Having a slow loading website impacts a lot. Visitors won’t stick around for content, search engines will rank you lower, and it’s just generally frustrating. Luckily, there are 5 simple things you can do that will make a huge difference.
Step One: Choose an Incredible Web Host
A lot of bloggers and developers tell you that for true speed, you’ll eventually want a dedicated server. I’m going to tell you that no matter what size hosting package you go with, what you want is a webhost that’s mind-blowingly outstanding. The kind of web host that makes your site load 100% of the time at great speeds whether you’re a one-page brochure or a full-scale ecommerce shop.
Step Two: Install Smush.it
The biggest lag on loading aside from poor code is poorly optimized images. Smush.it from Yahoo is a protocol that will compress images and optimize them for faster load times. Installing the WordPress plugin means that any time you upload an image in the media uploader (including background images used in Headway customization), they’ll have their size reduced automatically. You can download Smushit here.
Step Three: Only Use Essential Plugins
Many experts say to “use fewer plugins” on your WordPress website. The truth is, you just want to narrow your plugins down to the essentials. It could be 10 essentials, or even 15. What you want to avoid are those plugins that “might do something cool” or that you “feel you should install.” Just go with what you need.
For example, I have about eight essential plugins on this blog. I need to use Digital Access Pass for memberships. I use Gravity Forms for easily building contact forms. I use JW player to stream premium videos privately. I use Wp-Polls to collect user feedback. And I use Download Monitor to provide downloads with stats I can track. There’s also a Syntax Highlighter for code and Askimet for spam protection.
Once I add in the caching and optimization plugins, and something for back-ups, I’ll probably end up with around 12 plugins total.
The key is to download plugins with high ratings, rated by a number of users in the hundreds. So if one image gallery plugin has 4 stars from 300 people, it’ll be better coded than a gallery plugin with 5 stars from 4 people. Just do the research.
Step Four: Optimize Your Database Tables
WordPress can throw out a lot of useless database records, like auto-saves, revisions, drafts, unapproved comments, and spam marked comments. This can put a lag on your site that is easily avoided with optimization. While manual database optimizing is possible, I recommend the wp-optimize plugin. All you have to do is check what parts of the database you want to optimize and hit “run” for a cleaner WordPress installation.
Bonus: How to Automatically Empty “Trash”
If you don’t want to worry about WordPress getting cluttered up with “trash” like deleted posts, comments, pages, etc. then there is a bit of code that you can post in the wp-config.php file:
define('EMPTY_TRASH_DAYS', 10 );
Change “10″ to the number of days you want to wait between trash empties. For example, “3″ if you want it emptied every 3 days.
Step Five: Cache ALL the Things!
“Caching” is basically when the internet makes a copy of your web pages, and shows those to visitors instead of loading your page fresh every single time. Once you’re done designing your website and making major changes, it’s an extremely helpful process. The best plugin for caching that works well with Headway Themes is W3 Total Cache.
(DO NOT use WP Super Cache. I’ve seen weird things happen.)
What questions do you have about speeding up WordPress? Share your thoughts and opinions in the comments below.