How to Boost Joomla Site Speed

By SImon Kloostra

Originally published on MaxCDN, a StackPath company

Simon Kloostra is a Joomla web designer from the Netherlands and specializes in SEO and optimizing Joomla for speed. He has a blog on Joomlaseo.com and has written the book Joomla! 3 SEO and Performance.

Two years ago I started Joomlaseo.com to share my passion for Joomla and SEO. It’s here where I initially provided instructions for optimizing Joomla for search engines. Then, after learning how important site speed is for SEO and UX, I expounded on the subject of Joomla speed and performance.

After years of research and performance testing, I learned that speeding up your Joomla site is pretty easy – at least the first 75%. It’s only the last 25% where things get a bit technical and complicated. Depending on how important performance is to you, you can optimize the first 75% or the entire 100%.

In my Joomla Performance and Speed course on Udemy, I show you how to optimize 100% of your Joomla site. The course is 4 hours long and includes 46 individual lectures. In this post I’ll go over key points presented in the Udemy course and give you actionable steps for optimizing your Joomla site today.

Boost Joomla Speed in 9 Steps

In my Joomla course I discuss many topics, including measuring your site’s performance using tools like Pingdom and GT-Metrix. These tools often provide insight into what needs to be optimized on your site. They also provide a benchmark of performance that can show you the impact of each Joomla optimization covered below.

To really appreciate the impact of the Joomla optimizations you’ll make today, I highly recommend running a Pingdom test of your current setup. Comparing the pre- and post-optimized results can be very gratifying.

The Joomla optimizations we’ll cover in this post include:

  1. Choosing a solid web host
  2. Choosing an efficient Joomla template
  3. Choosing extensions and plugins wisely
  4. G-Zipping your site
  5. Caching content
  6. Optimizing images
  7. Loading CSS and Javascript efficiently
  8. Optimizing with plugins
  9. Optimizing for mobile

With the exception of choosing a solid Joomla host (Step 1), you can perform these optimizaitons in any order you want.

Step 1: Choose a Solid Web Host

The web host you choose should specialize in accommodating the Joomla CMS. Make sure the host is fast to update its server software with the latest updates (PHP, MySql, etc.) and offers advanced optimization techniques like Varnish Cache, OPcache, memcache and mod_pagespeed.

Luckily there are quite a few Joomla specialists in the web hosting world. Here are two that are well-known and should get you going pretty fast:

  • SiteGround is the host of the official Joomla demo site at Joomla.com and known for its fast servers. Make sure you use their Supercacher feature that’s available for all packages.
  • CloudAccess.net is the former host of demo.Joomla.org and also a true Joomla specialist.

Step 2: Choose an Efficient Joomla Template

If you’re a skilled coder, you can build appealing templates with the minimum amount of features. If you’re not a coder, don’t worry. Some commercial template providers offer lightweight templates that load quickly and look good.

Even with all the design options these templates offer, they can still load pretty fast. They achieve this through clever coding and smart optimization techniques like compression and the combination of CSS and Javascript files. Some good template providers for Joomla include:

  • YOOtheme is an extremely lightweight template and by far the most efficient commercial template provider.
  • RocketTheme recently upgraded their Gantry framework to version 5 which is a big improvement as far as performance is concerned.
  • JoomlArt uses the efficient T3 framework with optimization options included in the template parameters.

Step 3: Choose Extensions and Plugins Wisely

One place where Joomla users often make the wrong turn is where speed and style meet. Too often do we choose what looks better over what works better. For instance, we’re often tempted to choose the flashier slider or gallery over the more efficient one.

Another cause of trouble are extensions that use external resources. This especially applies to social media extensions that activate pieces of Javascript from Facebook or Twitter. Even a few social media buttons at the bottom of your articles often require over a dozen scripts from external sources.

Also be mindful of web fonts loading from sources like Google or Typekit, analytics scripts, and advertising scripts. Poorly-coded extensions should be avoided as well. To test what extensions are more speed-friendly, conduct performance testing for various extensions and choose the one that balances speed and style.

