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A one-second delay to the load time of your WooCommerce store could reduce conversions by 7%, according to a study by the Aberdeen Group.
Based on this, stores that generate $10,000 could miss out on $8,400 of sales a year. For longer delays, the loss would be even greater.
Then there are the other impacts of a slow store to consider, such as the hit to user experience and search engine rankings.
A slow WooCommerce store could be harming your business.
But what are the things that are slowing down your WooCommerce site? That’s the question we’ll be answering in this guide.
By the time you’ve finished reading, you’ll know about the seven things that could negatively affect your WooCommerce store's performance and what you can do to fix them.
Some are small solutions you can easily implement today. Others require more effort and planning but could play a major role in speeding up your WooCommerce store.
Whatever your resources, you’ll find something here you can do to speed up your store.
Before you attempt to speed up your WooCommerce store, it’s highly recommended that you run some load time tests.
Doing so will allow you to evaluate any changes you make to your site by comparing the before and after speed test results.
Now that you know how fast your WooCommerce site is, here are some things that could be slowing it down.
Your hosting arrangement can have a huge impact on site speed.
Switching from the wrong company or hosting plan to a more suitable one can deliver a dramatic increase in load times.
Unfortunately, there’s no easy way to know how fast or slow your store will load on a particular hosting plan until you try.
It can also be challenging to identify if your host is the cause of your slow load times. However, if you’ve tried everything else and still aren’t getting speeds you’re happy with, it’s probably time to think about switching.
While you won’t truly know if a host is the right one for your store until you try them, there are things you can do to increase your chances of finding a fast host for your store.
How to Find a Suitable Host
Checking out reviews that compare load times and other performance indicators is one way to find a suitable host. Although hosting reviews can be biased, partly due to the commission fees web hosts pay for referrals, there are some good comparisons out there.
Another option is to look for feedback from customers of any hosts on your shortlist. Facebook groups can be good places to find the opinions of customers and view their thoughts on hosting companies they’ve tried.
Once you start looking for a new host, you’ll notice that some have WooCommerce-specific packages. Sometimes these plans will include extra features for WooCommerce store owners, such as the premium extension available from GoDaddy. Other times they will simply include extra processing power for handling the demands of a WooCommerce store, such as the plans from Kinsta.
Cloud Hosting vs. Shared Hosting
As eCommerce stores often run promotions or receive spikes in traffic during busy shopping periods, you need a host that can provide enough server resources to keep your store fast and stable. Whether or not you choose WooCommerce-specific hosting, look for a plan that can scale, such as cloud hosting rather than cheap shared hosting.
Choosing non-scalable shared hosting over cloud hosting could see your store become slow and unresponsive or be taken offline during a traffic surge.
Changing hosts can be a big deal. Therefore, it’s best to try and get it right from the outset. You might not need a high-end plan to begin with. But choosing a host with multiple plans that give you plenty of room to grow is beneficial.
However, if your host is the cause for your slow WooCommerce store, some of the best options do offer free professional migrations that will take a lot of the pain out of moving your site to a new host.
The best WooCommerce-friendly hosts allow you to host your website as close to your audience as possible. This reduces the physical distance files have to travel, decreasing the time your visitors have to wait for them to load.
Hosts achieve this by giving you multiple data center location options and providing you with CDN access.
If you’re not sure where your audience is located, you can use a service like Google Analytics to find out. Then you can either check your hosting account to see where your site is located or contact the host for the information.
If your website isn’t hosted anywhere near your audience, you have a few options. One is to check with your host if they can move you to a nearer server. If they can’t, a content delivery network (CDN) is a good solution. In fact, using a CDN is highly recommended either way for many reasons, especially if your audience is spread far and wide. If your host can’t provide either solution, it might be time to change hosts or implement a CDN yourself.
The design of your website and store plays a big role in determining its speed.
A WordPress theme with code that hasn’t been well optimized or a design with lots of resource-intensive features, such as videos, sliders, and animation effects, is likely to be slowing down your WooCommerce store.
If the speed tests identify performance issues relating to the design of your store, changing themes is the obvious way to overcome this.
One way to check if your theme is slowing down your store is to use the free Pingdom and GTmetrix tools.
If you enter the URL of your site into Pingdom, you’ll be able to see which files have the biggest impact on load time.
After you’ve run the test, scroll down to the “File requests” section of the page. If you enter “themes” in the Filter box, you’ll be able to see all the files from your theme along with their sizes and wait times, which are represented by the yellow block.
Long wait times and large file sizes indicate that your theme might be slowing down your site.
If you run the GTmetrix test, you can see similar information in the waterfall chart. Again typing “themes” into the filter box shows only the files from your theme.
The GTmetrix waterfall chart shows the size of each file that’s called when the page you’re testing loads. If you see lots of large files, this could be a sign that your theme isn’t very well optimized for fast loading times.
The timeline column of the waterfall chart gives you a breakdown of the load times of the individual elements of the page. The gray bars on the chart show the time it takes for the browser to download the response from the server.
