Page Speed Optimizations Part 2

Jun 29
2016

Page Speed Optimizations Part 2

Welcome to the second part of Page Speed Optimizations.  If you need to do so, you can read Page Speed Optimizations Part 1 here.

To recap part 1: After launching the latest version of this site I wanted to optimize for page speed.  I created a set of goals and criteria for testing, chose a few plugins, and closed part 1 with a baseline read of the site.

 

Image Optimization for Page Speed: EWWW Image Optimizer Plugin

When it came to image optimization my first intention was to do it myself. It seems any self-respecting web designer should be conscious of image size and compression and seek to squeeze out the most they can.  While there are plenty of services to use for image compression I fired up an old copy of Fireworks CS5 and compressed my homepage images.

While Fireworks may have been sliced up and absorbed by other Adobe programs, and which parts went where I’m unsure of, it still has some great image compression capabilities.

For example:

  • Home page skulls slide before Fireworks compression: 408KB.
  • Home page skulls slide after Fireworks compression: 130KB

While compression like this is great I wanted to shoot for something more aligned with convenience and ease of use.  I chose to try out the EWWW Image Optimizer Plugin.  General settings below.

 

Basic:

  • Lossless compression.
  • Preserved meta data.

 

Advanced Settings:

  • Optipng optimization level: Level 3: 16 trials.
  • Pngout optimization level: default.
  • Include media library folders.
  • No resizing, no disabling, skipping, etc.

 

Conversion Settings:

  • No changes

 

After set-up I ran the Bulk Optimizer as my images were on site and had yet to be optimized.  Compression savings varied from little-to-none to some significant gains.  I re-ran the GTmetrix and Google PageSpeed tests with the following results:

  • GTMetrix: 3.0 second load time. 72%/70%. 1.87MB.
  • Google PageSpeed: 47/100 mobile, 53/100 desktop.

Disappointing. Kind of  like being handed a warm, flat beer on a hot day.

My only regret is that I didn’t run the test a couple of times to get a general average as the scores tend to fluctuate.

Page Speed Image Optimization Verdict:

I’ve left the plugin on the site and will continue to monitor it.  At some future date I’ll do more comparison between this plugin and other compression tools and services.

Things I like about EWWW Image Optimizer  include that it is automated (set it up and get on with your life) and it has a handy table where I can view my compression gains.

 

Caching Plugins

WP Fastest Cache

I’ve used this plugin countless times before. It is a simple, no-frills caching plugin. Set-up takes all of three minutes tops and the pared down number of options make it user-friendly for just about anyone.

After initial set-up and activation I ran the numbers again and improvements were decent. For example, PageSpeed scores were now 62/100 mobile, 81/100 desktop.

Unfortunately I had issues with my fonts not showing up properly on IOS, and my header navigation broke.  This could have been anything.  Like I said, I’ve used the plugin countless times and it just works.

Yet…this time it didn’t.

WP Fastest Cache Verdict:

I have enough headaches. I can’t have a plugin breaking my site. Sorry, but you’re out.

 

WP Super Cache

 I’ve used WP Super Cache before but not in quite some time. The short of it – no significant gains. This plugin is what it is, made for someone who wants to make some gains and get on with their life.  I didn’t see any improvements, and I’m trying to get the best speed possible.

WP Super Cache Verdict:

This plugin works, and will suffice for most people. I want more fine grained control. Moving on.

 

WordFence

As I mentioned in part 1, I was curious to test out the Falcon Engine built into WordFence’s plugin. It purports a 30 to 50 times speed increase.  As this is a plugin I use and commonly use for clients, it would be pretty awesome to have it providing the protection it does while also providing significant caching/speed improvements.

The short of it – no significant gains.

WordFence Verdict:

Keep the plugin active and doing its main job: scanning for malware and compromised files. It’s great for that. Outside of that I have no need to activate the Falcon Engine.

 

The Wrap-up

After taking a baseline reading of my sites page speed I began testing the impact of optimization plugins. I began testing with the EWWW Image Optimization plugin, and proceeded through the WP Fastest Cache, WP Super Cache, and the Wordfence Falcon Engine website caching plugins.  Each plugin produced differing levels of impact, though ultimately I found the caching plugins lacking.

Join me next time for Part 3 as I dive into the W3 Total Cache plugin, the trials and errors, and final outcomes of my page speed optimization tests and configurations.