Five tips to speed up your WordPress website (even if you aren’t techy)
TL;DR check out the summary
Often I see posts in FB groups about whether someone should change their website hosting because their website is soooo ssssslllloooowwww.
There is no doubt that good website hosting is a major factor in speeding up your website but there are other things you can check before you decide to change hosts.
Why is website speed important?
How long would you wait for a website to load? There are lots of statistics out there that say most people won’t wait for more than 3 seconds (go ahead, Google it for yourself, I won’t wait though J ).
I know myself that I will get bored, frustrated and move on if a website doesn’t load quickly enough (I mean they should simply have had it designed by someone good like me 🙂 ), although I will wait a while for a specialist website or something I really, really want.
Websites don’t always start out slow though, a website that starts out fast can still slow down later (as some of do when we get older) due to poor practices.
How to check your website?
Of course I would suggest a website audit and there are lots of other ways too. If you are looking for a free way I like GT Metrix. You can sign up for a free account (no credit card or first born needed) to do a free report and select the test server region. What’s a test server region? It’s where your imaginary ideal client is trying to connect to your website. The only test region in the free version for Australia is Sydney and that will give you a good idea of what is happening with your website.
I like GT Metrix because it gives you ratings and also explain how to fix things, assuming something needs fixing.
Tip 1 – image size
The current trend on websites is to have big hero images (top image) or background images, and although they can look good (I say “can” because with some of them you can’t read any text across the images), they can also slow down your website.
Just because the image you took on your phone or camera looks great doesn’t mean that it’s ready for a website.
You want to make sure that the image can be resized to your website needs. So yes, you may need a wide image but you don’t need it to be ENORMOUS for most devices.
There are lots of apps and programs like GIMP2 that can resize your image or online websites such as picsize.com which can resize your image to something more suitable for your website.
Tip 2 – image compression (without losing quality)
You’ve resized the image following tip 1 but the image can still have lots of info that you simply don’t need for a website. Photos include all sorts of info relating to the camera etc. that you simply don’t want slowing down your website. Compression removes the additional info so although the image looks the same size visually it’s taking up less space (kilobytes or KB).
Before loading an image I tend to use an online website such as tinypng.com which will compress your images without losing any quality.
If you’ve already loaded your images then you can try WordPress plugins like Shortpixel which give you a certain number of free image compressions.
Ensuring that your images are smaller means that your website will load faster and your visitors won’t get bored waiting for it.
Imagine lugging a load of heavy shopping and how tough it is to walk with any speed if you’re carrying something heavy. If your bags are lighter then you can move quicker and it’s a similar situation with websites.
Tip 3 – add cache plugin
What’s is caching?
Caching is a way of speeding up your website by serving the visitor a static version of your website. Static pages load quicker in your browsers and so the website delivery is speeded up.
Faster websites tend to get a better ranking in search engines so it’s not just to keep your visitors happy, although that’s good too.
There are lots of cache plugins in the WordPress plugin suppository and my current favourite is WP Fastest Cache. It’s easy to set up and does a good job. When I tested it against some other cache plugins on my website setup it was faster than some of the others.
When one new client that came to me with a slowwwww website, I improved the speed from an F to an A simply by installing and setting up WP Fastest Cache.
Tip 4 – add a minify plugin
Minification is removing all the unnecessary characters so that only the code remains. Some cache plugins (such as WP Fastest Cache) will also minify CSS (style sheets that make your website look the way it does) and other scripts so make it faster to run. The actual increased speed comes from the fact that the programs are accessing one big file rather than accessing lots of smaller ones.
Warning: when some files are minimised and concatenated (add together) this could break your website. So as always – take a back up beforehand.
Tip 5 – Good hosting
You may be wondering why this is not tip 1. That’s mainly because you can be on a good hosting platform and still have a slow website if images aren’t optimised.
Website hosting is where all the files are stored for your website. Think of it as a large filing cabinet in the cloud.
What’s a good hosting company?
Everyone has their own opinion but really it depends on your website requirements and your budget.
There is shared hosting, which is cheaper because as the name shared implies your website is on the same server as other websites. This can be bad thing if the other websites have problems that can affect your website.
I’ve used shared hosting on one company and had horrendous problems and I’ve been on shared hosting with other companies and it’s been perfect.
For my clients I have two hosting companies that I recommend:
- if you’re local to Mount Gambier, South Australia and you want to support a local hosting company check out TDRS. I’ve worked with them on several clients websites and I’ve been impressed with their set up, knowledge and support
- if you’re in Australia there is also a good company called Prompt Web Hosting. I’ve been using them for years too and they have got a great set up and excellent support. These guys have helped me out on a Sunday morning (yes on a Sunday morning) when most companies won’t get back to you until Monday.
With both TDRS and Prompt Web Hosting, I like dealing with smaller companies who are in my time zone. Being in Australia I can get frustrated when I’m awake and need things and the rest of the world is asleep. (They obviously don’t understand how important I am in the grand scheme of things – or maybe they do J ).
Advanced tip – ask your developer / designer / hosting company and take a backup first
Tip 6 – PHP version upgrade
WordPress now recommends running on PHP 7+ but some hosts don’t automatically update their PHP versions, mainly because it can cause issues with a website.
PHP is a language that runs behind WordPress and I’ve noticed that websites that change from PHP 5.2 to PHP 7.2 and upwards can speed up significantly. I do mean that it is noticeably quicker.
WordPress requirements have been updated but PHP is something that is often forgotten about.
In recent WordPress core updates there is a tool called site health and this can be used to find out your PHP version.
Under tools, click on site health, then the info tab and server section.
Check the PHP version.
WordPress will also give you warnings if your site health isn’t good but this is a recent addition in the core program so you won’t have it if you’re on an older version of WordPress. (Please, pretty please update your core WordPress to increase the security of your website as well as get all the latest features.)
Updating your PHP version is not something that should be done lightly since it can cause serious issues with your website including crashing it. This may not be due to the WordPress core but due to third party plugins that you are using.
If your website is important to you (such as it brings in money) then copy your website to a sub domain or a test domain and try the updated PHP version there. If a demo website breaks who cares? You can also work out why it broke there before you try it on a live website. I tend to do this for my clients so I don’t break anything serious on their live website. (Note: if you want a real adrenalin rush, forget sky diving or bungy jumping – simply crash a very important live website. Once you’ve done it once you may not want to do it again – not that I’m confessing to anything you understand 🙂 .)
The PHP version can be changed in the hosting for your website for example in cPanel.
I’m not going to go into details of how to change the PHP version because a little knowledge can be a dangerous thing. You can however check your version and then get someone else (preferably who knows what they are doing) to change it for you.
Summary – how to speed up your WordPress Website
Tip 1 – reduce the size of your images (you don’t need it as big as you think and yes size does matter)
Tip 2 – optimise your images (remove all the stuff you don’t need)
Tip 3 – add a cache plugin (this serves up a static quick version of your website)
Tip 4 – add a minify plugin (some plugins will also concatenate the code so take a backup and be aware it could cause an issue in some cases)
Tip 5 – Good hosting (google it and I’ve given 2 hosting companies I recommend)
Advanced Tip 6 – check your PHP version, get a professional to upgrade and beware it could break your website.
If you think that your website could be faster you could always have a website audit performed. Part of the audit checks image sizes and website speed. If only you knew someone who does website audits? Oh yes, you do – me! Order a website audit and I’ll be in touch in a few days with the results in a report with suggestions too.