A WordPress proposal admits it is falling behind Wix and similar platforms and suggests they need to create a performance team to coordinate speed improvements.
While some may find it controversial for someone at WordPress to admit they were falling behind in the race to improve speed scores, it’s a fact that platforms that manage the technical side of publishing are pulling ahead of WordPress in terms of speed.
Objective speed metrics from Chrome users, reported in Google’s monthly CrUX (Chrome User Experience Report) unquestionably shows that WordPress is slowly being left behind by platforms that are better able to control software development so that it conforms to best practices for speed.
Because the WordPress platform is relatively decentralized compared to platforms like Wix and Squarespace they are less able to influence best practices for speed performance across the entire WordPress ecosystem.
WordPress Admits Falling Behind Wix, Shopify and Squarespace
The proposal was blunt in its assessment that WordPress was falling behind:
“Compared to other platforms (e.g., Wix, Shopify, Squarespace), WordPress is falling behind.
Other platforms are on average faster – and becoming increasingly faster – than WordPress websites…”
That’s not an opinion, it’s a statement of fact that WordPress is falling behind Wix.
This proposal aims to take action to change that situation.
Being open-minded to the possibility that things need to improve is a positive sign because the first step to becoming the best often involves identifying areas of improvement.
The proposal is being spearheaded by WordPress developers from Google and Yoast.
WordPress Needs a Performance Team
The proposal states that it needs an official team to coordinate the performance side of WordPress core development.
So instead of performance being almost an afterthought to improvements to other areas of WordPress, speed performance can move to the front because of advocates who can now help coordinate improvements.
The proposal states:
“We believe that WordPress needs an official Performance Team responsible for coordinating efforts to increase the performance (speed) of WordPress.”
Why WordPress Needs a Performance Team
The next section of the proposal outlines why they feel a Performance Team is necessary.
The statement references user experience, user expectations, SEO and also economic and ecological benefits.
That last part is a reference to the little known fact that websites that are difficult to render are said to be “expensive.”
That means that devices need to expend more resources to build web pages that are complex and have multiple resources necessary for rendering the web page.
This in turn impacts energy consumption of the mobile device downloading the web page.
The impact is not only to the battery but also influences how much energy society needs to generate to keep on downloading inefficiently coded websites.
The proposal notes:
“Users expect and prefer fast experiences (consciously or otherwise). Research shows that fast websites can provide a better user experience, increase engagement, benefit SEO, increase conversion, and be more economically and ecologically friendly.”
WordPress Speed Should Not be the Job of a Plugin
The proposal says that the job of optimizing WordPress should not fall to third party plugins and that it should not be the burden of those who use WordPress to fix it and make it better.
“Average end-users can’t be expected to be performance experts.”
This is something that I suggested in February 2021 in the article:
Core Web Vitals Not Really Your Problem?
Google is burdening the USERS of software like WordPress and not the developers to fix it for Core Web Vitals. Is that fair?
WordPress is proposing that this job of optimizing WordPress should be performed natively by WordPress itself instead of relying on third party plugins.
The proposal introduces the concept of “performance by default” as a way to internalize a focus on speed throughout the development ecosystem.
“Achieving reasonable performance levels shouldn’t be plugin territory, but part of core (aka, “performance by default”)
Highlights of the proposal:
- 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;
- 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”
WordPress Proposes Reconsidering Role of Plugins for Optimization
The proposal also suggests a reconsideration of dependence on third party plugins for optimization issues while also stating that there are some areas where plugins are better suited.
The WordPress proposal offered examples of where plugins were the preferred solution:
- “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)
These distinctions will need exploring and lines will need drawing (and maintaining) as part of the team’s activity.”
How WordPress Performance Team May Proceed
If the proposal is accepted the proposal suggests steps to get the project organized:
- “Set up Slack channel and meeting schedule, and make.wordpress.org infrastructure.
- Benchmark performance and define ongoing/future measurement & success criteria
- Identify priority projects for CWV improvements with high-level timelines
- Assign responsibilities for the projects identified”
Response to the Proposal by the WordPress Community
Joost de Valk, founder of Yoast SEO Plugin underlined that this is a proposal and not a done-deal.
“This isn’t saying “we’re going to do this, just so you know”, it is: “we want to do this, will you join us?””
The response to the proposal was overwhelmingly positive.
“This is a great initiative. It might finally get the attention it deserves.
I am deeply excited by this proposal! Looking forward to the discussion here and being able to pitch in as things…
Excellent proposal! In the past year(s) WordPress has been making a lot of steps to tackle some front-end performance problems: lazy loading, WebP support, Gutenberg (yes, I will put this here). But overall there is much more potential and opportunities here. Sign me up”
A non-developer member of the WordPress community noted all the plugins they currently used and expressed how it would be an improvement to not have to rely on so many third party plugins:
“As someone who is not a developer but uses an array of plugins (Autoptimize, ASYNC CriticalCSS, Page Speed Booster, CAOS, OMFG, and ShortPixel – all in combination with WP Engine hosting and Cloudflare CDN, as well as now native Lazy Load feature of WordPress) to optimize my sites and those of my clients, I would like not to have to depend on this suite of tools all the time to increase performance.”
