Recently one of our customers was starting to experience occasional web site slowness due to their ever increasing website size and popularity of their WordPress site. As always, our team of talented engineers were onto the problem straight away and I thought it would be useful to share our thoughts on some of the things you should consider to optimise your WordPress site.
WordPress is one of the world’s most popular Content Management Systems (CMS). Its engine is used by an impressive list of websites that includes the likes of e-bay, Yahoo! and the Wall Street Journal. Even our own humble little site is built using WordPress. With any CMS, there are five critical factors that can transform the visitor experience (and improve your bottom line).
This should be the first question you should look at with any web host. Is this shared hosting, or are you using a VPS? Even if your site only has a few hundred visits a month, you should consider looking at using a VPS. It is only a slightly higher cost per month, but it gives you (or your IT support team) visibility in to what is going on. For example it allows us to pinpoint the hardware limitations that may be slowing down the web site, or even causing it to crash. There are tools out there to isolate exactly which part of a website is causing the problem. None of these tools are of any use in your standard consumer shared hosting environments, such as websites accessible through cPanel.
Not all webservers are created equal. While Apace has been around a long time and is the default for many websites, newer web servers such as nginx are engineered to provide a much faster response under high load scenarios. Again, you may need a VPS to take advantage of this technology as many hosting control panels do not support nginx.
Optimising Templates and Plugins
Many WordPress sites use third party templates and plugins that are incorporated into the site. What you may not know is that many of these templates refer to components that are hosted on remote website. Combining all this content onto your site, and using tools like Google’s Pagespeed can yield some truly great results.
In some cases, images can also be optimised without any loss in quality. By default most modern SLRs take photos of sufficient quality to produce image the size of a billboard. This is probably overkill for many websites and by using image manipulation tools like Photoshop, or even Google’s free Picasa, you can shrink the images file size considerably without any noticeable loss in quality.
Most web pages are generated in real time as visitors browse your web site. Because much of the website content does not change much, it is possible to prepare the content in advance. We call this caching. There are two ways to achieve this. The first is to use a Content Distribution Network (CDN). The second is to use a WordPress to like WP Super Cache.
Why should we care about website performance? Research shows that speeding up your website pages by even a few seconds can have a dramatic effect on sales. And of course your competitors’ websites are only a few clicks away…