A slow website can have a negative impact on how people perceive your business. It’s a proven fact that slow loading times lead to high visitor abandonment – if your website takes more than four seconds to lead, nearly 25% of people will leave.
WordPress-powered websites make up a large portion of slow websites, since they’re built on Apache and PHP – two resource-heavy technologies. Fortunately, WordPress websites can be optimized for performance by doing just a few tweaks. I’m going to cover a few of them below.
Optimize Images and Videos
70% of humans’ sensory receptors are concentrated inside a person’s eye. Visual websites heavy on video and images are a great way to grab attention, but they also contribute to poor performance if not optimized. A few ways to optimize media content:
- When transparent images aren’t needed, use compressed JPGs to reduce file size.
- Reduce the maximum size of your images. For instance, if the content area of your WordPress website has a maximum width of 600px, reduce the max-width of your images accordingly unless a lightbox is absolutely necessary. There are several WordPress plugins that can optimize thumbnail images and their various sizes for you.
- Host videos externally on services like YouTube and Vimeo, then embed them on your website. Most video sharing services (such as YouTube) encode your videos and automatically optimize for speed, based on your visitor’s internet connection, while WordPress does not.
Make Use of a Content Delivery Network
If your WordPress website is hosted in the US and someone all the way from India visits it, the website may take awhile to load because their browser and your server need to communicate long-distance.
A CDN (Content Delivery Network) increases the speed of your website by serving content locally to your visitors. It does this by caching your website’s content across many data centers around the world.
Optimize WordPress Plugins
While plugins add new functionality and features to your website, too many can slow it down. Deactivate or delete any plugins that aren’t being used.
It’s also important to update your plugins on a regular basis, since many updates contain bug fixes that improve performance and security.
Optimize CSS Files
CSS has been one of the most important technologies in web development, eliminating the need to individually code the look of each web page. Unfortunately, CSS files are often neglected and disorganized, which can affect website speed. A few things you can do to optimize CSS files:
- Remove styling elements that you aren’t using on your website, and merge duplicates when possible. There are many free tools online that can automatically do this for you.
- Minify your CSS files to compress file size. CSS minification removes unnecessary lines and spaces, scrunching all of your code together. Just make sure to save a backup of your source CSS files for editing, as minified files can be difficult to read and edit.
Optimize PHP files
Sometimes it’s worth going through the extra step to access your server through the backend, and make sure your WordPress files and theme code are optimized. A few things you can do to optimize PHP files:
- Close all HTML and PHP tags to ensure that pages load properly.
- Remove empty tags such as the div and paragraph tag, which often go unnoticed.
- Similar to minifying, compress your PHP files by removing extra line breaks and spaces.
After you’ve optimized your WordPress site, you can measure its performance with tools like YSlow and Google PageSpeed Insights, which provide information on how you can further improve the performance of your website.