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What Does “Speeding up Your Site” Really Mean and How to Achieve it?

WCM

This article is first of the three-part series of “Why and How? – Speed Optimization for Your Site!”


First, let’s see what really “speeding up your site” means. Is it how much time all resources take to be downloaded and initialized or how much time the user is waiting in order to see the information he or she came for?

Both!

The two main ways of thinking about speeding up your site technically are divided into perception and data transfer. Thanks to that difference it’s easier to understand certain techniques of speeding up your site.

Related: Effective Tips for Evaluating Your Website’s Performance

Is it Worth Bothering with?

Yes! You can read articles about how slow sites can loose you visitors if they wait too long, and why Google cares about speed since it announced that page speed is an important factor in your site’s ranking. So, speeding up your site is definitely more important than you think…

We also recommend “The Ultimate Guide to Boost WordPress Speed & Performance” by wpbeginner if you want to know more on why speeding up your WordPress website is so crucial.

Geeky Be Like

You can optimize the server requests, lower the resources being downloaded, reduce the amount of scripts manipulating the DOM (jQuery is pretty much what does that usually), lower the size of the needed resources, compress, cache and so on. Some part of this can be done using plugins as described below and some not.

And You Feel That…

Two sites loading in exactly 2 seconds can seem different depending on the way they load. If site A displays the text first and then everything else, the user can start reading the first second they open your site, while on site B other things are loaded earlier, but the page remains white.

This perception is not something you can deal with by simply installing a plugin and calling it a day. You need to care about your visitors, you are not only running text and images, you need to consider your audience too.

Here is a very good breakdown of all the listed issues and solutions as well as the impact they can cause to the overall experience for your users.

Let’s see what you can do about the technical part.

Plugins Are a Coin With Both a Shiny and a Dull Side

Of course, don’t take this as an absolute definition as there are many great coded and thought out plugins by amazing developers, as well as awful in every way spaghetti code. The second is not  often seen, but it exist, so you need to make sure you know what extra plugins you can add to your site(s).

Now, how do most of the famous plugins help you speed up your site? In general, you can read a lot about it on theWordPress Cache page, consisting of some of the most famous and secure plugins that will take care of the geeky stuff for you.

Simply said, caching plugins try to store static pages whenever possible for a certain amount of time. If there are updates, the static files being served are updated. This means that sometimes the latest updates might not be visible.
It tries to serve the resources from the closest possible location for every site visitor using CDN (content delivery network).

They will try to minimize as much code as possible from the files being served on every load. Creating all the code on one single line can reduce it from 10% to over 30-40% of space.

You Have Plugins Installed That Are Speeding up Your Site – What Now?

Not so fast! While the standard speed optimization plugins help a lot, there is a lot more you should be concerned with, like what they cannot offer.

What is it that determines the speed of your site which cannot be dealt with with plugins? The theme your site is running on and the server infrastructure.

If you decide to go for a $50 solution or asking your friend’s son because he is “good with computers” to make you a site, you will have to pay the price in the form of “bad performance” of your site and “lost visitors”.

What makes your site slow exactly? Well, first there are the requests it makes. How many separate files it will have to load for the viewer of your site every time a page is reloaded.

This is a problem caused by both your theme and the extra add-ons you add to your site like sliders, galleries, forms, ads, popups, notifications, chats and the list goes on and on. Every single one of them adds its own stylings and scripts and they all must be loaded with the rest of the site even when they are not in use on that particular page.

So, Does Disabling Plugins Help in Speeding up Your Site?

Yes and no. Depends on the plugin. In general try to use only what you need. It is like investing — you don’t go left and right spending money. You need to be sure if it’s worth it and decide if the cons are balanced by the pros.

There are plugins that won’t change your site’s performance and there are ones that will literally break it. The safer measure of this is having separate installation (staging server) — a copy of your main (production) server, on which testing any changes can be performed and measured.

Is it Really Important to Get These Extra 1-2 Seconds?

Funny thing is that it’s not always 1-2 seconds. Using specific techniques you can lower your site loading time even more than that!

Slow sites frustrate users. Really, how many times you have simply closed that white tab with a small spinning icon? Google is also not happy with it and it will lower your page rank because of it.

It’s simple. If Google sees that people always leave your page if they wait X amount of time, then there is no need to promote your site above others that perform better.

It is surely not the only factor, but you can even check what Google thinks about your site in terms of speed here – Google Insights. It will output a number ranging from 0 to 100 which indicates how well your site is performing on the bases of well-defined rules, many of which no plugin can deal with on its own.

…Stay tuned for the second part of the series “What steps we take for dealing with the page load time?” – likely to be published next week!

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