The time that your web pages take to load will always depend on the visitors internet connectivity speed, but there are certain settings for Joomla and methods that you can use to speed up the download time for your website.

This article goes into the many factors that have an effect on page load speeds.

Jump to the Page Load Speed Check List


Understanding what affects web page loading with Joomla

The Joomla CMS system uses PHP to compile every page on your site. The index.php file in your template has a series of PHP statements that goes to the files and database for your site and assembles the content and images that the visitor sees when he pulls up the page in his browser.

Screenshot for Cache Settings

Cache settings for Joomla content

You can change your settings in the Joomla Administrative Menu to enable file caching. These settings are located in

System -> Global Configuration -> System tab -> Cache Settings

Here you can enable caching for your Joomla website. The available settings are:

ON - Conservative caching or ON - Progressive caching

What happens when caching is enabled is that Joomla pre-generates the content for your site. This means that it has the content all put together and stored in cache so that time is not spent assembling the pages prior to them being downloaded to the visitors computer or mobile device.

Joomla recommends that you use the setting of ON - Conservative caching

You can change the amount of time for the caching if you wish. You can also override the Global Configuration setting for specific modules, if the content of those modules frequently changes, as for RSS feeds.

During the initial development for your site, when you are doing many styling changes, it is best to disable caching. If you do have caching enabled on your site, you can have some issues when you edit the CSS styles and update images. These files are stored in the cache, and you may not see the changes that you made when you refresh your browser. If cashing is enabled, you may need to empty the cache using the Joomla Administrative Menu under the System dropdown menu.

Cache setting for Joomla Pages

browser-caching

You can also choose to cache entire pages using the visitors's browser. This setting is located in:

Extensions -> Plugin Manager -> System - Cache

Using Gzip Page Compression

gzip-setting

Joomla also has a feature called Gzip  Page Compression. This feature will compress your pages into a zipped file, which in turn is uploaded to the visitor's computer and then unzipped. The zip file takes much less time to download than standard files. Most modern browsers support this feature, but some older browsers will not and the page will not load properly. You can enable this feature at:

System -> Global Configuration -> Server Tab

Warnings about Gzip Page Compression: there can be conflicts with some components when this feature is enabled and some hosting companies will not support this feature.

Settings in your .htaccess file

If your hosting service recognizes your .htaccess file, there are a number of settings you can place into this file that speeds up page loads. Editing the .htaccess file can be a head spinning experience if you don't understand what you are doing. It can harm your site or break your site if you don't enter the lines correctly. 

If you are savvy to how the .htaccess file works and you can edit it successfully, then this is one method to use. Here is a link to an article posted to Joomla Magazine with tips on how to edit your .htaccess file for faster page loads: http://magazine.joomla.org/issues/issue-june-2012/item/787-htaccess-File-That-FREAKIN-Works

Use Joomla Extensions that reduce page load speeds

There are a number of Joomla Extensions that will reduce the time that you page takes to load onto the visitor's screen. Some of these extensions will apply the Joomla settings that this article has already mentioned.

As with any extensions, you want to select popular ones with good ratings from the Joomla community. You can choose to use the free extensions or pay for ones with more features or better support. Any extension introduces the possibility of conflicts with other components, so choose wisely, and test your site thoroughly after installing the extension. You will also need to be sure that the extension works with any Joomla upgrades that you install.

There are also extensions that optimize your page speed for mobile devices. These extensions watch for the page being loaded by a mobile device and will turn off designated modules that may be slowing the page load for these devices.

Back up your site files and database before installing ANY extension.


Other factors that influence page load speeds

Shared Hosting

Your level of web hosting service is a big factor in how quickly the page comes up in a browser. If you chose to use a inexpensive hosting service, you likely are on something called "Shared Hosting". What this means is that your host has one web server for multiple sites. That server can only serve up so many files at one time. Your shared hosting level site is splitting this service with many other sites. If there is a large demand from other sites on the server, then your page load speed drops.

If you have the budget and need faster page loads, you should consider purchasing Dedicated Hosting. This level of hosting will store your site on its own server and it will not have to share resources with other sites.

JavaScript and JQuery Files

Many functions on your Joomla site require the core jQuery file. You likely are also loading the jQuery UI library file. In addition to these files, the extensions you have loaded and/or the template, may be loading additional .js files. These files can be quite large and are often a big factor in page load speed.

Be sure to remove any extensions that your site does not require as they may be loading bulky and unnecessary JavaScript files.

