One of the challenges with web pages is maintaining an acceptable load time while still having enough immediately displayed content to keep your target audience interested. When I first loaded WordPress as my preferred blogging back end and proceeded to customize the theme, load all the widgets, add a photo gallery, some advertising… you get the picture, a standard WordPress blog, I was unaware my blog had become slooooow…..
It’s interesting that as you work on your blogs theme to get it just right you actually become unaware that your blog has become so slow that people probably leave before the page finishes loading. The back end also becomes frustratingly slow, it generally takes someone to bring it to you attention, before you realize it’s an issue.
This was first brought to my attention by Surgey from Hello Monsters. In fact my blog was taking over 10 seconds to load which after being made aware of it I decided I need to take action.
Ok, now I know what the problem is how do I go about fixing it? Well I have found a few easy ways to speed up your WordPress blog without requiring any special skill and can be done very easily and quickly.
The first this I did was to install the Firebug Firefox Plugin . If you are not using Firefox I suggest you give it a try. With the Firebug plugin you can see very quickly how long each part of your web page takes to load.
Upon investigation I noticed that a bunch of plugins were being loaded even though they weren’t active in my blog… hmmm… time to clean up the unused plugins. What I was doing was loading a plugin, testing, deciding I didn’t like and de-activate it. I should have also deleted the plugin as this is a major cause of slowdown on the WordPress blogs. So delete all unused widgets from your WordPress plugin directory.
The second cause of slowdowns I noticed were text widgets that were not in use but contained code. So for all the unused widgets that can accept code, make sure they are empty otherwise they get processed and slow down the page loading.
Pretty easy right… but that’s not were it stopped for me. Although with the two simple changes above reaping great rewards I still wanted to bring the load times down further. As a programmer I know the importance of Cache, so I found a nice WordPress plugin that gives server side caching functionality, Wp Super Cache. Not only was the name catchy it did actually reduce load times and didn’t require the reader to do anything.
Ok, were still on some pretty easy stuff here and if everybody followed the above recommendations then your blog would definitely load faster.
So how do you optimize these? One strategy is to make sure your content loads before the external links, so one thing I did was put the mybloglog code in the footer.php. Now this may be beyond some peoples ability so be careful. The advantage I have with the mybloglog in the footer is that my blog loads before all the little mybloglog thumbnails have completed loading, and I have a lot of them!
Now generally blogs have some some advertising, so there are two things you can easily do here. Make sure images include height and width attributes. This will allow the browser to allocate the image space before the image is loaded, and for code based advertising place the code in an iFrame so your page continues to load regardless of what the iframe is doing. Both these tips are very effective.
Now it appears that the average persons ability to wait for a page to load is 8-10 seconds, anything longer and you risk losing your audience, and with the above tips hopefully your blog will load it’s main content within this time frame.
There is one more tip I have but this is not for the faint of heart. You can compress your .css files to reduce data that needs to be loaded. Now .css files are beautifully formatted so they are man readable, but your web browser doesn’t care, so you can save up to 30% of load times for .css files by removing all the lovely spaces, pagination, tabbing etc in the .css files that make them man readable. There a many utilities to compress your .css files and give reports on how much the file size is reduced. e.g. Icey. As I said this is not for everyone though.
I hope you can all reduce load times and feel free to leave more tips in the comments for all to learn.
Have a Safe and Happy New Year.