Even from the early days of the internet, website performance – especially loading time – has been the subject of study as evidenced by the study conducted by Jakob Nielsen in 1993 establishing website performance as a key metric for success. This highlights the importance of website performance in engaging with the target audience and in generating the desired response from the target audience as a result. In fact, many top search engines include website performance in their tools for ranking websites.
Although WordPress is inherently speedy and responsive, especially when the top rated plugins are used, certain page elements and unnecessary add-ons could hinder performance, contributing to lost traffic and potentially lost sales. Here are a number of tips to speed up your WordPress site performance.
1. Test Site Speed
One can’t improve what one can’t measure so that the first step should be to determine the website performance statistics. There are a number of online tools available apart that provide greater insights into which elements on the page take the most time to load and which ones can be optimized. It is important to test the website from different geographical locations, especially those with the highest concentration of the targeted demographic. These tools offer options to do so to determine bottlenecks that can be tackled via website hosting solutions. The tools include Webpage Test, Pingdom Website Speed Test, and Google PageSpeed Insights.
2. Compare against the Benchmarks and Competitors
As mentioned above, has been the subject of numerous studies. From the results of these studies, certain benchmark figures regarding website performance have been widely accepted. Two important studies in this regard include the one conducted by Akamai in 2009 that surveyed 1,048 online shoppers and the one by Gomez (Compuware) in 2010, provided the following insights:
- 47% of consumers expect a page to load in 2 seconds or less, with 40% not waiting more than 3 seconds for a web page to load
- Quick page loading is important for loyalty for over 52% of online shoppers
- 23% percent walk away and 14% become distracted or go to a competitor if kept waiting
- 79% won’t return if they had a dissatisfying experience
- A single bad experience can ruin the image of the company for almost half of customers with one-third of customers telling others about it as well
- Delays not only reduce satisfaction but also impact revenues negatively
So, two seconds or less should be the target while keeping in mind that speeds and people’s expectations have increased since these studies were conducted.
3. Better Hosting Plan with CDN
The web hosting provider can have a big impact on the performance of the website, as it controls the resources dedicated to the website including the storage, processing power and most importantly bandwidth.
Most basic hosting plans offer shared hosting, meaning shared resources across a number of different websites that can cause slowdowns, especially during peak traffic times. Dedicated hosting plans with higher hardware performance and unlimited bandwidth offers much better website performance.
However, the website host usually cannot optimize for different geographical locations, requiring the use of a Content Delivery Network (or CDN for short), which is especially useful when catering to a global audience. The CDN allows copies of the website to be spread across several key regions, reducing latency and offering a speedier performance for the target audience in a particular region while also offering crash resistance. Famous CDNs include Akamai, Amazon Cloudfront, Google Page Speed and Cloudflare.
4. Responsive Plugins and Themes
WordPress has many plugins, allowing one to easily add desired functionality to the website, be it iconic typography, animated and dynamic content, social media content or feedback forms. However, certain plugins can add too many page elements, slowing things down considerably, so it is best to use top rated responsive plugins for WordPress from the get-go rather than getting rid of unneeded elements later on. These responsive plugins are optimized for speed and fluidity across a number of platforms. The same is true for the themes in that a more responsive WordPress theme with optimized images and well-coded elements reducing the overall size will load much faster than another one despite being considered ‘heavy’ in terms of look and feel.
There are a number of tricks and techniques that can be used to optimize the performance of a WordPress website. With respect to plugins, lazy load plugins can be used to load content only when required, like using a static image from the frame of the video instead of loading the video until needed, allowing the page to load faster. Also, all of the static content like images and script files can be offloaded to another server for faster response using a service like Amazon S3. Multiple hostnames can be used to speed up the loading process. Combining multiple files into one and reducing code usage can also help optimize the performance, though a specialist might be needed.
Caching allows usage of the same data more than once, saving both time and bandwidth when it comes to website performance. Using caching both at the server with tools like Alternative PHP Cache and Varnish, and the client side via browser caching by marking the files correctly in file headers can help reduce traffic, allowing better performance during peak times. A number of plugins like W3 Total Cache and WP Super Cache plugin allow caching techniques to be used on WordPress, increasing website performance considerably.
Compression utilizes the processing power available to reduce the size of resources for the website by using certain algorithms that recognize repeating patterns. In the case of WordPress, GZip compression can be enabled in a number of ways, including asking the website host, editing the ‘.htaccess’ file or by using a plugin that supports it. As greater processing power is readily available these days, including on mobile devices, it is a good option to use to increase website performance by reducing the bandwidth used. Similarly, using compressed images on the website itself can lead to better performance while offering the same look and feel, given that lossless compression can be used.
8. Regular Maintenance
Despite using responsive plugins, sometimes old plugins with unneeded or expired page elements can linger inside the WordPress installation. These need to be removed at regular intervals as a regular clean-up effort. The WordPress database especially needs regular maintenance, as it tends to slow down a lot if not maintained regularly. WordPress needs to be kept updated as well, providing both security and potential performance fixes. Furthermore, all deleted posts comments and media moved to the trash directory takes up valuable space, so should be set up to be deleted automatically after a set number of days, allowing more space for useful data.
Website security is a major concern these days, with persistent attacks on popular websites getting more and more common. Protection from unauthorized use, spam, and DDoS attacks is quite essential for maintaining the performance of the website. Managed WordPress hosting with automatic security updates and regular backups along with good security practices including use of complex passwords can mitigate security risks. DDoS protection, both in terms of WordPress plugins and third party service providers, is a good idea in order to protect site availability and performance.
Thus, there are a number of actions one can take to speed up the performance of a WordPress website, leading to greater success.