Long gray bars indicate long request durations. GTmetrix recommends that anything over 500ms should be investigated. So if you see bars over 500ms, it could be a sign that your theme is slowing down your store.
If you want to know more about using the GTmetrix to determine if your theme is slowing down your store, this guide on how to read waterfall charts has some good information.
If these tests indicate that you’re using a slow theme, it’s worth considering changing themes or at least testing out alternatives on a copy of your store hosted on a private staging server (something a good web host will provide you with).
You can also see if your theme contains any elements that could have a negative impact on site speed, such as sliders, animation effects, videos, and large images. Looking to see what extra items it has added to the WordPress dashboard can also be a good indication of how “heavy” a theme is.
It’s also a good idea to check user reviews of themes. Even very popular themes can be slow to load, and exploring user reviews can reveal if this is the case.
Another option is to set up a test website or staging site and then try out a few different themes and compare their load times.
A bit of research and investigation should give you a good idea if your site speed would improve by changing themes.
If your theme is slowing down your store, you’ll still need to proceed with caution. Changing themes can be a big undertaking. As it affects the overall design and style of your website, it has the potential to confuse returning customers and disrupt your branding. You can adjust your new theme to resemble your old design; however, this does take some work. Also, if your store uses custom templates, they might be lost or become obsolete after a theme change.
If you’re not in a position to change themes, there are some other ways you can make the design of your site more efficient. It’s possible to use a tool to make your website files lighter and, therefore, faster loading by using minification and compression. However, if the design of your store is causing problems, it’s well worth trying to change themes or get a new design.
As changing themes has the potential to cause problems, remember to back up your website before starting work.
Each WordPress plugin or WooCommerce extension you install has the potential to slow down your store.
However, as plugins and extensions come in all shapes and sizes, it’s impossible to declare a maximum acceptable number.
Instead, it’s up to you to measure your site's performance before and after you add new features to your store. Then you can decide if the new features are worth the impact on site speed.
For stores that are already using plugins and extensions, a tool like Query Monitor identifies your slowest plugins and their load times. Thanks to this, you can make informed decisions regarding which ones you want to keep using.
Be sure to remove any plugins or extensions you’re no longer using, too.
If other aspects of your site, besides the hosting, theme, and plugins, aren’t optimal, they could be slowing down your store, too.
Ecommerce stores tend to have lots of product images, so it’s vital these files are as small and fast loading as possible.
When it comes to image optimization, there is lots you can do. One option is to implement lazy loading to prevent images from loading until they’re needed.
Another is to use the optimum file formats, such as the latest web-friendly WebP format. Using adaptive images can help with the user experience at your WooCommerce store, too.
Caching is an essential measure you should take to speed up your store.
Even if you have caching enabled, either via a plugin or as part of your hosting service, it’s vital that you have WooCommerce-friendly caching in place.
In order for a caching solution to be WooCommerce-friendly, it needs to exclude certain parts of your store from the cache. Caching works by creating static versions of your dynamic website and its content. However, eCommerce stores have many parts that must remain dynamic to function properly, such as the stock levels on product pages, the shopping cart, and checkout pages. A good eCommerce-friendly caching tool will be able to take care of this for you.
So even if you have caching enabled, be sure to check that your solution is compatible with WooCommerce.
The WordPress software and any themes and plugins you install need to be kept up to date.
Updates often contain new features. However, they can also include performance-related improvements, such as more efficient code.
Furthermore, outdated software is the most common reason for security breaches, making it even more essential to ensure you’re using the latest versions.
Due to all this, it’s vital that no parts of your website are running older versions.
Sometimes they don’t work as expected and could even slow down your store if new features are added.
With this in mind, it’s essential that you keep your store fully backed up so that you can roll back to a previous version if an update causes an issue. It’s also a good idea to test updates, especially major ones, on a staging site before installing them on your live store.
PHP is something else that needs updating. As WordPress runs on PHP, it’s also recommended that you ensure you’re using the latest supported version of PHP. Your host will facilitate this. However, in some cases, you’ll need to initiate the update yourself, while in others, the host will do it for you. Either way, testing before and after is recommended.
As you can see, there are lots of things that can slow down your WooCommerce store.
Your host could be responsible for slow load times.
But if you don’t want to change hosts, there's still lots more you can do to overcome the things that might be slowing down your WooCommerce store.
Changing where your site is hosted geographically, using a CDN, switching to a faster theme, removing slow plugins, and optimizing your images are all options. Enabling a WooCommerce-friendly caching solution is recommended, too.
NitroPack is one tool for WordPress and WooCommerce that can solve many of the performance issues that might be slowing down your store. Among its features, you’ll find a CDN, image and code optimization tools, and WooCommerce-friendly caching.
Regardless of how much time and money you have to invest, there will be something you can do to fix the things that are slowing down your WooCommerce site.
Joe is a freelance writer and blogger who specializes in writing about technology, web design, and online marketing.