This is a guest post from Joe Howard, founder and CEO of WP Buffs, a WordPress website management and support services company.
Back in the dial-up internet days, we might’ve been willing to wait minutes—or, at least, seconds—for a website to load. Today? Not a chance. For every second it takes a website to load, the percentage of people who leave the site increases; at a 10 second load time, a site will see two-thirds of visitors bounce. Mobile users have an even shorter attention span; more than half will leave a site if it takes more than three seconds to load on their phone. Moreover, 80 percent of people say they find slow websites more frustrating than those that are temporarily down.
Those numbers are very eye-opening for eCommerce sites, where lost visitors means lost revenue. Online shoppers have no patience for slow websites, so if your site takes too long to load, potential customers could leave—possibly go to a competitor, probably to never return.
Whether you’re a WooCommerce beginner or a seasoned eCommerce specialist, there are several adjustments you can make to improve the speed of your website. And there are benefits to doing so beyond user experience, too. Better speed can also positively affect your Google rankings, so implementing these tips is a no-brainer if you want to increase your short-term and long-term revenue.
In this article, we’ll take you through ten (mostly) quick tweaks to make your WooCommerce store load faster.
Now that we’ve explained why speed is important, let’s look at ways to optimize your WooCommerce store.
1. Use a fast WooCommerce theme
Some themes come bloated with unnecessary features that can slow down your online store—even if you aren’t actively using those features on your website. Some themes also feature inefficient code that slows down load times, especially for eCommerce stores with large product catalogs.
We’ve tested several themes to see which are fastest and Astra or Storefront—both of which are well-coded, performance-optimized themes—performed particularly well for WooCommerce stores on both desktop and mobile.
2. Use WooCommerce hosting
Make sure you’re using a reliable hosting provider that’s well equipped to handle day-to-day traffic as well as sudden spikes. The last thing you want is to have a successful email marketing campaign with poor conversions because your server can’t handle the extra visitors.
There are many excellent hosting plans geared toward WooCommerce users. Hosting companies like Jilt’s partners at Pressable and Liquid Web will enable you to scale your business while keeping your website optimized.
3. Resize and optimize product images
Online stores generally require a large number of photos to effectively showcase products. But unnecessarily large images take up a lot of space and negatively impact the speed of your website.
Resizing and compressing image files could dramatically improve your store’s performance. You can use a plugin such as ShortPixel or tinypng to help with this; those automatically compress your media files on upload. Or, even better, optimize your images before you upload them to WordPress. Then you won’t have to install a plugin to handle it on your site (after all, each plugin means more code for your server to process).
4. Use extensions from trusted developers
Low-quality WooCommerce plugins and extensions can slow down your website. Therefore, it’s wise to review an extension before you install it to make sure it comes from a developer you can trust.
Give your plugins an audit to make sure you recognize the team behind all of them—and those are teams with a reputation of good code quality and product development. You can delete extensions that don’t meet your standards on the Plugins screen.
On a related note, you may want to try toggling off server-intensive plugins, like security or backup plugins, and track if that has an effect on your site speed.
5. Use a CDN
Implementing a Content Delivery Network (CDN) could do wonders for helping your website perform better. If you aren’t familiar, a CDN allows you to load your website from lots of servers across the world, not just a single one. That means when someone visits your U.S.-based website from Japan, you can deliver them your website from a server in Japan (much faster) instead of making them load everything from halfway around the world.
If your website receives lots of international traffic, or even receives traffic from all over the country, a CDN is a great way to make sure your website is loading fast for everyone who visits.
Some hosting providers have CDNs built into their plans—check to see if you have CDN access included in yours. Other CDNs are standalone, the most popular of which is probably Cloudflare, if you’re looking for an even more robust system.
6. Use a caching plugin
Delivering a cached version of your website to visitors means delivering them an already-loaded website. That way, instead of having to load your entire website when they visit (and make a number of database calls), site loading is more streamlined and less server intensive.
Another plus: It’s free to set up basic caching—managed WooCommerce hosting plans often configure Woo-optimized caching for you, so you should check with your hosting provider! If your host doesn’t provide caching, plugins like WP Rocket are the simplest way to implement this practice. This tool is easy to configure, even for beginners.
7. Clean your WooCommerce database
Regularly cleaning your WooCommerce database can also speed up your store. You can use plugins such as WP-Optimize to schedule cleanups and remove old files that accumulate over time. This tool removes product page revisions, expired transients, pingbacks, spam comments, and more. Make sure to back up your site before the cleanup just in case anything breaks.
8. Increase your PHP memory limit
If your web server has insufficient memory, that will impact loading speeds. Your amount of memory (or the amount of memory allocated to you on a shared server) is dictated by your hosting provider. WordPress uses some, but not all, of the memory you have at your disposal—and with this tweak, you can make sure WordPress using more of what’s available.
To change your WordPress memory limit, you’ll need to edit your wp-config.php file, which is located in your WordPress root folder. (If you’ve never done that before, you can follow this tutorial or, better yet, ask your host to do it for you.)
In that file, you’ll need to add the following line:
Then save your changes. (You can experiment with that number as well, but don’t go too high, because it might crash your server.)
If your host restricts your access so you can’t update your WordPress memory limit yourself, have a quick conversation with support and they should be able to bump it up.
9. Limit functions to relevant pages only
WooCommerce stores require scripts and CSS files to handle elements like the Add to Cart or Checkout buttons. However, these functions are redundant on other parts of your website, such as your blog or About page.
One example of this is cart fragmentation, the feature that enables your pages to display updated totals without reloading the page. This function is often present on irrelevant pages, and can slow their loading times.
10. Clear customer sessions
During high traffic periods, your customer sessions can pile up, causing your store to load slower. Clearing them in WooCommerce > Status > Tools can help speed things up. (Note that this will also clear data such as existing carts, so you should execute this command sparingly. This should be used as a last resort if your site is slow and you can’t determine why.)
Online shoppers expect a smooth user experience and will leave a site if it takes too long to load—so having a fast-loading website is crucial for your eCommerce business. Fortunately, there are a lot of quick things you can do to optimize your WooCommerce store to make it load faster for your visitors.
The tweaks we recommend are:
- Use a fast WooCommerce theme. Pick a well-coded theme without unnecessary bloat.
- Use WooCommerce hosting. Make sure your web host is optimized for WordPress and WooCommerce sites.
- Optimize your images. Reduce your image sizes to speed up your pages—and consider optimizing them before you upload.
- Use extensions from trusted developers. Give your plugins and extensions a routine audit to make sure you’re still using them and they come from companies with good reputations.
- Use a content delivery network. A CDN makes sure your website visitor is connected to a server that’s close to them to reduce lag.
- Use a caching plugin. A caching plugin allows you to serve visitors a faster loading version of your website.
- Clean your WooCommerce database. Remove old files from your database to speed up your store.
- Increase your PHP memory limit. You can increase WordPress memory limit to give your site a boost.
- Limit functions to relevant pages only. Turn off functions on a page-by-page level if they aren’t being used in some places.
- Clear customer sessions. A buildup of customer sessions can slow down your site during high traffic periods.