How To Make Your WordPress Website Load Insanely Fast

Updated Spring 2019

How To Make Your WordPress Website Load Insanely Fast

Top 5 Reasons Why Your Website Is Slow

  1.  Images are too large
  2.  Code is not compressed
  3.  Code, Javascript or plug-in errors
  4.  Site is not cached
  5.  Server is slow

Other less obvious reasons:

  • Your domain has a redirect
  • Another site on your shared server is being attacked
  • Too many elements on your site are trying to load at the same time
  • PHP version does not match the WordPress, Theme, or plug-in version
Website Assessment Report
How To Make A Wordpress Site Insanely Fast

Website Speed Tests:

Following are the site speed tests that we use.  Test results will vary vastly depending upon how busy your server is, and many other factors.  Try at different times during the day to learn more about what your visitors experience.  We try to keep a site fully rendering in under 2 seconds.  Under one second is the magic number!

The Future Bright Website Grader:
Future Bright Website Grader

Pingdom:
tools.pingdom.com/

Google:
developers.google.com/speed/pagespeed/insights/

Dot Com Tools:
www.dotcom-tools.com/website-speed-test.aspx

GT Metrix:

gtmetrix.com/

How To Make Your WordPress Website Insanely Fast

  1. Reduce Your Image Sizes
  2. Asset Optimization through GZIP, compression, &  minify (theme, images, scripts, and files)
  3. Implement Browser Caching
  4. Configure Your Hosting & Server Optimally
  5. Utilize a Content Delivery Network (CDN)
  6. Use Cloudflare

The Details

Following are more details about the above items.  It can take 5-8 hours to implement all of these, including testing, so consider that in your cost estimates so that you can weigh cost/benefits.  It is especially important to move carefully if you are working on a live site.

Select A Good Theme – Or Build Your Own

We primarily use a WordPress theme called Patti.  We have chosen Patti because it is simple, clean, and has beautiful 20/40/60 spacing.  We specialize in creating visually stunning websites, so we needed a starting theme that felt free, airy, modern, and that is highly flexible.  We found all of these in Patti, which also allows you to use custom short-codes.  We speed test the demo version of every theme we consider.  The demo must load in under 2 seconds.  Every theme has its pros and cons.  Because we use lots of huge images, if our score on Google’s Page Speed Insights is in the green, we are happy!

Server Optimization – Your Host Provider Can Perform These Tasks

  • Choose a host that is known for being fast.
  • Have your host “Set my PHP Max Input Vars to 1540”
  • Ensure that Gzip is enabled on your server
  • If Needed, host your website on a dedicated Server (is more expensive, around $100/month)

Asset Optimization & Browser Caching Plugins

Font Optimization

If you are using Google or other custom fonts, your site can render a default font first, and then the custom or Google font.  Use the CSS below.  Note of caution:  the user will observe the transition, so if design is important to you, this may not be an option.  You can find other options at:  FONT OPTIMIZATION

/**draw text then swaps when font loads**/
body{ font-display: swap;}

WordPress Plugins

We utilize the following plugins to achieve asset optimization and caching.  I will not go over all of the settings because you will need to play around with the options based upon your particular site.  If you are working on a live site, continuously check the site to ensure that any features you have implemented have not broken your site.  Specifically, minifying CSS and Javascript can cause issues.  If your site is not WordPress, look for added widgets or features, or what ever your platform offers, for the below functionality.

WPMU – Smush

  • Compresses Images
  • Reduces all images to a maximum size that you set.  No accidental 6MB file sizes!

WPMU Hummingbird Pro

  • Analyzer
  • Weekly Report Email
  • Caching
  • Gzip
  • Asset Compressing(minify – may break your theme, use carefully)
  • Tools:  WPMU Dev CDN for JavaScript and CSS files

WP Disable – Optimization.io

  • Heartbeat at 60 or above (https://www.siteground.com/tutorials/wordpress/limit-heartbeat/)
  • Removes Bloat
  • Database Clean-Up
  • Offload Google Analytics (not always done)

Swift Performance Lite

  • Speed Booster
  • Eliminate render-blocking JavaScript and CSS in above-the-fold content (doesn’t always work)
  • Leverage browser caching
  • CDN Optional

WP Rocket Can take your site from 40 to 80 just by activating it.

  • A powerful, paid alternative to Swift (my other favorite), Super & W3 Total
  • Easy Activation
  • Minification
  • Caching
  • Image Load As Needed
  • Caches your site

Content Delivery Network (CDN)

Many of the above plugins include CDN’s.  They also offer storing CSS and scripts off site.  We do not use those, only because it becomes challenging to keep track of everything that is going on with a site.  We simply use one CDN for the entire site.  A CDN creates copies of your site throughout the world.  Your site is then served to a user from the location that is closest to them.  Because the site is a completely cached copy, delivery can be very fast.  If you have having speed issues due to your SSL Certificate (in speed tests your domain name takes a long time to load), a CDN may resolve this issue.

There are many CDN’s to choose from.  We utilize Cloudflare.

Website Hosting Service

As hosting providers grow, their servers tend to slow.  We now steer clients away from BlueHost and GoDaddy.   If you are not in need of an enterprise-level hosting platform, there are several providers that we can recommend.

  1.  Site Ground – in our testing, an identical page loaded in 945 ms on Site Ground, and 1.6 on WPEngine.
  2. WPEngine – We started out with our agency account at BlueHost, but left due to down-time, then moved to a local partner who managed our servers at MediaTemple, but again left because of down-time issues and speed.  We are now settled in at WP Engine because of all that they offer.  We like having a managed wordpress account because the back-ups, PHP updates and WordPress updates are all taken care of. This is a big time saver, and a cost saver definitely for the client. WP Engine also caches each website, has free SSL certificates, and also a CDN.

 CONCLUSION

Sometimes finding that one thing that is slowing a site down feels like searching for a needle in a haystack.  If you go through the above list and implement them all, and you are still having issues, it may be worthwhile to hire fresh eyes to take a look.  Sometimes someone who isn’t familiar with your site can spot things that you overlook because you have looked at your site a million times.  I hope that you find this list beneficial.  Of course every website is different, and you may use only some of these options.  I wish you speed!

–Wendy Louise Nog, MSTM, Founder of Future Bright

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