Make sure you’ve covered the basics first.

A lot of times when you get into speeding up your website and start looking at Google Pagespeed, GTmetrix and Pingdom, you’ll be presented with a load of things that you need to do to make your site the most fastest, bestest website in the world ever. You’ll most likely look at all these things with slight bewilderment thinking to yourself “I have to do all that!? Really?!”.

Now I’m not knocking those sites, they do provide a lot of good information about getting your site to be as fast as possible, but they are only going to be truly effective if you’ve gotten the basics right for your site first.

PHP optimisation, oh my!

When running a PHP based website, there are a whole heap of processes running in the background that take care of different areas of the website’s infrastructure. These will be governing things like the largest size of file you can upload and how long do you allow an command to be executed. These are critical to getting the website working as effectively as possible, before you get into the trio I mentioned at the top of this piece.

What do I need to do?

This is difficult to answer, as it depends on what theme you are using and if there are any page builders involved. All themes and builders will have support documentation that should tell you if there are any specific settings required for that theme or builder to work optimally. Sometimes you might find that they ask for two different settings for the same thing!

We us a theme called Divi to build most of our websites and this has a built in Support Center (sic) that gives you a system status report and will flag up any issues that it spots. The items that are being checked are:

  • memory_limit
  • post_max_size
  • max_execution_time
  • upload_max_filesize
  • max_input_time
  • max_input_vars

It also checks for display errors, what PHP version you are running and whether or not the wp-content folder is writable or not. It then tells you what the minimum requirements are, which you can use to get your website working optimally.

Great! Where do I put them?

Again, this is hard to give a definitive answer as different hosting companies will have different ways of allowing you to do this. Some will ask you to put it in a php.ini file. Others will say that you have to add it to your functions.php file. The best thing to do is check your hosting provider’s documentation or ask their support team. That way you won’t spend hours trying to do something and getting nowhere.

Check your specs

The main takeaway from this is look over your themes documentation or get in touch with the makers and see if they have any particular recommendations, then check with your hosting provider as to how to implement the changes. Then you can dive into Pagespeed et al knowing that you’ve gotten the site as lean as possible.