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Make WordPress faster with these plugins and tools

Speeding up WordPress

Earlier this week we looked at some of the ways you can improve page load times. You have a wide variety of options to optimise your website’s performance, but sometimes these depend on the content management system you’re using. With the huge popularity of WordPress, it makes sense to dig a bit deeper and highlight some CMS-specific tips for pushing your site even harder.

A big part of WordPress’ appeal is the range of free and relatively easy-to-use plugins available, and the diverse customisation and functionality they provide. You can use plugins together with other free tools to boost the speed of your site and give visitors a smoother experience. The ultimate goal is happier users who are more likely to stick around, and potentially a higher spot in the Google rankings. Let’s break it down into five steps:

1. Optimising image size

As we mentioned in the last post, images that aren’t properly optimised can negatively impact site performance. Compressing images is a simple way to speed up WordPress, since it has a direct effect on how quickly your site loads.

While you can optimise images yourself using editing software, this takes time and effort. The good news is that with WordPress plugins, you have access to a number of free tools that make the job a lot easier and provide extra benefits:

  • WP Smush trims hidden data from images without degrading their quality, ensuring they load at high speed
  • EWWW Image Optimizer can automatically convert your images to the file format that results in the smallest size, with either no loss of quality or some minimal loss in exchange for even smaller image files
  • BJ Lazy Load replaces images (as well as embedded videos) further down the page with placeholders, only loading the actual content when the user scrolls down to them

2. Minimising CSS and JavaScript

Another way to speed up WordPress is reducing the CSS code and JavaScript on your site by removing blank space and unrequired instructions. You may also be able to condense multiple files to decrease the number of HTTP requests.

Some useful tools for code optimisation:

  • CSS Minifier and JavaScript Minifier allow you to quickly and easily compress your CSS code and JavaScript down to the essentials
  • CSS Compressor offers 4 levels of CSS compression depending on how legible your CSS code needs to be

3. Caching to reduce load times

WordPress retrieves database content every time a page is viewed – a process which is a big contributor to overall loading times.

Caching plugins enable you to create a static version of your site to make loading much faster:

  • WP Super Cache generates static HTML files that can be served to users much faster – even for dynamic WordPress sites
  • W3 Total Cache enhances user experience with features such as content delivery network (CDN) integration

4. Clearing out your database

The bigger your database, the longer it takes queries to get back to the user. WordPress sites often have automatic backups which save unwanted items (such as drafts, spam and deleted posts) alongside useful information in the database.

This means you should give your database a regular clear-out, either manually or with the help of handy plugins like these:

5. Cutting down on plugins

Ironically for a blog article on how plugins can speed up WordPress, our final tip is… reduce plugins. But more specifically, plugins that are rarely used or not particularly relevant.

Numerous plugins can bloat your website and give users a more sluggish experience, so it’s worth confirming which ones are actually pulling their weight. It may even be the case that there are more lightweight alternatives to plugins you already have. By weeding out the WordPress plugins you don’t need or use, you can make your site, lean, mean and fighting fit.

However you optimise your WordPress site, you’ll need reliable and high-performance hosting to ensure it always loads quickly for your visitors and potential customers. Our Cluster web hosting platform is the perfect partner for WordPress, featuring low-contention databases, smart SSD storage and dynamic load balancing to guarantee the best possible user experience.

Neal Thoms's picture

Neal Thoms

Author As a content creator for Fasthosts, Neal’s main focus is cloud technology and how it’s transforming everything we do online. He’s worked in the web hosting industry for over five years.