Having a fast and responsive website that works across device interfaces goes a long way in helping grow and retain business. Website speed is an important component to ensure visitor interest, encourage decision making, and deliver a good end-user experience. One of the major impacts of a slow performing website is that search engines will rank the site lower in the Search Engine Results Page (SERP) than the faster loading websites. Slower websites also lead to increased costs if more bandwidth is being used to transfer heavy objects on the internet, for storage, and for backups. To improve the speed of a website, we first need to know what usually slows a website.
Checking a WordPress website’s response speed using tools
Site24x7 is a tool that checks the performance speed of a WordPress website.
WordPress.com states “A WordPress.com baseline site on a Business plan with built-in custom plugins and a
default theme activated, loads in around 1 second.” A good target time for a full-fledged website or
webpage load is between one and three seconds. WordPress.com further mentions that “4 to 5 seconds is the
time that a site takes to load on average, across the web.” As a good practice, optimizing pages and
images will lessen time to load a page or site.
The above referred automated site performance tools provide a general perspective on improvement
possibilities for a faster website response. For example, areas most tools touch upon include:
Time (in seconds) that it took for the website to fully load.
Total page size with information on images, videos, scripts, and other files loaded. Smaller the pages
Requests: Shows the files needed to be loaded for the site to be displayed fully. The fewer requests,
the fewer the files to load, resulting in faster site performance.
Some tools will show where the files are loaded from, how large they are, and how much time they take
These tools are used to identify areas that could be improved, for example, larger sized pages and
images, scripts, or external links taking too long to load.
Common reasons for slow website performance and their interventions
The leading cause for a slowly performing website is the size of the website and its components in KB:
Optimizing WordPress content
The selected theme and the images added have a big effect on a site’s performance. The smaller
(measured in KB) the theme and images, the faster the website will load for the visitor.
External scripts such as advertisement spots, videos, and font loaders too could slow down the site if
incompatibilities exist or performance from the source is slow
Images are part of building up the brand and communication of a website. Images and can be included in
posts, blogs, and individual pages. Optimizing these images by using external image compression tools
and third-party plugins that help in optimizing or compressing images helps speed up performance and
search engine rankings. Tools exist to help resize, condense, and optimize images in standard formats
like JPG, GIF, PNG.
Manage loading speeds for images using approaches like Lazy-Load, where only the images seen in the
browser window are downloaded at first. As the visitor scrolls, the remaining images are downloaded.
This improves the user experience, since the site loads only the portion being viewed.
when responding to a user’s browsing request. The user’s browser receives compressed files quicker due
to lower file size. These compressed files are uncompressed by the user’s browser and displayed. Most
browsers support this technology.
A website’s theme contains Cascading Style Sheets (CSS), which describes how HTML elements are to be
displayed on visual interfaces like screens. It's not unusual for HTML and CSS coding to have gaps known
as white spaces, block limiters, unused characters, and symbols. A browser reads this incoming data,
extracting instructions to display the webpage. Not having these spaces, unused symbols, and characters
reduces the time to read the information, speeding up website response.
Web hosting configuration
There could be issues with the physical hosting. Hosting could be:
A shared host server supports several websites. While this provides the most cost-effective way to get
started, there is not much possible by way of one website admin being able to manage or improve
web-server settings to improve performance. Possible interventions in this scenario are caching,
WordPress performance, and content offloading.
Virtual or dedicated server
In this setup one has control over the server settings. Having control over the physical server allows
for server optimization along with caching, WordPress performance, and content offloading. If traffic
load is high, additional virtual or physical dedicated servers could be added to move components like
WordPress databases and site images to a different server. With minor updates to the configuration file,
the new servers could become part of the website operation. More complex implementations using automated
load balancers that replicate and partition resources to improve performance are possible, too.
The physical hardware impacts performance, too. Having multiple high-speed processors, memory, solid
state devices/disks, disk storage capacity, and higher internet bandwidth are important for faster
processing and performance. For example, when loads increase on a server, higher processor speed and
memory can help process page requests quickly. Higher memory and speedy storage can help to cache pages
and page requests, ensuring that the website systems are not overwhelmed.
