Need For Speed

Speed. It’s what we all crave in today’s busy world of work and home life. Whether we are waiting for a train, hurrying from one meeting to the next, or waiting for the microwave to “ping,” we’re never far from a glance at the clock and an impatient gesture.

A few decades ago, we were more accustomed to waiting for what we wanted. We’d save up for things instead of going out and buying them on credit cards. We appreciated that the best things in life took time to acquire and we were prepared to hold out for them. Bread wouldn’t rise on demand, travel took hours, and we all had an in-built patience born of experience.
The advent of the World Wide Web went a long way to changing our expectations of speed. We became accustomed to typing a request into a search engine and getting an instant result on our screens that answered all of our needs. Pages began to load faster and the search engines were enhanced until we reached the present day of browsing. These days, every possible configuration of data is presented to us even before we have finished typing in what we’re looking for (thank you, Google Instant).

This has had a huge effect upon our culture overall, particularly with regards to the way in which we access information and expect to have it delivered to us. Newspapers are becoming less popular as people realize the benefit of reading their news online, where they can flit from article to article in the space of seconds. Pressured for time, we are all seeking new ways of generating extra hours to keep up with our demanding schedules, and the internet is one of the tools that we use to achieve this goal.

As the average surfer spends just a matter of minutes on each site that they visit, it makes a lot of sense to ensure that our visitors find what they need quickly and easily. Nothing turns off potential customers more than having to work hard to find what they are looking for; this is a certain way of ensuring your visitors never return for a second visit. There are plenty of things you can do to make navigation quicker for your visitors, including providing great signposting to everything they need, a good search facility, and a sensible structure. Labeling clearly the information you provide and using a site index to facilitate easy navigation are also good strategies to support an efficient service provision for your potential customers.

Even if you have the best possible site in terms of design and navigation, it could be that your WordPress blog still takes a long time to load. If this is the case, you can use a number of techniques to make sure your visitors get what they are looking for in double-quick time. Having large images on your site can greatly reduce the loading speed of your pages. To cut down on loading time, reducing the size of your images to the smallest possible size – that still displays well – is a good idea. There’s no point slowly loading an enormous photo, when it only displays at 300px wide. A good plugin to help you do this is WP, which automatically optimizes your images to the best size.

Part of the way in which Google determines search rankings comes down to the speed that your webpages load. As the search engines get more fluid in terms of how they retrieve answers to queries, it’s important to make sure that our sites are as efficient as possible. To support a quick download we can use caching. Caching essentially creates a static version of a dynamic WordPress page, which is only refreshed when any changes (such as comments) are made. This means that the page does not have to query your WordPress database to display, and therefore brings up results much more quickly.

Use a caching plugin such as WP Super Cache  or W3 Total Cache (i use this); this will allow visitors to your site to get what they need quickly. W3 Total Cache also uses ”minifying,” that involves combining multiple CSS and JavaScript files into one, and then reducing the size by removing white space and unnecessary line breaks. Both plugins enable the use of a Content Delivery Network (CDN) to speed up your site, this can be complicated and is probably best left to an expert to setup.

As long as you keep your images small, and regularly undertake housekeeping to keep your WordPress site optimized, it should be relatively easy to ensure that your visitors are provided with a seamless and efficient service. Using the caching process will also ensure that the major search engines can find your site easily, and will factor this into their rankings. With so much technology going into the speed of navigation online, it’s important to make sure that your WordPress blog has everything in place to ensure a fast, efficient, and customer-focused service.

20 thoughts on “Need For Speed”

  1. You’re right. We are addicted to speed nowadays and after reading your post, I found myself lost most of my patience waiting for something for example, expecting the car in front of me to move as soon as the light turns green or in any form of queue.

  2. I actually had to deactivate SmushIt because my site lost the media library tab.  An upgrade of WordPress didn’t help, so I will eventually have to do a clean install I’m betting.  Not my favorite way to spend a day!

    1.  @Amy LeForge Sorry to hear that. It’s actually a Yahoo API problem, and as uses that and it’s not working it’s causing image upload problems. I think you can still activate it and do a bulk smush and then deactivate again. Sorry for your issues!

  3. Joel the cache plugin drives me nuts. If I want to make a change I can never see it, since it’s caches. should I just un activate when I’m working on the site then reactivate?… 

    1.  @MichelleVandepas Depending on which plugin you use there should be an option to turn off caching for know/logged in users so that will solve that issue for you most of the time!

