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Save the Internet from WordPress speed abuse.

Updated: July 2017

6 minute read

It’s a myth that using many plugins will slowdown your website. Being sloppy in judging plugin quality or necessity is the culprit. That’s within a designer’s control. It calls for wisdom and speed testing. The best plugins add no page weight at all – weightlessness!

Better WordPress Minify
Allows you to minify your CSS and JS files for faster page loading for visitors. Not all minifier plugins work – in fact – they frequently break your site. This plugin really works. It combines (concatenates) all possible files to reduce the number of HTTP requests and removes code “white space” and comments. In our case, that was the combination of several calls. All the little things add up.

Cache Buddy
Minimizes the situations in which logged-in users appear logged-in to WordPress, which increases the cacheability of your site. Improves page load time.

Remove Google Fonts References
Disable enqueuing of fonts used by WordPress from Google. This speeds up load time. Note: Open Sans is rarely a speed problem because it is cached on so many browsers. But other Google Fonts can drag a site down by a second in speed.

Google fonts can add up to one second to your page load time. For example: requesting Noto Sans and Noto Serif from the Google cloud was adding about 1 to 2 seconds to PagePipe’s website load time. The trade off for branding wasn’t worth it.

Get rid of calling Google Fonts from their remote server and load local websafe fonts instead. We confess Google fonts have more class but there’s nothing wrong with using “Georgia” and “Helvetica Neue” – the fall back fonts in the theme stack. We used “Disable Google Fonts” plugin first. But it failed to remove all offending instances. We then installed “Remove Google Fonts References” plugin instead. It worked great. All font calls were removed.

Remove Google Fonts References is very lightweight. It has no settings, just activate it and it works immediately.

Disable Emojis
This plugin disables the new emoji functionality in WordPress 4.2. WP does not need emoji. Probably, the worst decision ever by WordPress Core is enabling emojis by default, and providing no way to disable them. WordPress core developers should have a disable setting instead of us installing another removal plugin. Emoji functions add 5.6k to 14.7k page weight and 2 or 3 HTTP requests to a site. Waste.

Emoji are the 12-pixel-square-grid ideograms, emoticons, or smileys used in Japanese electronic messages and Web pages, the use of which is spreading outside Japan. Originally meaning pictograph, the word emoji literally means “picture” + “character”.

Beyond the standard emoticon-type “smileys”, there are hundreds of emoji, ranging from plants and animals to people, objects, vehicles, food, the Sun and Moon, and more.

Far Future Expiration Header
This plugin will add a “far future expiration” date for various file types to improve site performance. This is a best practice advocated by the Yahoo Extreme Performance Team. It keeps files and images cached longer. There is also a radio button to enable Gzip – a nice addition.

Optimize Database after Deleting Revisions
Optimizes the WordPress database after cleaning it out. This flushes the deadwood from the MySQL database that WordPress uses. MySQL is provided by your hosting company.

Rocket Lazy Load
A tiny Lazy Load script for WordPress without using jQuery or others libraries. Lazy load is a method of delaying loading non-critical images that are “below the fold.” This technique buys about 1 to 2 seconds of faster perceived load time. Rocket Lazy Load automates everything.

This tiny script (less than 2k!) displays all images in a post or widget, thumbnails, avatars and emoticons as users scroll down your site. It doesn’t come with any options or customizations, just install and activate this plugin and let it do it’s thing.

ShortPixel Image Optimiser
ShortPixel is an image compression tool that helps improve our website performance. The plugin optimises images automatically using either lossy or lossless compression. Resulting, smaller, images are no different in visual quality from the original. The plugin can do this as images are loaded or can retrofit your image library. Retrofits can take about 20 minutes of computer time. So go make a sandwich. The savings results are shown in your media library for each image.

Visitor Mailer
Receive an email update of the number of visitors to your site. We hate using Google Analytics because it’s slow. It requires calls and wait time and adds page weight. We only need reassurance that people are coming to our site. We may get more sophisticated someday and start measuring bounce rate and clickthru. But not yet. We aren’t selling pet supplies or trendy clothes.

WP jQuery Plus
Loads jQuery from Google and is nicely compressed and minified. Plus there’s a failsafe. If it doesn’t respond, it just loads the onboard WordPress version. jQuery is usually one of the biggest chunks of code in WordPress. It needs special attention. Loading WordPress javascript files from Google’s Libraries rather than serving directly from your WordPress install, will – in theory – reduce latency, increase parallelism, and improve caching.

Is removing the default version of jQuery in WordPress irresponsible? No. The fastest jQuery is the one you never have to load.

WP Super Cache
Caching plugin for WordPress. We find this plugin doesn’t always help with speed. But in this case, it did. So we used it. The benefit at best case was 500 milliseconds gain. We’ll take it.

All plugins listed are free downloads from WordPress.org.

We frequently remove Genericons by WordPress. They are baked into the WordPress theme installation in the functions.php file. We removed all “genericons” words from the file. This reduced page weight by an additional 75k. It eliminated two HTTP calls and bought us another second of reduced load time.

Comment out Genericons in function.php.

Genricons are a special font symbol. They aren’t really used by this theme. Genericons are a bloated bane we have written about before. Commenting out a single line of code in the functions.php file is the solution. Find the file using the Editor. Use the symbols /** in front and **/ on the other end of the single line that has the three words “genericons” in it. That gets rid of almost 40k of deadwood page weight.

Turnoff the silly default avatar.

Twentysixteen theme comes with the avatar switched on and all it calls is the gray silhouette image of a human form. That adds 1 second to the page load time. When your target performance budget is under 2 second load time, one second wastes half the budget. The solution is simple: Deselect (off) Avatar in Dashboard > Settings > Discussion. Done deal. No plugin or code rewriting necessary.

Godspeed—

Steve Teare
performance engineer

Mobile WordPress Speed – without coding!

What others think of us:


"I’m absolutely delighted and I wouldn’t have got anywhere near the 1-second load time without your guidance, so I’m eternally grateful." UltraWord.com  United Kingdom

by - Jonathan Westwood