Even on a great server using an optimized database, a site can still lag in unexpected ways. Without understanding where to look, it can feel impossible to speed things up.
There are a few common reasons a site loads slowly, and they’re easy to track over time. By monitoring them on your own site, you’ll better understand how to ask your development team to optimize its performance. As these benchmarks improve over time, so will your WordPress site.
In this article, we will show you four site-compromising benchmarks to watch out for, and introduce you to the tools you need to track them.
1. Test for Deprecated Theme and Plugin Code
Deprecation’ describes outdated or no longer supported features within a platform or programming language. WordPress is no exception, as core developers remove old functionality based on the platform’s improvements over time. The amount of poorly written or otherwise deprecated code in your themes and plugins may have a negative impact on your site’s performance.
There are a number of ways deprecated code may slow down your site. However, the primary reason is simply that it’s no longer updated for WordPress’ core, and is therefore not optimized for the current version of WordPress.
You’ll need to communicate with your developers to find out whether your WordPress site is using any deprecated code, so they can replace it with modern equivalents. To do this, you can coordinate with them by taking these steps:
- Bring up deprecated code as an issue you’d like to track and fix.
- Provide them with WordPress plugins such as Theme Check or Log Deprecated Notices, and make sure they’re aware of native WordPress debugging tools. Note that both of these plugins haven’t been updated recently, but we found no issues during our tests.
- Request that they find all of the deprecated code possible, and research the current and correct ways for implementing the same features.
- Finally, to keep track of the benchmarks, ask them to compile a report about the amount of deprecated code they are able to find and fix for your site. This (as well as the rest of this list!) could become a regular maintenance routine, perhaps once every few months.
2. Track Triggered PHP Errors
Errors can occur when a PHP script violates standard protocol, causing issues when the server attempts to process it. These errors can vary in extremes. In some cases they’re not visible to the end user, but they will completely crash the website in others.
If your WordPress site is triggering many PHP errors, the extra processing time could slow down the performance of your site. However, all but the worst errors are impossible to find by just visiting the site on a live server.
To fix this, you’ll need to discuss this issue with your developers to reduce the number of errors being triggered by your website.
- Explain your goal of reducing PHP errors and warnings.
- Provide them with WordPress plugins such as Error Log Monitor.
- Request they begin with major errors and work their way down to more minor warnings.
Once more, you can ask for a semi-regular report to see how many errors were originally triggered by your site, compared to the number of errors your developers were able to fix. Ideally, you can have them monitor the situation over time to maintain a low number of PHP errors.
3. Check Your Database Queries
WordPress has to pull a lot of information (such as the name of your website, or the contents of a post) from the database to generate even one page. These requests for data are called ‘queries’. Repetitive queries can often be redundant and put an extra strain on the database, making them unnecessary to ask for every single time.
If your site makes a lot of queries on every single page load, this puts a strain on the database. Eventually, this could result in a generally slow database or even errors when you get more than a few visitors at once.
To avoid this problem, you can speak to your developers about identifying repetitive (or otherwise unnecessary) queries frequently made to your database.
- Let your developer know you’d like to reduce the number of queries made to your database on a regular basis.
- Provide them with WordPress plugins such as Query Monitor.
- Request that they track repetitive or unnecessary database queries and reduce requests by either removing them when possible, or using transients to cache queries.
You can also speak to your developer about helping you look at alternative options for speeding up your database, such as using a dedicated cloud database server. To track the benchmarks, you can ask for a report of essential and nonessential queries made per page load.
4. Reduce Extraneous HTTP Requests
Many files can be optimized to become smaller, and often should be. This is because overly large HTTP requests slow down the browser’s ability to load a page. Sometimes, scripts aren’t even necessary for a specific page to work – meaning you’ve waited on downloading a resource for nothing.
You can speak to your developer about identifying unnecessary and extra large HTTP requests, so you can reduce them to load more quickly in browsers:
- Explain your goal of decreasing the overall size of your web pages by reducing the size and quantity of HTTP requests.
- Ask for benchmarks on how many HTTP requests there are, and of what size. Tools such as Gift of Speed’s Request Checker or Chrome’s built-in network panel can help here.
- Provide WordPress plugins like Merge + Minify + Refresh and Fast Velocity Minify, which are quick ways to begin reducing page size.
- Request and follow up on the overall size of your pages before and after optimization.
If you want to go a step further, you can ask your developer whether they can help you set up your server with HTTP/2 and server side caching. These both change how requests work, and can speed up your site significantly.
Regardless of the quality of your server, there are number of configurations that can significantly slow down your website. Learning how to track and reduce these by collecting benchmark measurements will help you maintain faster site speeds.
In this article, we’ve shown you how to track:
- Deprecated code in your themes and plugins.
- PHP errors triggered by your website.
- Redundant database queries throughout your site.
- Extraneous HTTP requests made per page.
What questions do you have about testing and fixing performance benchmarks on your website? Let us know in the comments section below!