It is no secret that a slow loading website is one of the most common turn offs for any visitor. Additionally site load speed is thought to be a crucial algorithmic factor in search engine optimisation. So a slow loading website can have a pretty large adverse impact.
Maintaining a fast WordPress site can be hard to balance with making it look attractive and dynamic; the more design elements you add to your page, the more storage space it requires which usually slows down the speed of your site too. To compound this, WordPress has a tendency to run slowly anyway.
Given that you don’t have very long to capture your audience’s attention; finding solutions to making your load speed faster without compromising on quality is imperative. Here are six simple ways to increase your page load speed for your WordPress site.
1. Choose a simple theme
Simple doesn’t necessarily mean boring. Especially since WordPress offers so many customisation options that allow you to jazz up your design without making it structurally more complex. The default ‘Twenty Ten’ theme is actually a very fast one because of its simplicity. Other fast loading themes are ‘Genesis’ and ‘Thesis’ which are premium ones.
Going hand in hand with the motto of keeping it simple, you should also ensure that you optimise any images used as this can be a huge memory saver. You should compress images wherever possible, a great tool that can be used for instant results is the ‘EWWW Image Optimiser’ for WordPress. A good tip when uploading images onto your site is to also specify its width and height otherwise the browser simply waits until the image has loaded to its original size.
2. Choose a good hosting provider
Shared hosting is a big ‘no no’ when it comes to WordPress despite its wealth of benefits. None of them counteract their tendency to be slow and frequently be down during periods of high traffic. You should therefore invest in a good hosting provider that can support the amount of memory your site requires. A frequently recommended one is the WPEngine. If you are unsure whether your speed is an issue, you can use sites like ‘Pingdom’ to test the speed.
3. Cache your site with a plugin
Some of the most valuable WordPress plugins are in the caching category. They are free to use and essentially store a snapshot of your site so that they load quickly. Two caching plugins that are often recommended are ‘Quick Cache’ and ‘W3 Total Cache’ which are available from WP.org. They are easy to install and activate.
Quick Cache reduces the processing time on your page but has its limitations. It is most suitable for people who want a simple process. W3 Total Cache, an extremely popular plugin, uses memory caching which gives better results than disk caching – something that not all hosts provide. It comes with lots of resources and customising options too.
4. Use your setting wisely
The WordPress dashboard offers a lot of options many of which are left unexplored, but can be used to speed up your site. Here are some suggestions:
- Limit how many post revisions are stored – when left to its default settings, WordPress stores all revisions. As a matter of practice, you should limit this to two or three.
- Turn off pingbacks and trackbacks – WordPress uses other blogs to maintain its community through pingbacks and trackbacks so, if another blog mentions you, it notifies your site. By disabling this setting you do not lose the ability to maintain backlinks but you do ensure that your site is not working harder than it needs to.
- Disable your gravatar images – WordPress has a range of default images to be used for gravatars but adding more images to your site will simply slow it down. By disabling them you can just have a blank one.
- Updates – keeping up with updates is a good way to optimise your sites speed as they usually fix bugs. You should therefore try and ensure you are always using the latest version of WordPress and its plugins.
By installing the jQuery Image Lazy Load plugin, you can automatically add LazyLoad to your images. This results in the site only loading the images that are visible in the visitor’s browser window. As the user scrolls down, the rest of the images load as they need to thereby decreasing the server’s bandwidth.
There are many more ways of installing LazyLoad but the jQuery Image Lazy Load plugin is perhaps the simplest one.
6. Use a CDN
CDN stands for Content Delivery Network and is a high-performance network of servers that help speed up your site load time. CDNs are one of the most effective ways of speeding up your WordPress site and there are many free services (as well as paid ones) to choose from. By having your site powered by a CDN you not only speed it up but also save bandwidth costs from your hosting provider and enables your site to rank higher in search engines. A good example is CloudFlare.
There are many more ways in which you can speed up your site’s load speed quickly and easily that have not been mentioned. Such examples are:
- Avoid installing lots of plugins
- Delete spam comments and stop spammers from commenting
- Clean up your database using something like the WPOptimize plugin
- Don’t display full posts on your homepage
- Compress your code
Regardless of which methods you choose to use, looking at ways to speed up your site is certainly a worthwhile investment as a faster WordPress site attracts more visitors and subscribers. This is especially important for business use and ecommerce sites.
Nick Williams is a frequent blogger on the subjects of web design and CMS. He also works as an assistant on a number of Acuity Training courses including the PHP & MYSQL training course.