Improving the performance of a WordPress website is essential. In a world where everyone is in a hurry - me first - no one has time to waste on website loading times. Even if a blog post looks interesting, we become demanding and want to read it right away, if not ever!
Do you recognise yourself there? It's the "mobile effect": I'm at a bus stop, I've got two minutes to spare so I read up on it... the bus arrives and the page is still loading. Too bad, it'll be for another time or never, because when I get on the bus, I get a tweet or another notification and I've already forgotten this great article on this super slow blog...
This is what happens when your website is too slow. In this article, we'll look at how to improve the performance of a WordPress site...
This is a question that was asked to me by email by Sophie. In fact, the real question was: "How can we make the DIVI files lighter? Because in terms of speed, it's not great. Can we get rid of the useless JS files for example?
Before answering this question, let's look at a few key points...
- What are the benefits of having a successful website?
- Why improve the performance of a WordPress site?
- How to test the speed of a web page?
- Is Divi a fast theme?
- How to improve the performance of a WordPress / Divi site?
- Conclusion on the performance of a Divi site
What are the benefits of having a successful website?
This may seem like a silly question, but many web designers prefer functionality and aesthetics to performance. It is often the last wheel of the carriage (along with accessibility, which is a shame). Yet you have so much to gain by improving the performance of your site:
👉 Firstly, search engines such as Google prioritise search results from fast performing websites. In order to improve the user experience, Google more readily suggests fast-loading sites in its first pages of results. Similarly, slow-loading websites will not be ranked as highly as others. This is why Google has created the AMP project.
👉 Secondly, a fast performing website greatly improves the user experience. That famous pictorial story I told you at the beginning of this article is not a legend. It's real: the Internet user doesn't like to wait even a fraction of a second too long and won't hesitate to leave your site and look for another one to meet their need.
👉 Finally, as a web designer, you owe it to yourself to propose efficient websites as they are a testimony of your skills and know-how. Imagine if you want to promote your portfolio but it only offers examples of slow websites, do you think the prospect will want to entrust you with their project?
Why improve the performance of a WordPress site?
Some people say that "WordPress is slow", but before blaming this CMS, it is important to understand how it works and why this can affect page load speed.
To function, a WordPress site needs a MySQL database in which it stores the content of pages, posts and various settings, while the files are stored on a server (Divi theme, plugins and images).
Each time a user requests to display a URL (an article or a page), a database query is performed to display the linked content.
For this reason, WordPress (and other CMSes for that matter) are said to load more slowly than a static website and require a little more attention in terms of performance.
How to test the speed of a web page?
Have you already tested the performance of your site? Did you know that there are free online tools that will give you an estimate of the weight / performance / speed of your site? Here they are:
Simply copy and paste the URL of your site (or your neighbour's site) to check its performance.
A little tip: take a screenshot during your first test. This way, after you have taken corrective actions to improve the performance of your website, you can retest and see your progress.
Is Divi a fast theme?
Ladies and Gentlemen, as of August 2021, I can clearly answer this question: YES, Divi has become a fast, performance-optimized theme for your site!
The developers at ElegantThemes have been focusing their efforts lately and have done a lot of work to improve the performance of your site with Divi!
I especially invite you to discover the Divi's performance file on the official website. Among other things, this is what has changed:
- If your page uses only 5 of the 50+ Divi modulesDivi only handles the functions needed for these 5 modules and ignores the rest.
- Divi's CSS is divided into hundreds of small components and unused CSS is never loaded.
- Divi identifies the CSS needed to style content above the waterline, and carries everything else below the waterline.
- Divi now supports Google font caching.
When I tell you that Divi did a great job! Here is even a performance comparison of several themes + builder:
|Theme + Builder||Speed Index||See the evidence|
|Divi + Divi Builer||320ms||Test here|
|Astra + Gutenberg||320ms||Test here|
|Kadence + Beaver Builder||400ms||Test here|
|Hello + Elementor||520ms||Test here|
|Avada + Fuision Builder||520ms||Test here|
Divi version 4.10 released on August 18, 2021 has made these major performance improvementsofficial... You can watch the official video or go directly to read the article to find out more.
I guess the performance improvement of Divi was necessary due to the evolution of Google and these Core Web Vitals.
By the way, have you found an improvement for your Divi sites?
⚠️ Note: if you have a caching plugin like WP Rocket, you may encounter some display errors for example, since this update. This is normal, Divi's code has been updated to improve the loading speed of your site but you may need to review some of the options offered by your caching plugin.
Finally, be aware that Divi is optimized for loading speed and if you find that your site is always slow, it's because every site is different: you add plugins, fonts, images, videos... And boom! Your site becomes slow... And it's not all the theme's fault 😩 ! It's often, or partly, our fault, we the users! If we don't follow good practices, a WordPress site can become a real snail 🐌 !
But don't worry, we'll see what can be done in the rest of this article...
Did you know? You can test Divi for free by visiting on this page and clicking on "TRY IT FOR FREE
How to improve the performance of a WordPress / Divi site?
In her email, Sophie asked me if it was possible to delete files from Divi that would be useless to us and as far as I know, we can't perform this action in a "clean" way.
In fact, in a way, we could do this but it would have consequences: once we modify a theme, the changes that have been made will disappear when we next update the theme.
This is why WordPress allows us to create a child theme. However, this child theme allows us to add FUNCTIONALITIES but does not allow us to delete FILES. A child theme is therefore used to "overload" and not to "unload".
