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Cover image for A simple way to bump your WordPress performance scores
Nebojsa Radakovic
Nebojsa Radakovic

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A simple way to bump your WordPress performance scores

Recently a friend of mine asked me to help him set up a website for his business. While I am not a web dev per se, I do have enough knowledge and experience with WordPress.

WordPress? I know. How come someone that’s advocating for Jamstack suggests WP? The thing is I am, and the web dev shop I work for is as well, advocating for using the best possible tool depending on each use case.

For this one, my friend’s business, WordPress is a perfect solution. Let me explain.

Use Case

It is a small business that needs a classic 4 pages website i.e. home page, what we do page, about us, and contact us pages. It needed a place on the internet and they had a limited budget to do it. When I say limited it means me making it for 0$ and cutting costs as much as I can for anything I may need in the process.

Even though 41.1% of all websites use WordPress I suspect most of them fall in the above description. And there lies both the biggest advantage and the biggest problem WordPress has.

While being easy to use even by non-technical people, often times the tech parts that require some knowledge (like maintenance, optimization, cache use, performance, code bloating, etc.) are emphasized as drawbacks while in reality, they are a product of the same non-technical people not knowing what they do.

Yes, WordPress can be slow/insecure/hard to maintain if done wrong. But that can be said for any other stack as well. With enough dev knowledge, you can make your WordPress work with the best performance numbers. Or with the use of a couple of tools/plugins.

But, let’s get back to the story.

The cost of making a WordPress website

How much does it cost to make a WordPress website? This question gets asked a lot but the answer is rarely the same because it depends on your business goals and your budget. However, the specific costs associated with WordPress can be broken down into:

  • WordPress hosting (shared or dedicated)
  • Design (ie the use of free, purchased, or customized theme)
  • Plugins and extensions used (free or paid)
  • Dev time (do-it-yourself or have someone to do it for you)

In this case, being on a tight budget, that initially meant $2 per month for a shared Namecheap hosting and $51 for Layer landing page WordPress theme.

The reason I choose Layer is because it is a multifunctional theme that comes with a number of pre-made demos and an easy-to-use drag and drop WPBakery Page Builder and an equally simple responsive slider plugin Slider Revolution.

The downside of it, low-performance scores. For most WordPress websites performance and speed issues come from high server response time and too much JS (let’s assume page size and images are optimized).

With that being the case what can you do to enhance performance?

Change hosting

The obvious one. Move your website to a managed WordPress hosting provider like Kinsta for example, and enjoy the benefits of a fully managed WordPress-focused solution with free SSL and CDN among many other features. With it, you will deal with high server response times but you'll still have to optimise website and code and you’ll also have to pay a bit more (the starter plan for Kinsta is $30 per month).

Use caching plugins

Don’t change the host but use caching plugins to help your pages load quicker by serving up the lighter (cached) HTML page whenever a user tries to access your website. There is a number of cache plugins free and premium you can use (check out this post).

My favorites are W3 Total Cache as a free option, Cloudflare APO that can be used free or premium, and WP Rocket as the best premium option.

Use feature-rich modern WordPress platforms

Then there are feature-rich modern WordPress platforms like Strattic or GetShifter, platforms that provide you with out-of-the-box hosting and cashing solutions. Basically, these allow you to utilize headless WordPress benefits for your business.

So, what did I do?

The solution

After a couple of days of testing things out, I ended up using Strattic. Why is that?

First of all, if we are gonna move the website why not moving it to something that offers (and delivers) performance out of the box?

Second, for general WP users caching plugins are not that easy. It’s not just a simple matter of checking the box beside offered features of the plugin nor is the click all solution always good. You have to know what is used for what and how will that reflect on the theme you use and WP setup at large. TBH I too get confused with the wealth of options offered.

On top of that, maintenance of the plugins and maintenance of the theme and core WP requires monitoring time. I simply don’t have the time for it and a friend of mine does not have the knowledge. So the choice boiled down to Strattic and GetShifter.

Nothing wrong with either of them. Pricing is a bit different but what made the difference to me is the list of plugins that fully or partly work on these platforms. For the WP setup I choose (theme and plugins used) Strattic is simply more supportive.

The result

Before and after screenshots taken from GTmetrix results explains it best but 4x better performance out of the box is nothing short of amazing!
Alt Text

Performance-driven world

We live in it! We may argue about a great many things I’ve written about here but we can’t argue if the performance matters because it does. (shameless plug πŸ‘‰Moving Backlinko to Headless WordPress and Next.js is a great case study about it).

Not because of the Google Core Web Vitals update but because of the fact it influences user experience and conversions, thus business goals.

Because of that first impression users get not only of your website but your brand and business that’s gonna stay with them no matter how big your business is.

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