Free plugins duplicate the costly Hummingbird features.

Do we think the Hummingbird all-in-one speed plugin for WordPress websites is cool?

Nope. We know you can get the same website optimization functions for free with standalone plugins – and produce even better results.

Hummingbird Marketing Page

Wpmu Dev Hummingbird New Product Announcement

Hummingbird Features

  • Generate a performance report with recommended speed improvements
  • Browser caching
  • Minify and combine files
  • Defer script loading
  • GZIP configuration
  • Bonus: Uptime monitor and notification

Hummingbird is a performance and optimization plugin to improve site speed. Using cloud-based services, it analyzes (by Google Page Insight standards), minifies, can add Gzip compression, and caches pages.

prices

All of this costs money. Hummingbird is a SAAS subscription service. The advertised prices are: $49.50 monthly, $103.50 quarterly, or $294 annually. Recurring payments are made via PayPal. Those are the reduced-by-half, discounted signup prices. Sticker shock!

You can easily add all Hummingbird features to your website with just six free, WordPress-archived plugins. That’s right. Free. And they’ll probably run even faster.

Here they are:

1Hummingbird Feature: Minification
Minifying shrinks files and combines them to lighten server load with fewer HTTP requests (calls).

Free plugin alternatives for minification.

Better WordPress Minify (662k zip download)
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.

Our other favorite is:

Autoptimize (186k zip download)
It can aggregate, minify and cache scripts and styles, injects CSS in the page head by default and can move and defer scripts to the footer. It also minifies the HTML code itself, making your page really lightweight.

High-speed

Minification is not an important optimization tactic for mobile speed.

There are 31 minification plugins in the WordPress directory. They vary from 3.8k to 6.6M Gzip-compressed archive size. The plugins may be fresh and updated – or as stale as 8 years. What good are minification plugins? Why are they common recommendations for speed? Do they make a difference? Why do they often break your website?

Claims are: Minification plugins lead to faster page render times. These plugins reduce bandwidth consumption. Unbeknown to site owners, minification plugins lump several functions together. One function is minification – another is concatenation.

NOTE: If code is offsite, like Facebook scripts, it won’t concatenate. It’s out of the control (reach) of the plugin. That code resides on a different protected server. No luck. Offsite third-party scripts – like WebFonts or GoogleAds – kill speed.

Minification by itself is harmless. It’s removes white space and comments from HTML, CSS and JS code. There was a time when minification (white space removal) was significant. This was before the days of standard Gzip compression on servers. All modern browsers have Gzip activated for decoding or decompressing. Before Gzip, white space made a difference of 10 percent to 30 percent reduction in file size. In the  days of slow dialup modems, programmers hand removed white space and comments. That was worthwhile. But not any more.

Mobile Speed

Gzip compression speeds up text based file transfers. It’s not applied to image files. But it does compress HTML, Javascript, PHP, CSS, and others by 50 to 70 percent. The load time improvement can be noticeable.

The option to enable gzip compression was removed in WordPress 2.5 because Apache servers could handle it much more efficiently than PHP. The Gzip function was never put back. It then became necessary to edit the server HTTP access file manually. However, many people don’t have root server access (as in many shared hosting accounts) so that denied them Gzip speed benefits.

Because of the WordPress 2.5 change, Gzip could only be enabled by editing the HTTP access file via FTP or Cpanel. This is not only cumbersome but also dangerous. Making a mistake breaks your WordPress site. We know from experience. It’s not a fun place to be.

Plugins were soon authored to compensate for the loss of functionality in WordPress. We don’t recommend any of these plugins. They are unnecessary. These useless plugins are:

Repeat: We don’t recommend any of the above Gzip plugins. WARNING: Several may actually break your site (white screen of death from plugin conflicts) or make your site slower. We speak from experience again. It depends upon your theme and other plugins.

Many, Gzip plugins run through PHP, which, although fast, is not as fast as running directly from the Apache server using mod_deflate. Running Gzip via PHP uses extra CPU cycles and memory.

Before installing any plugins for Gzip.

Your hosting may automatically enable Gzip. Then no plugin is needed. For example, today GoDaddy’s Linux Web Hosting accounts have mod_deflate enabled by default. Mod_deflate is an apache server module that compresses data using gzip compression before sending it to the user. This compresses all text type files requested from it (HTML, CSS, JS, PHP, etc). Your hosting may do the same. Check your site with this tool: http://ismyblogworking.com/

Or this one: https://checkgzipcompression.com/

Example – Our PagePipe Gzip results using online tests:

  • Page size (uncompressed): 31,766 bytes
  • Download size (compressed): 6,728 bytes
  • Bandwidth saved by compression: 78.8%

If your host isn’t providing automatic Gzip compression, then use the following plugins. They’re proven safe methods:

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. Set Far Future expiration to 365 days. You’re done.

WP Super Simple Speed
WP Super Simple Speed is lightweight (less than 20kb in size), and has no clutter or unnecessary code or configs. Simple performance optimization without any hassle. Gzip is automatically added to your .htaccess file on your server by this plugin.


scapel

Where is the missing WP Super Simple Speed plugin?

It’s still available to download on GitHub.

The plugin author removed the plugin  because he was probably fed up with trying to help people with conflict problems from minification – actually concatenation of files. The plugin wasn’t removed by WordPress. The conflicts were mainly with fat, heavy plugins you shouldn’t use anyway – like Gravity Forms plugin.

If a plugin “breaks” anything. Simply don’t use it.

WP Super Simple Speed is lightweight (less than 20kb in size), and has no clutter or unnecessary code or settings. Simple performance optimization without any hassle.

Don’t be afraid of the three-year staleness on WP Super Simple Speed plugin. It works fine with newer PHP 7.1.

There is some redundancy with Autoptimize plugin and Far-Futures plugin features. But there’s no conflict and it finishes off a few hard to remove speed bumps.

WP Super Simple Speed writes new command code into your .htaccess file on your server. It does not overwrite any existing code.

Features include:

  • Automatic hotlink protection to prevent bandwidth stealing/leeching.
  • GZIP compression (speeds up page load time and saves bandwith).
  • Loads jquery from google CDN (decreases latency | increases parallelism | better caching).
  • Includes Vary: Accept-Encoding Header (increase performance and score on various performance tools).
  • Disables auto-save on posts (lowers overhead on the server that can impact performance).
  • Automatically sets UTF-8 encoding for files being served as text/html or text/plain.
  • Enables keepalive (allowing persistent connections) which saves on bandwidth.
  • Removes unnecessary clutter from wp head (rsd, version generator, and much more).
  • Dequeues extra fontAwesome stylesheets loaded to your theme by other plugins.
  • Removes query strings from all static resources.

The usefulness of this plugin varies with each site. There are alternative discrete plugins to achieve the same features. This plugin is just “handy” to cut down the plugin count.

The discrete plugins are:

Gzip is a software application used for file compression and decompression. Gzip is short for GNU zip; as the program was created as a free software replacement for the compression program used in early Unix systems.

Gzip replaces patent-encumbered data compression algorithms.
Most browsers and server platforms (including Apache and Microsoft IIS) support Gzip. It is often used in web applications and software such as PHP to improve speed. Hypertext PreProcessor (PHP) is a server-side HTML embedded scripting language. PHP is not always provided by a hosting server or may be a “paid” option. PHP is something that need to be “switched on” on the server. Check your ISP for how to do this. Or assume it’s on and just test. You can test to see whether PHP is activated with YSLOW or PageSpeed tools. Gzip can compress the HTML code by 50 percent to 70 percent. It does not compress images. Use an image processing program like GIMP or Photoshop.

Gzip compression: What’s the speed gain?
Gzip reduces redundancy in the HTML code. All modern servers and browsers can compress and decompress Gzip on-the-fly. It’s not the same as removing “white space.” White space removal eliminates spaces between words and code. That would buy a 10% reduction in the HTML and is meaningful on dialup. White space removal is now called “minification” or “minifying.” Removing white space AND using Gzip simultaneously are almost an insignificant compression gain—about 1%. Not worth the time usually since all “blanks” are redundant and compressed by Gzip anyway. The difference in speed is usually indistinguishable.

There are a number of plugins that claim to invoke Gzip. Many actually break your site (white screen of death from plugin conflicts) or make your site slower. The goal usually is a simple code modification in a file located in your site’s root folder. This is called the “.htaccess” file. You can alter this code with a simple copy-and-paste in a text editor. But even easier than that is using the “

After adding Autoptimize plugin.

After adding concatenation, the number of requests is 11. Much less. Reduction in page weight is 116k (a 16k reduction) and speed is 137 milliseconds faster.

Is improving page speed from 363 milliseconds to 226 milliseconds significant? Does it matter?

As speed freaks, we’d like to think so. But most desktop site visitors can’t perceive those kinds of speed difference. They see 1-second page changes as almost instantaneous. No waiting. But a 100 millisecond change is transparent.

For mobile speed, 100 milliseconds is a big gain. But not if it breaks your site.

Offsite link: Performance implications of bundling and minification on web browsing. Microsoft.
Offsite Link: Minification – Explained in Plain English. WP Rocket. (We highly recommend this article).

Why not take advantage of the improvement? We’ll keep Autoptimize plugin installed. But if there is any sign of problems, forget it. It’s better to have a stable and usable site than a fast flaky one. Quality is important for credibility and usability.

Minification plugins are nice when they work. But more often than not, concatenation breaks your website in some odd way. Reducing the number of HTTP requests is nice. But parallel delivery makes a bigger difference in speed than minification and concatenation. You don’t control that. Browsers have changed and allow more parallel loading than ever before. The pipe is bigger.

Concatenation is a process that often doesn’t work “out of the box.” You need trial and error by switching on and off options. You may not eliminate all render-blocking resources without breaking the site. In fact, we gamble you’ll break your site before you’re done.

So what breaks most often:

  • Responsive navigation elements disappear.
  • Email or ecommerce signups malfunction.
  • Page resets (refreshes or loads) produce HTML unstylized pages.
  • Delayed pages rebuild like cold molasses before your eyes.
  • Disappearing page elements such as menus.

These are all signs of concatenation messing things up. You may get the white screen of death. It’s happened to us. And we thought we were careful.

How much speed from minification plugins when combined with gzip compression?

Minification/concatenation combined with Gzip give some improved speed results. Gzip is a general, generic algorithm. It’s required protocol in our book. Minification is aware about content and does improvements general compression algorithms can’t. When it completely eliminates comments and whitespaces – that’s 100% data compression. There is no harm. Concatenation is always the real problem.

ONLINE MINIFICATION TOOLS
We have used this tool to minify CSS child themes using copy and paste.

Minification is removing whitespace from site files. Often, minification can reduce file size by 20 to 50 percent. That doesn’t translate into 20 to 50 percent speed improvement. Sorry. http://www.minifycss.com/css-compressor/ Just paste the CSS contents into the CSS input area. Tweak the compression settings and options, and process it. Then, replace the processed contents. If you only get 5 – 10 percent improvements, be more aggressive with the compression settings. 99 percent of the time, the only thing removed from minified JavaScript files are the comments and whitespace.

Our Recommendation: Test minification plugins. If they break your site, forget about it. We do minification – if it doesn’t affect the theme functions. But often we invent workarounds. Any sign of trouble and we may try a couple more favorite minify plugins and then quit. Not worth the grief.

If there wasn’t some “measurable goodness,” we wouldn’t minify. Often, it’s only a psychological benefit. There’s therapeutic value for those afflicted with Speed OCD.

Feel guiltless if you drop minification.

What are our favorite Minification plugins?

★★★★★
Autoptimize
Zip archive 186k
Active installs: 300,000+
updated: 1 week ago
downloads: 1,734,437
retention: 17.3%

★★★★★
Better WordPress Minify

Active installs: 90,000+
Zip archive: 655k
updated: 2 years
downloads: 553,585
retention: 16.3%

★★★★★
Speed Booster Pack
Active installs: 40,000+
Zip archive: 82k
updated: 3 weeks
downloads: 324,934
retention: 12.3%

We found Speed Booster Pack’s minification features succeed where other minification plugins caused conflicts or white screens. It’s not for everyone but worth noting here.

We recently used Asset Queue Manager plugin to dequeue the lazy-load-images function of the Speed Booster Pack plugin. That was a javascript file called sbp-lazy-load.min.js. It was being loaded globally and adding page weight. We wanted the nice other features of Speed Booster Pack plugin. But not the lazy load because it caused site drag. That function was loaded even if it wasn’t selected in the plugin control panel. Weird! Our preference was using Rocket Lazy Load plugin which has no site drag at all – a weightless plugin. Piece of cake with Asset Queue Manager! Read more about Asset Queue Manager.

2Hummingbird Feature: Caching
Store a snapshot of specific content in your user’s browser so they don’t need to reload the entire page every time they visit. Improves user experience and lessens the load on your server.

Free plugin alternative for caching.

Cache Enabler (17k zip download)
Caching plugin for WordPress. Caching doesn’t always help with speed. It depends upon how optimized your site is to begin with. If you’ve done a good job making images small (or not even using images) and Gzip compression is activated, caching doesn’t necessarily make much improvement.

3Hummingbird Feature: Remove Render Blocking Resources
The normal behavior of a website is to pause the HTML parsing while the scripts are executing. Render-blocking Javascript prevents above-the-fold content on your page from being rendered until the javascript has finished loading. This can impact your page speed and user experience.

Free plugin alternative for Javascript Rendering.

High-speed

We don’t recommend using Google’s PageSpeed Insight tools for doing mobile website benchmarking – or even for desktop. We avoid this tool. We refer you to the following articles as to why:

Why the .@Google Mobile Test Tool Is Absolute Crap >
Why you Shouldn’t Care About Google PageSpeed Insights >
Why Trying to Get 95+ on Google PageSpeed Insights for Your WordPress Site Will Drive You Mad! >
The Truth about Google Pagespeed Insights >

Better tools for evaluation are pingdom.com and WebPagetest.org.
Note: WebPagetest is an open-source project owned by Google.

Deferring Javascript breaks WordPress.

Google’s Bogus Error Message for Mobile Anxiety

Should Fix:
Eliminate render-blocking JavaScript and CSS in above-the-fold content.

Render-blocking JS is the most annoying and unresolvable error message Google’s mobile test delivers. It pushes some perfectionists to the brink of frothing madness. We’ve decided it must be ignored completely if you use WordPress. Give yourself a break. It’s not you that’s bad. It’s Google.

“Everybody is talking about Render Blocking. Sounds like something Google planted so we’d spend more time learning code – instead of thinking of how to run a successful blog.”

When you’re using WordPress for website production, it’s an impossible situation. The most basic components of WordPress trigger the “render-blocking JS” error message. No other method of speed testing uses render-blocking JS as a parameter. It’s not worth reporting.

Many supposed solutions are created by plugin authors attempting to resolve this frustrating error message. We tested all of the 8 plugins below. They do not work as claimed. They are not “plug-and-play.” They don’t eliminate the “render-blocking” error message on PageSpeed Insights. Nor do they improve page load time in the least. Three plugins broke the page being tested. Those three are marked with a red asterisk.

These are not simple or easy plugins. In most cases, they are dangerous in the wrong, inexperienced hands. You can easily damage your site. We recommend you not use them. They are esoteric fluff. Their claims are presented below but don’t believe them without testing for confirmation on your site. We had no success. This is a warning.

above the fold optimization 103.4k
Description: Enables to pass the “Eliminate render-blocking JavaScript and CSS in above-the-fold content”-rule from Google PageSpeed Insights

performance optimization order styles and javascript 5k
Description: Ordering StyleSheet and JavaScript (external and inline) for performance optimization. The plugin will also collect different inline scripts to one place.

wp deferred javascripts 14k
Description: Defer the loading of all JavaScripts added by the way of wp_enqueue_script(), using LABJS. The result is a significant optimization of loading time. It is compatible with all WordPress JavaScript functions (wp_localize_script(), js in header, in footer…) and works with all well coded plugins. If a plugin or a theme is not properly enqueuing scripts, your site may not work.

external files optimizer* 4.7k
Description: Automatically combine and compress css/js files generate with wp_head() and wp_footer()

head cleaner* 262k
Description: Cleaning tags from your WordPress header and footer. To speed up the loading of JavaScript and CSS. PHP5 required.

headjs loader* 15k
Description: Load your Javascript files via Head JS. Caution: this plugin can cause major issues with the javascript on your site if not implemented properly. Please be sure to test on a development server first.

wp asset clean up 34k
Description: Make your website load FASTER by preventing specific scripts (.JS) & styles (.CSS) from loading on pages/posts and home page. WP Asset Clean Up scans your page and detects all the assets that are loaded. When editing a page/post select the ones you DO NOT wish to load.

wp super simple speed 7k
Description: Super Simple Speed is a stable and powerful plugin that dramatically increases your WordPress page load speed and gives you a better performance score on the major speed testing services. Unlike most other similar plugins, WP Super Simple Speed is lightweight (less than 20kb in size), and has no clutter or unnecessary code or configs. Simple performance optimization without any hassle.

4Hummingbird Feature: Enable Gzip file compression.
Send smaller files over the web for quicker load times. Sending zipped files is faster and can save you money on hosting.

Free plugin alternative for Gzip compression.

Honestly? Gzip never saves money on hosting any more. Where did they come up with that old myth? But Gzip does make a difference in page load time. There are many free Gzip compression plugins. Gzip can also be done by hand-coding – tediousness! We’ve found that none of those methods work reliably or will break your pages. Our recommendation instead is:

Far Future Expiration Header (7.5k download)
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 simple, on-off radio button to enable Gzip – a nice addition. For best results, set the expiration to the maximum 365 days.

5Hummingbird Feature: Automated Image Compression
Save space and improve site speed with image compression.

Free plugin alternative for automated image compression.

Duh! The obvious free replacement plugin is the not-so-pro version, WP Smush, (which only compresses images by 10 percent – not good enough) maintained by the very same author.  Don’t use it.

We recommend instead two excellent image-optimizer alternatives:

ShortPixel Image Optimiser (64.3k zip download)
ShortPixel is an image compression tool that helps improve website performance. The plugin optimizes images automatically using either lossy or lossless compression. We suggest you use “lossy” settings. 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. But if you convert too many images in a given period, it costs money.

So our other image optimizer plugin recommendation is:

Imsanity (152k zip download)
The plugin is configurable with a max width, height and quality. When an image is larger than the configured size, Imsanity automatically scales it down to the right dimensions and quality setting – and replaces the original image. It can optionally convert big PNGs to JPEGs for faster load times. We use a quality setting of 70. This plugin is completely free. This is our go-to image optimization plugin.

By default, WordPress always compressed images upon upload. In version 4.5, WordPress changed JPEG compression from 90Q to 82Q. This reduced image weight by an average of 25 percent.

Since version 2.5, WordPress used a default-quality setting of 90 to optimize images. A 90Q setting creates larger file sizes than recommended by modern web best practices. For example,  WebPagetest warns site owners if images aren’t compressed enough.

Images are 62 percent of page weight in 2017. The average page now weighs between 2M and 2.3M.

WebPagetest specification: Images compressed within 10% of a Photoshop-web-save quality of 50 will pass. Up to 50% larger will warn (we guess that would be around 70Q to 75Q). Anything larger than that will fail. The image score is the percentage of bytes saved by image re-compression.

Photoshop provides a handy “Save for Web” option that keeps file sizes low. But what about a large website with a lot of images? An online store might have thousands of images. Having to create different sizes of each of these is an enormous task.

WordPress uses ImageMagick, an open-source command-line graphics editor, to quickly resizes images. This technique maintains great visual quality and small file sizes. It automates resizing image compression with formats like Jpeg and PNG.

The Odd Number of 82Q.

Researchers compared ImageMagick’s various compression settings against Photoshop’s high quality (60Q) setting for JPEGs. An Imagick compression setting of 82Q was closest. They used an open source test to compare dissimilarity of input and output Jpeg images.

Changing the default image quality setting is a small change. Yet, it makes a big impact on file size without sacrificing perceived image quality. The new 82Q setting only applies to the intermediate size images. Not the original files uploaded by users.

To change original image size dimensions and quality settings, we recommend Imsanity plugin.

We repeat: original full-sized, uploaded images remain unaffected by WordPress core optimization. This change only affects images resized by WordPress, such as image thumbnails. For international users, on slower web connections, this is important for performance optimization.

We agree with these changes for improving WordPress speed.

6Hummingbird Feature: Uptime Monitoring
Monitor your sites uptime, downtime and average response time and receive alert email notifications if your site goes down.

Free plugin alternatives for monitoring uptime.

We don’t do monitoring of our website. But if we did, we’d use one of the free plugins listed below:

WP Really Simple Health (40.5k zip download)

tagBeep uptime monitor (30.9k zip download)

SensorPress (24.4k zip download)

Uptime Robot Plugin for WordPress (23.0k zip download)
requires free signup at http://uptimerobot.com/

hummingbird-responsive

Practice what you preach.

As a demonstration of irony (and perhaps expose), we include some performance numbers for the Hummingbird product page. They obviously do NOT practice what they preach when it comes to performance optimization.

On Google PageSpeed Insights, the Hummingbird product page fails the usual :

“Eliminate render-blocking JavaScript and CSS in above-the-fold content”

But the plugin authors claim Hummingbird fixes that problem. Oops!

From WebPagetest Test Results
First View: 10.375 seconds, 121 requests
Repeat View: 7.675 seconds, 46 requests

The visitor-expected wait time for page loads is 2 seconds. This is accepted web best practice. This product page, with a 10-second load, doesn’t demonstrate the values they’re selling with the Hummingbird plugin. It’s another fail!

Both of the above tests say image optimization fails. What? Incredible.

So we then take a look at total page weight. It is 2.499M. Yes. Megabytes. Overall performance score 84 – a “B” rating. Again, unacceptable performance. (The performance score recently dropped even lower on Google PageSpeed Insights: mobile 67 and desktop 79).

Hypocrisy.

Faster and free alternatives to popular OptinMonster or SumoMe WordPress plugins.

OPTIN-MONSTER’S REBUTTAL IS AT THE PAGE BOTTOM

Like many people, you may hate website popups. What’s a popup? It’s that annoying type of window – or web element – opening over the top of content without your permission. Popups usually contain advertisements, chats, or a request you signup for a newsletter or email list. It may cover the entire page or just a corner. Popups can occur instantly or be timed. It may happen only once or incessantly on every single page and post.

The popup problem is mainly about usage. They’re an intrusive, in-your-face, artificial-urgent-appeal to divulge your email address or engage in a sales pitch. They happen when you arrive on a page – or as you’re leaving a page (called exit intent).

Demonstration of “exit intent” and a large popup using OptinMonster. Bad UX! This thwarts the user. Frustration and annoyance!

Popup plugins will *not* force people to sign up. But the goal is collecting leads and generating more sales. Sounds noble.

Even though some popups are inoffensive and look nice, most deliver a bad user experience. They often cause so much animated shaking-shuddering-swinging screen action it ruins all good user experience. They then are frustrating and annoying – and even as disturbing as sparking a blue-static-arc on a cold metal doorknob. Painful and jarring.

We rarely see popups used in inoffensive and unobtrusive ways. Site owners simply abuse popups thinking the more *visual noise* the better for communicating or grabbing attention. It’s not fun – it’s usually repellent. It’s garishly ugly. It’s shouting indoors.

The worst and biggest popup offender is OptinMonster plugin, first created in 2013. It uses an API that adds 385 milliseconds of load time to every page. And costs a minimum of $9 per month. What? The pro version is $29 per month. That’s terrible. There is no free version. Yet this plugin resides in the free WordPress plugin directory. What the heck is OptinMonster doing in the free plugin directory?

OptinMonster smacks of slowness with a 1.1 megabyte zip download and requiring an API (application programming interface). It has a whopping 4 million downloads with 1 million+ active installs. With those numbers it, must be good. Right? But these guys are robbing people. Why isn’t anyone complaining? Why no one is complaining defies reason.

Perhaps we made a mistake. Are we sure OptinMonster isn’t free? Yes. We double checked. And while it appears free, it’s not.

If you download OptinMonster and install it, you can’t use it until you install the API. It does nothing. You’re locked out. So you click a link and you’re taken to a typical 3-tier plan where you select how much you’ll pay per month (but it’s an upfront annual payment). Then you get your API key to use the so-called *free* plugin. That’s not free in our opinion. Do you think it’s free – just because it’s in the free plugin directory? This is a bait-and-switch ploy. Only there isn’t even any tasty bait to chew on.

So a little math: $9 x 12 months = $108 per year (minimum) x 1 million active installs = $108 million dollars per year. Now we suppose some installations don’t have APIs activated and are just laying there dormant. But that’s still a lot of cash. Those poor users could get something with less “in-your-face” and a more pleasant user experience for free.

We have yet to see an OptinMonster plugin review that isn’t an affiliate link. The reporting is self-serving and biased.

What is the better, faster and free popup plugin?

Holler Box (125k download) does all the essential OptinMonster functions for free – plus some – and doesn’t weigh a ton. Hollarbox is lightweight and loads fast. hollerwp.com/

★★★★★
Holler Box – WordPress Popup Plugin for eCommerce
Load Time: 20 milliseconds

This small plugin uses only 3 calls (HTTP requests). 2.8k, 3.6k, and 3.8k loaded in parallel. That’s about 10k. Estimated load time: less than 40 milliseconds. But not on every page – only where it’s used (selective activation). Holler Box is a nice, lightweight plugin built correctly for mobile speed.

So don’t put a monster on your page.

We also want to mention this alternative plugin:

Easy WordPress Subscribe – Optin Hound
Active installs: 2,000+
Zip file size: 475k

Load Time: 40 milliseconds

Opt-in Hound only adds 2 local script calls with 7k page weight. Less than 100 milliseconds of drag loaded in parallel with other assets. Very fast.

Our recent speed tests show SumoMe pop-up plugin adds 800k of page weight globally (site drag) and 1.7 seconds of assets loaded in parallel with 20 HTTP requests. Avoid this slow plugin! Active installs: 100,000+, zip file size: 1.6M.

Also, have you noticed just how many websites desperately want you to sign up for their newsletter? … this is also super popular with retailers. From Barnes & Noble to Aritzia, Fluevog to Linus Bicycles, these things are seemingly everywhere. Get a nominal coupon in exchange for being sent an email you won’t read every day until forever — I don’t think so.

REFERENCE

A kind letter from Angie Meeker about OptinMonster improvements:

Hey Steve,
Angie Meeker here from OptinMonster, Customer Success and Operations Manager. I was checking out your article on our WordPress plugin that was updated in May. It looks like you haven’t seen yet that we do indeed offer a free plan so I wanted to make sure you understood why you aren’t seeing it yourself. 

If you already have the plugin installed and connected to your existing OptinMonster account, you won’t see that option because, of course, you already have an account. However, if you install a fresh version of the plugin (perhaps on a Local site), you’ll see the options to either connect to an existing account, or register a free one.

Our Forever Free plan is available only to users of our WordPress plugin, and includes 2 campaigns, five campaign types and up to 500 campaign impressions per month. Our Forever Free subscription includes all of the features of our Basic subscription. It’s a great option for users just getting started with lead generation or who are still building traffic to their websites. You can see detailed screenshots of the process to register a new free account here: https://optinmonster.com/docs/how-to-install-the-optinmonster-wordpress-plugin/

We launched this plan in October 2020. You can see from our reviews on WordPress.org that users are loving the free option: https://wordpress.org/support/plugin/optinmonster/reviews/. We even offer to build their first campaign at no cost, even for free users.

I think some of the confusion may come because OptinMonster is a SaaS product, not simply a WordPress plugin. For years, our free WordPress plugin has unlocked additional functionality for our users who choose WordPress as their CMS. Using the plugin…

  • They have the option to target categories and tags even when their permalink structure doesn’t allow it from within our SaaS product.
  • They can use WordPress shortcodes in any campaign. That means they can use the shortcodes from their favorite form builder to add complex, custom forms to their OptinMonster campaigns, or even WooCommerce shortcodes.
  • It provides deeper integrations with ecommerce platforms like WooCommerce, and provides a way for other developers to extend the functionality of OptinMonster within the WordPress ecosystem.
  • It even lets you place inline campaigns using a widget, or a Gutenberg block. 

All of that extended functionality is wrapped up in our WordPress plugin. For that reason, the plugin has resided in the WordPress plugin repo for years as a totally free plugin, in the same way HubSpot, MailChimp, SalesForce and many other SaaS products have connector plugins that provide additional functionality at no cost. Then, recently, we added the option to also register a free OptinMonster account through the plugin directly, as an added benefit for the WordPress community.

We do offer monthly subscriptions in addition to annual ones. Annual pricing is found at https://optinmonster.com/pricing and monthly pricing at https://optinmonster.com/pricing/monthly. The monthly pricing link is found in the FAQ at the bottom of the pricing page: https://a.supportally.com/Ns34JU

And, we’ve also made significant improvements to the plugin’s load times since early this year, too. That said, anytime we get a report of someone’s site loading more slowly because of the plugin, we’re happy to take a look to see if we can help. Oftentimes, we’re able to help resolve those issues directly.

If you have any questions about OptinMonster or need clarity on anything I’ve shared above, feel free to hit reply and let me know. I’m happy to help.

Whether you choose to update your article as a result is entirely up to you. Of course, I hope you will :-) but more importantly, I wanted to share some resolutions to your key questions. You took the time to investigate OptinMonster which we appreciate, and we clearly could have done a better job at making the answers to your questions more obvious when you did.

Best wishes for your success,
Angie

So does PagePipe now advocate or affiliate with OptinMonster? Sorry. Still no plugin love from us.

We love Angie but we do not love OptinMonster. We thought it fairest — since Angie worked so hard explaining.

We think popups are a bane for user experience and speed. We hate popups. They’re annoying and intrusive. So even free and theoretically faster isn’t good enough. We don’t want plugins that use APIs. They cause server delays.

How to torture impatient mobile visitors.

Apply the 10 big boo-boos decimating mobile WordPress speed.

  1. Use fancy decorative Google fonts. Don’t use a mobile font stack.

REFERENCE: https://pagepipe.com/zero-latency-fonts-for-mobile-speed-system-ui-font/

  1. Use a slider on your home page. And just for giggles add another but different slider to your product pages.

REFERENCE: https://pagepipe.com/sliders-always-slow-down-a-page-load-and-they-are-proven-ineffective-for-navigation-and-seo/

  1. Use lots of metric-type plugins including HotJar and Google Analytics.

REFERENCE: https://pagepipe.com/how-does-google-analytics-affect-mobile-page-speed/

REFERENCE: https://pagepipe.com/hotjar-adds-500-milliseconds-to-mobile-speed/

REFERENCE: https://pagepipe.com/use-faster-and-simpler-koko-analytics-for-speed-instead-of-slow-and-complicated-google-analytics/

  1. Choose a host from a biased affiliate review site. Don’t test TTFB of the server before signing up.

REFERENCE: https://pagepipe.com/find-out-what-your-server-ttfb-really-is/

REFERENCE: https://pagepipe.com/wp-content/uploads/2021/03/hosting-master-v3.3-opt.pdf

  1. Add any Live Chat plugin or service.

REFERENCE: https://pagepipe.com/dumping-livechat-for-speed/

  1. Put in a heavy globally-loading form plugin.

REFERENCE: https://pagepipe.com/do-lightweight-form-plugins-even-exist/

  1. Add a heavy and popular security plugin that writes frequently to the server htaccess file.

REFERENCE: https://pagepipe.com/free-discrete-plugins-replace-bloated-security-plugins/

  1. Use a pagebuilder — any pagebuilder.

REFERENCE: https://pagepipe.com/imitate-elementor-with-gutenberg-block-editor-and-be-faster/

  1. Use a heavy theme like Divi.

REFERENCE: https://pagepipe.com/switch-from-divi-theme-to-astra-for-best-speed/

  1. Add popups.

REFERENCE: https://pagepipe.com/top-hello-bar-knockoff-plugins-for-speed/

REFERENCE: https://pagepipe.com/faster-and-free-alternative-to-optinmonster-wordpress-plugin/

Anyone can ruin mobile user experience with lack of discipline.

Before adding plugins to your site, ask yourself, will this cool plugin make me rich or famous?

Dump Divi theme: Get Astra’s screamin’ speed.

Tons of articles rave comparing the merits and disadvantages of the Astra and Divi theme. They’re often biased by affiliate links (aka kickbacks) from one or both theme companies. They make money from the controversy.

We’re not here to debate which theme is better.

There is no debate for speed. We already know from our experience doing performance tuning on actual client sites.

Not a theory. Real-world experience.

We’ll show you how to fix the Divi speed problem for good.

Divi speed sucks.

Get rid of it!

Astra’s theme is super lightweight. If you can control your excitement to embellish with cool theme features.

Divi is the worst theme for speed. Often slowing a site by 1 second. That is half the 2-second performance budget. Yet they claim to be the most popular theme in the world with 2-million installations. They’re not free. They are pricey.

We always recommend removing Divi.

A few years ago I made a website with Divi, I was sucked in by the marketing and ease of use. I wanted to move away from the Divi theme because of mobile-speed issues – but knew that I couldn’t handle this myself due to the monster shortcode that is left behind when switching from Divi.

Luckily, I found Pagepipe.com and Steve and he agreed to lead the way on a Divi removal strategy. Picking Astra as the new theme, Steve removed all traces of Divi, sped up the site from about 2.7 seconds to under 1 second, and left me feeling like there were still some very good people in the world. I also no longer have to pay $89 annually for Divi – nor do I have to pay for expensive plugins. Thanks Steve, it is very much appreciated. Greg Artim, Pittsburg, Pennsylvania USA

Can Divi ever be fast?

But not PagePipe, it’s built with Twenty seventeen default theme.

Why Twenty seventeen? Isn’t that theme old and stale now? Our explanation is here:

REFERENCE: https://pagepipe.com/how-we-cheated-the-speed-tests-using-twenty-seventeen-theme/

We’ve seen one instance. But the web pages were bare-bones. In other words, Divi features were hardly used. That explains that.

REFERENCE: https://pagepipe.com/divi-theme-sucks-and-other-popular-paid-themes-are-slow-too/

REFERENCE: https://pagepipe.com/rebuilding-your-site-for-mobile-speed/

With Astra, we’ve built our own and client sites.

We know how fast free-Astra loads: under 50 milliseconds.

REFERENCE: https://pagepipe.com/extreme-astra-maximum-mobile-benefits-from-free-theme-features/

REFERENCE: https://pagepipe.com/should-i-use-generatepress-or-astra-theme-with-elementor-for-mobile-speed/

Here’s the biggest problem. When website owners get their hands on Divi they can’t stop adding heavy features. The same applies to Astra Pro.

We recommend Astra-vanilla (free) for speed (1-million active installations). No kickback from affiliate links. The real deal. Astra’s limitations keep uncontrollable web designers in check. They aren’t seduced into loading up pages with junk.

https://wordpress.org/themes/astra/

So why not switch to Astra and be faster immediately?

If only switching were that easy. Getting off Divi is like extracting intestinal parasites.

Large groups of egg-laying worms overwhelm the immune system. The worms kick-start a self-perpetuating cycle guaranteeing their survival.

That is Divi. Abdominal pain. Diarrhea.

I simply cannot stand  [Divi’s] pseudo eye candy bulky menus and “oh so funny” module names (WTF is a blurb module)? And even more so I cannot understand its success. It should simply not exist as it is a junky piece of software that i hope will vanish (just as all the other page builders) when WordPress incorporated its own system: Gutenberg. Still looking forward to the future. – Source

Why do we have such a low opinion of Divi?

Why rant about a bad theme choice?

What’s the big deal?

We’re often hired to solve speed-tuning. If Divi is the theme, fear-filled site owners imagine they can’t live without Divi. They worry. What happens when they remove Divi? Do their pages and post become nonsensical gobbledygook? They’re afraid the embedded images and other normality might vanish. Why that concern?

You know what?

Those horrible code nightmares are true.

Go ahead. Disconnect Divi.

It’s a total mess.

Example of client-side shortcode page residue after removing Divi theme. Ugly! There are 9 homepage sections of garbage shortcodes like this one.

Divi doesn’t use standard WordPress theme conventions. It isn’t compatible or swappable with any other standard theme. It’s built with hundreds of shortcodes. Whose lame idea was that?

So poor, addicted, stunted sites never stop paying for their Divi fix. Divi is like a complicated operating system built on top of WordPress. The Divi shell isolates the site owners from ever acquiring real skills. The value and ease of WordPress design is never realized. They can’t place a simple image on a normal page without a Divi crutch.

Handicapped by Divi.

We found a site owner with the courage and gumption to divest from Divi addiction. We jumped at the opportunity to document the journey to theme-freedom. We had something to prove.

The site was fast because he barely used Divi features. So why remove it? To prove a point. And to future-proof the site.

We wanted to show how even a dang-fast Divi site could be faster and lighter switching to Astra.

More shortcode residue from Divi.

Was it easy?

Well, it wasn’t as bad as we anticipated from what others told us.

We found a plugin. A golden plugin.

A plugin built to hide unused shortcodes – and the junk between them. And if we paid $22, we could have a pro version to remove the shortcodes for good.

We were – stunned. It couldn’t be that simple. But it was. One button? All the shortcodes removed?

Every shortcode removal solution we’d seen online required so much monkeying around. Convoluted cringe-worthy suffering. Our delight to discover a shortcut remover made us hesitate. Was the plugin claim authentic?

The free version of this magic plugin is:

★ ★ ★ ★ ★
Shortcode Cleaner Lite

Load Time: 1 millisecond

zip file size: 370k

Keep this plugin installed to hide the Divi shortcodes. Then the ugly shortcodes don’t appear on the front end anymore. Gone from sight! But if you remove the Shortcode Cleaner plugin, they’re all back. Could be worse.

If you pony up the cash for the pro version, you eliminate the shortcodes. Yes. From both the frontend and backend. If you remove the plugin, they’re still gone – forever. Beautiful tool.

First, we tested the free version. It doesn’t add weight or drag to pages. Good-enough results for most people satisfied with a “hiding” result. But we were on a mission to nuke Divi for good.

We got out our wallet.

We bought the pro version. And in a few minutes all the shortcodes we hated vanished from our client’s polluted website. Amazing.

Learn more about it on YouTube

We were free to switch to Astra free theme. Painless.

It also got rid of all other shortcode residue left on the site from dinosaur plugins long ago removed.

Was our speed mission complete?

No. We next substituted heavy popular plugins with much lighter plugins.

The difference? A reduction in weight from about 90 megabytes of plugins and theme – to only 20 megabytes.

We’re using 7 more plugin now than before. Do you think the site ran faster?

You know it did. Load time dropped in half.

The homepage went from 2.71 seconds to 1 second. Other pages were now loading in under a half-second. Stunning speed improvement. 500-millisecond load times – without CDN and without caching plugins. No site-breaking minification plugins either.

Are we done? No. We’re moving off erratic SiteGround servers to Rochen. Where will goodness end for speed?

This site is now in the top 1-percent of fastest sites on the web.
Did it cost more?

No. It cost less! Much less. No more annual renewal “rent” for the Divi theme. And lower-priced shared hosting.

Fixing painful server fluctuations.

What did we do about garbage hosting for this case study?

The client had two domains on SiteGround. On separate accounts. Oops! He unknowingly bought an account for each domain. It happens. Of course, he only needed one. But they neglected telling him that tidbit. His renewal fee was due in two weeks: $600.

Erratic TTFB on SiteGround hosting over a one-month period. Worst-case: 6-second page load time. Hey? Don’t they brag about speed? Maybe they don’t know the truth yet.

We looked at the drifting and erratic TTFB (time to first byte – server overhead) on SiteGround hosting. Average load time was 2.83 seconds. With our head in the oven and feet in the freezer – on “average” – do we feel fine?

Not really.

Average doesn’t show the speed peaks and troughs.

The chart rolls up-and-down like waves on a rough ocean. Load times saw-toothed up and down rhythmically from 2 seconds to 6 seconds. Is that wildness bad?

It’s horrible.

Goodness is a TTFB below 500 milliseconds.

The final speed scores

SiteGround

BEFORE
SSL and server caching activated
original load time
Divi Theme
1.46 seconds average

Note: This is the fastest Divi installation we’ve ever seen.

AFTER
After speed tuning on staging
w/o Google Analytic drag
Astra Theme
1.12 seconds average

NEW HOSTING

Rochen

after migration
Astra theme
Google Analytics installed
LiteSpeed activated
391 milliseconds average

Holy cow! That’s super fast.

Cost before:

  1.  Divi renewal fees. $89 per year
  2. SiteGround renewal $600.

No more repetitive annual renewal fees.


 

Cost after:

Rochen Growth level fees:
$119.40 for the first year.
(Renews at $18.95/month)

5 Websites
20GB SSD Storage
Unmetered Data Transfer

Note: The client chose paying for Astra Pro:
$47 annual rent.

So when you change load time on a desktop from 2.7 seconds to under 1 second, do mobile users notice? Does anyone really care?

No one notices fast pages. They’re transparent.

But a slow page?

Users hate slow pages.

Remote mobile often load 3 to 4 times slower than desktop pages. Think about it. In our case-study example, 70 percent or more of traffic is on mobile devices. Instant mobile user experience benefits.

ADDENDUM

So let me check. To change my site over to a new theme away from Divi.  Here’s what you’ve told me to do in this article:

1 – Download a new theme.
2 – Purchase and install Shortcode Cleaner lite plugin.
3 – Run Shortcode Cleaner lite.
4 – Switch to new theme.

Is that it?

No.

If life were only that simple.

1. If you have poor server quality with a slow TTFB, for example a 2-second TTFB, you’ll never get under a 2-second load time from switching themes. Duh!

2. You can’t delete or upload a new theme until you remove Divi and it’s accompanying plugins completely. So remove those Elegant Themes plugins.

3. If you bought the Shortcode Cleaner plugin.  Installing the pro version may be too big. You’ll  get this error:

The uploaded file exceeds the upload_max_filesize directive in php.ini.

If so, you need to install this plugin:

Yes. That’s right a plugin to upload big plugins!

4. But you may then see this error code:

The package could not be installed. No valid plugins were found.

Plugin installation failed.

5. Double check. Be sure you removed Divi and all the theme’s associated plugins. There may be several. Divi doesn’t work in “The WordPress Way.” They aren’t distributed through the theme directory. They don’t comply with WordPress theme rules of interchangeability. In fact, they deliberately block you from uploading other themes. They change how the Customizer works and other controls. Bad form. The don’t play fair.


 

DIVI-to-ASTRA THEME CONVERSION
–A TESTIMONIAL

Hey Steve!