WordPress Performance Team is a Great Idea
The formation of a WordPress Performance Team is not just a good idea, it’s a great idea.
It’s arguable that WordPress should have had a performance team since day one. Nevertheless it’s super exciting to see this initiative given a breath of life.
Read the WordPress Proposal
Website Organization Best Practices For Law Firms
Reaching the top of the law firm search results can be intimidating. Focusing on site architecture is an essential step toward creating a top-ranked search presence.
Virtually every aspect of search optimization, from content to user experience, depends on a site architecture that makes it easy for site visitors to find what they’re looking for and is flexible enough to accommodate adding more topics should the need arise.
Accomplishing this requires a deep consideration of site navigation to make the important sections of the site one click to two clicks away from the homepage.
Website architecture is a part of what’s known as the internal linking structure and can also include how information is organized, which means the content.
“…internal linking is super critical for SEO.
…it’s one of the biggest things that you can do on a website to kind of guide Google and guide visitors to the pages that you think are important.”
Mueller also said that internal linking is an opportunity to tell Google which pages are important, thereby indicating what the site should rank for.
“You can decide to make things important where you earn the most money or you can make things important where you’re the strongest competitor or maybe you’re the weakest competitor.”
This article will introduce three fundamental elements of site architecture that can contribute to higher search performance.
Website Architecture: Page Organization And Links
Let’s take a few moments first to discuss website architecture and why the user experience (UX) segment is important for getting ranked.
The Importance Of Website Architecture To SEO
You already know that SEO content and your website structure should be constructed for people over search engines.
However, it just so happens that what is good for users is also good for Google.
So, all the most important aspects of an expertly crafted site architecture will contribute to a better user experience and make the site easy to understand for Google.
A well-organized website will be easy for users to get around.
From the homepage, they will be able to access a host of other resources that are located just a few clicks away.
And that point is important.
You don’t want to bury important webpages multiple clicks away from the homepage or not have anything on the homepage that links to them at all.
Google’s web crawler will have a hard time finding those pages, and the pages will likely not rank very well (and probably no one will ever actually see them).
Another benefit of well-organized website architecture is that the internal linking spreads PageRank around the website.
If your local service pages all link up one level to your main service page for bankruptcy, business, or whatever kind of law you practice, you are telling Google that that primary service page is important, optimized, and worth ranking highly.
So, now you know why you need to put the time into organizing a straightforward and tidy website architecture.
Aspects Of Effective Law Firm Website Architectures
It’s important for any business in any industry, but now, let’s look at how law firm websites should structure themselves for maximum organic results.
Your website’s main navigation must be concise and clear in its layout since that is what potential clients will use to get around your site to see your services.
You must organize the navigation in a logical, top-down way. A “Services” or “Practice Areas” tab should drop down to a menu showing organized columns of your legal specialties.
Any kind of “About Us” or “Our Firm” tab can break down into a few sections that perhaps provide a history of the firm or state your organization’s mission.
Law firms are known as service-based organizations.
Instead of hundreds of product pages with little descriptions, your website should ideally feature:
- A homepage.
- As many main service pages as necessary to describe what your firm does.
- An informational content section.
- A contact page.
- An “About Us” section where you profile your attorneys and profess your firm’s values and mission statement.
Those are the essential elements of a quality law firm website, but how do you structure them on the site itself and link among them?
URL Naming Conventions And Structure
I have reviewed the importance of getting your main navigation and internal links correct.
Next is an overview of the importance of creating a simple but informative URL structure for the pages on your website.
It is vital to get this right because you aim to tell human users and search engines alike what your pages are about through the structure of your pages’ URLs.
The general advice on creating URLs is to remove excess words and include some keywords to be as descriptive as possible in the least amount of words.
Your URLs should reveal what will be found on that page.
Keep it simple.
Look at these examples:
For a blog post, make the URL a simpler version of the actual title.
So, your post entitled “10 Great Ways To Succeed In Business On A Budget” might be:
While you’re at it, be sure to add canonical tags to your URLs on the back end.
That way, if there’s a chance a page could be picked up using multiple terms, Google knows where to direct people.
Information Architecture: Content Organization
Create A Descriptive And Helpful Homepage
The homepage needs to do many things, such as inspire trust, make it easy to contact the business, plus serve as an effective entrance to the rest of the website.
How is this accomplished?
Focusing on what will help users the most is the best approach to creating the best home page.
