When you feel that your WordPress site is slow, you may be tempted to blame the hosting company and you could try to buy a “better plan”, but what if that is not really the problem?
To diagnose a potential issue with your website, let us begin by asking a few questions first.
The first one should be:
Is my website really slow?
You have to consider that maybe your network connection is slow and not really your website. You can easily test this out using a tool like the speed test from Pingdom (http://tools.pingdom.com/). Test from different locations to check how the network connection affects your loading time. And of course, focus on the location where most of your clients/visitors are coming from.
If you get a load time of under 2 seconds, you are in very good shape and you can stop reading here.
Between 2 and 4, seconds you are doing OK.
Over 4 seconds your site will feel slow and potential customers will start to give up.
And if you go up from 10 seconds then you really need to dig deeper and diagnose the problem.
Are the images you are using too big?
Next, I would investigate the size of the images you are using. I know that high-resolution colorful images are beautiful and can really contribute to the professional and well thought out look of your site.
Most of the times, a website can be optimized to feel a lot snappier by just optimizing the images for the place they are used.
A few quick tips here are: use the JPEG format instead of PNG, that is because JPEG has a much better compression rate, while sacrificing some of the quality.
When saving in JPEG format try to use the lowest quality settings possible, while making sure the image still looks good. I generally use PhotoShop for this, but you can find online tools. Compressor.io looks really good.
Size your images to fit in the space they will be used in. Too many times I have seen very large high-resolution images that were used in a tiny square space as a product image. That wastes a lot of time and bandwidth for no visible benefit.
Of course, if your business requires the highest display quality possible, then you need to be much more careful about compressing and resizing your images, but that is a different discussion.
Is it time to install a caching plugin?
Now that we took care of the image size problem it is time to test the site speed again. It should be better, but if it is not good enough, then you may have to install a caching plugin.
A cache works by memorizing the result of slow operations, so next time you need that result you can have it almost instantly.
The caching plugins that you can find on the market today add many extra features to that, like properly configuring your server to use compression, browser caching and optimizing and minimizing website files for faster delivery.
Coming up with a good caching strategy is a challenge because in some cases caches can hurt your site and break your content.
Because of this, there is no one single plugin that does a perfect job, and I don’t think such a plugin can ever be created unless it will use some sort of artificial intelligence to figure out an optimal configuration for your site.
But if you are willing to give up a “perfect caching setup” for a “quick and easy setup” then I can recommend Wp-Rocket. I use it on many websites. Their developers went a long way to make the plugin easy to setup and use. As I have said before, it is not a perfect solution, it does not work with all the plugins and themes, so you will have to test. They have a 14 days money back guarantee and that allows you to do a test run. I have my frustrations with using the plugin, but the overall benefits outweigh the downsides.
If you happen to use a better plugin, let me know in the comments section.
Do I need to change my hosting company?
If it is not the network connection, and the images have been optimized, and you have a caching plugin installed, then it may be time to look at a better hosting company or package.
Most businesses that use a WordPress setup have a fairly simple website. And by that, I mean that they do not run a forum, or a newsgroup or any kind of application that is highly dynamic and therefore it does not benefit from caching.
And if that is your case and your site is still slow to load then the next step is to change the hosting company.
My go-to option is SiteGround. And full disclosure, I am their affiliate. They are more expensive than other options, but you will save money in the long term because you get a lot of extras that you would have to pay for otherwise. They have their own caching plugin for WordPress that I generally activate on new installs.
Regardless of whom you choose, make sure you have the option to test them out and get a refund if the performance does not improve.
Also, choose a plan size that is appropriate for your audience. If your hosting plan is undersized, your website performance will be affected, no matter what hosting company will you choose.
Other performance issues?
If you have tried the steps outlined in this article and the performance did not improve let me know in the comments and I will update the information.