One image says it all:

 

Final performance results: 1.383 seconds. Dump Divi theme.

Oh my goodness. Just wanted to thank you for your blog, your writing that provokes critical thinking, your resources, and email response.

The timing is perfect. Actually I was just about to set up my new business homepage (firestorm-digital.com) with Divi – just as I have built websites for years now. I just googled something like “make divi faster” and came across your site.

Three to four hours later, I read the entire thing and basically [dumped] the entire plan and built it based on your suggestions.

Went with Astra Theme and Elementor (free). Took the time to get into the new nuts and bolts. Went through your plugin suggestions. Moved over to GreenGeeks (by your recommendation). … I really like the simplicity of it now.

You changed my thinking and challenged my concepts. Successfully. Now I have a site that works and loads in under 2s. I know there’s not much on it. But the way I approach building the site has changed entirely. Mainly because of your work.

As a way to say thank you I bought your complete bundle. So thanks. If there’s anything else I could do for you just let me know.

Have a great day Steve and thanks again

Sebastian Thalhammer
Firestorm Digital
Austria


 

JUST FOR HARDCORE DIVI HATERS

https://www.sean-barton.co.uk/2017/12/bye-bye-divi/
https://www.sean-barton.co.uk/2017/12/bye-bye-divi/

This alternative plugin is not in the WordPress directory — but is free. We don’t use it. Let us know if it works for you.

Use faster-and-simpler Koko Analytics for speed — instead of slow-and-complicated Google Analytics?

“If you care more about user experience than data mining, use the Koko Analytics plugin.”

We don’t want more gobbledygook big data. We want fewer data. We only want the metrics we need. Not what Google thinks is cool. We’re sold on the Koko Analytics plugin. It’s got just the right stuff. Not too much noise and buttons like Google Analytics. And not too little like a visitor-counter plugin. And not too complicated like AwStat c-panel tool.

Words of praise for the Koko Analytics plugin:

  • Faster.
  • More respectful of privacy.
  • Perfect Google Analytics alternative.
  • Pleasantly to the point and visible straight away.
  • GDPR compliant.
  • Works out of the box.
  • Beautiful design and minimalist analytics plugin.
  • No need to sign up or send data to a third party.
  • Easy to use self-hosted analytics plugin.

WE WON’T TELL YOU GOOGLE ANALYTICS SUCKS —
YOU ALL READY KNOW THAT.
Go ahead. Google-search the phrase “Google Analytics Sucks.

How many hits?
4.6 million.

Remember Google told you that number.

★ ★ ★ ★ ★
Koko Analytics

1.3M zip download file size
53 to 60 millisecond load time

Is 60-milliseconds acceptable? Well, let’s compare it to Google Analytics: up to 500 milliseconds!
REFERENCE: https://pagepipe.com/how-does-google-analytics-affect-mobile-page-speed/

Koko Analytics is a privacy-friendly analytics plugin for WordPress. It does not use any external services. Data about your visitors is never shared with any third-party company.

Koko dashboard statistics.

No visitor-specific data is collected. Site visitors can opt out of tracking by enabling “Do Not Track” in their browser settings.

Stop sharing with data thieves making money off your visitor’s data. Stop slowing down your website. Koko Analytics lets you focus on what is important. It gives you the essential metrics while respecting privacy.

Koko dashboard widget.
Plug and play
After installing and activating the plugin, stats will automatically be collected.

Privacy
No personal information or anything visitor-specific is tracked.

GDPR
Compliant by design with European Union's General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR).

Data ownership
No external services are used. Data about visits to your website is yours and yours alone.

Performance
Handles sudden bursts of traffic without breaking a sweat.

Metrics
All the essentials: visitors, pageviews, and referrers.

Cookies
There is an option to not use any cookies.

Referrer spam
Built-in blacklist to filter out referrer spam.

Cache
Fully compatible with pages served from any cache.
Koko settings page.

Does the Koko Analytics plugin respect my visitor’s privacy?

It records nothing that could lead back to the visitor. If the visitor has “Do Not Track” enabled in their browser settings, the visitor won’t be tracked at all.

Does this use any external services?

No, the data never leaves your website. That’s (part of) what makes Koko Analytics such a great choice if you value true privacy.

Does this set any cookies?
By default, yes. But you can disable this in the plugin’s settings. Without cookies, the plugin still detects unique pageviews, but not returning visitors.

Will this slow down my website?
No, the plugin is built in such a way that it never slows down your website for your visitors. If there is any heavy lifting to be done, it is done in a background process.

The plugin doesn’t depend on any external services. It’s much faster than third-party analytics tools.

What is the definition of a “pageview”?
A pageview is defined as a view of a page on your site. If a user clicks reload after reaching the page, this is counted as an extra pageview. If a user navigates to a different page and then returns to the original page, a second pageview is recorded as well.

What is the definition of a “visitor”?
A visitor represents the number of sessions during which your website or a specific page was viewed one or more times.

Koko makes an Ajax request to send the statistics to your server. This call can’t be cached. If it was served from cache, that visit wouldn’t be counted. It uses little server resources. The admin-ajax calls are a fallback. The Ajax call is not about updating the totals. It’s the actual counting of the visit itself. It does so on each page view.

There will always be a call to the Koko script to collect analytics one way or another on each pageload.

Koko writes statistics to that file and then collects them later in the background. Koko will automatically use the best/fastest way available for your site setup.

Koko Analytics performs an HTTP request to /wp-admin/admin-ajax.php for each pageview. It stores the information from that pageview in a file in your uploads directory.

There is no avoiding this request, but there is a way to speed up the resource cost. For standard WordPress installations, your WordPress root directory is writable. Then Koko Analytics switches to this optimized endpoint automatically. There is no need for you to do anything.

Tracking requests cached by the host, add a cache-busting query parameter to the tracking URL.

Koko Waterfall test
Exhibit A

Two requests from Koko. One is lazy loaded.

Google Analytics Waterfall test
Exhibit B

Google Analytics – nothing is lazy loaded and load time is pushed out 400 milliseconds.

The last two screengrabs tell the true story. Look at the vertical blue line. Google Analytics is 400 milliseconds slower than Koko on this simple test site. Even with a slight server TTFB advantage on the Google Analytics test.

Both tests were done on the same page and server using WebPageTest.org.

BONUS Feature – you can add a section to your posts showing related posts. Like this:

The Koko plugin can create a popular post widget. Bonus. This extra feature doesn’t add page weight like most popular post plugins. Sweet.

iThemes Security slows your site and depletes server resources.

Security
Myth: WordPress security plugins don’t affect speed.
The usual recommendation is iThemes Security (formerly Better WP Security).
Most people don’t know security plugins slow down your site and use up server resources.

While studying site security and speed, we tested the iThemes Security plugin. It’s claimed to prevent malware injection. We’re sure it works but the plugin is major overkill. We duplicate it’s core features with lightweight, fast-loading, standalone free plugins. Beneath the surface, this large, 3.1M plugin contains a lurking, greedy speed bite. Chomp!

But iThemes Security plugin only adds a mere 36 milliseconds. Measured with GoDaddy’s P3 Plugin Performance Profiler. Using Pingdom.com, there’s no detectable difference in load time. With this security plugin onboard there’s not even an extra call (HTTP Request). The plugin appears pretty safe and benign for speed. And it’s popular! What could go wrong?

Nowadays, there’s a herd-panic or paranoia about WordPress security and getting hacked. It’s easy to get caught up in the frenzy – and go plugin crazy. All that’s required are a few simple things. First, change your login from the default “admin.” Duh? Use something a little more challenging for bots. Don’t use “password” as your password. These are obvious right? Right.

Only 8 milliseconds for extra site security with four recommended plugins:

PagePipe uses the following simple security plugins. We predict load time in milliseconds using P3 Plugin Performance Profiler (by GoDaddy). NOTE: P3 plugin will slow down your site. Don’t leave it installed!

Limit Login Attempts Reloaded (40ms)
package download size: 697k

Brute-force attacks are the simplest method to gain access to a site. The hacker tries usernames and passwords, over and over again, with a “bot” until they get in. This lightweight plugin prevents brute force login attacks using .htaccess. .htaccess is a configuration file on web servers running Apache Web Server software. Time-limited number of login attempts block the hacker’s IP address.

Change Table Prefix (1ms)
package download size: 10k

Protect your website from SQL injections. Replace your database WordPress default prefix (WP_). Use any other alternative prefix in a single click. An SQL injection is a computer attack. Hacker’s can embed malicious code in a poorly-designed applications. Then pass it along to the backend database. Anything can then happen on your site.

Email Address Encoder (2ms)
package download size: 5k

A lightweight plugin to protect email addresses from email-harvesting robots. The plugin encodes addresses into decimal and hexadecimal entities. No configuration required.

Block Bad Queries (BBQ) 4ms
package download size: 7k

A simple, super-fast firewall plugin that protects your site against malicious URL requests. Hackers can redirect user requests from your site to an illegitimate site. No plugin configuration required.

What went wrong?

After installing iThemes Security plugin, we got a GoDaddy email notification. It said our hosting account exceeded its resource limits. What!?

The recommended solution by our benevolent host, of course, is buy more server goodies. But the better answer – they don’t tell you – is simpler and cheaper than that.

Once again, we observe that plugin file weight is indicative of resource consumption. If not page load time, then RAM or MySQL databases are gobbled up. This isn’t always the case. But a fat plugin is suspicious and requires testing. To find out how your site is using resources, click the C-Panel icon labeled CPU and Concurrent Connection Usage.

After the “warning,” we checked Cpanel (CPU and Concurrent Connection Usage). It said RAM usage jumped from 89M normal to the 512M maximum available. We’d never encountered this problem before. The “spike” in the Cpanel Memory data occurred when we installed the iThemes plugin.

We completely uninstalled that nasty security plugin. Ram usage immediately began dropping down. An hour later the RAM usage was 221M. By 1.5hrs, it was 128M. We were finally drifting back into the green zone. Are we the only ones to ever see this weirdness? No. Read on.

In the production notes:

“Enhancement Jan 2016: Updated the File Change Detection feature to attempt a max memory limit of 256M rather than 128M as some users experience out of memory issues which could be fixed with the higher memory limit.”

So what? What’s the big deal?

When you exceed server limits, many hosts at least will start throttling your site. Or worst-case, take your site offline for hours to days. They claim they’re protecting other sites hosted on the server from your malfeasance. You’re dragging everyone else down with you.

Bandwidth throttling is the intentional slowing by your Internet service provider. This helps limit network congestion and server crashes. But it’s also often a lame excuse to justify poor performance. And sloppy cramming of thousands of domains on a server. You can’t control this. But you can avoid getting shutdown by memory-hog plugins – like iThemes Security.

Is iThemes Security the Lone-Ranger plugin that consumes RAM? Nope.

There are a bunch of plugins we know of (and many others we don’t). But they aren’t security plugins.

Here are some examples:

Checking broken links one by one is not physically possible, even for a small site. There are many free and paid tools that check for broken links. You can get the Broken Link Checker plugin (active installs 500,000) and check the health of your links with it.

But Broken Link Checker is a RAM hog. You’ll see two spikes on the graph below. The first is when we switched on Broken Link Checker and it started it’s automated crawling of the site. The second peak is UpDraft Plus doing an automatic site backup. We keep Link Checker deactivated and only run it once a month.

What if you’re running Link checker? And doing a backup? And have a hog security plugin running all together? You’re doomed. What can you do!?

Changing the PHP version from 5.3 to 7.x reduced RAM usage by 20 to 30 percent. This keeps us safe. Now we idle around 70M. We’re staying far away from the 512M rail. But when we do daily backups, we push up to around 300k usage. We improved this with better backup plugin settings. We could do manual backups when we create new content. But instead we compromise and switch from daily to weekly backups to reduce the load. That works for us.

The Herd Mentality of “Essential” WordPress Plugins.

If you search the phrase “Essential WordPress Plugins,” you’ll get about 1.8 million results. They all tend to regurgitate suggestions for the same old plugins. Copycat content. No wonder the identical plugins keep getting more installs. Even when better alternatives exist.

Sorting and testing all the new plugins is too much work. So people don’t test. They assume. The assumption is “popularity” is good. For plugins, that is usually decided by looking at the number of active installs. Active installs is not a sign of quality or performance. It’s a standard of herd mentality.

Herd mentality, or mob mentality, describes how people are influenced by their peers to adopt certain behaviors. Examples of the herd mentality include nationalism, stock market trends, superstition, and home décor. —Wikipedia

Many recommended “essential” plugins have negative speed repercussions.

Our rule of thumb is: the more popular a plugin is (active installs), the higher the probability it’s a slow loading plugin. Why? We don’t know exactly why this correlates. But it holds up in our speed testing.

It’s the quality –not quantity– of plugins that slows down a site. Speed testing free plugins and themes is our specialty.

PagePipe.com (our blog) has 53 active plugins. It loads in under a half second in the USA and about 1.2 seconds for Europe (Pingdom.com). It can vary. That is using the cheapest, shared, old-magnetic GoDaddy hosting located in Arizona. No CDN. It will go even faster when GoDaddy updates to PHP 7.1 – but they’re running on outdated version 5.4. We share our server with 24 other domains. Why? We want to prove a point: You can use “speed strategy” rather than throwing money at load-time problems.

Our Mantra is avoid popular plugins. High number active installs means they’re the slowest.

We don’t know why “popular = bloated.” We speculate the plugin authors are content and apathetic to speed and quality. Popular plugins existed first and use old unoptimized coding techniques (obsolescence). They tend to get heavier with revisions instead of lighter (kludges).

The authors of old plugins don’t have competitive motivation to be lean for speed. This isn’t true for newer, less-installed, lighter plugins. Speed (load time) is now a desired feature we’re seeing more because of mobile devices. But fresh, fast plugins are not easy to find. There are 50,000+ plugins in the free directory. Wow! An ocean. We’ve calculated the directory growth rate and it’s 20 percent annually. That means 10,000 more plugins potentially in 2017.

What is more characteristic of “goodness” is retention rate. That’s calculated by taking the active installs and dividing by the number of downloads for all time. A plugin with a retention of 20 percent is pretty good. If it’s 5 percent or less, it’s a danger sign. They were tried – and dumped.

Slow plugin’s download file size is a clue. Bigger files load slower. There are some exceptions – but they are few.

Typical erroneous herd plugin suggestions

Jetpack
Always recommended by unknowing blogs.
https://pagepipe.com/the-truth-about-jetpack/

Anti-spam
Myth: A plugin to protect your site from spam comments is vital. Prevents user registrations from bots.
The usual recomendation is Akismet (installed with WordPress).
We say: Disable comments with a plugin. And get rid of Akismet, too. They’re a waste of time. Read more here:
https://pagepipe.com/does-akismet-plugin-help-or-hinder-wordpress-page-speed/

Sitemaps
Google XML Sitemaps are supposed to help SEO. We’ve found they are unnecessary. Google is quite capable of crawling your site fast. The best reason to include a sitemap is for visitors to find things. This is called “findability.” So we recommend using an HTML sitemap. But we’ve found a nice plugin that does both:
Simple WP Sitemap, Active Installs: 30,000+, download size: 115k.

Schema
All In One Schema.org Rich Snippets plugin. Fiddling with snippets is unproductive. Read more: https://pagepipe.com/speed-up-yoast-seo-plugin-remove-it/

Caching
Myth: Caching plugins speed up your site and make it quicker to access.
The usual recommendation is either W3 Total Cache or WP Super Cache plugin. We’ve find no speed improvement from caching plugins on well-optimized websites. In those conditions, there is no measurable benefit from caching. Except for one caching plugin, and it didn’t improve caching, it improved TTFB which is a server-side improvement in speed.

Cache Enabler, Active Installs: 20,000+, download size: 17k

Usually improvement from caching plugins is from some other function that is not caching related – like enabling Gzip code compression.

Lazy Loading Images
The usual recommendation is BJ Lazy Load. It is not our preference for speed. We’d recommend:
Rocket Lazy Load, 8,000+ installs, download size: 361k.

and for YouTube and Vimeo videos:
Lazy Load for Videos, 6,000+ active installs, download size: 254k.

Contact form
Myth: A contact form is the standard now for most sites.
The usual recommendation is Contact Form 7.
We don’t believe contact forms are necessary. They slow down your site. Use a large-size, email text link instead with Email Address Encoder plugin, 80,000+ installs, download size: 5k.
https://pagepipe.com/contact-form-7-plugin-causes-global-site-drag/

Gallery
Myth: Gallery plugins enhance or replace WordPress native galleries. These are also called “slider” plugins.
They always slow down a page load. And they are proven ineffective for navigation and SEO.
https://pagepipe.com/what-slider-is-the-fastest-loading/

Image optimization
Myth: Plugins always help compress the file size down to a sane level.
The most common and worst recommendation is Smush Image Compression and Optimization plugin. Read more about better alternatives:
https://pagepipe.com/smush-plugin-doesnt-really-help-with-speed/

For significant image optimization, we recommend:
Imsanity, 200,000+ active installs, download size: 152k

Search Enhancement
Myth: Plugins can increase the power and relevance of your searches to users.
The most common recommendation is Relevanssi plugin.
Read why the Relevanssi plugin author says not to use this particular plugin any more:
https://pagepipe.com/plugin-popularity-is-rarely-an-indicator-of-good-value-for-speed/

SEO
Myth: SEO plugins will help your site rank higher in search engines.
The usual recommendation is either “All in One SEO Pack” plugin or Yoast SEO.
SEO plugins are a waste of time. Read more about why you shouldn’t install an SEO plugin:
https://pagepipe.com/speed-up-yoast-seo-plugin-remove-it/

Security
Myth: WordPress security plugins don’t affect speed.
The usual recommendation is iThemes Security (formerly Better WP Security).
Most people don’t know security plugins slow down your site and use up server resources.
https://pagepipe.com/do-security-plugins-slow-down-wordpress/

Social sharing
Myth: A social sharing plugin improves site traffic and SEO.
We don’t believe social media marketing is a vital part of content marketing these days. It’s a controversial topic. But from our research, it is usually unproductive. Only 12 likes on your blog page isn’t very convincing or credible. It’s hard work to generate beneficial traffic from Facebook – an unproductive waste of time.

Most Facebook widgets and counters drastically slow down your site. Are you really getting a good return on your time investment with social media links? We’ve seen one-second wait times for Facebook counter widgets.

Broken Link Checker
This plugin slows down your site by consuming server resources. Broken Link Checker plugin is a RAM hog. It’s best to leave it disabled and only run it manually – not automatically. We keep Link Checker deactivated and only run it once a month.

Redirection
We see nothing wrong with this plugin suggestion other than it’s heavy. It automatically adds a 301 redirection when a post’s URL changes. The Redirection plugin has 700,000 active installs, and the download weighs 516k.

We use:
Simple 301 Redirects, Active Installs: 200,000+, download size: 5k. Much lighter.

MailChimp for WordPress
We actually use MailChimp. It does cause site drag. But we use:

Yikes Easy Forms for MailChimp plugin, 50,000+ installs, 3.7M download
3 HTTP requests, 4.5k page weight,  93 milliseconds load time.
This plugin is coded so minification is a big benefit. Concatenating and minifying with Autoptimize plugin reduced load time to 36 milliseconds for all theme and plugin CSS files. Bonus!
https://pagepipe.com/is-mailchimp-a-good-choice-for-speed/

Popular Plugin Thoughts & Myths

Sitemaps
XML sitemap functions are included as part of WordPress core since August 2020. Google XML Sitemaps are supposed to help SEO. We’ve found they are unnecessary. Google is quite capable of crawling your site fast. The best reason to include a sitemap is for visitors to find things. This is called “findability.” So we recommend using an HTML sitemap. But we’ve found a nice plugin that does both:
Simple WP Sitemap, download size: 115k.

or

Hierarchical HTML Sitemap, download size: 9.1k

Schema
All In One Schema.org Rich Snippets plugin. Fiddling with snippets is unproductive. Read more: https://pagepipe.com/speed-up-yoast-seo-plugin-remove-it/

Caching
Myth: Caching plugins speed up your site and make it quicker to access.
The usual recommendation is either W3 Total Cache or WP Super Cache plugin. We’ve find no speed improvement from caching plugins on well-optimized websites. In those conditions, there is no measurable benefit from caching. Except for one caching plugin, and it didn’t improve caching, it improved TTFB which is a server-side improvement in speed.

Cache Enabler, download size: 17k

Usually improvement from caching plugins is from some other function that is not caching related – like enabling Gzip code compression.

Lazy Loading Images
Lazy loading is included in WordPress core since August of 2020. The usual recommendation is BJ Lazy Load. It is not our preference for speed. We’d recommend:
Rocket Lazy Load, download size: 361k.
and for YouTube and Vimeo videos:
Lazy Load for Videos, download size: 254k.

Social sharing
Myth: A social sharing plugin improves site traffic and SEO.
We don’t believe social media marketing is a vital part of content marketing these days. It’s a controversial topic. But from our research, it is usually unproductive. Only 12 likes on your blog page isn’t very convincing or credible. It’s hard work to generate beneficial traffic from Facebook – an unproductive waste of time. If you’re a celebrity, it’s a different story.

Most Facebook widgets and counters drastically slow down your site. Are you really getting a good return on your time investment with social media links? We’ve seen one-second wait times for Facebook counter widgets.

Broken Link Checker
This plugin slows down your site by consuming server resources. Broken Link Checker plugin is a RAM hog. It’s best to leave it disabled and only run it manually – not automatically. We keep Link Checker deactivated and only run it once a month.

Redirection
We see nothing wrong with this plugin suggestion other than it’s heavy. It automatically adds a 301 redirection when a post’s URL changes. The Redirection plugin has 700,000 active installs, and the download weighs 516k.

We use:
Simple 301 Redirects, download size: 5k. Much lighter.

Get WP Rocket plugin best paid features for free.

It’s another incredible speed myth. Self-appointed experts claim including a caching plugin on your WordPress site is essential. Many plugin reviewers declare, “Caching plugins make your WordPress site highly optimized for speed and performance.” Some even avow a 10X speed – improving your SEO.

This is an outrageous untruth. Total nonsense. First, speed does not improve SEO. Best case, only repeat visitors may get speed benefits from caching. But with some website, only 20 percent of their traffic is returning visitors. Not helpful for the other sad 80 percent. Second, caching plugins rarely improve speed on a well-optimized site. None of them.

Ever.

If a caching plugin helps a site, it means something. A tired, lazy, unskilled, or apathetic designer didn’t want to optimize. Admit it. Suddenly, paying $49 for a plugin doesn’t sound so bad to solve the problem. But in 5 years, that’s almost 300 tacos you lose. Cheap ones – but tasty.

As we’ve said before:

“The reason web builders see improvement from caching plugins isn’t from caching features. It’s from the activation of Gzip compression. And far-futures expiration, and minifying Javascript and CSS files. Those automated features built into the plugin have nothing to do with caching. In fact, most modern hosting already has Gzip activated on the server. On a well-optimized website, we’ve never seen speed benefits based on using a caching plugin. Even from the oft-recommended, free W3 Total Cache plugin. Or even WP Super Cache. Both popular plugins with millions of installs.”

What is Caching? It’s page components stored for future use. The images, files, and web objects are now on your local hard drive. When you open the page again, the browser has most files cached and ready. This takes less time than retrieving files from remote servers.

Note: Your browser caches pages whether you have a plugin installed – or not.

WP Rocket caching plugin authors claim your website will load at lightspeed. That is 186,000 miles per second.

Let’s save the world million of dollars in repetitive fees! We already feel better. Ready. Keep reading.

Note: Our PagePipe site creations go faster than a speeding bullet. The average bullet travels at 1,700 miles per hour. So WP Rocket already advertises better specs than ours. Metaphorically anyway. Light versus bullet.

We don’t recommend the paid WP Rocket plugin because you can get the same results with free plugins.


Here are some of WP Rocket’s other specs and claims:

  • Page Caching – They claim this improves SEO. Wrong.

PagePipe: Avoiding futile web myths about site speed >

How can we be so confident? We downloaded and tested 21 free plugins from the WordPress repository. Every free caching plugin we could find. That included testing WP Rocket – even though it’s not free.

Here’s how things turned out:

1We threw out the caching plugins that just didn’t work. Those four losers included: Easy Cache (15 second page load?), Next Level Cache, WP FFPC, and WP Spider Cache.

2We got rid of the plugins with the poorest retention – the 2 to 14 percent range. There were 9 of those: Batcache, WP Fast Cache, Gator Cache, WP Super Cache, Hyper Cache Extended, Hyper Cache, Bodi0s Easy Cache, AIO Cache, and Alpha Cache.

WAIT! We chucked WP Super Cache? It has over 1 million installs and 11 million downloads. Yep. Do the math. That’s only 9 percent retention. That plugin is getting old and on the decline. You can Google the topic and read about user-concern of abandonment. The author assures it’s not orphaned. But the herd is moving away from the plugin.

Warning: We couldn’t uninstall the plugin “Bodi0s Easy Cache” using the WordPress dashboard. We had to erase its folder from the server via Cpanel. Badness!

3We have 2 plugins that are either too fussy or too feature-sparse.” Those two are Super Static Cache and Cache Enabler*. They are out, too.

4There are plugins that are slow to load. Yes. Three plugins flunked when tested with P3 Performance Profiler Plugin. They were: Comet Cache, 43.8 milliseconds, W3 Total Cache 70.5 milliseconds, and WP Rocket 45.3 milliseconds. You’re thinking, those are insignificant times. Maybe, but they load on every single page of the site. We call that site drag. The thing is they were significantly slower than the winners. We’ll give you those times next.

Not again! Another big one bites the dust. W3 Total Cache plugin has a million installs and 6.6 million downloads. But it’s the slowest caching plugin and it’s retention is only 15 percent.

5The three winners had retention and good speed.

  • Simple Cache, 4.4 milliseconds and includes Gzip, expires, enable caching. Combine this with autoptimize plugin for minification (13.7 milliseconds). You have a great combination.
  • WP Cache.com, 7.2 milliseconds, just caching. So add to it Far-futures Expiration – includes Gzip – 0.8 milliseconds.
  • WP Fastest Cache, 8.4 milliseconds. Includes minification, Gzip, caching. Combine this with far-future expiration plugin (adds another 0.8 milliseconds).

You can substitute some of these free plugins listed below for WP Rocket’s other paid features:

  • Cache Preloading

Pingdom testing frequently gives a message called “Leverage Browser Caching.” Here’s the speed-error fix:

Install the Far Future Expiration Header plugin.

  1. Far Future SETTINGS
  2. Set the expiration to 365 days (yes, 1 year).
  3. Select all the file types you are using.
  4. Select Gzip compression.
  5. Save.

PagePipe: Fixing-pingdom-leverage-browser-caching-errors >


  • GZIP Compression – Gzip and expiration header. We know this makes sites go faster. We’ve tested this stuff. The expiry plugin above works great. Some Gzip plugins don’t work. But Far-future expiration plugin is a two-for-one  deal and works great. You just select a button an Gzip is automatically added to your .htaccess file on your server. Then all pages are activated.

Read about Gzip here:

PagePipe: Update on Gzip compression >


  • Browser Caching – JS, CSS, and images from page to page in browser cache. Sorry. No caching plugin improves  well-optimized sites. They do not show any speed improvement.

  • Google Fonts Optimization – claims fewer HTTP requests. We simply remove Google Fonts for speed.

Free plugin suggestion: Remove Google Fonts References >


  • LazyLoad – This is good because it delays loading of images below the fold. It’s a good trick. But it can give us lousy UX as slow images on mobile devices leave blank spaces. Images eventually appear when scrolling. (We use lazy loading wherever and whenever possible). Get lazy loading for free:

Free plugin suggestion:  Rocket Lazy Load >


  • Minification/Concatenation

Minification gives some improvement in getting good scores but doesn’t always improve speed. Minification can break your site. WP Rocket even warns about this on their FAQ page. So they’re human!

Free alternatives include:

Free: Better WordPress Minify plugin (our first choice).

Free: Autoptimize plugin (second choice)

If those fail try, Speed Booster Pack (but disable the lazy load. It causes site drag.)

If none of those work, forget using minification. It’s not worth the grief.


  • Defer JS Loading – page rendering errors eliminated.

We’ve written an article about this:
PagePipe: Google PageSpeed Insights: Render-blocking JS is the most annoying and unresolvable error message >


WP Rocket PRICE: $49 personal annual license fee. ($99 for business). But often on sale!


Secret plugin ingredient: the WP Rocket crawler.

Claim: WP Rocket developed an intelligent crawler. It’s called each time you create or update site content. This primes the cache in preparation for your first visitor. WP Rocket claims to pre-scan and store prebuilt pages from your site (using a crawler and CDN). CDNs don’t always help. They some times slow things down. From our tests, its other things about the plugin that matter more. These can be duplicated with free plugins.


Enough plugin bashing. A 4-second site can go to 2-seconds by activating WP Rocket. That’s pretty amazing. But we retort, “It must be a pretty cruddy site.” Does the 4-to-2-second miracle make WP Rocket better? No. Just a different, costlier solution.

We’ll keep our $49 bucks for tacos – and use free stuff. Thank you!

Asset Queue Manager turns off unneeded script requests.

We admit there are times we find new plugins and think we know their function – only to find out later what they’re really good for. This is one of them.

It’s just that the plugin author didn’t know how to explain or market the plugin the way we were thinking. They had a clever solution without our real-world problem mentioned. We didn’t recognize the plugin’s potential to solve our problems until later – by accident.

That’s called poor market positioning strategy  from bad product naming. It happens all of the time with good plugins that are given geeky names. For example, a favorite for speed is Plugin Logic. It’s almost impossible to find in the plugin directory. Lost in the ocean of 55,000+ plugins. It’s so good but only has 100 active installs. So sad.

For ages we’ve wanted the ability to switch off FontAwesome icon font. We see it as unnecessary baggage many themes include as a feature. In fact, most themes include it now. Sometimes, this 70k+ file is added to page weight just to make a single icon – like the magnifying glass in the search field, or perhaps the hamburger icon for a mobile menu. What a waste!

We learned we could “dequeue” that icon-non-feature in the WordPress functions.php file. But this always proved tedious or broke things. We wanted a faster, safer way to test. We asked our local WordPress meetup if they knew of a plugin that would remove FontAwesome painlessly. No one had any clue.

We found the answer while testing for plugins to remove the annoying Google PageSpeed error message:

Eliminate render-blocking JavaScript and CSS in above-the-fold content.

We found “Asset Queue Manager” plugin. It doesn’t really help much with solving that Google PageSpeed error message. But what a gem, once we understood what it could really do. Not only can we dequeue FontAwesome, we can get rid of Google fonts and other heavy assets like unused sliders that have universal page loads.

★★★★★
Asset Queue Manager
Load Time: 10 millise
conds

Description: A tool for experienced frontend performance engineers to take control over the scripts and styles enqueued on their site.

Hey! We are front-end performance engineers! But that name threw us. It didn’t say, “Font Awesome Remover plugin.”

The word “experienced” in the description is scary. But the damage done by novices can be quickly undone with some safety features the authors built-in.

Once the plugin is activated, browse to any page on the front of your site. An Assets link will appear on the top right of the WordPress admin bar. Click that to view and manage all assets globally.

up-in-the-corner
That’s it “Assets” on the front side of the page. Not the dashboard side. Up there in the top right corner of your screen. Click it to open up the control panel for the plugin.

The plugin author explains he put it on the front because the assets only get enqueued on the frontend, so the plugin doesn’t really know anything on the backend. That’s why he decided to only show the link on the frontend. But many people don’t understand this link location. It’s not in the admin dashboard. It dequeues assets globally – not per page.

What if I dequeued jQuery (or something I shouldn’t have done) and now my site is broken. Go to the list of plugins in your admin panel. Find the Asset Queue Manager and click the “Restore Dequeued Assets” link. Nice and easy.

What a beautiful misunderstood plugin with a lot of hidden speed potential.

Here’s another application example, we recently used Asset Queue Manager plugin to de-enqueue the lazy-load-images function of Speed Booster Pack plugin. That was a javascript file called sbp-lazy-load.min.js. It was being loaded globally and adding page weight. We wanted to test the nice other features of Speed Booster Pack plugin – but not the lazy load because it caused site drag. That function was loaded even if it wasn’t selected in the plugin control panel. Weird! Our preference was using Rocket Lazy Load which has no site drag at all – a weightless plugin. Piece of cake with Asset Queue Manager!

Oh, and it’s *virtually* weightless and completely free. Perfect.

Here’s another example: Navigate to a page where you’d like to disable some request that are superfluous. The unwanted request will show up in a speed test waterfall chart. In this case, the plugin Blog Manager Light loaded Twitter scripts. We don’t use twitter. And it loaded a stripped-down Font Awesome icon set that we didn’t need either.

We turned those unneeded requested scripts off with Asset Queue Manager.

Click to enlarge. 29 scripts removed from an Elementor site.

What is the fastest free WordPress theme?

Which WordPress theme would we choose for best mobile speed? You can’t judge by looking at the theme on a desktop screen – nor by a demo page. You have to test with either iPhone simulators or web tools like Firefox browser addon:

Web Developers Toolbar → Resize → View Responsive Layouts

Or real hardware devices. No one owns that much hardware.

And how a theme looks – the “Out Of the Box Experience” (the oo-bee) – is nothing like the beautiful demo page. When you first install your new theme, disappointment!

Unfortunately, theme selection is often based solely on looks (aesthetics). Demo-page performance is deceptively “tuned and tweaked.” Premium themes are available for sale from marketplaces and individual WordPress developers. Purchaser speed-evaluation or testing is rarely done at all. It’s a faith-based buy. Speed is an after-the-fact repair job. This is “consumer-like” impulse buying. There’s buyers remorse for a non-returnable theme product. We’ve been there. We sympathize.

Our speed philosophy starts with a stripped-down, free theme. Then add only necessary features with free plugins. This is the foundation of good speed design. These kinds of themes are sometimes called: stripped-down, bare-bones, generic, basic, naked, essential, fundamental, or “bootstrap.” Those key phrases return pages full of affiliate links to theme-publisher houses. The blog author gets a kickback. Bloggers aren’t motivated to help you – as much as help their wallet.

We’ve found free themes in the WordPress directory often get a bad rap. Paid-theme publishers claim free themes have inherent flaws. This is advertising hype (aka lies). These imagined flaws include:

  • Lack of Updates
  • Security Problems
  • Lack of Support
  • Lack of Features
  • Lack of Customization

Nothing could be further from the truth. You can get the same lousy service from paid authors. Some of the biggest and best authors in the business fall flat on their faces sometimes. Even WordPress makes security mistakes and suffers from favoritism and apathy. Don’t believe myths that “premium” themes are better – or delivers better guarantees.

HOSTING

Many blog thought leaders say the right web hosting is critical. Even more critical than theme and plugin selection. This isn’t true. And you can bet whatever host they recommend is an affiliate link, too. (More kickback money).

We’ve only seen short duration when hosts provide consistent and reliable services. And we aren’t just talking shared hosting. We mean all hosting. From SiteGround to BlueHost to HostGator to DigitalOcean to GoDaddy. It doesn’t matter if they’re solid-state disk drives or old, mechanical, magnetic drives. “Reliable and repeatable” speeds drift all over the map. Why? Ask them. They won’t give you a straight answer.

Worst-case performance today – is tomorrow’s average (poor) performance. Hosting companies get juggled around from owner to owner. With each new owner, comes policy changes. Different management brings either better or worse predictable performance. It’s hard to know. It’s always random. If you had a different experience, please email us.

So the answer is: build the best and fastest strategic website to run well even on crummy hosting. That way you aren’t disappointed. We’re convinced, with even expensive web hosts, you don’t get what you pay for. We want cheap, shared hosting. We prefer not to share our server with too many other people. (For example, PagePipe shares with 24 other web domains). Use YouGetSignal.com to find how many domains are on your server.

Time to First Byte Specifications

We want to get a good TTFB (time to first byte). This is a measurement in milliseconds. It’s how long a user’s browser waits before receiving it’s first byte of data from the host server. It includes “network latency.” Data makes trips back and forth between server and browser. A long wait slows down seeing the page. Theme selection doesn’t affect TTFB. It is completely host dependent. But if your theme is too slow and your TTFB is slow, also, you’re doomed to always have a slow site.

  • 100 to 200 milliseconds TTFB is excellent.
  • 300 to 500 is good.
  • 500 to 800 is average.
  • 800 to 1000 milliseconds is poor.
  • Above 1 second is not “happiness.”

One client using BlueHost shared a server with over 2,000 other domain names. They wondered why their TTFB was always 4 seconds. Ouch!

TTFB is not web speed. It’s server responsivity. You can measure TTFB online with WebPageTest.org or with http://www.ByteCheck.com/

An offsite link about cheap hosting.

PERFORMANCE BUDGET

When you design a site for strategic speed, you use a performance budget. The industry-standard budget for best practice is under 2-second page load time. If your TTFB is 800 milliseconds, that server overhead reduced the amount of budget to 1.2 seconds. If TTFB is 100 millisecond, you have 1.9 seconds of pure luxury. That sounds like a small bonus. But believe us, you can add many extra features in 700 milliseconds.

Did we search for a shared host with 100 to 200 millisecond TTFB? Yes. And we found one. And even tested it: iPage.com We don’t get a kick back. We’re not an affiliate – so only click the link once. Save electricity. Did we switch to iPage? Nope.

Read about fast, web-hosting reviews offsite at: Woodstitch

More about TTFB improvement offsite at Kinsta.

NOTE: On these two links above, their reporting is honest. But it didn’t always match our experience in every regard. So test for goodness sake!

SPEED NOTE: After reading Brian Jackson’s article at Kinsta, we decided to try Cache Enabler plugin again. We saw no benefit before – as a caching plugin – and unknowingly tossed it. But Brian was claiming it improved TTFB. We found it hard to believe. This time we watched a video on how to set it up. TTFB dropped from 600 milliseconds to 350 milliseconds. That speed benefit happened across the board on every theme tested. Fantastic! We turned “GoDaddy-quality” into “iPage-quality” hosting with no extra cost! Thanks, Brian.

THEME OVERLOAD

There are 4,476 free themes in the WordPress theme directory (2017). Of those, only 1,470 are responsive. All the rest are fixed-width junk. No one should design today with a theme that doesn’t adapt to small-screen size. That limitation immediately reduced the number of candidates.

We had three criteria for the remaining 1,470 free responsive themes:

  1. Updated in 2017. Too many changes occurred in WordPress during the last quarter of 2016 and the first quarter of 2017. Some were functional and some security issues. We only wanted current and active themes supported by conscientious authors.
  2. The zip package size must be under 1M download. An arbitrary cutoff based on our experience unpacking, examining, and testing themes. It’s our rule of thumb. Only theme authors who care about speed keep the download package small and tight.
  3. They can’t be a child theme.

That reduced our database or sample size to 155 themes. That’s all! Those 155 themes went into a spreadsheet and sorted by decompressed package size. We then examined the contents of the TOP 10 smallest packages. And we also considered the number of active installations (popularity).

These themes by nature are plain and unadorned. Boring but functional. The principle goal is communicating and publishing. We want web content readable on a small device. Expressive aesthetics are second priority. It boils down to reading. People rarely view portfolios seriously on phones.

Speed Strategy requires:

  • Focus on content and interactions. Not on details, images and elements (space-filling prettiness).
  • All elements must have purpose and value.
  • Design for user experience – easier content consumption.
  • Test on a small screen first and later a larger screen.

We loaded sample content “test-data.xml” from WordPress’ Theme Data Test page.

(Use WordPress Importer plugin and Dashboard > Tools > Import).

We installed the following free, speed enhancing plugins:

We then installed the TOP10 themes candidates on a cheap, shared-hosting site (GoDaddy). And checked each resulting load time with Pingdom.com:

(Sharing with 25 other domains. TTFB: 500 to 600 milliseconds. Install Cache Enabler plugin and subtract 200 milliseconds from the load times below.)

[table]
theme,installs,fonts removed,load time ms
,,,
Pacify,1000,Lobster/Raleway,671
Basic,10000,PT Serif/,760
Generic,500,helvetica/Georgia,761
Grace,1000,open sans/raleway,835
Hexo,700,meriweather/lato,935
RedPro,300,lato,984
Triad,1000,open sans,1000
Techism,1000,open sans/helvetica,1030
Emphasize,1000,open sans,1250
Enough,1000,ubuntu,1390
[/table]

We stripped the webfonts using Remove Google Fonts References plugin. We prefer websafe fallback fonts instead. Removing webfonts reduces 160 to 260 milliseconds from the page speed. Those are the final speed numbers shown above. We recommend this extreme method for mobile performance. Most people can’t tell font differences on small screens anyway. It’s a waste of resources. Most designers are underestimating the effect web fonts have on mobile speed.

Google Fonts is an open-source, third-party, font directory. According to BuiltWith, over 44% of the top 10,000 websites use Google Fonts on their websites. Slow. They need linking to an external asset on a distant server. You might see errors or warnings that the resources are missing a cache validator. Or that they require expires headers. These are fixed at the server level, and when they are on a third-party server you have no control over fixing them. Don’t use Google Fonts. Easy speed solution.

THE WINNER

We then focused on the TOP3 themes popularity: Pacify theme (1000 installs), Basic theme (10,000 installs), and Generic theme (500 installs). Basic Theme had something the other two didn’t: 10,000 installs and lots of functionality. Popularity doesn’t count much in our book. But in this case, the theme will have a longer shelf-life potential. Basic Theme is our final choice.



WooCommerce hurts mobile speed – here are 9 unusual tips to fix it.

WooCommerce plugin is one of the worst for slowing down pages. Slow sites come across as poor quality. Most of your potential customers are intolerant of pages slower than 2 seconds. They leave.

47 percent of consumers expect a web page to load in 2 seconds or less. An additional delay of one-second results in a 7 percent reduction in conversions.

WooCommerce powers 22 percent of the top e-stores in the world. It’s the most popular shopping cart software – especially if you have a smaller or mid-sized website. Can your WooCommerce website convert first-time visitors? 84 percent of website conversions occur on the first visit.

Smartphones convert at one-third to one-quarter of the rate of traditional desktop or tablet devices. … Roughly 44 percent of mobile users expect a site to load as fast as a desktop experience or faster. – source

Your website’s first impression makes you or breaks you.

The first impression is the only impression that matters. Speed affects your visitor’s impression.

WooCommerce is a clunky plugin. It’s one of the slower loading plugins we’ve tested. It was designed under duress because of fast growth and constant change. That causes plugin code ballooning.

