WordPress has fallen behind other platforms in terms of performance, which has led to a new proposal for an official WordPress Performance team.
On October 12, full-time WordPress core contributor Ari Stathopoulos submitted a proposal outlining why he and certain other core contributors believe it is necessary to have an official Performance team that would be responsible for coordinating efforts to increase the performance (speed) of WordPress.
“Users expect and prefer fast experiences (consciously or otherwise),” Stathopoulos said in the proposal. “Research shows that fast websites can provide a better user experience, increase engagement, benefit SEO, increase conversion, and be more economically and ecologically friendly.”
Stathopoulos is a Yoast-sponsored full-time core contributor. The proposal was authored by contributors from Yoast and Google.
According to the proposal, WordPress has fallen behind platforms such as Wix, Shopify, and Squarespace.
“Other platforms are on average faster – and becoming increasingly faster – than WordPress websites, and are actively investing in (and marketing) core performance-as-a-feature,” Stathopoulos said. “We can see the impact of this investment in the widening gap between the proportion of WordPress sites which achieve ‘good’ Core Web Vitals scores, vs other platforms.”
One of the reasons WordPress is facing this gap is because it allows its users to utilize whichever plugins and themes they want on their individual sites. While these themes and plugins can be used to boost performance, they do not contribute to raising the overall core performance levels of WordPress.
WordPress Performance Team Core Beliefs
The proposal for a WordPress Performance theme asserts that WordPress needs to be actively investing in performance in WordPress Core and beyond, which includes core code, themes & plugins requirements, setup and onboarding processes, admin/editing experiences, as well as education for content creators.
The following core beliefs are submitted within the proposal:
- Performance is a fundamental part of user experience, and WordPress should aim to deliver a good user experience.
- Achieving reasonable performance levels shouldn’t be plugin territory, but part of core (aka, “performance by default”), because;
- All WordPress users (of all types) need a well lit path to good performance.
- Average end-users can’t be expected to be performance experts.
- Achieving high levels of performance requires technical considerations to be ‘built-in’ across the whole stack; and as this is often not the case with themes/plugins, performance solutions are limited to ‘brute-forcing’ performance solutions over non-performant behaviour (e.g., output buffering).
- The plugin ecosystem doesn’t help users who don’t know that they need help, or who are poorly served by the plugin ecosystem.
- Users determining which CMS to choose are / will be increasingly influenced by performance (and the associated UX/SEO/conversion factors), and we’ll lose ground to faster platforms.
- ‘Democratizing publishing’ requires that published content be discoverable; which will be less likely to occur via search engines (which influence or account for the majority of new content discovery) for slow(er) sites.
While the proposal does make the argument that a majority of performance considerations should be included as part of WordPress core and handled by the WordPress Performance team, it still believes certain aspects should remain firmly in what it refers to as “plugin territory.”
It states that the following areas should be handled by plugins:
- Integrations with specific CDNs
- Template transformation processes (e.g., AMP)
- Any non-standardized performance technology
- Any experimental standards (e.g., browser APIs / capabilities with limited adoption)
The idea behind this proposal is that an official WordPress Performance team would offer more visibility to the overall performance effort, meaning contributors who are not interested in working on core as a whole can choose to work performance specifically.
A WordPress Performance team could also attract contributions from different contributing groups such as browsers, hosting, SEO companies, and others, as well as open WordPress to new types of contributors, like performance or data analysts.
The kickoff meeting for the WordPress Performance team was held on November 2 and a #performance slack channel was created to house all discussion around this project.
The current performance projects are assembled in a spreadsheet. For those who would like to contribute, the team has asked that those users self-assign themselves to1-2 areas in order to indicate what they would like to work on.