How To Speed Up A Sluggish WordPress Site

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Too Much Stuff

For the average blogger, speeding up a typically sluggish WordPress site can seem one of the black arts. Tinkering around with your php code, optimizing CSS, re-organizing the hierarchy of your Javascript and Ajax files will likely feel like far more than you bargained for when you decided you wanted to get into publishing your ideas online.

There is a reason for thinking about speed however; the inconvenient truth about the web is that you have roughly between three to eight seconds to grab a new reader and keep them reading before they bounce off your page to somewhere else. If in that time your site is too busy loading up all sorts of flare, making too many calls back to the server and even just trying to figure out what its own messy code wants it to do – you are going to lose not just one reader but possibly hundreds.

I have discussed the basic arsenal for optimizing a site – using caching tools to transform your dynamic pages into static HTML files is one of the best ways to get started. The WP-Super Cache is one of the best at this, and the even more aggressive Hyper Cache can do the job as well. Additionally WP Widget Cache should go alongside your site caching plugins so that you can optimize those busy sidebars.

Spring Cleaning For Your WP Site

Remember when you first walked into your new WordPress home? You were so excited to furnish it with all the coolest new toys and sexy furniture so you went to the WordPress Plugin directory and found all sorts of great ideas for decorating the place? How many of those are you actually still using? Did any lead you to change your mind and deactivate them? Do you still really need that fancy AJAX sliding door thingy that displays every one of your Social Web accounts? How many different Twitter Widgets do you have to display to really feel you got the point across that you would like more followers?

Deactivate them. And then delete them. There is a theory that even deactivated plugins cause wordpress to scan over them to do a check for their activation state while loading up your page so you could be wasting precious milliseconds on an unnecessary process. Deleting the plugins won’t make your page speed up per se, but it will save you some space. You can always install them again later. If you don’t remember to, then you probably didn’t need them anyway.

Is your blog’s header an image? Is it an image with you blog’s title and byline laid over top by your theme? Consider making your blog header a static image or an image map if you need to define clickable hotspots on it, rather than having your blog have to pull the title and byline and display it. The static header with the text already built into it is straight ahead optimization.

Is All That Flare Really Making You Money?

If you run a site about high-priced ticket items like HDTV’s, DSLR cameras or yachts, then chances are those animated, rotating  flash ads that pull from a daily or weekly list of top sellers are a good idea. But if you are running a music or knitting site and selling yarn or mp3’s then those ads are likely making you pennies a month at best and at worst just a drain on your site’s load time. Consider removing them or using a static banner ad that can be cached. I found these to be one of the biggest culprits for my own sites’ load times.

Obsessive Time Sculpting

If you feel like getting under the hood and getting your hands a little dirty, going into your theme editor can reward you with some nice speed optimizations. Programmer extraordinaire Joost de Valk offers the following tips at his site for getting into the code itself.

As Joost explains:

“Because themes have to be easy to spread, they have to get almost all the blog specific info from the database. That results in a lot of queries for stuff that you could just hard-code into the theme.”

Go to your WP admin panel ->Appearance->Editor->header.php and look for the following code at the top:

<html xmlns="http://www.w3.org/1999/xhtml" <?php language_attributes(); ?>>
<head profile="http://gmpg.org/xfn/11">
<meta http-equiv="Content-Type" content="
<?php bloginfo('html_type'); ?>;
charset=<?php bloginfo('charset'); ?>" />

You could replace it with the simpler:

<html xmlns="http://www.w3.org/1999/xhtml" dir="ltr">
<head profile="http://gmpg.org/xfn/11">
<meta http-equiv="Content-Type" content="text/html; charset=UTF-8" />”

Similarly in WP admin panel ->Appearance->Editor->footer.php look for

<?php bloginfo('name'); ?>

and replace it with your Site Name

Look for:

<a href="<?php bloginfo('rss2_url'); ?>">

And replace it with your RSS2 feed. For example if you use Feedburner and your RSS2 feed is http://feeds.feedburner.com/MyAwesomeWPBlogDude, you would put:

<a href=" http://feeds.feedburner.com/MyAwesomeWPBlogDude">

The same can be done for your Comments feed.

Note: you may want to actually copy and paste the RSS and Comments RSS feeds from your site before you do this since that is the easiest way to know what your feeds actually are.

Cleaning That Code, Compressing CSS: indocin

I have also seen people suggest the CSS Compress plugin that “automatically removes comments, new lines, tabs, and gzip compresses (GZIP) any CSS file called with “<?php bloginfo(‘stylesheet_url’); ?>” – but use it with great caution. While it may help shave off some milliseconds from a rather simple theme like Kubrick, I have seen it wreak havoc on more complex themes.  It isn’t the fault of the click-and-go plugin, but the fact that sometimes one-stop solutions aren’t the same as one-size-fits-all solutions.

