Improve The Performance of Your WordPress Theme

So, you’ve purchased an excellent WordPress theme and installed it on your shared hosting. You’ve imported the demo content or filled your site with your content or products. The theme looks great and you’re proud of the final result. But you’re not happy with the performance. Maybe it takes 5 seconds to load, or maybe 10 or 12. You expect better.

The reason many cool WordPress themes suffer from poor performance often comes down to the fact that it takes built-in or add-on plug-ins to do many of the slick things you like about your theme. For instance, a rotating banner carousel with attention-grabbing images, or parallax effects when scrolling. Or a smart contact form. Or a nice review widget for your products on your WooCommerce theme.

The problem is that each of these plug-ins or widgets are independent of each other by nature. Most of them are developed by unrelated third party companies. They are installed independently. And although the WordPress platform allows the plug-ins to play nice together, most WordPress plug-ins bring with them their own CSS, Javascript files, and images.

Often the CSS or Javascript is not optimized. Or the images loaded into your theme, or as content or product images are not compressed. In the end, it all adds up. Every non-optimized resource or file adds more overhead, ultimately slowing your site to a crawl.

But you’re not alone. This is not just a problem with WordPress. This is the nature of the beast when it comes to CMS (content management systems). It is a challenge in every CMS framework, and not just the open-source ones that run on free plug-ins. It is common, even among sites owned by powerful companies.

Luckily for WordPress themes, there other plug-ins that can solve and overcome some of the performance issues you may be experiencing. Below are a few that will help speed up your excellent WordPress theme. These are free, but upgradable to pro/paid versions with more features.

W3 Total Cache

W3 Total Cache allows you to optimize your WordPress theme’s performance via several functions related to caching content and files. Caching means that exact copies of your pages, images, CSS and Javascript files are stored on the server or user’s client computer, ready to be served up as you last experienced them without reloading them from scratch. They are only reloaded from scratch if there have been any changes, such as when you update content on an existing page.

In addition to caching, W3 Total Cache also allows you to store your CSS, Javascript and images on a CDN (Content Delivery Network), which greatly speeds up the delivery of those files. A separate account to a CDN is required. There are many to choose from, including Amazon CloudFront.

One of the other great features of W3 Total Cache is that it can minify your CSS and Javascript. Minification means that it removes unnecessary data from your files, thus reducing file size.

Smush Image Compression and Optimization

Smush is another great plug-in to bring down the total size of your pages, especially those with images. It compresses all your images when uploaded (or when you first install the plug-in). It also optionally removes image metadata such as such as focal length, date, time and location, which is stored within the image. You don’t really need that metadata unless you are running a photography site.

Hummingbird Page Speed Optimization

Produced by the same team who created Smush, Hummingbird is another great WordPress page speed optimizer. It features:

  • Performance Reports – Pro tips for running your site at super speed
  • Asset Optimization – Position, minify and combine files for top performance
  • GZIP Compression – Blazing fast HTML, JavaScript, and stylesheet transfer

As always when it comes to installing WordPress plug-ins, you have to pay heed to the warnings when turning on any of the plug-in’s features. It is always recommended to back up your site before activating and using plug-ins as they may not be compatible with older plug-ins that you already have installed. WordPress smart!