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Diagnosing and Resolving a Slow WordPress Website - Case Study

Rigo
Written by Rigo
A highly motivated and experienced technologist, Rigo is a consultant and trainer in web technologies including Security, Web streaming, WordPress and Linux.
08
May

The Client

Informatvx.com  is a News Website based in El Salvador, that reports local news and produces great fresh content, investigative journalism, because of this they have managed to engage an ever growing audience that craves great original content. There are only a handful of printed Newspapers in El Salvador, and they are losing terrain to the emerging online platforms.

The Problem

After just one year of going live, the site had become increasingly popular in El Salvador, in February 2017 our client completed a full website redesign.

Built with WordPress they expected to offer a better user experience, but unfortunately this was not the case, the website was slow all the time. It was difficult to update and frustrating for both website viewers and those responsible for maintaining a site, in average the site would take up to 30 seconds to load completely.

In an attempt to resolve this performance issue, their team migrated the new site from Hostgator regular hosting plan to Hostgator WordPress optimized hosting.

For benchmarking purposes, ColorBlogs team conducted a performance scan and report for TEN of the major online news platforms in El Salvador (including the websites of the printed newspapers)

In order of performance:

Site: Pagespeed grade

Elfaro.net 90%

Elblog.com 70%

Elsalvadortimes.com 67%

Diariolahuella.com 65%

Diario1.com 50%

Lapagina.com.sv 43%

Diariocolatino.com 37%

Laprensagrafica.com 26%

Informatvx.com 14%

Elsalvador.com 12%

 

They had become the second slowest news website in El Salvador, overshadowing the efforts of a dedicated group journalists, and losing terrain to the other platforms.

Diagnosis & Analysis

A proper diagnosis is essential for any solution, the following analisys were conducted on the website:

We ran a performance test against the website’s MySQL database, where no problem was found, great! The problem was not the database.

Scanned the WordPress core files looking for a malware breach that could potentially impact the performance by hijacking the server resources, but no malware was found. Also great news!

Using Google developers tool (https://developers.google.com/speed/pagespeed/) We conducted a Pagedspeed scan of the website, the results unveiled a number of issues and recommendations, including:

Recommendation type

Serve Resources from consistent URLs content

Minify JavaScript and CSS content

Leverage Browser caching server

Optimization of images images

Minimize request size content

We started by looking at the content type files that were recommended to be optimized, we discovered that these files were all part of the website’s theme, and some of them belonged to plugins that were used to do other functions that the theme wasn’t able to do natively (such as news ticker), so we conducted the following test:

Activate a wordpress default theme

Disable plugins

Run performance test

The result of the test, pagespeed grade was 47% (much better than the original 14%) however the site had been designed with a different theme, so we did a little more digging, unfortunately the theme used was not optimized for news\, there was no update available and no way to accelerate the site with the current theme, so we reached out to the theme developer but our requests were not satisfied.

The Solution

ColorBlogs team performed the following tasks:

  • Migrate the site to a scalable cloud hosting environment
  • Separate database and webserver
  • Redesign the website with a theme optimized for news publishing
  • Enable browser caching on the web server
  • Using our performance advisor plugin (hummingbird) we minified CSS and Javascript
  • Using our Image optimization plugin (WP Smush) we compressed all images on the web server
  • Enabled GZIP compression for all compressible resources
  • Integrated the website with a Content Delivery Network

Other tasks also performed on the site (not related to performance)

  • Applied SSL
  • Hardened website security

Pagespeed report for the TEN major online news platforms in El Salvador, after ColorBlogs optimization:

Elfaro.net 90%

Informatvx.com 80%

Elblog.com 70%

Elsalvadortimes.com 67%

Diariolahuella.com 65%

Diario1.com 50%

Lapagina.com.sv 43%

Diariocolatino.com 37%

Laprensagrafica.com 26%

Elsalvador.com 12%

Conclusion

At ColorBlogs we take extra measures to optimize your website for performance and stability, we also provide more advanced security configurations to protect your online business. We research and test until we find the right theme for your project. When selecting a WordPress theme for your website, it’s important to pay special attention to speed optimization. Some beautiful and impressive-looking themes are actually poorly coded and can slow down your website.
In this case we took the second slowest news website in El Salvador and turned it into the second fastest, of course further optimization is possible and our goal is to take the first place in the list above.

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