  4. Great reminder to keep visiting your own blog and make sure the pages load at okay speed. No need to beat Usain Bolt, but it’s got to be fast anyway.
    Speed, as you point out, is the new patience. The other night I sat next to three kids, very cool, complete with laptops, headphones and, of course, busy multi-tasking while watching the game on TV as well as on their laptop. We were watching the Euro2012 championship, with two matches played at the same time. On the TV they announced a goal had just been scored in the other match. The student’s laptop, for another few seconds, was still showing the other match scoreless. “The WiFi doesn’t work here. See how slow this thing is”, he exclaimed. 

    1.  @beatcoach Haha, great story. Digital TV and the internet do have a delay with live sports (nothing to do with wi-fi speed) –  a friend said he likes to pretend to his neighbors he still has an analogue TV by cheering a few seconds before a goal goes in…. 
      I’ll admit my patience is a lot lower for website loading, 10 seconds is about the max I can take.

  5. You have covered the main points and here are few more that will help speed up the loading time:
    1. Plugin: wp-optimize – you can optimize your databases
    2. Plugin: Use Google Libraries – some files that WordPress uses are also stored on Google. This plugin uses the Google version and therefore less need on your host.
    3. Reduce the number of plugins you have activated. Use the Plugin Performance Profilier to check which plugins are slowing your site down.
    As they (well Tesco)…Every Little Helps!

    1.  @andrewrondeau Thanks Andrew, they’re great extra tips. I would warn people to take a backup of the database before optimizing (and especially repairing) as rarely I have experience data loss when doing this. Simply backup first then run, it should be no problem but you can never have too many backups!

  6. Dear Joel –

    Wow. You nailed it. We want speed in everything.

    This really struck me –

    “Newspapers are becoming less popular as people realize the benefit of reading their news online, where they can flit from article to article in the space of seconds”

    Because I am connected to CNN, I get a flash notice up on my computer in seconds. If it worth knowing about I click over to CNN newscast on my computer.

    The daily newpaper is getting so boring. Other than some features, they are printing yesterday’s news.

    Every time I get a bill I think, “Gotta cancel this.” It’s a waste of money.

    But so far I haven’t.

    It has to do with the crinkle sound of the paper when I am having my coffee in the morning.

    Got to get some therapy for this addiction.

    1.  @miraclady I know people who still love reading a newspaper and why not? I love reading books but it doesn’t mean I don’t love my Kindle too. Online news has less of the pressures associated with filling a certain number of column inches and advertising sizes. I worked for a newspaper many years ago and still get nostalgic over the smell of printing ink – they were just moving to color in those days – that’s how long ago it was!I think a weekend newspaper might satisfy your need – they used to be long enough to last all week!

  7. Hi Joel,
    I know for myself speed does matter.  If I pull up a site and it is taking forever, i leave before it even gets loaded.  I do know that the more pictures you have on your site the slower it can load.  Thanks for the tip on WP Smush.  Sounds real good to me.  Sometimes i am not sure whether i should make the picture smaller or larger.  Guess this can solve my worries.
    Thanks Joel and blessings to you,

    1.  @happymakernowco Me too! I mentioned in a comment to Kathy, if you get a HTTP Error when uploading images, disable the Smush it plugin and that will fix that issue. Hopefully the bug will be fixed soon.

  8. Hey Joel – Will WP Smush it optimize the pics that are already on the blog, or just the ones we put up from the point of installation? I’m assuming it’s the later, but hoping for a miracle plugin. 🙂
    Informative post, thanks!

    1.  @workingforwonka Kathy, Under the ‘Media’ settings there is a ‘bulk Smush it’ link that goes through all images and ‘smushes’ them.

    2.  @workingforwonka  @andrewrondeau If you’re having trouble uploading images in a post or Media Library (HTTP Error) you will need to temporarily turn off WP Smush It, it’s a Yahoo API issue that’s not really the plugins fault but can cause that issue.

  9. Thank you for making these great points again. I really agree with you. As a WordPress developer this is a common problem – slow sites. One thing to also consider is bad hosting. Hosting can greatly impact load times especially if you are on shared hosting. Actually bad hosting is the cause of more issues then just speed. One thing to keep in mind.

    1.  @Robcairns Yes, that’s true Rob, I see slow sites all the time. But also hacked sites with support not caring one bit, people forced to figure out how to set up emails themselves from outdated guides and so on. There’s more to hosting than speed. Thanks for stopping by.

Leave a Reply