Let’s speed up your WordPress website

This week I am looking at ways in which you can serve up your WordPress website faster to your viewers. It involves basic house-keeping, optimization and two plugins that I talk you through how to use.

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This week I am looking at ways in which you can serve up your WordPress website faster to your viewers.

But there is a warning first;  there is an element of risk when adding any plugin to a website, so while you should always act with caution – by backing up your website and database at regular intervals and just prior to adding a plugin – it is especially important when adding plugins that can modify your WordPress database (which we will be covering in this podcast).

So tread carefully and review any plugin you want to install before pressing the button. Ideally  you have a test WordPress website that you can play with so you don’t risk pulling down your live site.

Now, every time someone visits your website a ton of work goes on in the background to send your website pages, posts, words, photos and layout instructions to the viewers’ screen.

This operation can suck up a lot of  processing resources and can mean a lot of data is sent across the web – every time a person visits your site.

Processing time can be sluggish due to the number of plugins  you have installed, as well as the file sizes of any images, audio and videos embedded on your  site.  And given people won’t wait 5 seconds for a website to load  the need for speed is imperative.

If you have never given this any thought before you can start by asking a friend who doesn’t normally visit your site to take a look to see if it loads fast for them. Remember that the vast majority of people use their phones to look at websites today.

You can also use any one of a number of page load speed test sites  such as the one run by Google (https://developers.google.com/speed/pagespeed/insights/)

Enter your website’s URL and see how fast your site loads. Hopefully you’ll get a pass mark. If not, read on (or play the podcast).

There are some basic things you can do to speed up your site, among them is to ensure any images on your site are optimized for web delivery – that means the file sizes need to be as small as possible, and the images themselves not one pixel larger than you need them to be.

These images include your site’s logo, header image and all the photos. If any images are larger than a few hundred kilobytes, then they are likely too large.

Plenty of imaging apps have web export features that you should be using, but Smush Image Compression and Optimization may be worth a whirl [https://wordpress.org/plugins/wp-smushit/ ]. Take it from me, nearly every website I visit has images that are far larger than they need to be, and this is down to user error, and the loader not spending time optimizing their images for web delivery.

If you have audio files look to see if they can be made smaller. This can be done by making them mono (halving the size of an MP3), the bit rate for speech files should be 80k – 96k and if they feature lots of music use 128k stereo. Do the same for video – optimize, optimize, optimize.

With your site and its contents as teeny weeny as can be, your next stop is your WordPress database.

WP Optimise [ https://wordpress.org/plugins/wp-optimize/ ] – there’s that word again –  is one of a number of plugins that will remove a lot (all?)  of unnecessary data from a bloated  database. This not only speeds up your site, but will likely reduce the amount of space your database requires on your server – which may or may not be an issue for you.

If you have just installed your WordPress site there may not be much fat to trim, but if it’s older than a few months then you may have built up some database flab that can be deleted.

You might also want to contact your hosting company to ensure it has optimized its servers with technology such as GZip Compression. My host had not activated this following my site’s transfer to newer servers it had installed.

Next we come to site caching. Caching involves a plugin making static HTML versions of your pages and posts and delivering these lightweight versions to you site’s visitors.

There  are dozens of web cache plugins around, and like database plugins, they need to be installed with caution and configured only after you understand what you are doing – read the instructions and tread carefully.

Cache Enabler [ https://wordpress.org/plugins/cache-enabler/ ]  is one option for you and WP Super Cache [https://wordpress.org/plugins/wp-super-cache/ ] is monster cache plugin with more than 1 million active installations.

Listen to the podcast for a step-by-step guide to using two of the plugins mentioned.

OK, that’s it for this week’s WordPress Tips & Tricks podcast. Next week……

Please do share the podcast among friends and colleagues across social media and give us 5 stars on iTunes.

If you have any recommendations on plugins or ideas to speed up websites, then do share.

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Author: Steve Hart

Steve Hart is a business journalist, editor, designer, podcaster and host of the Cool Nights radio show.