Have you been in a situation where you were stuck behind a learner driver? I have. What is the most hated thing about learner drivers? (No offence to learner drivers, in fact we were all learner drivers one day but I am merely trying to make a point!) They are SLOW. How do you think visitors to your website feel when its slow? They feel like they are stuck behind a learner driver! When is the last time you checked your home page load time? Is it acceptable? Keep reading to find out…
After starting my blogging journey, I soon realized my WordPress blog performance was on the decline. After 16 posts and 16 plugins it was like the snail ‘Turbo‘ who desperately needed to be supercharged in order to race. So much so that I have a favorites bookmark Folder in chrome (no offence to Internet Explorer!) on this topic. I wanted to make an elegant list that goes down well like a great wine so everyone can benefit and share.
If I knew about performance impacts beforehand then I would have saved time and did things correctly on this site from the beginning. Blogging tips and performance issues are like bread and butter for bloggers. We love to read blogging tips pro-actively but unfortunately we only read about performance improvement tips when we have a problem. It’s better you know at least a little bit about performance issues to watch out so you can be better prepared. These tips will help you make an informed decision and balance performance with website features.
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1. Speed up your Home Page – Target Load time of 2 to 4 seconds. Anything above 5 seconds needs attention. Test your Home page load times using Pingdom Speed Test Tool.
This tool is easy to use and is free. At this stage just get a snap shot of how your website is performing. See mine below, just above 10 seconds. That’s exactly what I wanted to hear
It’s time to see my website test results after implementing some of the below tips. Fingers crossed! under 2 seconds, YES Take that!
Note: The Pingdom tool can be a little inconsistent at times it can throw an odd ball at times.
Tip: Hide or Remove page elements that are not necessary or take too long to load.
Here is a widget that is hidden on my home page so it doesn’t affect performance. Depending on your website theme this may look slightly different. Go to Appearance -> Widgets
2. Don’t Use a Cheap Shared Hosting Provider for your Site
Use Google Page Speed Insights Tool to see how your hosting provider is performing. If one of the suggestions is to improve server response times then you need to look at a manged WordPress host. Managed WordPress hosts can deliver the ultimate performance. Their performance is better than Virtual Private Servers (VPS).
3. Remove Unwanted Plugins
If you have any unused plugins, now is the time to remove it. If you have any rarely used plugins then get rid of them too.
4. Keep the Number of Plugins as Low as Possible – Keep the number of plugins under 20 and under 15, if possible. I started this performance improvement exercise with 16 plugins and now I have 13.
Tip: Use a plugin that performs 2 tasks instead of using 2 plugins. Example – Yoast plugin can function as both – an SEO plugin as well provide site-maps. Nice one Yoast!
5. Keep your Site Size Low – Target Site Size between 1 Mb and 3 Mb.
You can use Pingdom Speed Test Tool and sort the results by file size. If there are any large files investigate how you can avoid or compress them.
6. Better Manage Images on your Site – Keep images under 100kb if possible. Of course, you may have some large images and that’s fine. If you are going to use a thumbnail then what’s the point of uploading a large image? Re-size your images before uploading to your site.
7. Understand the Performance Impacts of Facebook Like & Twitter Share Total Buttons – Did you know these can slow your site down? You certainly don’t need them in the Home page. I removed these and saw a considerable performance improvement in my site. I am not saying not to use these buttons but understand the impacts and make an informed decision. Weigh up performance vs functionality, which one would you compromise? The Expert Bloggers Tips often encourage using these buttons, just wanted to give you the whole picture. The choice is yours.
8. Reduce Excess Baggage – Reduce number of themes, images and backups. Consider optimizing your database especially if your site is an eCommerce site. This is like car servicing or dental check-up. If you don’t do it often then, you can be hit with a hefty bill. Draft your blog posts in Microsoft Word first. This helps in two ways: Word picks up issues WordPress doesn’t (unless you have another plugin for that), WordPress keeps a backup of every single saved draft. Do you really need 60 drafts of your post even before it’s live?
9. Avoid External Scripts where Possible – E.g. – YouTube embed scripts, external comment engines like Google +, Disqus and live chat plugins.
10. Use CSS Instead of Images where Possible – I’ve seen people use images for the ‘Blockquote’ feature to highlight quotes or tips. I use CSS to do this. Handy!
11. Keep Images on your server rather than Loading it from Another Site – When you load things from another site it invariably takes longer. Why not grab the image and put it on your server to improve load time?
12. Use Images Instead of Widgets where Possible – This is where I suffered the most. I simply took whatever people were giving me. I went by looks without realizing there are performance impacts. After doing some basic tests I got rid of some of the widgets and used clickable images to do the same job. Cool!
13. Spend Less Time with Stats and More Time on Website Performance Improvement – I don’t think I need to say anything here. This is exactly what I didn’t do.
Tip: Target high traffic pages one at a time. Start with your Home page.
14. Create a Test Site and experiment there – Ideally you install new plugins here first. In fact, when you receive a plugin update you should put it in your test site first and make sure it doesn’t break anything.
15. Use a Cashing Plugin – E.g. – W3 Total Cache, Mashable, WPBeginner. Do this at your own risk. I had some weird results where my site was loading somebody else’s web page. What the … Use your test site to implement cashing plugin. You need to spend some time testing the test site before implementing this on your live site. I have seen many people recommend W3 Total Cache plugin.
16. Review website performance at least once a month – Ideally website performance monitoring is a regular proactive task. You don’t want to be leaving customers hanging, do you?
Some of the performance improvement tips on this list may require more time than others. Some have a better bang for buck and quick. So choose which ones you are going to implement first like a predator zeroing on its prey. I am still implementing some of these tips myself. There are more advanced strategies for website performance improvement like using a Content Delivery Network (CDN) which I haven’t explored and I wanted to keep this list simple for beginners to understand. If you want to find out more about CDN then WPBeginner.com has an excellent post detailing this.
Note: Site load time and site size are rough, subjective guidelines.
If it’s worth it, share it!
Special thanks to Dan Norris for his excellent post – WordPress Speed on WpCurve.com
Stats on this Infographic can be found on KissMetrics.com.