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Everybody needs a blazing-fast website. But what about its control center? That is, WordPress Admin. Most of the time developers don’t consider workflow usability and the need to optimize it for the benefit of its users.
With that in mind we came up with this new acronym, hoping to shine light on WordPress Admin’s UI that rarely finds itself center-stage when talking about performance.
Truth is, a slow admin can affect your business. I’ll explain why and share some quick tips about speeding up WordPress admin, including running a couple of tests I ran to compare Convesio’s performance Vs a popular shared hosting option.
There are alot of reasons that can cause your WordPress admin to slow down: plugins eating up resources, cron jobs running, heavy page builders and, of course, the grunt - or lack of - of your hosting provider.
Imagine you have a membership website and 100 visitors are interacting simultaneously while admin are performing multiple actions like post articles, managing WooCommerce products and running themes and plugin updates. The website will lag for all.
Here are a couple of common scenarios:
Page Builders adding considerable weight to WordPress. These have become popular as they allow anyone to quickly build a WordPress website without requiring development skills. I believe they are the 2nd step following the WordPress installation is to add a Page Builder like Divi, WP Bakery or Elementor. They do the heavy lifting to offer an easy-to-use WYSIWYG experience.
But they don’t always play nice with other functions and can cause WordPress Admin to grind to a halt.
We can’t just blame Page Builders - the complexity of a UI and added functionality are key factors too. Think about multiple bloggers updating content with images, videos and GIFs, some of which are pulled via API calls. While these resources render you might be navigating to other WordPress admin pages, compounding the number of actions running concurrently. Again, WordPress Admin grins to a halt.
WooCommerce is notoriously resource hungry which is why most providers recommend running it on a VPS. Or, like in Convesio’s case, a scalable architecture based on Docker containers.
Those looking after bigger E-Commerce stores should be aware that it doesn’t take much for resources to run thin and for performance takes a hit. Often they become painfully aware of this when experiencing their first significant surge in traffic - the Shark Tank effect, so to speak - and realize that they haven’t planned for capacity.
Consider this too: the number of products can vary from a few items to thousands with different variations and SKUs. WooCommerce handles recurring database transactions on every action performed with them. These multiple queries and API actions can affect both front and back-end speed, and you have the added complexity of having to regularly maintain and optimize your database.
Whether you have an internal team or have hired offshore staff, time spent on development and administrative tasks in WordPress costs money. Let’s consider a virtual assistant being paid hourly to update content, products and general WordPress maintenance. You're paying this person $30 / hour and a slow WordPress admin experience means a three hour job is taking four to complete. He or she is working full time and the additional 25% time spent waiting around for actions to complete is costing you $900 a month.
That’s a lot of money -- four times the price of Convesio’s Performance plan, in fact, which would be saving you money in the first place too.
This is a bit thicker than running a GTMetrix report for Google’s Core Web Vitals so I’ll caveat the following by saving that it’s not the most accurate test you can run.
A good measure is also your own perception of performance as you’re navigating WordPress admin - you’ll know if the interface is sluggish or zippy.
So this is what I did: I set up a test WordPress site on Convesio and replicated it on a competitor provider, which shall remain nameless. They’re one of the big players offering incredible pricing for a shared hosting plan (as long as you sign you up for many months and allow them to cross / upsell you to death).
Here are the specs for both:
I copied over content from this Blog post to fatten up the page a bit too - WordPress For Photographers: How To Handle GBs Worth of Media.
Testing involved checking the response time to post saved of the admin-ajax.php file three times, to get an average reading.
Here’s what I looked at in Google Chrome’s Dev tools:
Shared Hosting Test Site
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The difference in Duration is significant, with Convesio running on average more than twice as fast in the three tests.
|Test 1||Test 2||Test 3||Average|
I’ll share a few thoughts about these results in my conclusion. Before that, some actionable tips to get WordPress admin flying and our new favorite metric - TTPS - down.
Here I’ll cover a number of technical fixes that will help you speed up your WordPress admin. If you’ve carried our speed optimization for the front-end then the following tips will be familiar to you.
You may want to experiment with different hosting providers too, as I did above.
Update to the recommended version of PHP
There are still many WordPress websites running old, slower versions of PHP - 39% of them, in fact.
Why? They’re simply not aware about the latest versions and the benefits. PHP 8.0 was released last November and the recommended version is 7.4.The latest PHP version can handle more requests/sec and faster then previous releases thus it can seriously affect your wordpress admin responsiveness.
Aside from the PHP version its settings play a key role. You might need to increase PHP limits and memory size for uploads and process time. If your host allows you to edit rules in PHP-FPM you should enable opcache and xdebug.
Remove unwanted plugins and widgets
Ahmed Awais once suggested that WordPress shouldn’t be bloated with more than 4 or 5 plugins, which is harder to achieve than one thinks.
Normally, non-technically minded people will install plugin after plugin after plugin to layer on functionality. Often many of these are left deactivated but are still added to the code and can cost disk space and affect memory. You should remove all the unwanted plugins and maintain a lean plugin stack.
Tip: Use Query Monitor for a detailed view of plugin’s excessive HTTP calls that cause memory usage.
Pay close attention to dashboard widgets that may be heavy themselves or reference scripts hosted by third parties.
Disable or configure Heartbeat API
Heartbeat API was introduced in WordPress 3.6 and uses admin-ajax.php to check live updates during sessions, autosave content and revisions.
It’s useful functionality but impacts performance. For instance, if you’re running a WooCommerce store the plugin will frequently use Heartbeat API to check order product, cart and order updates. If you’re ever run WooCommerce in a shared hosting environment you know how painful this can be.
You don’t need to be a developer to manage this as the good folk at WP Rocket created the Heartbeat Control plugin that allow you to control the following criteria:
I recommend you to enable it only for Post Editor and uncheck WordPress Dashboard and Frontend options. Also set frequency to120 sec so that request will be raised after 2 minutes.
Make sure edge caching isn’t impacting WordPress Admin
By ‘edge caching’ I mean leveraging a service like CloudFlare CDN to store website files on servers closer to a user’s location, speeding up delivery of that asset.
If this is set up incorrectly on a complex, high-traffic website it can impact WordPress Admin. You’re not risking content going missing or the design breaking but scenarios where updates are not displaying, or even performance, slowing down the content publication process.
Best to have an expert help you configure caching. Most managed WordPress hosts will help you with this. Convesio integrates CloudFlare so there’s less of a risk of the above happening, and you can also jump on chat if you have any problems.
Improve your own internet connectivity
Sometimes the culprit is one we don’t think about: your internet connection.
Ping your site to check how quickly you get a response back and if there are any issues along the way. Your ISP may be experiencing technical problems or the network itself -- those big cables that carry millions of data packets around the world.
Closer to home, your router might be playing up or just old. How old is your computer? Old computers not only load apps up slower but render pages slower too. Perhaps it’s time to upgrade?
So, what is your WordPress admin’s TTPS?
Hopefully this article has made you aware of the plight of slow WordPress Admin and the importance of a performance for those using it day in day out, and its cost implication.
The tips covered in the How to Speed Up a Slow WordPress Admin section will help it run faster, indeed, but there’s one point that I didn’t cover in detail: the need for high performance hosting.
Before that, though, here’s a screenshot off Facebook where Michelle vents her frustrations:
WordPress admin timing out after 3 - 4 minutes? How much work can she get done with that kind of lag?
And here’s the thing you need to remember about shared hosting: you can optimize your site to death and achieve great performance. Until neighbouring sites on the same oversubscribed servers start getting decent traffic slowing everyone down.