Everyone loves fast websites. Such a website improves user experience and creates happy visitors and happy admins. Google too is obsessed with speed and considers site speed as one of the ranking factors.
Today we want to share with you 8 steps on how to make a website faster. This is based on the actions that we took to optimize our BarnImages.com. We believe that these tips will work for any WordPress site, but some can be also used for other CMS.
But what is “fast” in the first place? Well, 45% of visitors will abandon a website if it loads in more than 3 seconds. So, these 3 seconds should be the goal. Two seconds would be even better!
Before we move on to the optimization steps, we should mention two tools for measuring site speed: GTmetrix and Pingdom Website Speed Test. Both services will show you the load time of your page and give you a detailed page analysis, providing recommendations on how to optimize it.
1. Choose a reliable and fast web hosting
If your website is located on a slow hosting, other optimization steps will be useless. Of course, fast hosting does not necessarily mean the best. You should also consider reliability, uptime, support, features offered and price. After doing a lot of research we’ve chosen InMotion Hosting and so far we are very happy about it. According to this test, InMotion, that uses Solid State Drives, is one of the fastest WordPress hosting providers. Besides that, these guys offer other nice features such as free domain, free site transfer, preinstalled WordPress and 90-day (!) full money back guarantee. If you consider them now, make sure to use this link to get up to 38% off hosting plans!
2. Choose a fast WordPress theme
Poorly coded or feature-heavy theme will increase your website loading time, so choose wisely. Make sure you always test a theme’s demo with GTmetrix or Pingdom Website Speed Test. Look at how long it takes to load a page and how many HTTP requests are made. While shopping at ThemeForest you can read the comments and see what other people say.
3. Make sure you don’t overuse plugins
We’ve chosen WordPress because it’s easy to use and is very flexible at the same time. However, this system is not the fastest available. Quite often to add a new feature you’ll need to install a plugin or two. This can have a huge impact on the load time. Think twice – do you really need this or another plugin? Is there a lighter alternative? Don’t forget about the great P3 plugin. This tool measures plugins’ impact on your site’s load time, so you can see which plugins are slowing it down. You can also compare similar plugins and choose the lightest.
4. Update WordPress and plugins
Don’t forget to update your system regularly, to be sure that bugs are fixed and everything is running optimally.
5. Disable wp-cron.php
Wp-crone.php is a script in WordPress for scheduled tasks such as checking for theme or plugin updates, publishing scheduled posts, sending email notifications and others. The “problem” is that wp-cron.php runs every time someone visits a page. For a website with a lot of traffic, this can be a real problem as it consumes server resources. Check this article how to disable default wp-cron.php and setup a manual cron job that runs every 6 hours, which should be fine for most of the WordPress websites.
6. Don’t forget about a cache plugin
WordPress is a dynamic CMS. That means that website data is generated every time somebody visits a page. But you don’t really need it! It would be more efficient to create a static cache for each page and serve them to visitors. This will definitely speed up your website. Actually, using a cache plugin is one of the most effective ways to increase the speed of your site.
There are a few popular cache plugins like W3 Total Cache, WP Super Cache, and WP Fastest Cache. It is difficult to say which one is a better option, as you can have different results depending on your hosting or theme. We suggest you try all these plugins and compare the results with GTmetrix. We use W3 Total Cache on BarnImages.com. If you find it difficult to configure this plugin, check this article.
7. Use a content delivery network (CDN)
We are using KeyCDN, a reliable and high-performance CDN that is also one of the most affordable services on the market. For example, 150 GB of traffic costs 6$ only. Another cool thing about KeyCDN is their CDN Enabler plugin for WordPress. You can literally integrate the service with your WP website in minutes. If you want to try KeyCDN (free trial, no credit card required), use our referral link to get $10 in credits that equals to 250GB of traffic.
8. Definitely optimize images
High-resolution images are probably the largest files of a website, so they will definitely slow down page speed! Therefore, you should try to reduce image size without losing quality. You can try optimus.io or EWWW Image Optimizer. These WordPress plugins will automatically optimize your images as you upload them. Or you can optimize images before uploading them by using tools like ImageOptim (free and Mac only) or JPEGmini (free trial for Mac and PC).
It took us a while to develop this optimization strategy, as we are far from being professional web developers. If you think we are missing something or if you just want to share your experience in optimizing a website, feel free to comment on this post.