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A Conversation About Y Slow Scores, What They Mean and What to Do About Them

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A member wants to understand her YSlow score and suggestions. We discuss the concepts of external CSS files, external java script files, http requests and other elements of the YSlow test. Then we discuss various ways to address these issues in order to speed up her site.

Video Transcript

Rick: Okay and so next, we have a question from Cindy. Cindy, I’ve just unmuted your microphone. Are you with us?

Cindy: Yes. Hi, Rick.

Rick: Hi, Cindy. How are you doing?

Cindy: I’m doing fine, how about you?

Rick: I’m doing well. So you have a question about Y Slow. Why don’t you tell me what your URL is?

Cindy: There are several. Let’s look at Oh this is another one, this is headway. Go to You see how long it takes?

Rick: So okay, I thought I just said run Y Slow. Great. My copy of Y Slow is not behaving. Shoot. Must have happened in an upgrade because it is not behaving… okay well…

Cindy: Again, I can run Y Slow chat.

Rick: Okay.

Cindy: And it gives me an F for the content delivery network.

Rick: Sure, because you don’t have one. Yeah, I mean, that’s the only thing is that if you don’t’ have one at all, you get an F for content delivery network and in fact, if you use Amazon S3 as your content delivery network, you’ll still get an F because Yahoo doesn’t recognize Amazon S3 as a content delivery network provider. And so then you have to go in and you know, make some custom changes to the settings in Y Slow in order to get it to acknowledge that you have a content delivery network.

Cindy: Well, one of the questions that I asked… sorry. One of the questions I want to ask you was it says this page has 7 external java scripts and 5 external style sheets and I ask you, what…Thesis is kind of running that, isn’t it? The style sheet and…

Rick: Yes, Thesis creates 3 style sheets. You have style CSS, layout CSS, and custom CSS. If we look at the style sheets, you can see them here. So you’ve got style, layout, and custom and then this looks like to me like it must be a plugin, Clue Tip. Does that make sense?

Cindy: Yes.

Rick: And then DFCG… featured content gallery. Is that what that is?

Cindy: Yes.

Okay so featured content gallery has added some styles. You’ve got this clue tip plugin that added some styles. You have… so you are also using some kind of a plugin to set the font.

Cindy: Not that I’m aware of but it’s possible.

Rick: Where does Droid Sans come from?

Cindy: I think it comes from choosing a Google font in…

Rick: Oh yes, it does. It’s right because Google adds this CSS file to the site. Although you know, you could yourself copy this, paste it, and put it in custom CSS and then unclick that setting in Thesis so that you would eliminate one of these CSS file loads.

Cindy: Okay.

Rick: So you cut out one HTTP request. Now, it’s my understanding… at least, I’ve read that Chris, the writer of Thesis, is planning on combining at least 2 of them. He’s probably combining style CSS and layout CSS but he may in fact, be combining all 3 of them into a single one to reduce HTTP requests. And if that’s the case, that will reduce some of these. But these 3, there’s really nothing you can do to get rid of them because they are all generated by Thesis and then the rest of these are generated by… well, these 2 are generated by your plugins.

Now you can, if you site is relatively simple, you can use a caching plugin like WP Super Cache. I would…I don’t recommend any longer that you’d use the really high-powered one which is…oh shoot. The name is escaping me now but it’s what is used to use on my site. The reason is because you’d really have to know a lot of stuff in order to figure out how to use it. WP Super Cache is quite a bit simpler and you can use it and then it’s got a java script minimizer that you can use which will take all of your java script files and combine them into one and take out all the spaces so it’s just one long line. And that will reduce your java script request. And that works fine unless it breaks your java script.

And it’ll do the same thing with your custom… with your CSS file so it’ll take all your CSS files, combine them into one and take out all the extra spaces and comments and deliver that as one file. And it’ll reduce those HTTP requests as well.

And all that stuff is fine as long as it actually… it doesn’t break your site.

