In the coming days we will be writing a series of articles on how to keep you WordPress site lean and fast but as a pretext to those articles, we thought we would write a much shorter article on how to make your WordPress site slow. (we see these mistakes made over and over…)

Please don’t follow any of these steps!

Hosting

There are a few tricks to getting the slowest hosting but i am here to let you know them.

Firstly many people over look this one on a quest for cheap hosting but hosting location can play a big part, for example if you are building a website for a mainly United Kingdom (UK) audience then you are definitely going to want to look for hosting on another continent, the USA or even somewhere like Australia would be great, there is no point in looking for hosting in Europe it would deliver the fastest response times.

Our test site is hosted in the Netherlands (EU), its a fresh install of 2016 theme

This is the site speed tested from a Swedish (EU) location (very close),
fi1

We can see the speed above is far too fast but we can do something about that, if we test the same site from a USA location as a USA based user would experience:
fi-usa

That’s better we have managed to almost double the loading time on to the site just by having our hosting on a different continent and we have already pushed it over the magical 1 second load time.

Next you will need to look for shared hosting, these are often not labeled as shared hosting but you can spot them easily.

They are usually the cheapest type of hosting, less than $10-15/month and their pricing tears will increase the number of email addresses or domain/sub domains you can have on the account and mention nothing about server specs like RAM, processing power or the type of hard drive (because we all know 1000 email addresses is what counts).

With hosting like this you usually have anywhere from 400-800 websites running off the one server, you should avoid Virtual Private Servers (VPS) which give you a significant slice of a server resources or even a dedicated server these will be no good for creating a slow site.

shit-hosting

Choosing your theme

After you have installed WordPress your next important decision is your theme.

A lot of people think a theme is a theme and they will all load at the same speed but in fact the theme can make a big difference to the loading time of your site, it’s the foundations of your website and everyone knows the foundations have to be right.

The rule of thumb I find is: themes that try to do it all end up with the slower load times, there are some really slow examples out there, below are some baselines, i am sure you can find slower loading themes very easily.

Twenty Sixteen (default WordPress theme)

JS and CSS loaded by default: 89.12kb (9 requests)
Server memory used: 4,356kb

Directory Starter (Our own free theme we recommend)

JS and CSS loaded by default: 72.96kb (11 requests)
Server memory used: 4,340kb

Top selling theme on themeforest (multi purpose theme)

JS and CSS loaded by default: 285.31kb (12 requests)
Server memory used: 15,777kb

These are very non-real world stats but the main takeaways we get from these very basic stats from a multipurpose theme vs a built for purpose theme is that with the multipurpose theme you would only be able to serve around one third the amount of concurrent users and would use up almost 3x the bandwidth and have almost twice the page loading times.

Adding plugins

To coin a phrase “This is where the magic happens”… When it comes to a WordPress website speed this is where you make or break it.

The first thing you have to understand is not all plugins are built equal, it’s not always about the amount of plugins (though that can be a problem in it’s self) it’s about what plugins.

To prove a point i added 562 pointless plugins that do nothing to our test site and activated them all.

fi1

And the result…

plugins

Yeah nothing happened, basically the same as it was before, so it must be related to the sort of plugins.

If you really want to slow down a site you need to install plugins that are heavy on server resources and add lots of CSS and JS files this will slow down the time it takes to server the webpage and the time it takes the user to download and load the CSS JS in the browser.

We won’t get very far if we install lots of “Hello dolly” plugins that don’t add any CSS/JS and are not very resource hungry

What we need is more of a web application sort of plugin, things that are big and resource hungry and are usually the main point of a site in it’s self like a forum or a shop or a directory, on a shared hosting account with WordPress if you wanted to keep things fast you should onyl ever consider one web application type plugin but here we will install a few to really slow things down 🙂

Our test site is a fresh install of WordPress running the 2016 theme and one active plugin for monitoring a few server specs “Query Monitor” it is running off shared hosting in the Netherlands (EU), we will be running all our speed tests from Sweden (EU), lets remind ourselfs of the baseline benchmarks:

fi1

fi3

The numbers in black refer to the server resopnse time, memory usage (RAM), database query time and the number of queries run.

Let’s install a few of WordPress’s most popular plugins, remember we will only be installing and activating we will not be fully setting it up and there is no data on the site so it really is best case scenario.

Lets install some basic plugins first:

Contact Form 7 (used for setting up a simple contact form)

cf

cfm

Yoast SEO (most popular SEO plugin)

seos

seom

NextGEN Gallery (a image gallery plugin)

ngs

ngm

Jetpack (connects to WordPress.com to use some of its features)

jps

jpm

Wordfence Security (a security plugin for WordPress)

wfs

wfm

Now we have only 5 basic plugins installed and we are now over double the original load time, now lets install some web application type plugins to really slow things down:

BuddyPress (a social network type plugin for WordPress)

bps

bpm

WooCommerce (a shop plugin for selling anything)

wcs

wcm

bbPress (a forum plugin)

bbpresss

bbpressm
(orange indicates slow database queries)

Easy Digital Downloads (sell digital products)

edds

eddm

Advanced Custom Fields (Custom Fields for WordPress)

acfs

acfm

Conclusion

We now have just 10 active plugin on our site and it has went from about half a second to over 3 seconds to load, this test site has no data installed and even the homepage is not loading any images, it really is the best case scenario, in the wild i have seen some professional “website slower” with over 120 active plugins and load times of over 30 seconds.

Each one of the web application type plugins like WooCommerce, EDD, BuddyPress and bbPress usually require other addon plugins to add extra functionality, if you actually wanted to run a site like this you would probably end-up with over 50 plugins and load times of over 10-20 seconds.

So there you go, you now know how to make your WordPress site slow. Just in case you want to have a fast website, over the next few weeks we will be releasing blog posts on how to have a fast website with counters to all the points here.

4 thoughts on “Making your WordPress site slow

  1. This is very helpful. What is the best plugin or tool to use to test response time? What did you use to get this data so I can use it to do ongoing testing, especially as I decide what plugins I should possibly delete when I am debating features vs performance.

  2. Excellent Post! This post is informative on a general level, but I have sites running 100 plugins in under 3 second load times(Not great but acceptable in most cases). Of course this is a rare example and is counter productive in most cases, but some rare use cases, sites that do need heavily functionality and its sometimes better to off source some of the site function maintenance to others via plugins.

    Server speed goes beyond plugins, having a strong backend setup using PHP 7, FPM, NGINX, a CDN like cloudflare or maxcdn, and using basic magnification methods can alleviate most of the issues brought up here. Most importantly, using your own dedicated hosting or VPS to avoid noisy neighbors and other security issues helps greatly as well.

    It all comes down to the websites back and frontend setup, its not as easy as writing off plugins as making your site slow. Good advice for less experienced users though.

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