Maintaining a successful website requires developers to stay a few steps ahead of their competitors. One way to do this is to optimize your WordPress website for high performance. This means fast response times for users, regardless of where they are.
Fortunately, if you are running a WordPress website, there are a few ways to improve its performance in a relatively easy way. In this guide we provide some general tips to keep your WordPress sites running smoothly in 2021 and beyond.
Why Your Website Performance Matters More Than Ever in 2021
Paradoxically, web users are getting more and more impatient as the internet gets faster. When it comes to retaining new visitors, every millisecond count, so you want to make sure that every aspect of your website responds immediately to user requests. You may have heard some of these web performance stats before, but they are worth reiterating:
- A single second delay in page response time can cause a 7 percent drop in conversions.
- More than half of mobile websites are abandoned after just three seconds.
- BBC recently reported that it was losing 10 percent of visitors for every second it took its home page to load.
- AliExpress saw a 10.5 percent increase in orders and a 27 percent increase in conversions after reducing its home page load time by 36 percent.
Before beginning any optimization effort, you should take as many steps as possible so that you can quantify your progress. Now, let’s explore some general ways to optimize your WordPress website.
Tips to optimize WordPress performance in 2020
Here are 5 tips to help you improve the performance of your WordPress site.
1. Deliver content over HTTP / 2
If you are not using HTTP / 2 yet, you should do it now. The HTTP / 2 protocol supports superior multiplexing, parallelism, and HPACK compression among other features that make it an improvement over its predecessor. To implement HTTP / 2, you must first enable HTTPS. Fortunately, HTTP / 2 removes the TLS overhead that is generally required when using HTTPS.
The new protocol makes websites faster and more secure in many ways. For example, if you are using the server insert function, you can circumvent the HTTP request / response cycle by retrieving certain files even before your HTML is parsed. That way, imported elements like logos, banners, and CSS will appear before anything else.
2. Use a CDN
A content delivery network, or CDN, is a network of strategically located servers that facilitate the rapid delivery of web resources around the world. These points of presence, or POPs, host cached versions of your assets to deliver to users who are geographically far from your host server. This is how CDNs reduce latency, or the time it takes for data to travel across a network.
When a user from another country requests your page, the CDN detects the user’s location and loads your website from the nearest POP. Therefore, foreign visitors do not have to wait longer than local users to receive content.
CDNs can also offload CPU and resources from the source server so that the host is not overwhelmed by spikes in traffic. Therefore, having a CDN protects you from using too much bandwidth while at the same time ensuring a smooth experience for every visitor. If a server goes down, your CDN will automatically redirect traffic to the next closest POP.
Using a CDN also comes with SEO benefits. Google and other search engines factor website speed into their rankings, so anything you do to speed up your website will bring you closer to the top of search results. Additionally, CDNs can make your images and other media files more traceable so that they are more likely to appear in Google image searches.
Having a CDN from the start makes it easier to scale your website as your user base grows. Since commercial CDNs are designed for speed, having a reliable CDN provider takes a lot of the guesswork out of website optimization. In some cases, having a CDN also makes it easier to implement HTTP / 2 and deliver content over HTTPS. That being said, choosing a CDN is just one step to improve website performance.
3. Use Brotli compression
Google’s Brotli compression algorithm is known to outperform Gzip in terms of size savings.
To take advantage of Brotli, your origin server must have it enabled. Since Brotli is still in the process of catching on, not all browsers support it. However, you can implement alternative mechanisms for a supported browser to request Brotli assets, while an unsupported browser will request Gzip assets.
4. Use resource suggestions
Resource suggestions speed content delivery by optimizing how resources are loaded. They allow the user’s browser to start downloading files before they are actually needed. For example, “preload” allows developers to prioritize certain resources, and “pre-fetch” instructs the user’s browser to download resources during idle time. Therefore, the number of round trips required to load the page is reduced, and responses to user input appear more instantaneous. WordPress introduced computability for resource suggestions in 2016 with WordPress 4.6. If your website uses an older version of WordPress, now is the perfect time to upgrade.
5. Use next-generation image formats like Web
JPEG and GIF files are slowly becoming obsolete. New image formats such as FLIF, Web and HEIF use innovative compression algorithms to pack higher quality images into smaller files. Therefore, converting your images to one of these formats can significantly increase the speed of your website.
The only downside is that not all browsers support these formats, so you must provide an alternate format for some users. That being said, Web has a fair amount of browser support and certain browsers that do not currently support this new image format plan to release support in the future. If you want to see for yourself which browsers support these new image formats, check out the Can I Use tool.
In case you are not yet ready to try the new image formats, you should make sure that your current images are properly optimized.
Building WordPress websites for the future
Websites that are able to adapt to technological improvements are more likely to survive into the next decade. Similarly, successful developers must learn to embrace change.
You should always keep an eye out for new WordPress updates, plugins, and optimization trends so that you can stay ahead of the game. Optimizing WordPress can be tricky at times, but by implementing the 5 tips above, you will have a competitive performance advantage over your competitors.