Introduction – How to speed up a WordPress website for beginners
So you have had a website designed, or maybe even attempted to design it yourself, using WordPress. The website looks great! It has so many cool animations and looks really professional, you’ve done really well!
The website is taking ages to load!
This is bad, and I’ll tell you why. People are inpatient. They do not want to wait a whole 8 seconds for your page to load, why should they? Your competitor’s website loads in 1.8 seconds, so they’ll just come off your site and pay them a visit. That’s now a potential client / customer you have lost. So let’s fix this and stop you losing inpatient customers.
This is a tutorial on how to speed up a WordPress website for beginners. I will cover speeding up websites using front end builders like Divi and Elementor in future posts. Eventually I will cover other content management systems and maybe treat you to some custom coded tricks. It’s important to know that this is for Businesses / People who do not know much about website development / design. If the website is really advanced, this beginners guide will probably not help you improve your site.
Why speed up your WordPress Website?
Better SEO (Search Engine Optimization) – Google and other search engines will rank faster websites over the slower ones on the search results page. The better the user experience, the higher search engines will rank you.
Better Conversion Rate – Page speed is extremely important to the user’s experience. Longer load times will negatively affect the conversion rate of your website. People simply do not want to wait. Websites with a longer load time will most likely increase the bounce rate and lower the average time someone spends on your website – Which negatively affects the website’s SEO.
How to speed up a WordPress website for beginners:
First, here is a selection of tools you can use to actually see how long your webpages take to load:
Animations / Themes
Yes, okay, we have all done it. We have put loads of animations over our websites. Well, this could be why your website is lacking in speed. These different animations take ages to load because there are so many animation types. To improve performance, select 1-2 animations to use throughout the site. This way, when the website loads up, it will be loading no more than 2 animations for each page (Preferably the same 2 animations across the site). There are many websites out there that have loads of cool animations yes, but these websites have had a lot of work (and money) put into them by professionals (such as myself), and this is a beginners guide after all.
WordPress websites that have a lot of dynamic elements, sliders, social follows and other fancy modules look fantastic, and really stand out, however the same rule applies with themes as it does with the animations. If there are too many elements, they will cause your web server to take a beating. Try reducing the elements on your website, and if you’re just starting to build a website, then look at using default WordPress themes.
Optimize Images & Videos
Okay, so you want to keep your animations, fine! The sizes and file types of your website’s images really does make a difference to website speed. Reducing the size of the images or changing the file type will improve how fast your webpages load. The problem is that images make a website look beautiful, so you want to reduce an image without compromising the quality too much. Here are a few tools you can use:
– Smush (WordPress Plugin)
– Canva (Quick way to change file types and design images)
– WP Optimize (WordPress Plugin)
– EWWW Image Optimizer (WordPress Plugin)
I’d recommend WebP or AVIF for image formats, they perform better than PNG or JPEG.
Size your images properly!! I’ve seen many Businesses make the mistake of uploading full-sized images without resizing them. Don’t upload a 4000 pixel wide image if it’s going to be displayed at 400 pixels.
Videos can really slow your site down if not optimized properly. Be sure to compress each video using a video compression tool. Handbrake and VideoProc are some examples of video compression tools you can use.
Remember that the more images and videos you put on a page, the longer it will take to load. Try to find a healthy balance between the visual aesthetics and user experience of the website.
Use a CDN
This may sound too technical, but I’m going to help you out here – CDN stands for Content Delivery Networks. The primary function of a CDN is to serve the webpage to a visitor from the nearest possible location, which improves your website speed for traffic visiting your site across the globe. Cloudflare provides a CDN (as do we in our hosting packages).
Use a Caching Plugin
Cached pages are served up as static HTML versions of a particular page in order to avoid time-consuming queries to a website’s database. The caching process helps to improve WordPress speed and performance, and the overall user experience. Using a Caching Plugin will make it easier for you to set a cache policy, which will speed up the performance of your website. For a more detailed guide to clear your WordPress cache, give this a read. Plugins to look into:
Reduce server response times
Slow server response times are one possible cause for long page loads. When users navigate to a URL in their web browser, the browser makes a network request to fetch that content. Your server receives the request and returns the page content. The server may need to do a lot of work in order to return a page with all the content that users want.
The easiest way to reduce server response times for Beginners would be to find a better optimized theme (as stated in the first section), or by upgrading your server. The quality of the web hosting package you have will significantly impact your website’s page load speed. Do some research into hosting providers!
I left the best till last. Cleaning up the back-office, this one is always fun.
Let’s start with plugins – Keeping unneeded or unused plugins on your WordPress websites will add a large amount of junk to your web files. It’s also a security issue to leave plugins sitting there without keeping them updated. Go through your plugins and remove the ones you don’t need / use.
WP-Optimize is a WordPress plugin that makes it easier for you to clean your database, removing all that unnecessary data that is slowing your website down. You will also want to delete spam comments, old drafts of your content, unused media and unused themes.
Keep WordPress organized and tidy, for that when you decide to use a web expert, they don’t have a panic attack looking at your back office! I’d also recommend setting up a spam detection service as well, for obvious reasons.
How to speed up a WordPress website for beginners – Conclusion
Hopefully after reading this guide, you have managed to improve the performance of your WordPress website. If your website is still struggling, then get in touch or keep a look-out for my future posts on improving website performance.
Remember that you will lose sales from a slow website!