So you’ve gone and created a WordPress site, or have had a web designer create one for you, and while you love the look and complexity of it, you are bummed at the slow load times and are starting to feel envious of your competition who are using boring DIY website options that have a simpler, faster site. This story is all too common and has almost given WordPress a notorious reputation when it comes to server requirements and keeping it up-to-speed.
The truth is, almost objectively, WordPress is, in fact, superior to WIX, Squarespace, and other DIY website builders out there. Not to say, that those options can’t serve you and your business just fine. They absolutely can and are great for those who have simpler needs content-wise. On the other hand, WordPress is more advanced and allows for more “development” on the backend. Example: With WordPress, if you need a hotel booking system, you can find one in the plugins and install it. Now, instead of paying thousands for a web developer to custom code one, you have one that is built for WordPress and suits your needs right out of the box. This is one example of millions, because WordPress is the most used CMS (content management system) in existence, and it’s also open-source, meaning literally any developer can take the code, and make it better, or create plugins for it.
But with this advanced level of software, comes advanced problems. So, how do you make a complex WordPress site fast and reliable? I’ll break it down in a few easy steps but it comes down to this: server settings (your host), page load size, nerd-made-easy plugins.
Your Server (and settings)
Quite simply, WordPress is a lot more advanced than a static website of yester-year. It’s essentially a web app that you can access by visiting your URL that is capable of a lot of advanced functions. Naturally, this requires a lot more resources than a more basic website which requires more hardware. You can start with getting a quality provider, and nowadays, there are actually servers that claim to be “specific” to running a WordPress website. Siteground has some great options for running WordPress sites specifically, meaning they have the proper settings to run a WordPress site out of the box.
Typically the PHP version needs to be updated regularly, to keep WordPress running fast. This isn’t often something people think about and will leave it untouched for YEARS while their WordPress site keeps getting updated, causing a ton of issues. I’ve personally seen this happen and when the PHP site was updated, everything went back to functioning smoothly.
“System Status” or similar pages have been built into a lot of WordPress themes which is a great settings page within the WordPress theme that reviews all of your servers settings and ensures that everything is up to par. There are settings like PHP memory limit, and PHP time limit, as well as your aforementioned PHP version (which also seems to have the single biggest factor on WordPress website speed) that need to be looked at in order to have the site running fast and reliably.
This is a pretty basic principle with web design, that can help anyone. When your website loads, it’s basically downloading whatever you have on your page, to the viewers’ browser. So really ANYTHING you put on your site, should be as little and as optimized as possible. It’s the easiest way to make a nice looking site, run terribly. Not to mention, the extreme importance in load times on a website’s conversion rating. According to a report by the Microsoft Bing search team, a 2-second longer delay in page responsiveness reduced user satisfaction by 3.8%, increased lost revenue per user by 4.3%, and reduced clicks by 4.3%. Yikes.
You can start by making sure every photo size is smaller. You can use plugins like “Smush” that will do this for you, or you can do it the old fashioned way and open each photo into a program like Photoshop, use the quality slider, and ensure they are kilobytes, not megabytes. Sometimes this compromises the image quality, so it’s nice to have the flexibility of using a plugin or having the software around to resize things on your desktop so you can ensure quality vs size are meeting halfway.
More Nerd Shit
So basically, there are a lot of plugins to make life easier. You can go to your servers back end and do things manually, or you can get nice plugins like Smush which compresses your images. SuperCache (which helps to cache the images on your site and load them faster). Lazy Load will make sure viewers are loading images WHILE they view them and are scrolling, rather than downloading the whole page at once, saving bandwidth, and making things run fast. WP-Optimize can help you with making sure all the settings are sound, and so on. You can always seek the advice of a professional to help you with these things as well.
In short, sure, WordPress is more advanced and potentially complicated than a DIY option like WIX or Squarespace. But it is more flexible, and a more capable platform. It can support everything from a user forum and thriving community, an expansive e-commerce online shop, to simple and beautiful websites for small businesses and creatives. It’s limitless. Just make sure you do your part in keeping it quick.