Speeding Up WordPress the Easy Way
If you make your living doing anything remotely related to the Internet, then you too have been approached by a family member or friend requesting help on a technical issue. So it was that I was recently enlisted to speed up a WordPress-based site that was performing slowly. Not just slowly but glacially (if that metaphor still applies in an era of global warming). It was so slow that the home page would regularly take ten or fifteen seconds to load. Or it wouldn't load at all and you'd eventually wind up with a less than welcoming 500 error. An unsustainable state of affairs.
While Graphics.com isn't driven by WordPress, I maintain a few hobby sites using the world's most popular CMS (more than 50 million sites now use it) and amuse myself in my idle hours by fooling around with it. No power user, admittedly, but I know a plugin from a widget, so I happily plunged into the task at hand. First up was to check out the site itself from a user point of view, although nothing really showed up from that perspective. Sure, the home page had a massive slider that was slowing things down and there were some pretty big images within the blog posts. But nothing to explain the dramatic speed problems.
Next up was checking out the theme. This had been purchased just a few months earlier at the popular ThemeForest site. Badly-designed themes can slow sites down (best to avoid the free ones) but the developer of this theme seemed very professional and no one was complaining about site performance in the comment area on ThemeForest. Several theme updates had been released since it was purchased, so updating was in order, but this didn't factor into the speed problems. The current version of WordPress was being used, so that wasn't an issue.
It was time to see if plugins might be the culprit but here again everything seemed to be fine. Just a handful were being used and amongst these were the usual suspects, such as Akismet, Google Analytics for WordPress, Contextual Related Posts, Contact Form 7, Jetpack and WordPress SEO. There were a couple that I wasn't familiar with, such as Simple Full Screen Background Image and Post Types Order, but these were both up to date and seemed benign. Now what?
What other variables could there be that might be causing such a dramatic slowdown? Investigating the hosting, it turned out that the site was using a rock-bottom plan from GoDaddy. Could this be the problem? After all, GoDaddy is constantly derided for its crappy hosting. Digging deeper, it turned out that this hosting account had been set up years ago and was using an outdated shared hosting setup pretty much guaranteed to ensure a poorly-performing site. The thought of moving providers was rather daunting, so I took a look at the possibility of upgrading to a better plan. As it turned out, GoDaddy has since embraced cloud-based hosting, with their entry level 4GH plan costing no more than the current account. A couple of clicks and the move was made and... the site came alive!
Okay, I have to admit to feeling a little sheepish. In retrospect, I should have started out by looking at the hosting. This is something to keep in mind if your site is sluggish and you're using a hosting plan established years ago, since such an upgrade may well be available.