Why is my WordPress website not bringing in more customers? This question comes from potential clients who don’t understand why their website does not perform the way they thought it would. They say they spent good money on creating a nice-looking website. It has all the modern components (sliders, testimonials, hero images, parallax, etc.). It has relevant content. The first question I ask is ‘Have you looked at the page load time?’. Read on to discover the why a slow page load time results in poor WordPress performance.

Test for poor WordPress performance

How can you test the performance of your WordPress website? There are several tools I use determine poor WordPress performance. GTmetrix, Pingdom Website Speed Test, and Google PageSpeed Insights are my most popular tools. The results from these performance tests identify the areas of WordPress I need to improve. WordPress performance improvement takes different approaches.

Before optimization: Notice the poor scores, load time, page size and number of requests.

How WordPress works

First, you need to understand how WordPress works. The WordPress platform combines a group of components together to form a web page. For instance, the header, footer, navigation, sidebar, and content are all separate components. Themes and plugins add more components to a website. Each of these components draws from different areas (some from the database, some from static files, and some from other web resources). Each component can consist of HTML, CSS, PHP, JavaScript, and image files. Each call tends to slow down a WordPress website.

Remove unneeded files

WordPress is a generic web publishing platform. Out of the box, it loads items that are not required on every website. For instance, most WordPress websites don’t need the default emojis, rest API, RSS feeds, relational links, external blog editors, or DNS prefetch. Each of these items require extra calls to files and websites. Remove these items and your website will load faster.

Combine and minify files

For the CSS and JavaScript files try to combine them into single files. Let’s say your website has 8 CSS and 6 JavaScript files. This means WordPress has to make 14 separate calls to load these files. As a website can only load so many files at the same time (typically 4), the loading of these files tend to block other files from loading. Combining like files together means WordPress is only loading 2 files (1 each for CSS and JavaScript). With the files combined, you can achieve even faster load times by minifying your CSS and JavaScript files. Minifying strips out unnecessary spaces and inline comments. This results in even faster loading files.

Optimize images

Images are the biggest offender causing a WordPress website to load slowly. A 12MP digital camera takes images that are 4,000 x 3,000 pixels in size with a resolution of  200 DPI. This is great for printing but is overkill for a website. Most websites can get by with images that are 1024 pixels wide. The resolution can also be reduced to 72 DPI without impacting image quality. A 4,000 x 3,000 200 DPI image takes up 4.5 MB disk space. Optimized to a 1024 x 768 72 DPI image, the file size becomes 546KB. The optimized image loads 8 times faster than the original image.  For a web page with 6 images, the savings is substantial. Optimize images to the maximum required size for the applicable web page.

After optimization: Notice the improvements in every area.

Test the results

How do I know poor WordPress performance frustrates visitors? The answer is in the website analytics. Compare the bounce rate before optimization and after optimization. A reduced bounce rate indicates people aren’t immediately leaving the website. Also check the time spent on each page. Increased time spent on a page means visitors are consuming more of your content. You want a lower bounce rate and increased time spent on the website.

Take the time to improve the performance of your WordPress website. Reduce the number of loaded files. Remove unneeded items (such as default emojis, rest API, RSS feeds, relational links, and external blog editors). Combine and minify CSS and Javascript files. Optimize images for the web. Take care of these items and the page loading time of your website will improve. There is no need for poor WordPress performance.

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