WooCommerce plugin became even more bloated after WordPress acquired the plugin. Adding plugin security features slowed it down, especially adding the password strength meter. Corporate lawyers saw a legal risk and liability. It’s addition protects WordPress – not you or your customer!

PagePipe does not have any affiliation to WooCommerce plugin or WordPress.com.
There are no affiliate links in this article.

Speeding up WooCommerce improves your customer’s online shopping transactions while reducing shopping cart abandonment.

Your host server is the most important thing for speeding up WooCommerce. But there are other speed tricks that help compensate for shared-hosting slowness. Yes. You can use WooCommerce on cheap hosting – and still, be fast. But it takes special handling. Here are 9 ways to improve WooCommerce speed.

9 Tips and Tests for
Speeding up WooCommerce websites:

1Remove global 500ms SSL-bloat.

Online payment systems such as PayPal requires SSL/HTTPS hosting to work. That slows down your site on every page and post. It’s not cache-able overhead. SSL is not about compliance with Google mandates, security, customer trust, or SEO fiddling. It’s necessary to get paid and deliver products. SSL is the equivalent of adding 500 discrete free plugins to your site. Think about that.

Our goal is achieving Google’s browser security shield on WooCommerce transaction pages only. Then all remaining pages and posts will load 400 to 500 milliseconds faster. This is most important for mobile e-commerce user experience. We aren’t concerned about hardening security.

SSL mythology created a faddish consumer and site owner panic. SSL is false safety. There are SSL workarounds for nefarious purposes by hackers. There’s no stopping a determined and deliberate hacker attack. Minimal SSL compliance is a marketing communication strategy. You only need SSL on pages with WooCommerce functions.

Our favorite alternative is splitting the site. PagePipe’s main domain is running with no SSL/HTTPS site drag. The store is on a different domain with free SSL/HTTPS activated. This is most beneficial if you’re doing content marketing. Keep those entry pages fast! Once visitors engage with fast-loading posts, they tolerate slower loads on store pages.

REFERENCE: https://pagepipe.com/httpsssl-and-its-negative-impact-on-mobile-speed/


2No selective deactivation possible.

The White Screen of Death (WSoD) or simply “White Death” refers to an error or issue with an operating system that causes the computer or device to stop working and display only a white screen.

WooCommerce plugin cannot be selectively deactivated. That will white screen the site. Selective deactivation of plugins is a beautiful speed strategy. We can’t use it with this plugin. Sadness.

Nor can any associated WooCommerce add-on plugin be selectively deactivated. It will break all e-commerce pages. For example, these plugins will break the shopping cart if any of them is deactivated anywhere:

  • Woo Discount Rules

  • Aero: Custom WooCommerce Checkout Pages

  • WooCommerce Square

  • WooCommerce – ShipStation Integration

REFERENCE: https://pagepipe.com/selective-plugin-deactivation/

The WC Speed Drain Repair plugin successfully dequeues 4 requests. But the measurable speed difference is negligible. In theory, it speeds up all other site pages that are NOT Woo related.

https://wordpress.org/plugins/wc-speed-drain-repair/


3Disabling AJAX cart fragments for speed.

AJAX JavaScript requests delay pages by 500 to 1000 milliseconds on all pages and posts. That’s a long wait. This is because it is not localized loading from your server. Ajax is called from a remote server. Normally, Ajax requests are made many times on an e-commerce page as the cart is updated or verified by repeated code interrogation. A watchdog for changes causes delays.

Ajax coded poorly can be worse than not using Ajax at all. We think WooCommerce needs to be modified to get rid of this inherent speed problem. So how do you do fix that? Keep reading.

The Disable Cart Fragments by Littlebizzy plugin closed in December 2018. It’s no longer available for download from the WordPress plugin directory. Reason: Author Request.

Why would the author remove a plugin from the directory? Our guess is it required too much service time. Yep. Pain in the butt to maintain and service. It needed explaining how selective activation worked. Most site owners couldn’t figure it out. The plugin then became a liability to the author. It was consuming his time with no payback. It’s a plugin tool for experts. In the hands of a novice, it’s a site killer. You can’t activate this plugin and walk away. It requires thinking.

The Disable Cart Fragments plugin is helpful to deactivate global Ajax loading. Selectively activate it on cart and checkout pages and any other WooCommerce-related pages. This requires expert usage of Plugin Logic plugin. This technique completely disables the AJAX cart fragments feature in WooCommerce. This boosts loading speed (redirect to cart page recommended). Plugin Logic is our secret speed enhancer.

Bootleg-copy plugin still available from PagePipe:
Disable-cart-fragments
14k download zip file

We’re supplying the “black market.” Use the plugin at your own risk. We use this plugin all the time. But if you don’t understand the plugin – or selective activation, avoid it. We don’t service this plugin.

AJAX cart fragments update shopping cart totals without refreshing the whole page.

This non-feature slows down WooCommerce stores. You can remove the feature with Disable Cart Fragments plugin. Remember to enable the “redirect to cart” option in WooCommerce settings.

The admin-ajax loading improved with recent versions of WooCommerce. Still ?wc-ajax=get_refreshed_fragments AJAX causes delays on most sites. Disabling shopping cart queries (i.e. # items in cart) helps.

ALERT: If you use this plugin, disable it on special WooCommerce pages or make sure you enable the “redirect to cart” option in WooCommerce’s settings. Then when a customer adds a product to their cart, they’re redirected to the cart page. Otherwise, they may get confused about why their chosen product isn’t added to the cart.


4Change WooCommerce minimum password strength for creating a user account.

We disable WooCommerce’s “password strength” settings for 2 reasons:

1. UX: User frustration increases Woo cart abandonment. The annoyance of creating secure-enough passwords is too difficult.

2. PERFORMANCE: Password-strength-meter adds 803k page weight and 776 milliseconds to page load time. That’s 3/4 of a second. Terrible.

WooCommerce added the “password strength meter” using Javascript. It adds almost 800k of page weight to the cart and checkout pages. While this is atrocious for mobile data, the worst part is that store owners saw increased abandonment of carts at checkout. People got frustrated trying to invent strong enough passwords. Bad user experience. Fewer sales.

Independent plugins were then created to dumb down the “password strength.” But nothing to remove or dequeue the Javascript completely. There is a way to remove it using a functions.php edit. The best way to add this code is with:

★ ★ ★ ★ ★
Code Snippets
Load Time: 20 milliseconds

Code Snippets is a way to run small pieces of PHP code on your site. It removes the need to add custom snippets to your theme’s functions.php file.

The snippets are kept in the plugin database. Thus independent of the theme and unaffected by WordPress upgrades.

THIS CODE DEFEATS WOOCOMMERCE PASSWORD STRENGTH METER:

<?php
// Add this PHP snippet to your themes functions.php
function wc_ninja_remove_password_strength() {
if ( wp_script_is( 'wc-password-strength-meter', 'enqueued' ) ) {
wp_dequeue_script( 'wc-password-strength-meter' );
}
}

add_action( 'wp_print_scripts', 'wc_ninja_remove_password_strength', 100 );

add_filter('woocommerce_ajax_get_endpoint', 'rsssl_redirect_ajax');

function rsssl_redirect_ajax($url){

$url = str_replace( 'http://', 'https://', $url );

return $url;
}

Code Snippets plugin dashboard example.

Disable strong passwords at your own discretion.

ALTERNATIVE WIMPIER PLUGINS

wc-password-strength-settings

password-strength-for-woocommerce

Password strength a nightmare.

“I started receiving emails from “would be’ customers saying they could not register using WooCommerce on my site.


On inspection, the password strength meter required people to create complex passwords. But it wasn’t giving users the details on what the requirements were:  1 uppercase, 1 lower case, 1 special character, etc. The passwords needed to be well over 10 characters.


New customers got frustrated and gave up trying to check out. I understand security is important – but the password strength is just ridiculous and drives customers a way.” – Testimonial

5Should I disable Auto Embed Script for WordPress if I’m using WooCommerce?

You shouldn’t disable it. We usually kill WordPress oEmbed on many sites. But with WooCommerce, disabling is a detriment. Not worth the grief.

REFERENCE: https://pagepipe.com/oembed-removal-for-mobile-wordpress-speed-fanatics/


6Caching problems to avoid.

Make sure you exclude these pages from the cache:

  • Cart

  • My Account

  • Checkout

These pages should remain dynamic. They display information specific to the current customer. Keep these pages as light as possible by avoiding unnecessary web assets.

Use selective plugin activation. Disable your caching plugin on the cart, my account, and checkout pages.


7Trust badges increase cart conversion rate.

Trust symbols matter.

Customers abandon your site during checkout if they don’t feel the information is secure. It’s easy to put them at ease by adding a few trust symbols throughout your site. This includes:

  • Clear contact information (phone and email) in the header and footer.

  • Extended contact information like a physical address on a “contact us” page.

  • SSL/security certificate badges.

  • Secure checkout badges, like PayPal and Authorize.net. These won’t slow down you site if you optimize them properly.

  • Authentic testimonials.

  • Logos for vendor partners and affiliates.

So what do trust symbols have to do with speed? Optimize those images. Keep them light. Use 8-bit PNG format whenever possible. Keep them small in dimensions and weight. Don’t use interactive badges with third-party counters. Don’t activate Font Awesome if you can avoid it.

REFERENCE: https://pagepipe.com/should-i-disable-font-awesome-and-google-fonts-for-improved-speed/


8Improve your Call to Action.

Make sure any “add to cart” or other call-to-action button is prominent. It should stand out from the page. Use a color scheme different from the content around it to create a strong contrast. We suggest a complementary color. This creates high perceived contrast to your most dominant theme color.

Use action verbs focusing on the user taking action.

For speed: Try to not use plugins that create buttons with shortcodes. Either make 8-bit PNG image buttons or other coding methods. This avoids extra page weight and requests.

OFFSITE REFERENCES:


9Relevant custom product photography.

For speed: Make photographs compressed JPEG images. Not PNG.

  • Avoid rotating header carousels. Time and time again, studies show that rotating carousels — especially self-launching ones — are conversion killers.

  • Display images consistently. While images themselves can be creative, displaying them consistently makes web pages predictable and therefore comfortable to users. The top of the page and the top right area of the page are always good spots for images.

REFERENCE: https://pagepipe.com/what-slider-is-the-fastest-loading/

REFERENCE: https://pagepipe.com/how-to-optimize-images-for-mobile-speed-with-imsanity-plugin/

Lazy load videos for 500 milliseconds per video improvement on a page.

Compress video with online or offline MP4 compressors.  Host your video on YouTube and use a lazy load plugin for speed.

REFERENCE: https://pagepipe.com/lazy-load-youtube-video-for-mobile-speed/

Anti-spam: Disable comments and get rid of Akismet, too.

Anti-spam
Myth: A plugin to protect your site from spam comments is vital. Prevents user registrations from bots.
The usual recomendation is Akismet (installed with WordPress).
We say: Disable comments with a plugin. And get rid of Akismet, too. They’re a waste of time.

Comments are a unique and tightly integrated feature of blogging. But the Internet has changed. It’s an uglier, more cruel environment.

Trolls are people who leave hateful or disrespectful comments for no apparent reason except for the attention that they receive.

Akismet is part of a cloud-based spam-filtering system. It checks your blog comments against the Akismet Web service to see if they look like spam or not. It’s THE number-one most popular plugin with over 52 million downloads (not installs). It’s preinstalled by default on every WordPress self-hosted option. Now you understand why it’s “popular.”

The plugin download weighs 57k zipped (182k decompressed). Small for a popular plugin – not the usual enormous size. Load time: about 8 milliseconds (tested with P3 plugin).

We don’t use Akismet anymore. Not because it might let spammers hack the site or may delete legitimate comments. Not because flagging comments as spam lets the spammers leave their garbage and the blog owner has to review each comment. Not because it’s a waste of time. Not because of false positives: Akismet has a reputation for flagging good comments as spam.

Not because all that Akismet junk uses up our bandwidth, disk space and clutters up our WordPress database with comment metadata.

We ax Akismet immediately because of two reasons: it’s not free and comments are stress producing.

Akismet is not free. Many plugins are free that do the same thing.

“Now Akismet spam catching technology is free for non-commercial personal blogs but if you maintain a corporate blog or run a network of blogs, you are required to buy a commercial license of Akismet that starts at $5 per month. Professional bloggers, or anyone who makes more than $500 per month in advertising revenue from a WordPress blog, is also required to pay $5 per month for the Akismet license.” – http://www.labnol.org/internet/blogging/how-wordpress-makes-money/7576/

If you make money selling anything and use Akismet – ads, books, downloads, services, or products, you owe $5 per month to Automattic as of March 2016.


Builtwith.com sells stats and a list of Aksimet users: “Get a list of 421,388 websites using Akismet which includes location information, hosting data, contact details, 108,071 currently live websites and 313,317 sites that used this technology previously.” There are 100k current users who pay – sounds possible. That’s $6 million dollars in repeat annual income. That’s realistic numbers.

Official prices: https://akismet.com/plans/

Plus version is $5 per month, per site. Claim: Spam protection for professional or commercial sites and blogs.

Premium versions is $9 per month, per site. Claim: The complete security solution that protects you from more than just spam.

WordPress has been pushing the Akismet plugin forever. Is it worth the price? No! There are better, free, alternative plugins. And you don’t end up on a mailing list.

AKISMET ALTERNATIVES: FREE PLUGINS

Despite its popularity, Akismet really doesn’t perform better than similar spam-prevention plugins. Here are Akismet alternatives that outperform Akismet in any benchmark:

Bad Behavior plugin
There have been some troubles with old versions of this plugin so make sure you install the latest for security reasons. Bad Behavior prevents spammers from ever delivering their junk, and in many cases, from ever reading your site in the first place. Spammers are shown an error message instead of your website. There is an error key in the error message that humans can use to gain access to your website should they be blocked accidentally. (60,000+ installs, 175k download size).

Antispam Bee
This is the most widely known and used alternative anti-spam plugin. Antispam Bee has many options and features and is also easy to use. It’s reported to be very fast and also offers a spam counter on the dashboard. (700,000+ installs, 84k download size). This the plugin we prefer.

AVH First Defense Against Spam
The AVH First Defense Against Spam plugin gives you the option to block the spammers by the Area Name or the I.P Address. This plugin checks for any spam activities using Spam databases such as Honeypot and StopForumSpam. (10,000+ installs, 138k download size).

Anti-spam plugin
Anti-spam plugin blocks spam in comments automatically, invisibly for users and for admins.

  • No captcha. Spam isn’t the visitors’ problem.
  • No moderation queues. Spam isn’t the administrators’ problem.
  • No settings page, forget about spam completely and keep the WordPress admin section clean.

Plugin is easy to use: just install it and it works. (100,000+ installs, 10k download size – tiny!). Plugin blocks spam only in comments section. Load time: about 2.5 milliseconds (tested with P3 plugin) Faster than Akismet.

Cookies for Comments
This plugin adds a stylesheet or image to your blog’s html source code. When a browser loads that stylesheet or image a cookie is dropped. If that user then leaves a comment the cookie is checked. If it doesn’t exist the comment is marked as spam. The plugin can also check how long it took a user to enter a comment. If it’s too fast it’s probably a spam bot. How fast can a legitimate user enter their name, email, web address and enter a well thought out comment? (30,000+ installs, 8k download size). Load time: about 0.8 milliseconds (tested with P3 plugin) Faster than all other plugins!

If you use wp-minify make sure you add the Cookies for Comments CSS file to the list of CSS files that shouldn’t be minified.

WP-SpamShield Anti-Spam
A WordPress anti-spam plugin that eliminates comment spam, trackback spam, contact form spam and registration spam. We’ve used this plugin. It can be overkill (too many features) for some simple sites. (100,000+ installs, 705k download size).

Growmap Anti Spambot Plugin (GASP)
Defeat automated spambots (even the new ‘learning’ bots with dynamically named hidden fields) by adding a client side generated checkbox. (50,000+ installs, 195k download size).

No Spam At All
No Spam At All prevents spam comments on your WordPress blog. The plugin filters out comments that are posted by robots. Go from 3,000 spam comments per day to zero spam comments per day. If you have bulk of pending spam comments, No Spam At All will help you manage the comments with just one click. (900+ installs, 78k download size).

THE BEST SPAM SOLUTION

Comments are making the Internet worse. So we got rid of them. We are free! Peace of mind.

Note: Christian, our favorite editor, thinks this is a lame solution/excuse. We love his remark, “It’s a lot like saying, ‘I’m worried about some fatal illness, so I’m going to kill myself before that can happen.’” Christian keeps us honest.

Decision based on science. Researchers have found that when readers are exposed to uncivil, negative comments at the end of articles, they trust the content of the pieces less. (Scientists dubbed this the nasty effect.) Negative comments accompanying an article caused readers to hold the article in lower esteem. In an increasingly competitive environment, websites can ill afford to have their content and brands tarnished this way.

Stop the harm caused by comments to readers, writers and site brand. Comments should be heavily moderated to promote civil, intelligent conversation; otherwise, they should be removed. If you don’t want to take the time to do it yourself, hire a virtual assistant to moderate your comments for you.

What you blog about will determine whether comments are useful or not. It’s not a one-size-fits-all thing.

Christian notes again: “Lots of people love reading negative blog comments.”

The Rising Trend of Turning Comments Off

The burden of moderation, spam, and the availability of other conversation “outposts” (like Facebook) are the main reasons for closing comments.

WordPress users are constantly on the hunt for better tools to help manage commenting and mitigate the unrelenting onslaught of spam. Publications turn comments off for different reasons, but it’s rarely due to the fact that they do not appreciate the comments left by genuine community members. Oftentimes, the burden of spam moderation becomes greater than the benefit of conversation on posts.

CONTENT MODERATION

The intensive resources required for fair and effective moderation, and the human toll moderation takes on the moderators, most are deciding it isn’t worth the trouble to leave comments on. Most bloggers would rather devote time and energy to working on stories and interacting with readers on social media or via email. Comments have too low of a return on investment any more (ROI).

You don’t have to deal with spam, vitriol, and people who wrongly assume your blog’s comments are a support forum.

We prefer “no comments” to a curated list of positive comments.

The solution for sites where interaction isn’t critical? Turn the comments off. Trolls, spambots, and a “fractious minority” detract from intelligent conversation and sharing. While there are provisions for turning off comments in WordPress, we like these plugins below and use them often when retrofitting old sites.

PLUGINS TO TURN OFF COMMENTS

No Page Comment
An admin interface to control the default comment and trackback settings on new posts, pages and custom post types. (30,000+ installs, 23k download size).

★ ★ ★ ★ ★
Disable Comments

Load Time: 60 milliseconds

Disable Comments
This plugin allows administrators to globally disable comments on any post type (posts, pages, attachments, etc.) so that these settings cannot be overridden for individual posts. It also removes all comment-related fields from edit and quick-edit screens. (900,000+ installs, 79k download size).

Comments Disable – AccessPress

Load Time: 40 milliseconds
Disable comments on site globally with just one click. Comments can be disabled according to post type. (4,000+ installs, 115k download size).

WP Disable Comments

Load Time: 0 milliseconds

This plugin allows administrators to disable comments, trackbacks and/or pingbacks on a site or a network. The goal of this plugin is to be as comprehensive as possible and at the same time provide the flexibility to just as much as you want to. (6,000+ installs, 100k download size).

SPECIAL TECHNICAL NOTE

If you remove the “Disable Comments” plugin, and you want to get comments back “on”:

1. Remove the Disable Comments plugin.

2. Change the default article settings under WordPress “Discussion” to “Allow people to post comments on new articles”

That makes it work on new posts. But …

Found this on a technical blog:

“The setting at Settings > Discussion only enables the *default* for *future* posts, it does not effect existing posts in any way.”

It can be done manually now one-by one. On new posts, it is automatically activated. Tedious.

THE SECRET: How to globally and retroactively activate comments on old posts.

The solution:

  1. Posts > All Posts
  2. Change default from 20 posts per page to 200 in the admin screen. Go to Screen Options in the top right corner and change the number of Posts Displayed per page.
  3. Select the posts to edit with “all” checkbox at top of list.
  4. Click on the Bulk Actions dropdown menu.
  5. Select Edit (same dropdown) and click Apply. No changes happen yet.
    In the Comments dropdown, select Allow. Then Update.
  6. Done after a wait.
  7. Reset default to 20 posts.
  8. Do random check of a post. Bingo. They are back. :)
  9. Clear all caches including CDN.
  10. Backup to preserve the new changes.
  11. Done.

Whew!

Speed up Google Analytics by 334 milliseconds.

Google Analytic code causes your site to fail two speed tests. And the test criteria are invented by the web-demigod Google. Yes. Contradictions in their very own self-acclaimed PageSpeed test:

  1. How do you leverage browser cache when Google’s very own Analytics.js has it’s expiry time set to 2 hours?

  2. How do you minimize DNS requests when Google advises you to copy their tracking code, linking to an external-hosted Javascript file?

Google Analytics usually adds three HTTP requests. And anywhere from 100 milliseconds to 500 milliseconds load time. It can be slower during peak hours. We’ve seen up to one second. But that’s uncommon. Speed varies in different parts of the globe. That means certain hours are better and some are worse for waiting.

Google Analytics is a freemium web analytics service offered by Google that tracks and reports website traffic. … Google Analytics is now the most widely used web analytics service on the Internet. – Wikipedia

There were times when we built 50k to 70k home pages for speed. Page weight today averages 2 to 3M. We coded lightweight sites by hand in HTML and CSS. Today most site owners use CMS like WordPress to build websites.

Back then, adding Google Analytics added about 31k to the page weight. This, of course, was a horrific detriment to good speed. Today, Google serves a Gzip-compressed version weighing 13k. Much better page weight.

In 2010, Google introduced a third-generation asynchronous tracking code. This helped speed immensely – and in time for the Internet mobile revolution. But, does that mean Google Analytics code has no impact on speed? Or is it significant? It depends.

“… the performance of your pages won’t be impacted, with the possible exception of the very first page-load after you have added the tracking code. This first pageview calls the JavaScript on Google’s servers, which may take slightly longer than a regular page load. Subsequent pageviews will use cached data and will not be affected.” – Google’s Official Statement

Google Analytics requires inserting Javascript code into pages and posts on your site. While you can alter your header.php file by hand, the code will disappear when you update your theme. This can catch you by surprise.

The more modern alternative is using the Goggle API ID number and copying that into a plugin. This protects your Google Analytics code from being overwritten by updates. A safer approach.

★★★★
Super Simple Google Analytics

Load Time: 30 milliseconds

Active installs: Fewer than 10,000
Zip file size: 31k

But not all Google Analytics plugins are equal. Some cause server overhead that slows down your site indirectly. The page drag from these database-intensive plugins aren’t worth it.

If you need to look at Google Analytics statistics every single day or more than once per week, ask yourself: Why? What is so important about seeing the numbers and metrics so often? Are you obsessed? Spend time writing relevant content. Bring more qualified visitors to your site.

Header or Footer? Small decisions.

There’s a silly debate whether to place Google tracking code in the WordPress header or footer. Those obsessed with statistics say, “Put it in the header.” Those obsessed with speed say, “Place it in the footer.” Even Google’s different departments can’t agree where’s the best placement.

It’s reported pages load 100 milliseconds faster with the Google Analytics code in the footer.

Reference: websiteoptimization.com

Since we bleed speed, we say, “Load it in the footer.” This may eliminate PageSpeed render-blocking Javascript and above-the-fold content errors, too. A small bonus.

Placing the code higher in the page theoretically decreases bounce rate. It’s claimed to reduce data inaccuracies as much as 5 percent – in some tests by Google Analytics-certified partners. Certified by who? Google partners! No conflict of interest there.

“If Google Analytics tracking code doesn’t load before a visitor leaves or clicks away from the page, the page data won’t show up in Google Analytics.”

Oh, dear. Statistical tragedy.

Pages load so snappy we don’t think users can determine content value that fast. And then navigate to the browser back button. Yes – that would technically be a bounce. But the idea of putting tracking at the top seems a moot point. By putting it at the bottom, you’re effectively lazy loading the tracking code. Lazy loading anything that delays page rendering is a good idea for speed. The slight chance of losing a minutia of visitor data is more than offset in the gain in display speed.

Google Analytics uses Javascript in the tracking code. It also requests a transparent GIF image. This is a 35-byte, 1×1-pixel, transparent image file. It’s referred to as a tracking beacon. And a cookie is also placed on the visitor’s browser cache. Then Google Analytics knows when the visitor returns and becomes a statistical “repeat visitor.” But, what happens if people have cookies turned off? We know it isn’t counted. Surely it messes things up for Google.

Note: Piwik is an open-source (free and fully customizable) analytics tool that doesn’t use cookies. No problem  tracking people who turn off cookies.

Isn’t the Google Analytics code cached in the browser?

If your Google Analytics code is slowing down your site by more than 1 second, something is wrong. You need to investigate how you’re managing things. On slow-loading pages, a browser status message may say “Waiting for google-analytics.com”. If this happens you’re running an ancient version of Google Analytics tracking code. Time to upgrade.

Which version of the code? OK. We’re being cynical. Maybe it is. Maybe it isn’t. It doesn’t make a difference if it’s cached by the browser. For some reason, Google Analytics interrogates the Google remote server anyway. What’s it looking for? That new version you don’t have cached? Or just reporting in for Google’s own nefarious snoopy purposes? We’ll never know. From what we’ve seen in tests: The ga.js communicates with Google servers even when ga.js is cached. At least once. Perhaps always.

Now, some *premium* hosts provide server caching. This can benefit Google Analytics code load time. But not always. The best improvement we’ve seen is a 50-millisecond load time. That’s about 6-times faster than normal shared hosting. Is it worth paying extra for that 50 milliseconds? Well, you will pay 10 times more for the hosting. So don’t signup for Google Analytics sake!

Some reports say the Google Analytics files are marked as “no-cache.” Others say they’re cached for 24 hours. The latest news is only 2 hours. We agree – it’s 2-hours from tests we’ve run. That is too short for any value to your return visitors. And online speed tests show that shortness is a failure. The majority of users are first time visitors. At the first visit, Google Analytics code loads at least once. It may not loaded after that (cached). But it’s part of the “first impression speed” for mobile users. It’s not uncommon for first-time visitors being 80 percent of traffic.

“… you can reduce your external HTTP requests to Google from 2 down to 1 and you now have full control over the caching of the file. This means you can utilize your own server’s cache headers.

You have also probably seen the leverage browser caching warning in Google PageSpeed Insights that comes from Google Analytics. This is kind of ironic seeing as this is Google’s own script. The issue is that they set a low 2 hour cache time on their asset … They most likely do this because if for some reason they were to modify something on their end, they want all users to get the changes as fast as possible. However there is a way to get around this, and that is by hosting Google Analytics script on your own server.”

Quote from: kinsta.com

How much time will Google Analytics cost mobile users in delays? Let’s compare other common WordPress components: The Google Analytics code delay is as long as loading Javascript. It can be more than loading Google Fonts. It’s like loading Font Awesome. Even emojis are in the same class of deadwood. Do we strip those WordPress non-features? Yes! Whenever possible. So not adding Google Analytics for us is a serious consideration. Even with normal 100 to 200 milliseconds load times. On a 1-second mobile site, that’s a 10- to 20-percent delay for a first-time visitor.

AN ALTERNATIVE: HOST LOCALLY

Google’s advice is to avoid local hosting of the JavaScript file. Why? They claim it ensures you get access to new features and product updates. But that is a suspicious, self-serving dodge. We suspect they’re being sneaky again – and gathering data for their own purposes.

To avoid the extra overhead of off-server resources (DNS lookup and Time to First Byte), you can localize your JavaScripts on your server. This is 13 percent faster than a trip to Google’s remote server.

Speed up sites with two simple changes: 1) Move your analytics code to the bottom, and 2) localize the JavaScript file.

Coding Jargon: Host the ga.js and __utm.gif file locally and execute the _setLocalServerMode() method.

Wow! That sounds complicated. But there’s a free plugin that does all this magic for you. Now, you can optimize Google Analytics. We’re using this plugin on PagePipe and other sites.

★ ★ ★ ★ ★
Complete Analytics Optimization Suite (CAOS)
Load Time: 20 milliseconds

Note: When you do the CAOS method, your pages will fail various, odd online tests – not speed tests. The Google Analytics code won’t appear where the test *expects*. Your site’s OK. It’s the test that’s broken. Everything will appear normal in the Google Analytics dashboard and controls.

This plugin inserts the Analytics tracking code into the header or footer (you choose). It saves the analytics.js file locally. It then keeps it updated daily using scheduled automation.

Whenever you test speed on Google Pagespeed Insights or Pingdom, they’ll tell you to leverage browser cache. That’s because Google set the cache expiry time to 2 hours, it always fails the test. This plugin will get you a higher score on PageSpeed and Pingdom and make your website load faster. (Scores are nice – but saving milliseconds of load time is what really counts). No more roundtrip to download the file from Google’s external server.

Will the CAOS plugin make your website go from a 10-second load to a 1-second load? In Disneyland! Get real. It’s a small speed boost – but it’s worth it.

The Complete Analytics Optimization Suite for WordPress gives you the best of both worlds. This way you can minimize DNS requests, leverage browser cache, track your visitors – and still follow Google’s recommendation to use the latest features and product updates. If you’re using a CDN, you’ll need to use CDN Enabler plugin to host your Analytics-script (local-ga.js) from your CDN.

UPDATE: Let’s take a closer look at a real-world site, PagePipe! Below is a waterfall from WebPagetest.org:

With the CAOS plugin activated – the tracking occupies the space of 1.3 seconds to 1.7 seconds. (The site’s favicon also lazy loads. This happens when placed in the root of your host server – but that’s another topic). A little math and we see that it’s a 500-millisecond delay for Google Analytics to respond. Without Google Analytics, the site would theoretically load in 1.2 seconds. Let’s turn off Google Analytics and the CAOS plugin for a moment. What’s the real difference in seconds?

The page now loads in under 1.1 seconds. We can ignore that lazy-loaded favicon. So Google Analytics adds a repeatable 500 milliseconds to every page. That’s site drag! We’ve seen delays of over a second – but it isn’t repeatable. It’s random. Simply waiting in line.

So now we ask, “What is Google Analytics affect when using the Super Simple Google Analytics plugin?” Here’s the answer:

A 1.8 second load time is the result. Instead of 500 millisecond addition with CAOS plugin, it’s now a 700 milliseconds addition. 200 milliseconds more!

CAOS plugin saves 200 milliseconds. For mobile speed, that’s great. And optional loading in the footer is reported to save an additional 100 milliseconds. That’s 300 millisecond gain of total improvement.

The fastest loading Google Analytics: No Google Analytics at all.

Ask yourself, “Why am I installing Google Analytics?”

Now, some sites need Google Analytics more than others. For example, an ecommerce site. But a typical blog site usually not. And a vanity site, definitely doesn’t. Many site owners install Google Analytics code because everyone else does it. And then they never even look once at the metrics. Ever. All they did was slow things down – without any benefit.

Using too much data to make decisions is worse than having no data. Seeing that 35 people visited on Wednesday last week, do you care about that detail? Whoopee. The data provided by Google Analytics is massive and takes time to learn how to use. We drown ourselves in data and just sink deeper into the quagmire.

Google Analytics statistical data gathering is never 100% accurate. The data extracted is still subject to human evaluation, spam, and error of judgment. It’s like reading tea leaves, fortune cookies, or tarot cards. You *interpret* what your mind wants you to see.

There is no science to SEO (or even UX) since no one can prove the outcome was a direct result of the method. It’s professional guesswork based on experience and a moving target. Page One in Dallas does not ensure Page One in Seattle.

Data can twist your perception.

Because everyone else uses Google Analytics, should you jump off the cliff, too? Would you install a plugin because:

  • It’s very easy to use.
  • Everyone else uses it, so it must be the best.
  • It’s free. Who can argue with free?

Are these the right reasons for choosing an analytics tool?

What would your mother say about peer pressure?

It’s actually very difficult to get real insight. 25 to 33 percent of your traffic is non-human (bots). With Google Analytics, spam-bots get recorded as a real live visitor. Most ad-blockers and tracking blockers also block Google Analytics. Those things affect your numbers.

Google Analytics can be a time waster.

If we can’t define what “the best” or even “good enough” means, how can we say Google Analytics is the best solution?

Google Analytics is good for a baseline in projects. It helps ecommerce know what products customers searched for. And what they viewed when they got there. Most people don’t know how to read the data. Less than 1 percent of website owners know how to use Google Analytics. Let alone how to glean helpful information from all that data.

Google Analytics data won’t help you write better thought provoking content. Instead, it may twist your thinking to chasing the herd.

Most (major) web hosts give you the ability to read the server logs. There you get the basic traffic info you’d get with Google Analytics. And the best part is that it requires no script to load: it works on the server, not the client side. Those will show key performance indicators (such as bounce rate, page views, time on site).


“Yes – looking at analytics data over time is helpful. But do you really need to know if you had 100 or 200 visitors today? … Does any of that data actually do anything for you in the moment? Years of experience have taught me that it doesn’t.”

Author: Colin Newcomer

Time is better spent improving your website.

Our rule of thumb: Google Analytics adds at least 100 milliseconds to the first page view of your site. That page is most critical for mobile users. That can be 10 percent of wasted load time. Whenever possible, delete Google Analytics. Use either a plugin counter or Cpanel or server web statistics as a substitute.

We’re not against using Google Analytics if you need it. Read the data collected. Use it to make your site better. If you do that then keep Google Analytics on your site. If you’re never going to look at the data, speed up your site by removing this unneeded code from loading.

It’s claimed Google monitored bounce rate (via GA) affects SEO. We don’t believe it. We really don’t need more data. We get numbers from a plugin and server stats. They are fine and with no speed delays.

Cheap, shared GoDaddy magnetic hosting. No CDN.
WebPagetest.org worst-case scenario for load time – under 1 second. Cheap, shared GoDaddy magnetic hosting.

★★★★
WP Counter

Load Time: 20 milliseconds
Active installs: 2,000+

WP Counter is a lightweight, simple site visitor counter. See unique site visitor status in different date ranges. (Today, Yesterday, Current Week, Current Month). We’ve been using this plugin for months to see if it correlated with Google Analytics. Frankly, nothing correlates to Google Analytics exactly – but it was close enough.

Great article offsite about how browser ad blockers affect Google Analytics numbers. There’s a strong downward trend in the measurable proportion of visitors.

Another excellent offsite link: https://plausible.io/blog/remove-google-analytics


You can get free metrics from Cpanel on your host server. This doesn’t slow down your website. A good off-site article about how to do this: https://www.hostpapa.com/knowledgebase/view-website-statistics-cpanel/

Pingdom to San Francisco USA Speed test.
Comparison load times for this page you’re reading:

Super Simple Google Analytics plugin – header

Load time: 966 milliseconds.

CAOS plugin – footer

Load time: 776 milliseconds.

Metrics using C-panel (no GA-ID)

Load time: 632 milliseconds.

Speed savings: 334 milliseconds per page.

OFFSITE ARTICLE: Lightweight alternatives to Google Analytics


READER’S COMMENTS

I just wanted to drop in and tell you that I found this article extremely interesting and helpful.

I love Googling. I don’t love Google’s lack of respect for our privacy. And I hate Google Analytics (GA).

I find GA super confusing. Now, after reading your perspective on it, I realize that I was only trying to use it, because I was “supposed” to — and I probably don’t even need it.

You have saved me hours of further angst.

So thank you for taking the time to write this article. It was valuable to me.

— Janine @ Stitching in Colour


oEmbed removal for mobile WordPress speed fanatics.

There’s a small and innocuous request of JavaScript made by WordPress core. Most WordPress site owners are unaware it even exists. Since 2017, WordPress 2.9 and up support oEmbed industry-standard protocol. When you look at a waterfall diagram, this *call* shows up as wp-embed.min.js.

oEmbed was designed to avoid the need to copy and paste HTML code from sites hosting videos, images, text, and more. There are pointless additions to WordPress slowing it down – such as emojis. oEmbed, like emojis, by itself is pretty harmless. It’s the unexpected imported data  delays slowing down your page. Especially video or ‘embed a tweet’ for example.

Adding media is quick and easy with oEmbed. Too easy in our opinion. The content being brought in can include a lot of heavy baggage. This code baggage slows down pages. And example, YouTube includes a lot of ad and tracking data. This isn’t the fault of oEmbed. It’s the fault of the source Google – trying to make money.

WordPress doesn’t care if you use emoticons or embeds – or not. The scripts are loaded on every page regardless if emojis and oEmbeds are visible or absent. That’s global site drag. You can switch this junk off.

oEmbed takes care of all the technical aspects of embedding. It generates an additional request loading the wp-embed.min.js file. And this loads on every single page. While this file is only 1.7 KB, things like these add up over time. Is any optimization too small for mobile web performance?

To embed a video or another object into a post or page, place its URL – like a YouTube video – into the content area. Make sure the URL is on its own line and not hyperlinked (clickable when viewing the post). It will be automatically stylized and responsive. Keeping your site responsive isn’t a problem with oEmbed.

Another option is to wrap the URL in the embed Shortcode.

If WordPress fails to embed the URL, the post will contain a hyperlink to the URL.

WordPress will automatically turn the URL into a YouTube embed and provide a live preview in the visual editor. How much will that add? Usually a speed-killing 500k of extra page weight. A workaround is lazy loading the video.

If WordPress fails to embed the URL, the post will contain a hyperlink to the URL.

WordPress only embeds URLs matching an internal security-approved whitelist. The oEmbed format provides a way to take content from an approved site and then port into your WordPress site while maintaining the content’s graphical look and feel. This is done by simply copying the URL into your post. No need to for extra CSS styling.

You used to need a shortcodes to embed things like video. Shortcodes are codes telling WordPress what to do when it sees that code. These are also called code macros. They’re wrapped in square brackets and look like this:

[socialbuttons]

Once you remove a shortcode plugin, abandoned shortcodes becomes visible in body text. Not cool. There are simple plugins to remove unused shortcodes. Then they don’t show up in body text.

PLUGINS TO REMOVE ABANDONED SHORTCODES

PLUGINS TO DISABLE EMBEDS

  • Disable Embeds 3.5k
    Our recommendation: The free plugin Disable Embeds is super lightweight, only 3 kilobytes. It has over 10,000 active installs (22 percent retention rate). There is nothing to configure, simply install, activate, and the additional JavaScript file will be gone. Features the following:
  • Prevents others from embedding your site.
  • Prevents you from embedding other non-whitelisted sites.
  • Disables the JavaScript file from loading on your WordPress site. You can still embed things from YouTube and Twitter using their embed iframe scripts.

We have disabled embed functionality on PagePipe. We use selective activation to enable it only on pages where we want it.

★ ★ ★ ★ ★
Disable Embeds

Load Time: 110 milliseconds

To embed a video or another object into a post or page, place its URL into the content area. Make sure the URL is on its own line and not hyperlinked (clickable when viewing the post). WordPress will automatically turn the URL into a YouTube embed and provide a live preview in the visual editor.

Does this work with any URL? No, not by default. WordPress will only embed URLs matching an internal whitelist. This is for security purposes.

Here are examples of whitelisted sites:
Service Embed Type Since
Animoto Videos, WordPress 4.0
Blip Videos, WordPress 2.9
Cloudup Videos, Galleries, Images, WordPress 4.4
CollegeHumor Videos, WordPress 4.0
DailyMotion Video,s WordPress 2.9
Facebook post, activity, photo, video, media, question, note, WordPress 4.7
Flickr Videos & Images, WordPress 2.9
FunnyOrDie.com Videos, WordPress 3.0
Imgur Images, WordPress 3.9
Instagram Images, WordPress 3.5
Issuu Documents, WordPress 4.0
Kickstarter Projects, WordPress 4.2
Meetup.com Various, WordPress 3.9
Mixcloud Music, WordPress 4.0
Photobucket Images, WordPress 2.9
PollDaddy Polls & Surveys, WordPress 3.0
Reddit Posts & Comments, WordPress 4.4
ReverbNation Music, WordPress 4.4
Scribd Documents, WordPress 2.9
SlideShare Presentation slideshows, WordPress 3.5
SmugMug Various, WordPress 3.0
SoundCloud Music, WordPress 3.5
Speaker Deck Presentation slideshows, WordPress 4.4
Spotify Music, WordPress 3.6
TED Videos, WordPress 4.0
Tumblr Various, WordPress 4.2
Twitter Tweet, profile, list, collection, likes, Moment, WordPress 3.4
VideoPress Videos, WordPress 4.4
Vimeo Videos, WordPress 2.9
Vine Videos, WordPress 4.1
WordPress plugin directory Plugins, WordPress 4.4
WordPress.tv Videos, WordPress 2.9
YouTube Videos, WordPress 2.9

Embedding media into your site looks as though you did style it to fit into your theme. Plus, no matter what kind of media you add, it consistently looks great even on mobile screens.

You won’t have to worry whether your content can remain responsive since oEmbed already has its bases covered. And changing your color scheme is also not a problem.

Media is displayed dynamically so your visitors can interact with them. If you display a magazine from Issuu, for example, a user can click to turn the pages as you would a book and select a larger view.

The only two requirements are that the URL be placed on its own line and it’s not hyperlinked.

Once you have pasted the URL of the media you want to embed into the visual editor, it appears after it’s processed and displays exactly how it should appear after you publish your post or page.

There’s also another way you can use oEmbed and that’s with a simple shortcode. Media is displayed the same way, but you can add simple styling options.

For example, you could adjust the width and height just as you would with an iFrame. The biggest difference is the link is included between the tags, not inside them.

It works the same as most other shortcodes so it’s easy enough to use. The oEmbed shortcode does have a closing tag so don’t forget to include it when you’re embedding media to your site.

Here’s an example of the structure you would use, and in this case, a YouTube video is being embedded:
[x embed width=”560″ height=”315″]https://youtu.be/WQE2nCaihNQ[/embed x] (remove x’s)

Achieving oEmbed with Plugins

Embedly plugin

Load Time: 140 milliseconds

Embedly extends the providers that are available to you by default to over 300 different sites including Google Maps, Dribbble, Skitch and deviantART to name only a few. This is also the plugin you may want to use if you prefer not to touch any code, but want to add more oEmbed providers to your site.

It installs as easily as most other plugins and you can even customize the styling if you want. To use it, you just need to add a URL to your posts and pages just as you normally would.

Add External Media plugin

Load Time: 20 milliseconds

This plugin adds the files you want to embed into your site’s media library to use as if you were the one who uploaded them to your site, but you still get all the regular space-saving benefits you would with regular oEmbed. Plus, it installs like most other plugins so you can get started quickly.

