Optimising my Blog

Posted in: Web Design, Work on August 29th, 2012

Although this blog details important moments in my life, it is also a crash test dummy when it comes to web styles, WordPress plugins and any other thing I feel like throwing at WordPress. I sometimes install random plugins, write a bit of rubbish and forget to update or maintain the poor soul.

So I thought this blog needed a little TLC and gave it a quick overhaul!

Pingdom Test Before
Pingdom Test Before Upgrade
The treatment…

Upgraded everything!

I spend so much time keeping up with upgrades for ICAE and client sites that I often forget to update my own blog. God knows, I have a staging version of a kick ass new responsive design for Zhoom which I haven’t had time to set live yet!

But in the name of security and speed, my blog got some new socks! Upgrades all round… WordPress version, plugins, theme, framework and a bit of code tidy up.

My favourite item on the upgrade list is the Woo Canvas upgrade which means this blog is now responsive. Go on, I dare you to load it on your iPhone…

Got rid of surplus plugins

Any plugins that are not used can take up database calls and slow down a website so I went through and got rid of any that were not essential. These are the ones I sent away to a good home…

Jetpack – The only features I use are the spell check and live stats. But I figure I don’t need either of these with my Google Analytics fetish and my keen proofing eye *cough cough* so goodbye Jetpack!

Compfight – I love Compfight as a search engine but I always forget to use the actual feature within WordPress so I figured I don’t need it.

Gravity Forms Adds Ons – Gravity forms kicks ass and remains installed! But I had 3 add ons which were installed as a test for client sites so I torched them.

Lifestream – A nice concept but tooooooooo slow.

Tubmlrize – Another plugin I was testing… I don’t even use Tumblr so Tumblrize is hardly useful.

Reduced number of sharing buttons

About 62% of load time was coming from outside my domain; from sites like Facebook, Google and Stumbleupon due to the sharing buttons I had installed all over the place. This meant that the funky little buttons that enabled sharing were seriously slowing down my site!

Since I had coded them into the theme using action hooks it was a very simple fix. I removed them from the homepage, then used a quick conditional statement to add them to the post template in my child theme.

If you are interested in my sharing buttons you can use this code and modify to suit your own needs

[cc lang=”html”]

/* Sharing Buttons BEGIN */


In fact, after removing most of the sharing buttons, my page load time was reduced by more than 50%!

Maximised the Power of W3 Total Cache

W3 Total Cache is awesome and on my list of highly recommended plugins! But it also a beast to setup if you don’t know what you’re doing or if you rush through the setup. So I went through and made sure everything was in order. This included making sure HTML, CSS and JS were minified (I had missed HTML minify before somehow!); making sure expires headers were set and then setting up static content delivery via Amazon Cloudfront.

Setup a CDN on Amazon Cloudfront

CDN allows your static files such as images, CSS and JS to come from another server, allowing concurrent loading and leading to quicker page load times. This was easy with W3 Total Cache’s CDN feature and the step-by-step instructions I found here. The post also has some great W3 Total Cache tips too…

I chose Origin Pull so I didn’t have to manage the pushing of content and everything else was seamless. The only minor problem was that Cloudfront took about 30 mins to deploy my distribution but after it was deployed and I finished the W3TC setup it now runs perfect!

The Result…

Well unfortunately Pingdom went down just as I wanted to capture a screenshot of the final result. But the last test I ran I managed to squeeze an under 3s load time which is a big difference from the original 10ish seconds.

I also forgot to take a before shot with Google Pagespeed Insights (duh!) but the after result is pretty good… 2.6s load with no high or medium priority issues to fix.

PageSpeed Insights
PageSpeed Insights

I’m pretty sure there is some more I can do such as lazy-loading and a little compression here and there, but that will have to wait for another day! Next is beautifying this blog…. I started with a very faint background to take the edge off the white. More to come soon…

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