The Chinese New Year is approaching and following Chinese traditions it is required to clean the entire house before the New Year. The cleaning signifies to remove the old and welcome the new. The past days I have done something similar but then focused on my website.
Over the past months, I have noticed a significant increase in the number of visitors to this domain, and therefore, I deemed it necessary to declutter my website and focus on cleaning up the house. It is never wrong to go back to the basics and see where you can improve your website once in a while. In this post, I will share some tips on how you could declutter your website and improve the experience for you and your visitors.
The main purpose of the clean up is to speed up your website, make errors less prone, and to protect yourself from unwanted access and safety issues.
#1 Run your updates
That you should run your updates goes without saying, still I am surprised how many people actually don’t regularly do their updates. My daily start-up ritual that I do every morning includes checking the WordPress dashboard for anything that requires my attention and I would highly encourage you to also implement this.
Make sure that you run the latest version of WordPress, all your plugins are updated and that your theme is updated. Updates could give you more functionality, more security, and a smoother experience. Now would be a good time to run updates and implement a fixed time to run them in the future. Checking every day might be overkill, but at least, do it once per week from now on.
#2 Plugin Management
WordPress plugins are an awesome way to extend the functionality of your WordPress site, mostly without having to write a single line of code. Aside from adding functionality, plugins are easy to use and quite inexpensive and the WordPress repository features an endless choice of plugins.
A big mistake that many people make with WordPress is installing too many plugins. Don’t get me wrong, plugins are great, but too many plugins reduce site speed and could cause errors on your website. Plugins that are not frequently updated also pose a security risk or are likely to cause incompatibility issues with WordPress itself.
Now there is no magic number when it comes to plugins but, in general, less is better. The first step is making sure that all your plugins are updated and are compatible with WordPress. After you have ensured that everything is updated and compatible, we are going to use another plugin (oh the irony) to determine plugins that are potentially slowing down your website.
Search the plugin repository for a plugin called: P3 Plugin Profiler and install it on your website. After you have installed the plugin run your first scan.
The image above shows the first time that I performed a plugin scan on Tropical U.P, as you can see the biggest runtime is attributed to a plugin called Broken Link Checker.
This particular plugin uses bots to crawl your website and to discover potential broken links, very easy but maybe not necessary. Google’s Search Console has a function that also identifies crawl errors, in other words, does exactly what this particular plugin does, making the plugin obsolete.
Another example that I used to cut the number of plugins is a plugin that I used to use called Top 10. This particular plugin allowed you to create a widget in your sidebar with your most popular posts. But using the site stat extension from Jetpack also gives you a widget that does the same, allowing you to cut on another plugin.
Another important note that I want to share is that you do not need so many different plugins. Focus on the things that work for your website and do them well, don’t try to do everything at once. Check out your plugins list and be objective, where can you cut on the plugins that you use?
It is also possible to manually implement little code to cut down on your plugins. For a long time I used a plugin that would provide me with a box to hide page titles, I used this plugin for example on my home page. This plugin, however, was not updated for over a year and therefore, I marked it as a potential liability. Implementing custom CSS to hide page titles manually per page is very simple and allowed me to cut another plugin.
Of course, if and how you will be able to cut on your plugins widely depends on your website and the plugins that you have installed. In my most recent clean up of my WordPress site, I have successfully reduced the number of plugins by 33%, not bad I would say.
#4 Clean up old themes and images
Chances are that you have at least switched themes once, maybe even more. It is advisable to clean up old and unused WordPress themes. Head over to your theme directory and delete any theme that is installed but you are not using.
While you are at it, ensure that the theme that you use is suitable to use for the coming year. Is it HTML5 CSS3 ready and is your theme responsive? Working with a suitable and well-coded theme is definitely important when you are running a website.
After you have ensured that have cleaned up your old themes you might also want to check out images in your media folder that you are not using. Chances are that you still have images that you used for previous versions of your website but that you are now not currently using. I would recommend you to delete them, to keep a clear overview and since you are not using them anyway.
#5 Check your site speed
It is important that your website loads fast, not only to improve the experience for your audience, but also Google uses site speed in their search ranking algorithm. Site speed is a very important topic and I am planning a more detailed post about this in the future, but, for now, let’s keep it simple.
Now the easiest way to increase your site speed is to use a faster hosting service. I am on a shared hosting account for the moment, but cloud hosting or dedicated server hosting is much faster. That is not to say that shared hosting is a bad choice, in fact, it is great value for money when you are still relatively small.
A great tool to use for checking your site speed is Pingdom, where you can check the speed of your website for free.
As you can see in the image above I have checked my site speed and this is the result. Now under 3 seconds for a site like Tropical U.P on shared hosting is not bad and is something that you should aim for. Note that this was after I implemented the other steps above.
When I first did a site speed check I found that several large images where a bottleneck, in particular, the images on my home page. Images are in most cases the number one reason why your website lacks speed and luckily it is very easy to make improvements here.
I identified the images in question and used TinyPNG to reduce the size. After that, I deleted the old image and uploaded the reduced image. This helped me to shave off another second of my page load speed. For more tips on how to reduce site speed check out this awesome article by MOZ.
So there you have it, five quick tips on how to clean up your WordPress site. I have personally applied these five tips the past weeks and while my website might not look different, everything is fresh and clean under the hood! I am ready for 2016.
So what works for you and how do you clean up your WordPress site, I am looking forward to your experiences in the comment section below! Good luck with everything and stay awesome!