February 2021 Meetup – Need for Speed

Alas, Keanu was not at our February meetup. But Richard (Rick) Rudy was, and he led us through WordPress performance improvements including caching, image and asset optimization, and CDNs.

Starting in May, Google will be using Core Web Vitals as a (small) ranking factor. Many of our meetup participants have been wondering how to improve their site’s speed with this update looming and Rick sure delivered with tons of actionable tips.

To analyze a site’s speed, you can go to gtmetrix.com, enter your site address, and GTmetrix will run the speed test using Lighthouse. In addition to a performance score, GTmetrix will also provide tips on how to improve your speed.

What Are AMP Pages?

AMP is one way to speed up your site by displaying a stripped-down version of the page that removes a lot of the JavaScript, styling etc. AMP is usually best suited to news or publishing sites and you’re unlikely to see much benefit for basic blogs or business sites.

Paul Thompson pointed out that the requirement for pages to use AMP to be eligible to be shown in news carousels on the search engine results page will be removed in May so while AMP can help, as long as your site is fast enough you don’t necessarily need to be using AMP to be shown in this section of the SERP.

Tip 1 – Get Your Server Closer to Your End-User

This can be achieved by choosing a web hosting service located where your visitors are. If they’re mostly Canadian, your web host should be in Canada. This can increase your site’s speed by as much as one second. Not using shared hosting will also improve speed. If your site receives visitors from many countries, a content delivery network can help by copying your assets to a server closer to the visitor.

Tip 2 – Right-Size Your Images

Resizing and compressing your images will save weight, which will make the page smaller and faster to load. Installing a plug-in like Smush allows you to optimize your images directly on your website rather than having to use an image processing software before uploading.

Tip 3 – Caching

A plug-in such as WP Super Cache will generate your dynamic HTML at preset intervals, then serve the resulting static file to all subsequent visitors until the next scheduled generation. This avoids repeated database calls which slow your site down. Setting a cache timeout of 86400 seconds means your site will generate once a day. If you update your site less frequently than daily, you can set a higher cache timeout.

Tip 4 – Cleanup Your Assets

The Asset CleanUp plug-in lets you defer the loading of unnecessary JavaScript and CSS. It shows all the items loaded onto the page and from there you can decide which of those should be turned off / unloaded. This is an advanced plug-in, however, and after unloading an item you should save and check the page before unloading the next element.

The OMGF plug-in copies Google fonts to your own server and loads them from there. This can also speed up your site by not having to call out to Google. CAOS does the same for Google analytics, although this may not be necessary as analytics carries over from websites previously visited by the user so it doesn’t need to be loaded fresh each time.

While GTmetrix might tell you to combine your JavaScript and CSS, that is no longer the case for HTTP/2 and onward as requests are now made in parallel. It’s faster to load ten 10K files than it is to load one 100K file because they’re now all loading at once.

Additional Comments

What is the ideal page loading time? Faster than the competition, Rick joked. The first paint is the most important; the rest of it can load as it goes. You can also run your site through a critical CSS tool to determine which CSS should be inline in your HTML to provide a faster load time.

Hosting matters! No matter how fast your site itself is, if your hosting is slow, your site will be, too.

Design can make a difference. GTmetrix may recommend removing unused JavaScript and CSS, but much of that is based on your theme. Sometimes just changing your theme can speed up your site.

If you can’t do the site without a slider, you may need to look for time savings elsewhere. Many participants mentioned that they haven’t used sliders in years because they can slow down a site so much.

Visit Fit on a Floppy to see if your site will fit on a floppy disk.

View the Recording





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