Optimizing your Drupal website for faster page load times requires a comprehensive approach that may involve a combination of many technical factors.
Typically, the performance of a Drupal site is most impacted by the implementation of caching strategies, configuration changes, optimizations in code or server settings, and front-end improvements.
First steps for optimizing a Drupal website
The first step towards improving any Drupal website’s performance is understanding what areas need work.
We suggest using a mix of performance profile and testing tools. Our engineers like Chrome DevTools, Page Speed Insights, and utilize a number of other enterprise performance profilers, but both DevTools and PageSpeed insights can easily be used to gain insight into the current state of your Drupal site. Reports you get from these tools will help you to identify the bottlenecks and issues in both front-end or back-end server configuration and resolve whatever that could be impacting the overall speed of your website.
This initial assessment, using standard tools, will give you a better idea of which optimization strategies may have the greatest impact on page speed. With so many options for optimizing your slow Drupal site, prioritizing your techniques is important.
Top tools for analyzing performance of a Drupal website
These are some of the most popular options when it comes to analyzing performance on a Drupal website:
- New Relic – A full-stack application performance toolset, New Relic, enables you to identify bottlenecks and pinpoint where code changes may be needed for improved loading times.
- Blackfire – A high-performance profiler, perfect for Drupal websites, that provides detailed insights into the behavior of applications at runtime, and allows developers to optimize their scripts’ efficiency in real-time. Blackfire gives engineers insight into performance at any stage in development or production.
- GTmetrix & Pingdom Tools: GTmetrix is great for quickly gaining insight into how well optimized your website’s front-end code is while Pingdom offers deeper insights into backend response times as well as server settings that could be hindering performance.
Our top strategies for improving performance
Once you’ve made a solid assessment of what your optimization plan should be, here are some tried and true strategies for improving the performance of a Drupal website:
Implement cache strategies: Utilize different caching mechanisms on your website, including page and block caches as well as dynamic content caching to reduce the load time for each page. It really is important to use a persistent page cache (like Memcache or Varnish) when running more than one web server in order for pages to be served quickly from all front-end servers.
Use a CDN: This is the most widely used strategy for boosting performance. A CDN stores content geographically closer to its origin, so that users have access to it more quickly than ever before. It can help you serve static pages faster and reduce latency issues. Top CDN providers include Cloudflare and Amazon Cloudfront.
Implement HTTP/2 transport protocol: HTTP/2 supports multiple simultaneous connections to your server, so everything loads faster. Utilizing the latest version of the HTTP protocol can result in improved performance for any Drupal site. Don’t forget, SSL is required with HTTP/2.
Optimize your database queries: Queries often are the bottleneck. They consume recourses and slow down your page loads. If your website is query-intensive, this might be the issue. Look at options for implementing caches, particularly object-cache modules, as this is usually the best solution when queries are already optimized.
Upgrade to the newest Drupal version: The latest version of Drupal offers performance improvements and bug fixes all websites need, so make sure you are running the most up-to-date version of Drupal. If you’re using Drupal 7 or older, it may be worth considering a migration to another platform.
Consider server infrastructure: Make sure that you have the right balance of CPU, RAM, disk storage and Network I/O for your website’s needs. This can greatly improve page loading times.
Other options for your website
If you feel you’ve exhausted all of these options and need some help, you can always hire a professional team to review the website’s performance and suggest additional optimizations. A good Drupal specialist should be able to identify the issues that might exist in your code or configuration and suggest a comprehensive optimization plan. Another option might be to start looking for other platforms that better meet your performance needs.
Top platforms we see Drupal website owners considering: WordPress, Adobe Experience Manager, and Sitecore.
While plenty can be done to manage the challenges associated with performance issues, when you realize the issues with your Drupal website continue to develop, it is important to consider the benefits of migrating your content to a more secure platform like WordPress.
WordPress brings several advantages in terms of security and flexibility. WordPress really offers a solution that many organizations like. It is flexible, secure, and always getting better. No wonder so many global organizations use this platform.
Learn more about migrating your website from Drupal to WordPress and how this might benefit your team in many interesting ways.
Final word on Drupal site optimization
The process of optimizing a Drupal website for better performance can be a complex one, but it is essential for ensuring visitors have the best experience possible when using your site. Taking all of these steps into consideration and understanding what areas require work should help you gain insight into which optimization strategies are right for your website’s needs.