Five Causes of a Slow WordPress Site

According to W3tech, WordPress currently supports 37.5% – or one-third – of all websites. Of course, this is awesome – however, for all the opportunities that WordPress provides us, it also has its challenges such as security and performance issues of its sites. 

Enhancing the performance of a WordPress site is a hot topic these days. It’s possible to find dozens of articles and methods online on how to improve overall speed and performance, which are crucial as both affect your site’s search engine ranking. Furthermore, visitors to your site will quickly leave if the load time is longer than acceptable. This is extremely important for sites with shop functionality where speed is one of the most important factors. In this post, we’ll discuss the top five causes of a slow WordPress site and how to improve them.

1. Low performing WordPress hosting service

It’s not news that high-quality hosting is a cause of a slow WordPress site if the files of your project are hosted on a reliable, fast and high-performance web server. So if chosen wisely, one of the most important tasks of performance improvement is done right. Before deciding on a good hosting provider, there are several things to keep in mind: 

  1. Shared hosting
    We may think its good idea to host our project on shared hosting that temptingly offers “unlimited” space, email accounts, bandwidth or other features. But the key point we miss in this offer is that shared hosting never offers the level of performance that is needed to run a normal project, especially during peak traffic hours. Most of the shared hostings fail to provide 99% of uptime within the month.

    Another major disadvantage of shared hosting is that your project files are placed among countless other websites. Your files essentially share one space, and there is no information about how many resources are used by other websites. In other words, you simply don’t know how well your shared hosting is optimized for performance. The cost of shared hosting is cheaper than any other hosting and starts from $2.

  2. Do-it-yourself VPS hosting
    These are hostings that must be manually created, configured and optimized. The crowd behind these servers are startups, developers, DIY enthusiasts and those who want to save money from already-configured VPS hosting. The most popular and cheapest server provider on the market is Digital Ocean with a $5 plan.

    Similar VPS hosting is great, but it can also be really challenging. If you don’t have enough experience to deal with the problems that come with it, then there might be some serious implications.  We don’t recommend that you opt for this type of hosting if you’re not tech-savvy and if your project is important for you. This type of hosting is best used for experimentation.

  3. Managed web hosting
    This is similar to the above do-it-yourself VPS hosting. However, in this case, the company between you and the cloud platform provider manages everything instead of you. You have nicely designed backend functionality where with just mouse click, you can deploy, restart, stop or pause the VPS server. Such companies also provide support when needed, and they have great optimization features. Due to the popularity of WordPress, in recent years, there has been a rise in dedicated WordPress VPS servers. Such servers offer a fully optimized environment for WordPress as they have the best configuration of files and databases.

    There are many popular managed to host providers on the market, including Kinsta, Cloudways, WPEngine, Flywheel, and others. The prices of such hostings are the highest and start from $10 or $15.

2. Not using the right themes and plugins

Choosing a good theme for your project is probably one of the most important decision you will make, sure thing you want to have the best-looking website but very often shiny and beautiful themes come with many “features” they have dynamic content, custom header, and footer, sidebar, many widgets, all these benefits are great to have in the pocket but they will definitely affect the overall performance of the theme and can cause slow responses from the hosting. Based on this you have to always choose a theme with a good framework, with good performance score.

How to choose the right theme? There are two things you should take into consideration when asking this question:

  1. Less is more, and this goes for themes as well. You’ll want themes with only the features you need for your projects. Such themes are niche-specific themes. For example, let’s say you’re working on a personal resume website, and you choose a theme that has been created solely for resume sites. Generally speaking, this theme has  everything you want to have. Such themes are lightweight, easy to maintain and they don’t require resources from the server.

  2. You can choose to use a general-purpose theme but with options to disable features. These themes offer feature-rich options that can be disabled if you don’t need them. So for instance, there are many themes out there that include many different demos. Make sure features in these themes can be disabled. If you’re not going to use them, they will add useless weight to your project.

Page builders

In the era of page builders, it’s hard to find themes that don’t use page builders. Working with a page builder is quick and easy-to-use, however they add extra weight to your project. Sometimes, they are much heavier than the themes themselves. So, seriously take into consideration whether you need a page builder to utilize or not.

Too many plugins

Adding a new plugin to WordPress site today is just a single click away, however, having too many plugins is a common cause for a slow WordPress site. As we mentioned before, WordPress supports more than 37% of all sites. Because of the popularity of WordPress, new plugins for every occasion pop up on a daily basis.

