Improving Wordpress performance issues

Wordpress is a great tool to quickly build an inexpensive website, the trade-offs are that we don't have full control over the look and feel of the website, which may not be important to new businesses looking to start their web presence.

Another trade-off can be that the performance of the site isn't up to scratch. Google have a testing tool that will let you know when this is the case. You can put the URL of the site you wish to test in and it will run a series of tests and give you information on how your site is not meeting the benchmark. It will give you a score out of 100 for the performance on both Desktop and Mobile.

Go to this link and plug in your website's URL into the box there. 

https://developers.google.com/speed/pagespeed/insights/  

After running your tests your website could be in the green zone, and if so - congratulations you can do no more to improve your site's performance. Otherwise you should be given a list of reasons why your website isnt up to scratch. 

Here is an example test run on a wordpress website:

Selection 143

Common Problems

An explanation of common problems that can occur are below;

  • Eliminate render-blocking resources - This is because the theme has a lot of files that have to load before the page can be displayed.
  • Remove unused CSS -  There is a lot of stuff loading that isn't relevant to what the user sees when they first come to your site
  • Defer offscreen images - Some of the images not relevant to the first thing that the user sees are being loaded before they are required to be displayed.
  • Reduce server response times (TTFB) - Your web server isn't serving the site as fast as google expects it should.

Common diagnostics issues and their explanations;

  • Ensure text remains visible during webfont load - there are a lot of webfonts being loaded and it seems the text is hidden on the page until these have finished loading.
  • Minimize main-thread work - this could be because heaps of different sliders and plugins are being loaded (and potentially used)
  • Avoid an excessive DOM size - the actual HTML page has heaps of code in it. For some reason the theme you are using has been very liberal with the amount of added elements and attributes in the HTML itself.

Possible Solutions

What are our options for dealing with this? Some of the main ones are;

  1. Attempt to fix the site without modifying the code
  2. Try to contact the theme developers and see if they are able to fix/optimise the code
  3. Download the site code, try to fix/optimise the issues with the code.
  4. Rebuild the site with performance in mind.

Server related solution:

1. Install the site on a better host. Cheap hosting is nearly always shared and without knowing you could be sharing a computer with hundreds of other websites. Should also geographically locate the server based on audience location.

Code solution analysis

Option 1: This is likely the cheapest option but it is unclear how effective this will be, a lot of the problems stem from the code. If you want to take this option we could time cap it at 4 hours for instance and then see how much of an improvement was made and re-evaluate whether it's worth continuing.

Option 2: Potentially the best option if the theme developers are available.

Option 3: Modifying someone else's code is often hard and sometimes can't be done. Production code is minified and unreadable and sometimes the source can't be obtained. If there is an update with the theme down the track - this can't be applied as it would likely undo a lot of the work done. This would also take a lot of time - probably only a good idea if there is so much content and extensive use of plugins in the wordpress system that changing to a more efficient system would be way more work.

Option 4: Can either redesign and rebuild the site, or if still happy with the current design, could save design expenses by keeping the existing layout as much as possible and rebuilding the underlying code with site speed performance as an important feature.

Conclusion

Often there is more under the hood about a website that isn't instantly apparent from the look of it. Quickly building a website using Wordpress or Wix can be a good way to start your online presence, but if you're looking to keep your customers engaged and rank higher in Search listings then site performance is an important metric to pay attention to.