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Superb WordPress Plugins – Speed, Easy!

At the beginning, there was the memory explosion of my old blog. I just had to replace it. Luckily, as I’m very happy with the new installation. At first it looked really easy – invest some hours to pick a nice style, backup the old DB in case anything would go wrong, install wordpress over my old installation, see that nothing went wrong. But then came the tricky part – customizing it.

Twitter Plugins

First, there were the plugins. I wanted Twitter, but I had to acknowledge that all Twitter-plugins I tried were incredibly slow. Sad, as there were some nifty functions and nice styles included, but I wouldn’t want my pages to load 5 seconds longer because of that. So I ended up with the really nice and fast Tweetmeme-Button and the not so nice but fast and easily customizeable Xhanch – My Twitter plugin to show my lastest tweets. Xhanch needed some customization, and I’ll likely make it look a little fancier by jQuery when there’s time.

Must Have Plugins

Then there’re some must-have plugins: Google XML Sitemaps thats unbelievably important for the pagerank. Gurken Subscribe to Comments, as you just need as subscribe-to-comments-plugins anyways, and this one does double-opt-in, which is sadly a law-enforced necessity here in germany.

Akismet is included into WordPress anyways, and your Blog wouldn’t survive without it anyway. I wanted to install the Math Comment Spam Protection plugin too, but forgot that you need to include code into the pages to show the mathematical question (like “type in the sum of 2 and 6”), so I deactivated it for now. Maybe it will already be active when you read this post.

The All in One SEO Pack plugin is a no-brainer too – it optimizes META-tags, generates descriptions of your post if you’re too lazy to write one and generally is a good thing.

Speed Plugins

Sadly, Worpress was developed on PHP. This means, WordPress is pretty slow. You want to add some plugins, that help you with the speed as the visitor’s time is very valuable – don’t agrue with me here. To speed things up, you could install a lot of plugins, that help you.

First said, loading pictures is a pain for the browser, especially if you have a lot of tiny pictures for all the soicla networks you want the visitor to share your post – each of these usually uses another HTTP request, and those are damn slow. The jQuery lazy load plugin helps you A LOT here. It basically makes the browser only load pictures that your visitors can see, loading other pictures when the visitor is browsing down the site and reaches the point where the pictures are shown. One Gotcha here: the sidebar pictures were only loaded when you scrolled to the bottom, as the HTML code for that is below all the other stuff. But you can define a CSS class within the plugin, that get loaded the usual way. Putting this class in your image-tags will help you here.

For the same reason as above, the WP CSS plugin is pretty nice, as it includes all your CSS import into one file (meaning there’s only one HTTP-request for the CSS-files) and even gzips them, so they use up fewer space while getting downloaded to the visitor’s browser. Neat. (Update: Does not work with the @font-face CSS-stuff needed to embed a webfont – as that used on this site.)

Another plugin that strips out whitespace and compressed the generated HTML is WP HTTP Compression. No configuration needed — this just works, so use it.

The speed-bazooka after all is WP Super Cache of course. This plugin makes everything superb – the site that goes out to your visitors will be stored, and should another visitor want to see the same page, he will just get the stored copy, so PHP doesn’t need to use its slow braincells for putting the site together again. This one’s just perfect, I would only advise to disable it while you’re working on the design of your blog, because *deleted for obviousness*.

Then you can just Google for “improving wordpress performance” or “speeding up wordpress”, there are a lot more hints out there for stuff you can do without plugins. Like modifying your .htaccess file to stop hotlinking or keep spambots and other unwanted crawlers out.

Other Plugins

Efficient Related Posts is like the best plugin I wished everyone was using – so put it into your blog NOW. It uses the tags you put under your posts to look for similarities and puts the “related posts” part under the post. I often read a lot more that I wanted on other blogs, just because of me thinking “well, that post could really be nice too”. You can watch it in action if you’re on the posts single page below.

Zero Conf Mail is just the most simple solution to putting a feedback-form on your blog, in case someone wants to ask you something directly. I put mine in the about-page, in case you want to use or see  it.

Shadows is a plugin that will underlay all pictures on your site that you add a certain CSS-class to with some sort of shadow. I’m still experimenting with this one. If you want to use it with Zemanta (as I clearly want to), you’ll maybe have to hack a bit in your CSS files, as Zemanta adds some CSS that interferes with the picture’s shado and makes it look weird. If you want to see it in action with another picture I included, you can see that in the post What is Viral Marketing? for example.

When I have some more nice stuff to show off, I’ll post another one. Hope you like this post.

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