Following up on a test I did about a month ago, I decided to test caching plugins with the Avada Theme by Theme Fusion.
Note: This is using the new Avada 5.0 . If you are using an older version, this review probably won’t apply.
Avada is a premium theme you can purchase from Theme Forest and is extremely popular. As the date of my test it had been purchased over 250,000 times making it an extremely popular theme.
One of the great things about Avada is it includes a host of premium plugins at no additional charge. This includes:
- Revolution Slider
- Layer Slider
- Contact Form 7
- The Events Calendar
- BB Press
They all use their own Fusion Core plugin which is required. One of the great things about Avada, is it includes the Visual Composer plugin which allows you to build sites visually instead of needing code. It is similar to what is offered with Divi or Beaver Builder. I do think it is more powerful than Divi but, given that you have to purchase a license for every website, I went with Divi to keep my costs down. I still have one customer using Avada.
For my test, I cloned a customer account and installed the following plugins:
- Revolution Slider
- Layer Slider
- Fusion Builder
- Fusion Core
- WP Smuch
- Contact for Multi-Step
- Contact Form 7
- Yoast SEO
- I did not install BB Press or Woocommerce.
Included in the standard installation are the Fusion and Elastic Sliders as well.
I did not install Tiny MCE advanced as I didn’t feel I needed it with Avada.
The need for a fast website
Website speed is very important. For me I try and keep all my websites to load, worst case, less than 3 seconds but ideally for less than 2 seconds. Don’t take my word for it, there are lots of stats on the importance of website speed.
I accomplish fast websites in the following ways:
High Quality Website Hosting: I use a reseller plan where every website I create for a customer has their own dedicates control panel. My host uses CloudLinux instead of CentOS, Litespeed instead of Apache and uses SSD drives. The biggest deal is, they don’t overload a server.
Optimize Images: Before I add pictures to a website, I always optimize them. Normally I used Adobe Photoshop CS6 but there are a lot of free online tools that will optimize them for you as well.
Content Delivery Network: I do not use a content delivery network. For most of my local customers, their web visitors won’t benefit as much from using the nodes in each locality. That being said, it can definitely help.
Caching Plugin – The easiest and simplest way, is to use a caching plugin. What I have discovered though is you need to be careful about using these plugins with some of these more complicated website themes.
What one to use?
There are literally dozens of caching plugins you can use on your website, both free and paid. And while I seem to get them a little more than the average person, I am not a programmer, and some can be difficult to configure. In addition, click one option wrong and you can get the dreaded white screen of death.
I decided to test 15 of these plugins with the above installation and document the results I got.
Criteria for Testing
I kept the same criteria I did for the Divi Caching Test. I tested 13 from the wordpress repository and 2 paid plugins. To be tested it needed:
At least 1000 installs – I figured with 1000 installs kinks will be worked out.
At least 4 Star Rating – Most people reading this don’t want to deal with hassles so a good rating is key.
Updated in the last year – no need for a caching plugin to open up security holes.
My Hosting Environment
I have a reseller plan through Veerotech based in North Carolina. This allows me to set up individual CPanels for any test sites I create. Theoretically, this means it should be a cleaner install compared to using add-on domains or installing and uninstalling plugins that could leave residual code in the site. I like them as a host and recommend them. Click the link below to be taken to their site:
Using WHM, I set up both a test site I can use to clone, and a cache site to test the caching plugins on. Even though they reside on a sub-domain, those sub-domains each have their own CPanel.
I then installed wordpress using Softaculous through Cpanel. Yes, theoretically, installing each one by scratch is better but I needed to make sure I could do this fast and I have found softaculous does a pretty clean install compared to some of the other installers there.
I then used WP Clone to clone the data over to the test site.
All Speed tests were run at GTMetrix.com to keep things as consistent as possible. If you want you can also test these on Pingdom as well.
Initial Speed Test
To get a baseline speed test with no caching involved, I ran the control site through GT Metrix multiple times and got a load time between 2.7 seconds and 4.1 seconds..
I then used WP Clone to blow out and retest
WP Fastest Cache
I decided to test WP Fastest Cache first since it is my favorite free caching plugin. I installed it and ran multiple tests. I ended up with the following settings:
The best speed I was able to get was 1.8 seconds using WP Fastest Cache. Very respectable as it gets under the 2 second mark.
In my Divi test, WP rocket seemed to perform the best so I decided to run the test second. I re-cloned the site, installed the plugin and started playing with the configurations. I ended up with the following settings:
With these settings I was able to drill down to 1.9 seconds.
Note: Apparently the Theme Fusion guys do recommend WP Rocket in their forums.
