The history of WordPress: What’s next for millions of web publishers?

The history of WordPress: What’s next for millions of web publishers?

What is the history of WordPress? WordPress can lay more claim than any other entity for shaping the internet as we know it today. Every day, over 500 sites are created using WordPress. Compare that to the 60-80 that SquareSpace can boast, and you have an idea of WordPress’s penetration. It is ubiquitous. 

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Why is this? Well, it’s effective, easy to use and largely free (although users do of course have to pay for a domain name, hosting and any premium plugins or themes). The average internet user may want to start blog posts or create a simple website, but have little in the way of tech savvy and even less disposable funds. Step forward, WordPress. 

Itt wasn’t necessarily an easy ride to the top. The history of WordPress is a story of remarkable ascendancy. It is an interesting tale of rapid improvements and refusing to sit on its laurels and success. 

Birth

The history of WordPress starts when the blogging tool b2/cafelog was parked by its developers, who had elected not to take it any further. Two programmers who had been working on the project decided to start something themselves by building a platform on top of b2/cafelog. 

These two individuals, Matt Mullenweg and Mike Little, managed to get the first instance of their product (version 0.7) released in May 2003. Upon its official launch, users responded favorably to the admin interface, user interface, text filter and templates (which were XHTML 1.1 compliant)

Early days

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Version 1.0 followed, which was known as the Davis Version (named after the American musician Miles Dewey Davis III). As Matt Mullenweg is a jazz enthusiast, every version comes with a plugin called “Hello Dolly,” (in reference to Louis Armstrong) automatically installed. The Davis release included multiple post categories and an easy installation process. 

WordPress 1.2 (Mingus – named after Charlie Mingus) was released in May 2004. This release incorporated plugin architecture, a key and defining part of WordPress. This meant that users could create their own plugins and share them with other users. 

It was this openness that set WordPress apart right from the beginning. It’s this openness that has resulted in there being a total of 56,000 free plugins and 2500 themes available on WordPress.org – the official WordPress repository. 

At the same time of WordPress’ latest developments, the dominant force in blogging software (Moveable Type) was declaring a tightening up in its licensing arrangements and a pricing restructure, which left many bloggers aggrieved and looking for an alternative content management system. The result was a massive popularity boost for WordPress. 

One of the positives of this mass adoption was a consequent stream of improvements that were generated and applied due to the open nature of the program and its plugin approach. The product thus improved at a rate that was truly impressive. 

2005 saw the introduction of version 1.5 (Strayhorn – after pianist Billy Strayhorn), which incorporated Pages and seriously upgraded the themes facility, which allowed for a different theme for each weblog category. 

This was followed in the same year by version 2.0 (Duke – after Duke Ellington), which introduced a radically redesigned admin dashboard. This dashboard didn’t just look different, it gave much better usability and allowed bloggers to avail themselves of the facility to add categories or tags without having to leave the post editor. 

Further developments of WordPress were released with new and useful features. These included an anti-spam plugin, fast posting, quick imports, built-in caching, autosave options and better search engine privacy. 

Continued growth

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In 2006, the WordPress name and logo were trademarked by Automattic. Following another UI redesign (involving web designers Happy Cog), the ownership of WordPress was transferred to the WordPress Foundation in 2010. This protected WordPress from the whims of any particular company and meant that growth could continue unabated. 

Version 3.0 (Thelonious – after Thelonious Monk) was released in summer 2010. This featured customization for post types, backgrounds, headers and menus, as well as admin screens with contextual help. With the addition of the Twenty Ten theme, the concept of a ‘default theme’ for each year was introduced.

In 2011, E-commerce developments really started to take off as there was a good deal of e-commerce platforms being built using WordPress. This resulted in a rapid growth in online stores being created using WordPress and moved WordPress away from it’s traditional ‘blog’ website image. 

Image galleries were then given a boost in 2012 by the introduction of a custom theme enabler and new media manager. 

The benefits of automation were delivered by Version 3.7 (Basie – after Count Basie) in 2013, which gave its users an automatic updates feature for new software releases. This wasn’t welcomed universally as it was felt it took away control from users, so tutorials were released on how to disable this feature. Another of 3.7’s extra features was support for installing files in the correct language and keeping them up to date. 

