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WordPress Speed – The Plugin battle!

Loading time may seem like the ultimate in first world problems, but in this day and age of reducing attention spans, and wanting information now, your site’s loading time can be the difference between someone going to the next page and leaving your site forever! This means lost sales, clicks, followers and a reduction in your network. Google, as of July 2018, even accounts for site speed when looking at the search engine rankings. Increasingly so that means wordpress speed is of importance. So I recommend you check your site speed, using sites such as GTMetrix or Google PageSpeed Insights.

Speed affects Google ranking

With an increase in mobile traffic, your audience demographic may also be moving from fixed desktop computers to mobiles, where loading speed is even more important as it can have a drastic affect on the end user. So what does all of this have to do with WordPress Plugins I hear you ask? Well that, is a good question!

What are WordPress Plugins?

Plugins in wordpress are little add-on bits of software which allow you to do everything, from manage your Search Engine Optimisation (SEO), to add sliders and contact forms. They are easy to add, and looking from afar they look like they do little harm, but make your site more functional and prettier. There are even plugins which work to make your site quicker, by caching or improving your code, so is there even a problem? The answer is complicated!

Plugins – A wonderful tool

So before I start to talk about the disadvantages of plugins lets look at the advantages. Plugins are great with some out there to do almost everything you want ranging from WooCommerce, to Contact Form 7. These plugins let you integrate tools while also keeping the power and flexibility. So lets just go through some of the common and most useful

  • Contact Form 7 – Frequently used as an easy contact form
  • YOAST SEO – To vamp up the SEO on your wordpress site
  • WooCommerce – Make your site an eCommerce store
  • Akismet – Antispam tool
  • Wordfence Security – For some basic security protection

Plugins – Slow by overload

So plugins are great, but boy do they add an overhead. Did you check your site speed on the links above? You may notice that there are lots of external content loads, lots of requests, lots of fonts loaded perhaps? This can be the result of plugins with each plugin adding their own fonts, CSS, javascript all of which takes time to load, and parse. This is a huge contributor in mobile loading times, and can cause major slow downs!

So how do you reduce plugins? How do you improve wordpress speed? Especially as we are not all programmers, and web designers. Well the first step is highlight exactly what plugins you need. As an example I will pick on Easy SSL Plugin for WordPress. Rather than install this, talk to your hosting supplier and ask them to install it and redirect on the server side, which reduces your overheads as its one less plugin. So ideally the best practise is to minimise what you have installed on your site. I mean do you really need wordpress comments? If you don’t disable them, and while you’re at it Akismet can go as well, as you won’t need that!

This minimisation process of plugins actually starts with the design! This is the difference between a world class designer / developer and a good developer. Some designers are brilliant at making things look great, but then rely on something like “Fusion Builder” or “WP Bakery” to make things look great. For the personal blog, or smaller site this isn’t a problem but for those sites which need fast response times, and depend on winning clients, this can make all the difference. Take our Mohammed H as an example, when he creates a design he will use custom input fields so it integrates directly into wordpress, so you keep the flexibility but don’t need bloated plugins, which increased the site speed. It is one of the reasons we manage to get straight A’s on the speed tests!

You can obviously take this to the N’th degree, by taking the contact forms out and programming your own, or why not even just get rid of wordpress and stick to HTML? Well the answer as always is a bit of a cost benefit analysis. Sometimes you have to ask is it worth it? For a site that relies on conversions, clients and SEO though…. every second counts!