How to speed up a WordPress website

How to speed up a WordPress website

As a general rule, the more modern or sophisticated you make you WordPress website, the more slowly the web-pages will load.

However, if you understand exactly what causes WordPress websites to slow down, it is possible to create great-looking professional WordPress websites, that consistently score over 90 out of 100 on a Google Page Speed Insights test.

Speed Test Your Website (And This One!)

Most pages on this website score over 80/100 on mobile, and over 90/100 on desktop, with a load-time speed of less than 1 second. To give it a try for yourself, click here.

Or use the button below to request a speed evaluation of your own website, not only giving you your speed score, but also some actionable tips on how to improve your website’s speed.

Building a professional-looking website that also loads fast, is much more difficult than building a professional website with typical WordPress page speed scores of 10 to 60 out of 100.

Here’s a few tips and tricks to help you build a beautifully striking WordPress website that ALSO loads lightning fast.

Firstly, why do WordPress websites tend to be slow?

This is caused by a phenomenon known widely as ‘WordPress Bloat’, where things like Themes, Page Builders, and Plugins all tend to add in masses of CSS code and Java script that is not required for the website to run.

A bespoke-built website, built from scratch using raw code, in contrast to a WordPress website, will only have the code needed for it to function correctly – no less, and no more.

This means that a bespoke built website’s pages tend to load much faster, simply because there’s less code to load.

So why doesn’t everyone get bespoke websites built instead?

Bespoke-built websites are time consuming to create and require top web developer talent, so you’ll struggle to find anyone that can build a totally bespoke website for you for less than £5000, or considerably more if it’s a complex website.

Also bespoke built websites can be costly to maintain. Even small additions or updates can involve a lot of top developer input.

WordPress websites, by contrast, offer 1000s of pre-made templates or ‘Themes’ which can then be further customised with the help of 1000s of ‘Plugins’ that add extra functionality or potentially even change the whole appearance of the website, and the whole process is possible from inside a user-friendly ‘CMS’, meaning little or no technical knowledge on website programming or code is needed to create complex and beautiful websites.

And most of these themes and plugins are free of charge, or at least have a free version, meaning that it’s possible to start up a WordPress website whilst paying for nothing more than the domain name of the website (typically around £15/year), and a fee to a hosting provider for ‘hosting’ the website (typically £100 – £200 a year for basic shared platform). Both of these costs are needed anyhow if you go the bespoke-built website route, making the free WordPress alternative an attractive option to many startup businesses and personal blogs.

Page builders take the WordPress CMS ease-of-use one step further by making it easy to ‘drag and drop’ sections, and displaying everything on a ‘WYSIWIG’ (What You See Is What You Get) interface, so you can see exactly what you are creating without needing to regularly click a ‘preview’ button.

10 Tips and Tricks to help you design an inspiring WordPress website that also loads fast

A quick note:

Time is money!

There’s no need to spend hours trying to create the perfect website, even if you have no budget.

Contact us today for free help and advice.

If required, we can also assist you in building your website, or even take over the whole project, if you decide your time would be better spent elsewhere.

But that’s your choice… the initial consultation and advice is totally free of charge.

Tip 1) Start with a clean, fast-loading, well-programmed WordPress Theme, that is also highly customisable

Some of the very fastest wordpress themes like Iconic One are also very limited and basic – the reason for their speed is that they don’t come pre-loaded with many customisation options, so if you don’t like the appearance of the theme ‘out of the box’ then pick a different one, as you won’t be able to do very much with it, other than change the colours and add your own logo.

OceanWP is well-programmed to be lightweight and fast-loading, and also offers customisation of virtually any part of the theme, so you can use this one theme to create a huge range of different looking websites. OceanWP even allows you to turn off the CSS and JavaScript code for features that you decide not to use, just make sure you install their ‘Ocean Extra’ plugin to allow this.

Like most other Themes, OceanWP offers the option to download pre-made templates or ‘demos’ that have a whole range of smart styling features pre-loaded for a ‘ready made’ website. A word of caution here though – these templates all use a heavy-weight page-builder known as ‘Elementor’, which is a great page builder, and fast as far as most page builders go, but please note that the moment you download a ready-made demo, your website will typically slow down from page speed scores of around 90/100 down to more like 30 to 50/100, so downloading demo websites is definitely not an option if you want your site to load fast.