There are four communication goals:
- Communicate what the general topic of the law practice is (i.e. of the entire site)
- Describe what the top major topics of the business are
- Make it easy to reach all the major specific sections of the website
- Use keywords that users would use
General Topic of the Law Practice
Businesses are said to be organized by verticals. A vertical market is simply what kind of business it is serving.
So the first goal of the homepage is to communicate what vertical market the law firm serves.
In the legal profession, typical verticals can be:
- Bankruptcy law.
- Corporate law.
- Criminal defense.
- Estate planning.
- Family law.
A law firm that is focused on family law can use that as the description for the topic of the entire site. Because most law firms serve a geographic region, that information is also used as part of the general description, the overall topic of the website.
So if the website is a family law attorney based in Springfield, Massachusetts, then the home page of that site should communicate that information from the title tag of that webpage what that vertical market is.
Family Law Attorneys - Springfield MA - Example Law Firm
The job of the homepage is to rank for that general term. It’s the job of the inner pages to rank for the more specific areas like child custody, divorce, pre-marital agreements, etc.
Describe Major Topics of the Business
The second goal is to describe the different areas that the business serves, for example:
For example, suppose the website is about personal injury in City A.
But now, it must also describe very briefly (and even link to) the specialties within that personal injury vertical.
Examples of Specialties Within the Personal Injury Vertical
- Motorcycle injury.
- Medical malpractice.
- Car accidents.
- Brain injury, etc.
Link to Major Sections of Site From Homepage
Third, it’s super important to link to as many of the inner sections of the site that correspond to the specialties within the legal vertical that the law firm serves.
This can be done from the top of the page navigation menu. And it can also be accomplished from somewhere within the body of the homepage.
Top takeaways about keywords and the homepage:
- Always use the words that your potential clients tend to use.
- Organize the webpage according to the most popular reasons why clients tend to call. If most calls are about slip and fall, list that as the first practice area. If the next most popular reason for calling is a brain injury, then make that the second section. This makes it easy for most site visitors to find what they’re looking for.
- Use images that contribute to communicating your message (this breaks up the page and makes it easy to scan).
- If possible, A/B test using user experience analytics like Microsoft Clarity to identify pain points that site visitors might encounter. An example of a pain point can be if site visitors are “rage-clicking” certain links or areas where they expect to find links.
More reading on keyword research:
Next, remember that you are a service-based company that must rely on customer reviews to gain traction in your geographic area.
You should devote a block of your homepage to displaying five-star customer reviews with brief blurbs praising the legal services you provided.
Those reviews will help to generate trust among new visitors to your site.
Homepage Internal Links
Related to the main navigation is the internal linking you do in your homepage content.
You already know that homepages should not be loaded with written content, but small blocks can briefly describe your service areas and link to them using keywords.
That internal link structure is vital. Everyone knows homepages are important; Google does, too.
The pages you link to from there are going to be easily crawlable. They will also be easy for actual human users to get to.
Colors matter on a website.
The use of colors can affect the choices that site visitors make.
- Visually contrasting colors are best for call-to-action elements.
- Blue conveys trustworthiness and authority.
- Always check if the color choice has sufficient contrast for color-blind site visitors.
Law firm websites looking to convey auras of professionalism should avoid bold, vibrant colors in favor of lighter schemes.
Create Above-The-Fold Content
Website architecture is generally considered internal linking, but I include information organization into the site’s architecture as well.
Above the fold is a way of saying in the main block of visible content.
With a law firm website, you don’t want to get too fancy or obtuse with presenting your content.
Users come to your site for help with their legal troubles, and those people are probably worried and hoping they can trust you to help them.
Reward their effort in visiting your site by making it clear that you are there for them.
Do this by presenting your most important content in the first block of content that is visible to site visitors.
Don’t make users dig around to find the information they need, like that service page explaining how you have helped thousands of people declare bankruptcy or that blog post showcasing your knowledge of recent tax-resolution cases.
Depending on how your homepage is organized, present some links to those service pages, a contact form, or some reviews to establish trust right away.
Sticky content is a good idea, as well.
Videos, forms, and surveys get people to stick around your homepage longer than they otherwise might, so don’t rule out those elements.
Whatever you feel is most important to your firm, make it one of the first things users see upon arriving on your homepage.
Essential information presented above the fold is necessary for well-made website architecture.
A law firm that performs quality work on behalf of clients needs to be able to reach every site visitor and convert them into a client.
The best way to accomplish that is to organize the information on the website in a manner that makes it easy for site visitors to quickly scan the homepage and find the exact topic.
That makes it easy for search engines to identify what the entire site is about and, consequently, may begin ranking the inner pages for the more granular search queries.
Identifying the best user experience for site navigation will always make it easier for the site to achieve maximum search performance.
Featured Image: fizkes/Shutterstock
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