Having a slow website is not fun for anyone. It lowers your page rank on Google, it makes it harder for users to get their content, and it can be frustrating for administrators. Sometimes you feel like you have done everything you can to get your page speed optimized, but your wordpress site is still loading at 8 seconds or more. In this article I will be going over the exact steps I take on every website I design to ensure fast loading speeds and optimal user experience.
I design all websites in WordPress, so this guide is best suited for users looking to increase their wordpress speed.
Improve image upload size
One of the very first steps I taken to ensure a website is optimized for fast delivery and lower file sizes is decreasing the size of images uploaded. As a general rule, I try to keep all images around 30kb, or for larger full screen images, around 150kb. When saving images, it’s important to open them in Photoshop and use the Save for Web option. This will compress the image while keeping quality, usually I save most images around 760px wide, or 1500px wide for full width. If the image is not large or does not have a lot of focus, I try to save around 30 quality. If the image will be used as a banner or in a CTA area, I will go higher around 45-55. Doing this you should have .jpg’s that went from 2-3mb to 30-200kb. For more info on Save for web, and how to best optimize your images, take a look at Adobe’s blog.
Less Clutter, More Space
I’m a huge fan of minimal space, so this may be a biased decision. When it comes to load times, request and amount of data is everything. The less content their is to display, the less work is required to render the page. Utilizing a clean design with a lot of white space can drastically improve a pages loading time as well as create depth and hierarchy to a pages contents. When designing a site, having the page performance in mind is always good, as you don’t want to create a page that is slow because of it’s elements.
WordPress Plugins I use to Increase Page Load Time
There a few plugins I use on every site I design. These plugins are great as you can install them and forget about them.
The first plugin I always download. This great plugin compresses and reduces image sizes automatically as they are uploaded, I usually do this on fresh installs so all new images added get compressed. If however you decide to add this after a site already has media on it, their is a batch compress option for optimizing your entire library.
BWP Minify is great for compressing and minifying CSS/JS files. This reduces the number of request needed per page, as well as combining stylesheets for cleaner data. Also CDN friendly.
Switching to W3TC was an easy choice after using WordPress Super Cache for so long. After making the switch, I never ran into issues and realized how much more optimized my site could have been. With W3TC, you have a ton of options available to increase your website loading times. Make sure to test this out, as some options will not be compatible with your theme. For general use, I just utilize the Page cache.
Using a CDN
A CDN, or Content Delivery Network allows you to serve data from multiple servers across the globe, allowing your viewers to get resources faster. For the most part, I only use a CDN for images. My preferred CDN is DreamSpeed CDN.
A simple step to take, but enabling caching can dramatically increase a pages loading time. This is always best to do once you have finished developing a site, as sometimes caching errors can occur and changes won’t be seen. As mentioned above, a great plugin for caching is the W3 Total Cache.