2013 also saw a big step in the history of WordPress when it became the most widely used CMS in the world. This position has subsequently been consolidated, with WordPress holding over 65% of CMS’s market share in 2022.

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Staying on top

From MySpace to Atari, the enemy of continued success is complacency. This is not something that you could accuse the WordPress Foundation of, as in 2013 they introduced another improved UI (called MP6). In version 3.8 (Parker – after Charlie Parker), the platform was designed to work with any screen size. WordPress began to take notice and address the growing use and popularity of smartphone usage – particularly in the online shopping sector.  

Version 3.9 (Smith – after US jazz pianist Jimmy Smith) followed in April 2014. This gave users the ability to edit and preview images inside the post editor, which greatly enhanced convenience. Other improvements included audio and video playlists and widget previews. 

There was a significant milestone in 2014: this was the first year in which non-English WordPress downloads outnumbered English downloads. The impact of WordPress had now become truly global. 

The various incarnations of version 4 that emerged in 2015 produced greater refinements, as well as seeing the first infrastructure being put in place for REST API (an application programming interface using a particular software architectural style). 

In 2015, the leading e-commerce plugin (WooCommerce) was acquired by the makers of WordPress, Automattic. WordPress was now becoming a major commercial player and could work in close compatibility with the world’s best business apps

Version 4 continued to be improved during 2016 and 2017, with developments such as plugin and theme previews and updates, content recovery and customization and included the beginnings of the WordPress block editor. 

2018 witnessed the debut of version 5.0, with a major innovation in the shape of the completion of the block editor, which was now named Gutenberg. 

Another big step forward came in 2019 when the ‘Site Health’ facility was launched in version 5.1 (Betty – vocalist Betty Carter). This gave users the ability to see for themselves how secure and up-to-date their software was. Those who struggled previously to define zero-party data were now becoming au fait with such concepts.

Three more releases followed in 2020, with 5.4, 5.5, and 5.6 (respectively, Adderley, Eckstine, and Simone), including the launch of the ‘Full Site Editing’ feature, which was improved further in 5.7 (Esperanza) and 5.8 (Tatum). The key benefit of this feature was the ability it conferred on users to create site-wide templates and to complete post revisions with ease. 

What’s next for WordPress?

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WordPress co-founder Matt Mullenweg says that the future of WordPress will continue to focus on Gutenberg and will be about the four main priorities that its developers have held since the beginning. These four are easier editing, customization, collaboration and multilingual support. 

Mullenweg also thinks that more and more people will use WordPress with self-hosted sites. New possibilities regarding hosting and domains are always coming up. For instance, users can now acquire a free io domain should they wish. 

Up until recently, relatively few large-scale organizations used WordPress as their content management system. This is changing though due to security updates combined with the other security features that have been introduced and the extensive range of features that are being constantly added.

WordPress is continuing to work on full site editing service techniques with Version 5.9, in 2022, promising to deliver an improved editing experience provided by the block editor. 

It is also a reasonably safe bet that the jazz greats will continue to be honoured! 

Conclusion

What this history lesson teaches us is the importance of small to major continuous improvements. Through active development, WordPress has become the go-to option for a wide range of content types. As a result, WordPress has been hugely responsible for the massive rise in blogging and online stores worldwide.

Its role in putting e-commerce in the hands of businesses around the globe has resulted in significant growth and wealth creation. Many, many jobs are now reliant on the brainchild of Mullenweg and Little. The history of WordPress is one of empowering bloggers and supporting business growth. 

Grace Lau – Director of Growth Content, Dialpad

Grace is responsible for leading branded and editorial content strategies, partnering with SEO and Ops teams to build and nurture content. She has written for VMBlog and Brightpearl. Here is her LinkedIn.

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WP-Optimize release latest 3.2.3 update

The latest update for WP-Optimize 3.2.3 has now been released. This new release features a fix, feature and a tweak update. 

The main focus in this latest release is the ‘Preload Minify Assets’ feature. While WP-Optimize does already have a ‘Preload’ feature with caching functionality that can preload all pages and minified assets, this new update now gives users a separate minify preload feature for users who are using a hosting provider that provides server level cache – such as Kinsta. 

