Shaving 66% Off WordPress Web Site Loading Speed

May 5, 2016

Loyal readers know that I’ve really been focused on making our Web sites load faster. First I wrote The Many Elements of Web Site Speed and then Google Tag Manager Simplifies Code, Speeds Site. Now that I’ve completed a number of tweaks, I want to describe the steps and results.

Sometimes the only way to know what will be effective is to try it both ways. A few months back I had installed a WordPress plug-in (a3 Lazy Load) that was designed to make a site faster. It would cause elements outside of the visible window to load last. Unfortunately it caused a huge slowdown. Maybe there is some way for me to configure it to provide better results. Unfortunately nothing I tried was successful. Just removing the plug-in made a big difference.

An alternative to a3 Lazy Load was to use the Photon functionality provided in the Jetpack plug-in. It is a content delivery network (CDN) that stores the files for the page at a number of location around the world. When turned on, we saw an increase in speed.

That first step delivered big results and it was as simple as turning off a plug-in. Next was moving our tracking tags to Google Tag Manager as I described earlier this week. It took a half hour or so and again gave a nice speed boost.

With most pages on the CorelDRAW Unleashed site, we used mostly HTML to build the layout of the page. The only exception was the home page where we used the Visual Composer WordPress plug-in. While it gave us flexibility on the page layout, it felt like it was slowing down the loading of the page. Behind the scenes we installed the Divi Builder plug-in from Elegant Themes and created an alternative page. The new page loaded faster, but looked a little funny due to a conflict with the site’s theme. So we couldn’t make the page public without changing the theme.

When you change the theme of a site, it can have a huge effect on almost everything. Making such a change required more planning so that it could be as smooth a transition as possible. We did switch the site to the Divi theme from Elegant Themes and the transition went well. Once that was done, the home page could be switched and the Visual Composer plug-in could be removed. This gave another nice speed bump.

Another important element of our sites is the Monarch plug-in that I described in Monarch Plugin Makes Content Sharing Simple. It is more important on internal pages than on the home page itself. So the last step of this round of speed tuning was to remove it from the home page.

After all the tweaks described above, we had shaved 66% off the load time of the home page. Along the way, we actually added some new functionality to the user interface. There is no doubt that we can decrease the load time even more, but those gains will be much smaller.

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Foster D. Coburn III

Foster D. Coburn III built his first Web site in 1995 and he has been working exclusively in WordPress since 2013. He has used the Divi theme exclusively since 2015. Earlier in his career he was the author of 13 best-selling books on CorelDRAW and has been a contributor to numerous technology and graphics-related magazines. Foster has taken many projects, including this Web site, from the early design stage through to a finished piece. He has been a featured speaker at many graphics conferences.

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