My 2015 WordPress Setup

Paul SufkaSocial Media

WordPress Setup

”I don’t have big ideas. I sometimes have small ideas, which seem to work out.” – Matt Mullenweg

I previously detailed my WordPress setup, but over the last few weeks, I have given my site (another) overhaul worthy of an updated blog post.

New WordPress Theme

I recently switched to the X WordPress Theme. This theme comes with four different minimalist style layouts that help focus on blog readability over everything else, yet remain easily and highly customizable through the built-in WordPress customizer. I’ve played with a ton of different WordPress themes, and for a premium theme, this one is as easy as they come. If you want to make any very specific modifications, you may need to learn a little bit of CSS and/or PHP.

Strong Focus on Increasing Site Speed

The speed that your site loads is highly important for two reasons:

  1. Improved experience for readers (better chance that readers will actually read your writing). According to KISSmetrics:

”47 percent of visitors expect a website to load in less than 2 seconds, and 40 percent of visitors will leave the website if the loading process takes more than 3 seconds.”

  1. Improved SEO. While I don’t spend a lot of time thinking about how to optimize for SEO (I’ve written before that the 80/20 of SEO is to write good content and write accurate blog titles), it is worthwhile to know that Google PageRank pays attention to site speed.

You can check your site’s speed according to Google and get general tips on how to optimize at Google PageSpeed Insights.

Unfortunately, many of the tips offered by Google are difficult to know exactly how to optimize. Besides having your site hosted on a fast server, the lowest hanging fruit are easily solved with a few WordPress plugins:

  • W3 Total Cache. [Update 01/19/2015: I’m going back to using WP Super Cache because of problems with W3 Total Cache causing problems (although I had no trouble removing it).] WordPress cache plugins work to minimize load on your sever by having static copies of your site cached and ready to send to readers. I previously had used and recommended WP Super Cache, but recently switched given W3 Total Cache’s ability to minify and compress JavaScript, CSS, and HTML, which results in greater performance. Making this switch increased my PageSpeed scores by about 20, and most comparisons I found shows that it seems to be just a bit faster. Despite offering better performance, W3 Total Cache is more complex to set up, whereas WP Super Cache only really requires you to turn it on or off [Update 01/19/2015: although turning on the advanced setting to compress pages is also helpful, if your server can handle it]. In either case, you should have a WordPress cache plugin running on your site.
  • WP-Optimize. This plugin actually increased my PageSpeed score by 10–14 points, and works by removing any excess junk such as comment metadata in your WordPress pages.
  • Smush.It. This optimizes images in several lossless ways, such as stripping JPEG metadata and optimizing compression. The free version can “smush” image files under 1MB.
  • BJ Lazy Load. This plugin uses a jQuery script to improve site loading by delaying loading of any images files until just as the reader has scrolled down to that image.
  • No longer using: WP deferred javaScript and Use Google Libraries. These plugins actually slowed my site and caused problems with BJ Lazy Load, likely having to do with loading jQuery from a different server and/or interfering with W3 Total Cache.


Security and Backup

Other Recommendations

  • WP Hide Post gives you better ability to control the visibility of posts/pages on your blog and comes in handy occasionally.
  • Unchanged recommendation: Contact Form 7 is still the best and most popular contact form.


I’m always curious to hear if anyone has any better recommendations for WordPress plugins. If you have any suggestions, add it to the comments.