WP Super Cache
WP Super Cache performed pretty good in my Divi test bringing page speed down to 1.6 seconds. Again, anything under 2 seconds is a good result in my eyes. Initially after turning WP Super Cache on, it only brought the speed down to 2.4 second. I then went into the Advanced settings and turned those on:
I then ran GT Metrix and again and was blown away. 1.0 second! Holy cats I did not expect that. Just to make sure it wasn’t a fluke, I looked at it again and notices I had a coming soon plugin enabled which threw the results off. Upon running it a second time, I got 2.5 seconds. Complete bummer. Just to be sure since the cache might have been building, I ran it once more and did get 1.9 seconds. Under 2 seconds but not as good as WP fastest Cache.
Wordfence performed really well when I tested it with Divi. Unfortunately, Wordfence discontinued their Falcon caching engine so it is no long available. It is a shame because I like the security functionality of Wordfence as well.
I had good performance with this plugin as well but as far as I can tell, it now has you using W3 Total Cache. I rather just install W3 Total Cache instead. And to add to it, it didn’t seem to do anything. Any time I hit enabled, nothing happened. Shame as it performed well with Divi.
W3 Total Cache
W3 Total Cache is what Theme Fusion used to recommend back in their version 3.8 days. Since this is on a 5.05 site as tested, I needed to see how W3 performed. Either I am a complete idiot (very possible) or W3 Total Cache no longer plays well with Avada. No matter how I tried the settings, I couldn’t get any great speed. In addition, some of the options increased my page load to 3.8 seconds. What? Crazy I know. So at this time I can’t recommend W3 with Avada.
In my Divi Test Gator Cache seemed to perform so I also ran it here. After the installation, I ran it to see how it performed. It came in a t 2.6 second. Not bad but definitely not as good as other caching systems. One area that might work more is if I was to update the HTACCESS file for the installation. Unfortunately, I don’t think most non-technical users will be comfortable doing that, so I didn’t either. It is highly likely you would get higher performance out of this caching system if you did.
Comet Cache is the successor to Zen Cache. Interestingly enough, it is made by the same people that make S2 Member. While I don’t use it, I imagine it would perform well with both S2 Member sites as well as Optimize Press member which is a modified version of S2 Member. Initially when you set it up, I got a decent, but not great 2.4 second load time. After turning on Gzip in the options, I was able to speed it up to 2.0 seconds. Quite good! Do be careful though as I think it does write to your .htaccess file.
As its name implies, Simple Cache is… well… simple. You have two settings. One to turn it on, and one to enable compression. The cache itself didn’t provide much help (2.5 second load time) but the compression brought the load time down to 2.0 seconds flat. This is great. And yes, I was curious if I could just run it with the compression, and the answer is no, both need to be turned on.
Cache Enabler WordPress Cache
I didn’t expect this to perform so well since it didn’t perform that well with Divi. Boy was I surprised. It is designed by the folks over at Key CDN. Surprisingly, there is no support for CDN’s, even Key’s.
With just these simple settings, I was able to get 1.9 second load times. When I enabled Cache Minification (with HTML only), I got an extra 1.8 seconds out of it. Impressive is all I can say.
Super Static Cache
I wanted to try this caching plugin given the number of installs and update schedule plus good ratings. Unfortunately, when I tried to turn it on, it failed. Most likely this is due to either one, using Litespeed instead of Apache, or security settings at my host.
Hummingbird by WPMU
I thought since I still have a subscription, I would test Hummingbird by WPMU. In my Divi test, it did not perform well at all. Enabling Browser caching essentially took load speed down to 3.6 seconds. I also tried a few other things and managed to get my page load down to 2.7 seconds but unfortunately it won’t cut it. I finally tried with minification and tested it. I stood still at 2.7 seconds so that wasn’t helping.One of these days I will try Hummingbird with a Genesis site as I have a feeling it will perform better with a less complicated theme.
It is important to realize that these conclusions may not be the same for me as they are for you. Your hosting might be different, your site might be bigger or smaller, you might have a VPS, any thing can make a difference in the performance of your website. Its also important to note, a Caching plugin is not a panacea. You also need to optimize your images and make sure you are not on an overloaded server. I also didn’t test this site when it was under heavy load. If I had thousands of visitors while I was testing, I am not sure how well it would perform, maybe the same, maybe different.
Overall Winner: WP Fastest Cache and WP Cache Enabler.
Second Choice: WP Rocket, WP Super Cache, Simple Cache and Comet Cache
Not recommended: W3 Total Cache, Gator Cache, Hummingbird
Recommendations for which
Really any of the overall or Second choices should be fine since they were all within 2 seconds of each other. Unfortunately I was not able to get down to the 1 second load times like I was with Divi which is no surprise really, Avada is a bigger heavier theme than Divi so harder to get it to perform as well. Avada might get benefits out of using a Content Delivery Network. This would make the site loader closer to the nodes.