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How to Speed Up Your WordPress Server (Part 2) … Plus Some Jokes

 

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Welcome back, everyone. You coming back is proof that if we all stand together, come high water or demons gnashing their teeth or filibustering electric company representatives, we can make it in the Wonderful World of WordPress (now a theme park in Pumpkintown, South Carolina).

Let’s get right into it: speeding up our WordPress sites, with continuing thoughts from Jason McCreary at Pure Concepts. We looked at seven of his ideas in Part 1 and will survey eleven more below. Part 3 will get into several ideas from TekBrand on the same subject.

Note again that at Superb, we can give you a year and a half of WP hosting for the cost of a year! That’s a baker’s dozen, if there are 6 bakers at the Greensburg Muffin Emporium each throwing in an extra muffin. “One extra from each of us, Mrs. McCready.” “But I don’t need this many muffins.” “Mrs. McCready, we ask you kindly to respect our process, or we’ll be forced to have uniformed officers escort you off the premises.” “But I haven’t done anything wrong!” “That’s it, I’m calling 911. Run for it. Leave all the muffins here. We need to sell them to someone who appreciates them.” [Exit Gloria McCready at a full sprint.]

WordPress on Steroids: Faster Than a Ravenous Wild Boar

As a quick review of general comments from Jason in the first installment, WordPress is a “heavy” CMS, which means it is slowing down the Web on the whole. Speeding it up (perhaps by not giving it any food to increase its undomesticated swine rage) is essential to making the user experience as fast and efficient as possible: like fast food with no employee bathroom breaks, and no slowing down, ever, or we will be forced to have uniformed officers escort them off the premises. Here are more of Jason’s ideas (originally presented at WorldCamp Chicago and WorldCamp Louisville – neither of which should be confused with UniverseCamp Alpha Centauri Bb, which was cancelled due to fear that attendees would be incinerated).

  1. Content Delivery Network (CDN) Considerations – A quality CDN spreads your resources throughout the world, which speeds up your site and aids redundancy.
  2. Additional Domains – Typically a Web browser will perform a parallel download of two pieces of content at a time. If you have additional domains, additional downloads can occur simultaneously. Don’t go overboard though: it’s hypothermia weather. You want between 2 and 4 domains, one specific to static content such as style sheets and images. That will help cut down on cookies (which is good for you: remember what the doctor said, honey).
  3. Social Widgets – You want to be able to have social widgets on your site that don’t decrease the speed with JavaScript or CSS via an external domain. Understand them so you can optimize them for speed.
  4. Gravatar – If your blog allows comments, you can speed up the site noticeably (Jason says 10%) by going to Settings > Discussion and nixing Avatar Display: each one is a separate request.
  5. CSS Image Sprites – A CSS sprite can consolidate your images so that the site doesn’t require as many requests to load properly. Setup can be a bit of a pain (typically 8 on a scale of 10, according to sufferers of Sprite Setup Syndrome), but it’ll pay off in performance.
  6. Minify – Get rid of any characters you don’t need in the code. You can unify disparate files. Cascading Style Sheets (CSS), for example, can often be combined into one file. Condense to minimize requests.
  7. Compress – Use Smush.it to compress your images and gzip to do the same with your script (it’s safe, unlike removing two ribs to help you get the contortionist gig at the Bolshoi Circus). The latter reduces the strain on resources up to 70%, similarly to removing your slacker boyfriend from the checking account.
  8. Resource Cache – If you cache all the content you can, the static stuff (such as CSS, JS, and images – whatever applies to all site pages) will only be requested once, even with additional page loads. You may want to get rid of ETags as well: Jason and AskApache agree on this point.
  9. WP Cache – You don’t want WordPress code to load repeatedly, so make sure it’s caching as fully as possible. W3 Total Cache, unlike some WordPress plugins, is customizable and broad-spectrum.
  10. PHP Cache – Once you have cached WP, you can speed the site’s loading of WordPress further by caching PHP. The most popular way to cache PHP is via APC, which you can activate within W3 Total Cache.
  11. Hosting – Higher hosting costs will inevitably improve your site’s load times. We all like to keep our costs as low as possible (particularly when buying black-market arthritis medications), but you want to work with a hosting company that specializes in WordPress. To additionally boost performance, use a VPS (virtual private server).

Conclusion & Continuation

All right, now. Let’s keep on tucking. Why stop now? We’re almost to Texarkana, and that’s where we’re picking up the illegal arthritis medications to sell to the residents in your sister’s nursing home back in Chattanooga. Actually, we have another Part to this series as well, so while we drive, flip through the game plan for how we’re going to swindle the cartel guys into giving us the meds for half price. While you do so, I’ll give you a few more ideas from TekBrand to speed up your WP site. Let’s multi-task!

by Kent Roberts

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