A slow loading website can cause many problems for your membership project. With page speed having a direct impact on conversion rates, search engine rankings, and user experience, learning how to improve your membership site’s speed is a worthy investment of your time.
Thankfully, there’s a lot you can do with just a little effort to speed up your WordPress membership site. Many of the recommendations in this guide are free, while others are low cost. However, you don’t have to apply all of them. Even implementing a few of these suggestions can yield noticeable results when it comes to how long your visitors have to wait to access your content.
So if you want to do all you can to turn more of your free visitors into paid members, improve your site’s search engine optimization, and keep your existing members happy, read on for our top tips on boosting the speed of your membership website.
How to Make Your Membership Site Faster
Before you get started on your mission to improve your membership site’s speed, it is highly recommended that you take some baseline page load measurements.
Freemium tools and services like Pingdom and GTMetrix make it very easy to find out how long it takes your website to load. Just remember to take a few measurements, test multiple pages on your site, and record your results.
Then after you’ve made any changes to your site, you can compare the before and after results to see what impact they’ve had on your loading times.
Choose a Fast Web Host
Choosing a web host with a focus on delivering fast loading times is one of the most important aspects of creating a speedy membership website.
After all, if you’ve built your website on a poor performing foundation, the rest of the tips in this guide to improving your membership site’s speed won’t do as much to help as they could.
Even if you’ve already launched your membership site, it's not too late to change web hosts and move to a faster service. The best WordPress web hosts make it very easy to migrate your website and its content to their platform.
If you’re happy with your current hosting provider, you probably have the option of upgrading to a higher tier without changing companies. For example, if you’re currently subscribed to an entry-level shared hosting plan, you’ll have plenty of upgrade options available to you. Even if you’re on the top level plan from your current web host it’s worth getting in touch to see how they can help.
Use a Specialist Host for Large Files
If your membership site includes multimedia content, such as videos, then you should probably be using a specialist hosting service to store, secure, and deliver this content.
Not only will this keep access to your video and audio content restricted to just your members, but it will also take some of the burden off your web host and in turn, help improve the overall speed of your WordPress membership site.
This not only applies to video content, but also some of the other types of content you create for your membership site, such as podcasts, apps, tools, and games.
Leverage a Content Delivery Network
Using a CDN or content delivery network is another way to handle the large files that make up your website. A good CDN will automatically duplicate and distribute copies of your website’s files to data centers around the world.
Now, whenever someone visits your website, they will be accessing the image and video files from a server that’s closest to them. The shorter journey from CDN server to their computer will speed up loading times without any extra effort on their part.
Choose a Fast loading WordPress Theme
Whether you opt for an off-the-shelf WordPress theme or use a custom design, it’s vital that you choose a fast loading framework for your membership site.
Like choosing the wrong web hosting, picking a poor performing WordPress theme can really hamper your chances of ever creating a fast loading membership site. Furthermore, switching WordPress themes on an established website can involve a lot more work than migrating to a new web host. Therefore its recommended you do all you can to choose a fast loading WordPress theme from the outset.
Some theme companies have a great reputation for creating high performance designs, such as StudioPress and MyThemeShop. However, if possible it’s also worth doing your own testing on the online theme demos using the page speed tools mentioned earlier. Third party tests can also come in handy when it comes to creating a shortlist of fast loading WordPress themes.
Page speed is just one of the things to take into account when choosing the best WordPress theme for your membership site, but loading times should definitely be near the top of your checklist.
Reconsider Your WordPress Plugins
Hopefully you’re already using the fast-loading MemberPress plugin to power your membership site. However, either way, you should also make sure you’ve chosen the highest performing plugins in each category.
For example, swapping a slow loading social sharing plugin for a faster alternative could shave milliseconds off your site’s loading times. Replicate that with a few of the other plugins on your site and you could see major improvements in website performance. But how do you know which plugins are slowing down your WordPress website?
P3 Profiler is one free tool that can help you find out what impact the plugins on your site are having. In just a few clicks you can see which plugins you should try to find a more lightweight replacement for.
Also, remember to check the plugins installed on your website to see if you’re still using them. Any that are redundant should be deactivated and deleted.
Use Website Optimizations Tools and Services
As well as replacing slow loading plugins with faster alternatives, it might also be worth installing one or more website optimization plugins on your membership site.
If your website uses lots of images, then an image optimization plugin like Smush can help reduce the file sizes of that content.
As your membership website grows, so too will your WordPress database. If the database becomes unnecessarily large, then it may need optimizing. For many WordPress users – over 600,000 to be precise – WP-Optimize is their database maintenance plugin of choice.
Caching is another popular way to improve the loading times of a WordPress website. Free tools like W3 Total Cache can quickly create a static version of your website that loads much faster than the dynamic version WordPress uses by default.
Another option is to implement lazy loading. Some people do find this annoying, but it does prevent your website from loading images before they’re needed. With a plugin like Lazy Load installed on your website, images will only be downloaded from your server when the user scrolls to where they’ve been inserted into the page. With less content to load right away, your pages should be ready faster.
It’s also worth checking out our guide to the best WordPress maintenance plugins to keep your site running smoothly, error-free and loading as quickly as possible.
As you can see, there’s lots to be gained by improving your membership site’s speed and plenty you can do to reduce loading times.
But don’t just take our word for it. Be sure to test out the different options and configurations available to you. Setting up a test copy of your website where you can safely install and try out new plugins, themes, and other tools and solutions can help you determine what impact your changes will have on loading times, usability, and other important metrics.
What will you do to improve your membership site’s speed? Please let us know in the comments below.
July 6, 2018
Most plugins that do caching have an option to ensure that caching is disabled for logged in users. That's the safest way to do page caching with a dynamic membership-type site. Doing asset-only caching through Cloudflare or another CDN is a good option as well.
July 6, 2018
Hi Joe, thank you for your nice post, I agree with all, but I would add another thing that could be done: deactivate the membership plugin in all the pages where it's not needed. Usually these kind of plugins load scripts and stylesheets every where, also in the pages where you have no membership functionality. To achieve a smart plugins deactivation where they are not needed, I suggest Freesoul Deactivate Plugins, it's a new free plugin, you can find in the official WordPress depository.