This Is How To Improve Your Site Speed With Two Plugins

Site speed is good but speed isn’t everything everywhere. Speed is definitely not everything when, for example, contemplating beauty. But having to crank through slow pages on a website is one of those times when speed is a definite plus.

Disclaimer: I am not a developer, and everything I am writing here is information I have got from WordPress developers and then applied and tested.

I joined a local WordPress MeetUp group here in Edinburgh, and this article is based on the suggestions from Kathir Vel, a developer, who gave a talk about how to improve your site speed.

So, with that said, what I am describing here is not fancy or difficult. It will work with most web hosts and straightforward cPanel shared hosting.

And it uses plugins from the WordPress repository.

The two plugins are:

WP Performance Score Booster

WP Performance Score Booster removes any query strings from static resources like CSS & JavaScript files, enables GZIP compression, and sets expires caching.

Once you have activated the plugin, just check the two boxes and it will do its job. For it to work it assumes that you are on an Apache web server, that GZIP compression is enabled, and that you have write permission to the .htaccess file – all of which are pretty normal for most hosting packages.

Autoptimize

Autoptimize aggregates and minimises JavaScript, CSS and HTML. There are three check boxes. One is for CSS, another for HTML, and the third for Javascript.

As Stephen Harris, a developer in the WordPress group, explained: Other plug-ins on on your site may have compressed versions of their javascript files which they use to help reduce the plug-in’s footprint. Auto-optimising twice can lead to errors which you only discover by testing your site.

For that reason I did not check off the javascript box when I ran the plugin.

Do they work? Well as in many things ‘If you can’t test it, it doesn’t exist’ – so the three tools to test this with are:

GTMetrix
Pingdom
Google Pagespeed Insights

Google’s pagespeed test also tests for performance on mobile, and in fact that is the tab that comes up first when you test. So you will need to tab across to ‘Desktop’ to get those results.

If your site is not mobile optimised you will get a lousy mobile score whatever the speed is. Many sites are now mobile optimised, so hopefully this issue won’t apply to your site.

Pingdom offers a range of locations from which to test from. You can test from the USA, Australia, or Europe. You choose the location by clicking ‘settings’ just below where you input your URL. If you don’t choose a location it will default to a US server.

Which location should you choose? If your site targets an audience in a specific part of the world, use that. If your audience is worldwide, choose either where your server is located or where the majority of your audience is located.

The reason for choosing a test server near your own web host’s server is simply because it cuts down the distance the test server has to go to reach your host’s server.

One word of caution about Pingdom’s results: I have run tests on GTMetrix and PageSpeedInsights over and over and get very consistent results. That is not so with Pingdom. I don’t know why, but results do vary even when repeating a test after only a few seconds. That said, the results generally only vary over a narrow-ish range, so still well worth testing.

For your own benefit, it’s important to have a before-and-after snapshot. So before you install and activate the plugins, run all three of these tools with the site you are going to speed up.

Take a screen grab or make a note of the results so that you can compare the before and after results.

nomorepencils-gtmetrix-results

To give you an idea of what you can expect, here is a screen grab of the results of a test for this site according to GTMetrix.

This site is nothing fancy – a blog with ten plugins. I am not using any kind of caching plugin and the site is on shared hosting with a server based in the UK.

The GTMetrix servers are locate in Canada and I would expect to shave a bit of time off the page load time if GTMetrix had a UK server.

Update – A Third Plugin

As a final piece of the jigsaw I installed WP Super Cache. It’s made by Automattic, so the code should be good. Again, it’s a plugin that was recommended by Kathir Vel in the talk he gave.

So let’s see what GTMetrix says about the site now:

nomorepencils-after-installing-wp-super-cache

As you can see, the size of the page and number of calls to the database has gone up slightly because the new plugin is installed. But look at the page load time. Now it is down to 2 seconds. 🙂

Update 22 March 2019

I got this feedback from a reader:

Hello there , I was using the website performance tool you mentioned on your page here: nomorepencils.com/improve-site-speed-with-two-plugins/ – thanks for the suggestion! I also found out how the size of images impacts the speed of a page. So I searched a bit and found a super user-friendly (and free) tool that helps with that actually: websiteplanet dot com/webtools/imagecompressor/ This tool allows you to compress high definition pictures both in jpeg and in png format! I think it’s a nice complementary tool for your page, and I believe your users will appreciate it, if you decide to share it with them. In hope I helped back, Have a great day, Violeta

I tried the tool and it worked OK on the image I fed into it.

That said, I have changed my setup since writing this article. I have my web sites hosted on servers that run Litespeed, so some of the above is now redundant for my setup. Here is the latest GTMetrix test result:

I may have changed the theme I am using, so that would affect the results, but I can see that the load time has decreased while the page size and the requests have increased, but nothing too dramatic either way. I am currently trying out a different theme and first results are good. I will experiment some more and add to this, as and when.

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