Consulting with the Knights of the Speeding up WordPress Round Table

Speeding up WordPress

Consulting with the Knights of the Speeding-up WordPress Round Table

Imagine, if you will, being a part of King Arthur’s famed round table. That would mean you are a knight.

No small task.

Well like King Arthur’s Knights of the Round Table, today we are bringing you the Experts of the Speed-up WordPress Round Table. These WordPress experts are going to talk about speeding up WordPress.

Who are our special WordPress knights? We have Chris Castillo, Jan Koch, Lee Jackson, Mike Oliver, Nick Gulic, and Andrew Palmer.

Chris Castillo is the owner of Propel Digital Media in Toronto. Lee Jackson is the founder of Agency Trailblazers and owner of Angled Crown. Jan Koch is the Founder at WP Mastery. Mike Oliver is a Wordpress consultant & founder at Zephyr Studio.

Nick Gulic is Co-Founder of cre8iv, a boutique agency based in Australia. Andrew Palmer is the founder of Elegant Marketplace and several other WordPress projects.

All six of our knights have gathered around the table. I have three questions for our knights on the best ways for speeding up WordPress.

Here is the first question for our knights:

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What is the one mistake people make with their WordPress website that slows it down?

Lee Jackon chimes in matter-of-factly, “Images with a large footprint.”

“Loading it with bad plugins,” counters Nick Gulic.

Castillo agrees with Jackon, “There’s a bunch of things that I’ve seen in the past, and a lot are equally detrimental to a website’s performance. If I had to suggest the most common, I would say that it’s not properly sizing and compressing images.”

Photo by from Pexels

Mike Oliver see something else at play,

“The biggest off-site mistake is cheap hosting. The biggest on-site mistake is using too many unnecessary third-party scripts.”

Andrew Palmer sees something similar to Oliver, “not having good hosting,” but he also adds, “[not having] the correct version of PHP7.”

Jan Koch elaborates even more with a very robust answer,

“One of the most common mistakes I see people make is to not educate themselves about loading speed. You don’t have to be a developer to set up caching plugins like WP Rocket, Swift or Cloudways Breeze properly.

“Website owners unfortunately often think that website loading speed comes like magic, as if somebody would sprinkle a bit of fairy dust onto their website and that’s it.

“What they miss is that factors like hosting, the theme used, the number of plugins installed, the domain service used, images being uploaded correctly, 3rd-party services like heatmaps or click tracking, and much more factors contribute to their website’s speed.”

Okay, so plugins came up along with other things in the responses from our knights. I wondered if too many plugins really slow a site down. So my next question was:

Do the number of plugins have anything to do with speed?

Nick Gulic and Lee Jackson had a similar answer. According to Gulic, “Kind of – it’s more about the quality of the plugins.”

Jackson explains, “Not necessarily, but bloated poor coded ones will.”

Andrew Palmer has a different take, “Not in my opinion. It may affect dashboard access, but many sites have over 60 plugins and perform well.”

Our other three knights have longer answers.

Does your site move at the speed of slow? | Photo by David Dibert from Pexels

Jan Koch is pretty definite with his answer,

“Yes, it absolutely does. It’s not about the sheer number though but more about how those plugins are coded and what they do on the website. If in doubt, I’d recommend to not install a plugin and to limit the number of plugins on your website to the bare minimum necessary.

“Also, often times plugin do not “clean up after themselves” when being removed. They simply leave their database tables and WP settings and bloat up the website.”

Mike Oliver offers his thoughts,

“Yes and No. You could have a site with 25 plugins that all benefit your website and it still loads in under a second. You could also have a website with 6 plugins that consist of social media feeds, a chatbot, an image carousel, and a pop-up maker and it takes 8 seconds to load.”

Castillio has some thoughts as well,

“Yes, it can – it depends on the plugins and if they require the server to do any work. For example, adding an SEO plugin to the site will cause the server to do work because the website has to honor the rules set forth in the plugin settings – so there is processing and validation of those rules that are required from the server. What the server processing primarily impacts is the Time To First Byte (TTFB). A good TTFB is under 200ms and I’ve seen sites where the TTFB was 5-7 times as much.”

Now, many, like myself, are not overly technical, so I wondered what a good plugin would be to use to help speed up a WordPress website. This leads me to my third and final question for our knights:

If you could add one plugin to help optimization, what would that be?

Some of these knights just can’t give a simple answer, so let’s see what they said.

According to Gulic,

“Only one? Probably WP Rocket (paid). If there’s no budget, I’d go with Autoptimize (free). Although, since I suck at following the rules, with the free route I’d add in Async Javascript too since they’re made to pair together.”

Mike Oliver is a fan of WP Rocket too.

Castillo points out that a caching plugin is the way to go,

“A caching plugin. There are lots of good options out there, but Swift Performance and Breeze are my two favorites. These days I opt for Breeze because it works exceptionally well with the technology stack we’re using for sites.”

Koch also believes in the caching plugins when he said, “The most important plugin type for speed optimization is a good caching plugin like WP Rocket. There are good free ones too, like Autoptimize.”

Jackson responds with, “TinyPng for image compression,” while Andrew Palmer suggests WP Fastest cache.

Wrapping it up

What can we learn?

Too many plugins don’t necessarily slow down a site, but poorly coded or bloated plugins do.

Hosting does matter, and so does outdated PHP. Some things aren’t on the website itself that can hurt.

Compress your images. A colossal image file will slow down your page.

Take advantage of speed optimization plugins as well as plugins to help compress images. There are good paid and free plugins available.

Many thanks to our knights for their expertise!

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