With blogs getting funkier and monetary aspects taking precendence (more greed = more ads) many blogs these days are suffering from performance and user experience issues. A recent survey showed that only 55% of the US households have broadband connectivity as others are more or less happy to live in the dial-up world! The situation in developing nations is even worse. So when you design your blog and its theme you could still keep 56K modem users’ interests (sounding outdated?) in mind to come up with the fastest loading blog. 

Recently I read an excellent post on WordPress platform based blog performance. You may read that post to get some

insights into MySQL Server and PHP performance tweaking. I will be talking about much simpler things here.

Performance of your blog’s theme

Our first area of interest is the WordPress theme that you are using. The banner is the first place where you start optimizing. As a matter of fact, the themes with smaller sized image banners (or even better text headers or H1 headers) are preferred over large image headers. Even if you use an image banner it must be having a PNG or GIF format that comes ideally under 15-20KB in size. You may also optimize or remove your theme’s stock images (other than banner as well) to make it load even faster.

Next step is to optimize your stylesheets and java script files. You need to ensure that any inline Javascript or style code is moved to their respective natural homes (i.e. included external style file or script file). This improves subsequent pageloading as the external files are already cached. Also, any unused part of your stock stylesheet may be removed to reduce its size. If your plugins are using their own inline stylesheets even that can be moved to a common external css file.

Performance of your plugins

More plugins usually translates to more time to load. It is not uncommon that WordPress blogs have as high as 15 or 20 plugins these days. So you have to periodically run though your plugin lists and deactivate all those plugins that you don’t use anymore. This will improve the performance a bit. Here we are talking about runtime plugins that contributes to rendering of runtime information or view. Those plugins like WordPress database backup plugins or feed plugins don’t have any negative impact on the performance of blog page rendering.

If you are a SQL/PHP expert, the next step is to run through some of those plugins and optimize the queries used. I would not talk more about it here as it could be a little advanced topic for many. You may however check out for the improved versions of your active plugins from time to time. Usually upgraded plugins will offer some performance improvements along with feature enhancements.

Added scripts, badges, widgets etc

A number of badges, widgets, banners and scripts are usually added to your blog whether it is for ads, tracking code or rating code. Many of them take toll on the speed of rendering your pages. So our next step is to optimize them, if they cannot be taken be taken out. The following would be the tips to optimize them.

  • If you have widgets (e.g. MyBlogLog widget) that take time to load, move them towards the end of your side bar or, even better, to the footer area. If your theme has a two-side bar style, move it to the second sidebar.
  • Reduce the number of recent visitors to be displayed on your MyBlogLog or BlogCatalog widget. Lower the number, the faster it loads! Also, try to use ONE of your favorite social media widget than using two or three.
  • If the ad images are taking time to load or they are using tinyurl kind or redirection (e.g. PayPerPost), you may host these images on your own hosting space.
  • If you have a number of tracking services (site meters, counters, feedjit, visitor map, analytics etc) it can drastically slow down the performance of your blog. Replace all such services with comprehensive FREE services such as Google Analytics. Also, make sure that you hosting providers free tracking services (such as webalizer, awstats) etc are disabled as well.
  • Any tracking code such as Google Analytics script may be placed at the end of the page (footer of your theme) just before the closing body tag to avoid any delay in loading of other important components. This footer area should be the home for any ContentLink ad scripts (such as Kontera and Adbrite text links) as well.

Other tips

While writing posts, you need to make sure that your uploaded and linked images are reduced in size (or created as thumbnail) to improve the performance. This will also improve the feed performance. Also, though it reduces the content height and looks, it is better not to include any slow video widgets (Youtube include etc) inline into your post. You may use a URL instead to take the reader to the video link or player. This may however, affect the user experience.

And the final tip is keep upgrading your WordPress platform as and when newer stable releases are available… Talking about that, I need to move to WordPress 2.6 soon !

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