Maintaining a successful website requires developers to stay a few steps ahead of their competitors. One way to do this is to have a high-performing website. This means fast response times for users regardless of where they are located.
Thankfully, if you’re running a WordPress website there are a few ways to improve its performance in a relatively easy manner. This guide will cover some general tips to keep your WordPress sites running smoothly through 2018 and beyond.
Why Site Performance Matters More Than Ever in 2018
Paradoxically, web users are getting more impatient as the internet becomes faster. When it comes to retaining new visitors, every millisecond counts, so you want every aspect of your website to respond immediately to user inputs. You may have heard some of these web performance statistics before, but they are worth reiterating:
- A single second delay in page response time can cause a 7 percent drop in conversions.
- More than half of mobile websites are abandoned after just three seconds.
- BBC recently reported that it was losing 10 percent of visitors for each second its homepage took to load.
- AliExpress experienced a 10.5 percent rise in orders and a 27 percent rise in conversions after reducing its homepage’s load time by 36 percent.
Before you begin any optimization efforts, you should take as many measurements as possible so that you can quantify your progress. Now, let’s explore some general ways to bring your WordPress website up to speed.
Tips to Improve WordPress Performance in 2018
Here are 5 tips, that will help you increase the performance of your WordPress site.
1. Deliver Content Over HTTP/2
If you’re not already using HTTP/2 you need to do so now. The HTTP/2 protocol supports superior multiplexing, parallelism and HPACK compression among other features that make it an improvement over its predecessor. To implement HTTP/2, you first need to enable HTTPS. Fortunately, HTTP/2 eliminates the TLS overhead typically required when using HTTPS.
The new protocol makes websites faster and more secure in many ways. For example, if you’re using the server push feature you can circumvent the HTTP request/response cycle by fetching certain files before your HTML is even parsed. That way, import elements like logos, banners, and CSS will appear before anything else.
2. Use a CDN
A content delivery network, or CDN, is a network of strategically placed servers that facilitate quick delivery of web resources all across the globe. This points of presence, or POPs, host cached versions of your assets to be delivered to users who are geographically far away from your host server. That’s how CDNs reduce latency, or the amount time it takes for data to travel over a network.
When a user from another country requests your page, the CDN detects the user’s location and serves your website from the nearest POP. Therefore, visitors from abroad don’t have to wait longer than local users to receive content.
CDNs can also offload CPU and resources from the origin server so that the host doesn’t get overwhelmed by traffic spikes. Therefore, having a CDN protects you from using too much bandwidth while still ensuring a smooth experience for every visitor. If one server goes down, your CDN will automatically reroute traffic to the next closest POP.
Using a CDN also comes with SEO advantages. Google and other engines factor website speed into their rankings, so anything you do to make your website faster will move it closer to the top of the search results. Furthermore, CDNs can make your images and other media files more crawlable so that they are more likely to appear in Google Image searches.
Having a CDN from the start makes it easier to scale your website as your user base grows. Since commercial CDNs are built for speed, having a reliable CDN provider takes out much of the guesswork related to website optimization. In some cases, having a CDN also makes it easier to implement HTTP/2 and deliver content over HTTPS. That said, choosing a CDN is only one step toward improving website performance.
3. Brotli Compression
Google’s Brotli compression algorithm has been known to outperform Gzip in terms of size savings.
To take advantage of Brotli, your origin server must have it enabled. Since Brotli is still catching on, not all browsers support it. However, you can implement fallback mechanisms so that a supported browser will request the Brotli assets while an unsupported browser will request Gzip assets.
4. Use Resource Hints
Resource hints speed up content delivery by optimizing how resources get loaded. They allow the user’s browser to start downloading files before they are actually needed. For example, “preload” lets developers prioritize certain resources, and “prefetch” instructs the user’s browser to download resources during idle time. Thus, the number of round trips required to load the page is reduced, and responses to user inputs seem more instantaneous. WordPress introduced support for resource hints in 2016 with WordPress 4.6. If your website uses an older version of WordPress, then now is the perfect time to upgrade.
5. Use Next-Generation Image Formats Such as WebP
JPEGs and GIFs are slowly becoming obsolete. New image formats like FLIF, WebP and HEIF use innovative compression algorithms to pack higher quality images into smaller file sizes. Therefore, converting your pictures into one of these formats can result in a significant speed boost for your website.
The only downside is that not all browsers support them, so you must provide an alternative format for some users. That being said, WebP does have a good amount of browser support and certain browsers which aren’t currently supporting the new image format are planning on releasing support in the future. If you want to see for yourself which browsers support these new image formats, consult the Can I Use tool.
In case you’re not willing to try the new image formats yet, you should make sure that your current images are properly optimized.
If you’re looking for more ways to improve WordPress performance, these articles will set you on the right path:
- 30 WordPress SEO Tips
- How to Make WordPress Mobile-Friendy with Google AMP
- How to Properly Optimize Images for WordPress
- Why You Need Schema Markup and How to Add it to WordPress
- 9 Ways to Increase WordPress Speed
Building WordPress Websites for the Future
Websites that are capable of adapting to technological improvements are more likely to survive into the next decade. Likewise, successful developers must learn to embrace change.
Always keep an eye out for new WordPress updates, plugins and optimization trends so that you can stay ahead of the game. WordPress performance can be tricky at times but by implementing the 5 tips above, you’ll have a competitive performance advantage over your competitors.