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GT and LoHud.com: WordPress Optimization

lohud-title

LoHud.com is a news and culture Web site serving the Hudson Valley in New York that hosts more than 50 blogs, including the LoHud Yankees Blog, which has been highlighted on ESPN and in Sports Illustrated. The site was experiencing a problem plenty of other sites would love to have: it was getting too much traffic, and was experiencing slow load times as a result.

Gossamer Threads’ experience in developing and troubleshooting high-traffic CMS installations proved to be the perfect solution to LoHud.com’s problem.

LoHud.com delivered a huge amount of content served through a default WordPress MU installation with no optimization. This made for a dramatic increase in server load.

lohud-wpmu
Yankees Blog at LoHud.com

Phase 1

Realising that this wasn’t a hardware issue, but rather a software customization problem, Gossamer Threads and LoHud.com’s technical team teamed up and collaborated on a multi-pronged solution:

  • Migrate the highest trafficked blog onto its own single-user WordPress install.
  • Optimize the layout and caching of the WordPress install to reduce server load times.
  • Create custom templates for mobile devices (iPhone, Blackberry) to further reduce load.
  • Identify high-traffic areas and pages and customize their caching needs.

With these changes in place, LoHud.com load times experienced an immediate and dramatic reduction in a controlled, test environment.

Page Load Speed
The Difference in Page Load Speed of a page with 1,000+ comments

The average load time on LoHud.com’s most popular and process-intensive page dropped from 16.3 seconds to 4.8 seconds.

On LoHud.com’s live servers, load times fared even better! Pages loaded approximately 20% faster than in the test environment.

Phase 2

Phase 1 yielded a huge improvement, but we wanted to do better. We delved deeper into the code and did the following for LoHud:

  • Deleted extraneous WP plugins and removed any leftover template tags.
  • Cleaned up the CSS and core html code to reduce file sizes.
  • Reduced amount of includes to decrease server load requests.
  • Installed WP-Super-Cache to aid with page caching.
  • Developed a custom solution for dealing with cache refreshes.

After these modifications, cached pages loaded in an average of 0.14 seconds, while cache regeneration only took 3.8 seconds – a critical statistic for popular blogs which have their caches update every time a user posts a comment.

Again, these are “worst case” times on the site’s most data-heavy page!

Conclusion

Thanks to some precision WordPress customization, LoHud.com’s pages are now loading over 116 times faster than they were before GT’s developers went to work on them.

Here’s what they had to say:

“Gossamer Threads has been reliable, affordable and professional. They have met and exceeded every expectation I have had for a large-scale hosting solution for our popular WordPress-powered blogs. With their expertise and support, they have helped improve the performance of the LoHud Yankees Blog, which is one of our company’s most popular and prized products.”

-Jeffrey Marx, Web Developer, LoHud.com

For more information on how Gossamer Threads can help tailor a WordPress installation to fit the specific demands of your site, visit our WordPress Services page.