The Speed Study Goal
My goal with conducting these Speed Studies is to find out which strategies are the best at improving our site speed.
I’ll implement each strategy using the following approach:
- Setup the strategy on all 8 of our live test sites
- Then for the following 3 weeks, gather the load times from our Desktop Speed Test using GTmetrix. Each week we will test from a different location, starting in Dallas, then London and finishing off in Sydney.
- Next measure the impact of each strategy by comparing the average speed before and after
- Ultimately decide whether the strategy works?
WP Super Cache Speed Study
With our 2017 baseline setup and 4 Image Optimizer plugins put to the test, lets change gear and take a look at Caching plugins. What we’re expecting to see is that caching will speed up our sites by effectively copying a portion of the sites content, so the next time you visit, your browser only needs to load fresh content. Let’s find out how well this works for our sites? The plugin we will use for this Speed Study is WP Super Cache, which is a free offering with over 1+ million active installs.
To kick off this WP Super Cache Speed Study, the first step is to install the WP Super Cache plugin. I followed these installation & setup steps for each of our test sites.
I have now followed this process on all 8 of our Live Test Sites.
Next up is 3 weeks of testing – I am curious to see how much of a difference WP Super Cache makes to our site speed?
The Results – 13th May 2017
After 3 weeks of testing, lets take a look at how much of an impact installing WP Super Cache has had on our 8 hosts.
So how did WP Super Cache perform? The average load time across 3 different testing locations was 2.41s, which is a speed improvement of 18%.
When we dig into the 3 locations we test from, Dallas & London were noticeably quicker with WP Super Cache, while Sydney achieved a small improvement. There was also minor benefits in the other factors such as Page Size, Google & Yahoo Scores.
So when it comes to making a call on whether WP Super Cache is helpful, the answer is a clear YES.
Individual Host Performance
Let’s now take a look at how our individual hosts performed:
- The results are mostly positive when it comes to our individual hosts:
- 6 out of 7 hosts experienced improvements, with the largest coming from HostGator at 32%.
- Web Hosting Hub was the only host to be negatively impacted, with a loading time 8% slower.
- But the big news story is that Lightning Base took the honors as the fastest host in their debut Speed Study. After experiencing disastrous results with DreamHost over the last few months, it’s refreshing to see our newest host perform so well!!
- The overall observation from where I sit is that WP Super Cache has made a significant improvement to our host’s page loading times. As for a recommendation, let’s hold off until we have completed the testing of 2 other Caching Plugins.
- Update: With all testing now complete, check out the results for all 3 Caching plugins side by side.
With the speed of WP Super Cache now fully understood, let’s put to the test another Caching plugin.
So Speed Study #14 will focus on what speed improvement is possible with W3 Total Cache?