You want a fast website.
You know how important speed is. You understand how load time is directly correlated to everything from engagement, to credibility, and of course sales.
And when it comes to optimizing your WordPress site, you may think that you have it all figured out, but you could be missing out on a key understanding.
Dynamism – a Blessing and a Curse
Back in the good old days, if you wanted to build an information website, you would slap a few HTML pages together and be done with it. Putting server quality and other associated factors to one side, the speed of your site relied entirely upon how efficiently you coded the static pages.
But the rules of the game have changed dramatically. If you’ve been working with WordPress sites for any length of time, you’ll know that they are dynamic (as opposed to static).
WordPress is an extraordinarily powerful platform that allows us to do things that would otherwise take a great deal of time (and technical ability), but that power comes at a cost.
When explaining WordPress, the best analogy I can come up with is that of a computer. We are all familiar with how PCs can slow down over time due to “bloating” (for want of a better expression). This happens with WordPress too.
Every plugin you install, every post revision you add, and every comment that a visitor leaves, all take their toll. That is why keeping your site clean (and therefore fast) should be of utmost importance. That is why you regularly carry out these 7 vital WordPress tasks, and it is in part why ManageWP is such an enormously useful tool to have at your disposal.
But there is always more you can do.
Keeping your Database Clean
At the heart of your WordPress site is a database. The information held within the database is constantly called upon when your site is being loaded. Even on a clean WordPress installation, there is a lot of data in play:
How clean and uncluttered you keep your database has a direct impact on how fast your site loads.
Fortunately, there are a couple of plugins available that can help you keep your database clean and tidy.
WP-DBManager is an extremely powerful plugin that can help you to keep your database optimized and lightweight. It was created by the prolific plugin developer Lester Chan, who we interviewed quite recently.
The key feature that I want to touch upon today is the “Empty/Drop Tables” tool, which allows you to delete redundant tables. You can find a list of the standard WordPress tables here. Anything that isn’t on that list has probably been created by a plugin. Unfortunately you cannot expect plugins to remove all traces of their existence when they are uninstalled, which is why you need to drop any redundant tables on a regular basis.
Above is a screenshot from my own site. I used to have the Livefyre plugin installed, but I deleted it some time ago and have no further need for it. Therefore, I can safely “drop” the table that has been left behind.
Please be extremely careful when using this tool – the last thing you want to do is inadvertently delete a table that is in use. Backing up your site before dropping any tables is an absolute must.
I usually never endorse plugins that haven’t been updated for some time, but I will happily make an exception here, as Clean Options still does exactly as advertised.
In the same way that plugins can leave tables behind even after being uninstalled, they can also leave data in the wp_options table. Clean Options allows you to locate and remove such files, by isolating any that are not referenced by a PHP file within your WordPress site’s directory.
As you can see from the above screenshot, Livefyre is again a guilty party. All of the above “orphaned” options can be selected and disposed of.
It isn’t always easy to distinguish which options are redundant and which are still of use, but the plugin outlines a few different ways in which you can check.
Cleanliness is Next to Speediness
If you are a bit of a plugin hoarder, this post may have been an eye opener. You may now better understand the potential repercussions of every single plugin installation you authorize. Fortunately, most of the mess made by poorly-programmed plugins can be reversed with a couple of clever plugins and a regular maintenance schedule.
Ideally, your database should hold only functioning, useful data. Everything else should be periodically removed. This will ensure that your WordPress site remains clean and fast in the long term – and we all know how important that is.
Creative Commons photo courtesy of Sideonecincy