You can also look into changing the path to the jQuery and jQuery UI files to the Google Hosted Library. This may require editing the index.php file with your template. By using the Google Hosted Library you switch to using Google's speedy servers, Google has servers located all over the world in what is called a CDN, Content Delivery Network, and the file likely will already be cached on the visitor's browser, all resulting the download speed for your Joomla web page.

Image file size

One thing that can really slow a page loading on the visitor's browser are large image files. If you have ever pulled up a web page and saw an image be slowly painted onto the screen, this means that the image is not optimized for the internet. 

Browsers and mobile devices can only view an image at the maximum resolution for that device. You may have a super sharp and detailed digital image in a enormous file size, but the browser can only display it at a lower resolution. It does no good to upload that huge file to your site, it won't look any better. If fact, the browser will reinterpret the image to fit the space, and can actually make the image appear worse.

Use an image program such as Adobe Photoshop to Optimize the image. Crop the image to match the display size in pixels on the web page. Use the Save for Web and Devices setting and manipulate the quality settings to balance the file size vs the resolution to get the best balance of quality vs speed.

Optimize and reduce the number of your CSS style sheets

Once your site is all styled to your liking and you don't need to be constantly editing your style sheets, you can compress them. Compressing them takes out all the unnecessary blank spaces, resulting in a much smaller file size and faster loading. Before compressing the CSS file, make a copy in a format that you can easily edit, but name it something so the HTML isn't looking for this uncompressed version. If you need to make changes to the CSS, edit the uncompressed version, then save a compressed file back to the original name that is being loaded by the server.

Any decent text editor, like Notepad++ or many others, will have settings that will remove unnecessary blank spaces in your style sheet. Always save an uncompressed version before compressing the version the site uses. Test the site after uploading the compress version to be sure the site still looks the way is should.

It is also better to combine stylesheets if possible. The fewer file requests required by the browser, the faster the page loads.

3rd Party Advertising

The thing that slows down your page load the most could well be the advertisements. If you are using Google AdSense, Bing Ads or some other 3rd party service to load advertisements onto your site using <script> files, this can be what is slowing down your site. We suggest limiting the number of ads. If your pages are loading so slowly that the visitor becomes frustrated, they will close the browser window and never see the ads, let alone click on any of them. Google AdSense does have settings where you can filter out certain types of ads, like videos, that may take a great deal of time to load.


Diagnosing Page Speed 

How do you know if your page speed is fast or slow? If you have a high-speed internet connection, the site may seem to load quickly to you. It may not load so quickly to those that do not have such high-speed access or to those mobile devices that are using cell tower transmission or WiFi to access your pages.

There are many web developer diagnostic tools for analyzing how your page is loading. There are also many web sites that can tell you how quickly your page is loading as well.

Firebug for Firefox

One popular web diagnostic tool is the Firebug Extension for the Firefox browser. You can get this tool at http://getfirebug.com. You need to install it and enable it for your Firefox browser. One it is enabled, a little insect will appear in the upper right corner of your Firefox browser window. Click on the little bug, and a new window pane will appear at the bottom of your browser.

The Firebug tool has a tab labeled Net. Open up your webpage, launch the Firebug tool, click on the Net tab, then refresh your browser window. You will see all sorts of things start appearing in a list. Each of these items on the list are things that are loaded when your page comes up in the browser. These items are things like the JavaScript files, the images, any advertisements, style sheets and your HTML document. It is amazing how many things load with your Joomla web page.

Along with the filename of each item there is list of file sizes and a graphic bar that shows you how many milliseconds that item took to load. 

Study this list and you may find that there are images that are taking a great deal of time to load, or JavaScript files or CSS files. If you are having a particular problem with page load speeds, you may use this information as a guide to where the speed bumps lie.


Page Load Speed Checklist

Joomla settings:

  • Enable caching
  • Enable gZip Page compression
  • Enable the System - Cache plugin
  • Remove any unnecessary 3rd Party extensions, components or plugins
  • Change the settings in your .htaccess for the fastest page loads
  • Optimize, compress and combine CSS style sheets
  • Install Joomla Extensions that improve page load speeds

JavaScript and jQuery Files:

  • Always use the minimized jQuery core, jQuery mobile and jQuery UI files
  • Consider linking to Google Hosted Library for the source of these standard files

Web Hosting Service

  • Use a good web hosting service that has fast servers
  • Consider a Dedicated Hosting service

Image files:

  • Optimize and crop all image files before loading them onto your web site
  • Be careful with using too large or too many image files

3rd Party Advertising

  • Limit the number of advertisements loading with your page
  • Filter out ads types that take a great deal of time to load