Which leads me to a very important point: make sure you have a database backup plugin installed – I recommend Lester Chan’s DBManager:

Not only can you backup your database in the event of a misstep, but after you have cleaned out your WP closets, as it were, you’ll want to bust out the vacuum. Click that DB Optimize button to get things sparkling again.

Speed Tests

If you want to check up on how your site is doing, consider installing Firebug for Firefox and then the YSlow plugin (Yslow needs Firebug to run).  Then when you visit your site, click the YSlow button at the bottom of your browser and check the site’s performance. You will get a report showing you where things can be improved.  If you aren’t using Firefox, you can also visit Pingdom

‘s site to check your blog’s loading time and get a detailed report about how it loads.

Thanks to WordPressGarage.com for sourcing the above.

Sitting Back

Optimizing your WordPress site is a very important but also delicate job.  Make sure to research the effects of any plugin beforehand and to backup regularly.  The list of optimizations in this article is by no means comprehensive or even right fo everyone, but I hope it serves as a fair introduction to making your site really shine.

Please share your own thoughts, tips and experiences with get your WordPress site clean and zippy.  I would love to learn about other techniques people have found useful.

About the Author:
Keram is a new media consultant, music producer, actor and writer who opines on SEO at blogging-fool.com and society at theculturepin.com. Listen to his podcast at KeramCast.com and find him on Twitter @ConstantChange.

WordPress and Twitter Make Good Buddies

Running Buddies - by OakleyOriginalsTwitter is one of the fastest growing methods for communicating or “curating” the endless stream of data being generated daily online.  For the same reason that blogging took hold at such a feverish pace – for its tendency to consistently encourage and offer fresh content and then push that content through an RSS feed – Twitter strips away all the extras and offers the distilled goods in a micro sound bite portions.

Like WordPress, a good part of Twitter’s continued growth and success can be attributed to the third party developments that allow people to customize how they serve and receive the content.  By hooking in to Twitter’s API, users can twit, retweet, update content in a wide variety of ways.

There are a number of excellent plugins and widgets for WordPress that serve different purposes.  Here are some of the most popular:

Ned Kelly trailer Top Twitter Plugins for WordPress

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Tweet This creates a conspicuous button or link at the end of a WordPress post that automatically shortens the URL to your page so that you can better decide how to phrase your tweet and fit it within the 140 character limit.  (Note: it is recommended that you do not use up the entire 140 characters available so as to leave room for those who want to retweet you)

TwitThis is similar to Tweet This in that is pre-shortens the URL of the page you are sending to Twitter.  A slightly different implementation, however.  See which of the two is better suited to your needs.  Using both would be redundant and potentially problematic and confusing for your reader.

TweetSuite is the All-In-One-SEO-Pack equivalent for implement Twitter into your blog.  Offering server-side TweetBacks, ReTweet-This buttons, a large Tweet-This Button and the option to automatically tweet new posts.  use this last option with discretion especially if you run a busy blog.  Power Tweeters recommend not posting more than once an hour.  But Twitiquette (as Caroline Middlebrook calls it) is beyond the scope of this article.

Twitter Tools is a nice two-way plugin in that links your WP-blog to your Twitter account allowing you to pull your tweets into your blog and conversely create new tweets on blog posts and from within WordPress itself.

Twitter Feed adds the nice touch of using your OpenID to login in to your twitter stream, displays the URL for your blog’s RSS feed, and the ability to tell it how often to post your updates to Twitter.

WP TwiTip ID

TwiTip.com jimmy witherspoon – spoon so easy mp3 download is the Twitter-centric blog created by Darren Rowse, founder of the extremely popular site ProBlogger.net.  This hot rod plugin encourages reader participation by adding the option to a comment form to display the user’s Twitter username along with their reply.

There are also a variety of widgets for displaying your Twitterfeed in your sidebar.  The simplest and perhaps most brutish way of handling this is to get the code from Twitter itself.  Go to your profile at Twitter.com and look for the Tools section where you can generate the code to place in a Text widget.  It may take some tweaking to get it to look right with your theme.  Alternatively you can try the Twitter WordPress Sidebar Widget. Again try out arious options and see which works best for you.

Finally, if you are just getting accquainted with the Twitterverse, take a look at Tweetdeck

– a third party standalone program for accessing and organizing all your friends, messages, replies, and tweets on Twitter.  You can set filters so that a column only displays messages by certain types of posters (for example “Music Industry” or “SEO masterminds”). There are new stand-alones coming out every day, but this should give you an idea of what an alternative interface can be.

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Get A Running Start on the Mainstream

The IT prophets are starting to mumble about ways in which Twitter might replace Facebook and even Google Search altogether.  If you aren’t hip to it yet, give it another look – you will still be far ahead of the mainstream and as you learn about the unwritten conventions for using it well, you will begin to tap into a very powerful new way to promote you precious content.