As such, if a user is using a hosting provider that uses ‘Nginx’, rather than ‘Apache’ – these hosts most likely provide caching themselves. In this scenario, users of WP-Optimize need to disable the caching functionality within the host, as they are unable to use the ‘Preload’ function. Even on ‘Nginx’ servers, minified assets are allowed and preferred in order to boost performance. 

The updates to WP-Optimize 3.2.3 are available for download now and also includes the following:

  • FIX: Cache – ‘Purge cache permissions’ setting does not allow additional roles to access the purge cache tool
  • FEATURE: Minify: Pre generate assets
  • TWEAK: Make smush details button work in media modal window

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How to revamp and redesign your WordPress site guide

How to revamp and redesign your WordPress site guide

It might surprise you to learn that WordPress powers nearly 40% of all the websites on the internet. It’s an outrageously high figure, considering that more than a billion websites currently exist. In this blog we are going to look at a recommended “how to redesign WordPress site guide”.

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WordPress is loved for its ease of use, the customizability it offers and the low costs associated with this particular CMS platform. While there are many advantages for the user, there are also some issues that need to be considered too.

Due to the low barrier of entry with WordPress, it’s quite common to see simply-designed websites that are basic in their design and function. For individuals, start-ups and small businesses, this might be fine to begin with. However the likelihood is that, sooner or later, a revamp is going to become necessary.

Any business that wants to take advantage of ecommerce sales channels will surely recognize that the importance of a website’s design cannot be ignored. In terms of your digital real estate, your website is of primary importance. Rather than sticking with your original and rushed site, site owners are better off pressing ahead with a redesign that is sure to impress. 

What Is a website redesign?

It might sound obvious, but the truth is that many people don’t fully understand exactly what a website redesign is or what it entails. There’s a perception that website redesigns are wholly cosmetic and simply change the appearance of the front page with a new logo and colour scheme, but of course that’s not the case at all.

A website redesign is a process where you update, refashion, repair, or restructure a website. You do this with the purpose of building greater traffic, more sustained engagement and more substantial revenue. 

The scope of a redesign can change considerably from one website to the next. Whenever starting any kind of work or making changes on your WordPress site, it is essential that you create a backup using UpdraftPlus to safeguards every page of the website. There will be some website redesigns that will only change backend upgrades or technical repairs. After all, you might have already nailed the aesthetic for your brand. 

The direction of your website revamp can also be determined by the type of business you’re running – at least in part. For example, the challenges for creating and designing an effective website for a CCaaS solution provider will obviously vary from a clothes retailer. 

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Why is a website redesign necessary?

It’s possible that the WordPress website you built is one that you really like, but have found that it is not performing to expectations. This might not be because the previous design process was a failure. Instead, it’s likely to be a simple matter of trends.

There’s also the state of your business to consider. The direction of your organization might have changed, either in terms of branding or sales strategy. These changes can result in a need for website redesigns.

A comprehensive redesign can raise the utility of your website to better focus on your sales strategy and customers. It can provide a better on-site experience, leading to more opportunities for your business, greater revenue and more profit.

Preparing for your WordPress redesign

While it might be tempting to simply throw yourself into a redesign project, certain steps need to be taken prior to any upgrading. Measured steps are your best friend here. 

Here’s how you get started:

1. Understand the redesign’s purpose

If you’re going to complete an effective WordPress redesign, you need to understand why you’re carrying out the process in the first place. 

Often, website redesigns are completed because the current setup can look dated and stale. Your site may have the right functionality, but could be in desperate need of a new aesthetic. You do not have to create a whole new site and start again from square one if your site is already achieving results, but just needs an update. 

Understanding your motivation behind a revamp means that you’re going to be far better placed to create a roadmap.

2. Collect vital data

A website redesign should never be a matter of guesswork. In the digital age we have access to a mountain of data – it’s time that you used it.

With website analytic software – like Google Analytics – you can garner all sorts of valuable information. You can unlock insights regarding the types of people visiting your website, as well as their behavior while they’re on your site. 

The more information you can gather, the better. It’s also worth considering user questionnaires, surveys and feedback forms.

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3. Complete a website audit

It can sometimes be challenging to see our own WordPress sites with clarity. To bring about effective change however, it is a process you have to complete.

A website audit is your next step.

