Optimizing WordPress Page Loading Speeds Where Plugins Are Used
WordPress has long been using the strategy of incorporating 3rd party plug-ins into their design architecture for their customers. This strategy sound in business concept as it allows WordPress users to easily and quickly create some very nice looking websites where they can add website functionality and features even if they do not have very good coding skills, is still however, flawed architecturally as these plugins are enabled through the use of java-script callouts which need to pull in the full plug-in code for each 3rd party widget being used on a particular web-page each time that web page is loaded.
This causes two things to occur on each page load that significantly reduces the speed of page loading:
- First, you are not just loading the native programming logic to the web page that you built and that resides on your server only. You are forced to callout out to potentially dozens of external locations both on your server and on 3rd party servers in order to fully render your web-page which causes lag-time issues and time delays in loading the page.
- Second, when you load the plugin, you have to load it as written by the 3rd party which often means that you are loading code that has a number of configurable options that you are note even using for the method in which you are using the plugin. This is a lot of extra programming code being loaded with each page rendering that you don’t need and it tends to make your web-page very “fat”, often putting the page into the 2-4 megabytes of code loading ranges whereas most custom coded pages are loading at under one megabyte of code. The fatness of these pages also impacts negatively on the speed of the web page rendering.
Google and browser manufacturers have already begun to penalize website owners for the use of java-script callouts on websites through certain strategies of their own. Browser manufacturers such as Chrome and Firefox for example, are limiting the enabling of some plugins on their platforms, mobile devices in most cases simply won’t run them, and Google penalizes you by not letting your site be found easily through their search engine. I tested the mobile device rejection of plugins with the draft WordPress site I had created by trying to load the page on my cellphone. After waiting over 40 seconds for the page to load, the device just rejected the load entirely, leaving me in limbo looking at a blank screen. This is why it is recommended to limit your use of plugins and eliminate them from your site over time if you can. Move to native coding strategies on you website wherever possible.
For those WordPress site owners who do not have the technical skills to remove these plugins from their websites, there are some things you can do within the framework of the plugin world to mitigate the negative effects of those you do use on your site so your pages at least will load more rapidly and so you can actually create a version of your site that is viewable on mobile devices. I outline these strategies following.
Certain 3rd party plugin providers and certain web-hosters who support WordPress sites have offered for use some workaround solutions that do help the site’s performance to a point and you can get a WordPress page to render on a mobile device.
To improve your site performance, there are a few things you can do.
- Go through all the images on your site and make their sizes as small as possible without significantly impacting the quality of viewing for the consumer. This can reduce the fatness of your page somewhat and I have found that some of the WordPress “Theme” providers are burdening your site with some very dense images that are hurting your load speeds. So run them through a tool such as Adobe Photoshop and thin them down where you can.
- There are some plugin manufacturers out there that offer internal site plugins which will compress components of your webpages so they do not take as long to load. Go to the Add Plugin feature on your WordPress site and search for “GZIP” or “GZIP compression” and you will find several providers that offer compression capabilities that will help you to reduce the fatness of your webpages.
- Far Future Expiration: Find, download and activate this plugin. As per the provider – “When the feature is enabled, this plugin will modify your .htaccess file by inserting code which will add expires headers for common static file types. Expiry header specifies a time far enough in the future so that browsers won’t try to re-fetch images, CSS, java-script, etc. and files that haven’t changed (this reduces the number of HTTP requests) and hence the performance improvement on subsequent page views.” I’ve done this and it helps shave a second or two on your website page load times.
- Implement a “caching” plugin for your site – I went with WP Super Cache. This plugin “generates static html files from your dynamic WordPress blog. After an html file is generated your webserver will serve that file instead of processing the comparatively heavier and more expensive WordPress PHP scripts.”
- Another strategy is to distribute your site pages to servers around the globe so that people are loading your site from more local servers than from your server which could be thousands of miles away. To do this will require you to implement a plugin, a web-hoster provided utility, and you will need to make changes to your domain .txt records as well so it is a more complicated strategy to employ. Web-hosters who support this will have utilities for the purpose within their dashboards. I am using Bluehost at present and their utility (and also the name of the related plugin that I am using) is called “CloudFlare”. So if you have some technical depth and know how to repoint your domain records, this is another strategy that you can employ to help speed up your website rendering capabilities.
- Lastly, to get at least some of your webpages to render properly on mobile devices / smart phones, will require you to enable another plugin on your website built for this purpose. The recommended utility for this purpose is the WPtouch Mobile plugin. WPtouch is a mobile plugin for WordPress that automatically adds a simple and elegant mobile theme for mobile visitors to your WordPress website. Recommended by Google, it will instantly enable a mobile-friendly version of your website that passes the Google Mobile test, and ensure your SEO rankings do not drop due to not having a mobile-friendly website. I’ve implemented it and now my blog pages are rendering OK on my smart phone.
The tips provided above will help you improve the performance of your WordPress site so be sure to check them out.