It’s easy to find a plugin for nearly any purpose. Plugins can be free or premium and come with or without support. Of course, getting support offers us the opportunity to receive technical help in solving our problems, but we should only hold onto important plugins. It’s better to critically ask yourself: is this particular feature important for you? Or is it just a feature that’s nice to have but jeopardizes the performance of your project?

3. Not using caching tools

slow WordPress site

When it comes to WordPress optimization, caching is one of the most important and easiest ways to speed up a WordPress site. 

Let’s check your site through Google PageSpeed insight or ySlow. You’ll see a warning about Javascript and CSS files minification. Without minification you’ll have a bounce of calls of these files to the server, and minification reduces these calls and minifies files sizes of CSS and JS files. In the end, you’ll have fewer calls to the server and less weight of the files to load.

The caching tool – in this case – the caching plugin stores some files to the disk of the server (depending on configuration, it can be stored in the RAM as well), and it remembers the same content that was served in the past session. It reduces server resources that respond to user requests and, as a result, makes a website work much more quickly.

There are many great plugins available for caching. Some of them are dedicated only for caching Javascript and CSS files (for example, Autoptimize) while others do more complex work. Aside from JS and CSS modification, they offer other important optimization works such as image optimization (for example, WpSmush, Wp-optimize), which is one of the important points in WordPress optimization.

Loading media files that haven’t been optimized to the front will greatly increase the loading speed of the website. That’s why you definitely need to consider their optimization, and be aware that image compression is one of the mandatory factors that must be taken into consideration.

4. Not using a content delivery network

slow WordPress site

A Content delivery network – or CDN – will not disappoint you if you use it for site optimization. The main purpose of CDN is to deliver your content to the user, no matter where they’re located on the physical map. Needless to say, your website will not load at the same time for a visitor from Singapore and visitor from California. This is where CDN comes into play. It stores a copy of your website in various data centers in different places in different countries. By doing this, your visitor will be served from the nearest CDN point, which will dramatically increase the website’s loading speed.

There are many great CDN services out there: Cloudflare and MaxCDN are two of the most popular and widely used CDN networks.

5. Version of PHP

slow WordPress site

Well, its fact that recent versions of WordPress started warning users about upgrading their PHP version from 5.6 to the 7.4 version. You can learn more about it in WordPress’s official recommendation

Please note that Worpdress is currently supporting the version of PHP 5.6, but all versions prior to version 7.3 will not receive updates. They are at the end of life (EOL), which means that your site might be exposed by security vulnerabilities.

Now let’s take a closer look why you might want to update your PHP to the latest 7.4 version:

  1. Improved bandwidth
    Versions above 7.0 perform a minimum of twice as fast as 5.6
     
  2. Lower latency
    Latency is the time between the first request and the first response from the user to the server. In this case, lower is better, and the PHP version above 7.0 is showing twice – and some times three times – better results than the 5.6 version. For example, if the average latency for the 5.6 version was 156 ms, then it’s about 68 ms for 7.4.

  3. WordPress support
    WordPress versions above 4.0 are specially optimized for PHP version 7. According to tests on the same hardware and software, but with a different PHP version, it doubled in performance. 

  4. Security
    Nowadays, running the PHP version 5.6 for any software means you’re not protected. All this software is EOL (mentioned above). By not updating your PHP to the latest version, you’re putting your project at risk as even version 7.2 is not very well protected.

  5. Significant performance changes
    Someone from WP Engine tested WordPress with different PHP versions. This test showed WordPress on PHP7 is 6.6 faster than on version 5.5. You can take a look here.

Now, since you already know one of the causes of slow websites, check the version of PHP on your WordPress site and safely update it. Also please note that backing everything up is always a good idea.

Wrapping Up

One of the main reasons for optimizing and lowering your website’s loading speed is to enhance user experience. No one wants to browse a slow WordPress site that is not optimized. This is a major point to keep in mind when creating a WordPress site for all devices. A smooth browsing experience is a must for all types of devices – including phones and tablets. Aside from this, you’ll also improve your ranking in search engine results.

Above, we only listed reasons that a WordPress site might be slow – this isn’t a comprehensive list. We only discussed the major reasons for a poorly performing site but of course there are more. If we missed something, don’t hesitate to write us a comment in the section below!