Take a long, impartial and hard look at your website in the context of current web design trends. Go through the process of completing the actions on your website that ideally you want your users to be following in order to make a purchase/sign up etc. Is the process clear? Are there any tasks which may be a struggle? Take note in order to fix these issues when carrying out your redesign.

Visit your competitor’s websites and see how they have set up their designs and how they funnel potential customers into making a purchase. This is an excellent way to get some inspiration and take advantage of all the hard work and research others have already done. You’ll also need to undertake a review of all the plugins that you’re using for your website. WordPress is an impressive CMS platform, but having too many unused plugins on your site can cause it to load slower than it would otherwise.

4. Create a website redesign roadmap

Now that you’re armed with all the information needed to create your wonderful new WordPress site, it’s time to get started with a concrete plan.

Begin by creating a website redesign roadmap that gives you a clear plan of action. 

This will ensure you have a total understanding of the scope of the project, and the time needed to get the job done. You’ll also need to consider the key performance indicators (KPIs) that will help you understand the effectiveness of the redesign once you complete it.

Performing Your WordPress website redesign

With all the information required to optimize and update your site, you are ready to press on with the redesign. But before you do, there are some important tasks you have to complete first. 

Back-up Your site

If you are making any changes to your site – changes as small as installing, updating or deleting a plugin, then you should always take a backup first. UpdraftPlus is the world’s leading and most popular WordPress backup plugin. Download and install the plugin today for total peace of mind. Even the most minor of changes can affect your site in ways that could make it unusable. 

With UpdraftPlus installed, if anything goes awry while you’re in the midst of making changes, you have a fall-back option to restore your site to its original state. 

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Create a style guide

In web design, a style guide acts as a compilation of the code standards of a particular site. These choices impact the site’s visual style – including patterns, fonts, headers and links. For those who already have a style guide, this is also a good opportunity to update it. Playing with colors, fonts and design assets to craft an impressive aesthetic is always the goal.

Create Your wireframes

A wireframe is an illustration of a web page’s interface. It denotes the structure, allocation of space, implemented functions and the intended behaviors of users. In conjunction with the data gathered earlier, wireframes can help give your site redesign direction and focus. With wireframing carried out, it’s far likelier that your website will offer seamless navigation. 

Cut unwanted elements

This is a chance to get ruthless with the parts of your website you no longer deem necessary. Many WordPress websites get cluttered without you even realizing what’s happening. A redesign is a great chance to re-evaluate what you might or might not need. You should also prioritize getting rid of other unwanted content, like spam comments. The more clean and user-friendly your website, the better the user experience. 

Upload a Favicon

This isn’t a term that everyone is familiar with, but favicons are something you should probably know about. A favicon (sometimes known as a favorites icon or a bookmark icon) is the small image that users will see when they bookmark your website. When your site is added to a users list of bookmarks, the favicon will allow them to quickly identify you.

Every small step you take to create a more enjoyable user experience will be appreciated. 

Introduce a new TLD

The most effective websites are memorable – they stand out and stick in the memory. It might surprise you how a small change – like a new top-level domain (TLD) – can make such a large difference. Many Saas and CPaaS providers are choosing to register with new TLDs in an effort to set themselves apart, as in a crowded and competitive market space, every edge counts. You might consider an io registrar for your WordPress website for example. This TLD has a great visual, has tech associations (input/output), and has a pronunciation that rolls off the tongue. 

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Create your prototypes

Next you will want to create prototypes. This is the point at which you’ll really be able to tell how effective your website is going to be as you will get a good feel for the interface and the aesthetic. However, completing your prototypes is only half the battle. It’s also necessary to complete extensive quality assurance checks. These evaluations will ensure that no unwanted hiccups surface once your WordPress site is back up and running. 

Roll out your redesigned site

With the new design complete and the prototypes approved, the moment to go live has arrived. If you have used a staging site to redesign your site, then you will now have to transfer the new site over to the live site. You’ll have to monitor your website’s performance metrics and keep a close eye on those key performance indicators for a period after the redesign’s launch. 

Again, gathering data using analytics software and user surveys is an excellent way to determine the success of your WordPress redesign and if there are any issues that need to be fixed. 

