1. PHP 7

PHP7 LogoYour dynamic website is built using PHP, an open-source coding language that allows your developer to build a powerful yet lightweight website. Elements on each page are pulled from different parts of your website to maximize screen space and minimize time in creating content. In most cases, you only have to write your content once, because WordPress can pull that content and display it in different places on your website.

PHP 7 was released on December 15, 2015, but many hosting companies have not moved to it yet. Fortunately, WeFoster, has. With just two mouse clicks you can select PHP 7 from your WeFoster dashboard.

Why would you want to do that? First, PHP 7 is twice as fast as PHP 5.6. Second, WordPress is extremely fast on it. According to Zend, one WordPress request on PHP 5.6 required around 100 million CPU instructions, while the same request on PHP 7 required only 25 million……¼!

2. Object Caching

WordPress is heavily dependent on its database, and database efficiency is crucial to scaling WordPress. When your community starts growing and more activity takes places your MySQL database becomes the biggest bottleneck in performance. This is where Object Caching comes in. Object Caching takes the strain off your database by saving slow database queries in “persistent storage” databases like Redis or Memcached. Sounds pretty complicated right?

Luckily, WordPress easily integrates with persistent/external storage backends like Redis or Memcached via object cache drop-in plugins, making it possible to persist the object cache between requests. This speeds up PHP execution time while lessening the load on the Database, a real win-win scenario.

Does your current host support Object Caching?

Often shared or cheap hosts do not offer object caching because it requires additional setup from their side to configure properly. This is a shame because the speed difference can be huge –
especially for WordPress communities. Learn more!

3. Curate Your Plugins (don’t have too many)

This make come as a surprise to some of you, but many WordPress website owners use too many plugins. Yes, you can still make your website perform fast with lots of plugins, but why do that if you don’t have to? Believe us, doing a little research into a plugin goes a long way. But the most important thing you can do before embarking on your website journey is defining the business requirements of your website – what it needs to do. Will it act as an informational website with the ability to contact you or will you be selling memberships? Either way, our developers can help you make these crucial determinations.

4. Use a Caching Plugin (WP Rocket or our CommunityCache)

We learned how critical object caching can be earlier. However, just about anything can be cached on each of your website’s pages, such as using CDN to load your stylesheet and javascript files, page caching, and database optimization. WP Rocket and CommunityCache will do all of this for you, and more!

5. CloudFlare (CDN)

CloudFlare Logo

Think of your website as having weight. The more assets each page has to request, the heavier the page is, which slows down speed tremendously. Enter CDN (Content Delivery Network). In short, a CDN hosts often-used assets such as stylesheets and javascript files, allowing the website owner to link to them externally instead of hosting the files within the website. The rise of JQuery and responsive frameworks like Bootstrap and Foundation (and all of the goodness files that come with them) are hosted on CDNs such as ClouldFlare. WeFoster can help you do an audit of your website to see what assets can be linked to CloudFlare.

CloudFlare is more than just a CDN

Every community hosted on the WeFoster Platform is automatically routed through the intelligent CloudFlare global network. It automatically optimizes the delivery of your web pages so your visitors get the fastest page load times and best performance. Cloudflare also blocks threats and limits abusive bots and crawlers from visiting your community. Learn more!

6. Front-end Optimization (plugin)

We highly recommend using a front-end optimization plugin on your WordPress site. Our favorite is Autoptimize. The number one thing that slows a website down is the number of HTML requests a page has to make in order to load everything on the page correctly. In most cases, plugins use their own stylesheets and javascript files to make their plugin work correctly. Activating a plugin causes each of the plugin’s assets to be loaded in the header and/or footer. The problem is that these files are loaded on every page, even if they are not being used by that page. An optimization plugin can help you pinpoint which assets are needed by that page and only load those assets. The Autoptimize plugin does a great job helping your site reduce the number of HTML requests per page.

Minify CSS and JS Files
When writing CSS and JavaScript files, most developers use indentation and notes to organize their code. However, this increases the size of the file. Minifying the file basically puts all of the code into one long line. In fact, if you look at Bootstrap’s CSS file, the package comes with bootstrap.css and bootstrap.min.css. The bootstrap.css file allows the developers easy access to update the code and save. They then minify the code into one line and save the file as bootstrap.min.css. When the page is viewed, the bootstrap.min.css file is loaded, which takes much less time. Instead of trying to figure it out on your own, save some time by using the WP Super Minify plugin.

Pro Tip – Get your community running on HTTP/2

HTTP/2 progressively enhances your community performance while making your community more secure at the same time. On WeFoster every community automatically utilizes HTTP/2.

7. Compress and Lazy Load Your Images

Stop us if you’ve heard this one before, but images really slow down the performance of a webpage. It is truly amazing how many websites use the full-size version of the image when they only need a smaller version. If you find yourself shrinking the size of the image using code to fit on the page, trying opening the image itself and resizing it to exactly the size you need. If you don’t have time for that, use WP-Smush and WP-Rocket to save yourself some time!

8. Choose a Smaller WordPress Theme or Reduce Codebase

When it comes to the internet, less is more. Many community owners gravitate towards eye-popping WordPress themes. Sure, you want your community website to look amazing (especially the home page, as it is basically your visiting call your users), but not at the expense of page performance. WordPress theme developers tend to build robust themes that come with every feature under the sun in order to sell as many themes as possible. We have found that in most cases, the website owner did not need even half of the options their theme came with, but they were stuck with a slow website because of them. To avoid this, look closely at the options and functionality the theme comes with and ask yourself if you really need all of it. If you do, we can help you reduce the codebase or even build a sleek WordPress theme for you!

Although this is not an exhaustive list, we find these eight techniques to be extremely beneficial for optimizing the speed and performance of your website. Remember, there is a delicate balance between functionality and performance. You want your community members to be proud of the community they belong to, and that includes a smooth user experience. And hey, when you need help with any of this stuff, feel free to reach out to us….the experts!

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Who is Nathan Sumner View all posts by Nathan Sumner

Nathan is a highly skilled web designer & developer who loves helping WeFoster customers build better communities through his extensive knowledge of WordPress and front-end development.

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