Tips to Dramatically Increase Your WordPress Page Load

The web is not the tortoise and the hare race, slow and steady definitely doesn’t win the race. Not only will slow websites frustrate and deter your visitors, they can also get dinged in search engine rankings. Here at Elegant Themes we try to code our themes to be speedy and efficient, but there is also a lot that you can do outside of the theme to improve performance. In this post, I will outline the most important steps to ensuring that your WordPress website is running at hare-like speeds.

Bench-marking Your Pageload

We will need a way of measuring the size and speed of the website in question. To do this we will be using the free tools at Pingdom.com. Using the Pingdom Website Speed Test tool, we can do an initial test of our page speed.

Caching Your Pages To Serve Static Content

When your WordPress website is loading, there is a lot going on behind the scenes. PHP functions are being run and MySQL database are being queried to decide exactly what should be output to your visitor for that given page. The less intensive the queries on the page the better, and the only thing better than less queries are none at all! Using a cache plugin, you can create a static version of your website and have it served instantly to your visitors. Not only does this make your website load faster, it also lessens the load on your server’s CPU, Memory and HD. There are a few great Caching Plugins out there, and I would suggest using W3 Total Cache.

Minify & Consolidate CSS and JavaScript Files

Minifying your CSS and JavaScript files removes unnecessary characters within the file, thus lessening the size of the file and reducing the time it takes to download it. Consolidating the files together reduces the number of files that are downloaded, thus lowering the number of requests on the page. Both of these factors contribute to your page load. You can minify your CSS files manually using this online minifier for CSS and JavaScript, or you can let a plugin do the work for you. The same plugin we used to cache our page in the previous step, W3 Total Cache, also has an option to automatically minify and combine your CSS and JS files. This generally works great, though you should always test your website thoroughly to make sure that the compressed files didn’t cause any JavaScript problems.

Using A Content Deliver Network

What a CDN does is distribute your files to various datacenters all around the world, making it much more likely that there is a server closer than your own to each person that visits your website. The visitor is then served your files from the closest server, thus improving your website’s loading speed.

Implementing a CDN can drastically increase your website’s speed, even if you don’t notice the results at home. On a standard website host, your files are being stored on a single server at a single location somewhere in the world. The closer your visitors are to the datacenter in which your files are stored, the faster they can access them and the faster your website will load. For those visitors who are visiting your site from overseas on the other hand, it might be taking a long time for that data to make it across the ocean and into their browser!

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