WordPress Rules to Live by For Speed and Safety

1. Do not pick a theme because it has all kinds of bells and whistles (fancy features).  Choose it based on speed first and design second. If you choose a real estate theme because you are designing a site for a real estate agent it is probably better to use a fast theme and add plugins later that you may need.
Even if you install a theme with a bunch of fancy features and you don’t even use all the features, they can still slow the site down.
I prefer themify themes because they are highly customizable, have a great page builder and the sites I build with them are fast sites.

2. Only install plugins that you will use and that have a good rating by other users.  They also should have been previously downloaded 3000+ times (the higher the better).  This shows that it is a quality safe plugin.

3. Deactivate and DELETE all unused plugins. It’s not enough to deactivate it, delete it too. I have seen hackers use deactivated plugins to get into sites.

4. Every time you install a plugin ask yourself this question:
Is this plugin worth .1 – .25 seconds of page load time?
I have seen plugins slow the page load time more than that and less than that, but that is a good way to judge it.
(it is ok to install a plugin to use it temporarily just remove it when you are down, ie: file transfer plugins, etc.)

5. Don’t install two of the same plugins that do somewhat the same thing.  Example, I have sites with themify theme which has a nice fast page builder.  But then someone else comes along to make a few changes to a page and they install visual composer because that is what they are used to. Don’t do it. When you have 2 plugins doing the same thing, they can cause conflicts and speed issues.

6. Common, most used plugins are not always the best. Don’t be afraid to use the plugin that isn’t download millions of times but instead only hundreds of thousands of times.
Use easy to use plugins that only do what you need them to do. Case in point: W3 Total Cache, I installed it on a test site and set up the basics. It is NOT a simple plugin and can take hours to configure just right. I did not enable everything just the standard stuff.
After I installed it I found that it improved the site speed and helped clear up some issues on Google Page Speed Insight’s report.  Had I configured more it may have cleared up more and sped up the site even faster.  By the way, it has been downloaded almost 6 million times.
I then tested several other plugins that claimed to do similar things as W3 does.  I actually found that WP Fastest Cache, with basic set-up had better speed results and took care of more items on Google Page Speed Insight’s report than W3 did.  WP Fastest cache is easier to set up and it has only been downloaded a little over 1 million times.  But for me, I think it is the better choice.  And no I did not use the upgrade at first, even when I did it didn’t improve much.

7. Sorry to say this one.  I am sure people will disagree but, I hate CDNs. A CDN is a Content Delivery Network and in theory it will help place content from your site on other servers across the globe then when someone in a different corner of the world goes to your site they don’t have to retrieve it from the other side of the world.
Sounds great right? Yeah, I tested a very popular one with a speed tester that has 24 server locations that it tests from. The page speed average was pretty close to the same speeds before and after the CDN. And Google Page Speed Insights doesn’t really like CDNs it sees the content as third party content and complains that your site might need to wait for it.
Here are a few more things to consider when you are thinking about whether you need a CDN:

  1. Do I really need people all over the world accessing my site? If you don’t ship to China why would you care if it takes them an extra 2 seconds to load your site.
  2. How many other sites are sharing my CDN’s servers? Facebook, Google and all the other big sites need a CDN, but then again they have their own servers and don’t share them. The CDN server itself can be a bottleneck if you are sharing it with hundreds of other sites. I have even seen sites have errors that say they are having trouble getting content from the CDN server, HMMM there’s another wrench.
  3. Do you make a lot of changes on your site? Sure, they should handle changes but it always seems to be a problem when you try to update something and the CDN server has it cached.

8. Install a plugin right at the first that will optimize and compress the images right at the start. Then each image that is uploaded will be compressed.
The one I like is called: Compress JPEG & PNG images
It has a free service for the first 500 images each month.  Keep in mind each image may need to be compressed 3+ times as Wordpress likes to have various sizes of each image.

9. Remove all themes that are not standard with Wordpress, except ones you are using. So if you install several themes to test them out and don’t use them, remove them.
It should be safe to uninstall the ones that come perinstalled just leave one as a backup, just in case your theme has trouble also some themes like to borrow elements from the latest Wordpress theme. With that said, leave the latest one they are usually named by the year they were made Twenty Fifteen, Twenty Thirteen, etc.

10. Install Wordfence. I have not seen much of a need to upgrade it but feel free to do so if you wish.

11. Enable Captcha and disable comments, really all you get from comments are SPAM anyway and possible hackers.

12. Lastly, try to not change the theme’s files directly. A good theme should allow you to customize it without actually changing its files. This way if they come out with an update you can update the theme and you won’t be worried about overwriting the files you have changed.
Sometimes this is impossible to do, but it is a good standard practice.

Getting 100/100 on Google Page Speed Insights is possible, if you don’t care how your page looks. In reality just try to get in the green or as close to it as you can.
The 100/100 is a complete absolute option, but not realistic. So don’t get your hopes up 🙂