Don’t slow down your site with a broken link checker plugin.

You’ve read it a thousand times.
“Broken Link Checker is the best broken link checker plugin for WordPress.”

Not any more.

Who recommends Broken Link Checker plugin? Why many WordPress blogs do. The popular plugin seems great since with over 700,000 active installations. It does schedule monitoring and testing of all internal and external links on your site. It’s sniffing out broken links. Sometimes, around the clock checking.

This plugin monitors links in your posts, pages, and comments – and detects links that don’t work. If it finds any broken links. Then it notifies you from your WordPress administrator dashboard – and by email. It sounds pretty cool. But, it’s a round-the-clock vigilant sentry. Hyper-vigilant. It’s looking for unreal or inconsequential exaggerated dangers.

And dang, it’s a heavy plugin. The download zip file weighs a massive 1.0 megabytes. That’s an indicator it’s a multipurpose plugin. We don’t like those kind for speed.

Broken Link Checker is often blacklisted on managed WordPress hosting. Why? It works continuously in the background round the clock. Monotonous hitting on the server with repeated database requests. This causes high server resource usage – and overload. The server then slows down and the load time of your pages slow to a crawl. On shared hosting, it slows down everyone else site, too.

Broken links create a bad user experience. Annoyance with delays and disappointment the content is missing. It’s sloppy and diminishes your site credibility. Your site feels abandoned or stale.

So Broken Link Checker is banned on hosts like Presidium, WP Engine, and GoDaddy. They immediately remove or disable the plugin without your permission. Forbidden plugin.

OFFSITE REFERENCE: https://servebolt.com/articles/these-plugins-slow-down-your-wordpress/

The goal of a broken link checker is preventing “404 Page not found” browser errors. A broken link, also known as a dead link, is a link on a web page that no longer exists anymore. Avoiding 404 redirects helps speed up your site. The browser is waiting or hunting for a connection to a non-existent web asset. There are several reasons broken links happen:

  • The external website is offline.
  • Your link is to an old deleted or moved page of a site.
  • Your visitor didn’t type the site URL right.
  • The website’s permalink structure changed.

So what’s a better solution for speed?

First, you don’t need to leave the plugin “on” all the time. Only activate it when doing testing. But most people forget and “leave the lights on.” That wastes resources. What would your Dad say?

But an even better idea is using a lightweight plugin introduced in 2020.

★ ★ ★ ★ ★
Link Finder

18.6k gzip download file
Load Time: 380 milliseconds

Compare the file sizes of Broken link Checker 1 megabytes to Link Finder 18.6 kilobytes. Hmm? Which one will be faster? The tiny one or the big fat one? Go ahead. Guess.

Link Finder plugin helps you speed up your website by avoiding redirects. That in theory improves your search engine ranking. SEO benefits are nothing compared to annoying visitors to death. Link Finder is an understandable and lightweight plugin. It helps you find and repair broken links throughout your website.

To not affect the speed of your website, Link Finder does not perform active monitoring. Use it as a regular manual tool to check for broken links. Or after changing permalinks or moving your website to a different domain.

LINK AFTERMATH

Have we tried Link Finder on PagePipe’s 2,000 links? Yes. Twice. We had fixes the first time. But our second experience was a disaster. Our guess is since the link database was so clean, the plugin took off processing like a rocket. We triggered a server resource overrun on GoDaddy servers. And taken offline temporarily. Not cool.

Oops! Shutdown.

Then the site locked up. In the end, the fix to view and edit our blog again was resetting our office router cache. (That’s right – unplug it for 10 seconds). And clear the browser cache. Somehow our IP address became a suspected attacker because of the flurry of activity. Very puzzling. But we know what to do next time.

How to fix Twenty Twenty default theme’s font speed problem.

What you should know about the Twenty Twenty theme – and potential mobile speed problems.

We tested the Twenty Twenty default theme. We strip the theme and WordPress core, using our usual plugins. We describe that process in this video about the Twenty-nineteen theme:

REFERENCE: https://pagepipe.com/under-1-second-page-speed-with-twenty-nineteen-theme-and-heavy-video/

Default Twenty Twenty theme demo.

There is one gotcha we’ve never seen before. Read on.

In the Twenty-nineteen theme, the developers were kind enough to use a mobile system font stack. Great for speed. It’s a 385k zip file download.

But in Twenty Twenty, there’s a font in the stack called “Inter.” It’s a variable font. This isn’t an accepted technology yet. There are known issues with variable fonts in Chrome. In particular, on Microsoft Windows.

The request for “Inter Var” isn’t for a Google font. Inter font is a Google font now but still seeing the same troubles in speed waterfalls. Plugins can’t remove it. Nor is it a system font. We’re not sure why they used it except they thought it was cool. It’s a speed liability. To remove it, you have to add custom code to the customizer:

h1, h2, h3, h4, h5, h6, p {
font-family: -apple-system, BlinkMacSystemFont, "Helvetica Neue", Helvetica, sans-serif;
}
body {
font-family: -apple-system, BlinkMacSystemFont, "Helvetica Neue", Helvetica, sans;
}

But even that custom CSS fails. To remove the 800-millisecond delay caused by this font, we deleted the code from the theme style.css file. Even if you use !important to force it.

BEFORE removal of Inter Var


AFTER removal of Inter Var font. 800-milliseconds faster load time.

We don’t appreciate being experimental guinea pigs for faddish slow font features like variable fonts.

After stripping the theme and core, load times on shared hosting are about a half-second. There are only 5 requests per page.

Adding Autoptimize plugin creates no gain in reducing the number of calls. jQuery is not activated by the theme. That’s a nice speed bonus.

Twenty Twenty theme is a 638k zip file download.

★ ★ ★ ★ ★
Twentig

Load Time: 140 milliseconds

We’re happy to report a plugin called Twentig is now available in the WordPress plugin directory for free. The plugin allows you to remove the Inter font eliminating the over 500-millisecond slowdown on all pages and posts. The lightweight plugin download folder weighs only 36k. Site drag is under 1 millisecond. Beautiful for speed. That stinking font is finally GONE! Fast system fonts instead.

Customizer > Twentig Theme Options > Fonts > Body Font > Select UI System Font

Here’s another great plugin to remove the dead-weight font:

https://wordpress.org/plugins/options-for-twenty-twenty/

What about the Chaplin theme?

Twenty Twenty is based on Chaplin, a theme with high flexibility and support for extreme customization.

Chaplin has a zip package download size of 1.2MB. Our cutoff for evaluation is 1 megabyte. It smells sort of interesting. The biggest heavy boat anchor is including Font Awesome. That’s bad for speed. If they left that out, the theme has real speed possibilities. Test results:

Pingdom SF: 118k, 526ms, and 10 requests.

Demo page: Chaplin theme.

That is with loading Merriweather – the theme default Google font. But you can change the font to Arial in the Customizer. Or leave the two font fields blank and then a mobile font stack is used. That’s the best choice. It should be the default. And the theme loads jQuery globally. Not a good choice either. But livable since many plugins activate jQuery, also.

Activating Autoptimize plugin took the Chaplin theme test results down to:

71k, 461ms, and 7 requests.

We observe that Font Awesome is not enqueued by default. But from experience – if it’s used even once – it globally loads at least 75k on every page. So avoid that trap.

Of the two themes, we prefer Twenty Twenty with Inter font defeated in CSS for speed.

But Chaplin has beautiful Customizer features like:

  • disabling comments
  • default related posts
  • deactivating author and date metas (for evergreen content).

Very nice and tempting.

We like what we see in Chaplin. We’re impressed. It’s an underrated theme. Lots of nice features eliminate extra plugins reducing the speed overhead.


Addendum

I wanted to thank you for the article you wrote about the new WP 2020 theme. It’s the only article I’ve found really talking about the speed issue with the Inter Var font.

I tried deleting the font settings on Line 253. However, I see multiple other instances where inter-var shows up in the code. (It seems like deleting line 253 may have interfered with some automatic color-adjustment when using a color background.) Is there a straightforward way to removing the Inter Var font? Thanks again!  PS- The Woo Storefront theme (which was very customizable and still highly limited) was much faster than 2020. My dad even said “huh, your site is noticeably slower on mobile” and he’s not a tech guy at all. —Travis Burch

To remove it, we used the WordPress Theme Editor. (Appearance > Edit Theme > style.css).

We tried using the Customizer to change the CSS. It didn’t work for us. We don’t know why. That’s abnormal. Everywhere font-family: “Inter var” exists has to be manually removed.

When the theme updates that junk returns to the code. Annoying. There are ways to prevent updates with a plugin. That would be a clunky workaround.

For this reason, we now think Twenty-twenty theme sucks for speed. But were still experimenting.
OFFSITE LINK: https://www.machmetrics.com/speed-blog/average-page-load-times-for-2020/

How to remove query strings from static resources with a WordPress plugin.

WordPress by default adds query strings – “?” or “&” – to the static CSS and Javascript resources files used in your site. Gtmetrix, Pingdom, or Google’s PageSpeed Insights online speed tests urge removing these.

But, WebPagetest.org doesn’t. Why? Maybe WPT.org feels like we do: Better scores aren’t equal to speed changes.

Removing Query Strings makes a significant improvement in page speed. That’s the claim anyway. We’ve never seen “significant” speed improvement. That word “significant” gets used a lot with speed test braggadocio. The word should shoot up a suspicious red flag. The removal-suggestion always changes your speed test score. Big deal. Scores aren’t the same as load time gains.

A lot of speed technical stuff is hot air. Nerds puffing their chests out to prove who’s the biggest and best nerd. Removing query strings is one of those technical things that doesn’t make much difference in the world. But speed tests insist it’s important for a good score.

Usually “query strings removal” improves load times by milliseconds – and not seconds.

IMO it is recommended to ignore 50% of the Google PageSpeed recommendations, this is one of them:

‘Resources with a “?” in the URL are not cached by some proxy caching servers. Remove the query string and encode the parameters into the URL for the following resources…’

… the chances of any page of any small or medium site being cached – and reused from the cache is minimal. … removing static resources is not worth the zero speed improvement your site will gain. Author – Mark Kaplun

So, what the heck are Query Strings?

Query strings are the URLs containing special characters such as “&” and “?”. Scripts and stylesheets often contain a modified URL to identify versions.

Query strings can help track users like HTTP cookies. Query strings are often used in association with web beacons. Google Analytics uses web beacons (a 1-pixel, square, transparent, GIF image). A web beacon is an object embedded in a web page or email. It allows checking that a user accessed the content.

What’s cache busting?

Speed improvements do not improve SEO. They improve UX. Google doesn’t use PageSpeed test scores in it’s ranking algorithm. They use TTFB (time to first byte). TTFB is host-server access-time – a speed overhead measured in milliseconds.

Browsers store a cached static file until an expiration date. The file version in your visitors’ browser may prevent seeing new changes.

Cache busting solves the problem with a unique file version identifier. This tells the browser a new file version is available. Then the browser doesn’t retrieve the old file from cache. Instead, it makes a request to the original server for the new file.

The query string is a method for plugins and themes to pass version details about new updates. This trick is a plugin author’s workaround or “cheat.” It’s not best-practice. And may have a theoretical impact on website loading speed. Removing the query string from the file name “fixes” this without harm. But in reality, it only improves your speed score – and not the milliseconds of extra load time we yearn for.

You can remove query strings from files – without touching a single line of code.

Below, is a free, lightweight plugins that’ll do the job for you.
This plugins need no configuration. It’s plug and play. Install and you’re good to go. Make sure to clear your cache after installing to see changes. You can download the plugin from the WordPress repository. Or by searching within your WordPress dashboard under “Add New” plugins.

This plugin searches all static files loaded from plugins or themes for “?” or “&”. Then removes them. This won’t damage website functionality. It helps your website get better page speed scores. It may even help make your site faster. But better speed is rare.

Our choice:

★ ★ ★ ★ ★
WP Remove Query Strings From Static Resources

Load Time: 10 milliseconds

These plugins are super lightweight and usually benign. You may see millisecond improvements. There’s no reason not to install one for speed.

The bottomline is: removing query strings does no harm – but the only benefit most likely is an improved test score – not speed. Of course, the question is, “Why do speed tests insist it be done?” It’s ivory tower idealism.

We consider it a vanity metric.

Contact Form 7 plugin slows down page speed for your entire website. Not just your contact page.

Many WordPress site owners cause damage when adding a popular contact-form plugin. Contact forms can hurt your load time. Not just on your contact page where the form appears – but on every single page of your site.

We love free stuff. Contact Form 7 is absolutely free. But we want the best free stuff money can’t buy. So we test a lot of free plugins. Before adding the popular Contact Form 7, our special test page had the following specifications:

BEFORE
Page size: 29.6k, requests: 5, load time: 543ms.

After installing and activating Contact Form 7, here’s what happened:

AFTER
Page size: 78.3k, requests: 10, load time: 768ms.

Wait! The page size more than doubled. The number of requests doubled. And speed slowed down by 40 percent. What happened?

OK. We admit this is a worst-case scenario. We’re using a test theme, Sobe, that doesn’t enqueue jQuery. For extreme speed, we often build WordPress sites without jQuery. PagePipe.com used to use Frank theme which doesn’t enqueue jQuery either.

But when you install Contact Form 7, it needs jQuery. That file combined with the needed Javascript and CSS to make the form work adds the 5 extra HTTP requests. Here’s the list of Gzip file sizes added:

  • contact-form-7/styles.css 944B
  • wp-includes/js/jquery/ 33.4k
  • wp-includes/js/jquery/ 4.3 k
  • jquery.form.min.js/contact-form-7/jquery.form-min.js 6.1k
  • plugins/contact-form-7/scripts.js 3.7k

That’s 48.4k total weight added site-wide to every single webpage. Even if we don’t have a form shortcode on any page or widget.

WordPress Form Mystery: Why does the silly form load everywhere – instead of only on the page with the shortcode like it should?

Contact Form 7 isn’t the only form plugin that loads its Javascript and CSS files on every page. This is not uncommon for most slider plugins, too. We call this global loading – or site drag. It’s a bad way to do things for speed. While it’s common, it’s not a universal practice. We’ve found sliders and forms that only load code on pages containing their shortcodes. How can you tell? Only by testing. There is nothing in the plugin documentation telling if this will happen. It’s a negative thing – so why would they publish it? Honesty perhaps?

You’d think those plugins that have better behavior would advertise speed benefits – but they don’t. Not yet anyway.

Do you suppose 200 millisecond per page global-site waste is insignificant? Do you care about page speed for mobile users? They know if you do. Page speed is web hospitality. Do you serve pages slowly? Then your site may be apathetic and rude.

If you get a lot of form Spam then additionally you must protect Contact Form 7 with an anti-spam plugin. Usually another popular plugin – Akismet. It can cost you money.

contact-form-7-icon

Contact Form 7 is the second most popular WordPress plugin of all time. It has hundreds of extensions or addons made by third-parties to enhance it’s features. Over 42,546,968 downloads. And presently, has 1+ million installs. Mid-2006 is when Takayuki Miyoshi (Japan) uploaded Contact Form 7 to the plugin repository. That makes it 10 years old – and still ticking.

So what can you do to speed things up? There are three things:

  1. Use a free plugin called Plugin Logic and activate your contact form only on your contact page. Just slow down that single page instead of all pages – especially protect your Home page speed. We use Plugin Logic all of the time now for speed improvements. We’ve an article written about this plugin: Selective activation of plugins for improved speed. >
  2. Use an alternative free plugin (see list below). Preferably a fast form that has Spam-protection built in (2-for-1 deal).
  3.  Don’t use a form. Use an email text link instead. Screaming-fast sites do just that simple solution. Especially for mobile users.

Below is a table of 60 free WordPress contact-form plugins with links.

Yes. Contact Form 7 is on the list. Contact Form 7 isn’t bad. We don’t hate it. But better alternatives exist for your site now. New contact form plugins appear and losers disappear on a regular basis. Our list is the “state of the moment.” Tomorrow it’ll be obsolete already because the 55,000+ plugin repository is growing between 20 to 25  percent per annum. Gads! How can we keep up with the changes?

Ranked plugins are in descending download package size (expressed in megabytes). Compressed package size is indicative of an author’s concern for optimization. That affects page speed. That’s our concern.

This ranking by package size is our crude rule of thumb used to cull plugins. It beats randomly loading and testing 60 separate plugins one at a time for hours. We start with the best speed candidates. Then work our way down the list until we find the first fast plugin that satisfies our needs. Is that safe? No. You still have to check what user forums say about a plugin’s reputation. And check with security vulnerability reporting plugins.

Small packages usually yield the fastest plugins. That doesn’t mean they’re any good. They still need torture testing.

Form builders usually are the plugin packages with the most bloat.

Plugin retention is the number of active installs divided by the number of all-time downloads. We call this the “satisfaction factor.” This number gives us an idea of how many plugins are actually kept and used after testing or temporary use. Small numbers show “fallout.” The higher the retention number the better it’s market acceptance and longevity. This is a more important benchmark than popularity or active installs.

Before you look at the table below, let’s talk about the TOP10 speed candidates – and winner. We installed and tested each of them with WordPress. It was boring work – but better we do it than you. Right? Besides we have an insatiable curiosity. We disqualified several immediately.

Group One: Instant fails.

We eliminated Powr Form Builder because it’s cloud-based (slow). And additionally charges for usage above 100 form emails per month. We don’t like that stuff.

We also axed SimpleModal Contact Form simply because it had a “clear” button. Including this button in a form is bad usability. It’s explained in the book, “Don’t Make Me Think.” Read it for free PDF download. Accidentally clearing a filled form with the wrong button is the ultimate user frustration. So clear buttons are page suicide.

Group Two: ReCAPTCHA slow downs.

reCAPTCHA establishes that a computer user is human. But you knew that.

recaptcha

  1. NM Contact Form plugin was the worst – adding 552 milliseconds. This is because of requesting Google’s free, cloud-based reCAPTCHA, a Spam-prevention utility.
  2. AntiRobot was the second-heaviest load time after installation. Adding 354 milliseconds to the baseline page speed for the same reason – reCAPTCHA loading killed it.

Group Three: Forms that enqueue jQuery.

jQuery is an oft-used Javascript library and usually adds between 30k and 70k extra page weight. Some WordPress sites already enqueue jQuery with sliders, top-of-page buttons, or other animation. Then, it’s no big deal to add these contact forms. But for extreme speed, we frequently use themes that don’t use jQuery.

Read more about jQuery and Speed >

These not-so-bad jQuery form plugins included:

  1. Just Ajax Contact Form with Captcha (204ms added).
  2. Quick Contact Form (229ms added).

Group Four: One fast form is a widget for footers and sidebars.

  1. CB Contact Form only adds 22 milliseconds. But isn’t a conventional form for contact pages. Still a winner in our book.

Group Five: The three fastest contact form plugins.

  1. Very Simple Contact Form
  2. Simple Basic Contact Form
  3. SEOS Contact Form

These three are first-place tied. Especially since testing can fluctuate by close numbers on our deliberately-chosen, shoddy host (GoDaddy). So we’ll use how the forms look to choose the best.

SEOS Contact Form

SEOS Contact Form Bonus! We could customize the button with our own words, “SEND IT!” easily in the plugin control panel. Stacking labels on top of fields is not good usability. It also occupies more vertical space. Includes Captcha-addition question.

287 milliseconds. SEOS Contact Form speed test – Pingdom.com


Simple Basic Contact Form

Simple Basic Contact Form – Nice! ‘Send Email” label on button. That works. Nice placement of labels by the left side. That’s the best usability from user testing. Includes Captcha-addition question for antispam.

289 milliseconds. Simple Basic Contact Form speed test – Pingdom.com


Very Simple Contact Form

Very Simple Contact Form – Oh, oh! They used the word “submit” on the SEND button. Submit is what slaves do. That’s coder-jargon. “Enter number” for antispam instead of addition confuses some users. We know this from our user testing.

262 milliseconds. Very Simple Contact Form speed test – Pingdom.com


Contact Form 7

Contact Form 7 benchmark.

294 milliseconds. Contact Form 7 speed test – Pingdom.com


Our recommendation for general use on extreme speed sites: Simple Basic Contact Form. No settings are required and it’s the fastest with 1 less HTTP request. But it’s a matter of what works for you and your audience, so test. The main thing is these three finalists don’t add global site drag like Contact Form 7 does.

★ ★ ★ ★ ★
Simple Basic Contact Form

Load Time: 90 milliseconds

*All forms require placing a shortcode on your contact page.

Here’s the list of 58 Contact Form plugins:

[table]

plugin name,Meg,installs,downloads,retention
,,,,
AntiRobot Contact Form ,0.005,300,”1,361″,22.04%
POWr Form Builder cloud ,0.01,”1,000″,”11,636″,8.59%
Very Simple Contact Form ,0.014,”10,000″,”108,838″,9.19%
Just Contact Form ,0.018,400,”2,214″,18.07%
Seos Contact Form ,0.02,”2,000″,”10,021″,20.0%
CB Contact Form ,0.024,300,”1,727″,17.37%
NM Contact Forms ,0.042,”2,000″,”19,612″,10.20%
SimpleModal Contact Form ,0.06,”4,000″,”149,963″,2.67%
Jazzy Forms ,0.065,”3,000″,”37,709″,7.96%
Simple Basic Contact Form ,0.088,”9,000″,”75,017″,12%
Slick Contact Forms ,0.104,”10,000″,”249,803″,4.00%
MN Contact Form ,0.11,”1,000″,”15,696″,6.37%
Quick Contact Form ,0.145,”10,000″,”83,180″,12.02%
Simple Contact Forms ,0.145,100,”1,441″,6.94%
DD Contact Form ,0.17,700,”6,872″,10.19%
HTML Contact Form ,0.189,”1,000″,”5,176″,19.32%
Contact Form With Captcha ,0.195,”9,000″,”78,096″,11.52%
PirateForms ,0.199,”100,000″,”631,213″,15.84%
Contact Form Email ,0.332,”40,000″,”507,682″,7.88%
FormBuilder ,0.332,”10,000″,”219,113″,4.56%
Contact Form Clean and Simple ,0.342,”50,000″,”355,254″,14.07%
Contact Form ,0.349,”20,000″,”57,572″,34.74%
Calculated Fields Form ,0.359,”20,000″,”362,809″,5.51%
PROPER Contact Form ,0.4,”4,000″,”31,179″,12.83%
123ContactForm for WordPress ,0.408,”4,000″,”38,032″,10.52%
Contact Form 7 ,0.467,”1,000,000″,”42,546,968″,2.35%
Contact Form With Shortcode ,0.51,700,”8,240″,8.50%
Visual Form Builder ,0.551,”100,000″,”854,831″,11.70%
Contact Form Pro ,0.552,”1,000″,”10,850″,9.22%
Ultimate Form Builder Lite ,0.65,”40,000″,”233,100″,17.16%
Responsive Contact Form ,0.67,”4,000″,”55,774″,7.17%
Nino contact form ,0.703,700,”2,516″,27.82%
Forms ,0.724,”20,000″,”102,122″,19.58%
Contact Form Builder by vCita ,0.85,”10,000″,”282,210″,3.54%
Contact Form by Supsystic ,0.872,”10,000″,”34,072″,29.35%
WPForms Lite ,0.951,”30,000″,”134,414″,22.32%
Perfect Easy & Powerful Contact Form ,1.2,”7,000″,”79,227″,8.84%
First Contact Form ,1.2,70,”1,800″,3.89%
Formidable Forms ,1.3,”300,000″,”1,478,785″,20.29%
Form Plugin ,1.3,”10,000″,”487,178″,2.05%
Contact Bank,1.5,”30,000″,”1,629,504″,1.84%
FormGet Contact Form ,1.6,”30,000″,”456,524″,6.57%
BigContact Contact Page ,1.7,”7,000″,”105,623″,6.63%
WCP Contact Form ,1.8,”10,000″,”81,774″,12.23%
Fast Secure Contact Form ,1.9,”400,000″,”6,545,459″,6.11%
Contact Forms by Cimatti ,1.9,”5,000″,”40,137″,12.46%
Smart Forms,1.9,”10,000″,”158,031″,6.33%
Contact Form Generator ,2,”9,000″,”63,132″,14.26%
Creative Contact Form ,2,”3,000″,”55,866″,5.37%
Custom Contact Forms ,2.1,”60,000″,”1,186,420″,5.06%
Form Generator,2.1,”1,000″,”12,938″,7.73%
WR ContactForm ,2.3,”5,000″,”39,359″,12.70%
Form Builder ,2.6,”80,000″,”706,898″,11.32%
NEX-Forms – Ultimate Form builder ,3.4,”8,000″,”48,251″,16.58%
Contact Form by BestWebSoft ,3.5,”200,000″,”3,823,211″,5.23%
Contact Form ,3.5,”70,000″,”530,041″,13.21%
Form ,3.7,”80,000″,”1,293,902″,6.18%
Ninja Forms ,5.5,”700,000″,”3,563,703″,19.64%
Cool Contact ,6.6,50,”1,797″,2.78%
,,,,

[/table]

Is there a speed plugin for fixing Pingdom “Leverage Browser Caching” errors?

We demonstrate a common but little understood speed problem usually labeled as Leverage Browser Caching. Various tests report this fault condition slowing down pages. But they don’t explain much about what it is and how to fix it. It’s pretty simple – and there’s a nice plugin solution.

There are various sites for testing page speed. Our favorite is WebPagetest.org. It’s a popular place so you usually have to wait in line – plus their test is pretty comprehensive adding more delay for results. Our go-to test for faster quick-and-dirty results is Pingdom.com – and after that GTmetrix.com

Here’s a screengrab of a Pingdom test for an optimized site:

test-1-far-futres

The test says there are two “failures” (big red Fs). Those are #1 Minimize request size and #2 Leverage browser caching. That seems like pretty harsh criticism for a page that loads in only 658 milliseconds on cheap, shared GoDaddy hosting. We soon discover the bad review isn’t really warranted. Let’s take a closer look by expanding the “accordion” performance insights:

examining-the-failures

We almost laugh out loud at the itemization of errors. First, there’s only one URL that doesn’t fit into a single packet causing the first error condition: Minimize request size. And that’s an HTTP request call to Google CDN for a webfont. Completely beyond our control and something Google should care about more than us. Let’s move on and just ignore that single call. But talk about harsh – an “F” (41).

Why speed test scores are bogus READ MORE here:
https://pagepipe.com/online-speed-test-scores-are-especially-useless-for-mobile-speed-improvement/

The second category, Leverage browser caching, says there are 6 errors. Five are image files and the last file is another Google font. Again, we have to ignore the errant Google font.

Note: A simple font solution would be killing (removing) Google fonts and use the native browser fonts in the CSS stack. We could do this with Remove Google Font References plugin. But we feel the fonts add to the page “style.” The pages are pretty fast already and load time is more important than getting a good Pingdom score.

So how do we get rid of this Leverage browser caching problem? They give us a hint with the instructions:

The following cacheable resources have a short freshness lifetime. Specify an expiration at least one week in the future.

What does that mean? They are talking about a web speed trick called far-futures expiration. It is a best-practice for speeding up your website by using Expires or a Cache-Control Header. This is server-side coding that is added in the .htaccess file that resides on your server. There are many tutorials on how to do this manually. But if you are inexperienced at editing these kinds of files via Cpanel or FTP, we have a simpler, automated plugin solution. Read on:

★★★★★
Far Future Expiry Header

Load Time: 10 milliseconds

This plugin appeared abandoned but it’s author returned and updated it recently. While this isn’t always necessary, it’s a good sign the plugin is “fresh.” We’ve used it for years.

This plugin will add a “far future expiration” date for various file types (like image files) 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. (More about Gzip >)

A first-time visitor to your page causes many HTTP requests, but by using the Expires header those components become cacheable. This avoids unnecessary HTTP requests on subsequent, repeat page views. The web server uses the Expires header in the HTTP response to tell  your visitor’s browser how long a component can be cached (stored).

The Expires response header gives a date when a page component becomes stale.

Using a far future Expires header affects page views only after a user has already visited your site. It has no effect for first-time visitors and the browser’s cache is empty. The impact of this performance improvement depends on how often users return. About half of your users or more could be return visitors.

Your server’s .htaccess file can be appended by using some simple plugin settings:

settings-far-futures

  1. Enable the Far Future Expiration Header plugin.
  2. Set the expiration to 365 days (yes, 1 year).
  3. Select all of the file types you are using.
  4. Select Gzip compression.
  5. Save.

The plugin doesn’t add page weight to your site. We call this a “weightless” plugin.

Will you see a speed improvement? It depends. If you didn’t have Gzip already activated on your server, you will see a big improvement. You’ll have a better Pingdom test result. Returning visitors will have a better user experience because images and other assets are already on the browser cache waiting. You’ve paid homage to a theoretical speed improvement. The effort to make it happen is minimal. So why not just do it? We do – always.

Leverage Browser Caching score is now an “A“. The only file that can’t be cached is the webfont from – ahem – thanks, Google.

The best lightweight plugin for deactivating XML-RPC to improve WordPress security.

We snoop on WPMU DEV often. Some may call this snooping industrial espionage. Maybe? It makes us feel 007ish. WPMU DEV is owned by Incsub, LLC. Who? Never heard of them. They’re one of our rival competitors. We’re small. They’re big. You’ll recognize their product names. More on those in a moment. They produce: “Your WordPress Toolkit.”

Incsub, LLC left off the word expensive. “Your Expensive WordPress Toolkit.” We duplicate their cool stuff with free plugins from the WordPress directory. Sadly, it makes them look greedy. It makes us smile.

Incsub, LLC are good at marketing and selling WordPress people premium plugins and themes. For the uninitiated, premium means paid. There are free alternatives they neglect telling you about. They don’t want us telling you about these plugin secrets either. That’s right. Free plugins exist duplicating their “premium” wizardry.

Incsub, LLC (aka WPMU DEV) have the art of producing customer fear down to a science. For example, you can take their WP-Checkup for free, once in a 24-hour period. (Sorry. Clearing browser cookies won’t get you a second shot. We tried). The checkup will frighten you. It frightened us anyway. OK. Not much.

Their claim:

Get a WordPress Checkup
Quick, Free & Easy
Get a professional performance, security and SEO scan

The goals is scaring the bejeezus out of you by convincing you your site is riddled full of holes and faults. The alarms encourage you to purchase their expensive membership as a solid solution. In this case, they include:

Hummingbird
performance
Make your site fly, save bandwidth and watch Google love you in return. (Put your wallet away and look at cost-saving FLY.ME Speed Knockoff first.)


Defender
security
Stay safe! Defender will harden, protect and scan your site daily.
(Once again, you can save dollars with POLICE.ME alternatives to save speed and money).


Smartcrawl
SEO
Boost your rankings with in-depth tech and some awesome tweaks. (Check out SEARCH.ME Speed Knockoffs before you buy Smart Crawl).

Their test produces a technospeak assessment about speed, security, and SEO. All regurgitated scary Google edicts from Google PageSpeed Insights. Most will not make any difference. But thinking you’ve violated Google’s code of conduct causes great fear in some less-web-savvy site owners. They have visions of blacklists or serious snubbing by search engines. Calm yourself. The Emperor has no clothes.

There are 10 performance parameters they test and report with a score of 100 being best and zero the worst. More in depth about the speed list here.

There are 25 SEO parameters tested and reported. Please don’t believe any of this SEO drivel and myths. What produces good SEO is relevant content and interesting titles. That’s it. All other details listed don’t move the needle for SEO. Complete waste of time and money. Write for humans – not machines.

Security assessment has 12 parameters. PagePipe had some errors reported we knew were false. For example: it said our user name was “admin.” It’s not. We’re using our POLICE.ME free security plugins. Good reports on everything.

But the test did draw our attention to a minor bugaboo we overlooked. It said a file named XML-RPC.php interface was available. So what? It’s part of WordPress core. We were curious about this and wanted to learn more. Was it bad? Was Defender plugin the only way to block this “security hole”? And how serious was the risk?

We discovered there was a legitimate concern to disable this file. Hackers can use it to gain access to your site. Could we do the repair for free? The answer is: yes.

We appreciate free, non-coding plugin solutions. But they shouldn’t add any page weight or load time to our website. We found a good plugin to add to our mix for security. It’s “Deactivate XML-RPC Service.” Why add it?

XML-RPC is used for remote posting/publishing and pingbacks. XML-RPC on WordPress is an API. If you disable the XML-RPC service, you lose the ability for applications to use this API to talk to WordPress. It’s used by phone Apps  interfacing with WordPress sites. It also presents an opportunity for malicious site attacks by hackers.

The code authors attest the programming of XML-RPC is as secure as the rest of the core files of WordPress. But some feel safer by disabling this file. If you don’t need it and it won’t slow down the site, why not disable it?

Have WordPress sites been compromised because of XML-RPC? Yes.

Disabling WordPress XML-RPC is a precautionary measure against brute force attacks. There are at least 14 Disable XML-RPC plugins in the WordPress plugin directory. That tells you something about community anxiety level. That’s a fair number of plugins. Many are pretty old (3 years) and some appear heavy. Not all work. We rejected three before we found one that really did the job.

Deactivate XML-RPC Service is the newest, freshest, and lightest (358 bytes is all and no HTTP requests or APIs). You install it and it’s a done deal. No settings.

★ ★ ★ ★ ★
Deactivate XML-RPC Service

Load Time: 50 milliseconds

Because Jetpack or remote mobile access need XML-RPC.php, then the only game in town is:

https://wordpress.org/plugins/stop-xmlrpc-attack/

Stop XML-RPC Attack is the heaviest package (usually meaning potentially slow). But it adds no weight or requests. And it works, too. We tested it – but aren’t using it. We don’t use Jetpack.

There’s a free online test of WordPress XML-RPC:

http://xmlrpc.eritreo.it/

You don’t want to pass the test. You want the test to say: “Failed to check your site because of the following error: 405 error XML-RPC services are disabled on this site.”

We’re adding Deactivate XML-RPC Service as a recommendation in the POLICE.ME Speeder Knockoffs.

One more security plugin trick to consider is WPS Hide Login plugin. It’s a very lightweight plugin. It really only has one, active, 15k file. Ironically, almost all of the talk on their forum is about XML-RPC vulnerabilities. Which we’ve previously addressed above.

WPS Hide Login has 100,000 installs. A lot of people like “Hide Login” and are keeping it. A better indicator of value than popularity.

If you use WPS Hide login you need to watch out if you do a migration. Probably best to disable the plugin before that occurs.

You could get locked out really easily if you forget your assigned URL. Proceed with caution.

Render-blocking JS is the most annoying and unresolvable error message

We don’t recommend using Google’s PageSpeed Insight tools for doing mobile website benchmarking – or even for desktop. We avoid this tool. We refer you to the following articles as to why:

Why the .@Google Mobile Test Tool Is Absolute Crap >
Why Trying to Get 95+ on Google PageSpeed Insights for Your WordPress Site Will Drive You Mad! >
The Truth about Google Pagespeed Insights >

Better tools for evaluation are pingdom.com and WebPagetest.org.
Note: WebPagetest is an open-source project owned by Google.

Deferring Javascript breaks WordPress.

Google’s Bogus Error Message for Mobile Anxiety

Should Fix:
Eliminate render-blocking JavaScript and CSS in above-the-fold content.

R
ender-blocking JS is the most annoying and unresolvable error message Google’s mobile test delivers. It pushes some perfectionists to the brink of frothing madness. We’ve decided it must be ignored completely if you use WordPress. Give yourself a break. It’s not you that’s bad. It’s Google.

“Everybody is talking about Render Blocking. Sounds like something Google planted so we’d spend more time learning code – instead of thinking of how to run a successful blog.”

When you’re using WordPress for website production, it’s an impossible situation. The most basic components of WordPress trigger the “render-blocking JS” error message. No other method of speed testing uses render-blocking JS as a parameter. It’s not worth reporting.

Many supposed solutions are created by plugin authors attempting to resolve this frustrating error message. We tested all of the 8 plugins below. They don’t all work as claimed. They are not “plug-and-play.” They don’t eliminate the “render-blocking” error message on PageSpeed Insights. Nor do they improve page load time in the least. Three plugins broke the page being tested. Those three are marked with a red asterisk.

These are not simple or easy plugins. In most cases, they are dangerous in the wrong, inexperienced hands. You can easily damage your site. We recommend you not use them. They are esoteric fluff. Their claims are presented below but don’t believe them without testing for confirmation on your site. We had no success. This is a warning.

This is one we actually used on a web project with success:

★ ★ ★ ★ ★
Async JavaScript

Load Time: 30 milliseconds

Async JavaScript plugin allows script control by adding ‘async’ or ‘defer’ attributes. Or to exclude a script to help increase site performance.

OTHERS WE LIST BUT DON’T RECOMMEND:

performance optimization order styles and javascript 5k
Description: Ordering StyleSheet and JavaScript (external and inline) for performance optimization. The plugin will also collect different inline scripts to one place.

wp deferred javascripts 14k
Description: Defer the loading of all JavaScripts added by the way of wp_enqueue_script(), using LABJS. The result is a significant optimization of loading time. It is compatible with all WordPress JavaScript functions (wp_localize_script(), js in header, in footer…) and works with all well coded plugins. If a plugin or a theme is not properly enqueuing scripts, your site may not work.

external files optimizer* 4.7k
Description: Automatically combine and compress css/js files generate with wp_head() and wp_footer()

head cleaner* 262k
Description: Cleaning tags from your WordPress header and footer. To speed up the loading of JavaScript and CSS. PHP5 required.

headjs loader* 15k
Description: Load your Javascript files via Head JS. Caution: this plugin can cause major issues with the javascript on your site if not implemented properly. Please be sure to test on a development server first.

wp asset clean up 34k
Description: Make your website load FASTER by preventing specific scripts (.JS) & styles (.CSS) from loading on pages/posts and home page. WP Asset Clean Up scans your page and detects all the assets that are loaded. When editing a page/post select the ones you DO NOT wish to load.


 

For superior mobile speed, don’t install any SEO plugin. Ever.

Yes. “Autodescription” is a worthy plugin. It’s benign. We’ve tested it. It’s good for speed. But we don’t advocate SEO plugins. Keep reading to find out why:

★★★★
Autodescription (aka The SEO Framework)

Load time: 0 milliseconds

Autodescription plugin doesn’t do grotesque slow downs like Yoast SEO (from 150 to 240 milliseconds site drag). All SEO plugins consume ever-growing database resources. The plugin authors don’t tell you about that hidden liability.

Do we think SEO tricks alter ranking or increase click thru? We’re unconvinced. It doesn’t move the needle. But site owners desire feeling in control of the uncontrollable page rank and clickthrough.

SEO is as therapeutic as knitting.

We also don’t believe speed affects page ranking more than 1 percent. Yet, we sell information about speed. Speed affects UX. Focusing on user experience and not gaming Google produces a better return on investment. Think about it.

Google used your handcrafted rich snippet?

Big deal. It’s simply not significant compared to a good product offer – or better and more written content that makes people drool. No one can prove  snippets make any difference. There is no quantifiable data or evidence. No expert certification or credible SEO degree. Except from Google, of course.

But if writing *rich* snippets makes you feel good. Do it.

Google chooses – and has the right to accept or reject – your manufactured rich snippet. When they feel it’s worthy or believable, they’ll keep it. But if they don’t, they’ll make their own concoction. You don’t *force* your snippet upon the world with a plugin. Our opinion is Google’s formula-built snippet is better. Why? They claim it’s based on user intent. They predict based on search history, where they just were, and what users hunt for. They use a smart algorithm.

Is that provable? Of course not.

Nothing Google claims or reports is provable with real metrics. They shamelessly imply or even promise site owners empowerment when there is none. It’s a reward (bribe), manipulation, or distraction. Compliance to their proprietary rules is mysterious behavior. Inexplicable. They really don’t want people knowing how they do things. Knowledge of the *real rules* allows site-owner cheating.

Is there “any harm” in writing custom snippets? Yes. Opportunity cost. That simple. It wastes your time. You’ve got bigger fish to fry. The SEO Emperor has no clothes.

MYTH: I’ve installed Yoast, so I’m all set

Sometimes, this statement makes me want to spit out my coffee and laugh; other times, it makes me sad that new bloggers can be so gullible and clueless.

Why?

Because this is an utterly ridiculous statement.

First, some newer bloggers mistakenly think that Yoast “gives them SEO.” And, of course, it doesn’t. In fact, there is no plugin that “gives you SEO.” There is no such thing. Rather the blog posts you write and the activities you do for a post will get you organic traffic. There is no silver bullet and no easy way around this.

Rather, Yoast attempts to measure your SEO. It uses some basic formulas that “check off” some of the boxes. Notice how I say “attempts.” This is because it’s very formulaic. And, also, it’s not very accurate nor predictive. In fact, often it gives you bad advice because it will direct you to do things that will lead to keyword stuffing (which is very bad for SEO) as well as poor writing, and that is bad for user experience. And, if it’s a bad user experience, it’s bad for SEO.

Many people mistakenly think that if they get a green light that their post is SEO optimized and will rank well. This simply isn’t true. Far from it. It’s all based on the keyword phrase that you enter. It does not tell you if that’s a highly searched term nor your chances of ranking for it. And, it’s simply garbage in/garbage out.

–Debbie Gartner

Will it upset us if you install a plugin and do “SEO”? Not at all. We have freedom of speech and religion – and SEO. Go for it.

Our recommendation: Ignore machines and write for humans instead.

If you do SEO and see some miracle happen, please let us know. We’re only right 51 percent of the time. We’re not perfect.

So prove us wrong. That’s the challenge. Document your traffic dramatically increasing in short order after changing SEO tactics using snippets.

We’d actually like to be wrong on this one.

The fastest jQuery is the one you never have to load.

Some WordPress themes load fast because they don’t activate jQuery JavaScript functions. External JavaScript calls temporarily block web page rendering. Google Chrome is working to remedy this by moving JavaScript. This future feature is like deferred, lazy-loading images that appear below the web-page fold. But that addition to browsers isn’t here yet.

One of the faster free themes we’ve experimented with and reviewed is Frank Theme. It uses the “Don’t use jQuery” speed strategy. The same goes for the Sobe theme. And also, more recently, GeneratePress v2.0.

JavaScript affects the critical rendering path.

Before a browser can make a page, it builds the HTML markup. If the browser encounters a CSS script or JavaScript, it must wait for the scripted resource to download. That pause increases latency for page rendering.

