We recently ran a few tests on the Mightybytes website to help speed up load times, and we made an interesting discovery about the impact blog comments have on page speed, user experience, and website sustainability.
The first step to speeding up a WordPress site is to figure out why it’s running slow. There are a variety of tools available to help you do this. Chrome’s Developer Tools provided some metrics for comparison. We found that our homepage took on average 2.8 seconds (42 HTTP requests, 1.5 megabytes, 82 MySQL queries) to load. According to tools.pingdom.com, that made our site 57% faster than all websites they’ve tested. Not bad, but also not great. There was certainly room to speed it up.
To investigate what might be contributing to our site loading slowly, we used the P3 Plugin Performance Profiler. P3 analyzes how plugins impact the speed of a WordPress site. Our report revealed some interesting information. At the time we were using the LiveFyre Realtime Comments plugin. The problem was that the plugin loaded all of the scripts and styles that it needed to run every time a page loaded regardless of whether that page had comments enabled.
After some discussion, we decided to not only disable the plugin, but to turn of all comments site-wide.
Disabling blog comments for sustainability
By disabling blog comments and uninstalling the Livefyre plugin, we decreased the number of HTTP requests and database calls each page makes when it loads. This makes for a leaner, faster website, with the added benefit of decreasing the energy our website consumes as visitors consume content. This reduces our website’s carbon footprint, which helps save polar bears. Everyone wins! Right?
Disabling blog comments for user experience and content strategy
We knew disabling blog comments would make our website more sustainable, but since the dawn of blogging, comments have served as a barometer of the health of your content, not to mention a way for readers to submit their immediate feedback.
But things have changed. More and more, conversations are taking place on social media, and we wanted to encourage that rather than keeping discussions limited to our own website. Recently we’ve seen websites as large as the Chicago Sun-Times and Copyblogger disable comments to no ill effect. And, as a small agency, we weren’t getting a lot of blog comments anyway. So we knew that disabling comments wouldn’t make for a worse user experience. In fact, if the page loads faster, visitors will have a better experience. And that’s what we want!
Our efforts paid off in the end. By turning off comments and compiling all of our CSS and JS, we reduced the number of HTTP requests our site makes by a third (from 42 down to 28), MySQL queries by almost half (from 82 down to 48), and our page weight from 1.5 megabytes to 1.1 megabytes.
All of this translated to a full half-second decrease in the amount of time it takes our site to load. It may seem like a tiny amount of time, but considering research that says even a second of time can translate into billions of dollars in lost revenue, 500 milliseconds makes a difference to users.