Revamping WordPress websites made easy

A lot of time, effort and work goes into a website. There are a huge number of elements to take care of and factors to consider. Even with a user-friendly CMS platform like WordPress, things can still get complicated. As a result, many people will put off carrying out or even thinking about a redesign, as long as the site currently works. With the help of this essential guide on how to complete a WordPress website redesign, it doesn’t have to be painful. Follow the tips listed above, back-up your site using UpdraftPlus, and you can’t go wrong!

John Allen – Director, SEO, 8×8

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UpdraftPlus security release – 1.22.3 / 2.22.3 – please upgrade

Our new UpdraftPlus release, 1.22.3 (free version) / 2.22.3 (paid versions) is a security release. The short version is: you should update. To get the details, read on!

On the evening of February 15th, we received a security defect report from security researcher Marc-Alexandre Montpas of Automattic, who during an audit of UpdraftPlus found a previously unknown defect in current versions of UpdraftPlus, which has had a CVE identifier reserved of CVE-2022-23303.

This defect allows any logged-in user on a WordPress installation with UpdraftPlus active to exercise the privilege of downloading an existing backup, a privilege which should have been restricted to administrative users only. This was possible because of a missing permissions check on code related to checking current backup status. This allowed the obtaining of an internal identifier which was otherwise unknown, and could then be used to pass a check upon permission to download.

This means that if your WordPress site allows untrusted users to have a WordPress login, and if you have any existing backup, then you are potentially vulnerable to a technically skilled user working out how to download the existing backup. Affected sites are at risk of data loss / data theft via the attacker accessing a copy of your site’s backup, if your site contains anything non-public. I say “technically skilled”, because at that point, no public proof of how to leverage this exploit has been made. At this point in time, it relies upon a hacker reverse-engineering the changes in the latest UpdraftPlus release to work it out. However, you should certainly not rely upon this taking long, but should update immediately. If you are the only user on your WordPress site, or if all your users are trusted, then you are not vulnerable, but we still recommend updating in any case.

Users who are using UpdraftPlus Premium’s feature for encrypting your database backup are protected against data loss/theft from this problem, assuming that you have kept your encryption password secret. (There is no known vulnerability allowing the attacker to also access this). In such cases, only any confidential information in the backup of your files is at risk (and then usually only your media/upload files, since plugins and themes are usually only public code that contains nothing sensitive, being downloadable from their original supplier/author by any member of the public). Note also that the WordPress database, following modern security standards, hashes stored passwords. This means that your WordPress login password is protected even from someone who has obtained even an unencrypted copy of it.

This information is now being released approximately a day after updated, secured versions of UpdraftPlus became available. During that time, the majority of sites have been updated.

Again, we urge all users to update if they have not done so already. We at UpdraftPlus sincerely apologise for any and all inconvenience that has been caused, and wish to thank Marc for working together with us. From the moment we received the report, it was “all hands on deck”. An update was pushed to Premium users within the hour. We have lost a good amount of sleep, because your sites and their backups matter to us, and we will continue working hard to make sure that continues to be the case.

(Addendum: versions 1.22.4 / 2.22.4 have subsequently been released, which deals with a conflict with a bug in a popular third-party plugin, via adding a work-around (we have also reported the issue to the plugin author)).

David Anderson (lead developer)

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WP-Optimize vs W3 Total Cache (W3TC): Which is the best WordPress optimization plugin?

When there are two equally great products gaining popularity at a fairly equal pace in the same market, only small but important detail can set them apart.   

Think of two high end hairdressers that both offer the same services and quality hair cuts. The first hairdresser will answer the phone and process your booking within 30 seconds, while the second hairdresser leaves you on hold for 20 minutes as they are too understaffed to take the call. Which hairdresser would you most likely end up going to? In a world where your time is limited and everything demands efficiency, your answer would most likely swing towards the former. 

This is the same with websites. People are more likely to visit and continue to use your website if they are sure it’s fast. The loading speed will largely determine if they will stay or return. For every 100 people that visit your WordPress website, around 50 of them will abort if it takes more than 3 seconds to load. 

In this article we will discuss two of the most popular speed boosting WordPress plugins – WP-Optimize and W3TC. While both of these plugins can increase your website speed, the small, but important details will dictate which plugin you end up using.

What can performance-boosting plugins do for your WordPress website?

