Ok, here’s my review of WordCamp 2019 – Santa Clarita. Bear in mind that this was my first time attending any sort of WordCamp and I believe this was the first WordCamp to be held in Santa Clarita.
The workshops were held on the campus of the College of the Canyons in, you guessed it, Santa Clarita. Getting there was easy enough and because the first day was on a Friday, parking was plentiful. The first day was a single track day…meaning there was only one session per hour, back to back with a 1 1/2 hour break for lunch. The second day had multi-track sessions.
There was a lot of information formulated for both beginners and professionals and everyone in between.
I’m a web developer so I’m comfortable getting into the code base to make any design changes bypassing the use of page builders. For those that don’t know, page builders are plugins/apps that helps you design a page via a WSYWIG interface. Elementor was demonstrated in the first session. There are many other page builders out there such as WP Bakery, Divi and Oxygen Builder.
I’ve gotta say, WordPress has really come a long way…or I should say, the WordPress community has come a long way. I’ve used WP Bakery on a project and is way too complicated when compared to something like Elementor, especially if you’re a beginner at WordPress.
SEO – Search Engine Optimization
SEO is one of those things when you hear it, your face just naturally cringes…at least mine does. It’s an ongoing fight trying to guess what works and what doesn’t for getting your website listed on search engines. It’s been a deep mystery for me so this was one topic I was excited to explore a little bit more.
There was one session but unfortunately the speaker either drank 20 cups of coffee right before her session or she was just nervous. Either way, she went way too fast through her presentation. She was done in like 20-30 mins and sessions are an hour long. Yeah, that’s how fast she went. Fortunately, this was the only hiccup for this WordCamp.
One thing you may want to use for your SEO is the Yoast SEO plugin. It’s lightweight and pretty simple to use.
Speeding Up WordPress
This was the main event that I was looking forward to and lucky for me, there were multiple workshops touching on this subject. Major factor you want to look at when optimizing your website is the TTFB (Time To First Byte). Basically, this is the time it takes your web server to return the first byte of information back to your web browser. This is when your web browser starts to render your page. You want to be between 50 – 500ms.
If you enabled Chrome’s Developer Tools, bring up the window by clicking on View -> Developer -> Developer Tools. Then click on the Network tab and make sure you have Waterfall selected. It’s the icon just left of the “Group by frame” checkbox. Click the first waterfall on the list and you should see the following with your TTFB:
Or you can go to WebpageTest.org and test your site’s performance. When you get your results, you should see your TTFB denoted here in the column called “First Byte”:
1. Web Hosting
If you have a slow TTFB, that means one thing. The servers your web hosting company is using is either not configured correctly or is slow on purpose. One general rule I’ve learned is that if your hosting company offers cPanel with your WordPress, then it’s a guarantee it’s going to be slow. cPanel adds bloat to the servers and slows it way down. Usually, the slower ones are companies like GoDaddy, BlueHost and Media Temple.
2. Image Optimization
First, I’d suggest resizing your images to the max needed for your website. Meaning if the max width of your website is 1200px, you don’t need to upload an image that’s 3000px. Resize your image down to 1200px. Or if the box for your profile image will only be 300px wide, you can resize your image even further to 300px wide. So now, you’ve taken your 3000px wide image to 300px wide, now what? Compress it even further.
ImageOptim is an app outside of WordPress and may be a little tedious in terms of workflow. I know we all want to just upload photos and have WordPress take care of it automagically, but it’s a simple workflow once you get used to it…and the amount it compresses is definitely worth it. Prior to uploading your images, just run it through ImageOptim. That’s it! I’ve had it compress images over 80%! That’s a 1MB image compressed down to 200kb. An enormous savings. This was with Lossy enabled and the quality degradation was not noticeable, especially once it was on the website.
Too many plugins will bloat your site and cause it to slow down. Go through your list of plugins and delete the ones you aren’t using. Even if they are just deactivated, delete them. Don’t just leave them there.
Be diligent with your themes too. Delete all the ones you aren’t using. One speaker said he had a client that had around 125 themes installed!
4. Don’t Rely on Caching
Do not rely on caching plugins. As stated more than once at WordCamp, “Caching only masks the problem” and I agree.
So for example, using a CDN that caches your images. It basically makes a copy of your images across all it’s servers around the country/world. Now, if someone in New York pulls up your site (let’s say it’s on a server in Los Angeles), it finds the closest CDN server (let’s say this is located in New York ) to pull the images for your site. It doesn’t have to go all the way to Los Angeles to pull your images.
“Great!” you say, it’s speeding up your site. Not so fast. What happens if your images are huge? I’ve seen people use 15MB images on their website! That’s 15MB for each image. The end user is still pulling 15MB images…they are just pulling it from a closer server. So the problem is still present, 15MB images. Caching in this case will save a little bit of time by not having to go to Los Angeles to pull the images but it doesn’t fix the fact that you are using huge images. So go back to number 2 and optimize your images.
This is just a snippet of what was offered from WordCamp but honestly there’s way too much to cover in just this blog post. I did meet some great people from all walks of life and WordPress experience which is always fun.
Overall, an excellent workshop! Well organized, great speakers, great topics, lunch, 2 days, and all this for $40! Would I do it again? Yes. And if you have a chance to go to one, I’d recommend it…and maybe I’ll see you there!