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Hostwinds does not provide its own WordPress plugins, although we have been able to work with many clients who have seen success when optimizing their websites. As with all third-party plugins, please review the details provided by the plugin author and other user's reviews to see if one of these plugins can fit your needs. It is important to take a backup of your WordPress website and databases before installing any plugins so that you can easily restore your account from a backup if needed and before continuing.
So you've built your WordPress site, but you're finding out it's slow and gets poor grades from testing sites such as GTMetrix. Basic optimization is much easier than you think, and many plugins will help you with this. To help get a baseline, we would recommend first running a test on the site with GTMetrix:
There are many free plugins to help with image optimization, but the most popular and easiest to use would be EWWW Image Optimizer:
This easy to setup plugin will optimize/compress any images you upload to your site to significantly reduce their size. Image loading is one of the primary reasons that will slow your page load, so shrinking images should immediately impact your load time. Depending on your images, it can take a few hours for the entire operation to complete.
If you see warnings on GTMetrix afterward about "Serving Scaled Images," try running the following plugin to force regenerate all the thumbnail images for the site (this will work in conjunction with EWWW to optimize as they regenerate):
The two of these plugins together are very powerful and will help reduce image size.
You've likely heard about caching, and this will be among the most important steps you perform for your new WordPress site. Our recommendation is W3 Total Cache, which gives more control and flexibility than the other popular caching plugins, and it's totally free. WP Super Cache is another option, with fewer configuration options and a quicker setup. Still, in most tests, W3 performs better if set up properly, and there is an abundance of guides online to help with this. If you find W3 Total Cache too confusing, WP Super Cache is a simpler option to help you achieve similar results.
In our experience, the W3 Total Cache plugin is great at many things, but minification can be better achieved with another plugin. We recommend not enabling the minify settings in W3 and instead installing the Autoptimize plugin:
Of course, if this feels too complicated, you can use the minify settings in W3. The improvement with Autoptimize is marginal, but every bit helps.
The above-outlined tasks will greatly help your overall WordPress site performance, but you still need to follow best practices. Try to limit your plugin usage to only what is essential for your site. If you've added a plugin but don't use it, remove it. Also, keep your site updated. If you see a notification in your admin panel for updates, proceed as soon as possible.
Written by Hostwinds Team / April 11, 2018