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Make your WordPress blog fly with these speedy plugins and tweaks

WordPress sites are notorious for their poor loading times. The platform itself comes with very few optimizations, and once you start adding plugins, things will only go south from there.

Having a lot of content on your site is another factor that affects site speed, but not nearly as much as you would think. Most of the performance penalties actually come from having too many plugins installed, a poorly optimized site configuration, and a theme that does not optimize loading speeds (most of them don’t).

Yellow Lab Tools is a speed testing tool for websites. We’ve tried it out on many WordPress blogs out there and it’s rare to see high marks (a B or A result), but after applying the tweaks listed here, we’ve managed to get our own site to score an A (92/100) result, and surprisingly low loading times. Try it on your site to see how you fare.

1. Autoptimize plugin

Have you ever opened Google and tried to view the source? It’s all garbled code. It might not be pretty to look at, but it loads much faster than the readable version would load. That’s what the (free) Autoptimize plugin does for you: compress the code and remove unnecessary characters that would increase loading times. It will also embed the CSS and JavaScript code onto the HTML, reducing the amount of HTTP requests needed to load the page, similar to what image sprites provide. We’ll discuss those below.

Configuration is relatively easy, although some of the more advanced tweaks, like using a CDN to load images, require a higher level of technical knowledge. Loading assets from a CDN bypasses browser connection limits and  so it’s definitely worth the trouble.

2. WP Fastest Cache plugin

The time that PHP takes to generate a page is another loading time cost that isn’t needed on every page load. That’s why enabling a plugin like WP Fastest Cache will make your site load significantly faster on repeated page loads.

This is a free plugin that is easy to install, although the more advanced features require a paid membership. We’ve tried out several of the other WP cache plugins but WP Fastest Cache seems to be one of the better ones.

The cache has the downside of requiring you to clear it after making modifications to your site, otherwise the changes will not appear until some time later. The best way to deal with this is to disable the plugin on your local computer and making the changes there, more comfortably.

3. PurifyCSS

An advanced command-line tool, PurifyCSS will take all the CSS being used on a particular page on your site, and remove all the unused elements and classes from it. The result is generally a much smaller file size, as well as combining all the CSS files into a single result.

Unfortunately, there’s no WordPress plugin to run the tool automatically, so you’re going to have to apply it manually and then replace the CSS files before uploading your site to your server. Even then, the benefits are tremendous. After PurifyCSS and minification, you can see a size reduction of around 40-60%.

Another similar tool is UnCSS, which boasts most of the same features as PurifyCSS. The interesting thing is that you can apply both tools in sequence, and the resulting file will be even smaller than when running just one of them.

Note that it’s possible to use UnCSS manually through this online tool, but you will have to copy and paste your code every time you modify your site.

4. TinyPNG plugin

By far, the greatest amount of bandwidth that your site will generally use will be dedicated to images. If you have lots of photos, it’s essential to know how to optimize them so that they load faster and to avoid the top-down “drawing” effect that you see on slow-loading sites.

There’s a plugin called “Compress JPEG & PNG images”, by TinyPNG, that automatically takes care of this issue for you, for up to hundreds of new images per month. It’s easy to install, so it’s the low-hanging fruit on this list.

 

5. Guetzli

TinyPNG gets the job done, but you can go even further. Google has come up with a tool called Guetzli that applies a new image optimization algorithm, for 20-30% size reduction over other optimization methods.

Installation is not very simple, you have to run the tool on the command line on each optimized image. At the moment, there’s no convenient WordPress plugin that we can use to take advantage of this new tool, so this is only useful to seasoned developers that can write their own shell scripts to run it on all images.

6. CSS Sprites

The most visually-complex themes tend to rely on a large amount of smaller images, and although you can optimize all of them individually, this will still result on one connection request per image, which is not the best you can do in terms of speed.

Image sprites come to the rescue here. It’s a technique for combining many images into a single sheet. It involves manually specifying coordinates in the CSS code, so at the moment there aren’t any plugins that automatically take care of this for you.

If you’re a developer, here’s a video introduction to image sprites that will get you up to speed quickly.

7. QuickerWP

Some of these optimization techniques are for advanced users and require a lot of technical knowledge to apply, such as using command line tools and writing shell scripts.

That’s why we’re offering a personalized service, so that you can take advantage of the latest and best speed improvements on your own blog or site, as well as dedicated technical support. Get personalized WordPress optimization for your site, or chat with our technical staff directly for more information.

Conclusion

These are the most used tricks for website speed improvement, and the ones that will get you the most bang for your buck, so try them out and check the results on Yellow Lab Tools. We’ve seen impressive boost to page load times!