Based on my experience, improving WordPress performance was not easy, it depends on so many factors, such as web hosting, theme, how many plugins the site is using, etc. But in this post, I will share some WordPress performance optimization tips based on my experience.
Why Should You Optimize Your Website?
Before we start, you must know why you should optimize your WordPress website.
Improve Ranking on Google
Improving ranking on Google could affect your website traffic, more traffic means more sales. And to improve your ranking, you have to optimize your WordPress website performance or speed.
Better User Experience
Why can performance improve user experience? Performance is a foundational aspect of good user experiences, imagine you are searching for particular information online and type a search query on Google. You get a list of results and choose/click the first option that seems relevant.
But you see an empty screen, the page is loading. You wait for a few seconds, but nothing happens; you click the Back button and select another option, sound familiar?
Speed matters to users, the fast your website loads more likely increase user satisfaction, better user experience.
How To Check Your Website Performance
You don’t need a specific skill to check your website performance, even if you don’t have an IT background, you still can do it. These are some websites that are popular to help you to check your website performance.
GTmetrix is a pretty popular website to check website performance, the report you get in the free account is good enough.
Recently, GTmetrix updates its algorithm. They are now using an open-source performance tool made by Google called Lighthouse. It brings more complex metrics to calculate the Performance Scores, but don’t worry, in each performance issue you see, they include the guide to resolve it.
To use it, you can go to their website, put your website URL then hit the Analyze button. It will take some time to check your website performance.
Google PageSpeed Insights
This tool is the official performance tool created by Google which, the same as GTmetrix, it is using Lighthouse as its algorithm to check website performance.
This tool is my favorite one because the report is more readable and easier to understand than GTmetrix, plus it checks our website performance on mobile too!
Chrome Built-in Lighthouse
If you use Google Chrome or Microsoft Edge as your default browser, you can check your website performance using the built-in Lighthouse in the developer tools.
The best part of it is you also get other metrics such as SEO, Accessibility, and Best Practices. If you click one of them, in the scoring area, you will jump to the issue you can fix.
How to Optimize WordPress Website Performance
Like I said before, the tips here are based on my experience optimizing many WordPress websites. Some may work for you, some may not. Let’s dive in.
Choose Web Hosting Carefully
WordPress needs a special WordPress hosting package to get the best performance, you can’t just use cheap shared hosting to host your WordPress website.
So far, I have tried 3 web hosting providers that optimized for WordPress websites, they are Dreamhost, Fastcomet & Cloudways. Moreover, these web hostings take extra measures to optimize your website for performance.
Your web hosting service plays an important role in website performance, do research before you choose web hosting, make sure they support and optimize their service for WordPress.
Keep Everything Updated
Keeping plugins, themes, and WordPress installation updated is important. The most important thing about it is security, but the developer will always improve their software, their code, to be faster and optimized.
Don’t forget about software running on the server, such as PHP and MySQL. In my recent case, updating PHP to the latest version improves the website performance significantly! If your web hosting comes with cPanel you can do it yourself, but if not, you can ask the support to update PHP to the latest version.
Minimizing Themes and Plugins
Check and evaluate your plugins list, if you have inactive plugins, just remove them and if you think some plugins do not give your website an advantage, I would suggest removing them as well.
There is a plugin called P3 (Plugin Performance Profiler) to check which active plugins that impact your site’s load time. But, please use it at your own risk, some users reported that this plugin could break your WordPress website.
For themes, every fresh WordPress installation comes with the default themes, they are usually named Twenty Something, if you are not using them, then please just remove them.
Avoid Page Builder
It may be a bit of controversy, but page builders can be slowing down your website. The page builder produces a lot of custom HTML markup, that increases the DOM size. You can read a great explanation here.
Not just increasing the DOM size, page builder usually comes with many custom CSS and JS files! Sometimes, if you have a page that doesn’t use page builder, their assets (CSS & JS) would still load!
A Page builder is a lifesaver, you can build a beautiful landing page in minutes, but if you care about performance, I would suggest you avoid using it. And if you have extra money to improve your website, you can hire a freelance WordPress developer to do a custom clean-coded website.
One more thing, Munir Kamal published a great comparison between Elementor and Gutenberg, the result was Elementor produce 5x more HTML markup than Gutenberg! You can read his post here.
Gutenberg can be a solution for page builders that produce a clean, clutter-free HTML markup in the future.
Enabling cache is the fastest and easiest way to improve performance. The cache will serve your posts or pages as static files to your users, not just that, the cache will also reduce the processing load on your server, this will improve performance significantly!
To enable cache, you just need to install one of the following plugins:
- WP Super Cache
- W3 Total Cache
- WP Fastest Cache
- Cache Enabler
They are known as popular and FREE cache plugins, some of them are made by big companies. I pick them because I have experienced using them, to me, WP Super Cache is the easiest to set up and forget, but W3 Total Cache has more advanced settings.
If you prefer a premium plugin because you think the free solution is not enough, then you can try WP Rocket. The most important feature from this plugin is the auto-generate critical CSS, Critical CSS is an important factor to improve performance. WP Rocket blog describes critical CSS in an easy-to-understand paragraph.
Other than that, some features that also included are:
- Combine & Minify CSS & JS.
- Lazy load images & videos.
- Preload assets such as fonts.
- Databases optimization.
- And much more, you can check their website to read more.
Minify Assets (HTML, CSS & JS)
Optimize Images (Compress & WebP)
Images are the heaviest among other assets on your website. Optimizing images is a must if you want to improve performance. These are 3 plugins that will help you to optimize images:
This plugin will automatically resize the image on upload based on the configured size you set up. Let’s say you set the image max-width to 1110, when you upload an image larger than 1110, this plugin will automatically scale it down to the configured size and replace the original image.
This one will compress your images without losing much quality. There are two ways to compress, the first one is there is a feature to bulk compress your images, with a single click, you can compress all of your images. And the second one is, it will automatically compress your image while you upload it.
But please note, there is a limitation, you get 20 MB free quota per month. If you are out of quota then either you purchase their premium plan or you can wait for next month to get another free quota.
So, this plugin is to convert your traditional image such as JPEG or PNG to a modern WebP file. WebP, serve optimize version of your image with a smaller size for your users.
Imagify has this functionality, but it needs us to convert manually. WebP Express will auto-generated your image upon visit, meaning it will be generated a WebP version of your image if someone is visiting your post or page, so, no need to convert them manually.
Cloudflare will improve performance as well as your website security. In the free plan, you get DDoS protection, free SSL, and free CDN. If you want more, I suggest you purchase their new feature called APO or Automatic Platform Optimization, it will boost your performance!
These 8 steps are pretty simple to implement, there are more plenty more ways to improve WordPress performance, but they require more work and complex steps. Just try each step above carefully, you should get better performance.