Reasons Why WordPress is Slow
There are lots of possible reasons why websites run slow. WordPress specifically can have a bad reputation for running slow. It is not though. It is how you use it that creates performance problems. Consider the following to increase performance on your webpages (front end) and admin dashboard (back end).
Web Pages Loading Slow
Troubleshooting slow loading web pages takes some effort because there are multiple things to look at. Optimizing just one thing you may not see significant difference, but an accumulation of changes will.
Web Page Optimization
Size matters. The bigger the file, the longer it takes to download. A web page is not a single file, but a collection of many that come together to build a webpage, combined with the content you display. For every file that needs to be included on a page, it adds time for the web server to request it.
Image sizes are another significant factor that affect how slow a web page loads. Often I see images loaded directly from a stock photo website, or a users camera that are megabytes in size. They are forced in HTML to display a certain size, but unconstrained would display larger than the browser window. Resizing images to the actual display size on a web page and then compressing them to further reduce the file size can instantly make a page load faster.
Code Optimizations (and database too!)
There are code tweaks that can be done to a default WordPress installation to remove features you won’t use and optimize performance. On top of that you can enable caching through plugins to improve speed. Beware though, if not configured properly or cleared regularly, caching plugins can cause headaches.
Optimizing your WordPress database can also have a big impact on your website speed. Cleaning up your database by removing revisions, spammy comments and database table optimization can all help.
Plugins and Themes and WordPress Core
For every plugin you install, it adds “bloat” to your web page loading. On top of that, every plugin installed also creates the potential for security issues and conflicts with other plugins that can in turn slow your website down. If you are not using a plugin, deactivate it AND delete it. I can’t stress enough how important it is to keep your plugins updated for performance and security. You should not have any inactive plugins in your WordPress dashboard. If you find that you need a plugin later, it is very easy to install it again.
The same advice goes for themes. You can only have 1 theme active at a time. I only keep the theme I am using, and the most current version that WordPress preinstalls. (2023 theme currently). I keep this theme in place for “disaster recovery”. WordPress will fall back to it if the current theme fails for some reason.
Choose your theme wisely. If you buy a theme pre build and the demo shows “everything but the kitchen sink”, count on the theme being bloated, large. I work primarily with a bare bones theme Hello, that is then customized to load only what is needed.
Keep your WordPress core up to date. When you login to your WordPress admin, go to Dashboard –> Updates to see what version you are running and if there is an update available. Updates are released all the time to fix bugs, vulnerabilities and improve performance. Note: I advise against automatic updates. If something goes wrong it is a challenge to know what happened and when to be able to roll back.
WordPress sites that are not maintained and properly secured, have a good chance of getting hacked. Malicious code injected into WordPress can cause all kinds of problems. Making your website load slow is one of them. Make sure your WordPress site has been hardened and keep you core code, plugins and themes up to date all the time.
Malicious code loading in your web pages can slow down your site because it is “doing something” – ie loading code, processing code.
Malicious website code can put a strain on your server, overloading it and causing performance issues.
Malicious code can cause broken links on a web page which can cause the page to hanging when trying to load resources.
Beyond performance problems, hacked websites can get your site penalized and blacklisted by search engines and email providers. This can cause huge headaches for you to try to get it cleaned up.
Web Server Optimizations
The quality of your web hosting is a bottleneck and can have a big impact on how slowly (or fast!) your website loads. Budget shared hosting services from web hosting providers like DreamHost, GoDaddy, Network Solutions, Bluehost, HostGator… can make your site painfully slow. If you contact support, they will typically point the finger to your code first – telling you to add a caching plugin or try to upsell you to a more expensive hosting plan without really looking in to the problem.
There are some things to look into with your web hosting service to improve your website performance before just upgrading as a band aid.
See if you are running an outdated version of PHP. Each PHP version upgrade improves how fast code runs. Keep in mind though, with PHP server upgrades, you may have code upgrades to address to if you have not maintained it regularly. Same thing goes for the version of database you are running.
If your website traffic has grown significantly, you could have outgrown your current hosting plan. If that is not the case though, consider upgrading to a higher quality hosting service or a more reliable web hosting provider.
My WordPress Admin is Slow
If you are seeing all tools within your dashboard loading slowly (along with the front end), this typically points to a hosting issue. Poor quality hosting may be the source.
Also try optimizing your database if you have not done this. WP Optimize is an easy to use plugin to do this. (Make sure you back up your database first in case something goes wrong!)
If you see issues just on your page or post lists page, it could be that you are trying to display too many posts a time. Use the screen options tab and check how many items you are showing per page. Default is 20. If this is set to a high number, try lowering it.
You can also try turning off autosave, or other Heartbeat API features. (if you have to optimize on this level though, I would consider upgrading your hosting)
As you can see there are many things that can be changed to increase WordPress performance. If you don’t know where to begin, consider hiring an experienced WordPress developer to troubleshoot why your site is running slow and for WordPress speed optimization services. I am confident I can identify the source of performance issues and visibly increase your website speed.