more useful info on the topic, and if you have your own tips to share, use the comments bellow.

About the Author:

Dimitar Koev is a graphic and web designer, front-end developer and marketing expert. CEO & founder of the Althemist team (previously known as Koev) - an independent envato market author, focused on building WordPress themes with strong e-commerce accent.

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