How WPMU DEV Members Optimize Their Client Sites For Maximum Speed

How WPMU DEV Members Optimize Their Client Sites For Maximum Speed

When it comes to WordPress sites, we’ve all got the need for speed. But our web developer members actually have the tried & true methods to best accomplish this, and we’re passing these on to you.

We’ve dipped into the collective wealth of experience that our web developer members have, and compiled the results of their top picks for getting blazing fast site speed.

In this article, we’re going to share their recommendations, along with the details of what makes these efforts so effective in real (online) world use.

Here’s what we’ll be looking at:

Since this is all about speed, let’s hit the ground running!

The Benefits of Boosting Your Speed

Most of us buy into “the faster, the better” motto, but might not fully understand why that is, or how to get there.

The benefits of WordPress performance optimization are numerous, and we’re going to examine each one carefully.

Creating and Growing Your Engagement

Countless studies have shown slow sites are the number one reason people will leave without interacting.

People are simply unwilling to wait around while their cursor spins. We’re talking a matter of seconds – as in two or less. According to Google, that’s how fast your website should load.

Everyone knows there are endless choices for online activity, so they won’t hesitate to bounce without a second thought.

Getting and Handling More Traffic

Greater speed is directly related to more traffic, which means the potential for interactions and conversions to climb exponentially is higher.

If you’re lucky enough to get visitors to your site – established ones coming back, or new ones getting their first look – you’ve got to set things up so the inevitable increase on your resources doesn’t negatively impact anyone’s experience.

Upping Your SEO Rank

There’s a lot that goes into SEO, but site speed is definitely a big factor.

Google’s search ranking algorithms consider site speed a signal, and page performance is also a search engine ranking factor.

Ergo, the faster your site, the more likely you’ll rise in the SERPs – an ideal goal to reach for.

Recommended Tools and Services That’ll Get You Going Faster

As mentioned above, we spoke to the web dev experts in our member collective to get their thoughts on site speed.

They shared their combined knowledge on the subject, as well as specific tools and services they use to get (and keep!) their sites operating at peak performance.

Let’s see what they had to say.

Caching & CDNs

Caching topped the submissions, and with good reason.

Caching minimizes the number of queries that are sent to your server, which means page performance, load time, and user experience all improve.

Additionally, when your site’s data is cached closer to user locations, it consumes fewer resources, thus lessening the load on your server.

Content delivery networks (CDNs) provide cached content from a network location closest to a user to speed up its delivery, with architecture designed to reduce network latency caused by carrying traffic over long distances and across several networks.

This all equates to improving your site speed and performance.

“I use Smush and all the CDNs that come pre-packaged with your [wpmudev] hosting!” – JD

“Hosting with CDN makes a lot of the difference for speed for WordPress sites.” – Matthew Forse

“The difference between images optimized on a CDN (vs not) is ENORMOUS” – JD

Top Recommendations:



Trusted by millions, Cloudflare is a global network designed to make everything you connect to the Internet secure, private, fast, and reliable. CDN is one of few that can cache both static and dynamic WordPress content. Maximize page speed scores with Online Services, Image Optimization, Critical CSS, Unique CSS, and Low-Quality Image Placeholders.

Caching Plugins

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Hummingbird gives flight to your site with expert caching and compression. In addition to being a full caching suite (Page, Browser, Object, Gravatar, & RSS), Hummingbird also delivers asset optimization at every level.

“I use Hummingbird on all my sites, it’s the reason I became a WPMU DEV member.“ – kahnfusion

“I use the Speedy function [in Hummingbird], but I optimize the files manually on the largest projects. I have achieved very good results, even on “heavy” sites. – Isidoros Rigas

LiteSpeed Cache

LiteSpeed Cache for WordPress is an all-in-one site acceleration plugin, featuring an exclusive server-level cache and a collection of optimization features.

Litespeed cache plugin bannerLiteSpeed vs select competitors. [Image credit.]


WP Rocket offers a set of advanced options to boost your performance, including delaying JavaScript execution, removing unused CSS, minification, and LazyLoad.


NitroPack features caching, image optimization, and a CDN ready to go out of the box. No 3rd party plugins or complex setups needed.

Image and File Optimizers

Another element that significantly impacts site speed is asset optimization.

There are two categories when it comes to these assets – files and images – though methods to optimize them overlap somewhat.

We’ll look at a number of ways to get peak performance for each.

File Optimization:

  • Enable Gzip (text compression)
  • Lazy load comments and smaller posts
  • Cache site elements (e.g. page, browser, gravatar, RSS)
  • Minify files (strip unnecessary CSS & JS code)
  • Combine smaller files (fewer files = fewer requests)
  • Defer CSS (defer loading above-the-fold content)
  • Preload & defer Javascript (fix JS execution time & deliver smaller payloads)

Image Optimization:

  • Reduce image size with compression (lossy or lossless)
  • Choose the best file type (PNG, JPEG, etc)
  • Use progressive loading for JPEGs
  • Use next-gen file types (Webp)
  • Lazy load offscreen images
  • Optimize image delivery (serve through a CDN)

What seem like small tweaks can and do add up to noticeable speed improvements.

Top Recommendations:


Aside from being an overall caching wizard, Hummingbird handles a large degree of optimization features, like better organizing assets, viewing file size reductions, Gzip Compression, compressing web pages and stylesheets, and reducing file transfer time.

With automations and single-click settings, setup is a breeze.

Oh, and Hummingbird is free.

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Smush put us on the map. With 1 million plus active installations & 5 out of 5 stars, this powerhouse performer is dressed to impress.

Optimize unlimited images (Bulk Smush, Super Smush=2x compression), lazy load, automatic resize, compress, backup or bulk restore original images, and resolve Google PageSpeed recommendations – all from one simple and intuitive dashboard.

Smush is free, too. 🙂

“If I want close to perfect performance I code my templates, replace most plugins by wpmudev plugins and the result is great (mostly A with GTmetrix and close to 100% with google page speed).” – Antoine

“Smush and Hummingbird go into every site. I have no requests for Smush whatsoever – it’s a champ.” – Tony G

“I use both (Hbird & Smush) on every site and I don’t have anything to change: ever since plugin setting templates have come out, I just set it and forget it!” – Phil

“Smush I have always found to be excellent. I really, really like it. It’s very impressive what it can do with just a few clicks.” – Matt

“Smush seems perfect already … I don’t see how you could make it better.” – Isidoros Rigas


Optimize images using tools on your own server, and offload the CPU-intensive process of optimization to their specialized servers for more compression.

Images are automatically compressed, scaled to fit the page and device size, lazy loaded, and converted to the next-gen WebP format.


Uses minimal resources and works well with any shared, cloud, VPS or dedicated web hosting. Optimize any image on your website, even images that aren’t listed in the Media Library.

Both lossy and lossless image compression are available for the most common image types plus PDF files.

Plugins & Themes

Most of our web devs agreed: while the number of plugins being used can definitely affect speed, it’s the quality of those plugins that matters most.

Top Tips:

  • Limit plugins to the most essential ones, and delete any you’re not using.
  • Use as lightweight a theme as possible.
  • Clean up your WP databases, to get rid of unnecessary files left behind by unused plugins.

“It comes down to minimizing plugins, over and over and over. A year ago I used to use an average of 20. Now (other than the WPMUDEV standards) I barely use 5. My sites are just as functional but 10x the speed!” – JD

“Always try and minimize the number of plugins used.” – James

Top Recommendations:

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