WordPress Best Practices: Less Is More

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Embracing a Philosophy of Minimalism in Web Design

When building and managing your WordPress site, it can be easy to focus on what your site might be lacking. While there is a time and place for adding to your site, you might get better results by taking the opposite approach.

In today’s post, we’re sharing four simple ways you can utilize the concept of minimalism in web design. Read on to learn how you can make your WordPress run more quickly and smoothly than ever before.

Caching

Server-side caching is a great way to keep your site running quickly. It eliminates the need for PHP to re-render your sites pages on each page load.

Worst Practice: Use multiple caching solutions

Too much of a good thing is a bad thing. If you use multiple caching plugins/solutions, they may conflict with each other. This can result in unintended side effects that can cripple your site.

Best Practice: Use a single caching method

Many managed WordPress hosts provide caching as a feature of their hosting platform. Not only is this preferable to a plugin-based caching solution, but it helps you avoid the common incompatibilities between different caching methods.

The concept of minimalism applied to plugins, and caching is no exception. Use one plugin for your WordPress site’s caching and there’ll be no need to install a second plugin for the same purpose. With fewer plugins running, your site will be faster and more secure.

It’s important to know that caching is not a fix-all. If you’re not satisfied with your site speed after making use of caching, there is likely another area for improvement. You should be willing to dig deeper to find and resolve these shortcomings.

If you don’t know where to start, try a reputable performance test will help get you pointed in the right direction. One of our favorite tests is GTMetrix. It displays results in several formats and, best of all, it’s free!

Scaled Images

With HTML/CSS, you can serve images of any resolution at any size. While this may be useful, if you aren’t careful about the images you upload and where they are placed, it can hurt more than it helps.

Worst Practice: Upload high-res images to your site

Unless you’re building a photography portfolio, you should avoid uploading high resolution or poorly web-optimized photos to your WordPress site. While it may be tempting to archive things at their original fidelity, it is costly in terms of bandwidth and other resources on both the server and client sides. It will also cause slower load times for your visitors.

Best Practice: Optimize and scale your images

Before you upload an image to your site, use image editing software to resize your image to the resolution at which it will be displayed on your site. Depending on the software you use, you may also be prompted to choose the level or method of compression. This will allow you to find a sweet-spot between quality and file size,

Image compression in GIMP.

If you upload images for building your site (header, background, etc.), your theme may have suggestions or guidelines for what size image will be best suited for the application at hand.

Finally, there are many “smushing” plugins that can help automate some of the rescaling/optimization. Each one is different, so it’s best to carefully research your options to see if one is right for you.

Site URLs

Many hosts allow people to visit your site from different URLs. Whether it be from different domains, subdomains, ports or schema (HTTP & HTTPS), there are a many ways to allow people to concurrently visit your site.

Worst Practice: Allow traffic from multiple URLs

Just because you can do something doesn’t mean you should. This is particularly true for SEO, since multiple URLs can cause your site’s pages to be indexed at multiple URLs and stored as belonging to multiple sites.

This can cause issues for e-commerce sites. For example, if a customer adds an item to the cart at the HTTP version of the site and is then redirected to an HTTPS version, the cart may become empty.

Best Practice: Consolidate traffic to one URL

If you have multiple domains for one site, pick one to use as the primary. Then, configure your secondary domains to forward to the one you’ve picked as primary. If you have SSL enabled on your site, force all traffic to HTTPS.

Multisite Vs. Standalone WP Instance

A Multisite gives you the ability to host multiple WordPress sites with a single WordPress installation. This can be handy if you manage a number of sites that share a domain via subdomains or subdirectories, or by sharing a common set of plugins or themes.

Worst Practice: Use a Multisite for one site

Purely in the spirit of minimalism, you should consider avoiding WordPress Multisite for individual WordPress sites. That said, an individual site will work correctly whether or not it’s configured as a Multisite.

The trouble with Multisite is that it adds a set of features that you will not be taking advantage of, and these can increase the learning curve for new WordPress admins. Multisite also adds a few steps to process of migrating your site to a different host depending on the host’s setup.

Best Practice: When in doubt, just use a standalone WordPress installation

Multisite is right for some applications but, if you’re not sure, we recommend you a standalone WordPress installation first.

Happy Minimizing

These suggestions are a few of the more common ways to trim the fat off your WordPress site. While not every suggestion in this post will apply to you or your sites, you can get on the right track by embracing a philosophy of minimalism. This is a first step toward identifying things that can be downsized in order to maximize the effectiveness of your site.

We hope you’re inspired to streamline your own site. Good luck, and press on!

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