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WordPress and a Faster Internet

I am fortunate enough to live in an area that has fast internet (100Mbps+), and I have a powerful computer. Yet the internet often feels slow. I’m a web developer so I have too many tabs open – but even so; Chrome should not be taking up this much processor and memory.

I’ve written before about how much I like projects like Susty WP and I hope we see more projects that move in this direction. We’ve got to be reaching some sort of tipping point with the amount of junk people throw at their websites and hopefully developers, and site owners, will start to realise that it’s not good for users.

Don’t get me wrong – I’ve worked at a big company that had a massive website with dozens of tracking scripts. It wasn’t something I was keen on, but I understood that was it was the reality of working in a business like this. It’s how the business made its money (and paid me my salary), so we added the things we were asked to add.

So yes, I have contributed to the problem.

In my defense it was a flash/ browser gaming site so the sites visitors were expected to have decent hardware and be willing to wait for things to load. But it wasn’t good for the users, or the environment.

Today I saw this article, from Wholegrain Digital, about how Bayern Munich football (soccer) club made a lite site for visitors with slower connections – and how they totally missed the point in the process. I thought the whole article was interesting; in particular the environmental angle. The idea that a lighter website generates less emissions is not something that’s talked about enough but with climate scientists constantly warning us about the future of the planet, perhaps we making lighter websites would be one way we can have a positive impact.

In addition site speed is, arguably, an accessibility issue. As Wholegrain Digital mention, sites need to load in all situations, such as sitting on a train on the way to work. Slow internet is often something you have no control over. Nobody asks for it.

Sites need to be built with speed in mind from the start. I’m sure some would say that WordPress developers are at a disadvantage from the off. We’re pulling data from a database, often using dozens of database queries, and then loading all sorts of scripts, and fonts, and images.

This is one of the reasons why SustyWP is nice. It removes navigation (which generate lots of SQL queries), and widgets (which generate lots of SQL queries), and featured images, and uses common fonts.

Susty takes it to extremes though. With good caching, and thoughtful design & development it’s perfectly possible to use WordPress to create, performant, beautiful, websites. But perhaps we should go further, drop WordPress altogether, and go serverless?

Let’s use a static site builder (such as Jekyll, or Hugo, or Gatsby) to pre-generate our sites, and then serve static content. We can then cut out the database, and PHP processing, entirely and just serve up html.

Like we did in the old days.

I think the web is moving more and more this way, but that doesn’t necessarily mean we have to leave WordPress behind. There are services like GetShifter, and NorthStack that take WordPress, use it as a content management system, and then host static generated pages. We get the best of both worlds.

In general, we (web developers) could probably all do with being a bit more aware of what you’re doing. Use one Google font instead of two. Use vanilla javascript instead of jQuery. Cache stuff. Use fewer images and make sure they are sized appropriately.

If we could all reduce the amount of fluff we add to our websites then we’d be doing everyone a favor. That alone will make the web more accessible and a bit less rubbish.

This post first appeared in MasterWP, a weekly newsletter for WordPress professionals.

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Ben View All

Ben is a lifelong Nintendo fan who also likes to build websites, and develop games. He also buys way too much Lego.

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