How to Speed Up your Website in Jupiter X

Speed up your website - Featured image

No one likes slow websites. Even search engines don’t like them and push them down the list of the search results. But how can we make a super-fast website? What if you’re using the Jupiter X theme? Truth be told, a theme is only one factor in the field of performance. While having a lightweight and fast theme is important, the content and how you represent it plays a larger role.  In this article, we’ll provide you with an overview of how you can speed up your website in Jupiter X.

Test your site’s performance score in GTMetrix

Before anything, you need some metrics to measure your performance score. GTMetrix is a well-known performance scanner that also recommends what to do to get a better score.

It measures the PageSpeed Score and YSlow Scores with numbers between 0 to 100. The higher the score, the faster your website. Make sure to keep your results somewhere as you’ll need them to compare at every step you take to see whether or not you’re on the right path.

You can also test your site’s performance with Pingdom and Google Page Speed Insights, but GTMetrix is the most accurate.

speed up your website in jupiter x recipes 3 perfromance
The performance report for the Jupiter X Recipes 3 template on GTMetrix.com

How to find out what’s causing poor performance

Poor performance can stem from two things: 

  • Client side performance issues
  • Server side long execution times

You can check the client side issues using a Chrome browser and observing the network tab while the page loads. We suggest that you do this in incognito mode or while logged out because some plugins may increase the loading time while logged in. You can sort the resource loading time on and see the worse performant resources and check the other details to see what you can do to improve it.

If a resource had a long TTFB (time to first byte), it means that it’s a server side issue. A long TTFB actually happens when the server is executing something before sending the result to you as a client.

One of the Jupiter X templates network tab results in Google Chrome

You can also find a lot of other useful information here in the network tab, which provides information like the server response code or you can check if the resource is already cached or not, among other issues. More information about the network tab and the tools to analyze the performance is provided here.

Remember that you can also use A/B testing to analyze the performance using the same tab. If you believe that a resource is causing performance glitches, you can remove the resource and then test it again to compare with the previous results. Here you can find more information on how to do that.

Now if signs point to the server as the cause of performance issues, then you should take more into consideration.

Understanding a page life cycle will be a great help here. When a web page is being requested by a client, it will take the following general steps to generate a result and being sent back to the client:

  1. The request is sent to a DNS server where it resolves the IP addresses and passes it over to your server. 
  2. The server receives the request and passes it to the web server. 
  3. The web server handles the request based on predefined mime/types and file extensions and finds the proper file path and starts executing it with the help of a compiler or script interpreter. 
  4. While executing, it may continuously fetch some data from the Database Server. (MySQL or MariaDB most of the time if it’s a WordPress website)
  5. The interpreter will generate a page based on the user request and send it back to the web server. 
  6. The web server will send the page to the client and client will render it using a web browser.

Each of the above steps is taken by one or a couple of tools. The request execution part is when a theme or plugin takes part and finding the reason for any performance bottlenecks is possible using Debug Bar, Debug Bar: Slow Actions and Query Monitor plugins. Generally, using these plugins will give you information about the hooks that are causing most performance issues, the queries that are taking more time to execute and actions and filters that are increasing the execution time.

Take note that  although they are great plugins when it comes to debugging performance issues on your website, they will increase the loading time. So, make sure to deactivate them when you don’t need them anymore.

We’ll now discuss and provide some improvement tips for the sake of performance while you are using the Jupiter X theme to develop your WordPress website.

Disable Development Mode in Jupiter X

One way to speed up your website in Jupiter X is by disabling Development Mode. This is because using Development Mode in Jupiter X will cause the Less compiler to run every time you request to load the website. It will indeed increase your loading time. So, if you are set with the development already, simply disable Development Mode in Jupiter X -> Control Panel -> Settings.

Deactivating Development Mode in Jupiter X

Disable Cache Busting

Cache Busting is a method to make sure that the changes you have made on a page or customizer setting won’t get behind a cached version of the static assets, meaning that it won’t be visible for the users. Jupiter X generates a different name for the compiled assets each time you save a change somewhere. Because of this, the static assets will not be cached after making a change. If you don’t want to change the color, typography or anything related to the theme for a while, it’s better to disable Cache Busting to make sure users benefit from the cached version of the static files.

Disabling the Cache Busting option in Jupiter X

Avoid using tons of plugins

One thing to keep in mind when looking to speed up your website in Jupiter X – or any website for that matter – is plugins. Technically speaking, using many activated plugins will cause a drastic performance drop in your TTFB. Each plugin has a different method in its development process. While executing some tasks are heavy by default, it’s not like all the plugins are optimized and performant.

