How to Boost WordPress Site Speed with Performance Optimization

Speed Up Your WordPress Website in 8 Simple Steps

As website page load time increases, analytics data is unanimous in showing that users are much more likely to bounce from your website. When page speed slows from one second to five seconds, users are a whopping 123% more likely to bounce.

Website speed is a key indicator of performance, however, there are other factors to consider to speed up your WordPress site. Website design and development, along with a solid content delivery network and managed WordPress hosting work together to speed up your site and provide a faster, more positive user experience.

Fortunately, there is a wide range of techniques you can implement for WordPress performance optimization from WordPress plugins like W3 Total Cache and WP Rocket to image optimization plugins like ShortPixel that will improve your website speed test. Your web hosting, custom WordPress development and content implementation on PHP 7 using lazy loading and minification of javascript and css can all help refine your site speed optimization measured by PageSpeed insights. If you use a content delivery network along with browser caching and optimize your images you will be able to make your site much faster than the average website.

When we boil it all down, there are 8 key ways you can learn how to optimize your WordPress website with ease and deliver measurable results in no time at all. Read on to learn more about our top 8 tips for improving your WordPress performance.

1. Invest in Premium WordPress Hosting

One of the simplest and most effective ways to improve WordPress performance is to invest in premium WordPress hosting. Through managed hosting, you can automate many of the back-end tasks that tend to fall off the to-do list and take advantage of WordPress oriented server architecture, WordPress database optimization and a best-in-class content delivery network CDN to improve loading times compared to generic third party shared hosting

Other than dramatic site performance, premium managed WordPress hosting services also offer an invaluable tool — the creation of one-click staging sites to test and refine complex, custom or large website updates and most perform automatic WordPress updates as well. In addition to bolstering WordPress performance, premium WordPress hosting providers also help improve your website security by offering a dedicated environment and WordPress-specific optimizations to secure your website.

If you don’t already use premium WordPress hosting and are relying on a shared hosting environment to manage your website you’re much more susceptible to security risks and subpar speed and performance.

2. Build an Efficient WordPress Theme

These days, there are thousands of WordPress themes to choose from. For novice web builders, pre-built themes offer a simple way to build a WordPress website without experience or expertise in web development. Yet, many of these WordPress themes offer a limited number of features, and they can be difficult to customize to some extent leaving you wanting more to build your online brand and market your business online.

Instead, the best way to build an efficient WordPress site is with a custom-made WordPress theme. By working with a professional WordPress developer, you can make sure your theme only includes the features you need, which will help improve load times during a speed test. Your WordPress developer will have the experience and foresight to make sure to create a lightweight site to optimize performance and speed up WordPress with or without caching plugins.

Unlike a pre-built theme, you will have full control and customization of your WordPress site, content and experience the best WordPress performance. For more complex sites, a custom WordPress design is even more important. Instead of wasting code to customize a pre-built or purchased theme, all code is limited to the essential elements for your website and thus easier to minimize to achieve the best WordPress performance optimization.

3. Optimize All Media Uploads

One of the easiest ways to boost WordPress performance is to optimize images and media files stored in the WordPress database. Videos are a fair bit harder to optimize, but optimizing images should be part of your standard workflow. Whether you choose to use an image optimization plugin like ShortPixel, or rely on enterprise-level image optimization from a platform like CloudFlare, serving up optimized images in next-gen formats that take advantage of a lazy load feature will streamline your media and increase load times in a website speed test.

Before uploading images to your media library, make sure they’re compressed files that are optimized for the web. Full-size image files add up quickly in the WordPress database and can be a big factor to slow website performance and impact page load time. Something as simple as uploading smaller image file sizes can help you avoid harsh penalties from Google. If possible, take advantage of a caching plugin like WP Super Cache or WP Rocket to help improve load time and alleviate strain on the web server.

As you’re uploading smaller image files, be sure that you aren’t sacrificing image quality. The most perfectly optimized site is useless if the image quality and design are over-optimized. When larger file sizes are necessary within the user interface design utilizing the lazy load approach where images are loaded as they’re needed can still provide enough optimization to please the viewer and excel in a speed test.

Be sure to also use the correct file type of images uploaded to your website to make the best use of resources. JPG files are best suited for raster images like photographs, while PNG files are better optimized for illustrations or vector artwork.

