WordPress is amazing, isn’t it? But what happens when the “new car smell” has faded and you find yourself drumming your fingers on your desk while you wait for your website to load? It happens to the best websites, so we have put together a few tips on how to speed up your WordPress site.
Measuring WordPress Speed
Measuring site speed is a necessary step for any site. After all, you can’t rely on just your own internet connection to tell you how everyone else in the world experiences your site. Yours is almost certainly faster (or slower) than average. Our favorite tools to test website speed are GTMetrix, PingdomTools and the inevitable Google PageSpeed
WordPress Web Hosting
Choose wisely when hosting a WordPress site. Web hosting can be confusing, but one of the main differentiators is the web server software that is used. Having tested many web servers over the years, we have found that Litespeed is the fastest for WordPress. That’s why we use Litespeed exclusively for our design and development clients. When you’re hosting WordPress, ask for Litespeed web server.
When you go for a hike, you might put your water bottle and a snack bar in that easy-to-reach pocket of your backpack. That’s what caching does for your website – it takes the most frequently-used parts and puts them in an easy-to-reach pocket for quick and easy access. There are many ways to approach website caching (Litespeed is a great place to start, but only the beginning of the story). What’s important to remember is that without caching, your website has to work a whole lot harder than necessary. There are lots of WordPress caching plugins out there, but Litespeed is our favorite.
Image Optimization in WordPress
WordPress has a great built-in media library that allows you to size images, so that is a great start. As far as website speed in WordPress goes, correctly-sized images are the most impactful step. As a rule, it is rare that you will need an image greater than 1000px in width. From there, your images should be optimized. We use jpegoptim, optipng, and other tools to optimize image compression. This makes them load faster with no loss in image quality, and no extra image optimization plugins to slow your site down.
CDN (Content Delivery Network)
A content delivery network is a series of connected computers that delivers the static (just think “files that don’t change between sending and delivering) files from your site to the visitor’s device from the geographically nearest server to your visitor. Cool, huh? So if your customer is in Nebraska and you’re in Los Angeles, the file will be delivered from Omaha and take a few seconds (or at least a few milliseconds) less as a result. That adds up, and that is the magic of CDNs. Our favorite for general purposes is Cloudflare, and for more specific, heavier duty needs, we use Cloudfront. Each can get excellent results when used with its intended design in mind.
Speedy WordPress Themes
Themes are what make your website look flashy and green…or blue and staid, or however you want it to look and feel! I’m sure that we don’t need to tell you that not all WordPress themes are created equal in terms of site speed. Some WordPress themes can absolutely destroy speed with bloat, features you will never use, etc. Select themes carefully for speed from the beginning. Some of our favorite WordPress themes are the WooCommerce Themes and GeneratePress. These are themes that don’t use over-bloated page builders (the number one cause of slow themes). Page builders are going the way of the Dodo thanks to Gutenberg, so it is a good idea to select a theme that makes good use of Gutenberg blocks.
Identify Plugins that Impede your Speed
WordPress Plugins are awesome. Little bits of functionality, packaged up neatly for anyone to use regardless of their certified nerdiness. But yes, they can have some dark sides, and one of those is often slowness. Especially as you add more plugins, they can conflict, and that can cause errors, slowdowns and worse. How to separate the fast from the slow? Check out Query Monitor. It is our favorite tool for identifying slow plugins, but it will also tell you about slow themes and anything other software on the site that might be keeping you from speeding up your WordPress site.
Hire a Pro
If you are looking for a friendly and competent agency to speed your WordPress website for you, we know of one that has been doing exactly that sort of thing for more than 20 years! We haven’t met a site that we couldn’t make speedy yet.