If you’re trying to introduce a small feature onto your website and it’s available on a multipurpose plugin, it’s better to write it on your own or find an alternative. Generally, using a lot of plugins means you need more resources to handle page generation requests. So, keep them deactivated as much as possible. More information can be found here.

Use a caching plugin

Each time a client sends a request to a server, the server should generate the page and send it back to the client. But, what if the server saves the page that is being requested once and avoids creating it again to save some resources? This is exactly what a caching plugin provides. Even Artbees uses caching plugins to save resources and speed up the loading process on its demo templates.

For Jupiter X, we recommend choosing between these plugins:

  • Autoptimize
  • WP Rocket (premium)
  • WP Fastest Cache

While using any caching plugins, you should avoid deferring the JS because it will break the theme. On the other hand, you can use the JS minification and combine all of the JS or CSS files into one. But you should consider one exception only: the web font loader should be excluded from the minification and works stand alone. So, only add this path to the exceptions on whatever caching plugin you are using, otherwise your Google Fonts will not work:

wp-content/themes/jupiterx/lib/admin/assets/lib/webfont/

As per WP-Rocket, here are the optimal settings that you can import to it and use. But remember to change the CDN keys with their current place holders.

Optimize the images

Optimizing images is one of the most important factors in improving performance and in speeding up your website in Jupiter X.  Why use the extra time to load a web page and waste internet traffic when you can represent your content with smaller image sizes and the same quality?

There are many tools out there that can help you optimize images and get better results in the performance tests. WP Smush and Hummingbird Cache are good examples. Also, some plugins offer optimization on the Cloud, and if you can pay for their services, they are actually the best. Tiny Compress Images is an example. You can find more information on this blog post.

Using a CDN

CDN is short for Content Delivery Network, which can be described as a network of servers that delivers cached static content from websites to users based on the user’s geographic location. Pretty confusing, eh? Don’t worry – we’ll break it down in detail.

A CDN allows you to serve your JS, CSS, images and video files to be served from another server. You simply upload them onto your website. But the first time someone checks out your page, the static resources (JS, CSS, images and videos) will be cached on a different server that is close to your location, speeding up the loading process for you. Many of the CDNs offer DNS servers and DDOS protection, so it’s also beneficial for you in other ways. A complete guide regarding using a CDN (CloudFlare) is already provided here. Don’t miss it!

Use a WordPress optimized web host

What if you improve the performance score and you still feel the website is slow? Well, it can be related to your web host. WordPress itself is kind of a heavy content management system. While using a premium theme, you’ll definitely need more resources on the server to speed up your Jupiter X site.

The minimum server resources can be found here, but you may need more WordPress and PHP Memory or a dedicated CPU usage to be able to handle large amounts of users. It’s better to avoid the cheapest plans offered by web hosts if you wish to have a performant WordPress website. A lot of hosting providers that have WordPress optimized plans are worth the money.

For instance, once I was trying to optimize a website for a client, and I did pretty much everything I could. However, the performance score was like 60. Changing the web host to a WordPress optimized plan made huge improvements, raising the score to over 90.

Keep your theme and active plugins updated

Since Jupiter X’s performance will be improved with each release, it’s better to keep it updated along with the bundled plugins.

When a development team realizes what part of their codes cause performance bottlenecks, they will fix and release updates. Jupiter X is also the same. Actually, within the next 3 months, a lot of performance improvements will be applied to the theme, and early results show that it will be at least 5 times faster than the current version. So, keep your theme and all plugins activated.

Avoid using external content

Using outsourced content will always cause a performance drop. It gets worse when the content removes on the external resource or a timeout happens. Ads services, video and audio players, maps and font providers are the most common external content resources that are used on your website. You might not even notice it. It’s true that sometimes using external content resources is cheaper than serving everything through your website. However, you need to balance it out. If you’re using a lot of external resources, you cannot expect to receive a good score from speed testing websites. As an example, you may check out this blog article regarding choosing between socially and locally hosted videos.

In the end, it’s worth looking at this page for further performance optimization tips.

Conclusion

A lot of factors should be considered to have a performant website when it comes to speeding up your website in Jupiter X. Although Jupiter X promises to be a lightweight theme, you may still need to improve your website loading score with whatever you’ve got.

In this article, we outlined the tools needed to scan the performance and ways to improve them. If you’re sure that you applied all the recommendations and your site is still slow, you can contact Artbees Customer Support. We’ll happily review your site and give you expert advice on how you can fix the issue.

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