We’ve all experienced the frustration of a slow loading website. While ten years ago, you would just have to grin and bear it as a site loaded with all the urgency of a sloth, today’s Internet surfers are much more impatient. Most expect at least a three second load time, while some won’t settle for less than two. So how can you create a faster WordPress website so that millennial users don’t click away? Here are some ideas to get you started.
Keep WordPress and plugins up-to-date
The Internet is constantly evolving. And if you want to keep up with it, you need to keep your site and plugins up-to-date. While you may already know that updating WordPress and plugins will keep your website secure, you may not know that doing this also increases your site’s speed. So if you want a fast site, install those updates as soon as they become available.
Choose a host wisely
Your host can make or break your website. A key reason for this is that website speed and uptime varies widely between them. So before you select your host, do some research on the various options out there.
Also, while your first impulse may be to choose shared hosting because of its low cost, be aware that it’s also going to be your slowest option in terms of speed because many websites are all relying on the same server for bandwidth. For many SMBs, however, using a dedicated server is simply not an option because it’s expensive. An alternative in the middle price and performance range is a Virtual Private Server (VPS). This acts like a dedicated server in terms of functionality, but still technically uses a shared server. Regardless, using a VPS will give you a boost in speed over typical shared hosting.
Keep your site lean
The leaner your site is, the faster its speed will be. So to create a lean site, be mindful of these four aspects:
- Theme - it can be tempting to choose a theme that has a seemingly limitless amount of design options. While the promise of a versatile theme can spark the imagination, actually implementing one can come back to haunt you in terms of speed. When a theme has a ton of features on offer, the amount of code to produce those features can bog down your site. So to ensure you avoid this scenario, test the theme demos to see how long it takes for them to load. If it’s more than a few seconds, it’s probably best to avoid it.
- Design - similar to theme, design elements also have the ability to dramatically slow down the speed of your site. Simple sites are faster, so think carefully about what ads, images and extras to use.
- Plugins - not all plugins are created equal; some run fast and others slow. So how can you tell one from the other? While it may sound like a bit of an oxymoron, there’s actually a plugin for that. The P3 Plugin Profiler will show the impact a plugin has on your site’s load time. Another plugin rule to follow is that less plugins equals more speed. So think twice before your next plugin installation spree.
- Images - bulky images can also slow down your site. And while many raw images are around 3,000 to 4,000 pixels wide, most featured images are 600-800 pixels wide. So to reduce image weight and gain a faster site, resize them to the exact size they’ll appear on your screen.
Mind your plugins
Yes, we just mentioned that you should get rid of plugins to speed up your site, but some specific plugins can actually have the opposite effect. A cache plugin, like W3 Total Cache and WP Super Cache are two that can provide more speed. Another plugin that can help is Lazy Load. It speeds up your site by loading the elements at the top of the website first, where viewers are looking when they first visit your site. Before installing the Lazy Load plugin, check your Theme Options to see if you already have it.
Create redirects sparingly
If a page on your site needs to be redirected to another page, it can really slow down your site. So use 301 redirects as little as possible. And to ensure you aren’t using any without knowing it, use Redirect mapper or other tools that can help you find redirects you don’t need.
Implement some or all of the speed tips above and you’re sure to see a noticeable difference in the speed of your site. If you’d like more tips to optimize your website or need help with any of your web or IT needs, we are just a phone call away.