How to speed up WordPress websites by reducing page load times

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Everyone likes things fast, and these days many consumers demand it. Attention spans have become shorter and internet connections faster and faster. A speed increase of just one second can mean the difference between a visitor who converts to a sale, or a visitor who skips you and moves on to your competition. Our web development team has compiled some insider tips to speed up WordPress and ensure your website loads as quickly as possible.

One of the most important questions is: where in the world are your visitors based?

It’s a huge challenge for your website to load fast all around the world. Even if you’re using a global Content Delivery Network (CDN) the original source and dynamic parts of your website will be located on one server located in a single location. It’s important to choose a web hosting provider that operates servers in the same region as your customers as this lowers the latency of every request the visitor’s browser makes when loading a web page. For our website design customers in Cambodia, we keep it local and choose Cambodia web hosting from our partner HostAsean.com, one of the only providers of Cambodia web hosting servers.

Here are some things you can do and tools you can use to help increase your website speed.

WebPageTest.org

The first port of call should be to see how fast your website currently loads. WebPageTest allows you to test your website for free from a variety of locations and connection speeds. We like to use the EC2 test locations with the standard cable connection to test our sites since then we can compare speeds from other EC2 locations around the world. In an ideal world, every web development team would aim for a loading speed of around 2 seconds, but we often have to compromise with a load time of 4-5 seconds when a page is full of images, video, and external JavaScript files.

Google PageSpeed / Mobile Friendly Tester

Google gives you the tools, so use them. Every website owner wants to make Google happy, so use the tools it provides. The Google PageSpeed tester gives you a basic insight into how fast your site is loading and some tips to optimise it. Remember, speed is also a factor in your search engine rankings – Google likes fast websites.

Cache Plugins

Vital for scalability and performance, cache plugins also reduce load on your server. Instead of every page request querying the database, a well-configured cache plugin will enable your website to serve a simple HTML page to the visitor – these load much quicker than a dynamic page. Remember, just installing the plugin is not enough. You need to configure it. As every website is different, you may run into issues when combining or minifying CSS/JavaScript files, so test and fiddle with the settings until it’s all working smoothly. Try W3 Total Cache or WP Super Cache to speed up WordPress.

Image Optimisation

Compress those images! No one likes waiting for images to download. We recommend the super simple WP Smush plugin to automatically shrink the file size of your images. A good target to aim for with your images is under 100kb, but this can lead to low quality images if you’re using them in a large header or slider. Keep the number of slider images low. No one needs 10 images in a slider – 3 is usually a better bet.

Use Icon Fonts

Do you use icons on your website? If they’re saved as individual image files then you’re probably slowing down your website significantly. An icon font can be a solution, this is like a typeface but instead of letters, it contains each of your icon graphics stored as a vector “character”. Once the font is loaded, the characters can then be displayed on your website, and resized or coloured with just a line of code.

The popularity of icon fonts has taken off in recent years due to their ease of use and fast loading times. Don’t go over the top though, since the fonts themselves can be quite heavy on the load times, but it’s almost always faster than images. The savings are most significant when you need to use different sizes and colours for your icons, as with an icon font this can be set in your CSS stylesheets or dynamically with JavaScript rather than having to create a separate image.

Hosting Optimisation

Ensure your host is designed for speed. Simple tweaks to Apache or Nginx configuration can offer huge speed increases, as does running PHP-FPM or LiteSpeed API (depending on your particular website/traffic requirements). Overloaded servers slow down your website since you are always competing for resources. You may even want to get your own VPS if you have a large website. You probably don’t need to worry about this yourself, but ask your web hosting provider or system administrator and they will likely be able to help.

CDN

Content Delivery Networks will offer worldwide servers that cache your images and static assets like JavaScript and CSS files. When visitors around the world arrive at your site, the static files are downloaded from their most local server instead of where your website is hosted. This also helps scalability as it reduces load on your main website hosting. There are a lot of options for CDNs and it can get quite advanced, but for a start you could look at CloudFlare for its caching options or Jetpack if you use WordPress.


We aim for speed with every website we build as we know it can be the difference between an engaged visitor and a lost sale. If your current website is sluggish then get in touch with us and we can offer web development and hosting services to help you overtake your competition.

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