Web publishing is trending toward providing a quality user experience to site visitors. These goals are embodied in Google’s Core Web Vitals metrics that measure important user experience metrics. But the WordPress coding ecosystem does not appear to have addressed those concerns.
WordPress doesn’t seem aware of the what publishers need in terms of better user experience. As a consequence the WordPress development community appears to have no plans for giving publishers what they need.
A WordPress publisher opened a support thread asking why their WordPress site scored so low for Core Web Vitals (Google Core Web Vitals Fix and Google PageSpeed Insight Rank in Mobile).
Google’s PageSpeed Insight provides feedback as to what issues need to be fixed in order to present a better user experience as measured by the Core Web Vitals metrics.
Many of the user experience shortcomings in WordPress that are highlighted by Google are due to standard coding practices that are typical WordPress installations.
The coding issues that Google’s tools highlight happen through no fault of the publisher themselves.
The problems are built-into WordPress itself, the themes and the plugins. But the problems are not happening through the negligence of the WordPress developer ecosystem, either.
Common issues consist of sliders that add code bloat, forms that add code bloat, even the new WordPress Gutenberg site design and publishing platform is inherently bloated.
The Gutenberg bloat happens in that WordPress loads every script needed for every single Gutenberg block that could potentially be used, regardless if the block is used or not.
The reason for the bloat is because it’s a simple thing for developers to add all the code needed into one file and be done with it. It’s not that the developers are lazy or inconsiderate. This is a common coding practice, it’s the way sites have always been developed.
But the Internet is evolving at this very moment to embrace a set of user experience standards that are encompassed by the Core Web Vitals metrics.
What is happening is that the Internet is moving in one direction but the WordPress coding practices have not yet responded to the trend.
This reality is reflected in a recent WordPress support thread where a publisher asked for help regarding their low Core Web Vitals score.
The response from WordPress was that the publisher shouldn’t come to WordPress for help. WordPress answered that the publisher should seek a solution from Google.
The publisher came to the WordPress support forums for help about the shortcomings in the coding practices inherent in the WordPress core. And the publisher was told by a volunteer WordPress enthusiast (not an official developer) to go to Google for help with WordPress.
Screenshot of WordPress Enthusiast Response to Question About Core Web Vitals
In another example,in a WordPress Facebook group someone asked about the performance hit that the Jetpack WordPress plugin would cause.
Jetpack is a WordPress plugin by Automattic that can add many functions like social sharing, customization tools, security tools, backup tools, and many other functions that a user may or may not need.
The person asking the question said they were involved in the development of a non-profit site. Their concern was that the site development team wanted to use Jetpack but they were concerned that because Jetpack had features they didn’t need, that perhaps Jetpack would introduce unwanted site bloat and with it a negative user experience from the excess code that a user would have to download.
Some of the WordPress site developers who answered the discussion expressed the opinion that Jetpack wasn’t bad. But they also said that they avoided installing Jetpack because of what they said was the code bloat and other activities initiated by the Jetpack plugin that they felt was unacceptable.
That is why one publisher answered that they preferred to use plugins that did the one thing they needed and avoid having to download a plugin that came with functionality they did not need.
This is what Automattic said about Jetpack:
“…the code for each feature is not loaded until you activate it. This allows each person to control how much code is loaded onto their site, ensuring it isn’t bloated any more than using the average plugin, which has been confirmed by independent benchmark tests. And for users that need multiple features, using Jetpack will actually improve site performance compared to using multiple plugins.”
Many publishers are trending toward is the simplicity of lean code, faster websites and a quality user experience. So it’s good to see that Jetpack responds to that trend by tackling the issue of code bloat.
The more complex a site is the more likely that the cumulative impact of sitewide scripts loading will have an impact on the user experience.
With more plugins installed to solve problems inherent in the WordPress core comes the increased possibility of a conflict with another plugin that is solving a different problem.
With Page Speed and Core Web Vitals metrics quickly becoming an important concern that cannot be ignored, publishers are right to focus on a quality user experience.