Many of our customers approach us asking “Why is my WordPress site so slow?” It can be a complicated topic, but there are some usual suspects that I intend to call out in today’s post. If these ‘usual-suspect’ issues are ironed out before my team gets involved, everybody wins.
So believe it or not, one of the biggest contributing factors to site slowness is the type and quality of your web hosting. While it’s always a great feeling to save the company money by hosting with a cheap “unlimited” hosting subscription, it’s not ideal for the small to mid-sized business landscape. This holds especially true for eCommerce sites that depend on quick page loads. Quick load times lead to better conversion, it’s just the nature of things. If you depend on your site to keep the lights on, spend _some_ extra money to pay for a reliable host that doesn’t pack you on to an over-crowded shared server. Also when choosing a host, check to see if they implement any server-side caching, or have a CDN that you can make use of. You should approach choosing a host with a wide view of what types of services and which providers you’ll be doing business with, to ensure compatibility for launch.
Another common culprit is what we like to call “Designing for Print.” Usually, the site was implemented by a well-intended, creative, and tech-savvy type, who simply haven’t created content for the web before. In almost all cases this can be resolved by simply optimizing and resizing images. Photography sites run into this ALL the time. A resourceful photographer uploads their amazing pictures at the highest resolution, without the understanding to display them without major performance consequences. WordPress can technically resize images to some extent, but it’s never as impactful as resizing and optimizing the images locally before adding them into the site’s design.
The last suspect, not surprisingly, is installed plugins. Plugins are great, they add a virtual boatload of features to WordPress with little to no admin effort. That said, it’s all too easy to overload a site with them. Often a single plugin is the root cause of an issue, other times we find that it’s a combination of certain plugins that are causing trouble. Another easy pitfall is due to the ease and access to new plugins. It’s easy to install a plugin, confirm it’s doing its job, and then move on. This leads to site bloat, which is just as bad as it sounds. Recently we had a customer with 128 plugins activated on their site. After our consultation, we were able to trim that overhead down to only twenty-eight plugins, which in some circles is considered a lot but most were simple plugins that didn’t affect the site too much. Upon testing, that site was 10 times faster than we found it.
I hope this write-up helps spark some thinking around site performance for you and hopefully uncovers some low hanging fixes to get you on the right track. Of course, if you need help, my team and I are just an email away.