I’m a big fan of making sure websites are optimised well for speed (as well as many other things). I also understand that not everyone has the time to learn about slightly more complex and time-consuming methods for improving website speed. So, I thought I’d throw together these 5 quick WordPress speed boosting tips for those of you who don’t have much time but still want to speed up your site.
I won’t cover things like Content Delivery Networks (CDNs), or choosing a good website host. I don’t necessarily consider those to be quick fixes. I’m putting together an ebook that’ll cover many different methods for optimising a WordPress website, including CDNs which will assume not much knowledge on behalf of the reader.
Well, my biggest concern with website speed is about the user experience. Whether loading a website on a desktop or mobile browser, visitors expect a site to load quickly. If a website takes too long to load, then many visitors will simply leave and go elsewhere. I won’t talk much about why this is the case – it’s been covered by many people before me. It’s very well accepted that website loading times can have an impact on the user experience. This article on why speed matters from Kissmetrics is a good one if you’ve not read about it before.
Before I get into the 5 WordPress speed boosting tips, you need to know whether you actually need to make a change. There’s no need to do this work if your website doesn’t need it.
There are a few tools available online to check the loading speed, but my go-to always seems to be Google’s PageSpeed Insights. It’s straightforward, and will also give you pointers on what they think you need to do to improve the loading speed. By all means follow their advice; I’ve not had aything come up that wasn’t at least a little useful from a test I’ve run.
Once you’re on the PageSpeed Insights site above, just type in your domain name and click the Analyse (it says Analyze, but I’m in the UK…). It’ll give you a summary, and list suggested optimisations along with optimisations they’ve already found in place.
It’s worth noting that I’ve optimised my images pretty well, but I sometimes get results that suggest optimising them further. Oddly, it usually happens on images such as my website logo – it’s already around 5kb (it’s an 8-bit PNG file) but I’m probably not going to get it much smaller. Even though I probably can get it a little smaller, it probably won’t make as much of a difference as other things I can do to improve speed (so the benefit doesn’t necessarily meet up with the work required for me).
Now you’ve checked your website loading times and you’ve seen you might need to do some work, I’ll cover some of my WordPress speed boosting tips with you.
This really is a big one. Plus, I’ve written about it more in this post about optimising your images. I won’t repeat everything I wrote about in that blog post, but I’ll summarise them (and then you can refer to that blog post for more detailed instructions).
Try to remove images where you can (ideally don’t use images in place of styled links for buttons). Do you have a gallery that contains several of almost the same image? Do all those images you’ve got actually help you achieve the goals of the website?
If you can remove some of those images, that’s going to help (I appreciate that unless you have some coding experience you may not be comfortable creating CSS styled links – perhaps you could consider using a plugin to create buttons instead? Be wary of adding unnecessary plugins though; see my later point on plugins).
The physical size of the images has a big effect on the file size. There are many tools you can use to resize them, or you can install a WordPress plugin to carry that out for you. I use EEEW for optimising images – it’ll optimise them as you upload them which will save you time.
You might think that turning down the quality of your photos will mean they don’t look as good. To be honest, if you reduce the quality to say 70, 60, or maybe even 50%, you probably won’t actually notice much difference.
If I’m optimising images before uploading a client’s website I’ll usually use Photoshop. However, there are many good tools available online for you to use for this. EEEW, the WordPress plugin, should also be able to take care of this for you.
Jpeg and PNG are the two main file types you’ll be dealing with. A good rule of thumb is, Jpegs are good for photos where there are lots of colours etc. and PNGs are good for things like logos where there are blog blocks of colour and they’re a little simpler.
I’ve found I can get a PNG much smaller than I can a Jpeg.
Don’t forget about SVG (vector images) though. If you’re working with a web designer, you can ask them if they’re able to produce any graphics they’ve created in SVG file formats. They’re scalable, so if you create an SVG that’s very small but scale it up on the website, it won’t lose any quality.
This sounds like a no-brainer, but it’s important to keep WordPress, any plugins, and your theme up to date. People/companies who make these things tend to release updates for a reason. Sometimes, those updates contain speed updates where they clean up the code.
It’s simple to update WordPress; just log in to your dashboard and it’ll notify you if there are any of these updates.
If you don’t want to set WordPress to update automatically, then simply put a note in your calendar to check WordPress once a week or once every two weeks (if you get email notifications about things like comments then you might not necessarily log into WordPress that regularly so a calendar reminder to log in and check for updates and make sure everything is running ok might be a good idea for you).
If you’ve had a bespoke WordPress theme created for you then I hope your web designer/developer created it with speed in mind. It should already be optimised, and you might not get updates in the same way you would with a pre-made theme.
If you bought a pre-made theme, it’s likely you’ll be getting some updates for it. One of the benefits you usually get by purchasing a theme is guaranteed updates from the person who created it. If you get those updates, make sure you install them. Sometimes, WordPress makes changes to the way the underlying code works and therefore you also want to make sure your theme continues to work the way it should (although please note, they try not to make big changes too often because of this reason).
Nothing speeds up a website like actually getting rid of things you don’t need, and it’s one of the simplest WordPress speed boosting tips.
You might have tried out several plugins that you simply don’t need. You might not be actually using some of those plugins, but it’s possible that if they’re activated (even though you’re not using to display something on your website) then it might still be loading something when your website loads (causing extra requests to your server and increasing your loading times).
Have a spring clean through your plugins. Deactivate and uninstall anything you don’t use.
Ok, I did just say get rid of any plugins you don’t need. So why am I saying to install another plugin? Surely I’m crazy?
A caching plugin can help your loading times. It’s as simple as that. In its basic form, it will try to serve static pages to users which can help page loading times.
I use W3 Total Cache, but there are quite a few plugins to help you with this task.
This last speed boosting tip is probably more suitable for someone with a little more experience of WordPress websites and probably a little coding too in my opinion.
If you’ve used Google’s PageSpeed Insights then it will probably have told you if you should try to reduce HTTP requests if you need to.
An example is, say your WordPress website uses two separate Google fonts. You or your web designer has chosen those fonts because they work well together and you want to continue to use them.
However, often (if they’ve been selected separately) then the two fonts will be loaded in two different requests. If you go back to Google fonts and select both of those fonts you still want to use, Google actually gives you the <link…> code that you require to load both fonts in one HTTP request.
Removing unnecessary plugins can help limit these sorts of requests as well.
I hope these quick WordPress speed boosting tips have been useful and given you a good head start on making your WordPress website a little quicker.
When I publish my ebook on speed optimisation for websites (with a focus on WordPress speed boosting tips) I’ll go into detail about all the methods I cover so whether you’ve got some or no experience it’ll be useful – Let me know if that’s something you’d be interested in by leaving a comment below.
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