JavaScript is a client-side, dynamic-scripting, program language. Web programmers use it to alter displayed page content. JavaScript is one alternative to using server-side PHP scripting language.

jQuery is usually one of the biggest chunks of WordPress code. It deserves special attention and treatment.

jQuery is a free, open-source, cross-platform JavaScript library. This library facilitates the creation of dynamic web pages and web applications. WordPress theme developers normally use the resident jQuery included with WordPress. But just because it’s there doesn’t mean it’s “on.” jQuery activation is optional – such is the case in the GeneratePress v2.0 theme and other fast themes.

Optional WordPress plugins may use jQuery for animation like sliders or other interactive elements. So the theme may not use jQuery but a plugin might. You can know for certain by testing with Pingdom.com or WebPagetest.org.

For example, the Frank theme is fast but if you add a j Query-activating slider plugin, suddenly all site pages will slow down. It defeats the purpose of using themes that don’t use JavaScript. The same thing will happen if you use the popular Contact Form 7 plugin. JQuery is then loaded globally for every page, not just your Contact page. Other contact forms, like Very Simple Contact Form plugin, do not require jQuery.

One of the bigger benefits of using jQuery is the seamless handling of cross-browser issues. JavaScript usage differs among browsers and can cause difficulty. The authors of jQuery have made JavaScript programming work much easier.

Almost every browser on the planet already has Google’s jQuery CDN address loaded in cache.

You can change the WordPress code to substitute Google’s CDN hosted jQuery. But there’s an easier way. Just use WP jQuery Plus. It’s a WordPress plugin that loads jQuery from Google’s free Content Distribution Network (CDN). Users geographically far from you can download jQuery faster. The Google version of jQuery is also Gzip compressed and minified for fastest page loading. Yet, even though Google’s CDN servers are fast, it’s still not the biggest motivating gain.

★ ★ ★ ★ ★
WP jQuery Plus

Load Time: 1 millisecond

Note: An alternative Use-Google-Libraries plugin exists but WP jQuery Plus is better because it has a failsafe or fallback. If Google jQuery doesn’t respond, the plugin just loads the slower, local WordPress version.

Potential performance benefits:

Using the Google Library CDN eliminates some HTTP requests from your site. This allows more of your local content to downloaded in parallel. It doesn’t make a gigantic difference for users with a modern six-concurrent connection browser. But for those still running older browsers, the difference is noticeable.

The greatest benefit of using Google’s CDN is that your users may not need to download jQuery at all. The chance is high that a user already has these files cached for up to one year.

No matter how well optimized your site is, if you’re using a local WordPress jQuery then it must be downloaded at least once. If forced this way, the user’s browser ignores dozens of identical copies of cached jQuery.

CDN-hosted jQuery references refer to the exact same file. The browser trusts those files are identical and won’t waste time re-requesting the cached file. Thus, the browser uses only a single copy that’s cached on-disk, regardless of which site the CDN references appear on.

Google’s CDN serves the jQuery file with headers that cache the file for up to one year. This creates a potent effect of “cross-site caching.”

The most trafficked sites on the Internet already use the Google CDN to serve jQuery. Many users will never have to make a single HTTP request for jQuery. It only needs downloading once before.

Letting Google handle part of your site’s JavaScript footprint free of charge is too good to pass up. It’s an easy optimization because Google CDN has a vast caching advantage.

Note: If your theme and a plugin both use jQuery, your pages may end up with jQuery loaded twice causing even slower pages. The only way to know for certain is to check using Pingdom.com or WebPagetest.org.

Some claim the WP jQuery Plus plugin isn’t a “real” speed fix because it’s small and inconsequential. jQuery by itself is 91KB when it’s minified and further optimized to 33k with Gzip compression. For many, this 33k footprint left by jQuery is insignificant when the average homepage is a heavy 2M to 3M page weight. But if page weight is efficient (around 100k, for example) jQuery weight becomes one-third of the page weight. That’s significant overhead. Plus, do you know how to minify and Gzip your site? If not, this is a easy solution to reduce a 97k load by over 70 percent.

Increased parallelism is sometimes argued as an invalid benefit of Google CDN since there’s a WordPress-coding workaround: Just load jQuery in the footer rather than the header. This way pages load scripts faster. For WordPress, it’s done by editing the functions.php header code. But there’s no plugin for this code change. It requires some bravery and skill. We just don’t recommend it – even if it makes the plugin unnecessary.

The genius for this speed strategy is the pervasive ubiquity of the Google CDN address in browser caches. We recommend you try out the WP jQuery Plus plugin and test if it speeds up your page load times.

Note: A rebuttal/rant about this approach is explained in the article, “Why Loading Your Own jQuery is Irresponsible” Be sure to read the comments. They explain why “The WordPress Way” isn’t always the right way.

Selective plugin activation is your secret mobile-speed weapon.

Loading plugins redundantly and globally decreases the speed of your pages. It’s best to deactivate heavy plugins on pages where they’re not needed. JavaScript, CSS files, and SQL queries are then reduced during page load.

A popular WordPress form plugin is installed on over 1 million WordPress websites. The favored culprit is Contact Form 7. It adds 37k page weight to all pages on your website. Even when the plugin is only used on one page – such as your contact page – the plugin “globally” slows down all pages. This “global” activation is even more problematic for heavier plugins like Google Maps or social media controls. We call global plugin activation “site drag.”

Other form plugins are lighter and faster. But substitution isn’t the solution or our main concern. What if we absolutely needed to use Contact Form 7 plugin because there is a special addon plugin that gives us more extended utility (And, there are addons!) How can you prevent global loading?

We fix it with a plugin that restricts a “heavy” plugin to just the pages where it’s needed.

★ ★ ★ ★ ★
Plugin Logic
Load Time: 30 milliseconds

or

★★★★★
Plugin Organizer

both let you deactivate or activate plugins on a page-by-page basis.

Update: We’ve located two others we haven’t tested yet – but they have potential. We’re surprised these have more downloads than Plugin Logic. Both are a heavier download. Once again, we see how product naming affects findability in the plugin directory.

★★★★
Plugin Load Filter

and another:

★★★★
WP Asset CleanUp (Page Speed Optimizer)

With these plugins, you can selectively disable plugins by any post type or WordPress-managed URL. But if you’ve read our recommendations about plugins and themes, you know we usually choose the lightest plugin when possible. Smaller file size usually equates with efficiency, which means it will probably load and work faster.

You don’t need to buy the $29 Gonzales plugin. Use one of these four alternatives instead.

Of the four plugins, Plugin Logic (only 100+ active installs) is the simpler and easier to use. It hasn’t been downloaded much yet compared to Plugin Organizer (10,000+ installs). Using the Plugin Organizer is more complicated because it let’s you change the plugin load order. Changing the load order can help prevent plugin conflicts, which is a nice bonus feature if you need it – but we don’t, so we’ll stick with Plugin Logic.

REFERENCE: https://davidwaumsley.com/plugin-logic-wordpress-speed/

Video Tutorials for Plugin Organizer (The fact people have created video tutorials indicates the plugin setup is complicated.):

Other Uses

While our main focus is page-speed improvements, here’s another example of how plugin deselection can help:

We’re using the WP Image Borders plugin (266k compressed download) on a client’s website. It makes it easy to add image borders to pictures on pages or posts – but activation is global. The plugin adds borders to images on all pages.

But we don’t want borders around every image – as in the case of these circular buttons show here – the border ruins the look. So we deselect the border plugin for just that page. Problem solved.

BEFORE: With light-blue border, edges show up as squares.

AFTER: The blue line is removed because the border plugin is deselected for only that page.

 

TOP 4 Hello-Bar knockoff plugins for page speed.

Notification bars run across the top of a website. They display valued information. Such as a link to a newsletter, latest blog post, or promotion.

This bar is unobtrusive compared to a pop over or pop under. It’s up at the page top or bottom drawing eyeballs without ruining content. We hate popups for email signups. Awful UX. Static and sticky notification bars are gentler on user’s anxious nervous systems. And better for anger management, too. Plus, popups are heavy in the Javascript code department. That slows down your site.

Notification bar strategies include downloads for an ebook or webinar. Or link to a landing page. Setting a link to PayPal to sell case-study reports was our original goal.

 

Widget or plugin overload: In this category you’ll find common household names like a comment plugin or Hello Bar — notorious for killing page speed. – Author: Demian Farnworth

Testing profit improvement inspired our experiment with a notification bar. We heard claims of 11-percent revenue gains using a bar. And another user claiming around 20-percent extra revenue by using a bar, too. That sounded pretty good to our greedy ears. We wanted to find out what plugin might add these features – but not affect page speed.

When you search for speed plugins, you’ll find the best ones with unusual or odd-geeky names. Usually with few active installations, and residing in obscurity. They are misunderstood. Plugin authors aren’t always good communicators about benefits. Below we explain how to find these lost “speed” treasures.

The most classic notification bar is “Hello Bar.” It’s the granddaddy plugin of this type. Hello Bar, the plugin, is free. But the SaaS cloud-based service is not. They charge by the click. If you receive 7,500 clicks per month, HelloBar may costs you $50 per month. Ouch! So we went shopping for free plugin alternatives.

Pricing for the Hello Bar free version is no longer publicly available on their website. Suspicious behavior.

Most notification bars we tried had ugly, distracting author’s logos. Egotists! Our solution was to color a logo placeholder the same as the background. Then upload it via FTP overwriting the original image file. A lightweight 0.8k PNG image substitute is invisible to the eye.

If you use Hello Bar’s free version, it includes their own advertising. You’ll be showing slow-loading ads on your site that aren’t earning you any money. And, worse, they use premium real estate you’re trying to use for your own Call-To-Action. It’s designed to get you to sucker for their pro plans. Bait and switch.

Hello Bar uses a freemium version with unpublished monthly limitations. But charges are still based on clicks per month. And a $12 per month *pro* version allows 250,000 visits per month ($5/mo for each additional 25,000 visits). We still don’t like it. Slick-marketing stink is all over the company’s home-page signup. We trust our intuition. Run.

The plugin that “smells-like” a good substitute is “Attention Grabber (Hello Bar Alternative)” free plugin. After installation during testing, the plugin added 500k to the page weight – appalling us. At the time, we were working on a test page well under 100k. It instantly bloated to 600k. So that plugin went into the trash bin.

Other notification bars are lighter for speed. One that fit the bill was Notification Bar by WPFruits. This plugin is no longer free ($20). It’s only 2.5k installed with compression. There are 53 free notification bars in the WordPress plugin directory. When you finish this article, there may be another one!

How do you figure out which notification bars are worth testing? Fortunately, this isn’t our first plugin rodeo.

First, define your goals.

  • We want a simple notification bar. No coding!
  • We want to customize the colors to match our theme.
  • We want either a text link or button for call-to-action responses. If there is no “click-thru”, we’re not interested.
  • It would be nice to have a plugin updated or introduced recently. Our collection of plugin candidates vary in staleness from super-fresh (less than 1 month) to over 60 months (crusty 5 years!).
  • Is popularity important in this culling? We think so. There are many with less than 10 installation. Those  count if they’re fresh baked. 5 years and 10 installation is a loser.

So what plugins did we cull from the list of possibilities?

  1. Three notification bars didn’t have “click-thru.” That got rid of Sitewide Message, InfoBar Top Notification, and WP Sticky Header. And a few more penalized were mystery meat. Their fuzzy descriptions and confusing screens shots weren’t obvious: WP Notification Bar (singular), Notification MSG Interface Benaceur, and Bonjour Bar.
  2. Four plugins that use third-party slow-loading APIs hit the trash. Those include: Sticky Ecommerce Targeted Offer / Discount Widget, The NotiBar, Powr Notification, and Notification Bar.
  3. We axed three plugins having less than 10 installs and being heavier than 100k – and being over 1 year since update: WP AdPunch LITE, SocialTVs, Ciusan Notification Bar. We kept any that were lightweight. We wanted to look closer at those. Stale doesn’t always mean bad. It may mean the plugin author’s on a a deserted-island vacationing for 2 or 3 years. Nice lifestyle.
  4. We know sorting by package weight kills most popular plugins. But we don’t have a lifetime to figure out a “good-enough” plugin. We’re not searching for perfection. We eliminated 13 already. We’ll use an arbitrary cutoff of the top-9, lightest, zip packages. These all weigh less than 50k. To give you an idea of the range, the heavier plugins were 1.5M to 3.5M in size. Huge! We pity the poor sap who unknowingly chooses a plugin boat anchor.

Top-9 sorted by weight

[table]

TOP-9 Hello-Bar Knockoff Plugins for Speed, ZIP k, ACTIVE
Notification bar by DJJMZ,3,10
NotifySnack,11,90
Notifications,15,90
WP Header Notification,25,100
Top Bar,27,6000
Responsive Notification Bar,29,70
WordPress Easy Sticky Notification Bar,39,200
Peanut Butter Bar (smooth version),40,500
Quick Notice Bar,44,500

[/table]

We’ll test all nine candidates on Twenty-seventeen default theme. Two are looking pretty good just from weight, installs, and freshness: Top Bar with 6,000 installs and updated 9 months ago. The other: WordPress Easy Sticky Notification Bar with 200 installs and updated 6 months ago. But we’ll check them all anyway to be certain.

6 Failed Plugins

  • Notification bar by DJJMZ – no workee.
  • NotifySnack used an embedded Javascript snippet for API access. Slow.
    This plugin was closed on November 25, 2018 and is no longer available for download. Reason: Guideline Violation.
  • Notifications – didn’t show.
  • WP Header Notification – didn’t show.
  • Responsive Notification Bar – ugly green and yellow colors and not selectable. Load time changed from 1 second to 4 seconds. It was repeatably bad but it’s unclear why.
  • Quick Notice – Too much Facebook and button overhead: up.png: 2.5k, down.png: 2.5k, facebook.com/link and facebook.com/plugins/like.php (11.7k), https://static.xx.fbcdn.net/rsrc.php/v3ibIg4/yP/l/en_US/BVqXzc99u04.js (126k), https://static.xx.fbcdn.net/rsrc.php/v3/yD/r/FEppCFCt76d.png (1.6k). We hate Facebook!

3 Working & Lightweight Plugins

  • Guerrilla’s Sticky Bar (1 request: 1.0k) dismissal with day-delay timer, customizable colors. (This plugin was closed on November 25, 2018 and is no longer available for download.)
  • Top Bar (1 request: 1.1k) no dismissal, limited-selection colors.
  • WordPress Easy Sticky Notification Bar (1 request: 1.2k) no dismissal, custom fonts (slow), fixed colors.
  • Peanut Butter Bar (smooth version), (1 request: 1.9k) works nice. no dismissal, default fonts, color customizable.

We thought Top Bar would be the winner because it had 6,000 installs. But it wasn’t as “feature-rich.” Really, it’s not that customizable. We’re using Peanut Butter Bar.

★★★★★
Peanut Butter Bar (smooth version)
Load Time: 20 milliseconds

Remove WordPress child themes for mobile speed.

WordPress released core version 4.7 in early December 2016. The default Twenty Seventeen theme included a new Customizer CSS editor. The new editor allows the removal of child themes and related plugins. This helps your site load a little faster – every little bit counts.

Before then, using child themes added custom code to WordPress themes. You edited CSS in a child theme with the WordPress file editor. It protected custom code from being overwritten by theme updates. Without a child theme, updating caused loss of code changes.

Since WordPress 4.7, the option to add custom CSS is in the WordPress Customizer. You can then remove child themes. But you can’t edit PHP or JavaScript files – only CSS.

The custom CSS editor is in Appearance > Customize. Then select the “Additional CSS” option from the Customizer menu. That opens up a live CSS editor — no refreshing. Preview your changes immediately as you type. The live preview feature speeds up web work. There’s no waiting for page refreshes to view each change.

The “Additional CSS” menu keeps the edits safe in the confines of the Customizer. Your changes aren’t seen by users until you press Save and Publish. You can only edit CSS (not PHP or JS).

Child themes allow JS and PHP modification. So this doesn’t mean the extinction of child themes. But for most, it’s an opportunity to squeek out a little more speed. We do extreme performance optimization. We favor using the Customizer over a child theme.

“Additional CSS” is inlined before the closing head tag. This means no extra HTTP requests to fetch the custom CSS. Inlining CSS into HTML header removes CSS render-blocking. It also eliminates an extra HTTP request — both great things for speed. “Additional CSS” also does code syntax highlighting and error checking. Nice.

A child theme requires an extra HTTP request – unless combining by concatenation. Read more about minification plugins.

“Additional CSS” isn’t cached. It’s downloaded, processed, and rendered by the browser with every page load. This sounds inefficient. But for small amounts of CSS, it’s negligible speed difference. A few dozen – or even a hundred lines – of CSS loads fast inlined. Even Google recommends inlining CSS. No need calling an external style sheet when CSS code is small.

“If the external CSS resources are small, you can insert those directly into the HTML document, which is called inlining. Inlining small CSS in this way allows the browser to proceed with rendering the page.” – Google

From our past experiments with hand-coded sites, we agree with Google. This technique produces the fastest loading pages. Eliminating a child theme – by inlining custom CSS – produces a small boost in mobile site performance.

So, theme updates won’t wash away custom CSS – but that’s true only up to a point. If you change your theme (rather than just updating the theme), all the code added in the “Additional CSS” area disappears. Then it’ll all be gone.

Tom Usborne, the developer at GeneratePress, has a free plugin called “Simple CSS.” It’s a nice CSS editor – complete with code syntax highlighting to help you. It keeps all additional CSS safe from any theme updates and replacements. It works with all themes but Simple CSS is included as a standard feature with GeneratePress premium theme. With this plugin, you can also apply CSS only to one specific page. Navigate to your page or post in the Dashboard and look for the “Simple CSS” metabox.

★★★★★
Simple CSS

Load Time: 30 milliseconds

 

And it also opens up a new area in the Customizer where you can view your CSS changes live. This code saved by the plugin doesn’t disappear if the theme is changed.

Site owners can stop using child themes. Opportunities for CSS customization is in WordPress core.


Need to preserve your WordPress functions.php file changes besides the style.css file, here’s our tip use:

Code Snippets
Add code snippets to your site. No need to edit your theme’s functions.php file again!

Avoid WPFaster.com’s $1,985 speed tuning shakedown.

Let’s examine one of the Internet’s bigger speed service shakedowns: WP Faster. NOTE: Their home page loads in 2.76 seconds in our browser. Hmm? Not a very good example of less-then-2-second speed performance.

WP Faster provides an itemized “ala cart” 10-item speed menu. You can do the same changes yourself for free.

1SETUP FEE is $40.
Fine. A cover charge. A deterrent or penalty for clients with impossible speed tasks. A filter for unqualified leads.

Here are the various entrées you can order from WP Faster:

2CACHING $240.
What does that really entail? They install a caching plugin. Is that hard? No. It’s simple. There are good caching plugins with few (3) settings like free Cache Enabler. Can you do that? Yes. It’s easy to install this plugin. We use it on PagePipe. Now you know which caching plugin to install. We just told you. Don’t waste your 240 tacos! Does caching make a meaningful difference?

Tom Usborne of GeneratePress, a trustworthy and infamous developer, discourages activating caching plugins. Why? Because caching frequently breaks sites! Tom is tired of telling people to turn off caching to fix theme and plugin conflicts. The minimal return in actual speed gains is trifling. A well-optimized website rarely benefits from caching plugins. It’s not worth the pain. Same goes for minification plugins. Better scores but not better speed.

Tom Usbourne also says: “Don’t put too much stock into what Google PageSpeed says – it’s one of the worst performance checking services in my opinion (and a lot of other opinions).” – source

So, why does PagePipe use Cache Enabler if it doesn’t help speed? Face it, some pipsqueak critic won’t read this very page, go test PagePipe, and think a bad score means we’re stupid about speed. Sadness. Sigh. So a preventative preemptive strike is required against whiners and skeptics.

3PLUGIN PRIORITIZATION & LOAD ORDER OPTIMIZATION $168.
For this service, they use the more complicated and heavier Plugin Organizer plugin. It’s free. Does it require fiddling with settings? Yep. Do plugin “prioritization and load order” make a significant difference in speed? Well. No. It doesn’t. Not advantages we’ve ever measured. Maybe we missed a profound artifact?

LEARN MORE ABOUT OUR SITE TUNING SERVICES – PagePipe

If they use Plugin Organizer plugin for selective plugin activation, that would help. But they didn’t say they do that. Selective plugin activation and deactivation is tedious work. For that, we’d choose the more obscure but still free, simpler Plugin Logic.

But plugin priority and load order are NOT needed except for extreme speed optimization. And, by that, we’re talking rescue-attempts at subsecond load times. Even then, this monotonous messing around won’t guarantee acceptable user experience. It’s speed hand waving or superfluous project job padding. The return on your investment is minuscule.

4IMAGE OPTIMIZATION (Lossy) $138.
Lossy image optimization is what you want. This is best achieved with a simple free plugin: Imsanity. No typo. Imsanity. Set the size limit to your page column width in pixels. If you don’t know that dimension, use 750 to 1000 pixels. Then set the compression to a range of 70 to 80. After backup, resize all your media library with the press of a button. Resizing is more important than compressing. Why? Because WordPress automatically compresses images to 82 quality. That is good enough for most sites. This speed-saving stopgap is already built into WordPress. But not for uploaded originals, just smaller size images like thumbs and medium-size insets. Imsanity plugin fixes everything.

If you’re using free Smush plugin for optimizing images, please stop. It only compresses images by 10 percent. Worthless! It’s the worst optimization plugin available. Normal lossy compression decreases image file size by 5 to 10 times the original. In other words, around 70 to 80 percent reduction.

First ask yourself: “Are my media library images PNG images? Or JPEG images?” What’s the worst performance problem caused by images? Answer: it’s site owners using high-resolution PNG image format for photographs. PNG photo format is a bad choice for speed. Use instead lossy JPEG compression. But lossy sounds bad. Doesn’t it?

Lossy doesn’t mean lousy. It should be called “automated data removal for visually lossless images.” Using PNG format for photos is a mistake. How big of a mistake? Well, a proper change can take a 12-second load time down to 4 seconds. Is that good enough? Absolutely not. 4 seconds is slow. 2 seconds or below is the target speed.

Is it hard to convert your media library from PNG to JPEG? Not if you use the free PNG to JPEG plugin. It even detects and preserves transparency on your tiny PNGs used as icons and guideposts. Smart plugin. A speed lifesaver.



★★★★★
PNG to JPG plugin

Load Time: 10 milliseconds

 

Description: Convert PNG images to JPG, free up web space and speed up your webpages:

  • Set quality of converted JPG.
  • Auto convert on upload.
  • Auto convert on upload only when PNG has no transparency.
  • Convert existing PNG image to JPG.
  • Bulk convert existing PNG images to JPG.

The return on image optimization for speed isn’t as great as it used to be. Even though images are still more than half of page weight, they’re not half of page load time. Why? Because improved web browsers do faster parallel loading. Images are loading simultaneously or overlap in the performance waterfall.

5DEFER/ASYNCHRONOUSLY LOAD JAVASCRIPT $148.
This activity is a complete waste of time and money. It’s a coder’s dilemma that programmers take joy in solving and get many billable hours. It produces no measurable benefit in millisecond load time. It only improves those dang fake speed scores misleading site owners into hunting unproductive wild geese. Don’t go on a wild goose chase. Forget this JavaScript-deferral silliness.

6COMBINE STYLES & SCRIPTS (CONCATENATION) $168.
Install a minification plugin like Autoptimize and your done. But if your site breaks, try Better WordPress Minify. Read more about minification and it’s dangers here. Minification and concatenation don’t help speed much on a well-optimized site. More money wasted on speed services.

7IMAGE LAZY LOADING $108.
Pulleeze! One free lazy-load plugin with no settings installed for over a hundred dollars. You’ve got to be joking! BJ Lazyload plugin. And there are other freebies we like, for example, Lazy Load by WP Rocket. WordPress added lazy loading to core in August of 2020.

8MINIFICATION $158.
We can’t believe this! Minification is intrinsic in #5 plugin solution above. Double dipping with extra charges!
Scam artists.

9INLINE CRITICAL, ABOVE-THE-FOLD CSS $278.
This is a waste of time recommended by speed tests. It usually requires a coding solution. There are plugins to help but we’ve never found one that works. Even if we did, it’s simply not worth it. Where is above-the-fold on a mobile device or tablet? Farcical.

The GRAND TOTAL for WP Faster’s shakedown Bundle Offer is $1,125 dollars.

Over $1,000 dollars spent for what? Nothing you can’t do with free plugins yourself. Money wasted!

SPEED SIDE ORDER OPTIONS for WP Faster
9. Remove inline CSS, change JavaScript load order $760 extra.
10. A Highly Detailed Before-and-After Report add $100 extra.

They’ve got to be joking!


LEARN MORE ABOUT OUR SITE TUNING SERVICES – PagePipe

Assessing speed overhead with P3 Plugin Performance Profiler.

WordPress works fine. But you need plugins to add extra features and functionality. Without plugins, WordPress is not worth as much. Plugins give you control over website functions and performance without writing any code. Choosing the right plugins plays a big role in your mobile speed success.

WARNING: At present, P3 plugin will whitescreen a WooCommerce site. The solution is removing P3 plugin via Cpanel or FTP. Not fun. So watch out.

It seems as simple as searching for the most popular plugins. Then installing and activating them on your website. The result: an instant functionality upgrade without needing technical knowledge.

The problem is most popular plugins are slow loading. They bog down your site. Often globally, meaning slowing every single page and post. We call that site drag. Other plugins are more forgiving. They don’t suffer from site drag. Instead, they load only where used – or where there’s a shortcode installed. How can you know if a plugin causes site drag? Experimentation. This undocumented gotcha isn’t in read.me files.

The plugin directory is one of WordPress’s great assets. It provides over 58,000 applications extending WordPress. It’s also completely open and free. Any author can contribute. Anyone can download it. The plugin auditing process and security analysis are sometimes flaky. Bad plugins happen.

Many plugins have identical functions – but they’re not built the same. Some hog resources. Others are fine quality. You can solve any WordPress problem with a plugin – or a plugin combination. We do research and experimentation to discover plugins helping mobile WordPress speed. We appreciate alternatives to bloated popular plugins.

WordPress.org used to place a label on plugins not updated in over 2 years. Now instead they show how many missed update versions. This staleness warning may mean the plugin won’t work – or worst case – could break your site. Often, we find old plugins work great. Especially for speed. Even when they aren’t updated for years.

This plugin hasn’t been tested with the latest 3 major releases of WordPress. It may no longer be maintained or supported and may have compatibility issues when used with more recent versions of WordPress.

This shelf-life warning, above, scares people from unrealized opportunities. So we still test obsolete plugins. There are many compatible-and-clean 8- or 10-year-old plugins. There are always risks with even the biggest and best – and most popular. These unpredictable gambles include plugins with millions of active installs and recent updates. Even WordPress or Yoast or Elementor stubs its toe. It happens to the peerless.

The Plugin Review team takes down a plugin if it becomes vulnerable. But they don’t always notify users when this happens – or tell us to remove a bad plugin. We know this from our sad experience.

A plugin we use often is P3 (Plugin Performance Profiler). As implied, this plugin creates a profile of the speed performance of your plugins. It was published by GoDaddy, one of the biggest hosting providers in the world. But they abandoned the plugin for years. In 2020 it was reworked to function again with PHP 7.x. It measures load-time impact expressed in seconds for every plugin you have activated. It helps narrow down plugins causing potential speed issues. P3 now works with newer PHP version 7+. Hurray!

★★★★★
P3 (Plugin Performance Profiler)
Load Time: 40 milliseconds

Description: See which plugins are slowing down your site. This plugin creates a performance report for your site.

At this point, we smile. Over 90,000 sites made a bad assumption. They left this plugin active in the name of speed improvement. Ironically, the plugin slows every page and post by 22.7 milliseconds – even when sitting there.

P3 (Plugin Performance Profiler) causes 22.7 milliseconds of site drag. So we recalculate the results without this number messing things up. After testing, don’t leave it installed. At least, disable it. But we usually remove it. Don’t leave the lights on.

There are attempts to prove P3 plugin numerical results are meaningless. Surprise! We agree. What’s important are the relative results. Not the absolute numbers generated. It’s ranking the worst-offending plugin to the least – with time values in seconds. Data is strangely presented in alphabetical order, not in milliseconds. We sort in a spreadsheet. But there’s intuitive data to analyze and we appreciate it. Some say the results are ±30 percent off. Not from our experience. There’s no way to prove accuracy. We don’t care. Our gut says the ranking is correct enough. What we care about most is identifying the worst offender plugins. The hogs and fatties.

NOTE: We are still testing but WP Rocket may conflict with this newer version of P3 plugin and white screen your site. Caution is needed. Just deactivate WP Rocket before running the test.

There are articles about purported P3 alternatives and lookalikes. We’ve examined them. None give the speed ranking information we desire. It’s needed for speed assessments. P3 shows information not represented in any known speed report we’ve found. We’ve found workarounds for its shortcomings by digging out the data and reformatting.

Let’s look at PagePipe.com which loads in under 1 second.  We use the Twenty-seventeen default theme. Theme load time is around 20 milliseconds. We selected this bare-bones theme because its package size was small and light. We’re way beyond the year 2017 now. But this is still a fast theme when stripped using our KrunchKore recommendations.

We have 53 free WordPress plugins. What?!

That’s right. 53 are active. 20 are inactive. P3 says they all load in 593 milliseconds. Good enough. We suspect they load faster than that. But as we’ve said; it’s plugin rank that’s important for sorting.

The inactive plugins include:

  • Bulk Plugin Copier
  • Bulk Post Update Date
  • Easy Debug Info
  • Enable Media Replace
  • Export Media Library
  • Find Posts Using Attachment
  • Laps
  • Link Finder (which we run quarterly)
  • Link Whisper Free
  • Optimize Database after Deleting Revisions (we activate and run once monthly for cleaning).
  • P3 (Plugin Performance Profiler)
  • Plugins List
  • Query Monitor
  • Regenerate Thumbnails
  • Search Exclude
  • Shortcode Lister
  • Title like Alt
  • Tuxedo Big File Uploads
  • Unused Shortcodes
  • Widget Shortcode
  • Word Stats

Most of our inactive plugins are resource intensive – or only used for maintenance and troubleshooting. That means they hog database and RAM on the host server. If they all were running at once, most ungenerous hosting providers would – with total lack of courtesy – shutdown our site. Our resource overages affect our other 23 shared-host neighbor’s speed. Can’t upset the server neighbors!

Pareto principle is still alive! Using SpeedXray and P3 plugin we find 8 of our heaviest plugins contribute to 80 percent of the cumulative weight. Roughly 80 percent of the effects come from 20 percent of the causes. In this case, 80 percent of the slowness comes from 20 percent of our “heaviest” plugin choices. These slower plugins needing the most scrutiny.

Here are the P3 ranking results:

[table]
“Name”,”milliseconds”,”percent”,”cumulative”
Similar Posts,182.30,30.74%,30.74%
Advanced Ads,93.70,15.80%,46.54%
Simple Content Adder,78.20,13.18%,59.72%
LiteSpeed Cache,50.10,8.45%,68.17%
UpdraftPlus – Backup/Restore,24.60,4.15%,72.31%
Redirection,22.80,3.84%,76.16%
Lazy Load Optimize Images,14.20,2.39%,78.55%
Lazy Load For Videos,9.10,1.53%,80.09%
WP Post Hide,8.50,1.43%,81.52%
Import External Images,7.90,1.33%,82.85%
Plugin Toggle,7.90,1.33%,84.18%
Si Widont 1.0,7.50,1.26%,85.45%
Really Simple Ssl,7.40,1.25%,86.70%
Limit Login Attempts Reloaded,7.30,1.23%,87.93%
Simple Drop Cap,7.10,1.20%,89.12%
Better Search Replace,4.80,0.81%,89.93%
Hide Dashboard Notifications,4.70,0.79%,90.73%
amr shortcode any widget,4.20,0.71%,91.43%
Quotes,4.10,0.69%,92.13%
Imsanity,3.80,0.64%,92.77%
Email Address Encoder,3.30,0.56%,93.32%
Disable Comments,3.00,0.51%,93.83%
Simple Pull Quote,2.70,0.46%,94.28%
Blog Manager Light,2.40,0.40%,94.69%
Easy Publisher,2.10,0.35%,95.04%
Category Sticky Post,2.00,0.34%,95.38%
Speedswitch Rules,1.90,0.32%,95.70%
Instant-jQ,1.90,0.32%,96.02%
Change Table Prefix,1.80,0.30%,96.32%
Asset Queue Manager,1.70,0.29%,96.61%
De Updraftplus Backup Exclude Image Thumbnails,1.70,0.29%,96.90%
Fake Whos Online Widget,1.50,0.25%,97.15%
More Plugin Info,1.50,0.25%,97.40%
All 404 Pages Redirect to Homepage,1.40,0.24%,97.64%
BBQ Firewall,1.40,0.24%,97.88%
Watu Quiz,1.30,0.22%,98.09%
Super Simple Google Analytics,1.20,0.20%,98.30%
Hierarchical Html Sitemap,1.10,0.19%,98.48%
ToTop Link,1.10,0.19%,98.67%
Far Future Expiry Header,0.90,0.15%,98.82%
Classic Editor,0.70,0.12%,98.94%
My Favicon,0.70,0.12%,99.06%
Display PHP Version,0.60,0.10%,99.16%
Restore Image Title,0.60,0.10%,99.26%
Simple CSS,0.60,0.10%,99.36%
Admin Post Navigation,0.50,0.08%,99.44%
Date/Time Now Button,0.50,0.08%,99.53%
Disable Embeds,0.50,0.08%,99.61%
Disable Emojis (GDPR friendly),0.50,0.08%,99.70%
Current Year and Copyright Shortcodes,0.50,0.08%,99.78%
WP Author Date and Meta Remover,0.50,0.08%,99.87%
WP Image Borders,0.40,0.07%,99.93%
Easy Table,0.20,0.03%,99.97%
SpeedSwitch,0.20,0.03%,100.00%
,,,
“Total”,593.10,,
[/table]

This is a great example how crazy scores fail to show real speed improvement. It’s milliseconds that count!

PagePipe.com Pingdom results:
714 milliseconds. 22 requests. 910k page weight.

  • Cheap shared hosting: GreenGeeks.
  • No paid or free CDN.
  • PHP version:  7.4.
  • No paid plugins or themes. You can do it, too!

PS: Think we’re cheating with homepage numbers. OK. Maybe. How about this very article’s load time – curious? Here are the speed numbers: Performance grade: B 85 (what???), Load time: 612 milliseconds, Page size: 406.9k, Requests: 29, Tested from San Francisco USA by Pingdom.

We decided to run a test on WebPagetest.org. This produces a homepage worst-case scenario (1.179 seconds). Pingdom being best-case results.

It’s not the number of plugins – it’s the quality.

Thanks for tolerating our shameless and pretentious display of affordable, mobile speed.

Is this homepage beautiful?

Well? Not beautiful perhaps. But it’s fast. It focuses on usability first. Site goals are the foundation for decision-making. Improve branding and expressive aesthetics can happen later. Those costs money – and always slow down the page. The page needs to prove itself with results first. Then formalize the graphics. Or maybe leave it “as-is.”

Most heavy plugins can be substituted with faster ones – or eliminated. Plugins that cause global site drag can be selectively deactivated.

Is there any lightweight firewall plugin substitute for WordFence Security plugin?

“Wordfence is slowing down our site. What’s PagePipe’s suggestion?”

Removing the WordFence Security plugin speeds up your site. When you pull it, how do you protect your website – and still get fast speed?

We remove WordFence from sites during “plugin surgery” (site-origin optimization). Let us tell you why:

On a recent project, WordFence Security plugin caused 545 milliseconds of “site drag.” The plugin was one of 20 installed. It alone was 46 percent of the plugin speed overhead. That’s when a plugin does global loading on every page and post. It slows down the entire site.

Selective plugin activation tricks won’t work for security plugins.
REFERENCE: https://speedhospital.org/speedswitch/

WordFence Security is a heavy plugin. In our case study, it consumed 25 percent of the 2-second performance budget. This is an unpublished technical specification. The plugin author is under no obligation to share speed consequences. This is a convenient sin of omission.

Could we predict this plugin would be slow without installing it?
The answer to that is:

Yes.

Here are the biggest indicators:

1. WordFence Security is a popular plugin. It has 4-million active installations. The natural assumption is it must be the best. We have found a direct correlation between popularity and speed. The more popular a plugin is – the slower it is. Is it always that way? So far. Until WordPress requires accountable publishing of speed impact in read.me files (Maybe never?).

2. The WordFence Security zip package size is 4.6 MB. Super fat. Uncompressed it’s 12.5 MB. For comparison, how big is the WordPress core download? 11.6MB zipped download. That puts the plugin heaviness in perspective. It’s about half the size of the system you’re running on.

How big was the original WordFence Security version 1.4.1 zip file size? 1MB. Did the decompressed 2.3MB to 12.5MB super file size increase significant features? We doubt it. The extra bloat is marketing popups and nag screens. These *encourage* upsales and addons to the Pro version. They’re annoying.

WordFence Security plugin is a Swiss-army knife plugin. It does everything. We prefer discrete plugins that perform one simple function with few or no settings.

Are there better lightweight plugins that block malicious file upload?

Yes. We sell this $9.95 ebook:

https://pagepipe-ebooks.com/police-me-speed-knockoff-inspired-by-ithemes-security-plugin/

But since you asked, here’s what we’re using today for security:

1. Limit Login Attempts Reloaded prevents a brute-force attack: https://wordpress.org/plugins/limit-login-attempts-reloaded/
No settings needed. But we usually change the “4” attempts to “17.”

2. The Change Table Prefix plugin protects your website from SQL injections: https://wordpress.org/plugins/change-table-prefix/
It requires a setting is to change the prefix. We don’t use this on sites that have been migrated. It often will nuke the site. White pages.

3. BBQ: Block Bad Queries plugin protects your website against malicious URL requests. Hackers can redirect user requests from your site to an illegitimate site. No configuration required.
https://wordpress.org/plugins/block-bad-queries/

4. Deactivate XML-RPC Service plugin: Disabling WordPress XML-RPC is a precautionary measure against brute force attacks. No settings. https://wordpress.org/plugins/deactivate-xml-rpc-service/

NOTE: This plugin is not longer needed when using Limit Login Attempts Reloaded plugin. It has this feature built-in now. No setting required.

5. The Email Address Encoder plugin protects email
addresses by hiding them from email-harvesting bots.
No configuration required. But we recommend selecting: Notices and promotions: Hide notices and promotions for all users. This prevents annoying nag screens.
https://wordpress.org/plugins/email-address-encoder/

These 5 discrete plugins will add only 9 milliseconds to your site.

But here is the biggest tip of all – and it has nothing to do with plugins:

Change your WordPress login password. Make it anything that has a total of 12 characters, numbers, or symbols. Make it lower and upper case for a few characters.

For example:
BlueMou$e61=

Nine-character passwords take five days to break. 10-character words take four months. 11-character passwords take 10 years. Make it 12 characters, and you’re looking at 200 years worth of security – not bad for a little letter.

Afraid you’ll get hacked? Secure your site with free and fast plugins.

While studying site security and speed, we tested the iThemes Security plugin. It’s claimed to prevent malware injection. We’re sure it works but the plugin is major overkill. We duplicate it’s core features with lightweight, fast-loading, standalone free plugins. Beneath the surface, this large, 3.1M plugin contains a lurking, greedy speed bite. Chomp!

B
ut iThemes Security plugin only adds a mere 36 milliseconds. Measured with GoDaddy’s P3 Plugin Performance Profiler (100,000 active installs). Using Pingdom.com, there’s no detectable difference in load time. With this security plugin onboard, there’s not even an extra call (HTTP Request). The plugin appears pretty safe and benign for speed. And it’s popular! (900,000+ active installs) What could go wrong?

iThemes Security, WordFence, and Sucuri Security are all popular security plugins. That’s an immediate red flag that they’re slow. Why? It’s crazy. But the speed results for popular plugins always turn out slow in tests. Same for themes. People just go for the heavy plugins loaded with the most features. Overkill. The herd starts following the path thinking active installs must mean goodness. Nope.

Sucuri Security – Auditing, Malware Scanner and Hardening

Remove and add substitute recommended discrete plugins.

SECURITY
Change your WordPress login password to anything that has a total of 16 characters, numbers, or symbols. Make it lower and upper case for a few characters.

“Avoiding both types of attacks is dependent on the complexity of your password. Ideally, your passwords would be at least 16 characters, and contain a combination of numbers, symbols, uppercase letters, lowercase letters, and spaces.”
REFERENCE: https://www.cnet.com/how-to/the-guide-to-password-security-and-why-you-should-care/

Nine-character passwords take five days to break, 10-character words take four months, and 11-character passwords take 10 years. Make it up to 12 characters, and you’re looking at 200 years‘ worth of security – not bad for one little letter. Source

Here’s another offsite link that talks about password strength and it’s importance. https://www.bestvpnrating.com/password-security-tips

Hey! Backup your site.

For security with free plugins:

Please install: Limit Login Attempts Reloaded
https://wordpress.org/plugins/limit-login-attempts-reloaded/
Increase the login failures to 17. Yes 17 is good enough.

Please install: Email Address Encoder
https://wordpress.org/plugins/email-address-encoder/
No settings needed.

Please install: Change Table Prefix
https://wordpress.org/plugins/change-table-prefix/
Change the prefix to something other than the default “WP_” such as “AS_” or something random. WARNING: Don’t use this if you are migrating your site. It will screw up your database. If you use GreekGeeks Hosting, they take care of changing the database name for you after migration. Nice.

Remove Sucuri Security – Auditing, Malware Scanner and Hardening plugin
It uses too many server resource and slows down the server. It’s a complicated plugin. The above 3 discrete plugins will suffice for security and speed.

Nowadays, there’s a herd-panic or paranoia about WordPress security and getting hacked. It’s easy to get caught up in the frenzy – and go plugin crazy. All that’s required are a few simple things. First, change your login from the default “admin.” Duh? Use something a little more challenging for bots. Don’t use “password” as your password. These are obvious right? Right.

Then add a plugin to prevent brute-force attacks. Use, Limit Login Attempts Reloaded. It works with PHP version 7.x.

Only 8 milliseconds for extra site security with four recommended plugins:

PagePipe uses the following simple security plugins. We predict load time in milliseconds using P3 Plugin Performance Profiler (by GoDaddy). NOTE: P3 plugin will slow down your site. Don’t leave it installed!

