Improving WordPress site load time is one of the big arguments in last few years, you may find thousands of articles, questions and forum posts talking about this topic everywhere on the Internet, especially with the huge grow of WordPress in the market, and the unbelievable number of sites using it today, everyone start caring about how to improve his site speed, though the rich content about this topic but it still very painful for most of site owners to make their WordPress site load faster, and they get lost between methods and advices they found around.
In this article we will try to give you the conclusion of our experience regarding this issue, and make the focus on simple steps so normal user can follow them without the need to get involved with server configuration, and we will follow this article with another dealing with improving WordPress site speed from server-side which will be useful for people who wants to get a step further, so keep your eyes on our blog to get the next tutorial when it get published.
Why good site speed is important?
The first point is that no one loves to visit and navigate a slow website, all people hates this, World is going so fast and no one will wait for your slow website pages to load to get the information, actually information is available in many places, so it’s better to leave your website if he found that it’s taking long time to load, and go to find another alternative, and Google, making your website faster is kind of care about your visitors, and saying “Hi! I love you” to every visitors, and of course they will love you back.
Not only real humans will love you, but also search engines trust you more if your site speed enough, and you need to give more respect to search engines to get the benefits of better ranking, so lets talk about actual steps you need to take to make the change.
Tools to check site speed.
First you need to know how the world sees your website, most times your site will load very fast in you own computer because all files and assets are already cached in your device so they load instantly, that’s why you should depend on some websites to make the check, and the internet is full of them.
Personally I don’t like to get myself frustrated by testing in tens of places, I only use to websites I trust and used for long time and I recommend that your test on one or both of them, the first one it Pingdom website speed test which you can paste your site URL and select a location to test from, then Pingdom will give you detailed results and tells you about warnings and errors in your page.
The second tool I use frequently to check my sites health and speed Gtmetrix which is great tool too to provide you with details about your site loading time, as well as warnings and errors, both of tools are free to use and easy to use and understand. I recommend that you check your site speed before starting the next step, and save all results so you can compare them later with the final result.
Select your host
Selecting your host type and choosing hosting company to serve your site is not a small subject, it’s the first important point you need to care about to have a fast website, and from my own experience I can say that it’s nearly impossible to host large or even medium WordPress site on shared host, all shared host companies on the market have too much limitations and can’t handle high traffic. We don’t want to go in details in this section but if you want to read more about hosting, you can read our article differences between web hosting types, so now I try only to add end of the line at this point, just don’t expect fast WordPress site hosted on shared host, what we recommend is to get a cheap VPS with medium specs if you are familiar with managing servers, if not, then WP Engine is perfect choice for you, it’s a little expensive but they know what they do to make your WordPress running as you dream while you are saving time and effort.
Make everything up to date
Using old versions of the plugins is not only risky in term of security but it also affects your site speed, old version contains deprecated functions and not optimized code, and updating your WordPress theme and plugins used to date means that you are using the most fresh and optimized code, never ignore this part, and if you want to make any modifications to the theme used in your site, consider making them in a child theme so you can update the main theme later without loosing your modifications.
– You can also read: Minimal WordPress Themes For Personal Blog
Media always have high impact on your site speed, they always come in large sizes compared to texts, so you shouldn’t randomly throw images in your page without optimizing their sizes, you need to add more time edit your images before uploading them to WordPress, resize the images as needed and never upload large images if they won’t appear large on the page, if your post shows images in 700px width, then there is no need to upload images in 1800px, you will feel the pain of this later when your site is full of large useless images, and page size is very large and heavy to load, it’s also recommended that you install WP Smush plugin and let it do it’s job, it will compress images as possible without affecting their quality, personally I trust it and use in all of my WordPress sites.
Use W3 Total Cache plugin
Your site will not survive without caching your pages, it can’t handle even low traffic without caching, we used to use W3 Total Cache plugins in most of our sites and it’s doing a pretty good job in caching and speeding up pages for visitors and reduce the load and usage of server, it’s highly recommended to use it before publish your site.
Gtmetrix have a great resource showing how to install and configure to get the best results, you can read it here.
This step is highly recommended to everybody, you will feel the biggest difference after this one, Cloudflare is a great service which provides content delivery network and security features, it’s used by high majority of sites owners, you can use the free plan and it will be more than enough for you if you don’t use HTTPS in your website.