Self-hosted WordPress site housekeeping

This post was originally titled Optimising this self-hosted WordPress site. However, optimising is too grand a word for what I’ve done. After nearly a year of neglect, I’ve cleaned up this site behind the scenes. There are no visible changes to the design but, hopefully, the content now loads faster.

Below is a list of improvements to serve as my own memory aid so I can repeat the steps on other self-hosted installations. If you’re considering optimising your own WordPress site, I recommend you back up everything and read the following posts on Smashing Magazine:

Also, please don’t take my word that these steps are, in any way, the ‘correct’ way to do things. It’s true to say that I’m no back-end expert.

1. Back up everything

I use the BackUpWordPress plugin by Janis Elsts to save a zip file containing the database and site files. If things go pear-shaped, I can rebuild the site from scratch with the contents of the zip file.

2. Delete redundant plugins

Active (and inactive) plugins can really build up over time so it’s worth reviewing your plugins list to check if you still need them. I found that the (in my view, essential) All in One SEO plugin can generate an XML sitemap; goodbye additional sitemap generator plugin.

Also, updates in the WordPress core can render some plugins obsolete. For example, embedding video URLs is much nicer in version 4.0. You may find you no longer need those ‘embed social meejaz’ plugins.

3. Disable unused features in Jetpack

Jetpack is a huge plugin containing functionality which is default in WordPress.com hosted sites. I find After the Deadline, the ability to write in markdown syntax, tiled image galleries and Photon CDN fantastic tools.

However, you may have more Jetpack features enabled than you need, want or use. In your dashboard, go to Jetpack > Settings and select the Active button. Hover over any features you don’t need and select Deactivate:

Jetpack active modules

4. Optimise the database

I used the WP-Optimize plugin to reduce the size of my database. This removed a lot of crud, such as old post revisions, and reduced the database size by about a third.

5. Caching

This is a strange one: caching plugins don’t get on well with my site; they’ve never made friends and I don’t know why. I’ve tried WP Super Cache and, recently, W3 Total Cache but neither resulted in the performance boost I hoped for. They seem like the slick besuited consultant unable to effect efficient change management at the local council office.

Anyway, I deleted the caching plugins and found a setting in the Wordfence plugin (Wordfence > Performance setup > Enable basic caching).

That’s it for now. While this site isn’t what you’d call swift, there is an improvement. Now it’s time to start writing posts instead of fettling behind the scenes.

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