1Limit Login Attempts Reloaded (1ms)
Active Installs: 900,000+
package download size: 107k

Brute-force attacks are the simplest method to gain access to a site. The hacker tries usernames and passwords, over and over again, with a “bot” until they get in. This lightweight plugin prevents brute force login attacks using .htaccess. .htaccess is a configuration file on web servers running Apache Web Server software.

Time-limited number of login attempts block the hacker’s IP address.


2Change Table Prefix (1ms)
package download size: 11k

Protect your website from SQL injections. Replace your database WordPress default prefix (WP_). Use any other alternative prefix in a single click. An SQL injection is a computer attack. Hacker’s can embed malicious code in a poorly-designed applications. Then pass it along to the backend database. Anything can then happen on your site.


3Email Address Encoder (2ms)
package download size: 12k

A lightweight plugin to protect email addresses from email-harvesting robots. The plugin encodes addresses into decimal and hexadecimal entities. No configuration required.


4Block Bad Queries (BBQ) 4ms
package download size: 77k

A simple, super-fast plugin that protects your site against malicious URL requests. Hackers can redirect user requests from your site to an illegitimate site. No plugin configuration required.


Testing iThemes Security plugin: What went wrong?

After installing iThemes Security plugin, we got a GoDaddy email notification. It said our hosting account exceeded its resource limits.

Email warning from GoDaddy hosting (shared Linux, magnetic drives).

The recommended solution by our benevolent host, of course, is buy more server goodies. But the better answer – they don’t tell you – is simpler and cheaper than that.

Once again, we observe that plugin file weight is indicative of resource consumption. If not page load time, then RAM or MySQL databases are gobbled up. This isn’t always the case. But a fat plugin is suspicious and requires testing. To find out how your site is using resources, click the C-Panel icon “CPU and Concurrent Connection Usage.”

After the “warning,” we checked Cpanel (CPU and Concurrent Connection Usage). It said RAM usage jumped from 89M normal to the 512M maximum available. We’d never encountered this problem before. The “spike” in the Cpanel Memory data occurred when we installed the iThemes plugin.

We completely uninstalled that nasty security plugin. Ram usage immediately began dropping down. An hour later the RAM usage was 221M. By 1.5hrs, it was 128M. We were finally drifting back into the green zone. Are we the only ones to ever see this weirdness? No. Read on.

In the production notes:

“Enhancement Jan 2016: Updated the File Change Detection feature to attempt a max memory limit of 256M rather than 128M as some users experience out of memory issues which could be fixed with the higher memory limit.”

So what? What’s the big deal?

When you exceed server limits, many hosts at least will start throttling your site. Or worst-case, take your site offline for hours to days. They claim they’re protecting other sites hosted on the server from your malfeasance. You’re dragging everyone else down with you.

Bandwidth throttling is the intentional slowing by your Internet service provider. This helps limit network congestion and server crashes. But it’s also often a lame excuse to justify poor performance. And sloppy cramming  of thousands of domains on a server. You can’t control this. But you can avoid memory-hog plugins – like iThemes Security.

Is iThemes Security the Lone-Ranger plugin that consumes RAM? Nope.

There are a bunch of plugins we know of (and many others we don’t). But they aren’t security plugins.

Here are some examples:

Checking broken links one by one is not physically possible, even for a small site. There are many free and paid tools that check for broken links. You can get the Broken Link Checker plugin (active installs 500,000) and check the health of your links with it.

Update: We now recommend a different newer link checker plugin. Read about it here:
REFERENCE: https://pagepipe.com/dont-slow-down-your-site-with-a-broken-link-checker-plugin/

But Broken Link Checker is a RAM hog. You’ll see two spikes on the graph below. The first is when we switched on Broken Link Checker and it started it’s automated crawling of the site. The second peak is UpDraft Plus (1 million active installs) doing an automatic site backup. We keep Link Checker deactivated and only run it once a month.

What if you’re running Link checker? And doing a backup? And have a hog security plugin running all together? You’re doomed. What can you do!?

Well, on the C-Panel dashboard is a icon that looks like this:

Click it. You’re taken to a dropdown menu. There you can select the version of PHP (Hypertext Preprocessor), a server-side scripting language. This is the code used to run WordPress.

Our PHP version was set to 5.3. We reduced WordPress memory usage by upgrading from PHP5.3 to PHP5.5. The newer versions compress better and run faster. And this speed improvement is free. Version 7 is the latest and greatest. And supposed to really be fast – but not all hosts provide it yet. How much improvement did we see?

Changing the PHP version reduced RAM usage by 20 to 30 percent. This keeps us safe. Now we idle around 70M. We’re staying far away from the 512M rail. But when we do daily backups, we push up the usage. We improved this with better backup plugin settings. We could do manual backups when we create new content. But instead we compromise and switch from daily to weekly backups to reduce the load. That works for us.

MORE ESOTERIC SECURITY FOR SPEED GEEKS

These are non-essential security measures for the fearful. Many “security” measures do nothing for security while missing out on important things like login protection and password strength.

Want to complicate your life in the name of absolute security so you can pass an odd security test? Like https://securityheaders.com/ Try one of the futile header modification plugins below. We’re not using them. We tested them and found them over the top in complications. We accept our big fat “F.” Do we care?

content security policy
Content Security Policy prevents content injection attacks by specifying valid sources of content for a site.

content security policy Pro
This Content Security Policy plugin will help the setup the Content-Security-Policy HTTP response header and block the XSS vulnerabilities.

eazy http headers
Eazy HTTP Headers provides three check boxes for settings on the general settings page.
Two of the check boxes, activate two functions built into WordPress, send_frame_options_header() & send_nosniff_header(), while the other sets a header for X-XSS Protection.
This allows you to control your sites HTTP Headers for X-Frame-Options & X-Content-Type-Options using functions built into WordPress functions.

The Eazy HTTP Headers Settings section is on the general settings page.

http headers
HTTP Headers gives your control over the http headers returned by your blog or website.

http security
Set up header instructions included in the HTTP protocol for website security improvement.

This plug-in provides enabling of the following measures:

* HSTS (Strict-Transport-Security)
* CSP (Content-Security-Policy)
* Clickjacking mitigation (X-Frame-Options in main site)
* XSS protection (X-XSS-Protection)
* Disabling content sniffing (X-Content-Type-Options)
* Referrer policy
* Expect-CT
* Remove PHP version information from the HTTP header
* Remove WordPress version information from the header

security header optimization
Advanced HTTP security header optimization toolkit. Content-Security-Policy, Strict Transport Security (HSTS), Public-Key-Pins (HPKP), X-XSS-Protection and CORS.

The plugin provides Content Security Policy Management with support for Reporting API and legacy policy conversion based on browser sniffing.

The plugin supports most security headers, including Strict Transport Security (HSTS), Public-Key-Pins (HPKP), X-XSS-Protection and all Cross-Origin Resource Sharing (CORS) related headers (Access-Control-Allow-Origin).

security headers
SetTLS headers for HSTS.

TLS is growing in complexity. Server Name Indication (SNI) now means HTTPS sites may be on shared IP addresses, or otherwise restricted. For these servers it is handy to be able to set desired HTTP headers without access to the web servers configuration or using .htaccess file.

This plug-in exposes controls for:

* HSTS (Strict-Transport-Security)
* HPKP (Public-Key-Pins)
* Disabling content sniffing (X-Content-Type-Options)
* XSS protection (X-XSS-Protection)
* Clickjacking mitigation (X-Frame-Options in main site)
* Expect-CT

HSTS is used to ensure that future connections to a website always use TLS, and disallowing bypass of certificate warnings for the site.

HPKP is used if you don’t want to rely solely on the Certificate Authority trust model for certificate issuance.

Disabling content sniffing is mostly of interest for sites that allow users to upload files of specific types, but that browsers might be silly enough to interpret of some other type, thus allowing unexpected attacks.

XSS protection re-enables XSS protection for the site, if the user has disabled it previously, and sets the “block” option so that attacks are not silently ignored.

Clickjacking protection is usually only relevant when someone is logged in but users requested it, presumably they have rich content outside of WordPress authentication they wish to protect.

Expect-CT is used to ensure Certificate Transparency is configured correctly.

simple iframe buster
You can set the X-Frame-Options header to SAMEORIGIN. Also enqueues a javascript based iframe blocker.

Provides a method of adding X-Frame-Options to the http headers for sites hosted in an environment that does not grant access to
the webserver config, .htaccess or lack mod_headers type facility.

+ Sets X-Frame-Options to SAMEORIGIN
+ Enqueue iframe blocking javascript

wp content security policy
Block XSS vulnerabilities by adding a Content Security Policy header, plugin receives violations to easily maintain the security policy.

Content Security Policy (CSP) is a W3C guideline to prevent cross-site scripting (XSS) and related attacks. XSS allows other people to run scripts on your site, making it no longer your application running on your site, and opens your whole domain to attack due to “Same-Origin Policy” – XSS anywhere on your domain is XSS everywhere on your domain.

CSP tells your browser to push least-privilege environment on your application, allowing the client to only use resources from trusted domains and block all resources from anywhere else.

Adding CSP to your site will protect your visitors from:

* Cross-site scripting (XSS) attacks
* Adware and Spyware while on your site

This plugin will help you set your CSP settings and will add them to the page the visitor requested. Policy violations will be logged in a database table which can be viewed via an admin page that supplies all the violations, along with counts. Buttons easily allow you to add the sites to your headers or to ignore them.

This plugin also allows you to ignore sites that repeatedly violate your policies. For example, some tracking images will show as violating your policies, but you still don’t want them to run, therefore you can block the site from showing up in your logs – note, however, that the browser will still call your server and your server will still spend resources processing the call.

487-milliseconds extra mobile speed for WooCommerce with selective activation.

Selective activation of plugins is a favorite strategy for speeding up WordPress websites. Now you can use plugin skills to speed up WooCommerce e-commerce sites – without coding!

Selective activation in a nutshell:
Many plugins slow down every single page on your site, even if that plugin is only used on specific pages. That we call site drag – or global loading.

For example, installing Contact Form 7 plugin adds 37k of weight to every page. Even if you only have one page with a contact form. Or for that matter, no CF7 shortcode  used anywhere. Weird unpublished specification. But lots of plugins don’t tell you the speed cost of adding their plugin. It’s not required for plugin submission. Summing all plugins site drag is the aggregated plugin overhead – a liability.

Selective activation speeds up your website. It allows you to deactivate a plugin where it’s not needed.

WooCommerce is the most popular e-commerce plugin for WordPress. It’s clunky and one of the slower-loading plugins we’ve tested. It adds at least 250 milliseconds of unneeded global weight – and slowdown your site.

Before August 2019, attempting WooCommerce selective deactivation resulted in the white screen of death. Yes, it would break your site. But a plugin code revision changed that. And it is now possible to selectively activate WooCommerce. Thanks, Automattic!

Below, we show you steps to speed up WooCommerce using selective deactivation. You can use a control panel to make the magic happen. Entering the page or post URL activates or deactivates any plugin you choose. You can turn extra drag off-or-on for specific pages or posts on your site.

SpeedSwitch Plugin

SpeedSwitch is the exclusive PagePipe plugin we use for this job. It’s available for purchase through SpeedRescue Kit or SpeedHospital SuperBundle.

1. Install SpeedSwitch

After downloading SpeedSwitch, install it by uploading the zip file from your computer.

2. URL Set-Up

Find the plugin settings in the “Plugin” sidebar menu. You’ll see a list of your activated plugins, a radio button for active/inactive and a box to add URLs.

Scroll down to the WooCommerce plugin. We want Woo to remain active by default, so select “Inactive on,” then add the URLs where Woo is not necessary. In our example, that’s the homepage, blog archive pages, about page and a few others.

3. Test Results

We use SpeedXRay to assess the speed overhead of plugins (and themes). Here are the example results from our test site.

[table]
“Name”,”Milliseconds”
“Core”,458.5ms
“Twenty Twenty Theme”, 36.6ms
“”,
“WooCommerce”, 282.6ms
“Site Reviews”, 189.9ms
“Elementor”, 91.5ms
“Elementor Pro”, 78.6ms
“The SEO Framework”, 53.1ms
“Query Monitor”, 32.6ms
“Classic Editor Addon”, 30.6ms
“WooCommerce Stripe Gateway”, 29.3ms
“WP Affiliate Platform,   19.6ms
“Disable Cart Fragments Littlebizzy”, 12.1ms
“Disable Gutenberg”, 7.6ms
“Optimize Database after Deleting Revisions”, 6.7ms
“Universal Star Rating”, 4.8ms
“Classic Editor”, 1.9ms
“Post Type Switcher”, 1.6ms
,,,
“Total”, 1337.6ms
[/table]

WooCommerce is the heaviest plugin on the list. It’s responsible for over 20% of the cumulative plugin load time.

Deactivating other Woo-related plugins will save over 300 milliseconds.

NOTE: Free Disable Cart Fragments plugin isn’t in the WordPress plugin directory. But you can get a bootleg download link from us. Sign up for the free WooComa download below. We include the link in the PDF content.

In-Browser Timer Test Results

SpeedXRay is a useful speed-assessment tool. But real-world load times are what count most. Here are speed results from our in-browser timer test:

With WooCommerce: 1.4 seconds
Without WooCommerce: 920ms

You can save about 500 milliseconds by deactivating the WooCommerce plugin. That’s significant when you’re aiming for sub-2-second load time. It’s 25 percent of your performance budget.

Did you know? You can also apply this effective technique to other plugins. Learn more about SpeedSwitch.

 


Matt Stern

About the Author
Matt Stern is a web designer and sometimes writer based in Southern Oregon. He designs and builds websites and landing pages that convert visitors into customers.

Learn more at SternDesign.co


Learn more and get your free WooComa download.

Under 1-second page speed with Twenty-nineteen theme – and heavy video.

Speed best-practices.
Creative performance optimization.

by PagePipe staff

This episode shows you how to speed up the default Twenty-nineteen WordPress theme. And without using any coding.

12:12 minutes. Click image to watch now.

Eleven plugins are all free and available online.
Links further below the list.

Links below – scroll down.

We’ll remove unnecessary slow components from WordPress core. And then reveal how to speed up pages containing heavy embedded YouTube videos.

PagePipe is a page-speed technology company. We curate speed research and tips about non-traditional mobile performance. We do site tuneups and rebuild websites for extreme performance.

PLUGINS USED IN THIS VIDEO TUTORIAL


Our performance budget is under a 2-second load time – or 2000 milliseconds.

W matters is load time for best user experience. Scores are meaningless. Performance grades don’t affect SEO. Page size affects mobile bandwidth and data rate consumption. The number of requests doesn’t matter as much since they often load in parallel.

The YouTube video preloads fonts, ads, tracking beacons, recommended videos, etc. The heavy load added by one single video slows a page around 500 milliseconds. The best solution is to lazy load the video using a plugin.

Twenty nineteen theme doesn’t load Google fonts. This is a speed benefit. A mobile system font stack loads fast. The authors designed Twenty nineteen for mobile users and speed.

Speed improved 50 milliseconds with caching. A 10 percent improvement for extreme optimization.

The heaviest plugins in this tutorial load in around 17 milliseconds. Very fast. Many are less than one millisecond. WordPress core is 120 milliseconds. The Twenty-nineteen theme loads in 15 milliseconds. Twenty nineteen is the fastest theme on the planet – once stripped using plugins. No coding needed. Amazing!

A speed comparison of WordPress Link Cloaking plugins

Affliate links are a way to monetize a WordPress website. We don’t do monetization on PagePipe – but many websites do.

Affiliate marketers use link cloaking plugins to create and shorten external affiliate links. You insert these links into posts, pages, and comments. They are a type of hidden page redirection and mask affiliate partner links from site users. Is it a “Black Hat” trick? Maybe? Why? Because visitors are clueless where they’ll be heading. It’s a way to fool humans.

All plugins cause some load time delay. This occurs in HTML code with at least single-digit milliseconds. A heavy plugin may cause 50 to 70 milliseconds of delay.

The link appears benign as an internal site link – when really it’s a mildly-deceptive offsite link. Some affiliates have a advisory note telling people about affiliate fees or credits if you click a link. This “advertiser disclosure” is often in fine print at the bottom of a long scrolling page. It’s not hidden but it’s not always plain either. The link URL has a long query string embedded in it to earn credit for affiliate commissions. Link cloaking also shortens long URLs to simple “pretty or tiny” links. Such as ‘your-domain-name.com/go/link’.

Affiliate links don’t say, “Click here to download this great thing.” Instead they say something like, “Earn 50,000 bonus miles” or “Get 5% cash back.” They are promotional deals and sound like promises of free money – but you must buy something first.

Click tracking and affiliate link cloaking supposedly sell and convert better. Most cloaking plugins collect lifetime-click statistics. A central dashboard helps you manage all the affiliate links on the website. You can create, edit, delete, and manage links by 301 redirects.

You can send clickers to destinations without them even knowing where they are going to land. Is this fair? We think not. Even so, your clients may insist on this feature. Can you create and manage these links with a WordPress plugin? Yes. You can. So which free plugin solution is the fastest for mobile connections?

SEVEN BEST FREE CLOAKING PLUGIN CANDIDATES
RANKED BY MILLISECOND LOAD TIME

All seven are easy to install and have similar functions and controls.

[table]

Link Cloaking Plugin,Load Time ms,Installs
,
Affiliate Links Lite,3.1,5000+
Linker,3.2,2000+
Thirstyaffiliates,6.6,30000+
Premium Link Cloaker Lite,8.9,10+
Easy Affiliate Links,9.1,10000+

[/table]

We deemed Affiliate Links Lite the “best.” Here’s why:

  1. Affiliate Links Lite plugin is the lightest and fastest.
  2. Affiliate Links Lite includes the exact same control features as the other fast plugins. Features include: Title, Category, Date, Link URL, Link Target URL, Link Description, and Hits. And there is an additional control panel for “configuring  link redirection.” Overall we’re impressed.

Affliate Links Lite plugin author boasts these benefits:

  • Boost your SEO by hiding affiliate links from search engines.
  • Protect your earnings by masking referral links.
  • Increase your revenue by analyzing your link traffic and stats.
  • Save your time by using affiliate links easily and with no hassle.

PagePipe Note: Claiming SEO benefits from any plugin is nonsense and untruth. But some of our favorite speed plugins are equally misguided. So we’ll let it slide. The other benefits are weak at best. But if your web-project committee insists link cloaking features are needed, this plugin is the painless way to appease them.

★★★★★
Affiliate Links Lite
Active installs: 5,000+
Zip archive: 200k

TEN OTHER PLUGINS WE TESTED THAT FLUNKED

FAILED (Wouldn’t work with PHP 7.1 or wouldn’t load)
Affiliate Link Cloaking
WP Affiliate Linker
Clickmeter Link Shortener and Analytics

FAT (Fat plugins had double-digit millisecond load times. )
Shoutcodes Lite
Link Cloaker for Affiliates
WP Auto Affiliate Links
Pretty Link
Shorty Lite

OLD (Crusty. Not updated for many years.)
Simple Link Cloaker
Custom Affiliate Links Cloaker

NOTE:  Some rejected plugins are especially bad for speed. The worst being: Link Cloaker Affiliates which causes heavy site drag. It loads down every page and post with an extra 339k of page weight. The other two worst offenders for ruining speed weren’t so bad. They added extra HTTP requests: WP Auto Affiliate Links – 2 calls, and Shoutcode Lite – 3 calls. But that still disqualifies them from the fast list.

The downside of paid, *premium* plugins.

PagePipe’s goal was adding various full-width images to our catalog page near the top. Not only the column width like with many sliders. We were testing how to put a slider in the featured-image slot. A paid slider plugin didn’t work as promised. After an update – the plugin author couldn’t upload the plugin via WordPress. They wanted either FTP or Cpanel access. We told them, “No way!”

The plugin company then issued us an expiring store credit. We told them that wasn’t good enough. We requested a reimbursement. We told the number of annual visitors we get on PagePipe. We said we’d be reporting our experience. We then got same-day reimbursement. We figured if they could rob us – we could blackmail them. Fair is fair.

Using heavy sliders (and light ones, too) on the home page are a disadvantage. They hog bandwidth and distract precious visitor attention. Appropriate slider usability is not a loss when applied on subpages. You must use selective activation to prevent site drag. If full of irrelevant stock images, you’ve done your site a disservice.

Web assets must add value or have purpose. Adding frivolous assets causing site drag (global loading) is nonsensical.

What’s appropriate slider usage? One good use is displaying a portfolio or a range of product images without links. Or a short, three-panel story is another. And then only if it *feels* right for UX. No links. No hover stops. Fades are best. Nothing whizzing, exploding, rotating, or hurried.

The goal is subtle implication there’s more than one product offering. You need a cue at the page top when the catalog content is much further down. It’s not a solo product page. It’s a catalog page. The slider is for page differentiation and visual cuing. The slider should not contain all product images. Only a representative sample to keep things light.

Usually it’s best not to use sliders for navigation. They aren’t effective (read reference). But we’ve put sliders on many sites for presentation. Even home pages. Why? For the same reason most do it: the client demanded it – and they write the checks. But we also insist the owner dump something to compensate for the extra slider weight. Something heavy like Facebook real-time counters – or a YouTube video – or Google Maps. It’s a negotiated speed deal.

Sliders are NOT dumb and evil. It’s how they’re used in design and communication methods. Site owners are often unaware of the global speed infraction.

Large images are dramatic and people like to look at pictures. Adding large images is deliberate for better UX. But where and when they should appear is the important question and how much they weigh. Is the home page sacred ground? Yes. Don’t bloat it. Build for for fastest page loads. But not always. Some sites get more traffic through other landing pages than the home page. If that’s the case, avoid sliders on those pages.

The inclination is putting the slider on your gateway page. Bad form!

Readable interesting text is always most important – not images. People want to read good text that solves a problem for them. Even if the problem is boredom. With a good picture, they still want something to read to understand why the picture is there. They want words. Even with art: a caption or title does wonders.

We made a moronic and impulsive $25-dollar slider-plugin buy. We got duped and had major buyers remorse. We got a refund only because we’re a technology publisher. We’ll never buy another plugin or theme again (maybe?). We learned a valuable lesson about paid-and-premium offers. Later, we found a free slider plugin (Master Slider).

Is Master Slider a *special* slider? No. (How they can advertise a slider as being SEO-friendly is beyond our understanding!) It’s what it doesn’t do that we like most. It doesn’t cause unnecessary page bloat. It adds 6 calls to the page.  We can live with that. Lots of slider plugins do that. We wanted to test drive this one.

The real kicker for speed is optimizing and limiting the number of images. For example, we intentionally compromised on slider image quality. Four images used (out of a dozen). They’re reduced to half the size – 991×595 pixels. The other large solo header images are 2000×1200 pixels (retina) recommended default size. The smaller slider images then dynamically-resize to fill the full-page width. There’s deliberate visual loss. The low-tech versions weigh around 40k to 80k. The large featured images on individual product pages vary from 150k to 250k.

Face it. Quality on moving images is a low-priority.

The final catalog page weight is 420k with 45 requests. Time to Europe on Pingdom, 1.84 seconds. to Australia, 1.7 seconds. We aren’t using minification on this page because it breaks the ecommerce features. That happens even with paid Woo-commerce. We’re using free Easy Digital Downloads plugin.

We’ll never succumb to purchase temptations again. Lesson learned. Until next time, anyway.

During these experiments, we realized the dangers of Twenty-seventeen Home featured image. It’s added via the customizer. This causes image loading on every single page and post. Even if it’s not visible (suppressed by CSS code). It’s still loaded on the backend. The original image was around 200k. So we tried coding solutions to defeat loading on any page but Home – to no avail. We then decided to junk the featured image. We added CSS code to color the background and added back our rocket logo. That workaround proved simpler and faster for speed.

We recommend using discrete free plugins to build site features.

Speed optimization for mobile WordPress websites is our specialty.

Your plugin choices affect website speed. But how much plugins affect load time varies from a thousandth of a second – to seconds. A page load time of under 2 seconds is our goal. Half our performance budget is for a theme and plugins. It also includes cloud-based, widgets like Google Analytics, Google Fonts, and Facebook. The other one-second is for branding the site with images.

It’s a common myth that installing too many plugins slows down your site. It isn’t the quantity of plugins that matter – it’s the quality.

The WordPress Plugin Directory now has over 55,000 plugins to choose from. In error, many site owners think the most popular plugins are the wisest choice. This isn’t always true. In fact, from our testing the most-liked plugins are often the slowest loading plugins.

The number of active installs indicates “herd” popularity. The plugin download page tell us what this number is. Or you can click the View Details link on your WordPress dashboard page.

We have many choices of free WordPress plugins that add unique and sometimes esoteric functions. Our rule of thumb is selecting the plugin with the smallest-download package size. The compressed file size is in “k” (kilobytes) or in some cases, “M” (megabytes).

It’s best practice to add functionality into your theme using several small plugins. One fat Swiss-army knife plugin can cause what we call “site drag” – adding delays to your site. Some plugins add drag globally to your entire site even when they’re just used on one page.

For example, Contact Form 7 plugin has over a million installs. Site owners don’t realize this plugin adds three HTTP requests. And 28k page weight to every page on your site – yes, every single page. Even if the shortcode is only used on your contact page – or even not used at all. That may sound small – but in our book, where milliseconds add up to seconds, it isn’t.

For an unknown reason, WordPress doesn’t give compressed plugin size information. You don’t see this number until you actually download from your browser. A proper link would tell the size of a download. That’s good “web etiquette.” WordPress doesn’t think it’s important information (yet). Speed information isn’t high on their agenda. But it is on ours. Any site owner concerned about mobile user experience should pay attention.

When optimizing in a staging area, most online speed tools can’t access these test spaces. So we’ve build prototype pages offsite with the exact same plugins and theme. This helps us establish speed opportunities and pitfalls.

One site under test has 33 active plugins. A few of these plugins improve load time and site optimization. Others add functionality to a responsive, fast-loading theme. Others are for better security. In this case, the theme is “Accelerate.” It’s available at the free WordPress Theme Directory. Most of the default WordPress themes like Twenty-sixteen and Twenty-seventeen are fast loading. Others need speed testing.

Page load time with 33 plugins:
Pingdom to NY: 750 milliseconds.
WebPagetest.org: 1 second.

Tested on a cheap, shared, Linux server.

Learn More Plugin Speed Tricks

What to ignore in Pingdom and WebPageTest’s free speed testing.

Never trust speed test scores. Ever. Always measure improvement in milliseconds of load time.

How to interpret pingdom.com and webpagetest.org speed test results.

Definitions:

First byte or Time to First Byte (TTFB) – Delay between the first HTTP request from the web browser and the reception of the first byte of the web page by the browser. It’s recommended a time less than 200 ms. It’s a server delay. You can’t fix TTFB except by changing hosts or upgrading services. $$$

Load time – The web page is fully loaded, all the resources are fetched, parsed and executed. Pages must loaded within 4 seconds. We always shoot for 2 seconds but under 1 seconds loads gives us goosebumps. At 10 seconds, people are long gone.

Page size – The total size of assets loaded: CSS, JS, HTML + other (like scripts, images, ads, etc) Also called page weight and is expressed in “k” or “M” bytes.

Page score – The score calculated based on a number of factors: compression of the resources, enable/disable caching, CSS/HTML/JS minifying etc. Score is irrelevant.

UNDER 9-minute video:
https://www.sitepoint.com/video-understanding-webpagetest-org/

And this link helps:

Pingdom.com is for quick-and-dirty best-case scenarios. First test is unprimed cache and second test (click again) is primed (faster).

WebPagetest.org is for worst-case scenarios. It’s more reliable but takes longer to test.

Never evaluate with Google PageSpeed Insights. WordPress can’t pass their criteria. Google doesn’t even use that data for ranking anyway. They have people chasing their tails.

We code HTML, CSS, mess up PHP, and do zero Javascript, but PagePipe focuses on solving WordPress problems with non-coding solutions. In other words, strategy using plugins and themes. Not hacking PHP or .htaccess files. “No coding skills needed” is what WordPress is all about. We give plug-and-play features preference. No plugin settings? Great!

Most site owners and developers just don’t test plugins. They rely on popularity numbers. Moo! Herd mentality.

For example, iThemes Security and WordFence are both popular security plugins. That’s an immediate red flag that they’re slow. Why? It’s crazy. But the speed results for popular plugins always turn out slow in tests. Same for themes. People just go for the heavy plugins loaded with the most features. Overkill. The herd starts following the path thinking active installs must mean goodness. Nope.

Researching plugins on the 55,000 plugin directory is difficult and tedious. We’ll keep researching and testing plugins and themes for improving speed benefits for your sites.

Speeding up aggregator WordPress websites.

Aggregator websites getting 1 to 2 million visitors per month is pretty nice – and profitable!

Many agregator sites are somewhat “responsive” for mobile – but frequently don’t have good UX on small screens like an iPhone. It’s very cluttered and confusing. Aggregator sites have about a 70 percent bounce rate typically. Top aggregator sites are getting as low as 25 precent bounce rates with 2 million monthly visits.

Strategic monetization attempts forcing users to look at ads. It’s bad UX – but perhaps it pays out for your company. User’s generally have a low tolerance of anything that gets in the way of content. Perceived obstacles are bad.

Most aggregator home-page loads are between 8 and 10 seconds in the USA. Mobile speeds will be twice that. Our goal (performance budget) is a 2-second page-load time (4-seconds for mobile).

No matter how much you try third-party Javascript is always the speed killer on aggregator sites. Third-party widgets include Facebook, Google GA, ad services, gravatars, Twitter, YouTube, Icegram, Doubleclick, popups, FontAwesome, etc.

“Ads are always the worst code on the Internet, and once you include them you can’t really be accountable for performance any more.”
—Matt Mullenweg: WordPress founder

Aggregator sites use many third-party widgets.

There’s esoteric talk and proposals in the “website-performance” community to solve third-party integration problems – but few actually provide real-world solutions. They talk about the web future – but not today’s resources. Third-parties are often apathetic about speed. This is a killer for mobile (and desktops, too).

How to manage and control third-party content is the critical factor for speeding up your website. What this means with present “tools” is using better strategy to decide what third-party provider content can be synchronously loaded, deferred (or lazy loaded) – or disabled on critical pages. And things like not updating user-facing Facebook stats in real time.

Landing pages, product pages, and pages on the “money path” are of most interest.

Doing value analysis (cost-benefit) especially on Javascript and defining “how good is good enough” is determined by user engagement – and your whim. What is the conversion rate with and without the third-party scripts?

Most offsite (third-party) assets have mechanisms (alternatives) for better browser behavior. But each has to be examined based on your goals.

How can you see the impact ads have on your site? Log into your free GTmetrix account and under the URL field there will be an “Analysis Options” button. Check the “Adblock Plus” option. Your URL will be scanned with the ads blocked. You can also enable this option in the “Page Settings” button on the Report page sidebar.

Blocking ads is helpful if you want to see the impact the ads are having on your page load times.

Is all of this investigation worth the grief? Common sense says, “Absolutely.” People hate slow-loading pages. Bloat is frustrating and annoying. But there’s also experiments (data) by large companies that prove speed affects profitability.

Speed helps you stay ahead of your competitors by differentiating your mobile UX. Optimization is best when it’s built-in with advance strategy – instead of after-the-build fixes. Measuring the impact of third-party content on a site’s usability is often an afterthought – if it even gets thought about at all.

Suggested links:
http://apmblog.dynatrace.com/2011/12/20/third-party-content-management-applied/

https://www.soasta.com/blog/10-pro-tips-for-managing-the-performance-of-your-third-party-scripts/

We reviewed an aggregator theme called “Bimber.” This PagePipe article might interest you >

When is a plugin too old to trust?

Today, PagePipe uses 63 plugins. About 30 not updated for over 1 year. Some for many years. We’re not embarrassed about that. It’s not a mistake.

Plugins listed in our ebooks are currently used on PagePipe. And also on client sites – except for Guerilla sticky bar plugin. The plugin author removed it from the directory in recent times. Why? Because he became bored with it.

So the question is “Outdated? By what definition?”

What does outdated mean? Some think a warning like:

“This plugin hasn’t been tested with the latest 3 major releases of WordPress. It may no longer be maintained or supported and may have compatibility issues when used with more recent versions of WordPress.”

Being orphaned or abandoned doesn’t mean “bad or rotten.”

These lonely plugins still work. And often for over a decade without complaints. That isn’t brokenness.

REFERENCE: https://pagepipe.com/information-scent-deciphering-the-wordpress-plugin-repository/

But also in the article, we explain:

“Does 8 months since an update concern us? Not in the least. There are plugins that are 8-years old in the directory that work fine. Those “best if used by” freshness dates are silly. They throw people off with their arbitrary “expiration-date” warnings.”

WordPress places warnings when a plugin isn’t tested with recent versions. Does that mean it won’t work any more with new versions of WordPress? Nope.

WordPress’ motive is covering their legal behinds against liability and lawsuits. If a plugin didn’t work any more or presented security hazards, it’s removed fast. And some are. In particular, malicious plugins. They call those “take downs.” Plugin authors remove some because they didn’t get the market results they wanted. But generally plugins stay as long as there isn’t any noise about them. Retired or dead author’s plugins stay in the WordPress free directory.

No plugin is safe. Not paid (premium) plugins. Not obsolete plugins. And not recently updated plugins. A common plugin problem is automatic updates loading onto managed WordPress sites. Bugs in the new version mangle the site or causes conflicts.

It happens.

There’s no such thing as a risk-free plugin or theme. Even reckless WordPress messes up with their own Automattic-authored plugins.

We use Peanut Butter Bar plugin on various sites in place of the now-absent Guerrilla sticky bar.

We use “Remove Google Fonts References” plugin on PagePipe instead of “Remove Google fonts” plugin. Both work without problems. Both are several years old and work fine.

Good-old “Plugin Logic” is our secret, speed-weapon plugin. It’s used on every site we touch. SELECT.ME issue #11 talks about it. It’s an amazing plugin.

Want to keep a specific plugin from updating? We recommend “Block Specific Plugin Updates” plugin. There are times this is handy.

https://wordpress.org/plugins/block-specific-plugin-updates/

A plugin we use to track plugin age is “More Plugin Info” plugin
https://wordpress.org/plugins/more-plugin-info/

There’s plugin churning in the 55,000+ plugin database. Don’t let silly warnings discourage you. They aren’t for your protection. They’re protecting WordPress.

Don’t fear old plugins.

Gutenberg versus Elementor: mobile speed – good or bad?

Before you read our post: read this one first offsite:

https://gutenberghub.com/gutenberg-vs-elementor-html-bloat/

What’s the verdict on how Gutenberg editor affects WordPress load time?

Some say Gutenberg slows down WordPress core from 24 milliseconds to 116 milliseconds. That would mean Gutenberg sucks for speed. How bad?

But that reported benchmark is lame. The dust hasn’t settled on Gutenberg enough to learn the real speed badness.

Another guy commented saying, “Gutenberg adds only 30 to 40 milliseconds.”

“However, the overall rendering time for a simple text-only post increased by almost 500%, when Gutenberg was enabled. There is certainly some level of optimization that will occur when Gutenberg is merged to the WordPress core, but in general, it seems like WordPress’s baseline speed may suffer significantly.”

“Even after disabling Gutenberg with the Classic Editor plugin, overall rendering time is still 300% slower than the existing editor.” – Source

Wow! Those claims aren’t true. It’s not that slow.

But really, it’s impossible to tell how the final phase-3 version will be for speed.

And we loved this comment – of course. Because it bashes on the page-builder temptation-to-bloat syndrome:

“Based on what has happened with page builders like Divi, Beaver Builder, etc., when you give people easy options too many of them choose all the things! They don’t even understand they’re dragging their site down, because it loads fast for them (because of cache – which they also don’t understand).”

Many believers and defenders of page builders like Elementor claim “Gutenberg isn’t a page builder.” We agree. It’s not yet a page builder. It’s a more-complicated editor. But people of “credibility” claim it is a page builder.

So what? Who cares about a silly definition?

Because people label Gutenberg as a page builder – even when it’s not – causes retardation of Elementor adoption. For example:

“Now, four months after my post, Gutenberg has grown up a lot, and it has evolved into a page builder that is being developed at a very rapid pace.” – Source

Hmm? Is the world defining Gutenberg as a page builder? This creates more market confusion.

“Given that Gutenberg is basically a very advanced page builder plugin (like the many premium plugins on the market that do a similar job and will likely suffer because of Gutenberg), albeit with more scope, it is questionable why this feature plugin has been given the green light for a merge into core.” – Source

Still, more eggheads think Gutenberg is a page builder? Is this erroneous thinking affecting Elementor adoption? We think so.

https://wpgeodirectory.com/gutenberg-vs-page-builders/

Doomsday plugin authors encourage stripping or disabling Gutenberg. Three example plugins follow:

1
Classic Editor [plugin] restores the previous Edit Post screen and makes it possible to use the WordPress plugins that extend it, add old-style meta boxes, or otherwise depend on the previous editor. Fully replaces the Gutenberg editor and restores the Edit Post template.” – Source

2
Gutenberg Manager allows you to enable/disable the editor where you want. Why would you want to disable the editor on pages? Maybe you would like to use a page builder like Visual Composer or Elementor instead!” – Source

These guys imply Gutenberg is a page builder alternative, too!

What gives?

3“When Gutenberg is active, the [Disable Gutenberg] plugin disables it (depending on your selected options). Otherwise, if Gutenberg is not active, the plugin does nothing. So it’s totally fine to install before Gutenberg is added to WP core, so it will be ready when the time comes.” – Source

And what does WordPress say on their Gutenberg plugin description:

“Gutenberg is more than an editor. While the editor is the focus right now, the project will ultimately impact the entire publishing experience including customization (the next focus area).” – Source

Is Gutenberg more than an editor? Is it gonna be a page customizer? Say what?! We thought they said it was only going to be an editor? We get it now. WordPress thinks it’s a page-builder killer. Their written goal is to “create beautiful layouts” – “a foundation for things to come.” But only “90% of plugins” will work with it. That means 5,519 plugins will not work with it. Oh, joy!

We loved this guy’s comment:

“Gutenberg surely is an interesting and ambitious project, but not of any use for 99% of my clients.” – Source

Weird!

So there are millions of Elementor installs. That’s a lot. Elementor is a popular page builder.

Gutenberg is damaging (retarding) all page builder adoption. The installation numbers would be even more if Gutenberg were complete.

Reader quote: “I’ve gleaned a lot from reading your site … especially what heavyweight plugins to avoid. You also solidified my intention to avoid Elementor (if I can’t do something with GPP [GeneratePress Premium], I can live without it.) Besides, with Gutenberg coming, I’ll just wait for WP to natively add page building features.”

How do other page builder growth rates compare?

Sorry. WPBakery Page Builder (formerly Visual Composer) and Divi Builder by Elegant Themes are not free. Based on the flurry of emergency promotions, we’d guess they’re in decline, too.

What’s causing this mysterious decline of once-upward-trending page builders?

Why? It’s really no guess at all. Gutenberg! Released on the 6th of December 2018.

WordPress (Automattic) may mickey-mouse for years getting Gutenberg to a workable version. Let’s see what happens. The first released version was 100-percent extreme poor quality. But they promised to fix it – right away (stall tactic).

Gutenberg will dominate the market even though it sucks. The Herd will prevail.

Today, we predict page builder plugins will die before the end of 2021.

Gutenberg is another example of retarding market growth with technophobia. Technophobia includes the fear of obsolescence. Wasted time and money by the user adopting the wrong thing too soon.

The best page builder isn’t invented yet.

From Gutenberg plugin page:

“Gutenberg has three planned stages. The first, aimed for inclusion in WordPress 5.0, focuses on the post editing experience and the implementation of blocks. This initial phase focuses on a content-first approach. …

These foundational elements will pave the way for stages two and three, planned for the next year, to go beyond the post into page templates and ultimately, full site customization.” – Source

Full-site customization? Do they mean a page-builder killer?

Are you convinced Gutenberg isn’t a threat in any way possible to Elementor?

It’s technically not. Not yet anyway. But somebody conveniently neglected to tell the herd this information. Humans are now confused about what a page builder really is and does. Thanks to WordPress Gutenberg!

“Given that Gutenberg is basically a very advanced page builder plugin (like the many premium plugins on the market that do a similar job and will likely suffer because of Gutenberg), albeit with more scope, it is questionable why this feature plugin has been given the green light for a merge into core.” – Source

More critics think Gutenberg is a page builder?

Is erroneous thinking affecting Elementor adoption?

If we used a page builder, it would be Elementor. We allow speed clients to keep it without complaint. We’ve recommended it to people who need page builders – and speed. We don’t need a page builder to build a website. But some people do.

Page builders are only bad because human beings can’t control themselves. They’re seduced into adding too much. That’s bad for speed. This isn’t Elementor’s fault. It’s the result of human frailty. The whole page builder phenomenon makes it easy for novices and dummies to create ridiculously slow (and also ridiculously goofy) websites.

Page builders are a crutch. But we felt WordPress was a crutch, too. Shall we change our tune? Not until after the dust settles on Gutenberg. WordPress can nuke all page builders in a blink. We don’t like that.

You can’t add Gutenberg features without hurting overall performance in some way. The churning in releases makes it impossible to know exactly how much that change is in milliseconds. We have to wait for the dust to settle.


Harness block-editor power.
Build fast, good-looking websites.
No page builder needed.

blockclones.com
Be fast – without being ugly.


 

Do lightweight form plugins even exist?

We do not like multi-function plugins claiming to do everything imaginable. That’s sure trouble. For speed and fast results, we prefer purpose-built, lightweight, single-function, no-setting plugins. We call these discrete plugins. They need no operators manual, tutorials, or explainer videos.

Form-builder plugins claim you won’t need a developer to create your jazzy form. Uh. That doesn’t sound realistic. They say their plugin takes minutes – not hours- to set up. Get serious. Not a task for newbies.

For example: Do a Google search on the phrase “form video wp YouTube.” How many hit results do you get – not mere blog posts – only for videos?

About 249,000,000 results. A quarter of a billion videos. Ugh!

Now try: “Super Simple Contact Form” plugin video tutorial.

Google results: None. Zip.

What? No video tutorials? Is it that junky?

No. It’s that good.

Here’s why: Discrete plugins require zero configuration settings. There are no options at all.

Super Simple Forms plugin is so simple it doesn’t activate jQuery or Ajax libraries. Those are common coding crutches for form plugin developers. Two of our favorite themes don’t activate those script libraries: Astra and GeneratePress. For a theme programmer to avoid that means awareness of the speed cost. But add one form plugin like Contact Form 7 – and it activates both libraries globally. That’s on every page and post of the site. Even if there is no Contact Form 7 shortcode.

