One of the best things we learned whilst researching for our article on how to make Joomla website load fast (1.29 seconds to be exact), we discovered a great gem of a tool.
As many people do when striving to make a website load faster, they refer to the Google PageSpeed recommendations site, and rightly so, because if Google makes a statement, usually it's worth listening to. However, sometimes it is quite messy to do all the optimizations, and you might not have the skills to perform do these changes.
As you might know, when making your WordPress site faster, there's a bunch of optimizations you need to do. One of them is knowing how to leverage browser caching in WordPress correctly, something which CollectiveRay has got a great article about here.
What is minification? (and how it can benefit your site)
Minification is the function of taking a piece of coding and removing any characters from it (such as spaces, line breaks, tabs and otherwise) that do not convey any meaning, except to make the text more readable. Minified WordPress files perform in the same manner as the original code, with the only difference being that they take up a little less space because they cut out extra information. For this reason, the file becomes smaller to download, resulting in a faster website overall.
The primary reason for doing this and the benefits to your site are:
- Reducing loading times and making your website faster overall. Given that most websites use several scripts and stylesheet files, which results in a LOT of extra space. While you may think that removing spaces will not result in a lot of changes, the complete minification process of all of the files of a WordPress installation can add up to a significant benefit.
- Obscuring the code from casual readers. While the resulting minification doesn’t hide your site’s code (i.e. this is different from code obfuscation), but it does make it quite a bit harder for casual users to understand, if that’s something which concerns you.
While minifying your code is unlikely to make a huge difference to your site’s load times, seen as part of a complete optimization strategy, it would be one of the many things you should do. It can cut your page load times by a couple of percentage points, which makes it a good tactic to implement nonetheless.
What happens during the minify process?
Essentially, the minify process goes through such text files and removes anything which is only intended for human consumption, because after all, the machine parsing the file does not the file to be human-readable. The WordPress minify process removes any stuff such as extra white space (spaces, newlines, tabs), comments, or any other text which increases the size of the file without decreasing the "semantics" of the file for the browser. The meaning is still there, the files are just smaller.
For example, this is what a normal CSS file would look like:
While the minified version of this code would look like this:
While this may look like a bunch of garbage, in fact, all of the meaning is still there - it's has just been "minified" to remove any unnecessary stuff which is bloating its size.
There are plenty of plugins that can help you achieve this process, which will mention below.
In fact, if you take a look at the source code of your WordPress website, you'll see the .min.js extension, that shows that the actual files are already minified.
This is not necessarily the case for 3rd party plugins and themes.
You also might want to take the extra step of removing any plugins that are extra and generating scripts that you might not need.
You might want to learn about how to do this here.
Minify CSS WordPress
Once again the process of Minify CSS WordPress is straightforward. You can just install a plugin and this will perform the minification of your CSS files automatically. While most of the core WordPress files have a minified version of the CSS files, this does not necessarily apply to all plugins and themes.
Once again, we would also recommend performing a CSS code coverage exercise to remove any superfluous CSS code that is simply dead weight.
We'll be mentioning a number of plugins that minify CSS WordPress in the next section below.
5 Best WordPress Minify Plugins
We'll be discussing both generic products which are used in general to make your website faster through minification, and specific plugins whose only feature is the minify process.
1. WP Rocket
This is our favourite plugin by far.
Really and truly, it's just one of the things which this plugin does, but once you install it, you'll find that you don't need to do anything else.
As you can see below, this minification is one of the basic options for optimization. With that, you'll see that there is concatenation, this is a secondary process of optimization, which creates one file out of all the CSS and JS files (because this also makes it faster to download the files)
The plugin is not free, but the price is very cheap at just $49. Given the time it saves you and the result of making your website load faster, literally in minutes, we would highly recommend opting for this.
We install this plugin on every WordPress website we set up, simply because it saves us so much optimization time.
2. JCH Optimize
Here is a little trick to help you out a real lot - use JCH Optimize - this is a tool that works on multiple platforms such as WordPress, Joomla, Drupal, and Magento.
The great thing about JCH Optimize is that it implements a huge number of Google PageSpeed and other recommendations to make your website load as fast as possible.
It's great because it needs nearly zero configuration and intervention from a user.
If you are looking for a fast hosting service, do have a look at our host, we've reviewed them fully here: https://www.collectiveray.com/inmotion-hosting-review
And you don't have to mess around with any code, all of this is done by the plugin - it preserves all your original coding, so you won't break anything by messing around. Also, usually, it does those optimizations which are usually the hardest to perform. To mention a few, these are the ones which are done well
- Combines CSS files from all your template, modules and plugins into a single file, thus reducing the number of requests sent to your website
- Creates IMAGE Sprites - this also reduces the number of requests sent to your website by a very large amount and is one of the hardest optimizations to achieve manually
It also allows you to tweak some advanced options such as excluding certain files to ensure that if any extension does not work after running it through JCH Optimize, this will work anyway.
Take my word for it, install the plugin, enable it and check out your before and after results. If you don't get an improvement by a good amount, come back here and complain, but I'm pretty sure you won't be coming back :)
3. W3 Total Cache
This is another plugin that you will see is a generic piece of software that does a bunch of stuff that is related to making WordPress fast, including minify of CSS, JS and HTML files.
While you'll find that this is mentioned very often when it comes to such plugins, it should be noted that this product is absolutely not a good idea for people who are not technical.
It has been known to create significant problems, with some bugs remaining even after the software is uninstalled and deleted from the website.
Ourselves at CollectiveRay have tried using this plugin several times, but at this point and in the current state, we are no longer recommending that this is used for minification purposes or to make websites faster, unless you know exactly what you are doing.
4. WP Super Minify
What is different from other plugins mentioned here is that this plugin ONLY performs the minification process, and no other optimizations, which is a great choice for those who only want to perform this function and nothing else for any reason.
5. Fast Velocity Minify
While there are many other WordPress minify plugins which we can recommend, this will be the final one which we mention here.
You can choose to exclude specific files from being minified if one of your plugins breaks after you've enabled this.
Whilst the minification process is not ground-breaking function, it should be implemented as one of several tasks to make your WordPress faster and we highly recommend that you implement one of the products mentioned above.
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