6 Ways to Improve the Performance of your WordPress Blog

How fast does your WordPress blog load? Have you tested performance on mobile as well as desktop? Did you know that performance is one of metrics that Google uses to rank sites?

When talking about performance its important to remember that around half of all traffic these days comes from mobile devices, and these devices can often be on limited data connections. So when you look at site performance (as with web design these days) you should adopt a mobile-first strategy.

I used a tool https://testmysite.withgoogle.com/ to check on the performance of my WordPress blog, and it reported that my site takes 7 seconds to load over a 3G connection – which apparently results in me losing a quarter of visitors that simply give up before the site ever loads!

Google has a goal that its sites should all load within half a second. That level of performance might not be achievable for everyone, but we can all do better.

So how do you optimise your WordPress site to load more quickly?

1. Keep pages small

A testing tool like GTmetrix can tell you how fast your page loads, and how big your page is. If you are loading lots of images, videos and scripts, then the size of your site could be huge – and therefore slow – without you realising it.

My site comes in at just over 1MB which is actually pretty good. If yours is more in the range of 3-5MB (or even more!) then you need to start thinking about page size.

Reduce the number of posts displayed on your page. Do you really need to show 10 posts at a time? I have my site set to only show 5 posts at a time, and by halving the number of posts I also halve the page size!

Also think about whether you need all the content served from 3rd-party sites, such as Facebook or Twitter, that could be slowing down your site.

2. Minify your code

Use code minifying plugins such as Autoptimize to reduce the size of your HTML, javascript and CSS files by removing all unnecessary space in the source code. It won’t have any effect on the way your page looks, but it will reduce the size of the files being served.

3. Optimise images

A picture paints a thousand words, but it can also slow you down!

Loading lots of large images can be one of the primary causes of poor site performance. So consider the number and size of any images you display. Obviously for a photographer’s portfolio site you’re going to need to show large high-quality images – but you don’t need to show them all on one page.

Use a plugin such as Smush to automatically optimise images as you upload them to your site. It will reduce the file size of your images without losing any of the quality.

4. Eliminate unnecessary plugins

It’s tempting to keep installing more and more plugins to help add new features to a site – but every time you add a new plugin, it’s more code for WordPress to have to run before it can render your site. So have a clear out and get rid of any plugins you don’t need.

It’s also a good idea to minimise the number of plugins and themes you have installed for site security. The more plugins and themes from different authors you have installed, the higher the potential sources of vulnerability to hacking.

5. Select your hosting account carefully

Not all hosting providers are the same, and although most will allow you to run WordPress from your account the performance of sites can vary wildly from one host to another.

If you’re shopping around, look at hosts that have specific WordPress optimised hosting. I like SiteGround as they have optimised their hosting to serve WordPress sites as fast as possible.

And if you’re getting a lot of traffic to your site, then ditch the shared hosting and get your own virtual or cloud server. It will give you a lot more resources to serve a lot more people at once.

6. Upgrade PHP

PHP is the programming language that WordPress runs on, and many hosting providers use an older version of it by default. However if your host allows you to upgrade to a newer version (or they can do it for you) then your site will get a good performance boost.

When upgrading from PHP 5.6 to version 7, WordPress performance doubles!

Source: http://www.zend.com/en/resources/php7_infographic

WordCamp Belfast 2018

I've been going along to some of the Dublin WordPress meetups in the last couple of months, and one of the things they suggested is for people to attend the WordCamp conference in Belfast.

It takes place over the UK bank holiday weekend of 25th-27th May 2018, in the Queen's University, and is for anyone who has a interest in WordPress. There are sessions for developers, designers, bloggers, and business owners.

Myself, I like to tinker with WordPress for my personal sites and blogs, and am keen to understand a bit more of the technical stuff – so I think this conference will be really interesting.

It also gives me the opportunity to get my techie geek on in a environment with like-minded people.

Trying out the Gutenberg editor

There seems to have been a few stories appearing recently about the upcoming release of the Gutenberg editor for WordPress. Many reviews have been mixed, and some are downright negative. But rather than relying on someone else's opinion, I thought I'd give it a go myself.

So what is Gutenberg?

Gutenberg is a new post editor for WordPress. It has been designed to replace the existing post editor – also known as the TinyMCE editor – with something a bit more powerful and useful.

Existing TinyMCE Editor

The existing editor will be very familiar to everyone that's used WordPress, and the change over to something new takes some getting used to.

Gutenberg Editor

The biggest change, apart from the cleaner lines and improved layout, is that each title, each paragraph, each quote, and each image on the page are in their own 'block'.

Each block is created by clicking on a little plus symbol (+), and then you select the type of block you want to add. There are a whole load of different types of block:

  • Headings
  • Paragraphs
  • Images
  • Quotes
  • Lists
  • Tables
  • Code blocks
  • Videos

There's also the option to embed things from Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and many more sources.

So the idea seems to be to replace a whole lot of extended functionality that was previously achieved using plugins and short codes in the middle of text.

So is it any good?

Well this is the first post I've ever written using Gutenberg, and I like it already. For just writing a normal post full of text, I suppose it's a bit more complicated. But the real power of the editor comes when you want to start adding to the text.

Adding images suddenly becomes easier and more intuitive. And I have a lot more confidence that moving stuff around the page isn't going to mess up all the formatting.

And if I want to do anything fancy like embed a tweet, such as the one below, then Gutenberg really comes into its own. 

So how do you try it out?

It seems that WordPress is gearing up to roll out Gutenberg as its editor in the next major release of the software. Until then, it's available to add to your WordPress install as a plugin, so that you can try it out.

I believe the plugin is still in beta testing at the moment, so maybe don't use it for any critical production sites. But as this blog only gets about 40 visitors a day, I feel pretty safe in using beta code!

Why not give it a go, and let me know what you think in the comments below.

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