Ajax alone slows down pages by 436 milliseconds.

REFERENCE: https://pagepipe.com/ajax-slows-down-wordpress-popular-posts-plugin/

Customizable plugins spell trouble for speed. When you hear the words, “smart plugin,” it’s a red danger flag of technological quicksand.

Form plugins are more than mere contact form plugins. They go beyond contact forms with a drag-and-drop builder for surveys, quizzes, and more. They must communicate with server databases like MySQL. With this type of plugin you create:

  • contact forms
  • surveys
  • quizzes
  • registration forms
  • payment forms
  • purchase forms
  • email marketing forms
  • calculator forms

You can build anything you imagine? Someone save us!

Now try and remove a complex form plugin. You find it’s addictive. It’s not removable without severe withdrawal. It leaves trash clogging your database.

Not all plugins are shiny.

This is one case where we recommend enlisting a third-party and their expertise. Offload the plugin overhead from your shared server to their super-fast one. Let them do the babysitting – and have them incur the learning curve and cost of speed.

Wondrous form plugin pliability is a problem. Multi-function, all-purpose plugins are complex and heavy – and slow down host servers.

Being one of the FASTEST WordPress form builders on the market is hardly a claim to fame. It’s like saying you won a turtle race. Big wow!

And… is there a learning curve? Think about it. Complex and bloated? What would you expect?

And when they boast: “We’re one of the most SEO friendly contact form plugins.” Really? Sorry forms have little to do with SEO. So please don’t make that false claim of benefits. Ridiculous.

We don’t have a magnificent suggestion for FORM plugin substitutes (other than simple contact forms). We have a blog post recommending using Mailchimp‘s external landing page tool. But what about those poor site owners who insist upon a sign-up form. One nested within many steps of conditional logic?

It seems like Formidable Forms, Gravity Forms, and WP Forms are the main options. Formidable Forms has conditional logic options – as do others.

Conditional logic allows setting rules which cause your processes to change. It focuses on an intelligently designed workflow showing what users need to see next. Need – or want – to see? Sounds like delightful fun for puzzle-solving programmers. But the common human being? Run while you can. Find a workaround. Be creative.

Get together your pals and family, ask them some product questions. Ask this ad-hoc focus group if they’d like a particular form feature. The consensus will be “yes.” They lie rather than admit they don’t know. They don’t want to look foolish or inattentive. So if someone says, “Users need this.” Watch out.

What are our recommendations about these monstrous form plugins from a page speed perspective?

Anytime you use conditional logic, it requires server processing and storing data. Often the plugins need frequent checking for database changes and use counters. All this activity slows down the server. How bad? Well, that depends upon the complexity of what you’re doing.

All form plugins mentioned above are big downloads. Here are their decompressed sizes plus a couple of more for comparison:

NOTE: Paid plugins aren’t risk-free and better than free. Pure myth.

Plugin package sizes correlate to slowness. Complexity translates into package weight (aka code bloat).

Some of these forms incorporate reCaptcha by Google. Not good.

REFERENCE: https://pagepipe.com/how-google-no-captcha-captcha-slows-down-your-mobile-site/

For a weight comparison, WordPress 5.6.1 weighs 52 megabytes decompressed.

Our recommendations about complex form plugins – if you must use one:

  1. Don’t put the form on every page. Isolate it to one page and selectively activate the form plugin only there. That keeps the weight from loading globally. Use a text or image link on your pages and posts to take people to the form (contact page). Keep it simple. Especially for mobile users.
  2. For selective activation, we recommend this old but wonderful plugin called Plugin Logic (14,4k download): https://wordpress.org/plugins/plugin-logic/
  3. See if you can dismantle the plugin. Analyze your business’s most needed features. Will those make you more profitable? Find free discrete plugins or lighter plugins that do that one function. It’s better to install many lighter plugins than one heavy one.

Millions of WordPress websites install these form plugins. Don’t be seduced. Popularity is not a measurement of speed quality. It’s a measurement of Herd Behavior.

Herd behavior is when a group of individuals act collectively without centralized direction. Herd behavior occurs in animals in herds, packs, bird flocks, fish schools, as well as in humans.

Individuals reduce their personal danger by moving close to the center of the fearful group. Thus the herd appears as a unit moving together. But its function emerges from the uncoordinated behavior of self-serving individuals. It’s fear-born irrational panic.

Characteristics of escape panic include:

  • Individuals attempt to move faster than normal.
    People choose a popular plugin in a compulsive rush. It’s akin to non-thinking impulse buying. “6 million active installations can’t all be wrong.” Except when they are wrong.
  • Individuals display a tendency towards mass or copied behavior.
    “Hundreds of blogs recommend this plugin as an essential plugin.” The written source is an advertising affiliate benefiting from the herd’s bad choices.
  • The herd overlooks alternative or less used choices.
    Uninformed buyers beware.

Some site owners accept a plugin but without protest. They don’t do any significant critical plugin analysis or research. This is due to the majority of WordPress site owners having a similar mindset. It seems less risky to follow the herd.

For example, many people are tolerant or welcoming, of widespread Google policies. Don’t accept dogmatic nonsense.

Bounded rationality is a decision-making process. Limited by:
1) the supposed ease of managing a problem
2) cognitive dissonance
3) the perceived deadline

Decision-makers seek a satisfactory rather than an optimal solution. Humans don’t undertake optimization with value analysis. Instead, they choose an option that fulfills their adequacy criteria. They choose the cruddy popular plugin.

Cognitive dissonance occurs when a person holds contradictory beliefs, ideas, or values, and is typically experienced as psychological stress when they participate in an action that goes against one or more of them. Wikipedia

Even with the correct knowledge, social pressures convince adopting an alternate, incorrect view.

So what contact form plugin do we use on PagePipe?

None. We use encrypted email text links. For signups, we use free landing pages offloaded to Mailchimp remote servers. Try signing up and see.

What’s included in PagePipe’s ComboPack deal?

PagePipe ComboPack includes:

issue #1 – Contact.Me – Contact Form 7 plugin alternatives. CONTACT.ME details


issue #2 – Fly.Me – Hummingbird plugin alternative. FLY.ME details


issue #3 – Search.Me – Yoast SEO plugin alternative. SEARCH.ME details


issue #4 – Police.Me – iThemes Security plugin alternatives. POLICE.ME details


issue #5 – Crush.Me – Image Compression and optimization suggestions. CRUSH.ME details


issue #6 – Block.Me – Akismet plugin alternatives.


issue #7 – Blast.Me – WP Rocket plugin alternative. BLAST.ME details


issue #8 – Sign.Me – OptinMonster plugin alternatives.


issue #9 – Greet.Me – HelloBar plugin substitutes


issue #10 – Theme.Me – Alternatives to premium themes. THEME.ME details


issue #11 – Select.Me – Gonzales speed plugin alternatives.


issue #12 – Obsolete. Removed.


issue #13 – Theme.2 – Torture-tested Twenty-seventeen theme for speed. THEME.2 details

And the “Toxic WordPress” 33-page ebook bonus.

When is a plugin too old to trust?

Today, PagePipe uses 70 plugins. About 30 of those not updated for over 1 year. Some for many years. We’re not embarrassed about that. It’s not a mistake.

Plugins listed in our ebooks are currently used on PagePipe. And also on client sites.

So the question is “Outdated? By what definition?”

Some think outdated plugins produce a warning like:

“This plugin hasn’t been tested with the latest 3 major releases of WordPress. It may no longer be maintained or supported and may have compatibility issues when used with more recent versions of WordPress.”

Being orphaned or abandoned doesn’t mean “bad or rotten.”

These lonely plugins still work. And often for over a decade without complaints. That isn’t brokenness.

REFERENCE: https://pagepipe.com/information-scent-deciphering-the-wordpress-plugin-repository/

“Does 8 months since an update concern us? Not in the least. There are plugins that are 8-years old in the directory that work fine. Those “best if used by” freshness dates are silly. They throw people off with their arbitrary “expiration-date” warnings.”

WordPress places warnings when a plugin isn’t tested with recent versions. Does that mean it won’t work any more with new versions of WordPress? Nope.

WordPress’ motive is their legal protection against liability and lawsuits. C.Y.A. If a plugin doesn’t work any more or presents security hazards, it’s removed fast. And some are. In particular, malicious plugins. They call those “take downs.” Plugin authors remove some because they didn’t get the market results they wanted. But generally plugins stay as long as there isn’t any noise about them. Retired or dead author’s plugins stay in the WordPress free directory.

No plugin is safe. Not paid (premium) plugins. Not obsolete plugins. And not recently updated plugins. A common plugin problem is automatic updates loading onto managed WordPress sites. Bugs in the new version mangle the site or causes conflicts.

It happens.

There’s no such thing as a risk-free plugin or theme. Even reckless WordPress messes up with their own Automattic-authored plugins.

Good-old “Plugin Logic” is our secret, speed-weapon plugin. It’s used on every site we touch. SELECT.ME issue #11 talks about it. It’s an amazing plugin.

Want to keep a specific plugin from updating? We recommend “Block Specific Plugin Updates” plugin. There are times this is handy.

https://wordpress.org/plugins/block-specific-plugin-updates/

A plugin we use to track plugin age is “More Plugin Info” plugin

https://wordpress.org/plugins/more-plugin-info/

There’s plugin churning in the 55,000+ plugin database. Don’t let silly warnings discourage you. They aren’t for your protection. They’re protecting WordPress.

Don’t fear old plugins.

How many plugins is too many?

PagePipe is hosted on cheap GoDaddy magnetic servers with no CDN. GoDaddy hosting is the second most hated provider in the world. The first is BlueHost. We’re out to prove even “bad” hosting can get fast page speed. (We host our store on Bluehost! Our blog on GoDaddy!) PagePipe.com is living proof these recommendations for speed actually work.

PagePipe now use 70 plugins on the blog (GoDaddy) and 24 plugins on the secure store (BlueHost). Even with this many plugins, load time is under 2 seconds on cheap, shared hosting. It’s not plugin quantity, it’s the quality that makes a difference. Web designers can’t be arbitrary in loading and activating plugins. The result is slow pages. And all our plugins are freebies from the plugin directory.

It’s a myth using many plugins slows down your website. Being sloppy in judging plugin quality or necessity is the culprit. That’s within a web designer’s control. It calls for wisdom and speed testing. The best plugins add no page weight at all – weightlessness! (In reality, about 1 millisecond – or less – per plugin to the initial page load.)

https://pagepipe.com/pagepipes-secret-sauce-for-loading-53-plugin-in-less-than-1-second-for-mobile-speed/

https://pagepipe.com/avoiding-futile-web-myths-about-site-speed/

https://pagepipe.com/testimonials/

https://pagepipe.com/site-tuning-for-mobile-first-speed/

Get PagePipe’s ComboPack now

58 Active Plugins Load in Under 2 Seconds

Below is a description and list of many plugins previously used on PagePipe. And the one we use today. Even with this many plugins, load time is under 2 seconds. It’s not the quantity, it’s the quality that makes a difference. Web designers can’t be arbitrary in loading and activating plugins. The result is slow pages.

All themes and plugins are free downloads from WordPress.org.

Home Page Specifications

Yslow grade 99 A

Loadtime
cache cleared 2 seconds
cache full 1 second

Server
Shared Economy Linux Apache

CDN None

Page weight
cache cleared 129k
cache full 12k
Components 13

A few theme features we removed or changed:

1. All Google fonts were changed to Arial and Impact websafe fonts in the style.css file. Those are our company publication fonts used for PDFs and web pages. We deliberately chose identity fonts for speed. The Google fonts that were being called added one second to the page load time.

2. We removed Genericons by WordPress. They are baked into the WordPress twenty-fourteen 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.

3. We tweaked the headlines and titles a bit for letter spacing. We made <h1> headlines be Arial bolded instead of the default Noto Serif “700” bolded font-weight.

h1 {
color: #3E5D58; 
font-family: Arial, serif; 
font-size: 30px; 
line-height: 1em; 
letter-spacing: -1px; 
font-weight: 900;
}

Requesting Noto Sans and Noto Serif from the Google cloud was adding about 1 to 2 seconds to the page load time. The trade off for branding wasn’t worth it.

Impact is our web-safe decorative display font and is expressive aesthetic which is useful for branding and directing attention. It should never be used for body text.

The body text is generic and ubiquitous Arial which is perceived as an utility font. Arial’s classic aesthetic (Microsoft’s pirated Helvetica) is transparent to the reader. It doesn’t get in the way of comprehension or scanning before viewer commitment to reading.

These common fonts aren’t special except for being fast loading. That’s why we chose them. We aren’t the first to build our identity around fast-loading websafe fonts. Read about how Ikea insulted the type world by using websafe Verdana for it’s corporate identity and web continuity. Cool rebels.

4. The theme appearance settings allowed for color changes of backgrounds and text. We installed classic colors – forest green (#3E5D58), black (#000), and white (#fff), color scheme. Works well for low-fidelity, flat images. Body text is #333 dark gray to reduce hard contrast and eye fatigue.

5. Thematic graphic elements tie things together. Clichés accelerate understanding. Limiting the site palette to three colors, also, made super, fast-to-load PNG graphics.

6. The stock woodcuts are from a collection by Ron&Joe. The rhino woodcut is custom art by Brad Teare. Woodcuts make for fast-loading PNG files.

7. We removed the Twenty-fifteen Post entry headers. These links weren’t valuable and were bad usability. Visitors would head in the wrong direction and not get the article they needed. We didn’t need to create confusion and frustration. We added the following code to the child theme CSS file:

/* Remove entire Post entry footer */
.entry-footer {
display:none !important;
}

45 Active Plugins Used on PagePipe.com

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!

404page
Defines any page as 404-not-found error page. We use our sitemap page.

Advanced Tagline
This plugin gives the option to have multiple taglines for your website and display them at random or sequentially with each page view. We are taste-testing 9 different taglines (list shown below). They are randomly displayed when pages load. You can choose sequential loading if that’s your preference.

  • How to optimize WordPress mobile branding for page speed.
  • Optimize the opposition of page speed and web aesthetics.
  • Manage the eternal friction between mobile speed and branding.
  • Making WordPress websites feel right.
  • Consistent balance of speed and web aesthetics is just one UX puzzle among many.
  • Research about the seesaw balance of aesthetics and web speed.
  • Mobile marketing with WordPress.
  • Upgrading WordPress for speed.
  • Mobile-optimized WordPress Sites

BackWPup
WordPress Backup Plugin. This schedules backups and copies files to a remote location. We’re using free Dropbox file cloud storage.

We use Updraft Plus free plugin for backups and migrations now.

Block Bad Queries (BBQ)
Automatically protects WordPress against malicious URL requests.

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.

Broken Link Checker
We use a free online tool for link checking. WE disbale it after testing and repairs. It can slow down your server with requests.

BruteProtect
BruteProtect allows the millions of WordPress theme sites to work together to defeat Brute Force attacks. It protects our site from brute force security attacks 24/7.

We no longer recommend this plugin. We use Limit Login Attempts Reloaded and set attempts to 17.

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.

Captcha on Login
Protects from login brute force attacks adding a captcha on login page. Also locks IPS after a specific number of login tries fail. Allows changing the default admin username from admin to whatever you want for better security.

That was a lame plugin experiment!

Change Database Prefix (obsolete)
Changes the MySQL database prefix as a protective security measure against hackers.

We now use Change Table Prefix plugin.

Date and Time Widget
Widget that displays the local date and/or time.

Default Featured Image
Allows users to select a default featured image in the media settings.

We don’t use this plugin any more but it was handy.

Disable Google Fonts
Disable enqueuing of Open Sans and other 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.

Disable Google Fonts is a very lightweight, it has no settings, just activate it and it works immediately.

We now use Remove Google Fonts References plugin.

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.

We now use Disable Emojis (GDPR friendly) plugin.

Disk Usage
We removed this plugin after testing because it increased page load time by enabling “prototype.js” – a fat javascript file. It added around 100k to the page weight. Bad.

Email Address Encoder
A lightweight plugin to protect email addresses from email-harvesting robots by encoding them into decimal and hexadecimal entities. We’ve used these techniques for a long time and it really prevents email spam.

Enable Media Replace
Enable replacing media files by uploading a new file in the “Edit Media” section of the WordPress Media Library. Just a handy utility for swapping out images fast. It’s best to disable unused plugins or remove them after production for security reasons.

We didn’t use this as much and have removed it. But a handy plugin.

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.

FD Word Statistics
Computes Gunning-Fog, Flesch, and Flesch-Kincaid readability indexes about posts as they are edited for the purpose of improving their readability.

We don’t use this any more. We just never paid attention to it. Not used.

Image Clean Up
This plugin allows you to delete all unused images. It looks for all images not referred to by any post, page, or widget within WordPress. Removal reduces wasted space on your server.

We don’t have this plugin installed any more. Eventually discipline gets your media library under control.

Infinite Scroll To Twenty Fifteen obsolete
One-click add Infinite Scroll to Twenty Fifteen theme with animation effect. Built to work only with the theme we wanted to use. We couldn’t help but use the plugin for it’s lightweight and coolness factor. It improves the 2-column post list.

jonradio Current Year and Copyright Shortcodes
Perpetual-copyright plugin for WordPress. Provides Shortcodes to display the Current Year and/or a Copyright symbol. Shortcode inserts the © Copyright symbol, a blank and the current year. Place this plugin’s shortcode almost anywhere. We used a sidebar text widget. You’ll always appear fresh and up to date.

Light SEO
We don’t  use any SEO plugins any more.

Media Library Alt Fields
Lets you change image alt text from the media library. This is good SEO practice and helpful for screen readers.

We don’t use this any more but on client sites we install Restore Image Title plugin (retired plugin but still works).

My Eyes Are Up Here
Detects faces during thumbnail cropping and moves the crop position accordingly. Great plugin.

We don’t use it any more but we have it installed on client websites.

One-Click Child Theme
We don’t use child themes any more. For custom CSS, we use Simple CSS plugin in the Customizer. For PHP customization, we use Code Snippets plugin.

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.

Post Type Switcher
Allow switching of a post type while editing a post (in post publish section). This plugin saved us a lot of work. We had 30 pages of existing content we wanted to convert to posts so we could use the dual column effect provided by the Kiyomizu child theme (obsolete child). It was done in a matter of minutes. Beautiful.It’s not installed any more.

Responsive Notification Bar
We don’t use this any more on PagePipe blog. We use Peanut Butter Bar plugin on client sites and our store product pages.

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.

We don’t sue this any more. We use Imsanity plugin instead.

Simple Basic Contact Form
Simple, basic, plug-n-play contact form for WordPress. Contact Form 7 plugin may have a lot of popularity downloads (millions) but it is not the fastest or safest contact form. Newer plugins are lighter and more secure – like this one.

We don’t use a contact form any more. We use email links instead. No forms or spam blockers needed.

Simple Drop Cap
Simple drop cap plugin. Transforms the first letter of a word into a drop cap or initial letter simply by wrapping the word with a shortcode. We used two methods of building drop caps. Some were by CSS inline code. That was necessary to keep the post’s drop caps from appearing on the front page excerpts. Too much visual noise for our taste. But the [ shortcode ] used by the plugin is much faster and global for pages. This plugin is easier to customize and use than some others we’ve tried.

Below is the custom CSS style we placed in the Simple Drop Cap plugin settings panel:

float: left; font-size: 193px; font-weight: normal; color: #3E5D58; line-height: 89px; text-transform: capitalize; margin: 0px; padding: 20px 0.08em 20px 0px; font-family: Impact, Haettenschweiler, Charcoal, AvenirNext-Heavy,  sans-serif;

This plugin is retired from the directory at the author’s request.

Simple Image Widget
A simple image widget utilizing the new WordPress media manager. Simple Image Widget is the easiest way to add images to your sidebars.

Simple Scroll To Top
Smooth-and-simple, scroll-to-top, plug-and-play plugin helps to add a “Back to top” feature to your site. Very lightweight compared to others.

We now use ToTop Link plugin.

Simple Sitemap
A HTML sitemap is a list of pages of a web site accessible to crawlers or users. It helps with findability and SEO to display content as a single linked list of posts and pages, or as groups sorted by classification (via a drop-down box). Just create a page titled sitemap and place the simple-sitemap shortcode on it. Works great and again is lightweight.

Standout CSS3 Buttons
Display CSS3 style buttons with gradient color styles on your website using popular social media colors. We wanted more “flair” than just text links for our call to action (CTA) at the bottom of posts and pages.

To speed up this plugin, we stripped all of the 24 button colors we weren’t using. We were only using “midnight.” The speed savings were significantly improved. It was worth it. We used the Plugin > Editor again to make this happen.

We don’t use button plugins any more.

Super Simple Google Analytics
Bare bones option to simply insert the basic Google Analytics tracking code into the head section of every page without any fuss. We later disabled this plugin and just use the Visitor Mailer plugin (see below).

We don’t use this plugin any more.

Tipso
Simple tooltip plugin that displays a responsive, animated, fully customizable tooltip when the visitor hovers over the matched element.

We don’t use this plugin any more. It was annoying to use and slowed down our writing. It’s cute but that isn’t good enough for us.

Title Remover
Gives you the ability to hide the title of any post, page or custom post type item without affecting menus or titles in the admin area. It’s handy. It’s just a select box on the page or post. On or Off. Easy.

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.

We use Google Analytics now. That is implemented with the CAOS plugin. Adna counter plugin called WP Counter.

Visual Subtitle
Allows part of a post title to be styled as a subtitle or deck. The subtitle is still within the title level 1 or 2 heading, but is wrapped in a span to be styled differently.

A deck is one or more lines of text found between the headline and the body of an article. The deck elaborates or expands on the headline and topic of the accompanying text. Size the deck type somewhere between the headline and body text to provide contrast. We modified the CSS to make the deck Arial ALLCAPS, half the size of the headline, and with loose letter-spacing.

A deck is a visual signpost or cue that lets readers know where they are and where they’re going. Signposting breaks up text and images into readable, easy-to-follow blocks or panels of information. A deck is a visual signpost helping readers assess an article before committing to reading the whole thing.

We modified the subtitle or deck styling in our child theme by adding the following CSS code to the end of the style.css file:

.subtitle { 
    display: block;
    color: #000;
    font-family: Arial, sans-serif;
    text-transform: uppercase;
    font-size: .6em;
    letter-spacing: 1px;
  }

We don’t use this any more. It didn’t help anything. Annoying eventually to use.

WordPress Popular Posts
Customizable widget that displays the most popular posts on your blog. We use this on the 404 page. We later disabled this because it wasn’t adding content value.

This is a great plugin but we don’t use it any more because it loaded down the site globally. It was a hard one to disable. But all the info we needed is on Google Analytics.

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. Note: To get the browser to download more assets in parallel, you can serve them from different domains.

WP Resized Image Quality
Change the compression-level of uploaded JPEG images and thumbnails. Get better image quality or save bandwidth.

We don’t use this any more. We use Imsanity plugin.

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.

No longer used. We use Cache Enabler plugin instead.

WP Updates Notifier
Sends email to notify you if there are any updates for your WordPress site. Can notify about core, plugin and theme updates.

We don’t use this any more either. Not that useful.

So what plugins do we use today?

BLOG PAGEPIPE
Active (57)
Inactive (5)

404page – your smart custom 404 error page
Custom 404 the easy way! Set any page as custom 404 error page. No coding needed. Works with (almost) every Theme.

Add Widget After Content
This plugin adds a widget area after post content before the comments. You can also tell it not to display on a specific post or post format.

Admin Post Navigation
Adds links to navigate to the next and previous posts when editing a post in the WordPress admin.

Asset Queue Manager
A tool for front-end experts to take control of all scripts and styles enqueued on their site.

Better WordPress Minify
Allows you to minify your CSS and JS files for faster page loading for visitors. This plugin uses the PHP library Minify and relies on WordPress’s enqueueing system rather than the output buffer (will not break your website in most cases). This plugin is very customizable and easy to use.

Block Bad Queries (BBQ)
BBQ is a super fast firewall that automatically protects WordPress against malicious URL requests.

Blog Manager Light
Blog Manager for WordPress adds tons of blog functionality to your WordPress based website.

Broken Link Checker
Checks your blog for broken links and missing images and notifies you on the dashboard if any are found.

Cache Enabler
Simple and fast WordPress disk caching plugin.

CAOS for Analytics
A plugin that allows you to completely optimize Google Analytics for your WordPress Website – host analytics.js locally, keep it updated using wp_cron(), anonymize IP, disable tracking of admins, place tracking code in footer, and more!

Category Sticky Post
Mark a post to be placed at the top of a specified category archive. It’s sticky posts specifically for categories.

Change Table Prefix
This plug-in will allow you to change your database prefix after installation.

Classic Editor
Enables the WordPress classic editor and the old-style Edit Post screen with TinyMCE, Meta Boxes, etc. Supports the older plugins that extend this screen.

Current Year and Copyright Shortcodes
Provides Shortcodes to display the Current Year and/or a Copyright symbol.

Date/Time Now Button
Adds a Now button to the right of date and time fields.

Deactivate XML-RPC Service
Deactivates the XMP-RPC API service.

Disable Comments
Allows administrators to globally disable comments on their site. Comments can be disabled according to post type.

Disable Embeds
Don’t like the enhanced embeds in WordPress 4.4? Easily disable the feature using this plugin.

Disable Emojis (GDPR friendly)
Disable Emojis (GDPR friendly)

Display PHP Version
Displays the current PHP version in the “At a Glance” admin dashboard widget.

Download Plugins and Themes from Dashboard
Download installed plugins and themes ZIP files directly from your admin dashboard without using FTP.

Easy Forms for Mailchimp
The ultimate Mailchimp WordPress plugin. Easily build unlimited forms for your Mailchimp lists, add them to your site and track subscriber activity. To get started, go to the settings page and enter your Mailchimp API key.

Easy Table
Create table in post, page, or widget in easy way.
Version 1.8 | By Takien

Email Address Encoder
A lightweight plugin that protects email addresses from email-harvesting robots by encoding them into decimal and hexadecimal entities.

Far Future Expiration Plugin
This plugin will add a “far future expiration” date for various file types to improve site performance.

Find Posts Using Attachment
Allows to find all posts where a particular attachment (image, video, etc.) is used.

Lazy Load by WP Rocket
The tiny Lazy Load script for WordPress without jQuery or others libraries.

Lazy Load for Videos
Lazy Load for Videos speeds up your site by replacing embedded Youtube and Vimeo videos with a clickable preview image. Visitors simply click on the image to play the video.

Limit Login Attempts Reloaded
Limit the rate of login attempts, including by way of cookies and for each IP address.

More Plugin Info
Display additional information about each plugin on the Plugins screen.

Optimize Database after Deleting Revisions
Optimizes the WordPress Database after Cleaning it out.

Plugin Logic
Activate plugins on pages only if they are really needed.

Plugin Toggle
Quickly toggle plugin activation status from the toolbar.

Post Date Time Change
Collectively change the date and time of each article of post or page or media library.

Pro Related Post Widget
Pro Related Post Widget plugin.dynamically show related post according to post.

Quotes
Show your favorite quotes on your blog using our shortcode, widget sau template tag.

Redirection
Manage all your 301 redirects and monitor 404 errors.

Remove Google Fonts References
Remove Open Sans and other google fonts references from all pages.

Restore Image Title
Reverses WP 3.5’s behaviour of stripping title from images inserted into posts.

Search Exclude
Hide any page or post from the WordPress search results by checking off the checkbox.

Shortcode For Current Date
Insert current Date, Month or Year anywhere with a simple shortcode.

Simple Content Adder
Add custom content to your posts, pages and/or footer, without the need to update each post or page.

Simple CSS
Simply add CSS to your WordPress site using an awesome CSS editor or the live Customizer.

Simple Drop Cap
Simple drop cap plugin. Transform the first letter of a word into a drop cap or initial letter simply by wrapping the word with shortcode .

Simple Pull Quote
Easily add pull quotes to blog posts using shortcode.

Simple Wp Sitemap
An easy sitemap plugin that adds both an xml and an html sitemap to your site, which updates and maintains themselves so you don’t have to!

Sitelinks Search Box
Adds the JSON-LD schema.org markup for the “Google Sitelinks Search Box” on the homepage. This new feature was presented on the Official Google Webmaster Central Blog (05 Sep 2014 07:44 AM PDT). There is more info on the Google Developers Website.

Theme Editor
create, edit, upload, download, delete Theme Files and folders

Title Remover
Gives you the ability to hide the title of any post, page or custom post type item without affecting menus or titles in the admin area.

ToTop Link
A simple plugin for WordPress that adds an unobtrusive smooth scrolling “back to top” link to your site or blog.

Tuxedo Big File Uploads
Enables large file uploads in the built-in WordPress media uploader.

UpdraftPlus – Backup/Restore
Backup and restore: take backups locally, or backup to Amazon S3, Dropbox, Google Drive, Rackspace, (S)FTP, WebDAV & email, on automatic schedules.

Watu Quiz
Create exams and quizzes and display the result immediately after the user takes the exam. Watu for WordPress is a light version of WatuPRO. Check it if you want to run fully featured exams with data exports, student logins, timers, random questions and more. Free support and upgrades are available. Go to Watu Settings or Manage Your Exams

WEN’s Responsive Column Layout Shortcodes
WEN’s Responsive Column Layout Shortcodes easily add shortcodes to create 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, columns along with responsive layout in your posts/pages or widget section.

Widget Shortcode
Output widgets using a simple shortcode.

WP Author, Date and Meta Remover
Remove post meta data. Just plug and play; it’s that easy! Get WP ADMR Pro+ for Intelligent Meta Data Control.

WP Counter
WP Counter is a simple visitor counter of your site. You can see your unique site visitor status in different date range (Today,Yesterday,Current Week,Current Month).

WP Editor Widget
WP Editor Widget adds a WYSIWYG widget using the wp_editor().

wp image refresh
A very basic image reload plugin

WP jQuery Plus
Loads jQuery from a CDN using the exact version as your current WordPress install

WP Remove Query Strings From Static Resources
It will remove query strings from static resources like CSS and JS files.

WordPress Version 5.2.1
Theme: Twenty-seventeen default.

STORE PAGEPIPE

404page – your smart custom 404 error page
Custom 404 the easy way! Set any page as custom 404 error page. No coding needed. Works with (almost) every Theme.

Asset Queue Manager
A tool for front-end experts to take control of all scripts and styles enqueued on their site.

Block Bad Queries (BBQ)
BBQ is a super fast firewall that automatically protects WordPress against malicious URL requests.

Classic Editor
Enables the WordPress classic editor and the old-style Edit Post screen with TinyMCE, Meta Boxes, etc. Supports the older plugins that extend this screen.

Current Year and Copyright Shortcodes
Provides Shortcodes to display the Current Year and/or a Copyright symbol.

Date/Time Now Button
Adds a Now button to the right of date and time fields.

Disable Comments
Allows administrators to globally disable comments on their site. Comments can be disabled according to post type.

Disable Embeds
Don’t like the enhanced embeds in WordPress 4.4? Easily disable the feature using this plugin.

Disable Emojis (GDPR friendly)
Disable Emojis (GDPR friendly)

Easy Digital Downloads
The easiest way to sell digital products with WordPress.

Email Address Encoder
A lightweight plugin that protects email addresses from email-harvesting robots by encoding them into decimal and hexadecimal entities.

Far Future Expiration Plugin
This plugin will add a “far future expiration” date for various file types to improve site performance.

Lazy Load by WP Rocket
The tiny Lazy Load script for WordPress without jQuery or others libraries.

Lightweight Grid Columns
Add columns to your content using easy to use shortcodes.

Limit Login Attempts Reloaded
Limit the rate of login attempts, including by way of cookies and for each IP address.

Optimize Database after Deleting Revisions
Optimizes the WordPress Database after Cleaning it out

Peanut Butter Bar (smooth version)
All the good stuff that sticks to the top of your site.

Plugin Logic
Activate plugins on pages only if they are really needed.

Redirection
Manage all your 301 redirects and monitor 404 errors

Remove Google Fonts References
Remove Open Sans and other google fonts references from all pages.

Simple CSS
Simply add CSS to your WordPress site using an awesome CSS editor or the live Customizer.

Simple Drop Cap
Simple drop cap plugin. Transform the first letter of a word into a drop cap or initial letter simply by wrapping the word with shortcode .

Title Remover
Gives you the ability to hide the title of any post, page or custom post type item without affecting menus or titles in the admin area.

UpdraftPlus – Backup/Restore
Backup and restore: take backups locally, or backup to Amazon S3, Dropbox, Google Drive, Rackspace, (S)FTP, WebDAV & email, on automatic schedules.

WEN’s Responsive Column Layout Shortcodes
WEN’s Responsive Column Layout Shortcodes easily add shortcodes to create 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, columns along with responsive layout in your posts/pages or widget section.

WP Counter
WP Counter is a simple visitor counter of your site. You can see your unique site visitor status in different date range (Today,Yesterday,Current Week,Current Month).

WP jQuery Plus
Loads jQuery from a CDN using the exact version as your current WordPress install

Gzip compression helps mobile speed. Use it!

Gzip compression speeds up text based file transfers. It’s not applied to image files. But it does compress HTML, Javascript, PHP, CSS, and others by 50 to 70 percent. The load time improvement can be noticeable.

T
he option to enable gzip compression was removed in WordPress 2.5 because Apache servers could handle it much more efficiently than PHP. The Gzip function was never put back. It then became necessary to edit the server HTTP access file manually. However, many people don’t have root server access (as in many shared hosting accounts) so that denied them Gzip speed benefits.

Because of the WordPress 2.5 change, Gzip could only be enabled by editing the HTTP access file via FTP or Cpanel. This is not only cumbersome but also dangerous. Making a mistake breaks your WordPress site. We know from experience. It’s not a fun place to be.

Plugins were soon authored to compensate for the loss of functionality in WordPress. We don’t recommend any of these plugins. They are unnecessary. These useless plugins are:

Repeat: We don’t recommend any of the above Gzip plugins. WARNING: Several may actually break your site (white screen of death from plugin conflicts) or make your site slower. We speak from experience again. It depends upon your theme and other plugins.

Many, Gzip plugins run through PHP, which, although fast, is not as fast as running directly from the Apache server using mod_deflate. Running Gzip via PHP uses extra CPU cycles and memory.

Before installing any plugins for Gzip.

Your hosting may automatically enable Gzip. Then no plugin is needed. For example, today GoDaddy’s Linux Web Hosting accounts have mod_deflate enabled by default. Mod_deflate is an apache server module that compresses data using gzip compression before sending it to the user. This compresses all text type files requested from it (HTML, CSS, JS, PHP, etc). Your hosting may do the same. Check your site with this tool: http://ismyblogworking.com/

But a reader, Erica Velásquez, prefers this faster Gzip test: https://www.websiteplanet.com/webtools/gzip-compression/

(Thanks for the tip, Erica!)

Example – Our PagePipe Gzip results using online tests:

  • Page size (uncompressed): 74,153 bytes
  • Download size (compressed): 23,436 bytes
  • Bandwidth saved by compression: 68.4%

If your host isn’t providing automatic Gzip compression, then use one or both of the following plugins. They’re proven safe methods:

WP Super Cache
Caching plugin for WordPress. We find this plugin doesn’t always help with speed. This plugin has an option to enable gzip compression.
Select: “Compress pages so they’re served more quickly to visitors.”

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. Set Far Future expiration to 365 days. You’re done.

WP Super Simple Speed
WP Super Simple Speed is lightweight (less than 20kb in size), and has no clutter or unnecessary code or configs. Simple performance optimization without any hassle. Gzip is automatically added to your .htaccess file on your server by this plugin.

Gzip is a software application used for file compression and decompression. Gzip is short for GNU zip; as the program was created as a free software replacement for the compression program used in early Unix systems.

Gzip replaces patent-encumbered data compression algorithms.
Most browsers and server platforms (including Apache and Microsoft IIS) support Gzip. It is often used in web applications and software such as PHP to improve speed. Hypertext PreProcessor (PHP) is a server-side HTML embedded scripting language. PHP is not always provided by a hosting server or may be a “paid” option. PHP is something that need to be “switched on” on the server. Check your ISP for how to do this. Or assume it’s on and just test. You can test to see whether PHP is activated with YSLOW or PageSpeed tools. Gzip can compress the HTML code by 50 percent to 70 percent. It does not compress images. Use Imsanity plugin for image optimization or an image processing program like GIMP or Photoshop – or online at pixlr express.

Gzip compression: What’s the speed gain?
Gzip reduces redundancy in the HTML code. All modern servers and browsers can compress and decompress Gzip on-the-fly. It’s not the same as removing “white space.” White space removal eliminates spaces between words and code. That would buy a 10% reduction in the HTML and is meaningful on dialup. White space removal is now called “minification” or “minifying.” Removing white space AND using Gzip simultaneously are almost an insignificant compression gain – about 1%. Not worth the time usually since all “blanks” are redundant and compressed by Gzip anyway. The difference in speed is usually indistinguishable.

There are a number of plugins that claim to invoke Gzip. Many actually break your site (white screen of death from plugin conflicts) or make your site slower. The goal usually is a simple code modification in a file located in your site’s root folder. This is called the “.htaccess” file. You can alter this code with a simple copy-and-paste in a text editor. But even easier than that is using the “Far Future Expiry Header” plugin. We’ve found that is the simplest – and weightless. When we say “weightless,” we mean the plugin doesn’t add any weight to your pages and thus has no “drag” slowing things down. With the plugin, there’s no messing around in C-panels or FTP clients. The plugin is built for caching your site assets for up to 365 days into the future. We recommend doing that. At the bottom of the plugin control panel page is a little radio button that when clicked enables Gzip for your entire site. Easy! And it works.

Where is the missing WP Super Simple Speed plugin?

The missing WP Super Simple Speed plugin is still available to download on GitHub.

The plugin author removed the plugin because he was probably fed up with trying to help people with conflict problems from minification – actually concatenation of files. The plugin wasn’t removed by WordPress. The conflicts were mainly with fat, heavy plugins you shouldn’t use anyway – like Gravity Forms plugin.

If a plugin “breaks” anything. Simply don’t use it.

WP Super Simple Speed is lightweight (less than 20kb in size), and has no clutter or unnecessary code or settings. Simple performance optimization without any hassle.

Don’t be afraid staleness of WP Super Simple Speed plugin. It works fine with newer PHP 7.1.

There is some redundancy with Autoptimize plugin and Far-Futures plugin features. But there’s no conflict and it finishes off a few hard to remove speed bumps.

WP Super Simple Speed writes new command code into your .htaccess file on your server. It does not overwrite any existing code.

Features include:

  • Automatic hotlink protection to prevent bandwidth stealing/leeching.
  • GZIP compression (speeds up page load time and saves bandwith).
  • Loads jquery from Google CDN (decreases latency | increases parallelism | better caching).
  • Includes Vary: Accept-Encoding Header (increase performance and score on various performance tools).
  • Disables auto-save on posts (lowers overhead on the server that can impact performance).
  • Automatically sets UTF-8 encoding for files being served as text/html or text/plain.
  • Enables keepalive (allowing persistent connections) which saves on bandwidth.
  • Removes unnecessary clutter from wp head (rsd, version generator, and much more).
  • Dequeues extra fontAwesome stylesheets loaded to your theme by other plugins.
  • Removes query strings from all static resources.

The usefulness of this plugin varies with each site. There are alternative discrete plugins to achieve the same features. This plugin is just “handy” to cut down the plugin count.

The discrete plugins are:

What removes plugin global site drag?

When website owners do site speed testing, they eventually observe plugins get loaded on every page, adding to code bloat and slower load times everywhere. They hopelessly think, “I don’t need these activated on all pages, but I have no way of controlling this.” This isn’t true.

What if a plugin could load on-demand? Even just parts of it, only when it was needed, instead of on every page load? These solutions exist and we have written about them.

REFERENCE: Selective activation of plugins for improved speed.

It’s true. Most plugins load virtually all their code, every single time, on every single WordPress page and post. The plugin author is at fault for not correctly coding their plugin to properly load things only when they’re needed.

Sites get bogged down from slow (or too many) database queries or too many CSS/JS files loading. It really isn’t WordPress’ job to control these things. It’s the plugin author’s job.

Plugins authors should be better educated on how to properly write their plugins so they do not load needlessly. Yes. It’s an education problem. It’s not super technical or even a flaw really.

It isn’t the responsibility of WordPress to control third-party plugins. Changes to any particular plugin requires talking to the individual plugin authors. There are more than 50,000 plugins. Big education job. We don’t have the resources to do it. Do you?

How can we say this without disturbing the natives?  Plugin authors frequently ignore being empathetic to user’s speed needs. The fault lies in being in too big of a hurry to do it right – or not being creative. They erroneously don’t think milliseconds are a problem. This is speed apathy.

Things will get better. Mobile has changed users need and perception for faster, speedier plugins.

We quote ourselves. (That’s pretty arrogant and pretentious. We know.)

Why does the silly form load everywhere – instead of only on the page with the shortcode like it should?

“Contact Form 7 isn’t the only form plugin that loads its Javascript and CSS files on every page. This is not uncommon for most slider plugins, too. We call this global loading – or site drag. It’s a bad way to do things for speed. While it’s common, it’s not a universal practice. We’ve found sliders and forms that only load code on pages containing their shortcodes. How can you tell? Only by testing. There is nothing in the plugin documentation telling if this will happen. It’s a negative thing – so why would they publish it? Honesty perhaps?

You’d think those plugins that have better behavior would advertise speed benefits – but they don’t. Not yet anyway.”

PagePipe: Contact Form 7 plugin causes global site drag

Site drag isn’t inherent in every plugin. Some plugins are created with speed in mind. These plugins allow plugin activation of features on groups of pages for example, post only. But these are uncommon plugins built by conscientious authors who recognize speed is a desirable bonus and differentiator.

Is Jetpack bloated – and slowing things down?

“Jetpack adds powerful features previously only available to WordPress.com users including customization, traffic, mobile, content, and performance tools.”

—Plugin description from wordpress.org/plugins/jetpack/

Developers, designers, end users, and even the founder of WordPress himself, rave about the importance of Jetpack, and want everyone to think that using Jetpack is necessary not only to get the most out of WordPress, but necessary if WordPress is to continue its dominance in the field of website design.

According to these people, Jetpack is the fix-all, the be-all, and the essential plugin that brings in important features missing in the naked WordPress installation. In other words, if we don’t use Jetpack we’re putting the entire WordPress universe in jeopardy.