One unique feature to the OceanWP website is that it’s premium website adds extra functionality via a set of extra plugins, again this is great for speed as you can choose to install just the plugins you want, e.g. maybe just the sticky header one, and leave the rest – installing all of them if you only need 1 or 2 will only slow things down unnecessarily.

Other popular WordPress Themes that are fast, lightweight, and well coded, whilst offering a reasonable amount of customisation include Generate Press and Astra.

Tip 2) Next, only add in the plugins you need, and steer clear of all page builders

Page builders are one of the fastest ways to slow down your website. Unfortunately, most ‘off the shelf’ pre-made website templates, such as the ‘demos’ that come with most WordPress themes, are made using page builders, which can add a massive drag to your website’s speed.

For example, if you start off with a clean new installation of the OceanWP theme that we recommend, you’ll likely have a mobile page speed score of around 90/100, assuming you’re on a reasonably fast hosting package.

Then if you install one of the beautiful OceanWP demos, the speed is likely to slow down to the region of 50 to 70/100 on mobile, and you’ll add several seconds to your mobile page speed score.

Then add in a few more plugins on top of that, and your page load speed can quickly increase to a frustrating 10 seconds or more, massively impacting your website’s bounce rate.

Clearly there has to be a better way…

Tip 3) Use the WordPress ‘Gutenberg’ editor as your page builder, along with a few carefully selected Gutenberg plugins

WordPress has it’s own in-built page builder, known as Gutenberg.

Gutenberg is the lightest WordPress page builder of them all – in fact, it comes part and parcel with every WordPress installation regardless, so you had might as well make use of it, because doing so will not slow down your website at all.

To be clear, Gutenberg doesn’t take over editing the entire page (although future releases may do according to WordPress), but at the moment, Gutenberg is a ‘block builder’ – you can construct the central part of your page using Gutenberg ‘blocks’ – the surrounding header, footer, and any sidebar/s are all part of the WordPress theme, these bits need to be edited using the Theme editor or WordPress customiser.

The default standard selection of Gutenberg ‘blocks’ available for building a website is very limited, and doesn’t give you much scope for creative visual designs.

There are numerous Gutenberg-compatible WordPress plugins which essentially give you extra collections of Gutenberg blocks to use for more advanced page layouts.

But it’s easy to get carried away adding in numerous Gutenberg plugins as you try to work out how to achieve various visual effects, and some add more ‘bloat’ to your website than others.

Kadence Blocks is one of the most comprehensive Gutenberg plugins that is also very lightweight – this is the only additional Gutenberg block that we have used on our own UClimb website.

Other common Gutenberg plugins that add a heavier load of bloat, to steer clear of if you want the fastest possible load speeds, are Advance Gutenberg and Atomic Blocks – neither of these add much design functionality in addition to what can be achieved with Kadence, and they seem to drag the load speed more.

Another very comprehensive Gutenberg blocks plugin for great designs that is reasonably lightweight and fast loading, is ‘Container Row‘ by Koiken Blocks – this one is great if you want the most design features we have yet to come across in a single Gutenberg blocks collection plugin.

Tip 4) Experiment on a test website, and then re-build from scratch once you’ve decided what plugins you need

This tip is for those who want the very fastest speed possible, and can be skipped if you’re happy with a fast but not ultra-fast loading website.

Whilst it is possible to delete plugins that you have tested and then decide you no longer need, they tend to leave traces behind, slowing down your website slightly.

Therefore if you find you need to experiment with many different Gutenberg plugins before you get the visual results you want from 1 or 2 of them, once you’ve picked your plugins it’s advisable to re-install wordpress from scratch and start your build again with just the selected plugins, to avoid living with hidden background bloat from plugins that you no longer use.

Of course, there are ways to remove the bloat and clutter from uninstalled plugins, but these are for more advanced web developers, see this helpful article for further details.

This tip is also not applicable if you take one of our recommended plugins above, and find that you can do everything you need with that one plugin.

Don’t forget:

You can request FREE website design help today.

Tip 5) Select a fast hosting package

Our UClimb hosting packages all offer masses of broadband width, SSD Flash storage, UK-based servers, and also the option to use the Litespeed plugin (not all hosting packages are Litespeed compatible). See tip 6 below to learn about Litespeed speed optimisation.

But there are plenty of great alternative hosting packages out there if you decide not to use UClimb for your web hosting.

Bluehost, Siteground, and Guru, are some great picks for fast WordPress website hosting.