4. Minify Your Code Files

Just as images and media files need to be optimized, so should the HTML, Javascript and CSS files. If you don’t have a web developer on hand to help minify your files, there are a variety of online tools and WordPress optimization plugins you can install and use with relative ease to automate this process. Depending on your website architecture and other plugins installed you may consider giving a plugin like WP Rocket or ShortPixel a try to minify scripts and code files to optimize WordPress performance. However, sometimes these plugins can create display or functionality issues within your WordPress website so it’s important to make a current backup before giving these tools a try. If you use a premium managed WordPress hosting provider or use a content delivery network CDN like CloudFlare, you can also configure the third party CDN to minify the HTML, CSS and Javascript files within your WordPress website automatically and bypass any potential issues that may arise with WordPress plugins. This also keeps your reliance on WordPress plugins to a minimum, which can also contribute to the best WordPress website speed and performance.

5. Keep Your Theme and Plugins Updated

The need to maintain WordPress plugins and core updates is another reason why managed hosting is often the best solution for most website owners. A web hosting provider like Kinsta or WP Engine can take care of most WordPress theme and plugin updates automatically so that they remain secure and optimized.

If you don’t have a premium managed WordPress hosting provider, or you have a highly customized WordPress site you’ll need to stay on top of updates on your own or engage in a maintenance contract with your web designer. The longer you let your theme and site architecture age without performing maintenance and regular updates and patches, the more susceptible it will be to hacks and malicious activity. Each update implements new security patches that can help protect your site against threats.

You may also consider an upgrade to the latest PHP version to make the best use of server resources and HTTP requests to reduce loading times and support the best features in the latest version of WordPress and its plugins and themes.

6. Focus on Mobile-First Design

It’s quite well known now that Google has been focused on mobile-first indexing since 2016. The search engine noticed early on that with the explosion of mobile connectivity more and more users were surfing the web on mobile phones versus desktops in most industries and got to work updating their search engine algorithm to help improve user experience and mobile load time and website speed.

If your site isn’t optimized for mobile, you’re likely offering a very limited performance for nearly half your potential visitors or potentially even more in some cases. To optimize for mobile, make sure your site is responsive and that you make sure to leverage one of the top caching plugins to boost mobile website speed. Many WordPress sites and themes automatically implement responsive code which is easily managed by non-web developers using a visual page builder plugin.

As part of your quality assurance process, always make sure to check that your website design and features show up correctly on mobile, even if responsive design is incorporated into your WordPress theme. You can also use an AMP WordPress plugin to make sure your pages include designs for Accelerated Mobile Pages. However, be aware that the customization of your mobile user interface is very limited when deploying AMP pages and you will likely sacrifice website design for speed.

7. Limit Your Post Revisions

WordPress automatically saves every post revision made within the admin. This feature really comes in handy if you’d like to revert a page to an older version or if you forgot to save your work and it was lost before publishing the updates.

However, there is a downside to WordPress holding each version of your static pages and blog posts. As time goes on, the saved pages take up space and can bloat your WordPress database. To limit page revisions, you can use code or download a plugin to download unused revision files. Many premium WordPress hosts will automatically purge post revisions or even disable the feature altogether.

8. Only Use Plugins You Need

There’s a WordPress plugin for nearly everything you could want on your website. Yet, the more plugins you add, the more weight and information builds up behind the scenes that your website needs to manage and maintain. Too many plugins can easily lead to poor WordPress site performance and slow page speeds.

Best practice is to only use the plugins you need in your site. WordPress optimization plugins can certainly help if they work in the background to minify and cache your files, but too many extraneous plugins and functions can do more harm than good.

Continually Work Toward WordPress Performance Optimization

WordPress performance optimization isn’t something you can set and forget. Though there may be a lot you can hand off to your hosting provider or automate through plugins or external software, you will always need to monitor your website and continue to make updates to improve performance as technology changes and evolves.

At Parachute Design, we offer WordPress design services to make sure your site is built as efficiently as possible to reach a realistic and reasonable website speed. Our WordPress design agency combines UX design principles and expert WordPress web development to keep your site optimized for the long haul.

Contact us today to get a free quote and learn more about how we can help grow your business with a highly optimized WordPress site.

Originally published at on October 15, 2020.

Parachute Design Group Inc. is a boutique Toronto web design agency specializing in beautiful hand-made website design, custom logo design and branding.