(This articles has been re-printed with the permission of a fellow website designer Jill Anderson at jilllynndesign.com.)
When it comes to websites, faster is better.
Why? You don’t want your users to sit around waiting for your site to load. They’ll get bored and move on. Plus, if you care about SEO at all, speed matters. Google will love you more when your site loads fast.
So, how can you have a fast WordPress website? Here are my tips.
Optimize your images
This is a big one for creative folks! Images are huge resource loads. They can make a website really large and sluggish. So, how do we best optimize our images? Here’s how:
1. Use an image optimization tool
Using an image optimization tool to help reduce file size—without greatly sacrificing quality, of course—is the number one thing you can do. There are tools that can handle this for you, like ShortPixel and Imagify. When you run these on your WordPress site, current and future images will be automatically optimized.
Don’t want to compromise image quality? I get it. Here’s what I suggest:
Be willing to compromise, a little, in places it won’t really hurt. Let’s say you have a full-width portfolio site. When you optimize images that large, you might lose a bit of quality. It’s a very small bit. When displaying photos on the web, you have to find a balance between this image being absolutely, perfectly crisp, and it loading fast. Web visitors prefer fast-loading to down-to-the-pixel perfect images. And if your audience isn’t graphic designers or photographers, chances are they won’t even notice. Usually, optimizer programs will find the right balance for you. But, occasionally they will do a bad job on one image. You can go in and play with the optimization settings on that particular one. No big deal.
Remember, when it comes to optimizing images, here’s your choice: people getting frustrated and leaving your website vs. them not even noticing a slightly-lower-resolution image and having a good user experience. Your website’s goal is to convert, right? Then we have a clear winner.
2. Save your images as the right format—and name them!
Before uploading, you can set your site up for success by knowing which format to save your images in.
- Photos → Use JPGs
- Logos and anything that has flat color → use PNGs or SVGs
Extra credit: While you’re at it, name those files accurately. Though it doesn’t help with speed, it helps with accessibility and SEO, and it will make your developer love you more!
Use a web hosting company that knows WordPress
Not all web hosts are created equally. Some cater to the masses and do a fine job on basic, static sites. However, for a WordPress website, you want a web host that knows WordPress.
I recommend WPEngine and SiteGround. They serve up your website in the most efficient way so it loads more quickly. Both hosts also have excellent customer service, reliable backup services, free SSL certificates, and a bunch of other geeky things that make your site lightning fast.
Cache your website
Caching is where the browser and server save specific types of files in memory for the future. The next time the site is pulled up, it doesn’t have to load them again, thereby loading faster. (If your browser has ever pulled up an old version of an image, and you need to do a hard refresh to see what’s current, the old image was being stored in the cache.) When it comes to your website, you want your viewers’ browsers to know what to cache, and what not to cache, so your viewer can have the best and quickest-loading experience.
How can you do this?
First, make sure you have a web host with good server caching. As I mentioned above, WPEngine and SiteGround do this really well out of the box.
Cloudflare, which is a CDN (content delivery network) will serve up your images and other assets from their (much faster) servers instead of yours. A CDN is very helpful for large websites; not everybody needs it.
How do you know if you have a fast website?
GTmetrix or Google’s PageSpeed Insights will tell you how you’re doing, and what to improve. Pay attention to your Core Web Vitals: Largest Contentful Paint (LCP), Cumulative Layout Shift (CLS), and First Input Delay (FID). These are important measures of how good your page speed is. If they aren’t up-to-par, the above tips will help!