Speeding up the site

At various times I’ve been concerned about the performance of this website. That is, how long does it take to serve up web pages from WordPress or Drupal and how much load does it put on the server? Reducing bandwidth used is always a good thing as well.

A couple of  years ago I needed to opt for a higher CPU form of web hosting with HostMonster because all the PHP activity was shutting down the site until it cooled down. To keep the site up and running, I also did two other things:

  • Turned on FastCGI to not start and stop the PHP so often.
  • Use the WP-Cache WordPress plugin to serve up saved versions of pages previously requested.

Both of these worked well. I initially had cache pages expire after 2 hours but I’ve since reduced that to 90 minutes. Blog pages will refresh themselves after two hours via

<meta http-equiv="REFRESH" content="7200">

so these values appear to reduce the load while ensuring that the pages are kept relatively fresh for those sitting on the site. (I suspect that is just me, though!)

Lately I’ve been thinking about performance again and so used the YSlow and Firebug extensions for Firefox. It complained that I had too many CSS and javascript files, and not everything was compressed. I know that the WP Super Cache WordPress plugin uses GZIP compression, but did I really need it?

One of the easiest ways to see if your site is delivering compressed pages is via the GIDZipTest page. Pop in the URL, press the button, and you’ll find out. Evidently the main files are compressed but a few others are not.

A WordPress plugin I have installed but hardly ever use is WP-Polls and this was the source of a lot of the extra files that YSlow complained about. I deactivated it and my speed grade jumped from a D to a B. I can live with that, and without WP-Polls.

I still have some work to do to get under some other performance curiosities, but a few minutes of research and testing improved things quite a bit. In the process I removed some other unused WordPress plugins, so I get extra points for configuration hygiene as well.


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