When considering the impact that performance tuning WordPress has on consumers, consider the following. According to Webpronews.com, Shopzilla achieved a 25% increase in pageviews and 7% to 12% in revenue increase by improving the speed of their website. 75% of users said that they would not return to a website that took longer than four seconds to load and that nearly half of the users expect the webpages to load in two seconds or less.
In my previous post “How to Improve WordPress Performance Top Ten Tips – Part 1 of 2“, I discussed the two key parts to performance tuning WordPress. The first being the database and second being the website files. Assuming that you have already applied the database optimizations, the next step is to fix the website themes, plugins and files.
Before discussing all the alterations that you may have done to WordPress to impact performance, the first thing to discuss is the WordPress Core software.
WordPress Core should be up to date
Besides being able to access the most recent plug ins, here are a couple reasons why you should always keep WordPress up to date:
- Security – Just like any operating system, the main reason you should always upgrade your WordPress is for better security. Since WordPress is so popular, it is also the most targeted platform by hackers. As soon as a security risk is identified in WordPress, a new update is released to the public. This is the easiest way to fix the problem before you are hit by a hacker.
- Usability – The WordPress platform is constantly trying to simplify the user experience, so it will be easier on the website owner and the people that use the website.
- Features – Along with making the core product more usable, WordPress keeps additing new features. Since these upgrade and new features are free, why not take advantage and make yourself more productive.
- Routine – The updates are not just for improving security, but also the performance. As WordPress determines ways to optimize the core libraries, they will send the changes via updates. These are the easiest performance changes you can make, you just need to press the “Upgrade button”.
- Backwards Support – Don’t wait so long that the automatic upgrades no longer work. If you wait too long, your website platform will become so out of date, you will not be able to upgrade it anymore. This happened to me when I took over a community website which was running a version 1.7.x of WordPress. I just had to start over as the process to upgrade it was extremely complex and time consuming.
In order to solve performance issues, it is always best to be running the latest WordPress version. Many of the plug-ins that are recommended will not work on older versions of the WordPress Core libraries.
WordPress Web Hosting
As stated in my previous post about performance, the most important performance improvement you can easily make, is choosing a qualified web hosting company. There are many web hosting providers that will offer unlimited storage, bandwidth, and websites. However, with that solution comes horrible website performance, since they maximize the number of websites that can fit on each server and severely restrict memory and CPU resources to make up for the “unlimited”.
I recommend a web hosting company like Webnames.ca that offers WordPress with the one click install and does not swamp their servers to capacity to ensure each customer on the shared hosting platform has a stable environment to run their website on.
The WordPress core libraries are used by millions of people, so although the libraries will improve over time, they usually do not have the performance impact that the files you have installed on top of the site do. This is why it is important to know what is installed and making sure that it is optimized.
Remove your unused themes and plugins
If you have themes you just “tried out” but didn’t end up using, don’t leave them disabled on your WordPress platform, delete them. They take up harddrive space and are backed up when you do WordPress backups. Also, it is easy for one of those themes to “accidentally go live” as it only takes a single click. If they are not available, they will not be turned on by accident. Also, some themes don’t delete themselves from the harddrive, so remove them physically from your FTP /wp-content/themes/.
MAKE SURE NOT TO DELETE YOUR CURRENT THEME! I have accidentally deleted my current theme being used on a development environment when trying to performance tune it. Luckily, I make sure to backup everything before I make changes.
The same rules applies to your plug-ins. If you FTP into your hosting platform, you will see a folder /wp-content/plugins/. This is the plug-ins folder of WordPress where configuration files are kept for all your WordPress plug-ins. However, as you install and uninstall your plug-ins, if the developer didn’t write good uninstall code, you will still have files left behind from that plug-in. Make sure to delete plug-ins you don’t use via the WordPress administrator interface and then double check the files are deleted on the actual hosting platform.
Optimize your homepage to load fast
The homepage for the website is the most important page to optimize because the most people will be landing on that page.
Easy improvements you can do to speed up your homepage:
- Remove unnecessary widgets from your home page or other pages if not being used
- Show only a new posts on the page
- Show a summary of the posts rather than the full post
- Make sure your images are correctly sized so it doesn’t have to render them in real-time (load and then shrink to the correct size).
Content Delivery Networks (CDN)
A great way to speed up page loading, is by using content delivery networks. Please review my previous blog post about the Advantages and Disadvantages of Content Delivery Networks (CDN).
WordPress Website Caching
Normally when a user views a page or post on your website, the WordPress site will need to do a database hit to look up all the information required to display the content. By using plugins like W3 Total Cache or WP Super Cache your WordPress posts and pages will become static files and not require the database look up. The static files are displayed to your customers instead of being generated on the fly and this reduces the load on the server. Generally speaking, a shared hosting environment like the ones offered by Webnames.ca are best with Super Cache, and a dedicated server is best with W3 Total Cache.
WP Super Cache
The WP Super Cache is a great plug-in, especially for users new to WordPress. This plug in is quite simple, but very effective on the Webnames.ca Web Hosting servers. You just install the plug in and under “Settings->WP Super Cache”, you turn “Caching On”.
W3 Total Cache
If you are an advanced user of WordPress and want more flexibility, W3 Total Cache is more for you. Once the plug in is installed, you can access it via “Performance” on your sidebar.
Generally, I recommended the following settings be enabled/disabled in W3 Total Cache:
- Page Cache (Enabled)
- Minify (Disabled)
- Database Cache (Disabled)
- Object Cache (Disabled on Shared Hosting)
- Browser Cache (Enabled)
- CDN (Enabled only if you are using a CDN)
I will be writing a future blog post about the detail settings of W3 Total Cache.
The Minify plug in offers:
- Debug tools to investigate problems
- Support for to minifying external files via caching.
- Removes duplicate files
Optimize Your Images
It is extremely important to ensure that your images are as compressed and fast to load as possible. This is done by compressing the images (with minimal blurriness) and ensuring the size is around the size required on the website. Yahoo! has an image optimizer called Smush.it that will drastically reduce the file size of an image, while not reducing quality. However, to go to the Yahoo website each time is time consuming and hard to be consistent about it. However, there is a WordPress plug in called WP-SmushIt which will do this process to all of your images automatically, as you are uploading them.
If you follow these steps to improve WordPress performance on your website, you will ensure your customers have a positive experience. Site performance is not only an indicator to Google when you are doing search engine optimization (SEO), but also will impact your revenue as customers are expecting faster and faster response time.