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We talk a lot about WordPress website performance. We also talk about the many great plugins that can do wonders for performance. But as mentioned in our previous posts, plugins are only one area that requires attention. Time to apply the Fix Left Principle!
What is Fix Left?
Fix Left is a concept where you pay a lot of attention to native tuning. This means that before you add any performance plugins, you make the website as performant as possible. Then, once the website is humming away nicely, implement a performance plugin to squeeze out the last ounce of speed.
Fix Left will include reducing image size, minimising plugin usage, reducing widgets and turning off anything unnecessary. You are stripping down the website to its bare minimum and eliminating the bloat.
Why use Fix Left for Performance?
We spend a lot of time on Fix Left at SaneChoice, and it does help produce some fantastic results. When designing websites, it is always important to remember that only some people are close to your web server or have a fast internet connection. As a result, you need to design a website assuming slow connections from visitors in faraway lands.
There are many benefits to applying the Fix Left principle, including the following:
- Better overall website performance, keeping Google happy.
- Better user experience, keeping your clients happy.
- Less technical resource wastage, keeping your pocket happy.
Apart from the functionality of your website, there is also a technology aspect. If you sell a great product but the website is slow, you will find visitors going elsewhere. It is a competitive market, so you want to keep your business website sticky.
How do you Fix Left?
Don’t worry. It is not as complex as it sounds. Most of it is logical and makes good sense. Below is a list of six critical items you should consider when implementing Fix Left.
- Compress your images. Undoubtedly, one of the best things you can do is to make images smaller. Modern websites use a lot of pictures to make them rich and exciting. Unfortunately, the side effect is each image creates a slower loading time. As a result, ensure your images are the right size and compress them to reduce the size.
- Where possible, use modern image formats. Aside from compressing your images, it would be best to use the latest formats. Standard formats are JPEG, PNG, SVG and WEBP – with many web designers turning to WEBP to balance quality and speed. Image format requires a little understanding, so we recommend reading this article to understand the different use cases.
- Limit your plugins. You will know the impact if you have ever worked on a WordPress website with lots of plugins. It becomes slower to use, including when working in the Admin Panel. Only use the plugins that are needed, and delete the ones that are just sitting around.
- Use a WordPress Theme designed for performance. At one point, most theme designers just focused on making websites beautiful. Now that Google has started to pay attention to performance, the game has changed considerably. However, some developers remain in the old ways of working, which means you get a slow theme. Make sure you look for performance reviews and, most importantly, try before you buy.
- Limit the use of Google Fonts. Google fonts make websites look very special. But they can also cause it to slow down if you use too many. (Remember, Google host its fonts externally, so your website needs to download them to your visitor). Limit to two different font families to keep things performing well. As a side note, you can host your Google fonts locally, which does help with performance. However, we still recommend sticking to two font families.
There are more Fix Left aspects to consider, but the above are essential when building a website. If you get these right, you are 80% of the way there.
What’s the next performance step?
Once you have natively tuned your website, you may find that it does not need a performance plugin. Of course, that would be a fantastic outcome, but it is also unlikely to be the case. So, at this point, it’s time to apply your favourite performance plugin (WP Rocket, WP Fastest Cache, Cloudflare) and help get that last few performance gains.
Finally, you really should test before and after. Services like GTMetrix and WebPage Test provide good tools for performance testing. We recommend GTMetrix for the novice and WebPage Test for those with more experience. Regardless of the service, data is king, so ensure you can prove the results scientifically.
How SaneChoice applied the principle
As you can probably tell, SaneChoice is an avid promoter and user of the Fix Left principle. So naturally, we use a great theme framework supplied by UICore as our base. The Theme uses a mixture of Elementor and Element Pack Pro, which come with hundreds of widgets and features. However, we only have a minimal amount enabled and only enable them as required.
Out of the box, the website theme has many features enabled that slow down the site. The features are enabled as UICore want to showcase its beautiful design capabilities. However, we only used about 6 of them (out of 240!), so there was no need to keep them all enabled. The performance difference made by disabling unused widgets was terrific. And goes to show the benefit of a Fix Left approach to website design.
So there you have it. You have implemented the Shift Left principle and then (and only then) added a performance plugin. If done correctly, you should find that your website provides a great user experience. Furthermore, if you have a global audience, all these improvements will ensure visitors in faraway lands receive fast page delivery.