If you’re running your site on WordPress, you’re in good shape for a lot of reasons. WordPress has become by far the single most popular CMS because of its excellent customization options, integration features, and robust architecture. You can really do some pretty neat things with the various plugins and HTML tricks to make your website stand out from the crowd. The issue is, while some key plugins here and there won’t slow you down, if you load up your WordPress site with too many added features, it can really choke the site’s speed. When that happens, it doesn’t matter how cool your website is; if it doesn’t load fast enough, people won’t stick around to see it. A report from the KISSmetrics blog found that 47% of consumers expect a web page to load in two seconds or less, meaning that you could be turning away almost half your audience before your content even reaches them if your website loads too slowly.
Luckily, there are quite a few different ways to simply speed up your WordPress site, ranging from cleaning up the “guts” of your site’s architecture to the actual outward presentation of the site that your viewers see when they browse. Let’s take a look at some of the best ways to speed up your WordPress site in 2016 and decide which is best for your site.
Cleaning Up the Back End
Some of the best ways to optimize your site for speed involve making some minor changes or additions to the actual architecture of the site. A lot of what goes behind the scenes on your site can actually be the root cause of things slowing down. For example, WordPress has a great archiving feature that allows you to keep all revisions of a post or page as separate posts. This is good for tracking your editing history and being able to revert back to an old page if need be, but keeping every revision of every little detail on your site can really clog up precious space and clutter the back end of the site’s architecture, thus slowing down the other moving pieces within the site’s internal framework. There are a couple easy hacks as well as plugins to control post revisions, so be sure to keep your archives clean and up to date by taking this simple step.
Speaking of keeping things clean, there are plugins out there that will optimize your whole WP database, so you can really cut down on spam and other unneeded content that’s getting in the way of strong site performance. While you’re cleaning up your site, it’s always a good idea to go through all your plugins and determine which ones you really need for your site to run properly. Any plugins that you find aren’t immediately contributing to the user experience of your site should be deactivated or uninstalled. The same goes true for HTTP requests. The more objects on your site, the more requests need to happen to load everything on a given page. This can take up a lot of data and can slow down your loading time in a big way.
Optimizing for Speedy Browsing
As far as the mechanics of your site go, perhaps the number one absolute must each site should have for optimizing site speed is a top-notch caching plugin. Caching is the process of storing your site’s information so it doesn’t have to reload entirely every time a repeat user comes back to a certain page or the site in general, and all the best WordPress practices emphasize a strong caching mechanism to get the most out of your site’s performance.
While a whole lot can be done on the admin site to make sure the mechanics of the site are firing on all cylinders, there are many things you can do with the actual presentation of the site to help speed it up for your users. In some cases, this actually begins with the site’s theme, which, because it affects both how the site looks and how it operates, can make a huge difference in loading time, depending on which theme you choose. Not all WP themes are made the same, and some have denser, more complex presentation than others. In all likelihood, you don’t need a super robust site architecture or a very elaborate outward presentation, so make sure to go with a more “lightweight” theme for your site and keep things simple on the back end and reduce the number of things that have to load every time a page is summoned.
While streamlining and cleaning out some of the internals of the site’s architecture is a great first step toward speeding up your loading time, there are also a number of tweaks you can do to the external presentation of your site that will help speed things up as well. Many experts (most of them, in fact) also suggest compressing any images you have on your site to the smallest possible file size without compromising the image’s quality. Images are one of the features on a website that take the longest time to load, so while they’re obviously important for the presentation of your site, you want to make sure you tread cautiously and optimize your images for speed.
Sometimes, even the little details make a difference, and if you’re really looking to make your site as lean as possible, you can take such measures as removing gravatars from the comments section and elsewhere or reducing the number of posts per page. Figuring out which elements of the site take the longest to load and trimming the fat around them will go a long way in shrinking the loading time for your users.
Whether you’re starting a new WordPress site from scratch or have built up a sturdy site already and need to cut down on load times, there are plenty of tricks and methods to speed up your site. Keep these tips in mind as you go about optimizing your site for speed.
What other practices have you found are best for speeding up your WordPress site? Let us know in the comments!