Optimising Your WordPress Website’s Performance

The internet is getting faster, and there is more and more information to contend with online. One effect from this has been a global narrowing of our collective attention span. What this means, in practice, is that people aren’t willing to wait around.

Website speed is therefore vitally important for businesses that rely on their websites for sales. Performance also affects SEO, as Google is more than aware of this need for speed, and heavily penalises slow websites. Luckily, there are a few simple steps you can take to speed up your website right away.

Managed WordPress Hosting

Hosting companies provide the server where all of your website’s data resides, and is accessed by your visitors. As such, they play a vital role in the performance of any website.

While shared hosting providers do take certain steps towards optimising the websites they host, the downside is that they also have a tendency to overcrowd their servers; each one ends up being shared by hundreds of sites, resulting in poor site speed across the board.

Managed WordPress hosting, on the other hand, offers optimised server configurations that have been specifically tailored for WordPress websites. And they usually offer additional perks such as automatic backups and built-in caching.

WordPress sites are dynamic, meaning that pages are built every time someone visits them. Caching allows for a copy of each page to be made after the first load, creating a shortcut. Hosting providers such as WP Engine have built this feature into their plans, resulting in fast loading times and excellent overall performance.

Test Your Site Speed

Once you’ve taken care of hosting, it’s time to look at your website. When viewing it on your own computer, most of the page elements will have been stored in your browser’s cache, meaning that they appear almost instantly. This is not the experience of someone visiting your site for the first time.

In order to get an initial benchmark of your websites’ performance, you can test it using a free tool such as GTmetrix. This will tell you how your site is currently performing, and give you a better idea of how much work you need to put into optimisation. All websites built by Moove achieve a double A rating on GTmetrix – you should be aiming for your website to load in under 2 seconds.

Choose Your Plugins Wisely

There is a lot of information online claiming that too many plugins are bad for performance, but it’s not quite as simple as that. The most important factor isn’t the number of plugins, it’s choosing quality over quantity.

Always ask yourself whether a plugin is strictly necessary, or whether bespoke code would perform the same action more effectively. Read reviews and carry out some research to see whether a plugin is known to negatively affect performance.

On the other hand, a good selection of plugins can greatly improve optimisation and performance. You can read more about some of our favourite Plugins here.

Image Optimisation

We love beautifully designed websites. Large, colourful images can go a long way towards creating a stunning visual experience. This is even more true for industries such as fashion, food, travel, and many more, where companies rely on high-quality imagery to wow potential customers.

Unfortunately, high-quality images are also extremely resource-hungry and slow to load. The good news is that image optimisation plugins such as ShortPixel can scan your website for both images and PDF documents, and compress these without losing quality.

The best part is, once this is done the plugin runs discreetly in the background and optimises any future uploads automatically, radically improving your website’s SEO.

Minify CSS & JavaScript

Any code you add to your website affects its loading times. While a few lines of code may not have a significant impact, the more you add, the larger your files become. And when you’re trying to shave off precious milliseconds, every little bit counts.

One way to reduce the file size of CSS and JavaScript code is to remove any superfluous characters, such as white spaces. You can even take it a step further by replacing variable names with shorter alternatives.

Minifying pages and pages of code by hand can take hours, but fortunately there are now plenty of tools available, such as YUI Compressor or Google Closure Compiler, that can do this automatically. And whilst it doesn’t make for the prettiest code, minifying can greatly improve your website’s performance.

Conclusion

Building a website that is optimised for speed and performance can have a massive effect on both user experience, and your bottom line. And like most things in life, it starts with a solid foundation.

Good WordPress hosting and carefully selected plugins will go a long way towards ensuring that your pages are loading fast, every time. Test your website’s performance before and after any modifications to assess the impact of any changes, and remember to keep WordPress and all of your plugins updated to the latest versions.

Once you have all of these steps in place, keeping your website optimised is a breeze, and any new content shouldn’t negatively impact your site’s speed.

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