Troubleshooting Slow Sites

Reclaim often receives requests to help troubleshoot and speed up slow-loading websites. There are many factors at play when it comes to working with sites and their load times. There could be issues at the server level, issues with a particular plugin or theme on the site itself, or a rogue command running on the account as well. This guide will walk you through the process of troubleshooting the slow sites in general. 

Application Level

To start, there are a few options you can do to speed up your site when working with applications like WordPress. 

Plugins and Themes

  • You'll want to make sure to investigate any of the plugins and themes you're using on the site. Remove any unused plugins/themes. While they are unused, the files and folders still sit on the site and could cause the site to load slower.
  • Next, you'll want to investigate which plugins you actually need to extend the functionality of your site. Some plugins are great! But others can use lots of resources or there could be a faulty plugin that is leaking a process hogging the site. The fewer plugins needed to run the site, that will help speed up the site.

Caching Plugins

  • When working with WordPress, you do have the option to use a caching plugin. The cache will store a temporary version of the site that all site visitors will load. This will speed up loading time as popular information like images and page contents. There are several different versions of caching plugins on the market, but you can use one like WP Super Cache (free), LiteSpeed Cache (free), or WP Rocket (premium).

 

Improvements in cPanel

Next, you can also add some optimizations to your cPanel account. This is done under the Security section for Optimize Website. 

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You'll be given an option to compress content for your full account, like images or HTML files from there. 

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Testing via your browser's developer tools

Your browser's developer tools, specifically the Network panel, can be a great way to get a measure of how quickly your site is loading and what might be causing issues. These tools can be accessed in Firefox, Chrome, Safari, and most other desktop browsers by right-clicking on a page, selecting Inspect, then clicking on Network in the toolbar. If you can't find the Network option in the menu, you might need to check the overflow menu >> to find it.

(Note that if you're working with Safari, you will have to enable the Developer tools before you try this for the first time.)

While we will show off Firefox's developer tools in the screenshots below, all the major browsers lay out these tools in a very similar way, so you should be able to find your way around.

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Firefox's network panel will show every resource your browser requests when loading a page, and it can give you insight into why your site may be loading slowly. Before doing any testing, we recommend checking the box next to Disable Cache so that you can get a more accurate picture of how things are loading the first time a visitor arrives at your site.

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Now that the Network panel is open, you can refresh the page to see all the files that load in, how long they take to load, and what size they are. You can even sort the columns to find the largest files, which can be handy to track down images that are too large and slowing things down.

At the bottom of the developer tools panel, there is also a timer for the total time the page took to load, labeled load, and the time the page took to be interactive, labeled DOMContentLoaded.

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Chrome and Firefox also allow you to artificially throttle the speed of your connection to give you an idea of what people on a slower internet connection than your own will experience.

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In this example, loading our page with several large multi-megabyte images from NASA's Webb Space Telescope site took over 54 seconds when throttled to DSL speeds!

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External Testing

You can run your site through a site scanner like GTMetrix. This site runs your website through a series of tests to test loading speeds and image optimization among others to see if how efficiently the site is running.

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The results can vary widely from each site, but generally, you'll see a letter "grade" along with a few more metrics. The "Performance" metric shows a percentage of accumulated metrics, including the time to fully load the site.

Next, you'll see the Structure tab. This will show you specific aspects of the site that should be improved. Generally, this will say images need to be compressed or working to remove and unused JavaScript from the site. Here's an example of aspects that need to be improved:

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You can work to improve the site's structure from there to help speed up the sites. 

After you've taken a look through the site and done the improvements suggested based on the GTMetrix and site-specific optimizations, you should see a rapid improvement on the site. 

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