Between powerful tools like WordPress and fast connection speeds available to many, it has never been easier to showcase high-quality selections of your photography online.
But the need for speed is pivotal. Inflict a sluggish site on the world and you can expect search engines to steer clear. Even the users who do land on your site will quickly bounce in frustration. No matter how good your pages look, they need to load quickly. Here are six quick tips that can help speed up WordPress and keep your photography website humming.
First: Benchmark Your Site
Before making a series of changes across your site, it’s important to gauge your current standing.
Tools such as Google’s PageSpeed Insights, Pingdom and GTmetrix give you both a solid overview of where you’re currently falling short and a set of numbers you can use to measure future improvements across desktops and mobile devices.
Pick your tool of choice, take note of your site’s performance, and use the data as a point of reference in applying the tips to follow.
Step 1: Streamline Your Setup
Don’t jump right into isolating certain images. Instead, take some time to review the overall setup of your site and remove any unneeded plugins that might be taxing your site’s load times.
The WordPress Optimization section of the Codex is a great introduction if you’re approaching this area for the first time. From there, use Colorlib’s recent Spring Cleaning Toolkit piece to guide you through the process of using tools such as the P3 Plugin Performance Profiler for identity improvements.
Step 2: Optimize and Compress Your Images
Unnecessary image bloat remains a scourge of websites worldwide. Particularly for a photography site, appropriate compression simply has to be part of your standard workflow.
For a more comprehensive take on optimization and compression options, check out WPMU DEV’s deep dive on the subject.
Step 3: Leverage Lazy Loading
A large percentage of page load time for photography sites is naturally going to be taken up with delivering images. But lazy loading enables you to only download images as they are needed (i.e. within the viewer’s browser viewport). This is a simple tweak that can radically speed up perceived page load times.
Step 4: Utilize the Power of Caching
Caching can be a big win in terms of speed improvements, but it can get a little complicated when you start digging into the full range of technical options available – particularly on the server side. Be sure to consult a general guide such as Envato’s W3 Total Cache series before exploring the possibilities with caching.
Step 5: Let CDNs Carry the Load
Bringing the power of a Content Delivery Network (CDN) to bear on your site is a great option to pursue once you’ve already stepped through the tips we’ve covered so far. Put simply, a CDN provider places multiple versions of your images and static content worldwide, ensuring the replications display as quickly as possible to users, wherever they happen to be.
Major providers such as MaxCDN, CloudFlare, and CacheFly all play nicely with both WordPress and leading caching plugins. Implementation steps will vary depending on your particular setup, but you’ll find comprehensive starter guides on individual providers’ sites (such as MaxCDN).
Step 6: Consider Your Hosting Provider
Thankfully, the bad old days of WordPress hosting are largely behind us. However, your hosting provider still may not be providing an optimal service.
If you find your site is consistently sluggish after applying the suggestions we’ve covered, it could be time to switch. Our own managed hosting platform is optimized for super-fast performance and reliability, with free site migrations and dedicated customer support included.
Other Tips to Share?
With site speed a confirmed SEO ranking factor and users as impatient as ever, your photography site needs to be loading as quickly as possible. Lost seconds can mean lost customers.
Do you have speed optimization tips of your own to share? Share your input with fellow creatives in the comments below!