Our suggestions for radical site surgery:
1Use a theme that’s fast loading. And we don’t mean “mediocre” fast. We mean faster than greased lightening. Built and tested for speed. Don’t believe theme author’s speed bluster. Test it – or don’t buy it. If you must use a page builder, we recommend Elementor (with caution) – or wait (forever?) and see what Gutenberg offers.
We prefer a free theme because they’re not loaded with features. Paid themes are usually gold-plated and over-engineered with non-features. Free speed theme recommendations include: GeneratePress, Basic theme, Astra, GeneratePress, and Twenty-seventeen default theme. Many don’t activate code baggage like jQuery or Font Awesome. You can strip them of anything lacking substance.
WARNING: The pro (premium paid) versions of the above speed themes double theme page weight. This is not super significant. But we find it annoying. They brag about the free version’s speed then don’t publish the additional drag added by the premium version. That’s an advertising sin of omission. So if you’re really into extreme speed (1-second or less load time on a shared host), use the free theme without the premium extras. That takes creativity.
Creativity is the inverse of dollars. C=1/$
Do you think these insignificant improvements? Think again. Speed theme authors are deliberate in removing non-features for mobile speed benefits. It’s unconventional and bold. If pages weigh 5 megabytes to 3 megabytes – or even 2 megabytes, they’re doomed to fail for mobile user experience. The goal is superb quality pages weighing 100k to 500k.
Add features using discrete plugins.
Not multipurpose plugins like Jetpack or Yoast SEO. This means also living within the theme limitations. Keep It Simple, Stupid. The KISS principle.
3Install proven fast-loading plugins. Avoid popular plugins like Yoast SEO and Contact Form 7 and many others. This includes WP Rocket, which functions great, but adds drag. Yep. 32-milliseconds of site drag to every page. Yes – believe it – a caching plugin slowing things down while speeding things up – oddity. We build WP Rocket’s features with free discrete plugins. It takes at least 4 plugin – but adds only 4 milliseconds to load time instead.
Discrete plugins allow activating features where most needed – instead of globally.
[pullquote]The Facebook *like box* is another common slow down as it has been known to easily add 40+ HTTP requests (as seen below). On a clients site we saw that it added 700 KB to the overall page weight, which is not good! – Source[/pullquote]
Find ways to either not use Facebook or using it in a limited way. Reduce the load as much as possible. Is Facebook making you money? Be honest. Or do you dream it might?
5Abandon the grandeur of Google fonts. If they’re in the theme you choose, disable them with a plugin. Even though they only add 100 to 300 milliseconds. On a fast mobile site that’s a 30-percent loss. Google Fonts are stinky bad for mobile.
Don’t use HTTPS/SSL certification. Don’t give into Google’s social pressure. SSL adds 400 to 500 milliseconds to your TTFB (time-to-first-byte) server overhead. Wasteful. Don’t be weak. Go ahead test Google’s home page speed. It used to be under 100 milliseconds. With self-imposed SSL edicts, Google speed sucks now. They can’t even match their own PageSpeed Insights recommendation of a TTFB below 200 milliseconds. Ouch. Embarrassing.
There are more non-surgical extras for speed we place into the fine-tuning, tweaking basket.
Do you suppose examining your site that images are the biggest problem? They’re not. It’s rarely the case any more. The two biggest factors are usually theme-related and Facebook. Even worse than much-hated, third-party ads – but barely. PS- We optimize your image library for speed.
We don’t hate Facebook because we’re demure introverts and antisocial. We despise Facebook for what they did to speed innocents. Dirtbag destroyers of velocity. Apathetic.
Thanks for trusting us to help improve your site’s mobile health.
Let’s go – faster.