Other infrastructure factors that could impact performance
Location of server and visitors could have implications. If both are geographically distant from each
other, internet performance could impact the user experience. This could be addressed by using a CDN.
These mirror static files (including images) and keep them on CDN servers in selected geographic regions
served, resulting in improved performance.
Suboptimal code in plugins can slow down a site. Most HTTP page requests come from plugins, and every
installed plugin adds a bit of weight to the site. Only enable plugins that are being used, and disable
or delete other plugins.
Plugins use server resources. The more plugins that are enabled, the more computing resources are
needed. Monitor resource needs and ensure that resources are rationed appropriately.
In case a plugin is suspected to be slowing down a site, a trial approach could be considered: disable
one plugin at a time and check performance. Sometimes a combination of plugins may be fighting for
resources, slowing down the site.
Keep plugins updated with latest versions and patches. Work with plugin support desks and user forums
in case the plugin is important but appears to slow down the site.
Keep it trim
WordPress database size tends to grow over time, as comments and revisions continue to remain
stored. Remove unused themes and plugins from the database and perform regular maintenance tasks,
including purging of unused tables.
External scripts may slow down performance due to data loading or accessing external sources to
execute code. Reduce or avoid external scripts where possible. Suboptimal code in scripts could slow
down a site.
Disable unused features like pingbacks and trackbacks, which are features used to alert users
about a link being received on a blog or page.
Some WordPress speed optimization plugins
WP Super Cache by Automatic is a free plugin and includes a number of caching features that speed up
websites. These include gzip compression, page cache, cache preloading, CDN support, advanced cache
preload, and more.
It includes a comprehensive settings section with a separate tab to help with setup
An advanced settings area where configuration options include:
How to cache content
How often to update the cache
It also includes a feature to let you preload content into the cache along with a tool to help you
connect to a CDN of your choice
WP Super Cache details: https://wordpress.org/plugins/wp-super-cache/
Active installations: 2+ million
WordPress version: 3.1 or higher
Tested up to: 5.7
PHP version: 5.2.4 or higher
WP Fastest Cache is a caching plugin that can enable page caching with the check of a box.
The free version supports
Option to disable WordPress emojis
Rules to exclude certain users and content from caching
A tool to help you integrate with CDNs
The Premium version offers more optimization features:
W3 Total Cache by BoldGrid is a feature-rich caching plugin. Expects users to be at a level higher than
beginner to get most out of the tool. Allows control of many caching aspects on a site.
W3 Total Cache helps with file minimization and connection to a CDN of choice.
W3 Total Cache (W3TC) improves the SEO and user experience of a site by increasing website performance
and reducing load times by leveraging features like content delivery network (CDN) integration.
Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP) support
Secure Socket Layer (SSL) support
Minimization of posts and pages and RSS feeds
Minimization of inline, embedded, or third-party CSS with automated updates to assets
Support lazy load
WP-CLI support for cache purging, query string updating, and more
Tested up to: 5.7
W3 Total Cache by BoldGrid details: https://wordpress.org/plugins/w3-total-cache/
Active installations: 1+ million
WordPress version: 3.8 or higher
Tested up to: 5.7
PHP version: 5.3 or higher
LiteSpeed Cache for WordPress (LSCWP) is an all-in-one site acceleration plugin featuring server-level
cache and a collection of optimization features. LSCache accelerates dynamic content (in addition to PHP
pages) with features very similar to those in Apache mod_cache, using customizable, native implementation
within the LiteSpeed server, reducing page load and server load times.
Server-level full-page cache
Edge Side Includes (ESI)
Browser cache support
Lazy load images
LiteSpeed Cache for WordPress (LSCWP) details:
Active installations: 1+ million WordPress
Version: 4.0 or higher
Tested up to: 5.7
Heavy website size impacts performance and creates a poor experience for a site visitor, which in turn
negatively impacts growth in business opportunities and the brand. Reasons for slow performance of a
WordPress website include infrastructure and software-related issues. Speed testing tools help provide an
overview of areas that impacting load speed.
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