Tip 6) Install an advanced website speed optimisation plugin

With 100s of potential caching plugins, gzip plugins, image optimising plugins, minify plugins, etc, all offering to speed up your website, which should you choose?

Installing several website speed optimisation plugins is not a good idea, as the functionality of many of them overlaps, and you may get plugin conflicts from several plugins all trying to do the same job.

One of the very best plugins to handle all of your website speed optimisation is Litespeed Cache. This plugin has a simple default interface for tasks like caching and image optimisation, but also has an advanced section where you can perform advanced speed optimisations like deferring and minifying critical CSS and javascript. The advanced settings can make a big difference to the speed of your website’s load speed, but use them with care – the best approach is to clear your cache and then test your website following each adjustment, because some of the advanced settings can interfere with how your website loads and functions. Certainly, choosing the maximum speed optimisation option on every single advanced setting is very likely to stop something crucial working!

As mentioned in Tip 5, Litespeed Cache is only available if your hosting package is compatible. If your website hosting isn’t set up for use with the Litespeed Cache plugin, then try the Hummingbird plugin. Hummingbird doesn’t have quite so many advanced options for speeding up your website, but nevertheless offers all the essentials and it offers a great comprehensive package of tools to speed up your website, all within 1 easy-to-use plugin.

Tip 7) Try to manage without Google Fonts and Font Awesome

Ideally, if you’re doing a re-brand at the same time as designing your website, you should pick a font for your brand that happens to match the default font for your website theme. Because every time you over-ride the default theme font anywhere on a web page, you slow down the page load speed slightly. Over-riding the font multiple times on every page of the website can have a big impact on the website speed.

Having Google Fonts enabled is an extra speed drag, as you unwittingly pull in the styling script associated with all of the 100s of Google Fonts, when you only need 1 or 2 of them. If your website theme happens to use one of the Google Fonts, then that’s not an issue, just leave the font as ‘default’ and it will use the default Google Font without necessarily loading all the others.

Font Awesome is a very common addition in many themes page builders, it is basically a collection of 1000s of common icons, including the very common ‘return to top of page’ arrow for example. If you can do without this icon package, and create your own icons where necessary, or use a more limited set from within the 1 or 2 Gutenberg plugins you added, then this will help the load speed too – Font Awesome will often appear high on the list of items affecting the website load speed when you run a speed test.

Tip 8) Correctly size images before uploading into the WordPress image gallery

Putting too large (or too small) images into sections of your webpage forces WordPress to re-size these images as part of the page load, slowing down the speed.

Check the size requirements of each part of your web-page, and edit and crop the image before uploading it, to the exact size required (measured in pixels).

You don’t need expensive software or experience with graphic design to re-size image to the correct pixel dimensions – if using a Windows PC then the default Windows 10 ‘Photo’ program has all the tools you require, and is very quick and easy to use.

Tip 9) Compress images and videos, and use the best possible formats

It is so common to find websites that have images that are over 1MB in size, and compressing these same images to under 100KB often has zero impact on the visual effect to the naked eye.

Again, simple programs like the default Windows Photo Viewer can be used to resize images, simply choose ‘resize’ from the 3-dots menu at the top right corner, and then choose a standard option or set a custom size.

Modern image formats like WebP can help website page load speeds, and wherever possible, use vector graphics for simple icons – vector graphics don’t get fuzzy at any size, and if the vector icon or logo is not complex, the size can be as little as 10 or 20KB, and a reasonably sharp jpg or png image equivalent might end up as over 100KB if a large pixel size is needed.

A great free website for creating vector graphics online is Vectr.

When it comes to videos, the first step is to upload the video to a platform like YouTube, Vimeo, or Wistia.

Once you have your video on one of these well-optimised video streaming platforms, you are ready to embed the video into your website’s page.

Uploading a video into WordPress is quicker and easier, but also can massively slow down a web-page, as it’s hard to compress any video much below 5MB, and longer videos can easily be over 100MB in size. So avoid uploading videos, and stick to embedding them instead.

Tip 10) Avoid using WordPress Theme Panel ‘My Library’ templates where possible

Many less skilled WordPress users don’t even know these templates can be created, so this tip isn’t relevant if so!

Templates that you create (like standard mini web-pages) within the ‘My Library’ section of the theme, and then load into areas of your theme like maybe the Top Bar are a great way to add in features like click-to-call hyperlinks that aren’t possible using the standard text-only editor, but just be aware that as these templates load when the page loads, they will slow down every page on your website.

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