Trim the Bloat: An Introduction to Keeping WordPress Healthy

As site owners or developers, we have a responsibility. Specifically, we're responsible to make sure that our site is usable for our visitors and that our content can be easily consumed. To do this, we rely on an array of plugins and themes that come packed with every option the creator could think of and then some more.
We can do better. We should do better.
Over the past couple of years, it has become much easier to create and deploy themes and plugins for WordPress. The system itself has grown as well, offering more features out of the box and providing hooks and APIs for themes and plugins to expand further on that. But we just keep adding and adding until our sites are bloated and cumbersome to adjust and our sites are starting to suffocate from it.
This series will aim to help you prevent that bloat in the first place, or, at the very least, will cut away some of the bloat that you already have.

The Path to Bloat

The web has been redefined since its conception. It’s size has grown beyond measure and the way we utilize it has changed along with it. We've gone from simple websites to full blown applications, and it's no longer good enough to just have a website. It needs to have at least the same features as the competition and look just as good, if not better.
This wasn't always so. Once the Internet became publicly available, we started with simple websites: An HTML file along with some table elements to keep our text and images in place, maybe a moving GIF somewhere, and if you were feeling particularly adventurous you'd have marquee text scrolling across the site.
Websites were built for the simple goal to get information to the reader. Often times, it was enough to have a website even if it wasn’t particularly appealing.
Fast forward a few years to 2003. News sites and blogs were beginning to appear. Dynamic content had become the default, and the web was already starting to begin being redefined into what we know it to be today. 2003 is also the year the first version of WordPress became available.
More importantly: Compared to the early days already much more data was being transferred. We were still cautious about the amount of bandwidth people had available but it was a far cry from when we started out.
If we move ahead a few years once again, now to 2011, websites are averaging in at 0.7MB which is already incredibly large, but we haven't been doing any better since. In 2014, we hit the 1.68MB mark for average website size. That's an increase of 235% in just three years! Have we stopped caring about how we're offering up our content?
A lot of our users are mobile users and broadband is not a given everywhere on the world, so shouldn't we care more about what we're trying to force down to our readers?
I think so and I hope you do, as well.

What Can We Do

If you're working with WordPress specifically, there are a lot of things we can do. Mainly we need to start spending more time thinking about what we're doing instead of just slapping features and elements onto our websites.
If we write better and cleaner, we'll often need less code. The end result will be a lighter site, and it doesn't have to be any less visually appealing or functional than we're used to either.
We have to be smarter about it.

What to Expect

Throughout this series, I'll help you make the right choices with regard to your themes, plugins and optimizations as well as help you get started with planning out your website. We'll be looking at some basic steps to trim down the bloat from your existing site, and I'll help you avoid it getting to that point.
There will be a lot of examples and references to dig into that will help you apply the information in this series to your own website, I’ll be using some of the excellent series already available on the Tuts+ Network to refer to when you need to get hands on example.
Starting with the next article, we'll be looking at what we can do to ensure we're making the right choices.


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