Adding a caching plugin can only do so much for a slow website. If you have a painfully slow WordPress website, you need to stop adding new plugins and dig into the cause of the slowness.
The 9 Most Common Issues that Cause a WordPress Website to Load Poorly:
1. Bloated WordPress Theme
Most WordPress themes, whether paid or free, are built to meet the needs of as many people as possible. That means that any given theme will have a large percentage of features (and code) that is completely unnecessary. Trimming this fat is a seriously effective way to speed up your website. If you have a custom-built theme that contains ONLY the features you need, you’ll have a great foundation for a fast website on desktop and mobile.
2. Duplicate Functionality
The core WordPress installation recently began including Guttenberg blocks, which have a ton of features – column layouts, background colors, cover images, embedded audio & video, and so much more. Most themes have not caught up to this development and have their own layout editors, or include Must-Use layout builder plugins for functionality that is covered by Guttenberg.
3. Duplicate Plugins
Having multiple versions of the same plugin can occur when newer versions are uploaded through FTP with unique file names. This can wreak havoc on the website load time. Similarly, installing multiple plugins to achieve the same functionality – with a slideshow for example – will also drag load time down.
4. Uncompressed & Inappropriately Sized Images
Oversized or uncompressed images are a really common issue and pretty easy to fix. The image only needs to be as large as its biggest display and not larger. The WordPress media library has a simple tool to scale and edit images that’s great for novices. Compressing images with a service like TinyPNG is more time-consuming, but will get you the best results.
5. Slow Hosting Environment
A good indicator of a slow hosting environment is the response time you experience when editing a post or page in your WordPress dashboard. I’m making an assumption that you have a reasonable internet connection here. If you click ‘save’ and then watch the little blinking “updating” indicator run in the upper corner, you need to consider a different hosting provider.
There are lots of cheap WordPress hosting plans out there, but remember that you get what you pay for. You’ll never get on top of load times if you start with a crappy foundation.
6. Multiple Caching Methods
It’s very common for WordPress hosting providers to offer a server-level cache service. On some hosts this is not an option that can be turned off. When a WordPress website intermittently loads slowly, this is what I check first.
The server-level caching can conflict with theme caching and/or a caching plugin. It can also conflict with a file merging or file compression plugin. If the expiries are not synchronized, the live site may be looking for a compressed or cached file that doesn’t exist anymore. This is often difficult for clients to diagnose because the local level caching is disabled for logged-in users and the issue appears “random”.
7. Excessive Reliance on Plugins
This issue is related to #2, but not necessarily. I’ve come across a lot of clients who have an excessive reliance on plugins, which bloats out the overall size of the website. When I audit a slow-loading WordPress website, I look for plugins that can be eliminated, even if they aren’t duplicating functionality elsewhere. For example, generating widget code for things like google analytics & tags, social share buttons, or social feeds instead of installing a plugin to generate that code.
8. Excessive Installation of Themes
Many clients experiment with different themes. Once they settle on the one they like, it’s common to forget about all the ones that were installed previously. Any not in use should be deleted.
In my experience, eliminating the unused themes doesn’t directly improve site speed dramatically. What cleaning out the themes does do is prevent security holes for malware to infect your site, and malware can dramatically slow your website load time.
A WordPress website infected with malware will often have a slow load time as a symptom of that infection. Any hosting provider worth its salt will have a server-level malware scanner & removal (and automated backups) included in its’ plans.
If your hosting plan does not include that service, you’ll want to make sure you have a malware scanner & remover installed and set up to automatically run. This does add a bit of site bloat, but it’s worth every millisecond. I like Word Fence and All In One WP Security plugins. But no site-level plugin is going to be perfect, so make sure you have regular backups of the site in case the site is compromised.
The Secret Sauce for a Fast WordPress website
If you want a lightning-fast WordPress website you need to start with a fast hosting environment, a slim custom-built theme, minimal plugins, optimized images, and a CDN. That’s the recipe I use to create consistently fast websites with 1 second load times.
Want a fast WordPress Website?
If your website isn’t running as fast as you’d like, contact me for a speed audit. I’ll dig into the underlying cause(s). In most cases, you’ll see noticeable improvements without breaking the bank. Sometimes starting fresh with the secret sauce is in order. Either way, Contento Interactive Group has the solution for your WordPress website.