Gavin Wray

Self-hosted WordPress housekeeping

After nearly a year of neglect, I’ve cleaned up this site behind the scenes. There are no visible changes to the design but the content now loads faster.

Here are my notes on improvements to aid my own memory so I can repeat the steps on other self-hosted installations. If you’re considering optimising your own WordPress site, I recommend that you back up everything and read these posts on Smashing Magazine:

Also, please don’t take my word that these steps are the ‘correct’ way. I’m no expert.

1. Back up everything

I use the BackUpWordPress plugin by Janis Elsts to save a ZIP file that contains the database and site files. If things go pear-shaped, I can rebuild the site from scratch with this ZIP.

2. Delete redundant plugins

Active and inactive plugins can build up over time. It’s worth reviewing your plugins to check if you still need them. I discovered that the All in One SEO plugin can generate an XML sitemap. Bye bye to a standalone sitemap generator plugin.

Also, updates to the WordPress core can render some plugins obsolete. For example, embedding video URLs is much nicer in version 4.0. Maybe you no longer need those social embed plugins.

3. Disable unused features in Jetpack

Jetpack is a huge plugin with functionality that’s default in sites. I find After the Deadline, the ability to write in Markdown, tiled image galleries and Photon CDN useful.

You may have more Jetpack features enabled than you need, want or use though. In your dashboard, go to Jetpack > Settings and select Active. Hover over any features you do not need and select Deactivate:

Jetpack active modules

4. Optimise the database

I use WP-Optimize to reduce the size of my database. This removes a lot of crud such as old post revisions. It reduces the database size by about a third.

5. Caching

This is a strange one. I don’t get on with caching plugins. I’ve tried WP Super Cache and W3 Total Cache. Neither result in the performance boost I hope for.

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 is not what you’d call swift, there is an improvement. Now it’s time to start writing posts instead of fettling behind the scenes.

Content © 2021 Gavin Wray
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