These days, when we search the web for information, we expect web pages to load quickly. If they don’t, we move on to another website. For people who use their smartphones to search for information, faster websites are even more important. So what can you do to increase website speed?
There are many ways to make your website faster. I have written about the importance of good web hosting and keeping your WordPress system and plugins updated. But if you find that good hosting and cleaning up plugins does not improve your website’s performance, you can try the following ideas to increase website speed.
Begin with a Website Speed Test
Before you start looking into tools for boosting your website speed, use the following free speed tests. These will help alert you to performance issues that need to be addressed.
The first place to start to help improve website speed is to optimize your images.
Most website owners now have digital cameras capable of taking high resolution images. High speed Internet connections allow us to upload these large image files in a matter of seconds. But large files can burden your website if images are larger than necessary.
You might not think that an extra 200k in your photo is a big deal. But when you start adding more images with excess file information, it’s not long before your website starts to bog down, causing pages to load slowly. And a slow website means frustrated visitors who will likely move on to another website that will deliver information faster.
The easiest solution is to optimize your images for the specific use on your website. For example, if your maximum page content width is 800 pixels, inserting a photo that is 2000 pixels wide will cause the image and page to load slowly. If you were around in the days of dial-up internet, that image might not seem slow to you. But even a few extra seconds these days can add up to lost visitors.
Use an image editing application such as Adobe Photoshop to reformat your images to the optimal size for your web page. Experiment with compression settings, keeping the photo as clean and sharp as possible at the smallest file size.
Save complex images (ones with lots of color and detail) in JPG format and simpler images (like logos) in PNG format. If you are unable to optimize images yourself, have your graphic designer or web developer do it for you.
Some people have had good success with a plugin call WP Smush which automatically compresses images as you upload them to your server.
Website caching allows you to store temporary copies of your website files to help reduce bandwidth or load on your hosting server.
Some of the most popular caching plugins are W3 Total Cache, WP Super Cache, and WP Rocket. Their primary function is to store (cache) your web pages and posts as static pages and serve these to visitors, thus reducing the demands on your server. One of the advantages of using a plugin is that they can “minify” (compress code) to allow for even greater performance boosts.
To help decide which caching plugin is best for your website, read a detailed review of the three main caching plugins here.
Optimize Your WordPress Database
If you blog regularly, each of your posts (and each version of the drafts) are stored in your database. Even spam comments and deleted plugins can linger and clog up your database. The larger your database gets, the slower your website becomes.
If you are comfortable accessing your mySQL database, you can optimize it fairly easily. A more practical solution for small business website owners is to use a plugin like WP Optimize which will clean up your database for you.
Content Delivery Network (CDN)
If you have many images or downloadable objects on your website and you have high daily traffic, a Content Delivery Network (CDN) can help. CDNs speed up the time web objects are delivered to your website visitors. Two of the simplest CDN solutions for small business WordPress websites are MaxCDN and CloudFlare.
These companies maintain networks of servers around the world and are able to deliver your static content to visitors from servers that are closest to them. For example, if your primary host server is located in the USA and someone visits your website from Australia, a CDN will deliver your content to that visitor from a server in Australia.
CDN is a great option for high traffic websites, but if your website mainly services local customers, consider starting with some of the other performance improvement options. Because CDN can be a bit more technical, you might want to discuss this option with your web developer.
As a hard-working businessperson, you might not like the sound of lazy loading. It’s ok; it’s not a bad thing!
By default, images and other resources on your web page are preloaded before being displayed to a visitor to your website. In contrast, lazy loading allows for these resources to be loaded only when needed, when a visitor scrolls to a specific place on your web page.
You might have seen this feature on websites (like Pinterest) that have “infinite scroll.” Here, images are loaded continuously as the visitor scrolls down.
There are advantages to this option (e.g. holding visitors attention with continuous, new content) but lazy loading can make it difficult to optimize your website in search engines like Google. Fortunately, you can choose to lazy load selectively. For example, set lazy loading for specific pages with heavy image or video content. This will help keep your website optimized for search engines.
There are many lazy loading plugins available for WordPress. Unfortunately, most of them are either quite new and unproven, or they are old and have not been updated for a long time. Since I do not recommend plugins that are not supported or regularly updated, I cannot recommend lazy loading plugins at this time.
Optimizing WordPress to increase website speed can be tricky. But if you start with the basics, like optimizing your images and choosing one of the popular caching plugins, you will notice an immediate improvement in your website’s overall performance.
And check out this handy infographic from WhoIsHostingThis.com
About Steady Digital
We provide a WordPress maintenance plan to ease concerns like:
- Is my website performing at peak performance so visitors get the best experience possible?
- Do I have regular backups of my website in case something happens to my web server?
- What if my website gets hacked?
- How can I get up-to-date, professional training so I can use my website better?
- Who can I trust to do the updates that are beyond my technical or creative abilities?
Tired of trying to maintain your own website? A WordPress maintenance plan might be the solution for you.