Cindy: Okay.

Rick: I can’t use anything on mine because the plugin, the Wishlist Member plugin that I use simply won’t work if I do any CSS combination or any java script combination or any page caching at all. And it’s just the way that piece of software works and actually, people with software like that you know, shopping carts and stuff like that can have difficulties using this caching plugins because what the caching plugin does is it creates these flat HTML versions of pages and serves them up when somebody asks for them rather than going to your database and running the you know, running WordPress to create a page. And that can speed your site up considerably unless it breaks your site.

Now it looks to me like there are no bad dogs which is a great candidate for you know, WP Super Cache and the add-ons to it.

Cindy: Can I ask you another question?

Rick: Absolutely.

Cindy: The other really bad one was add expires header and when you click on that to see what the problem is, this long list of 20 static components without our feature expiration date makes it not seem much but it makes no sense to me. What does that mean?

Rick: And unless you can edit your server, there’s nothing you can do about that unless a plugin that you have will allow you to do that. So I don’t know if WP Super Cache will add expires headers or not but you have to be a server system admin in order to add expires headers to documents and to files. And there isn’t any way around that. There’s nothing you can do about that. I mean, I can’t do it.

I hired somebody to do this stuff for me once upon a time and he did a great job but it was just no way for him to overcome the limitations of Wishlist Member. But you know, I guess that is sort of a downside of some of the more complex WordPress sites because you don’t… any time you try to combine java script and CSS, you end up having problems.

Now, like I said, your site is pretty simple and that should come together pretty easily. And most of it is not dependent on any outside files. So for example you know, this CSS file at font face file that you’ve got? That one actually is dependent on Google serving it to you. But if you cut that text out and put it in your custom CSS file then it wouldn’t have to wait for Google to serve it up. Now Google is supposed to be really fast but you know, sometimes it isn’t. And so every time you have to run out someplace and grab a file that’s hosted somewhere else you know, your site can fall victim to you know, a slow server or a down server or you know, some kind of a problem like that.

Cindy: And use cookie free domains… what’s that about?

Rick: I don’t know.

Cindy: I got an F.

Rick: I haven’t seen that one before. I wish Y Slow was working for me, we’d go take a look at it but you know, it doesn’t seem like you have anything that uses cookies. I mean, it seems like it’s a fairly simple…

Cindy: Oh yeah, it’s a test site.

Rick: Yeah. It doesn’t look like there are any cookies on the site so I’m not sure what that means. I mean and when you are enabling cookies on your site, you’re generally doing that for purpose.

Cindy: Well it looks like when I go to… there are 17 components that aren’t cookie free and what they give you was style custom customcustom CSS and then a bunch of scripts. And then left connect, this little… it says that that’s a problem from images and…

And it’s a problem because of what?

Cindy: It just says it’s not cookie free.

Rick: I see.

Cindy: When the browser requests a static image and sends cookies with the request, the server ignores the cookies and then it creates…

Rick: Yeah you’ve got this on click track event so that is a cookie, you’re right. But there’s nothing you can do about that. Short of deciding that you aren’t going to track a you know, somebody’s connection with you and the way you’d have to do that is you would have to get rid of the plugin that makes this and you’d have to create a very simple link instead.

Cindy: Okay. Do you know… what’s your score? In Y Slow…

Rick: My score is horrible. Well, my score is horrible because… I mean, I have all of the things that you talk about plus because I have… I wish I didn’t but you know, I have not found a way out of this. So you can see how many custom CSS files I have, right? 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 custom CSS files. If we look at my java script files, let’s see… tools… where is that information? View java script. Okay so I’ve got the Google Analytics so that’s 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18… you know, 19, 20, 21, 22, 23, 24… yeah I got those. 25, 26. So I have 26 external java script files. So I have lots and lots and lots. And part of the reason is because of well, I have 2 things working against me here. One of them is the different video players I’m using and the other one is the membership plugin that I use. Those 2 things really prevent me from minimizing the java script that’s culled on the site. I could actually get rid of this contact form 7 java script except for the pages where it’s necessary. I just haven’t done that.

