Shaving off Seconds: Making your Website Faster

Does your website load too slowly? Try using a content delivery network and caching static content. Read on for details and a quick-and-easy three-step guide.

I’ve never been satisfied with Debug Mind’s speed. If you ever visited this site before, you probably drummed your fingers impatiently while your browser slowly painted the web page down the screen. Having done more than my fair share of finger-drumming, I decided to make this site faster: Debug Mind now uses both CloudFlare, a content delivery network and optimizing service, and W3 Total Cache, a WordPress caching plugin.

Below you’ll find an outline of the steps I took to speed up my website. While the third step is WordPress-specific, the first two should be applicable to most websites.

Step one: Diagnose the bottlenecks
Before making your website faster, you might want to know why it’s slow. If you don’t care for the “why” and simply want results, skip ahead to step two. For those of you curious about why your site loads slowly, I recommend completing step one.

Analyze HTTP requests with Chrome Developer Tools
The Chrome browser packages a handy set of tools that you can use to analyze websites. If for some reason you don’t want Chrome on your machine, alternatives to Developer Tools exist for other browsers and a Google search will likely find them.

Chrome Developer Tools can help you diagnose speed bottlenecks. Often times uncached images and poorly written plugins slow your website down.

Chrome Developer Tools can help you diagnose speed bottlenecks. Often times uncached images and poorly written plugins slow your website down.

Assuming that you’re using Chrome, navigate to the browser menu’s tools section and click on Developer Tools. Click on the Network tab and then navigate over to the website you want to analyze. Once the website loads, you’ll see a list of requests that your browser made while fetching your site. The timeline tells you how long each request took. Isolate requests with the longest streaks in the timeline. These are the things that are slowing your website down. Chances are that the bottlenecks are image loads and other static media. Other things — perhaps plugins, if you’re on WordPress or something comparable — might also contribute to the lag. read more »

Holding off on WordPress 3.3

Although WordPress 3.3 does have a slew of new, neat features, smoother back-end navigation and an improved media uploader among them, I’ve decided to stay on the reliable ol’ 3.2 for the time being — I’ll let others test the 3.3 waters for me before I take the leap myself. While most have updated to 3.3 without any hitches, some have complained about plugins breaking. While that in itself should be resolvable, a broken theme would spell disaster, especially for a publication like El Estoque; WooThemes’, well, themes seem fairly compatible with 3.3, although some are facing issues with the media uploader.

WordPress 3.3.1, released just today, did fix some 15 bugs and resolved a security issue, but I’ll wait until the dust settles before upgrading just to be safe.

Update (Feb. 20, 11:03 a.m.): I’ve updated both and this blog to WordPress 3.3.1, and everything is running smoothly, no hiccups whatsoever.

A New Start: Migrating and Redesigning El Estoque

As webmaster of El Estoque, Monta Vista High School's student news publication, I migrated our website from Joomla to WordPress and revamped our site's design.

As odd as it may seem, the bulk of my experience in website development comes from my involvement in a news magazine. This past summer, as webmaster of El Estoque, Monta Vista High School’s journalistic publication, I facilitated our website’s migration from Joomla to WordPress.

Of course, as a journalist, I do have duties other than maintaining the website: I’m a news editor and staff writer as well. While you can see a collection of the journalistic content I’ve published here, this post will focus on my role as webmaster. read more »