If you aren’t thinking about the speed of your website then you need to be!
Let’s face it, nobody likes sitting around waiting for a website load. We did enough of that back in the day when we relied on dial-up to access the internet!
I don’t know about you but if I visit a website that takes a long time to load then I’m less likely to return to that website again in the future. And if your website is slow then your visitors might be feeling the same way.
Not only will a slow website have an impact on user experience, but it will also affect your ranking in search results. That’s right, Google’s algorithm takes site speed into consideration when ranking websites. Having a slow website could really be costing you.
To check your website speed I recommend using a website called GTMetrix. All you have to do is enter your website URL and GTMetrix will create a report on your website loading time, along with information on how you can improve the speed of your website.
If you aren’t happy with the results of this test, don’t worry! There are many things you can do to improve the speed of your website.
In this post I am going to share 8 simple ways, that don’t involve any code, to improve the loading time or your WordPress website.
Install a caching plugin
Something that will make a big difference to your website speed is caching.
This website explains caching far better than I ever could, but basically, it prevents WordPress from needing to reload everything every time you reload the website. This means that your website will load a lot quicker.
The caching plugin I use and recommend is called W3 Total Cache. It’s a free plugin and it’s really easy to set up.
Just make sure if you make any changes to your website to purge the cache or else you will just see a cached version of the website and won’t see the changes!
Resize your images before uploading them
Something I see quite often is websites using stock images that are absolutely colossal!
What many people do is download photographs from a stock image website, like Pexels or Unspash, and then upload them directly to WordPress. Often these images are much larger than they need to be and as a result, your website is loading more data than it actually needs to.
I recommend resizing your images before you upload them to your website if you can. If an image only needs to be 1000px wide, make it 1000px wide.
If you are using a pre-made theme then it might come with a user guide that tells you what the recommended image sizes are, so look out for this.
Save your images as JPEG files, not PNG
When you export an image from a design tool like Photoshop, you can select the file format of the image. The most common choices are JPEG and PNG.
Where possible, save your images as JPEG files as they are compressed, whereas PNG files are uncompressed. This means that JPEG file sizes are much smaller than PNG, and therefore don’t take as long to load.
However, there will be times when you need to use a PNG image, such as when you have an image with a transparent background.
The downside of choosing JPEG over PNG is that the compression does result in a loss of image quality. However, it is not normally that noticeable, and I promise your visitors will appreciate the faster loading time!
Install an image optimisation plugin
Resizing images and saving them as JPEG files is all good and well when you are uploading new images to your website, but what about the images you have already uploaded?
If you’ve been running your website or blog for a quite a while then you might have hundreds or even thousands of images on your website. And I’m sure you won’t want to go through and update all of these images manually.
The good news is you can install a plugin that will optimise your existing images for you. I use a plugin called Smush Image Compression and Optimisation but another popular choice is one called reSmush.it Image Optimizer.
Remove any plugins that you aren’t using
One of the greatest benefits of a self-hosted is the ability to install plugins. And I’ve already mentioned a few plugins in this post that can help you to improve the speed of your website.
Unfortunately, some plugins can slow down your website. This might be because they contain large files or pull in scripts from external websites. It may be because they are constantly running in the background.
So, if there are any plugins that you aren’t using, you might as well deactivate them and delete them.
Some of the plugins that hurt loading times the most include, but are not limited to, WooCommerce, Divi Builder, Visual Composer, SumoMe and Disqus Comment System. A quick Google search will show you exactly which plugins are known to be slow.
If you are actively using these plugins then don’t remove them, but if you aren’t then maybe it’s time to say “Goodbye!”.
Choose a theme that is optimised for speed
It’s so easy to pick a theme for your WordPress website based solely on its design, but you should also consider how quickly it loads.
If you are considering purchasing a premium pre-made theme, copy the URL of the demo website and pop it into GTmetrix. If you don’t see great results then I’d steer clear of that particular theme.
Also, most theme developers are proud to boast about the speed of their themes, so look out for this in the product description!
But saying that, don’t just rely on having a fast theme. It may not be fast once it’s using your own website content.
Use excerpts rather than displaying the entire post
If you display blog posts on the homepage of your WordPress website then you might want to consider just showing the post excerpt rather than the full post.
The full post will take longer to load as it contains more content including images. An excerpt is just a short summary or description of the content within your blog post. If you take a look at my blog page you can see excerpts in action.
Some WordPress themes will allow you to choose whether you want to display the full post or excerpt. Some will automatically use the excerpt if you provide one.
You should see the Excerpt box on your blog post page. It looks like this:
If you can’t see the box, click on Screen Options in the top right-hand corner of the screen and tick the box next to Excerpts.
Show fewer posts on your home
Again, if you display your blog posts on your homepage, you might want to consider how many posts you choose to display. The most posts you display, the longer it will take to load the page.
In some circumstances, the number of posts that are displayed will be dictated by the theme itself. However, most of the time you can change this in the WordPress settings.
To do this, hover over Settings in the left-hand menu and click Reading.
Then, look for the option called Blog pages show at most. The number in this box dictates how many blog posts will show.
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