I’m getting this question more and more lately, so I thought I’d compile here a list with the main issues I find on most client websites.
1. Low-quality hosting service
Although shared hosts are appealing due to their low-cost offers, if performance and speed are important for you, then a shared host is not the way to go. Even if they advertise unlimited disk space or bandwidth, they usually have a lot of hidden limitations on the resource usage to make sure they can accommodate a large numbers of websites on a single server.
With web hosts, just as with anything else, you get what you pay for. So my recommendation is to invest in a high-performance hosting service that’s suitable for your needs. My top picks at this point are Kinsta, Cloudways and WP Engine.
2. Too many plugins
With so many plugins on the market offering so many features, it’s tempting to forget about performance and find yourself installing plugin after plugin until the website becomes almost unusable. I’m constantly seeing websites with 30-40 or more active plugins, and website owners that wonder why their websites have suddenly become slow.
Obviously, not all plugins are created equal, and some use a lot more resources than others. So here are a few tips on how to handle plugins:
- do your research, find out which plugins are better performing and go with those
- ask yourself if you really need the plugin you want to install and if you really can afford the extra load time that plugin might bring
- correctly deactivate and delete all the plugins you are no longer using. It’s not unusual for me to find on a client’s website 2 or 3 active page builder, 3 social plugins, 2 caching plugins and so on.
- clean up old plugin data or get a developer to do this for you. When a plugin is deactivated and deleted, this means its files are deleted from the plugins folder, but most of the times, the database entries and tables remain. And you might end up with a huge number of options being autoloaded by WordPress from plugins you no longer have.
3. Heavily bloated theme
Multi-purpose themes are in high-demand these days due to the very large number of options and features they offer. But if you’re only using a small percentage of their features – and I don’t see why anybody would ever use ALL the features – you’re left with a heavy, complex theme that’s slowing down your website.
Always ask yourself if you really need all the bells and whistles that come with multi-purpose themes, and if you don’t, go with a lighter, optimized, SEO friendly theme or framework. My top pick has been Genesis, although I’ve recently come across Beans, which looks even more promising.
4. High-resolution, uncompressed images and other multimedia files
Another culprit when it comes to slow loading pages are large images and multimedia files. I’ve seen web pages that tried to load 7-10MB self-hosted videos or used a lot of extremely large images (5-6MB each).
Solution: optimize, optimize, optimize!
If you can’t optimize images before you upload them, use a plugin that does this for you. Some good options are
- Smush – the free version can optimize images that are under 1MB, while the Pro version can handle images up to 32MB.
- reSmush.it – the free version can optimize images that are under 5MB
- ShortPixel Image Optimizer – it optimizes and also resizes images with no size limit, but the free version can only be used for 100 images/month.
NOTE: All these plugins won’t use your server resources for processing the images, so they won’t slow your server down.
- Imsanity – it resizes all uploaded images to a maximum width and height set by you
5. Too many external services
What are external services? Everything that’s loaded from another website: the facebook likebox or comments, the entire list of Google Fonts, Yelp reviews, ads from various ad networks, YouTube/Vimeo videos, analytics and tracking scripts etc. Each external service you use will add to the loading time of your pages.
As tempting it is to have everything integrated into your website, make sure you also consider (or even measure) how much loading time they add and if it’s worth it.
Speed optimization is a complex subject with many layers to it. I’ve only listed 5 potential problems that I encounter more frequently, but the list is far from being exhaustive. If you still can’t get your website to run faster, you might need to hire an expert to look into it.