Last week, I spent some time with Arunima from KnitterKnotter. Arunima’s a crafts blogger who offers free crochet patterns on her website.
Arunima wanted help with speeding up her blog. In this post, I’ll share the issues I uncovered, along with some of the solutions I offered. If you’re interested in learning more about website speed, read my free beginners guide, here.
What You Should Know:
Speeding up a blog can mean conducting a large overhaul of your site. In this case, I focused on simple changes that anyone could make.
For the record, KnitterKnotter is a WordPress.org website.
Note: Before making any changes to your website, create a backup. The following is not advice, simply information. Seek professional advice if you’re unsure.
How Do I Check My Blog Speed?
Recording your website speed gives you a benchmark that you can use to monitor your process.
They each have different metrics, which can help you better understand what your website is doing when a user visits for the first time.
You can also discover what’s slowing down your website, allowing you to make improvements when required.
For KnitterKnotter, I focused on one page in particular: https://knitterknotter.com/mehr-shawl-free-pattern/. I choose this page because it contains a full length crochet pattern, and so is representative of a more demanding page on the blog.
The Initial Review: Ads Causing Slow Loading Pages
Arunima is working with an Ad Management company. As a result, the website has to load and exchange increased data, and this can create slowdown.
Ad-revenue is often the life blood of a small crafts blogger, and the pinnacle of success that many are hoping to achieve. So, removing ads, isn’t an option.
However, it is often the case that other factors are also contributing to the slowdown. And, once these factors are resolved, they can mitigate some of what you lose from serving ads.
Large Images Slowing My Crafts Blog
Every crafts blog relies on images, and a common mistake bloggers make, is sizing their images too large. That was the case here with KnitterKnotter.
The largest image on the page I was analysing was 676kb, and as it was one of the smallest images on the screen, it was up to 10 times the size it needed to be.
In my experience, 150kb to 250kb is an adequate file size for a larger, full screen, image.
Tip 1: It’s important to check for blurring, and not to simply rely on the kb number in front of you.
Tip 2: Find out the width of your theme and use it as the maximum width of your images. To do this, you‘ll need some sort of graphic program. I currently use PaintShop Pro, although free options may be available.
Finally, KnitterKnotter had images which linked to other ‘related content’ at the end of each post. Although the images were tiny, about 200px by 200px, full size images were being loaded. This means that the original image, sometimes >600kb, was being loaded for a 200px box.
It is best to make tiny images specifically for purpose, rather than simply reducing large images to fit, as this will slow down your page.
Are Plugins Slowing Down My Crafts Blog?
Arunima had 21 plugins installed, 2 of them were disabled, while the rest were active.
Most of these plugins dealt with design and layout, forms and social media, and managing subscriptions. Many were surplus to requirements, in my opinion.
Here are the takeaway points from my review:
1. Some plugins will impact your page load times, but not all.
Each plugin has its own function and programming, so I can’t give you a one-fits-all rule, but it’s best to only install and use plugins that you can’t live without.
2. It is best practice to remove plugins that you are not currently using.
3. Two plugins had been abandoned by their developers, with one of them not receiving an update for over 3 years. Plugins are a target for hackers, and outdated software may provide low hanging fruit.
4. Check that you don’t have 2 separate plugins that can do the same job.
Related: Does Jetpack Slow Down Your Blog? How to configure Jetpack for maximum speed.
What Plugins Will Speed Up My Crafts Blog?
Autoptimize is a fantastic plugin that can really speed things up.
Autoptimize makes optimising CSS, HTML and Java, really easy. Installing this plugin onto KnitterKnotter produced immediate results.
Another plugin (or feature) is ‘Lazy Loading’. Lazy Loading is the process of delaying the loading of images that don’t appear ‘above the fold’ (which means, only loading images as they actually appear on the screen).
Lazy Loading can significantly improve your blog speed, and is a key feature that Google prioritises in its PageSpeed scoring system.
Update: Lazy Loading has been integrated into WordPress with the 5.5 update.
Fix High Traffic Pages First
Once you have a plan for speeding up your blog, it can feel overwhelming, thinking about all the things you need to do.
But to start with, focus on your high traffic pages.
If no one is visiting an old page, why spend 30 minutes working on it? That can wait until you’re happy with the main pages that are actually drawing traffic.
Small Changes Make A Big Difference
We’ve touched on a few ideas that I thought other crafts bloggers could benefit from, but there’s always more.
Your page speed is dictated by a large number of factors which we haven’t even spoken about, including your Hosting package, CDN, catching optimisation, Theme, and the media you choose to put on the page.
I’d like to thank Arunima for letting me share her story.