WordPress is awesome. With thousands of themes and dozens of quality page builders, you can swiftly build good-looking websites. But what truly catapulted WordPress to fame was its hooks, filters, and plugin-based architecture. With some coding skills and an understanding of WordPress’s inner workings, you can create anything. Did you know there’s a “shoot the zombies” game built on WP? Or a fantasy football plugin? Plugins like these leverage WordPress’s extensibility.
While this extensibility is exciting, it’s also facilitated business and technological solutions for nearly everything. However, just because you can do everything with WordPress doesn’t necessarily mean you should.
Today, we’ll explore four areas that shouldn’t be managed by WordPress if you prioritize performance.
Here’s a surprise—caching. Cache plugins for WordPress have been around for a long time. In the era of Apache servers and cPanel hosts, these plugins were essential against server crashes. Back then, even a modest number of simultaneous visitors could crash a site. Cache plugins, which helped websites accommodate more traffic on existing hardware, became widespread. Yet, the landscape has changed.
Modern web servers manage visitor requests more efficiently, especially when dealing with static files and images. More importantly, servers can handle caching far better than a PHP-based plugin. The majority of cache plugin installations activate a basic option and don’t optimize further. Although it’s better than no cache, you still need ample server capacity, RAM, and PHP workers for surges in traffic. When your site initializes one PHP process for every visitor (typical for many cache plugins), it constrains the traffic volume you can manage without affecting performance.
Offloading cache management to servers like Nginx can amplify your visitor capacity tenfold or even a hundredfold on the same hardware. Plus, with WordPress freed from cache duties, it can more efficiently handle dynamic content.
Another cache plugin downside? Nowadays, every social network appends a unique query string to URLs when shared. This means that every share creates a new cache entry, leading to cache bloat and squandered server resources. Many of these query strings even bypass cache, resulting in slower responses. Slow responses for a majority of your visitors can negatively affect your core web vitals metrics, such as FCP and FID.
Although it might be a divisive stance, we argue that caching should be managed by the server or CDN—not WordPress—if you’re aiming for genuine scalability.
Image optimization is a top recommendation for page speed enhancement—and for a good reason. Images are often the bulkiest files on websites, and optimizing them can lead to notable performance improvements. Understandably, there are numerous image optimization plugins for WordPress. However, before embracing these plugins, it’s essential to grasp how WordPress deals with images.
When an image is uploaded, WordPress generates four differently sized copies. The amount of data this creates can accumulate quickly, leading to wasted space. Add image optimization plugins to the equation, and they will typically process each image size separately—often storing originals elsewhere, consuming more space. For sites with vast media libraries, this can strain your server.
A more efficient approach? Utilize a quality CDN. Contemporary CDNs offer core image optimization features, including WebP conversions. By delegating image optimization to a CDN, you conserve server resources and storage, and you won’t experience lag during image uploads.
Security & IP Blocking
Security plugins are another common suggestion. Their importance traces back to the days when WordPress sites faced frequent breaches. These plugins were invaluable then, helping to thwart malicious requests and block dubious IP addresses. Similar to cache plugins, security plugins screen incoming requests, but this can add unnecessary overhead, especially with high visitor numbers. Plus, blocking IP addresses via security plugins can result in valid users seeing blank pages if these responses are cached.
A superior strategy? Employ a robust web application firewall. By transferring brute-force detection, IP blocking, and WordPress security to a dedicated solution, you preserve server resources for your genuine visitors.
Lastly, video hosting isn’t WordPress’s forte. While the media library enables easy video uploads, it can’t match the performance of specialized video hosting platforms. Vimeo and YouTube, for instance, have backend optimizations to sidestep buffering issues. They also adjust video quality based on a viewer’s internet speed—ensuring an optimal user experience.
Hosting videos on your server not only misses out on these performance tweaks but also results in high bandwidth costs. A couple of hundred viewers watching a 2-minute video can quickly consume vast amounts of bandwidth. Contrastingly, using YouTube or Vimeo is economical. Another perk? You can embed videos without fretting over the video player, as most video hosting platforms offer players optimized for speed, performance, and download prevention.
In Conclusion, WordPress is great for building websites, but it’s not always the best for everything. For better website speed and security, it’s often smarter to use other tools for tasks like caching, optimizing images, or hosting videos. By picking the right tool for each job, your website can run faster and safer.