To improve the performance of a Divi site (or any type of WordPress site), you will need to make a series of actions and choices:
Note: these improvements can be applied to any WordPress site, even those not using the Divi theme.
1 - Choose a good host
I think this step is very important. Although some users swear by "free" and "low-cost", if you value your site or blog, this is not where you should cut corners.
A bad hosting solution is one of the first points where performance is lacking. Personally, I advise my clients to use only 3 hosting companies:
- OVH: even if this host sometimes experiences temporary breakdowns on some of its servers, it remains a safe bet and I greatly appreciate the quality of the telephone support which always provides a solution to the problem. Beware, I recommend never subscribing to the "first price" offer.
- WP SERVER : a top hosting that only deals with WordPress sites, that has an advanced security, an ultra-intuitive use and a high-level performance. I particularly appreciate the quality of the very reactive support: the small "live chat" button never made me wait more than a minute (discover WP Server).
- O2SWITCH: this is an alternative to the other two hosting companies.
These three providers are French, which is a real plus when you have to deal with them... In general, I advise my clients to avoid other hosts.
2 - Configure your hosting properly
Even if these configurations are closely linked to the options offered by the host, make sure that you have chosen the latest version of PHP : PHP 7. This is not new, but version 7 considerably improves the performance of a website.
3 - Optimise your images for the Web
Photos and images are the Achilles heel of WordPress. Users want to display a lot of them, in sliders, in carousels, they want them in high definition etc... and then it's DRAMA!
Images are one of the main causes of slow loading of a site. I therefore advise you to pay particular attention to them.
You will need to pre-process the images first, before uploading them to your site - I tell you all about it in this full article dedicated to image optimization for WordPress - but you will also need to take action after the download by using a compression plugin like Imagify. This plugin is magic and reduces the weight of each of your images by half.
4 - Use a cache plugin
I don't think there's any secret, if you really want to increase the performance of your site with Divi (or any other WordPress theme), you should consider installing and setting up a caching plugin.
A cache plugin creates a static copy of the page or article on your site and stores it in the user's browser, eliminating the need to go to the database to retrieve the requested content.
As a result, this page stored in the user's browser cache will be proposed again - when the user visits your site in the future - in just a fraction of a second instead of having to go back and forth to the database. Exception made if the user deletes his browsing history...
Caching plugins are sometimes difficult to configure and can "break" your site. Don't worry, just uncheck some options and everything will be back to normal. For my part, I use the WP Rocket (premium plugin in French) but it is freemiums exist.
5 - Use a CDN if necessary
The principle of a CDN (Content Delivery Network) is to deliver data to your users from a closer server source. When a user enters a URL to view your site, the data must travel from their location to your server and then back to their location to view the requested page. The physical distance between these two points can have an effect on page load time. This means that users near your server will be able to view your site more quickly.
NB 1: Not all sites need a CDN but you should consider this option if you have a lot of resources on your pages such as images, stylesheets, videos etc. and if the traffic is high and your hosting does not keep up.
NB 2: setting up a CDN will only work if you have already set up a cache plugin.
6 - Beware of plugins
When you first discover WordPress, you can get carried away, at first, and install anything and everything as a plugin. It's super addictive and it's free, in most cases. So we tend to add them unintentionally.
Plugins can be a source of slowing down your site. It is not really the number of extensions installed that makes the difference but rather the quality of the code of each plugin, the requests it makes and the files it embeds.
If you do a performance test of your site with one of the tools I mentioned at the beginning of this article, you will be able to check which queries are the longest.
Depending on the results, you can/will make a decision about certain plugins... Do you really need that plugin that looks great on your images but adds lots of files that ruin the user experience? Do you really need to display your latest Instagram photos or your Facebook news feed?
7 - The Embeds: not always friends
Embeds are files embedded in your WordPress pages or posts. There are all types of embeds, such as YouTube / Vimeo videos, tweets, Pinterest boards, Google maps.
If you look at the code and the loading time of your pages, you will be able to check which resources take the longest and slow down the loading of your site.
In this case too you will have to make choices: do you really need a Google Map on your homepage? Shouldn't you rather insert it in the contact page for example, which is a less visited page than the home page? Or better still, why not replace the Google Map with a Call-to-Action that leads to the online map link?
8 - The police also play!
Did you know that the fonts you choose affect the loading time of your WordPress site?
A font is a collection of glyphs that contain a lot of information, some of which has additional metadata.
Imagine then the impact of using multiple fonts on the same page, especially if they are complex.
Conclusion on the performance of a Divi site
To conclude, I wanted to come back to the Divi theme and its performance. It's obvious that the choice of theme will have a consequence on the loading of your site. But you have seen that there is also a story of server performance, and good image management.
There was a time when the Divi theme had some slowness issues, indeed, but a major update from August 2017 has fixed many problems, not to mention Divi 4.10, which has put Divi right at the top of the list of fast WordPress themes, as explained earlier in this article. This is one of the advantages to choose a theme which is maintained and improved regularly.
So if your site using the Divi theme is very slow, it is recommended to check the 8 points listed above and see if some parameters could be improved. But above all, here are the 4 most important criteria on which you should absolutely make an effort (without any concession):
- choosing a good host
- optimisation of your images
- caching your site
- the elimination of plugins that slow down the loading of the site
Here you go 😉