Which Plugins Make Your WordPress Site Faster?

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You have likely heard that installing plugins will slow your down site. In most cases this is true. So it is important to reduce your plugins and only use what you need, especially when starting out on a slower host or in shared hosting.

That said. There are specific plugins you can use to speed up your site. So, now you must be wondering, which plugins can speed up my website?

Caching, Minify and Image Compression plugins can be used to speed up your website, by generating a small stored version of your site to be grabbed quickly from the cache. By reducing the size of the css/javascript and image files.

Plugin Comparison Chart

Comparison Chart of Plugin Features

When using a plugin to speed up your site:
Always take a backup and be prepared to test, test and test some more.

See this post for installing and using Updraft Plus for your backups.

With the default settings on any minify/combine plugin, most likely your website will look broken at first. You will need to spend some time and test and apply different options to find out which files you need to “exclude” from the settings for everything to look correct and still load the page at the fastest speeds possible. Don’t lose heart, and give up right away, and as always you can check out my services page to schedule a time for me to assist you with this important task.

Note: Only install one plugin for a specific optimization. For example, we often use WP Super Cache for caching, Fast Velocity Minify for Minify html,css,js, Easy Lazy Loader for lazy loading and one of Shortpixel to optimize images. So if you install an All-in-One plugin, but don’t like one of their features, disable that feature and install one of the other plugins that cover that feature. If you have any questions on this feel free to leave a comment below.

Caching Plugins

The fastest page caching plugin I have tested to date has been the plugin WP Super Cache This plugin can make a “supercached” version of your posts, as a flat html file, which removes the time for the php backend files of WordPress to calculate and significantly speeds up your website, in order to do this, you will need to turn off the gzip compression for your site, which seems counter-intuitive, since compressing the webpage makes it smaller and in most cases faster to display for the user. WP Super Cache, also caches the mobile version of your webpages. For the free version of page caching this plugin offers the most features and options and has been the fastest.

What’s more, if you have different pages appear for different visitors, like for example if you set your cookie banner only for visitors from the EU, then you add the plugin “Country Caching for WP Super Cache” and it will create separate cache files for each version of your page.

However, WP Super Cache does not combine or minify the html, javascript or css style sheets. So in addition you would need to choose another plugin for this task.

Also check out the section on the All-in-One optimization plugins below that offer page caching.

 

 

Minify & Combine:

Fast Velocity Minify

Fast Velocity Minify automatically starts combining/minifying the html, javascript (js) and css stylesheets once enabled on your site. You can combine and inline all css, or combine and move all css files to the footer instead of being in the header. If you know what your critical CSS is, you can enter this on developers settings of the plugin. The critical css is the styling of just the objects that visitors will see on the first screen of your page load, before scrolling. Note, if you move your css to the footer, your visitors will likely see a flash on your website as the styles are applied after, but it does speed up loading time, so this is something you will have to determine which you prefer.

Remember with any Style and Javascript minify/combine plugin it will take some time to troubleshoot, and figure out which js and css files to exclude. For example on our other blog, Shawn has a page that shows off some of our daughters artwork, using the Foogallery plugin. On this page, we need to exclude the foogallery lightbox css, otherwise the styling did not work for the gallery plugin.

Another example is that with the default settings, the menus would change from nicely styled menu bar to just a list of links down one side of the page. So we would need to figure out which javascript or css files to exclude for the menu to look correct.

To investigate, right-click on elements that appear incorrectly and select to “inspect” or “view page source”, both of these are tools on your browser to help you see the code for elements on your page.

At this point our images still need to be compressed.

ShortPixel

Shortpixel offers to compress 100 images per month for you for free. This includes thumbnails, so if your theme generates 3-5 versions of each uploaded image, then you would need to compress 3-5x the number of images. ShortPixel offers both one time plans and subscriptions, so for example for 10000 images you can have them compressed for a small one-time fee. Offers up to 90% image compression. After comparing compression settings we have switched all our WordPress sites to use Shortpixel as the other plugins were not providing the same results.

All in One Plugins:

JCH Optimize

In the free WordPress version of this plugin you can Minify and combine html, javascript and css style sheets and Create a page cache file. However, the free version is quite limited.

We are testing out a 6 month trial of the Paid version, the plugin will attempt to dynamically create your page’s critical css. The option to put the minified files in the footer with the async attribute to prevent the javascript from being render blocking – render blocking is when your page is loading it has to stop and wait for the javascript to run, which will often result in a blank white screen while it waits.

The paid version also includes:
Image optimization.
Optimizes CSS Delivery so that it is not “render blocking”.
Sprite image generation, to load all images as a sprite to speed up loading time.
Reduce requests for internal and external resources
HTTP/2 Push which will send resources to the visitors browser in parallel for faster loading time.
Lazy Image Loading so that the page loading doesn’t need to wait for off-screen images to load.
(note, we chose to not use this lazy image loading feature as it was not working well with our hidden pins).
Offers CDN Support, for if you are hosting your static resources offsite on a CDN so that these resources are available in several locations, and the location nearest your reader will be loaded.

I did modify the templates, to manually add the attributes “async defer” to the javascript scripts. As the plugin only offered the option for async, which is only available on newer browsers.

So even though this is considered an All-in-One plugin, we ended up sticking with the WP Super Cache for Page caching and Easy Lazy Loader for lazy loading images, iframes, video and audio.

The HTTP2 Push with the ALPN protocol has only recently been made available on our host, which is great to now have this feature as it does make a significant impact on speeding up page loading time.

WP Fastest Cache, we have not yet tested this plugin, as at the time we needed the option for the Country aware caching, but it is certainly one to keep in mind in your testing and comes highly recommended by others. This plugin offers the option to minify, gzip, and cache pages and is available in free and paid versions. However, on looking at the options available for free vs paid, their free version does not cache the mobile site, and this is where 90% of our traffic comes from. So that in itself would deter us from trying the free version on our live website.

WP Rocket

Last but not least, WP Rocket is an all in one plugin I have not yet had a chance to try myself. But it is highly recommended in the blogging world and takes care of most the steps for you to speed up your website: caching, minify, and combine html, css and javascript, lazy loading. This one is only available in the paid version and is quite affordable.

So, I hope this post has been helpful in explaining the plugins you can use to speed up your website. You will want to take backups before you add and play around with these powerful plugins. Note, some hosts offer optimization plugins for you, like Siteground

Which plugins have you tried for speeding up your website? Any you would add to the list that you find were just awesome and would benefit others, leave a comment and let us know.

Have a great day!

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Tara, WP Blogger Assist

I have over 15 years experience in IT. Over this time: managing server infrastructure, building websites and more. This website is dedicated to helping WordPress bloggers with setting up their blogs and websites; optimizing fast page loading, SEO and social media marketing - such as; Pinterest, Facebook and more.

One thought on “Which Plugins Make Your WordPress Site Faster?

  • February 8, 2019 at 3:16 pm
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    Thank you for this information. I’ve been struggling with a slow load time for my site. I found this very helpful!

    Reply

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