There are literally thousands of plugins you can choose from for your WordPress website. But it doesn’t mean you should go and install every plugin out there that catches your fancy. That’s just going to slow your website down especially when you get plugins conflicting with each other.
Resolving plugin conflict is a time-consuming endeavor, so it’s really not going to help you out with speeding your site. When it comes to plugins, more doesn’t equal speed. You only need the essentials. Here are some of them:
- Caching plugin
A caching plugin will help your site load faster since your server won’t be serving your website files everytime someone lands on your site. Your plugin will help minimize your server’s workload.
While there are quite a number of good caching plugins out there, the most popular ones are
- W3 Total Cache (https://wordpress.org/plugins/w3-total-cache)
- WP Super Cache (https://wordpress.org/plugins/wp-super-cache), and
- WP Fastest Cache (https://wordpress.org/plugins/wp-fastest-cache).
- Lazy load plugin
Lazy loading basically means not loading your entire website all at once. If you’ve got long articles peppered with images and video, your site will be slower than normal. That’s because your server has to send all the files at once.
With a lazy loading plugin, however, your browser will only show above-the-fold content first. The rest of your website will be only shown when your visitor scrolls down the page. This effectively helps save bandwidth as well as speed up your site in the process.
Some of the top lazy load plugins are:
- a3 Lazy Load (https://wordpress.org/plugins/a3-lazy-load)
- BJ Lazy Load (https://wordpress.org/plugins/bj-lazy-load)
- Minification plugin
- WP Super Minify (https://wordpress.org/plugins/wp-super-minify)
- Autoptimize (https://wordpress.org/plugins/autoptimize)
- Image compression plugin
If you upload lots of images to your site, then you can certainly benefit from an image compression plugin. For best results, however, it’s best if you resize your photos first to make it optimized for the web.
This means if you’ve got images that are more than 2000 pixels, then it’s best you resize it to a size less than that. Your image compression plugin will then remove all the unnecessary metadata and unused colors from your images. Here are some of the top image compression plugins for your consideration:
- Smush Image Compression and Optimization (https://wordpress.org/plugins/wp-smushit)
- Imagify Image Optimizer (https://wordpress.org/plugins/imagify)
- ShortPixel Image Optimizer (https://wordpress.org/plugins/shortpixel-image-optimiser)
You’re free to download and test the different plugins mentioned in this list, however, make sure you only choose one from each category and delete the rest, so you don’t slow your site down!
How To Decrease Your Page Load Times Using Htaccess
If you’ve built your site on WordPress, then you can pretty much use only plugins to help speed up your site (provided you don’t go plugin-happy and install every plugin you find interesting!). However, there are still some advantages to editing your .htaccess file directly instead of installing another plugin.
When you use plugins, you run the risk of installing a badly-coded one which could potentially undo all your hard work. A bad plugin can cause conflicts, and you can lose some important functions on your site. And, of course, it can also cause some speed problems with your site.
With .htaccess, however, you get the benefit of not having another plugin to install. Plus, it’s also processed faster by your web server. This helps make your site run faster.
Now, touching the .htaccess file may not be as easy and as simple as installing a plugin. With .htaccess, you’re going to get your hands dirty, so to speak. That is, you’re going to need to either:
(1) create the .htaccess file from scratch if you don’t have it yet, or
(2) you’re going to edit the .htaccess file.
To do either, you need to access your website files using an FTP client like FileZilla (https://filezilla-project.org), or if your web host has cPanel access, you can use the file explorer. Make sure you activate the hidden files option. Otherwise, you won’t be able to see your .htaccess file.
Here are some of the speed-inducing features you can activate using .htaccess:
- Enable Gzip compression
Gzip compression simply means your web server will be zipping up your files before it gets sent over to your visitor’s browser. Gzipping can significantly reduce your website file size which directly translates to faster website speed.
- Enable browser caching
When you have browser caching on, specifically the Expires header feature, then your visitor’s browser won’t need to contact your web server anymore if the website files are still within their ‘expiration date.’
The browser will first check its cache, and if your website files haven’t ‘expired’ yet, then it’s going to be serving up those files to the user. Since the cached files are stored on the user’s computer, then that will make your site load faster on their browser!
Just a word of caution though, if you don’t know what you’re doing with .htaccess, then it’s best to seek assistance from an expert. You can contact me if you need help, for chi-kin-ni money.