Step 4: G-Zip Your Site

G-Zip isn’t the biggest performance saver, but it’s very easy to activate. You can do so from the Joomla Global Configuration options panel. Just switch it on:

Joomla Server Settings

Step 5: Cache Content

Leveraging caching can be a huge performance saver, but it’s a topic users often find complicated. To remove the complexity, there are a number of caching extensions and services available.

You can enable caching in the Global Configuration options panel or activate the System – Page Cache plugin. This makes the site fast but can cause issues. To overcome these issues, you can use third party extensions like Regular Labs' Cache Cleaner (for easy cache cleaning) and JotCache (extends and improves the Joomla cache mechanism).

You can also use a CDN. Many Joomla sites notice a significant improvement in performance after implementing a CDN. In my Udemy course, I fully demo setting up Cloudflare and MaxCDN.

Step 6: Optimize Images

Images weigh down a page more than any other asset, so keeping their file size as small as possible is key.

Before uploading your images, set them to the pixel size you aim to use on your website. (Don’t just resize the image in your Joomla editor.) You should also save your images in the most efficient format (jpg, png, etc.). Finally, optimize images using the “Save for Web” and “Devices” option in Photoshop – or use tools like RIOT and ImageOptim (Mac) to strip down the size.

When uploading the images to your Joomla site, you can apply efficient plugins for resizing or stripping EXIF date (camera model, tags, etc). You can also use advanced techniques like image spriting or base-encoding. Some useful extensions for optimizing images include:

JCE Editor is a great replacement of the core TinyMCE editor and also has some smart options for resizing images during the upload process. Plus it has an option for strpping EXIF data that can reduce image size more than 30% without loss of quality.

ImageRecycle supplies a Joomla plugin for lossless compression of images – automatically during upload, or on a per-image basis.

XT Adaptive Images is a plugin that creates sets of images specifically for desktop, tablet, and mobile users, offering the right size for the right device.

Step 7: Load CSS and JavaScript Efficiently

After images and videos, scripts and stylesheets are often the weightiest files.

The issues with these file types are two-fold: 1) the individual files are too large to begin with, and 2) often dozens of individual CSS and Javascript files are used which causes multiple HTTP requests. As each request takes a bit of time to set up, it causes delays in page load time.

By combining multiple files into one, you can save on HTTP requests. Stripping out whitespace and comments can also reduce file size. To combine multiple files, you can use minify or the optimization plugins below.

Step 8: Leverage Optimization Plugins

Optimization plugins make your site faster by achieving the optimizations described in Step 7. They also offer options for asynchronous loading of your Javascript, lazy loading of images, and CDN integration. In my opinion, there are three plugins that are really excellent:

ScriptMerge is simple to use but also offers Guru options for advanced users.

JCH Optimize provides some great options for Javascript and CSS improvements.

Jbetolo is yet another great optimization plugin.

Tip 9: Optimize for Mobile

Finally, you should take care of optimizing the display for mobile users.

First you should find out whether all functionality offered on a desktop is also available to mobile users. For example, a big slider may be less useful on mobile devices. Also, performance is often more an issue on mobile as these users often have bad connections.

You can achieve better mobile performance with smart plugins like Advanced Module Manager by Regular Labs, User Agent Detector, and DSC by Kubik Rubik.

Further Optimizations

The optimization tips in this post serve as a great starting point for boosting Joomla site speed. However, with additional guidance, you can make your Joomla site even faster. This goes back to the 75%-optimized vs 100%-optimized topic I talked about in the introduction.

To get this additional guidance, I recommend checking out my Joomla Performance and Speed course on Udemy. After completing this course, your website could very well be twice as fast as it is now. This course goes over the same best practices I used on my personal blog to achieve a page load time of ~0.3 seconds.

For readers of the StackPath Blog, I created a coupon that gives you 50% off the price of the Joomla Performance and Speed course on Udemy. Simply click this link to apply the coupon immediately.

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