In the first two parts of this series, we reviewed caching, database optimization, compression, minification, and using a CDN with our WordPress websites. In this last part, we're going to talk about image optimization and using WordPress with common sense.
It's very likely that images on your pages are the largest assets on your website that are downloaded by visitors. Come to think of it, it's obvious that we should be smart about uploading and using images in our pages. That means two things:
This is where image optimization techniques come into play.
In this chapter, we're going to review some manual and some automatic methods for image optimization.
If you're like me and want to have as much control as possible over your images, you should optimize your images manually. There are literally hundreds of image optimization techniques and applications for various image formats (mostly JPEGs and PNGs). I recommend two:
Personally, I like to work manually rather than automatically. I prepare and edit my images in Adobe Photoshop, save my images "for the web" in 100% quality, then open JPEGmini for JPEGs and RIOT for PNGs to reduce the file sizes.
If you don't want to deal with all the manual labor, there are automatic solutions you can use. There are server-side options like Kraken PRO and JPEGmini Server, but we'll focus on two very useful plugins for everyday use (or even some heavy lifting):
Update: It seems that Yahoo! stopped maintained Smush.it, so the plugin won't compress your images as of version 126.96.36.199. The plugin won't be abandoned, though—the developers of the plugin announced that they're fixing the plugin:
According to unofficial but pretty reliable reports Yahoo has stopped maintaining Smush.it :( However, all is not lost! We are working like maniacs here at WPMU DEV to bring you a free, more reliable and better free smushing experience built off of our pro version of the plugin and wrapped up in the next update. We hope to have it available to you very, very soon... in the meantime please stay with us, it'll be worth it, promise.
Even if you take all the advice in this series, apply each piece of code, and use every plugin mentioned, you can still fail to speed up your website. That's why this section is the most important piece of all: common sense.
What do I mean by "common sense"? Mostly "being careful and prudent", but let me elaborate.
Optimize your website all you want; but if your server's performance is poor, your website's performance will be poor. That's why you need to choose wisely.
I've seen many WordPress themes—both free and paid—that looked beautiful, but were awfully coded. Good looking but poorly coded WordPress themes may be one of the main culprits of a slow WordPress website. You should either choose among themes with performance in mind or make your own WordPress theme (or have it made).
You might ask, "How am I supposed to know how optimized a theme is?" but it's not hard, actually. Select a theme, then scan the demo pages (not just the homepage!) in GTmetrix to see their Google PageSpeed and Yahoo! YSlow scores, and how efficiently the assets load with the "Timeline" view. As for server load, you don't have much to check if you can't test it yourself and you have to rely on caching plugins.
This one is a no-brainer: If a plugin loads assets or performs database operations in the front-end, question its necessity. If you don't really need it, get rid of it.
You can also run a performance test on plugins with the P3 (Plugin Performance Profiler) plugin and see which plugins require a lot of resources.
This one is a bit cliché—that's why it's the last piece of information in this series—but that doesn't mean it's wrong: You have to keep everything updated and secure.
In the age of information, serving information fast is essential. We can't stand anything that doesn't quickly respond—we feel our time is being wasted. And we're talking about seconds and milliseconds here. It's not necessarily a good thing, but in a world like this, we have to play it by the book.
There are loads of articles about improving speed in WordPress, but I wanted to create something different. While preparing this three-part series, I had one thing on my mind: writing evergreen content on speeding up WordPress. Of course, there will be better plugins or smarter techniques, but the aspects of making WordPress faster should stay the same—at least until we enter the quantum age. I hope you enjoyed reading it as much as I enjoyed making it.
Do you have anything to add? Share your thoughts with us by commenting below. And if you liked this series, don't forget to share the articles with your friends!