WordPress has made it much easier to own and host your own website.
However, while choosing a great looking theme and adding a slider might have become easier than ever; knowing how to optimize your website still remains a complex issue.
WordPress specific hosting platforms do provide optimization, but the majority of WordPress self-installed site owners are still on low-end, shared hosting. The only available option so far for these users has been to use free plugins such as W3 Total Cache, Super Cache, Hyper Cache or a combination of multiple plugins.
Except W3 Total Cache, most caching plugins are easy-to-use but lacked essential features. W3 Total Cache does provide extensive list of options but they are not something an average non-technical WordPress user can understand. However, there may be a middle-ground, thanks to a new premium plugin "WP Rocket", created by a group of WordPress developers from France.
What does WP Rocket Offer?
WP Rocket aims to distinguish itself from its competitors by not just providing robust features and free support, but also by making it very easy to use the plugin.
While the feature comparison looks promising, there is no better to way than simply testing and comparing performance. For the purpose of this article, I would be testing two other caching plugins "W3 Total Cache" and "Super Cache" along with "WP Rocket".
Comparison #1: Installation
- WP Super Cache and W3 Total Cache: Both of these plugins are hosted on WordPress.org as a result installing them is very straight forward and can be done directly from WordPress admin.
- WP Rocket: Being a premium plugin, you need to purchased the software, download the files from their website, upload it via the administrator area and then add your license key.
Comparison #2: Plugin Settings
WP Super Cache: The settings page is well organized and also contains links to 3rd party site to read more about advanced features. Some features are strictly for advanced users. Understanding each option requires reading the instructions. I wish there were clearer warnings if some features could break the site.
W3 Total Cache: This plugin adds its own top level menu and sub menus for different features. Due to the amount of features this plugin provides, it may be difficult to achieve a simpler way of organizing the options than current approach. Irrespective of your technical skills, to fully understand every single feature offered by this plugin and to properly use it would require the most time compared to other plugins.
WP Rocket: In spite of the amount of options/features WP Rocket provides, their settings page is simple to understand. Features are separated into different tabs similar to other plugins but with well-marked warnings and links to video guides next to advanced features.
Comparison #3: Out-of-the-box performance
WP Super Cache: After activating WP Super Cache, users are required to perform one additional task; to visit the plugins setting page and enable Caching. There is no out of the box optimization, however the option to enable caching is clearly marked and easy to find so let’s test the performance with caching on. With just caching enabled, WP Super Cache has reduced the load time to 1.74 seconds and the load time for the first byte to just 0.6 seconds.
W3 Total Cache: Similar to WP Super Cache, simply activating this plugin does not activate caching. Further steps are required but due to the amount of options in this plugin and the different menus, what that next step is, is unclear. Unlike WP Super Cache, if you are not a developer, the settings offered by W3 Total cache can be difficult to understand.
WP Rocket: By simply activating WP Rocket, caching is activated by default. Without doing anything else, let’s test if there is any difference in performance. By simply installing and activating WP Rocket plugin, the site load time was 1.33 seconds and the time to load the first byte was just under 0.3 seconds.
Simply installing and activating WP Rocket boosts your site speed more other free caching plugins. The two other plugins do not offer out-of-the-box performance improvements, and even after just activating their basic caching, the performance different still does not match one provided by WP Rocket. That said, WP Super Cache is not far behind in terms of ease-of-use and performance improvement.
Comparison #4: Documentation and Support
WP Super Cache: Most documentation is provided on the plugin page on WordPress.org and links to these are provided within the plugin’s setting page. Along with this there are other links to a 3rd party site to understand advanced features of site optimization. Further support related questions can be asked on WordPress.org support forums. By searching the forums, we might also find similar issues previously asked and answered by other users. There is no premium support option offered.
W3 Total Cache: Along with the general description below each options, a lot of help material is provided within the plugin under the "Support" sub-menu. The link to these FAQs is also added within the WordPress "Help" tab. Similar to WP Super Cache, to get support you ask for help on WordPress.org support forums or search through previously answered questions. One benefit for those willing to pay, is that W3 Total Cache offers paid support. That paid support can include support via email or phone to setup the plugin or and also optimize your server. Paid support starts at $75 for email support.
WP Rocket: Being a paid plugin, support comes from the plugin developers. Answers to most frequently asked questions are added within the plugin within the "FAQ" tab. For all options, video tutorials are created and links provided within the plugin. For any other questions, you could also visit their support site and create a ticket.