We disagree. We think they’re wrong. We think Jetpack is bloated, and slows things down. We think you will get more speed and more value by taking a “naked” theme, and adding the “just right” individual plugins as needed – without Jetpack. We call those open-source discreet plugins. They are purpose-built for usually one function and have no or few settings. Jetpack is a multifunction plugin. Multifunction plugins are usually bloated with code overkill.

We’ve done some research and some testing, and here’s what we’ve found out:

Weight matters
Size of WordPress decompressed: 28.MB
Size of Jetpack decompressed: 14.8MB
Jetpack file size is 50 percent the size of WordPress.

Jetpack has a retention rate of 6.5 percent. That’s terrible. For comparison, good is around 30 percent retention and bad is 10 percent.

People like to say that WordPress is bloated, and maybe it is. But look at this comparison: Jetpack, which is just a plugin, an add-on to WordPress, has a file size 50 percent the size of WordPress itself. Talk about bloat!

Does this bloat make a difference? You bet it does.

Speed test with Jetpack activated but no modules activated
We wanted to test page speed on a simple WordPress site two different ways: Naked (no plugins) vs. Jetpack installed and activated with no modules activated. Here’s what we found:

Naked (No Jetpack)
First-visit speed (empty cache) 802 milliseconds
Subsequent-visit speed (primed cache) 608 milliseconds

Loaded (Jetpack installed and activated)
First-visit speed (empty cache) 3.13 seconds
Subsequent-visit speed (primed cache) 995 milliseconds

Test conducted on WebPageTest.org.
Theme: Omega, a fast and free theme.
Page weight: 7k.

What a difference. Initial page load with JetPack installed was totally non-jet-like – a full 3 seconds – while the naked theme loaded up in under 1 second. That’s a huge difference.

Do you think your site visitors would prefer a page that loads in less than 1 second, or would they rather sit there drumming their fingers on their desk while waiting a full 3 seconds for the page to load?

More Speed Results

We further benchmarked Jetpack page speed on a simple, Gzip-enabled, WordPress site:
Setup 1: Five Jetpack modules activated.
Setup 2: Three “equivalent” third-party plugins activated plus favicon.ico image file FTP upload.

Jetpack
Modules used: Contact Form (Akismet Anti-Spam plugin required), Widgeted Tiled Gallery, Carousel, Site Icon, Extra Sidebar Widgets.
First-visit speed (empty cache) 1.633 seconds, 19 components, 309k weight.
Subsequent-visit speed (primed cache) 1.1 seconds, 5 components, 169k weight.

Lookalike third-party plugins
Plugins used: Simple Basic Contact Form, Image Widget, Tiled Gallery Carousel without Jetpack, Favicon.ico upload via FTP
First-visit speed (empty cache) 1.45 seconds, 17 components, 152k weight.
Subsequent-visit speed (primed cache) 673 milliseconds, 1 components, 5k weight.

About Extra Sidebar Widgets module – I searched across the web and did not find a WordPress plugin that provided a similar group of widgets. To mimic the functionality of this module, you’ll need to install anywhere between 3 – 4 separate plugins with widgets.
–Jeff Chandler, contributing writer for WPTavern blog 2013.

As Jeff Chandler said, you can’t mimic the Extra Sidebar Widgets module even with many plugins – yet. With it, we could place our carousel in the sidebar. That was the only thing that impressed us about Jetpack. On the benchmark, we placed the carousel in the body. The image weights were the same for both tests.

The speed difference on the first load isn’t that impressive: 183 milliseconds. But on the second load or cached load, the difference was significant: 427 milliseconds – almost half the page speed.

Test conducted on WebPageTest.org.
Theme: Omega, a fast and free theme.
Page weight: 7k.

Another alternative: Unplug Jetpack plugin

Calling cloud-based web functions slow down page load time. In theory, the more HTTP requests the slower your site runs. Do you want a feature from Jetpack but don’t want to connect to WordPress.com’s cloud? Just use “Unplug Jetpack” plugin combined with the regular Jetpack plugin. It allows only the modules that don’t make offsite calls accessible.

“Unplug Jetpack” plugin contains only two files. One is the read.me file and the other is a Javascript file that weighs only 1.2k decompressed. It requires installing Jetpack first. By default, “Unplug” switches off all cloud-based functions and leaves the remaining modules activated. You then go through the list and deselect the remaining functions that aren’t needed.

Asterisked below * are the 17 features the tiny “Unplug Jetpack” plugin leaves activated. Ghosted, control-panel modules show the auto-disabled cloud features.

So what wonderful features do you get with JetPack?

Jetpack lists 36 features. Are they useful? Perhaps for bloggers but not website creators. How many of Jetpack’s modules will you actually use? Read below for our further assessment of each feature:

  • Custom CSS*
    Customize the look of your site, without modifying your theme.
    — Essentially create a child theme. One-button child theme plugin is a weightless alternative – among others.
  • Single Sign On
    Let users log in through WordPress.com with one click.
    — Big deal.
  • WordPress.com Stats
    Simple, concise site stats with no additional load on your server.
    — An alternative to Google Analytics. But many small sites could care less about stats.
  • Site Icon*
    Add a site icon to your site.
    — Favicon. There are various ways to solve loading a favicon. Many themes allow upload via the WordPress administration panel. The way the “Site Icon” feature does it guarantees a heavier favicon – around 2k. Most of our favicons weigh around 300B or less. This isn’t a big issue. All modern browsers know how to recognize and handle lazy loading of a favicon simply by placing the image in your website root folder. You don’t need any page coding any more. So this feature is odd. For novices, it may be a godsend.
  • Site Verification*
    Verify your site or domain with Google Webmaster Tools, Pinterest, and others.
    — Say what? Who cares!?
  • Related Posts
    Display links to your related content under posts and pages.
    — There are plugins that do this. We don’t know their impact on speed. We would never use one because it’s a blogging feature.
  • Markdown*
    Write posts or pages in plain-text Markdown syntax.
    — Oh, boy. You can code. Yuck.
  • Monitor
    — Uh. We suppose some would like this but we don’t care.
  • Jetpack Single Sign On
    Allow your users to log in using their WordPress.com accounts.
    — Again, we wouldn’t use this.
  • VideoPressPaid
    Upload and embed videos right on your site. (Subscription required.)
    — Say what? Paid feature!?
  • Widget Visibility*
    Specify which widgets appear on which pages of your site.
    — There are free plugins for this such as Dynamic Widgets plugin.
  • Omnisearch*
    Search your entire database from a single field in your Dashboard.
    — We’d never use it. Not on a small website.
  • Likes
    Give visitors an easy way to show their appreciation for your content.
    — Do we really need our ego stroked that bad?
  • Tiled Galleries*
    Display your image galleries in a variety of sleek, graphic arrangements.
    — Plugins exist for tiled or masonry style image presentation. But, we found this feature had potential not advertised. For more comparisons of discrete free plugins versus using comparable Jetpack features, Go to this page >
  • Publicize
    Share new posts on social media networks automatically.
    — We wouldn’t use this because we don’t believe social links help B2B websites. Social links slow a site way down.
  • Post by Email
    Publish posts by email, using any device and email client.
    — Not for us.
  • Photon
    Accelerate your site by loading images from the WordPress.com CDN.

    — They offer a CDN for images. CloudFlare offers free services for every file with security and a WordPress CloudFlare plugin helper for free, too.
  • Infinite Scroll*
    Add support for infinite scroll to your theme.
    — Other free plugins can do this.
  • Notifications
    Receive notification of site activity via the admin toolbar and your Mobile devices.
    — Like we’re going to sit and watch for this? There are plugins that do this.
  • JSON API
    Allow applications to securely access your content through the cloud.
    — Whoopee.
  • Mobile Theme*
    Optimize your site with a mobile-friendly theme for smartphones.
    — Responsive themes are free. This feature implies the module converts your theme to responsive design. What they are really doing is offering apps to make themes work on specific devices and operating systems. It’s unclear if these are paid or not. To us, it appears to be a band-aid.
  • Carousel*
    Transform standard image galleries into full-screen slideshows.
    — Many plugins available for this stuff. But even better –don’t use a slider or carousel.
  • Jetpack Comments
    Let readers comment with WordPress.com, Twitter, Facebook, or Google+ accounts.
    — No thanks.
  • Contact Form*
    Insert a contact form anywhere on your site.
    –There are perfectly good plugins for this that are lightweight.
  • Extra Sidebar Widgets*
    Add images, Twitter streams, your site’s RSS links, and more to your sidebar.
    — Again, these can be solved with discreet plugins.
  • Enhanced Distribution
    Share your public posts and comments to search engines and other services.<
    — No thanks. We’re not bloggers.
  • Subscriptions
    Allow users to subscribe to your posts and comments and receive notifications via email.
    — Already have plugins with this feature.
  • VaultPressPaid
    Protect your site with automatic backups and security scans. (Subscription required.)
    — PAID!? Free alternative plugins exist that don’t cause any page load.
  • WordPress.com Stats
    Monitor your stats with clear, concise reports and no additional load on your server.
    — Reiteration of the Google Analytics alternative.
  • Shortcode Embeds*
    Embed content from YouTube, Vimeo, SlideShare, and more, no coding necessary.
    — Again if you want these features plugins exist already.
  • Spelling and Grammar
    Check your spelling, style, and grammar with the After the Deadline proofreading service.
    — This can be added as an addon or extension to your favorite browser and not load down WordPress.
  • Sharing*
    Allow visitors to share your content on Facebook, Twitter, and more with a click.
    — No social for us.
  • WP.me Shortlinks
    Enable WP.me-powered shortlinks for all posts and pages.
    — Nice. But again plugins already exist for this.
  • Gravatar Hovercards*
    Enable pop-up business cards over commenter’s’ Gravatars.
    — No thank you. No comments allowed on our sites.
  • Beautiful Math*
    Use LaTeX markup language in posts and pages for complex equations and other geekery.
    — Nice if you have a scientific client. But other solutions probably exist.

Asterisked above * are the 17 features the tiny “Unplug Jetpack” plugin leaves activated.


While we don’t agree with everything on this offsite blog post, it’s a good overview of Jetpack. It’s biased in favor of Jetpack and it’s bloat.

Get rid of slow “block editor residue” after disabling Gutenberg with plugins.

There are several ways to disable Gutenberg block editor. Why to do this is obvious. If you’ve used WordPress for a long time, the new editor is ANNOYING!

One alternative is using plugins to shut off Gutenberg block editor.  There are two plugin methods that work:

Disable Gutenberg plugin

or

Classic Editor plugin combined with Classic Editor Addon plugin

or all the above.

That’s right. If Gutenberg randomly engages install all these 3 together. We’ve seen Gutenberg still present itself when turned off – and it’s real weird.

OFFSITE REFERENCE: https://torquemag.io/2019/11/what-is-a-waterfall-chart-and-how-do-you-read-it/

Do these completely get rid of slow Gutenberg calls? No. They don’t. There are two styles left enqueued by WordPress 5.0.1 and up. Look for these files in your test waterfall:

/wp-includes/css/dist/block-library/theme.min.css

and for themes like twenty-seventeen updated since Gutenberg introduction:

wp-content/themes/twentyseventeen/assets/css/blocks.css

If you consider these two files a small matter, then examine your heart as a true speed demon. On an optimized homepage with 20 requests – removing 2 calls is a 10 percent reduction. For speed, we’ll take that bonus and dump the “block” deadwood.

How do you dequeue (remove) styles? We recommend using the Asset Queue Manager plugin. Or the WordPress Assets Manager plugin. Our preference is Assets Queue Manager even though it’s not updated for years. Don’t be afraid of that lack of freshness. It means it’s never broken!

Both plugins allow you to dequeue assets from the front side of your website when logged in. That’s oddly different – but it works.

Control Panel dropdown from front side of homepage:

OFFSITE REFERENCES

What are the fastest high-speed tricks for mobile image optimization?

Focus on reducing image file sizes for ultrafast mobile page speed. We’ve written an ebook about JPEG image optimization. Seventy percent of images used on websites are JPEGs. Images are half the lump of web page weight. But that doesn’t mean they are half of page speed*.

*We guesstimate images slow page loads by 30 percent – not half.

Our “Faster Loading Images for Mobile UX” eBook is 1,629 words.
Download the PDF for free.

Image weight is important but not the high priority it once was. Why? On modern browsers, many images load in parallel saving time. And lazy-load plugins postpone image from presenting until needed. Loading occurs when the user scrolls and the image enters the screen. These help with perceived load time. Those are improvements for good user experience (UX).

Third-party APIs or widget scripts are much worse for slowing down pages than images.

WordPress compresses JPEG images uploaded to your media library. It compresses to the same degree as a Photoshop save-for-web quality setting of 50. Because of this automation, proper sizing of dimensions is now more important than fretting about compression. Read more about JPEG compression in our free PDF download (above).

You’re thinking, “What? Are you telling me I don’t need any image optimization plugin?” You’ve got the picture. Today, WordPress does a good job optimizing images for you. In most cases, anyway. We have more to say about a few exceptions. So read on.

Mobile users are bandwidth sensitive. They sometimes are browsing on expensive, remote, mobile roaming connections. Ill-prepared images consume money for mobile users. Dishing up heavy images on mobile requires polite consideration (aka hospitality).

There are many tricks to optimize images. We always prefer hand-optimizing using an offline image processor like Photoshop or Gimp. Simply use “save for web” features. Automated optimization can’t judge how far to push image quality settings. Only a human can do that. Failsafe plugins like Imsanity ensure JPEG images never exceed certain limits. We set our largest images to match our page layout column width. That’s specified in pixels. And, we set compression in Imsanity to a quality of 70 – lower than the WordPress default of 82.

Automating image optimization with plugins doesn’t change the image dimensions. The plugins only change compression. WP Smush plugin is the worst because compression gain is only 10 percent. That’s insignificant for speed improvement. WP Smush – the free-version – only offers lossless image compression. To get 10X (visually-lossless) lossy compression requires the *premium* plugin version. There are many free plugins providing better lossy compression – like Imsanity. So don’t let any plugin author take you to the cleaners.

Are there better alternatives to using heavy JPEG images on a mobile website?

There are two great alternatives. The first is using GIF or PNG format images. We’ll demonstrate with pictures. This is a PNG image used as a 800px x 220px header on a blog post:

This sample header image has few colors. It uses an PNG-8 format with 8-bit color depth selected (not PNG-256). That is the secret and why it only weighs a tiny 12k. It allows resizing to large-screen full width without much distortion. The stretched image doesn’t pixelate like a JPEG would – even when increased to a width of 1350 pixels. At “medium-size,” the image resizes to both desktop-screens and mobile screens. It still looks good on both. It’s a good-enough compromise of size. Don’t build headers as big as recommended.

How heavy would this image be if it were a JPEG 2000px wide header image? It wouldn’t be bad. Because of the limited number of colors, it’d be around 32k. Still, almost 3 times heavier.

The Visually-lossless Daisy Test

Let’s say we want a beautiful JPEG stock photo of vintage-style daisies in our page header. Assume the dimensions are recommended as 2000 x 1200 pixels. First we can knock off about 100k of it’s stock 500k weight. That’s just by putting it through an offline save-for-web feature. It then becomes about 400k in file size. Below (before) is what it looks like uploaded with no optimization plugin. It’s 390k files size and 1920 x 1200px (scaled to 714px x 446px). Scaling is bad by the way. It causes the browser to slow down and calculate on-the-fly what the new image size should be. Math-time wastes time.

BEFORE

And, below, after automatic optimization using the installed Imsanity plugin. The difference: it’s 70k and cropped to our column dimension and our 70-quality setting.

AFTER

Can you see a difference? Do you have super powers or gifts of extra sensory perception? This comparison demonstrates visually-lossless compression. It’s technical name is lossy compression. We admit it isn’t magnificent here. That’s because we set our Imsanity quality setting to 70. Instead of the default 82 that WordPress uses. We push images harder.

Why do we compromise image quality for speed? Because it’s proven site visitors don’t care about image quality as much as you, the site owner. Don’t over-engineer your site. Image quality judgment is way down the list of user irritants or values. Speed frustration is number one – top of the list. We admit – it needs better quality if it’s a portfolio site for an artist or photographer.

Site owners are afraid of lossy compression. Why? Because it sounds like the process shreds the image through a meat grinder. Loss is not good right? Wrong – in this case. You did recognize the second image was of vintage-style daisies, too? What? You thought they were roses?

Using lightweight PNG images is one of our favorite speed tricks.

You can make PNG large-dimension images with small-weight. For example, this PNG image (below) is 3.3k file size and 1000px x 600px dimensions. It’s perfect for a Twenty-seventeen default theme header. Or a featured image – even though their spec says to produce a 2000 x 1200px dimension image.

Uploading featured PNG images to Twenty-seventeen pages, we found a surprise. The PNG weight automatically increased by 3 to 4 times the original. But if we used GIF image replacements, we had “no weight change” and a smaller image file resulted. Freakish image voodoo.

ruby hex color #c43a2c

For example: As a featured image in WordPress, this 2000 x 1086px simple, red signage changed:

  •  A 9k PNG converted to 32k (by WordPress) as a featured PNG image. Fail!
  • As a 25k JPEG, WordPress automatically converted it to 58k of JPEG bloat.
  • Making the red signage a 15k GIF. Then WordPress won’t change it. It stays 15k. Oddity.

We said using PNG and GIF images is our favorite speed trick. Our second favorite trick and the lightest, fastest solution is – using no images at all.

Fifteen percent of websites don’t use any images. None. Zero.

Yes. Some pages are completely text and CSS. But the average website is heavy on JPEG image usage. It’s the big beast to tame. It’s where the most unrealized potential is for UX improvement. But having no images can be even better if you can get away with it. What could be faster?

Can you avoid image-bloat problems completely by using image optimization? No. Sometimes it’s best not to use an image at all under certain conditions. Think about it. Does the image contribute to understanding the website’s written content? Does it attract, distract, or repel? Users are the judge. Not us. It requires testing.

How much testing? Simple. Ask just five people who aren’t related to you and aren’t your employees. That’s it. You don’t have to spend a lot of money or time. Irrelevant images are a waste of space. Reducing page-load time is still a big criteria for maximizing readership.

One big question: Are images attractive or motivating – and not alienating or repulsive? These questions address a primary component of web credibility. Credibility is the feeling web designers want to achieve. What is right isn’t always what feels good. If you put an ugly image into a compressor, it’ll still be ugly – but faster loading – when it comes out. There is even a possibility it may be uglier from distortions.

Two best ways to improve images have nothing to do with optimization: 1. Images with story appeal. 2. Images that demonstrate.

“Hero image” is a term used in web design for a specific type of web banner. A hero image is a large banner image, prominently placed on a web page, generally in the top, front and center.

A large hero image (usually a WordPress featured image) on a posts is irrelevant or generic if it doesn’t help move site visitors towards a conversion goal. There are only two critical performance metrics: sales lead generation and improved engagement (stickiness). Visitor engagement is indicated by click-through, page dwell time, and multiple visits. These are the inverse of high bounce rates. Information is no longer scarce – attention is scarce.

As content has grown increasingly abundant and immediately available, attention becomes the limiting factor in the consumption of information.

A high bounce rate means we’re attract the wrong people (traffic) – unqualified leads. The decision to leave a page is an impatient and intolerant “snap judgment” from interpreting subconscious relevance cues. These include typography, speed, readability, color usage, images, and symbols. These combined together are sometimes referred to as branding or design. In the end, it’s nothing more that a feeling of being in the right place.

If it takes the user too long to locate something, they will find it through another application. This is done, for instance, by creating filters to make sure the first content a viewer sees is relevant, of interest, or with the approval of demographics.

A large hero image is positioned in the most critical place to influence a visitor’s stay-or-go decision. It’s usually the first thing a viewer sees. It becomes a critical device for attention and engagement. It’s our responsibility to make sure the hero image is relevant to the user – it’s not a job for the viewer. Otherwise the image becomes attention pollution.

What are you providing by serving up a large featured image? Is it merely a cue to content? Or graphic signage to make pages appear different and less boring? Does the use of a large image communicate a message worthy of the longer load time? It the page real estate wasted?

What is really needed are systems that excel at filtering out unimportant or irrelevant information.

Users have words and phrases in their mind that will cause them to click on a link. We call these trigger words or cues. They are essential to good navigation. Users want to get to a site’s content as quickly as possible. For this, they use information scent. Good information scent give clues and implications that they are hunting and searching in the right direction. They “feel” they will find the solution to their need or problem soon. This is also called findability.

Is herd mentality affecting hero image choices?

Just because your competitor is using stock hero images in the banner of every blog page doesn’t mean it’s a good thing. The herd majority is presently doing this page design treatment. It becomes invisible or transparent. It is ignored. Why?

Milestones during typical page loads:

2.5 seconds for the headline overlay to appear.

3.5 seconds for the background hero image to appear.

4.5 seconds all critical elements are on page.

6.5 seconds for the page to finish rendering. Note: Lazy loading Facebook “garbage / widgets” during that 4.5 to 6.5 seconds window is the most common delay. That’s what takes so long for complete rendering. Can you hear our contempt for Facebook’s speed apathy!?

Double those times for mobile screens.

When you place text on top of photographs, you usually ruin the image aesthetics and the text readability simultaneously. This happens and is bad practice – but part of popular WordPress theme rigidity.

The background image (hero image) is sometimes much bigger than needed for mobile because of the desire to conform to large-screen, retina-display standards. This poor image decision most likely is made by a designer concerned first about their portfolio. Not mobile experience. A mobile audience doesn’t use these kinds of screens – let alone can afford them.

We need to limit the number of page design elements that compete for visitor’s attention.

The size of a typical hero image on sites is around 1920 pixels x 1280 pixels and is scaled to size in the browser window. HTML code downsizing means the browser must calculating page space on the fly – a bad practice for speed. It causes a screen-rendering delay as “the machine” stops to think. And only a small portion of the big image is actually seen. The Jpeg image can weigh above 400k! Optimizing a little bit more might knockoff 100k easily. WebPagetest.org agrees with us about that image-optimization assessment. But the reduction to 300k is still too heavy for mobile page loads.

COMPARISON USING STOCK IMAGE

Typical page layout with hero image.

 

Actual size 400k background image. The whole image isn’t used.

Much of what determines where people invest their attention is below the level of pure reason. Indeed, research suggests that one of the most important factors for gaining and sustaining attention is engaging people’s emotions.

Mobile screens may be just 320 pixels wide.

One source of large, free hero images is Pexels.com. They have classy, professional photography. A typical Pexel image download is almost 700k page weight and 2682px x 1782px dimensions. Resizing and optimizing helps – but is still not good enough for mobile design.

The takeaway: The fastest image to load is – surprise – no image at all. Next best is a repetitive image that is already cached in the browser. But that can get pretty Spartan and boring. For information sites, textual content is more important than images – unless images illustrate or demonstrate a point.

Since Hero images frequently fill the whole screen, it forces users to scroll to find the point of your website. Hero images are frequently eye-candy and don’t have relevance to the article or blog post. It takes work and thought to find the right stock images. So, there is often a disconnect. Instead, using a call-to-action linked with an image would make more sense. Or even a large signup form. Publishing a positioning statement about “who we are, what we do, and why you should care” is good communications strategy and good ideas, too.

Large background images add a large amount of weight to a page for very little actual gain. Any user whose screen is generally smaller than 1024 pixels will absolutely not see the background image. Small screens simply don’t have the screen real estate to display content and background images. WordPress now attempts to load an appropriately sized “backup” image based on mobile screen size. But we aren’t seeing results in speed testing yet.

A video placeholder as a hero image is a creative technique by making it seem like the entire hero image background is a video that can be played. It’s just a static image that if you click on the “play” button you get a video Lightbox that starts playing a normal-sized video for you. The idea though is that the “play” button is the bull’s-eye of the top portion of the home page. The way it is placed makes you really want to click on it. Then the video sells you on the product or service.

Moving the header hero image down the page for lazy loading is wise, also. But is it still a hero image? We don’t know.

Better hero images do the following:

  • Answer customer questions.
  • Highlight your value proposition.
  • Make an announcement.
  • Feature a service or product line.
  • Include a built in CTA button.
  • Have consistent branding.
  • Reduce customization for limited resources.
  • Make our best promise that we can keep.

Good hero images contribute to the following feelings:

  • Immediacy – priority access, immediate delivery.
  • Personalization – tailored just for you. Personalization is one of the most important factors in viewers choice to attend to one piece of information over another.
  • Interpretation – support and guidance.
  • Authenticity – how can you be sure it is the real thing?
  • Accessibility – wherever, whenever.
  • Embodiment – books, live music.
  • Patronage – “paying simply because it feels good.”
  • Findability – “When there are millions of books, millions of songs, millions of films, millions of applications, millions of everything requesting our attention — and most of it free — being found is valuable.”

What kinds of images get immediate attention:

The factors most highly associated with getting attention, in rank order, are:

  • The message/image is personalized.
  • It evokes an emotional response.
  • It comes from a trustworthy or respected source.
  • It’s concise.

Messages/images that both evoked emotion and are personalized are more than twice as likely to be attended to as the messages without those attributes.


Can studying Google Analytics web statistics influence design color choices? More ways than you might think. But first you have to know where you’re at. And where you’re going. You must know what is most important. What is valuable and what is not? To answer that you need objectives – goals for making good choices. Even for something as simple as colors.

You have a WordPress website. This imaginary site gets good traffic. Monthly, two percent of your new web traffic comes from Facebook. Almost nothing! Social media has failed. Everything reported is organic Google search results: 100-percent traditional. Imagine your information site receiving 20,000 unique visitors per month with 18,000 leaving in under 10 seconds. Most everyone plainly perceives they landed in the wrong place.

Perhaps the description underneath the Google search link misled them. Somehow, you didn’t serve the information they were hoping or expecting. They then reacted negatively by hitting the back button – and kept on searching. On the web, people’s behavior is impatient and intolerant.

Of your remaining new visitors, only 2,000 per month stay for 3 minutes to over 30 minutes. Those are the people who are engaged and interested. They read content because it’s perceived as relevant. They watch videos in hopes of getting answers to their problems. They may even do something beneficial like signup or buy.

What if Google Analytics tells us 60 to 70 percent of visitors use Apple iPhone and iPads? Those real numbers are whopping. The majority is mobile. Is that normal? Sometimes. It’s happening on many sites now.

Your imaginary home-page, load-time is under 4 seconds. That doesn’t seem so bad. But Google reports your most popular landing pages are averaging 6-seconds or more to load. That speed (slowness?) doubles into about 12 seconds on a mobile device. This wait is beyond the human 10-second threshold of pain. Attention wanders. That means viewer boredom, frustration, annoyance, and abandonment increases. Hmm? No wonder the bounce rate is high.

You have a big user experience problem affecting website profits. Speed is killing opportunity. Can color help solve this speed problem? Maybe.

Speed is primary to achieve mobile site goals. We have to get past that barrier and achieve an ideal 2-second load time. Yet, we need branding (decoration) that communicates to the right audience. Decoration adds page weight. Bloat occurs on overly decorated sites.

Alexa gives us demographic data that Google’s free service can’t provide. What if our marketing goal is to appeal to an all female audience? Not men. But Alexa indicates 40 percent of site visitors are male. Men are unqualified leads. How can we subtly tell men to get lost and not waste our time? How can we entice women to stick around? Can we filter sales leads with color? Can color be “weightless”? (Weightless meaning not adding any page weight or drag to the site).

OFFSITE REFERENCE: https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/brain-babble/201504/when-it-comes-color-men-women-arent-seeing-eye-eye

An unconventional solution.

Women know when a female designs a website. If your audience is female dominant, you need the touch of a female designer. Men aren’t so perceptive.

The speed-and-decoration balance lies in one simple trick. We must discard photographic images – and all Jpegs for that matter. Instead, we must use solid-color, illustrative, PNG-image files. Not Jpeg format.

JPEG is the most widely used image type on the Internet. Of all websites, 70 percent use JPEG images. JPEG image compression exploits certain properties of our eyes. This allows for compression for smaller files. But they are rarely as small of files as illustrations.

We’ll demonstrate. 259k Jpeg vs 17k PNG.

Screenshot at 2016-08-08 20-08-40
Above: Typical banner Jpeg image, 400k, 1920px × 1280px, background image. Heavy for mobile bandwidth.

 

Above: Typical custom line-drawing header with reduced color numbers (hero-image substitute), 17k, 1100px × 259px. Much lighter. 17k vs 259k. Hmm? Which will load faster? Illustration always wins over photos for speed.

A PNG illustration banner or hero image consumes so few kilobytes because it’s visually simplistic. Visual complexity increases image file size. Therefore, consider using illustrations and graphics rather than detailed photographs.

But, you say, “They aren’t the same image! Is that a fair comparison?” Actually, yes, it is. Because they both communicate. An illustration is less complicated. It can focus the message with fewer details and fewer colors. This improves viewer attention. And speed!


That’s right. WordPress undoes your manual image optimization efforts. We use an offline image processor like Gimp or Photoshop for manual image production and optimization.

Few discover this hidden truth about WordPress automated image editing. It’s has an odd and strange ability to increase image files size slowing down speed. It only occurs if you use their photo editor to crop images. When it asks you to crop – “skip” it. That’s usually a better choice if the image is already sized. Uploaded originals are untouched when placed in the media library – unless you resize or crop such as an image thumbnail. Then things grow. Why? Who knows? WordPress looks the other way about this unreported speed problem.

Plainly, this upsizing strangeness isn’t a problem for most site owners or visitors. They don’t care. Otherwise, there would be millions screaming for a bug fix.

GIF is not an acceptable format for photos. JPEG is the better choice.

When you upload an image to the media library, WordPress core builds many mobile-size images for swapping on the fly. This is an attempt at a responsive mobile speed solution.

You as a site owner care more about image quality than the majority of your site users do. Image quality is way down the visitor-frustration list. Not significant. The number one complaint is slow loading pages being “the worst experience of a user’s day.”

Is Retina screen resolution important? There’s almost 1 billion active users of iPhone. And there are an estimated 300 million second-hand iPhone in use.

Retina display is a marketing term invented by Apple. Their primary goal is reducing eye strain when users read small type. Not improving image quality – a fortunate byproduct. It’s all about font-type readability.

There exist circumstances where images must be uncompromising. One is on portfolio sites. The other is with photography showing important product details. Both are instances where you’re selling something that depends upon good image representation. Images then are more important for buyer decision making. Product photo quality affects web profits. In all other cases, users aren’t discerning or are forgiving. They’d rather you build for speed and compromise in the image quality department.

Are you selling something on your site?

If you’re not selling, visitors only need to recognize what the color blob is. That is it. The caption is more important to users than photo quality. But often site owners neglect to use captions for better communications.

Building for Retina images is an exercise in futility.

When you *must* build for high-resolution Retina displays, there’s a superior way. Please read the article linked below. Remember to keep web goals in perspective. Some things don’t matter. Most web browsing today is on mobile devices. But mobile visitor expectation is low in many regards for type-font and image design. That doesn’t mean you’re justified in delivering garbage. But major image effort often has a puny return on investment.

We recommend WP Retina 2X plugin. Try it. Test it. But only if Retina-screen compliance is critical.

This novel plugin creates many new alternate high-resolution versions of your images. Another plugin feature is automatic detection of Retina displays. It then loads the high-resolution version of an image rather than the regular one.

WP Retina 2x serves up src-set images which pull smaller sized images off the server – and theoretically decrease bandwidth. – Ian Rance

Only 4 percent of site owners who install WP Retina 2X keep it. That’s a low-retention rate. It wasn’t worth the Retina-resolution hassle even when this plugin made image decisions and production painless. So there’s lots of variable screen sizes. Big deal. Retina-image preparation does NOT have widespread adoption by web designers or developers. It’s perceived a production annoyance (or non-feature) delaying site launch – and project payment.

These three offsite links below may help you make decisions. You have a design choice. You can workaround or ignore Apple-mandated techno-specs. We won’t tell.

https://mediag.com/blog/popular-screen-resolutions-designing-for-all/

https://deviceatlas.com/blog/most-used-smartphone-screen-resolutions

http://screensiz.es/phone

For PagePipe’s site, the strategy is not using photography for large headers. We choose the alternative of building custom illustrations for reduced load-time speed. That means using 8-bit GIF and PNG with 2,000×1200 pixel images with reduced color palettes. Those files weigh just over 21 kilobytes.

Where we use featured JPEGs, they weigh under 200 kilobytes. It’s fortunate the big “hero” image is lazy loaded by the default theme.

But the fastest sites on earth have no images. Only a small number of site owners make that choice (about 10 percent).

PagePipe screengrabs are JPEGs. They’re optimized harder than WordPress recommends. WordPress saves images at a compression of 82 – which is the equal to a Photoshop 50. Why is this important? It makes the images pass the WebPagetest.org criteria – a real speed test owned by Google. It’s most used by professional performance engineers. Not Google PageSpeed Insights for commoners. PageSpeed insights doesn’t even measure page speed in milliseconds. It only produces a weird score. They let you kill yourself for a meaningless 100 A+ while your site still remains a slug.

pagepipe.com/quality-82-image-compression-change-for-wordpress/

We build all JPEG images to screen dimensions. We optimize offline with a 70-quality setting (or more when we can). We use free GIMP image processor. We avoid cropping online with WordPress. We save-for-web our 8-bit PNGs and GIFs with reduced color palettes.

We’ve only had one client request Retina-quality images. That’s Steve’s brother, Brad Teare. High-end art galleries using fiber-optic connections were his target market. Speed was a nonissue. But we built the portfolio for both large screen and small screen, just in case. The galleries asked how he pulled it off. A great compliment. People’s curiosity sparks a speed question, “How did you do that cool magic trick?”

When we have a choice, we choose ignoring Retina specifications. And Retina’s been around for awhile. We may change our policy in the future. But we doubt it.

An unconventional optimization example.

The PagePipe “Start Here” page contained an animated GIF. It wasn’t built to the recommended spec of 2000×1200 pixel dimension. Instead, it’s 1132×697 pixels. We let the browser stretch with math and mess with this image. This is bad practice. Dimension recalculation causes small speed delays. So why do it? Because not doing so would produce an even worse super-slow page. Abandoned by users clicking the back button.

We also ran the animated GIF through an online compressor squeezing it’s file size way down. This introduced tons of noise and artifacts into the animation. Do we care? No. Because it’s good enough for average users. It’s noticed by inspector-type personalities. But 80 percent of visitors (or more) are oblivious and unaware of best design practices.

Being perfect in-every-way has too high of cost in time and money. “How good is good enough” is a hard judgment call. Relax your tolerances and standard so you can work on what counts most.


★★★★★
PNG to JPG plugin
Active installs: 2,000+
Zip file size: 10k

Description: Convert PNG images to JPG, free up web space and speed up your webpages:

  • Set quality of converted JPG.
  • Auto convert on upload.
  • Auto convert on upload only when PNG has no transparency.
  • Convert existing PNG image to JPG.
  • Bulk convert existing PNG images to JPG.

REFERENCE: WPFaster.com: 10 speed changes for $1,985. Do them yourself with free plugins.

COMMON QUESTIONS ABOUT IMAGES

  • How do I balance high-quality images/speed optimization?

That is a big question and it’s completely dependent upon your audience and your values as the site owner. For example, a portfolio site wanted quality above all else. The affluent audience viewed art on fiber-optic connections with large Retina screens. They also wanted images to still look good on small mobile devices. Those specifications let us know what solutions mattered and what methods to use.

  • So what is “good enough” image engineering?

WordPress is already built to optimize images to a good degree. Generally, you only need a plugin for optimization if you abuse the system. Like uploading digital camera or phone images. There are conditions where you will botch or thwart the system. The most common is using PNG format for photos. Use them for transparent icons and solid color signage like logos. Save those not as 24-bit PNGs — but rather as 8-bit PNGs. Normal images should be JPEG photos.

When we optimize a site, we often find gross heavy images uploaded to the media library as PNG format photos. They aren’t resized or optimized. Site owners don’t realize these won’t be automatically compressed like JPEGS. Original PNG images are not optimized by WordPress.

A huge file from a camera can be upwards of 10 to 15 megabytes. That’s large. You shouldn’t upload anything over 100k to 200k. That’s right kilobytes. Not megabytes.

WordPress only optimizes *resized* JPEG images like “medium” or “thumbnail” or “custom.” The original stays big and fat. Unless you have a plugin like Imsanity installed. It will then crop and resize the image for you when you upload according to the plugin settings.

Imsanity has a setting selection to convert all uploaded PNG to JPG. But if you upload transparent PNGs, they convert, too. That’s not good. So we don’t leave this enabled.

NOTE: Some WordPress sites can’t be backed up because the media library was so full of huge files. Even when those files weren’t used on pages. The bloated media library was in Gigabytes.

The handiest plugin for the retroactive repair of a bloated media library is PNG to JPG plugin. This plugin ignores PNGs with transparency and leaves them unchanged.

PLUGIN: https://wordpress.org/plugins/png-to-jpg/

The default WordPress compression for JPEG images used to be 90. That changed a few years ago to be 82. That’s the same as saving in Photoshop with a quality of 50. That number originates from the WebPagetest.org test conditions. That image quality will pass inspection. But that doesn’t mean they *resized dimensions*. The worst errors are from not sizing. So how do you determine that best size in pixels?

Usually, the largest size you need is the screen width for your dominant audience. Rarely is that larger than 2,000 pixels. More often, the page column width is something like 700- to 900-pixel width. If in doubt, set large image size to 1,000px. Full-screen to 2,000px.

Services like free Smush plugin, do not resize – nor do they do lossy image JPEG optimization. That is what you want. People assume lossless is best. It is not. It will only improve images by about 10 percent. Whereas lossy compression improves images by 70 to 80 percent smaller file size. To get that, you have to pay for the premium version. Use a free plugin instead.

Lossy compression is imperceptible change to the human eye.

Those can be huge images.

  • What size should I download?

No larger than 2000 pixels wide. But Imsanity will fix it if you upload a bigger file than that.

  • Do I then upload and let a plugin compress? (I don’t have access to Photoshop and looking for an easy/high volume solution)

Imsanity solves the resize and compression issues during upload to the media library. The beauty of Imsanity — besides being free — is it doesn’t use an external server API (wait time). And it does both resizing and compression using onboard WordPress features.

  • How do I handle the header image desktop vs mobile size?

WordPress chooses desktop and mobile images on-the-fly. Upload images sized for the recommended width in the customizer header section. For example, for Twenty-seventeen default theme header images, the dimensions are 2000×1200 pixels. The theme (core) will crop to those dimensions. Good themes do that for you.

WordPress stores 3 or more versions of your uploaded image on your server. They’re each sized in advance. WordPress decides which image size to load by the viewer’s device screen width. It’s smart.

  • Does lazy-loading below the fold images help?

Yes. It helps with perceived speed. The load happens later or delays. It’s especially helpful on mobile devices.

  • I’ve been uploading images through the Gutenberg editor inline (not to the media folder first, then selecting it in the editor – seems time consuming) – does this cause issues?

Sorry. We don’t use Gutenberg. We don’t know the answer. Few use the new Block Editor. Over 5 million site owners have disabled this non-feature. Many more don’t even know Gutenberg exists. They’re running older obsolete versions of WordPress. If you learned WordPress with the classic editor, keep it with the Classic Editor plugin.


Cheat speed tests using stripped-down Twenty-seventeen theme.

Slow plugins? It’s not the quantity, it’s the quality that makes a difference. Web designers can’t be arbitrary in loading and activating plugins. The result is slow pages.

All plugins recommended are free downloads from WordPress.org directory.

Our first speed trick, of course, is using thematic graphic elements tying fast-loading visuals together. Color usage in branding elements is good speed strategy. Limiting the site palette to just a few colors makes super, fast-to-load GIF or 8-bit PNG graphics.

Second, we use free plugins that help page speed. 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 only single-digit millisecond delays. Almost no page weight at all – weightlessness!

Here’s speed plugins we use on Twenty-seventeen theme:

1
Autoptimize
Optimizes your website, concatenating the CSS and JavaScript code, and compressing it.


2Remove Google Fonts References
Disable enqueuing of Twenty-seventeen’s Libre Franklin and Helvetica Neue and other fonts used from Google. Twenty-seventeen then uses browser and system default fonts. This speeds up load time. This plugin is a very lightweight. It has no settings, just activate it and it works immediately. The trade off for typographic branding isn’t worth it. The default or fallback body text is generic and ubiquitous thus perceived as an utility font. The common fall-back fonts in the stack aren’t special except for being fast loading. The family font stack is: “Libre Franklin”, “Helvetica Neue”, helvetica, arial, sans-serif. The font being rendered usually is Helvetica.


3Disable Emojis
This plugin disables the emoji functionality (since WordPress 4.2). WordPress does not need emoji. 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.


4Lazy Load for Videos
Speeds up your site by replacing embedded Youtube and Vimeo videos with a clickable preview image. Visitors simply click on the image to play the video. This isn’t needed for the Twenty-seventeen header video. That’s already using deferred loading. But if you have any other video, like we do on our posts, it helps speed things up.


5Far 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.. The changes are made in your .htaccess file on your server. You don’t have to do any coding. Nice.

  1. Far Future SETTINGS
  2. Set the expiration to 365 days (yes, 1 year).
  3. Select all the file types you are using.
  4. Select Gzip compression.
  5. Save.

6Optimize 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.


7Query Strings Remover
Removes query strings from your static resources like CSS and JavaScript files. It will improve your cache performance and overall score in Pingdom and GTmetrix. No configuration needed. It’s only for fanatics.


8Rocket Lazy Load
A tiny Lazy Load script for WordPress without using jQuery or others libraries. Lazy load is a method of delaying presentation of non-critical images that are “below the fold.” This technique buys 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 customization, just install and activate this plugin and let it do it’s thing.


9WP Super Simple Speed
No configuration needed. Uses GZIP compression, leverages browser caching, includes automatic hot-link protection and more. There is some redundancy with Autoptimize and Far-Futures plugin features. But there is no conflict and it finishes off a few hard to remove speed bumps.


LOOKING FOR A NEW THEME FOR 2021? Get speed.

thumbnail of THEME-ME-10-v1.compressed
THEME.ME: What is the fastest free theme? There are 5,100 free themes in the WordPress theme directory. Of those, only 1,602 are responsive. All the rest are fixed-width junk. How did we sort the remaining 1,602 free responsive themes to find the fastest loading?

Twenty-seventeen Default Theme Tips Read our torture-test results of this popular free theme. Don’t get locked in for recurring *annual renewal* theme memberships. Save your money. The Twenty-seventeen Torture-tested Themes ebook contains honest and common-sense reporting and tips about mobile WordPress speed!