As a Photographer with a business, you have many things to worry about. But, there is one thing that is somewhat ESSENTIAL for your business; a smooth-running photography website. Well, it’s your lucky day, because I have 5 simple steps to speed up your website!
Did you know that 30% of the Internet runs on WordPress? Your photography website is likely run on WordPress, too. If it is, then please do not skip ahead. But if not, then there are parts of this that can still serve you well.
STEP 1: IMAGE OPTIMIZATION
Image Optimization goes beyond just the conventional SEO thought process. You want to make sure that the photos load fast. On average, over 50% of website traffic these days comes from mobile devices. Those devices load websites slower, especially when not on WiFi. People have less patience these days. Google also utilizes page speed as a ranking factor (although a tiny piece of the overall picture).
When talking about Image Optimization from here on, we are talking compression – meaning shrinking the size of the image file.
Here’s the thing, compressing image files comes with a loss of image quality. For Photographers, it’s essential for photographs to look their absolute best. That is why Imagely ran an extensive comparison of all the popular image compression plugins for WordPress. It turns out that many of the plugins reduce the quality of the aesthetics. Some to the naked eye, and others to software checks. In the comparison article, you will be able to see the kind of space-savings you can get from each plugin, and how much they impact the aesthetics of the photograph. That way you can make the best call for you.
For those not using WordPress, have a look at JPEGMini Pro. It’s a Mac and Windows based app that also integrates with Lightoom and Photoshop. The goal is to output a compressed JPEG without quality loss at all. In fact, the software is so good (even with batches of images) that it will not ever over compress an image file.
STEP 2: BETTER HOSTING
It is so familiar to Photographers to be running on slow servers from Bluehost, Hostgator, and even GoDaddy. Typically these servers are shared servers, meaning there are hundreds of customers on the same server, all running numerous websites.
Shared servers have many cons, including:
- If one site has a security issue, others are vulnerable
- If one site gets heavy traffic, others slow down
Some hosts offer dedicated servers (private to your account only), cloud servers, and even virtual private servers. Each of these is better than shared servers due to the segregation of other customers.
Additionally, there is something called Managed Hosting. This is the idea where the hosting company offers support for everything you do with the site. Managed Hosting companies maintain the server, so you don’t have to. They handle downtime and speed items. But, here’s the thing with that. Many Managed Hosting companies are still shared hosts. So, you have to be careful which you utilize.
If your photography website is slow right now, then think about who you are hosting with and what server level you are using. If it’s a shared host, then consider moving elsewhere. If your website is WordPress, then migrating to another host is easy – and in many cases is done for free by the new host. If you are on a platform like Squarespace you cannot change servers unless you leave Squarespace.
Changing hosts from shared to anything better can have a dramatic increase in speed. Because it is so straightforward to move to a WordPress site, that is why changing hosts is one of the first things I often recommend. Because, in the end, it’s in the best interest of the Photographer.
STEP 3: CACHING
The next step is something that can be complicated for those lacking technical skills or knowledge. Caching is the idea of taking the dynamic content that WordPress outputs and making it static. More importantly, doing it fast so the content can still change as needed, but load quickly to viewers.
For years there have been caching plugins coming out for WordPress, and for years they have been complicated to use. Until recently. A French company created Rocket Cache a couple of years ago, and it has been leading the pack ever since. The plugin is affordable, powerful, and plays well with others. It will adapt itself to work alongside others.
With well designed caching, a website can go from loading over 5 seconds to just under 1 second. It really is like magic. But, there is a cravat here worth mentioning. If your WordPress theme or plugin is not designed to be used with caching, then things can go wrong. A site can crash or the front end can look badly. So, testing is essential when setting up a caching plugin. Fortunately though, WP Rocket Cache also offers a setup service (that’s affordable) for those non-technical photographers wanting the benefits.
STEP 4: FEWER PLUGINS
There is a myth in the WordPress community that the more plugins you use, the slower your website gets. I’m happy to break that myth on a daily basis. The truth is that the more plugins you have, your site speed can remain intact.
The real issue with plugins is that some plugins are poorly developed. What happens in that case is having many plugins running while there is a poorly developed plugin also running, causes ships to collide, breach, and capsize. Metaphor aside, it’s not the quantity of plugins that you have, but rather the quality of plugins. Look at the list of plugins that you have active on your site. Think to yourself:
- Is this plugin important?
- Can my site function without it?
- Could I implement this another way?
- What would go wrong on my site RIGHT NOW if I disabled the plugin and deleted it?
If you have an answer to all of those questions, and the answer to first question is “no,” then it might be worth considering the deletion of the plugin. While the Fewer Plugins topic is more about quality over quantity, sometimes quantity can play a role.
STEP 5: DATABASE MAINTENANCE
Every site on every platform has a database of some sort to worry about. When it’s a closed platform like Squarespace, there is no control provided to maintain or optimize a database. You are paying Squarespace to do it for you. But, when it comes to WordPress, it’s all on you. One of the pros about WordPress is that it is free software. But, one of the cons is that you need to monitor and maintain things.
If you are not using Managed WordPress Host, then there is little to no chance that you will get help with your database. But, if you are using a host like WP Engine, Pagely, Cloudways, or Flywheel, than you could ask for assistance and get it. Additionally, the hosting companies are monitoring sites for issues and will do their regular optimization as needed. As you begin to try different themes and plugins, get comments, create post drafts, revise posts and pages, and so on (basically run a website), your database will begin to get clunky.
SQL Databases offer the ability to optimize the clunky areas. It cleans up the database, so it’s clean and concise, making the front end load faster. There are also plugins out there like WP Optimize, which can schedule database cleanup on a regular basis. If you try WP Rocket Cache (recommended earlier), then it also does this. The optimization feature will also remove all post and page revisions, spam comments, and more. Mine is set to clean up every week.
So there you go, 5 simple steps. I never said it would be quick or easy. But, really, it is simple and that is what is most important. The most complicated part (moving hosts) can be done for you, not by you. So that’s a plus!
Have questions about anything you have read here? Comment and let me know!