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Website speed troubleshooting & learning how to ask for help as a developer

Here’s a story of when I did a website speed troubleshooting for my client.

She’s my friend from college. She has a full-time job and also runs a website for her husband’s gutter business here in Washington. 

One day, she asked if I could help improve the website speed because it took forever to load.

Inspection

First, I used the Chrome Developer Tool to inspect how the webpage loaded each element. I found the browser was looking for two CSS files inside Elementor, the page builder, that didn’t exist and that blocked other elements from loading. 

This was new to me. I was unsure what to do. And I definitely wanted more proof.

Second, I used Google PageSpeed Insights to help identify which element was the largest and took the longest to load. It was the header image on the homepage. What’s strange was the header image weight under 100KB. It takes no time at all to load. This didn’t seem right. And at a glance, the tool didn’t say anything about the missing files.

I spent hours researching for answers online and tried to connect the dots. None of them led to any conclusion.

At this point, I was at an intersection.

Asking for help? 

On one turn, some doubts and insecurity started to form. I questioned my skills and experience and pressured my brain to seek answers. I told people to come to me for WordPress problems and now I didn’t know how to solve the problem? Am I really a developer?

On another turn, a kinder sympathetic voice said. Stop right there. This is how we, as humans, learn. It’s how an experience forms. How would we know things if we didn’t experience them or read about them before? How would a developer know how to fix a bug if they don’t experience it firsthand and research how to fix it? 

Another note: It’s great to be resourceful by doing online research yourself but be aware of how much time you spend doing that. If it’s too overwhelming to research online or it starts to take a crazy amount of time, ask a more experienced developer directly. As simple as that. There’s no point in overcomplicating things. 

The point is whether you get the right answer and deliver the right result.

Research & findings

Lecturing myself enough, I gathered and concise my findings and posted my question to a WordPress online community. Let the immense power of experts’ WordPress knowledge and eagerness to share it do the job. And boom, it happened. 

Not only were many people so willing to jump in and offer their advice right after I posted, but also I found the answer from one developer that made the most sense for my situation and confirmed my first analysis.

While many developers recommended I reset or change the caching tool or change the web host to improve the site speed, this developer told me that doing all that wouldn’t help much if I didn’t fix the root cause of the issue.

The two missing CSS files. 

Testing & result

He told me to simply create empty files in the database using those exact file names the browser looked for. I followed his instructions and that’s all it took!

The site’s speed was fixed! 

The browser no longer looked for any missing files because no files were missing at this point. 

The website went from taking almost 20 seconds to less than three seconds to load!

Website speed improvement result
Above: Website speed improvement result

What. A. Saviour!

For the question about why there were two missing CSS files that couldn’t be fetched, I still couldn’t find a decent explanation yet. 

Lastly…

My key takeaway from this experience is…

Whether you do work or live your life, work hard and be smart enough to know when to stop and ask for help. That’s the way to move forward and stay sane.

Tell me the times when you asked for help and later learned that you should have done this much sooner!

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