Speeding up WordPress

According to Google Labs Site Performance tool, the Solar Polar WordPress website took an average of 6-7 seconds to load during the month of June 2010. With Google now using page loading times as a ranking factor this was an issue that I had to address.

I started to investigate how to cut that page load time.

After a little internet searching I discovered that Google Chrome browser has a developer tool to help. A “Timeline” view which shows page load time.

I also found this great article by Julius Kuhn-Regnier.   It highlights many steps that can be taken to speed up your WordPress installation.

My Approach

To firstly analyse my site I visited the home page using Chrome and once the page had loaded, right clicked and choose “Inspect Element”.

This opens up the Developer tools in the same browser window.  You can “undock to a separate window” by clicking the button in the bottom left hand corner.

Undock the Developer Tools in Google Chrome

Choose the “Resources” tab and then underneath the “Graphs” columns choose “Time”.  You’ll then see a neat graph of how long each element on your web page is taking to load.

What I changed

I could see immediately that my Superfish Javascript menus were taking up a fair bit of load time.  They were originally included to add fade effects on my dropdown menus.  Without them the site would look no different and I it is possible to include a fade effect with CSS3 so that was some time saved.

I then looked at my WordPress plugins.  There were 2 differing version of jquery being called!  Not great.

I actually got rid of one of the Social Links plugins.  It seemed more hassle than it was worth.  If I need the links I’ll just hard code them in a text widget.

I then used the advice in Julius Kuhn-Regnier‘s blog.  JQuery is actually used within WordPress itself so in my own header just before the <?php wp_head() ?> section I included the call.

<?php wp_enqueue_script("jquery"); ?>
Now when I check the Time graph I see that only one version of jQuery is loaded.  This is used in the WP-prettyPhoto lightbox plugin that I use.
I ensure that all images I use are as small as possible with the exception of my Flickr feed.  I maintain a WordPress plugin called Flickr API which allows users to grab more than the standard 20 photos from a Flickr RSS feed.

more to follow as I document the list….

Dave Walker
Dave Walker is a middle aged programmer living in North Yorkshire, who loves music and used to enjoy constantly restarting fitness regimes with a bit of football, cycling, swimming & jogging. Now I just eat biscuits.

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