About the Author:
Keram is a new media consultant, music producer and writer who opines on SEO at blogging-fool.com

and society at theculturepin.com.  Listen to his podcast at KeramCast.com

Photo “Running Buddies” – by OakleyOriginals used under Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 License

Exclusive Interview with Founder of OneHertz.com, Designer of the Mandigo Theme for WordPress

One of the most powerful features of a custom blog installation is the ability to store content in a database and then display that content dynamically within a theme that outlines the layout, style and often contributes additional functionality for the site.  There are literally hundreds of thousands of themes available now for WordPress, many of which are free and many that transform a basic WordPress installation into a very powerful CMS.  Free themes usually add some color and design to a site but not many free themes afford as much extra ammo as Mandigo

by independent developer OneHertz.

A Default Home Page Using Mandigo, a free theme for WordPress

A Default Home Page Using Mandigo, a free theme for WordPress

Mandigo offers a wide variety of color schemes that can be changed on the fly, dynamic sidebars that can be moved from the right to the left side, automatic bolding of hyperlinks, auto drop caps at the top of paragraphs and even additional fields for HTML, Javascript and CSS inserts – all without having to know a thing about code.  From the huge array of free themes available, I have found it to be by far the most versatile and powerful option out there short of having to pay a hefty license fee for comparable premium themes.

Intrigued by this hefty “Donationware” package, I conducted the following interview with Tom Picard, the creative mind behind Mandigo.

WP-Blogger: Tom, tell us about how you got started in design?

Well, I started making websites for personal projects, family and friends some 7 years ago but only started making a living out of it in 2006. This decision has its roots in some kind of frustration about the lack of usable websites in the travel industry: each time I needed to plan a trip or book a hotel room, it turned almost impossible to get information or see pictures of the place without asking people to send them by email. Since I thought I had the required skills and there was a market, I decided to open a business and registered OneHertz.com.

WP-Blogger: What led you to create your first WP template?

Curiosity (and to be honest, SE ranking). A few months into my entrepreneur venture, things were not going as well as I expected, particularly because of lack of traffic, so I decided to focus on improving the ranking of onehertz.com with Google. At the same time, my interest in WordPress was growing rapidly (I was making static HTML sites then) and I thought releasing a theme would be a cool way of learning something new and get a few backlinks at the same time. So I made a copy of my Kubrick folder, started tweaking it, and ended up releasing Mandigo 1.0 in December 2006.

WP-Blogger: Does it require a strong grasp of CSS?

Yes, and no. It doesn’t take much to get started. For the most part, you can just look at existing themes, use intuition and search for what you need on Google. Things only get worse when you implement options in your theme or want cross-browser support (read IE6 compliancy), and standards compliant markup.

WP-Blogger: Talk about www.onehertz.com

Things didn’t turn out as I planned, but the outcome is probably better this way. I wanted to make static sites for the travel industry and instead of that I ended up doing all kinds of WP-related development (be it custom plugins or themes) for all kinds of businesses from all over the world and this has been very rewarding so far.

WP-Blogger: What one piece of advice (that the rulebooks don’t tell you) would you give someone just getting started today building and customizing their own WP templates? XXx movie

Get Firebug, definitely. Firebug is an extension for Firefox which eases the debugging of web pages. You can monitor and edit HTML, javascript and CSS on the fly, so it’s a real life saver. It’s particularly useful for debugging CSS since it shows which properties are applied to each DOM element, and how rules override each other.

The top of Mandigo's backend Admin panel

The top of Mandigo's backend Admin panel

WP-Blogger: Mandigo is an amazing achievement of template design – it affords so much customization, is beautifully integrated into WP, powerfully SEO friendly, and yet even a beginner could use it without breaking anything.  Give me a brief history of its development:

I’ve always been more a programmer than a designer, so I tend to add fancy features in everything I make, and Mandigo is no exception. Right from the start, the theme had options inspired by what was available in the Freshy theme by jide, and this contributed to make it stand out from the crowd. After the first few updates, the theme gained in popularity and people started to contact me with ideas they wanted to see implemented in Mandigo. Each release came with its lot of new features and bug fixes thus making the theme even more customizable and popular. Actually, most of the features in Mandigo, including some of the most popular ones like HTML Inserts, have been suggested by users.

WP-Blogger: Anything else you’d like to share, let us know, have in development, parting words?

Working as a freelance designer is very rewarding but also very time-consuming. It doesn’t leave much time for family and hobbies. But when I happen to have some free time, I try to focus my attention on a few projects: a one-of-a-kind premium theme codenamed “OSes” which I’ll be releasing sometime this year, more free themes and some other personal WP-powered projects (which happen to not be suitable for all audiences.)

About the Author:

Infamous psp Keram is a new media consultant, music producer and writer who opines on SEO at blogging-fool.com and society at theculturepin.com. Listen to his podcast at KeramCast.com