Why Your WordPress Website is Slow

WordPress is an amazingly efficient and resilient piece of software, able to handle large volumes of both content and traffic, but sometimes it tends to get a bit too slow for the average user’s taste. This can happen for a number of reasons, but the good news its that they’re all pretty easy and quick to fix. WordPress doesn’t need to drain a website’s resources or reduce it performance to something which would best be compared to a snail or turtle in a foot race. Indeed, by checking a few key pieces of information within the installation itself, it’s easy to identify the exact reasons that a WordPress installation has begun “running” at a snail’s pace.

Non-Standard XHTML and CSS Markup Can Have This Effect

Most novice designers are actually not aware that producing XHTML templates and styling them with CSS is a process which is governed by a web standards body known as the World Wide Web Consortium, or W3C. This standards-governing body of internet site design actually sets the exact guidelines that are adopted by all of the major web browsers when rendering and displaying websites across all internet-connected devices. Therefore, ignoring even one of the body’s rules and regulations when it comes to creating a custom XHTML template for WordPress can cause any browser to go into what is known as “quirks mode.” This will force the browser to load the website more slowly and analyze it in a tag-by-tag fashion in order to try its best to display the content as the designer intended.

To fix this problem, simply go to the W3C’s website  and look for the links that lead to website validation tools. These tools can have XHTML or HTML5 code pasted into them, or they can simply be given the URL of a production website. Either way, they’ll go through the site line-by-line and determine if it is actually standards-valid. If not, appropriate line-specific errors are printed to the user so that they can fix the problem and restore great speed to their website.

Too Many Plugins Can Slow WordPress Down

There are over 60 million WordPress users around the world, and they’re served by a robust community of 15,000 developers who have created tens of thousands of plugins. That means there’s certainly a large chance that a user has gone on a plugin installation spree in recent days or weeks and caused their WordPress software to simply buckle under the weight of so many feature extensions and alterations to the core WordPress functions. It might be true that some of these plugins are necessary, but it’s likely that a similar number are simply extraneous and serving more to slow the site down than to improve its overall utility.

The plight of the overly-plugged-in WordPress website can be solved by using a tool known as P3, which stands for the Plugin Performance Profiler. It’ll go through each plugin in a manner that mirror’s the W3C’s XHTML validation tool, and it will analyze which plugins are helping the website’s performance and which ones are serving to do nothing more than slow things down and bring the website to its knees. At their discretion, website administrators can then disable these plugins and regain both their website’s speed and their own personal sense of sanity.

Relying on Third-Party Websites for Content is a Big Gamble

Almost every website in the current decade features Facebook “like” buttons and Twitter “tweet” buttons with each post. Often, sidebar areas are full of content from these websites that enable a user to show off their sweet social networking skills. This, however, is a big mistake on the part of speed-challenged WordPress websites. Using a third-party piece of content means that a website will be dependent on the third-party website’s speed when loading its own content. Like the concept of the lowest common denominator, a website’s loading times are only as fast as the slowest element of a template.

To fix this problem, simply eliminate dependence on third-party websites and their APIs in favor of standard links and native resources. This will improve page load times and help WordPress perform like the speed demon it was designed to be.

Bonus Link!

Here’s a great quickstart guide from the folks at WP Tuts on how to speed up your WordPress site. Know of any other resources related to making WordPress move faster? Let us know in the comments.

3 Responses to Why Your WordPress Website is Slow

  1. Steven D. Sanders says:
    June 5, 2012 at 11:20 am.

    I’m going to go ahead and disagree with the point about non-standard HTML and CSS. Although this is true to a point, it is becoming increasingly common for websites to have markup that is intentionally not valid. This is mostly Internet Explorer’s fault: in order to get some things working properly in IE, non-standard markup must be used. The developers of IE chose not to follow the standards created by the W3C when creating the browser. I think right now, only something like 20% of sites on the internet pass the validation tests.

    • Jim Moscater says:
      June 5, 2012 at 11:23 am.

      Thanks! We appreciate the comments and insight!

  2. Tim says:
    June 21, 2012 at 8:06 pm.

    The last time I used WordPress, it was an inefficient memory hog with zero caching by default. I stopped using it when I ran out of allocated memory installing one plugin into the default installation. Is there any evidence that they’ve fixed these two major flaws recently?

    When I see Reddit or similar social hubs take down a small website, it’s almost always a WordPress site.

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