Increasing your WordPress website's speed is something you shouldn't wait to work on because it can heavily hit your potential revenue. In a negative way, of course. You want to be able to get info, book a hotel room or buy your ticket now, not in 30 minutes. And that's not something unique to your own high expectations: every user of a website wants something now, not later.
As a business owner, you want to make money now, not eventually.
That's why WordPress speed and performance are such important elements that relate to a broader business view, rather than "just" being a technical annoyance.
But how does the process to get your website's speed improved look like? What's involved here as critical steps towards a better-performing website?
Well, if you know what problems you must deal with, the process of optimizing your website to achieve maximum page load speeds might not seem that difficult, at first. Yet, as soon as you start digging under the surface, you'll realize it's filled with unknown areas pertaining to your specific configuration stack that's almost impossible to anticipate without looking more closely.
Before discovering and getting to those specific elements and unique setups of a given WordPress website, there are critical steps that have to be performed.
And here's what the usual procedure for speed improvements looks like, backed by a highly-experienced speed and performance WordPress developer.
Step 1: collect data
The first step is to know where you’re at now, so you can compare that with the results of your optimization efforts. As WordPress developer and Codeable expert Justin Frydman says:
Collect the data on your existing site so we have something to base the end results off.
To gather data around your website's speed, you will be using tools like GT Metrics, Pingdom, and Google PageSpeed Insights to generate reports on the different factors affecting your site's performance.
Step 2: understand what matters
From the data collected and reports generated, it's important that you understand what metrics matter, and which ones won't make much of a difference. Says Justin:
It's about educating the client, letting them know how to look at those grades. Something like: 'Ok, with this tool you get an F on this and that. I'm going to tell you why that doesn't matter that much.' Of course, that goes the other way around: 'You're getting an F in page load time, now that matters a lot and I'm going to tell you why'.
In a nutshell, the three most important factors you should be focusing on at this stage are loading time, page size and requests. Depending on how your site is configured, there likely be a few other important ones to dig into, such as looking at how many redirects you have in place.
Step 3: server considerations
The server your website is hosted on is always the most important consideration, even if it's commonly left as "nice to have" thing to be checked. Without any technical discussion, the golden rule is that if your server isn't good enough, the base is weak and your performance tweaks will only result in a slight improvement in speeds.
As Justin explains:
We need to know that the server is good before we do anything else. If your server is slow, we'll only be able to make your website a bit faster because 'the engine' isn't able to perform at maximum speed. That's why, if you want greater results, we might suggest moving your website to a whole new server (or hosting provider) that is optimized for WordPress and able to serve pages in the fastest way possible.
Step 4: identify site bottlenecks
The next step that comes during the process of speed and performance improvements is to examine the main "pieces" that make up your site: installed plugins, themes, and the like. Essentially, everything that could be causing problems. This is how Justin and his team approach the issue:
We'll look through each piece at a time and question them with the client: 'What do you use this plugin for mostly? Is it bringing you value? What if we remove it? What happens to your website?' By doing this, we've determined you either need it or you don't. Then we take it a step further: is there an alternative for it that's lighter weight? If there is, great. Let's try that one out! Does it meet all your requirements? Awesome! We've solved that problem.
'Do you need this script? Is there anything that the site's loading that you don't actually need? Are all your scripts loading on all your pages when they don't need to be?' These are the type of questions that can lead to significant savings because if you have something loading on your site that you don't need, removing it is the ultimate solution.
Step 5: optimize
Finally, it's all about fixing each piece of the puzzle and make them work as smoothly as possible altogether, always measuring data until you get the maximum achievable speed with that stack and configuration.
Optimizing your site's speed is a step-by-step process that begins with identifying the problem areas and then dig deeper to tackle on each one of them accordingly. What you should be aware of is to host your site on a WordPress-optimized server, as this provides the proper base for other performance tweaks.
As you know, the typical website user or visitor has a very low attention span. Without any performance optimization tasks in your business pipeline a high bounce rate (people leave your pages quickly), low conversion rate, poor SEO score, will be the best scenario you might end up seeing happening to you. The worst scenario? You'll have a website not only being unable to deliver results but having your business relying on one leaking actual profits.
This blog post features Justin Frydman who is a top-rated WordPress expert constantly delivering quality projects of all different types for clients on Codeable. A specialist with WordPress site speed optimization, Justin understands the value of what a faster website can do for a business and truly enjoys the work of testing and optimizing to produce the best end result possible.