Loading speed is critical to the success of your website. Your website should be loading in a matter of seconds. If it’s too slow to load, you will lose visitors who won’t wait around when they could be visiting faster pages!
So, let’s look at how to find out your page loading speed, identify common problems, and most importantly, how to fix them:
1. Test your website
The first thing to do is to find out how fast your site is actually loading. This might be different than how fast it appears to load for you, as factors such as caching, location, Internet speed, computer speed, and so on may affect its speed.
There are various testing websites out there, but some are better than others. Sometimes, even though they show that your site is loading slowly, it can be hard to decipher from these tests what the exact problem is.
Google’s tool focuses on suggesting actionable steps you can take to speed up your site. This is great, because it explains each item in plain English, and gives you a really good sense of what the problem is.
Pingdom’s tool takes a slightly different approach, giving the time it took to load each file and script on the page in a graph. This is also a valuable tool, as you can scan the list and easily see which things are taking time to load. Look at the filenames and paths of the items for clues to deduce which plugin, image, or theme item it is referring to.
2. Identify the problem
If you have run a speed test, chances are you will have a good idea of what’s slowing your website down.
The most common culprit are WordPress plugins. They might be outdated, or using a script that is having some problems. Did you recently update a plugin? Did you update the core WordPress installation but not the plugins? Maybe you haven’t updated in a while?
3. Make it better, stronger, faster
Since there are many elements that can slow down a website, there is no one-size-fits-all solution to page speed. However, here are a few actions you can take that will solve the majority of problems:
- Update WordPress and plugins. Make sure you regularly update WordPress and plugins. Uninstall any plugins that you’re not using, make regular backups and keep everything up to date.
- Get better hosting. Maybe your site has outgrown a shared server space, and you need to upgrade to dedicated hosting. Or maybe you’re still hosting with an outdated service, and you just need to migrate your website to a host that is optimised for WordPress.
- Install a caching plugin. A plugin like W3 Total Cache (my personal favourite) will help speed up your site by keeping a cached version of it on-hand. It will also help out by minimising and compressing code files to make them more efficient.
- Optimise images. Make sure that your visitor aren’t loading huge images, whether they are the logo graphics for your site, or the photos in your gallery. For tips on how to optimise images, see my article: Three Reasons to Resize Images Before Using Them on Your Blog.
This post was originally written for Grassroots Internet Strategy.