At some point, everything needs a boost to improve performance. Race cars require a measured dose of nitrous oxide for that extra final kick and humans consume energy drinks to get some more work done. A website is no different. A WordPress site needs a performance-boosting plugin such as WP-Optimize or W3TC, to significantly improve its performance. 

WP-Optimize

WP-Optimize is a market leading all-in-one plugin. It caches your WordPress website, cleans your database and compresses your images. With over a million active installations and tens of thousands of 5-star ratings from all over the world, WP-Optimize ranks at the very top of the list of the most trusted, used and sought-after performance-boosting plugins. 

Does it meet your needs?

The following are just some of its functions to help you decide:

Optimizes your site’s database

Redundant files, such as unusable comments, unnecessary drafts, transients and revisions to mention only a few, will only slow down your WordPress site. You need a suitable plugin that will seamlessly get rid of these redundant files from your site while still leaving your site intact and running smoothly. WP-Optimize is your best option for achieving this.  

With the additional benefit of the integrated UpdraftPlus Backup plugin that comes with WP-Optimize, you won’t need to install a third-party backup plugin to secure your site.  

Compress your images

WP-Optimize compresses your site’s image files to your precise desired size without any dent in the resulting quality. While other plugins may use Imagify for this purpose, the feature comes built-in for WP-Optimize. 

With WP-Optimize, users get to determine the degree to which they are compressed. The image optimization feature in WP-Optimize is a cutting edge and leading image optimization platform. One of the easiest and quickest ways you can improve the speed is by optimizing your images. This process, which is commonly known as ‘smush’ or ‘smushing’ allows users to optimize, compress and resize all the large original images and convert them to smaller file sizes that are easier and quicker to load, without sacrificing any loss in image quality.

WP-Optimize Premium lazy loading

The Premium version of WP-Optimize includes a feature called lazy loading. . Lazy Load helps your website to delay the initialization of some of these components until they are needed as not all components are required to load every time your website is viewed. This feature can help improve performance and maximize the resources of the system. 

Page caching

By caching your site’s pages with WP-Optimize, your site is able to generate a separate set of files for mobile or desktop users, as well display personal page preferences for users that are logged-in. By using this feature, it can further add to the speed and help boost the overall performance of your site. 

Free/Premium versions

The WP-Optimize plugin has both a free and a premium version for download. The core features of WP-Optimize are free and can be downloaded here. Although the premium version, which is available here, comes with additional features that can help improve the speed and performance of your site further.  

W3 Total Cache (W3TC)

Like WP-Optimize, the W3TC plugin also has more than one million active installations. It comes in just behind WP-Optimize in both popularity and has a user review score of 4.5 stars. 

The following are some of its features: 

Minifying

While this often causes some problems for WordPress sites (in which case you have to perform a restore), it can be useful, especially if you are combining JS and CSS files.

Page cache

Although not as effective as WP-Optimize, W3TC also offers page caching when you enable it on your site. Others caching options include Opcode cache, Database cache, Object cache and Browser cache. 

Import & export

Both the free and the premium versions of W3 Total Cache feature import and export options. This option allows you to export your primary settings to your computer and then upload them to other WordPress sites. This can be a very useful feature for businesses with multiple websites. 

Robust feature set

While W3TC has an extensive set of features, this can lead to some confusion for less experienced WordPress users as the menus and multiple options can often be unclear and difficult to understand. 

WP-Optimize vs W3TC

Features WP-Optimize W3TC
Database optimization Yes Yes
Page Cache Yes Yes
Image compression Yes No
Mobile-specific cache Yes No
CSS and JS minification Yes Yes
GZIP compression Yes Yes
Simple setup Yes No
Preload cache  Yes Yes
Free version Yes Yes
Built-in backup Yes No

Conclusion

After reading this blog, some things should be clear. They include:  

  • It is important that your WordPress website has a performance-boosting plugin to give visitors the best experience. 
  • WP-Optimize and W3TC are both top examples of performance-boosting plugins that are 2 of the most highly rated and downloaded available.  
  • Of the two plugins discussed in this article, comparing both their free and premium versions, WP-Optimize comes out as the clear leading in this comparison 

You know what your WordPress site needs now. Good luck. Download and install WP-Optimize today!

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