Help! My WordPress site is slow!

I’ve heard this from a lot of clients out there, and there’s the same few things that cause WordPress to go slow.

What makes a WordPress site slow?

There’s a whole heap of things that can make a website slow. As a starting point, WordPress itself is slower than a “plain” HTML site because it needs to do a pretty decent chunk of processing for it to display anything. This isn’t just WordPress though. Any website that uses a CMS (Content Management System) will be slower then a static hard-coded HTML only site for the same reasons.

One of the biggest things that makes a WordPress site slow is plugins. Sometimes it’s how many plugins you have installed and sometimes it’s which plugins you have active.

Another big consideration is the hosting service that you are using. Some are good, some are great and some are… I’ll be nice and leave it as “not quite so good”.

Do my plugins make a difference?

Yes. And no. Almost every WordPress site uses at least one plugin to extend it’s functionality and do something that WordPress doesn’t do itself. Obviously the more plugins that you run, the more processing that needs to be done, and the slower things will be. The other side to that is that a lot of plugins have essential features that are needed, so the extra processing is worth it. You also need to be aware that a lot of plugins have very small footprints, and don’t affect the public side of your site for anything more then a millisecond or two so these aren’t the problem.

There are some plugins that are heavier then others. A good example is WooCommerce. While WooCommerce is the premier and most widely used e-commerce plugin for WordPress, it does come at a cost. There’s a whole lot of extra processing done with this, and you need to be running your site on a server that’s at least decent if not good.

Do I need less plugins?

Maybe.

Do you have plugins that you’re not using? Are you one of those people that’s installed 5 different slider plugins to test, and now they are all just sitting there active, but not actually doing anything?

If you’ve answered yes to anything above, then you have too many plugins. You should only have as many plugins as you need. Anything that you don’t need should be deactivated, or deleted completely.

I’ve also been asked “what’s the right number of plugins for a site?”. The answer to that is “as many as you need”. There’s no rule for how many plugins you should, or shouldn’t have. Just be sure that you actually need the plugins that you are installing.

Do I need caching?

Caching can help, but there’s caching plugins that are good, bad and very ugly. You also need to be aware that caching can affect the more dynamic side of your site. I’ve seen a lot of sites that have shopping carts that don’t get updated thanks to a caching plugin that doesn’t update that page.

What else could it be?

The last, and probably most important piece of the puzzle is your hosting server. Do not underestimate how much difference a good hosting server makes!

There are hosting companies out there that specialise in WordPress hosting, but you don’t always need that. Sometimes a good all-round company can be just as good and just as fast.

Also note that you should not use free hosting unless you have no other choice. Free hosting can work OK for some but it’s never a long-term solution for any site.

Talking about price, yes price does matter. I’ve seen multi-million dollar companies trying to cheap out and run their corporate site on a $5 a month shared hosting account, only to end up spending $1,000’s more every year just for fixes and “specialist” optimisation reports… all to get nowhere because no matter what they do the hosting server just can’t handle it I know that there’s always a budget, but please be aware that the more a hosting service costs, the better it (normally) will run your site. If you are having problems with shared hosting, I’d also suggest looking at upgrading to a VPS or possible a dedicated server.

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