But in any case, it’s horrible and if you look at what they say about my site you know, my site loads slowly, loads slower than 80% of other sites. So if we go back to this and we go to my Alexa page, Alexa will tell me… let’s see, let’s just close this. So you show traffic details you know, the site does really well except that it says that the site is very slow. An average of 3.15 seconds to load, 85% of the sites are faster and those people who… I mean, I suspect that there is some truth to the suggestion that Google favors sites with fast page load. Unfortunately, the nature of my site is that I don’t have fast loading videos and I have a very heavy membership plugin that I use. On the other hand, we’re doing really well in ranking.

Cindy: That’s good.

Rick: Yeah. So it’s not a… yeah, I don’t do well and I don’t have a real solution. Somebody you know, Google just came out with this system where while they’re testing the system, they’re giving developers free access to their new site speed system where essentially what they do is they cache your pages. And then delivery your pages when requests for your pages show up except it won’t work with streaming video. So that won’t work on my site.

Cindy: Yeah. I’ve been trying around with that new Google page speed thing and it gives you some interesting results but I think that Y Slow gives you clues as to what you need next.

Rick: Yeah well it depends on what you’re talking about here. Google has a tool called Site Speed and that tool is sort of like Y Slow. It sort of measures the speed of your site and sort of tells you what’s wrong with it. However, that’s not what I was talking about. What I was talking about was Google has a new service. I think it’s also called Site Speed but it could be called… I don’t remember what it’s called now. But Google does have a new service where they will serve your pages for you.

Let’s see, let’s… I know we’ve got this one of the members of the forum posted this the other day on the site. Let’s see, I think it was probably under Member Tips. Yeah, it was.

So Google offers new services to speed up websites and yeah, page speed service. In any case, it won’t work for me because I need the streaming video. Really, there are so many things on my site that require database access and require java script whether it’s the stuff on the site that controls whether or not mobile versions of the video are displayed or it’s the different types of video players that I’m using or you know, or it’s the forum. There are just so many things on the site that are dynamic and very dynamic that require java script to work properly that I just can’t… I can’t take advantage of that stuff. So I do poorly on that.

Cindy: Okay. I’m setting up the site for a client and I just had to make sure that it’s fast as it possibly can be so I was using this test to see what I was doing or what I would be doing differently.

Rick: Well, I would take a look at the…I believe it’s WP Super Cache. And W3 Total Cache was the one I was suggesting that you avoid and the only reason I’m suggesting that you avoid that is simply because it’s very complicated. It can do virtually anything but it is very complicated and WP Super Cache is quite a bit simpler to install and to use and there are a couple of plugins for it. Let’s see, I mean, a couple of additional plugins to it. Let’s see, let’s just do minimize… minify, that’s what it is.

So I think WP Minify works with…oh, maybe this isn’t the one that works with… one of these works well with WP Super Cache. Oh actually, either of these might work for you though, to resolve the 7 external java scripts and 5 external style sheets. And really, everything about page speed in this context, I mean really, the big speed games will come from combining the external java scripts because there will a big speed game in doing that.

Cindy: Thank you.

Rick: Okay. Well, I’d love to have you report back on how you know, on what you learn. If you look a little… if you search the forum for Y Slow, you’ll see that there are a whole bunch of conversations about different parts of this there. And one guy in particular has really gone to great lengths to make his site faster and understand all of the different pieces and he has reported back on some of that stuff. So you might just search the forum for Y Slow and see what it is he’s had to say about it too.

Cindy: Great.

Rick: But it’s just not something that I’ve been successful at really working on my site. Okay?

Cindy: Yes, thank you very much. That’s all.

Rick: You’re welcome, Cindy. Have a great day.

Cindy: You too.

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