There's your website speed that the online world sees & then there's your 'backend' WP Admin area speed where you work on your site...
As co-founding CEO of WPX Hosting, established in 2013, I have seen pretty much every kind of site setup and site setup problem imaginable when it comes to WordPress.
Based on that experience, here are the 5 most likely reasons why your WP Admin is taking an Ice Age to respond to anything – and what to do about it, apart from screaming out the window (which can still be therapeutic though)!
Oh and if this topic is a little dry but still important for you, I’ve sprinkled through random photos of some of my favorite animals to make it more interesting, not relevant at all, but still fun.
WP Admin Speed Killer #1: Too Many Plugins Dude!
We are all hoarding WAY too many plugins these days – how many do you have on your WordPress sites now?
Probably too many plugins and how many do you actually use or monitor?
Not that many?
And a deactivated plugin can still be a security risk too…
The world record that we have seen at WPX is just over 200 plugins on 1 site.
Templates/themes can also have their gremlins too but plugin problems are more likely in my experience.
Part 1: any time that you want to check how fast your ‘backend’ WP admin should be, install an empty default WP site on a test subdomain in your main hosting account (same account as the slow WP backend site), then see how quickly that new empty WP backend moves.
Though I am using front end speed here but it still works for backend testing, if I want to test this tactic on my terrykyle.com site, I set up an empty WP default site on test.terrykyle.com and view the results (backend speed or not).
Here is the normal homepage speed result, according to Pingdom Tools (Washington DC location), best of 3 scans for consistent result, 489 ms:
and the baseline result with an empty WP default site, also from Washington DC Pingdom location, best of 3 scans for consistent result, 169 ms (about 2.5 times faster than my site homepage):
CONCLUSION? The baseline speed for an empty default WP site on WPX is under 200 milliseconds.
Any time ADDED above that will be from changes that I make to the site, BEYOND the control of WPX.
The terrykyle.com homepage is relatively well optimized but the difference can be much more dramatic on a more complex, unoptimized page.
Part 2: Assuming that you saw a nice, fast WP admin backend when it wasn’t weighed down by a ton of plugins, you now have a couple of ways of identifying the culprit/s – it could be that a couple of your plugins don’t get along, more on that below.
You can then either look through all the plugins that are activated on your Plugins page and delete the unused/unwanted ones and re-check speed, or even better…
[a] make a full site backup in case the next step screws up major stuff on your site (backup restore on large sites can be slow), then,
[b] disable ALL your plugins at once by going to Plugins-Bulk Actions-Deactivate:
Now reload this page and test the speed now.
It should be fast now so that you can activate your plugins one by one, reload, check speed, repeat until you find the plugin (or conflict between plugins) causing a huge drag on the speed of your WP admin dashboard.
WP Admin Speed Killer #2: Busy Woocommerce/Ecom & Membership Sites Are HEAVY
The WP Admin dashboard is not cached and that means much slower performance generally than you would see on the live ‘front end’ of your website which should be using caching to improve your visitors’ site experience.
Woocommerce (owned by WordPress) is particularly heavy on the hosting server, BOTH on the live front end AND the WP Admin back end – that alone could explain a very sluggish Admin dashboard but test your host with the empty default WP install tactic above to verify.
Membership sites, especially busy ones, can also be very hard on a server as they generally discourage caching.
Memberium in particular is one that we see WP backend issues with.
In such cases, upgrading to a very powerful VPS or dedicated server is recommended for busy membership sites or ecommerce setups like woo.
WP Admin Speed Killer #3: Plugin Vs Plugin UFC Style
At the time of writing this, there are 56,917 free plugins available for download from the WP repository – more are coming all the time.
So not only does every plugin that you have already installed on your WP sites need to get along OK with the other plugins you have, and the latest version of PHP (7.X) and any other script or function going on ‘under the hood’ of your site/s, but hopefully they will get along with all of the other plugins available for free for download too.
Not very likely!
And that doesn’t include all the paid plugins – or templates – out there, of greatly varying coding quality, that will also need to get along, should you decide to add them to your site e.g. almost 12,000 WP themes for sale here:
And if you think a template or plugin won’t screw up because it’s “very well known or popular”, read here about the MASSIVE troubles of Amazon, Google, Microsoft and Facebook on their software setups.
In short, popular famous brand stuff screws up all the time!
At WPX, we troubleshoot hundreds of issues every day and a lot of them are conflicts between software. You have been warned.
WP Admin Speed Killer #4: Too Many Browser Tabs Bro
At WPX, we have had a few unhappy customers over the years who were outraged that they when they had a ton of WP admin browser tabs open at the same time, WP Admin performance would become very sluggish or stop altogether.
Because open, unused browser tabs can still trigger PHP processes from plugins and WordPress itself.
Even if the user is doing absolutely nothing on those open-but-not-currently-being-used WP Admin browser tabs, PHP processes can still be demanded from the server on every single browser tab.
And servers have limits!
Plus, can a single person effectively work on 19 WP Admin browser tabs for the same site at once?
SOLUTION: Close the unused tabs. Just close ’em!
WP Admin Speed Killer #5: Too Many Freakin' Authors
Some publishing-heavy type WordPress sites can have a lot of different authorized authors writing for them.
And quite often, some or many of these writers are all accessing the WordPress Admin area at the same time, from different locations, writing or editing different posts and for WordPress, that can be a problem.
Like having a ton of browser tabs open at the same time (see above), the WordPress Admin area isn’t a big fan of having a ton of simultaneous PHP processes going on.
SOLUTION: Use a dedicated server or high-end VPS with a lot more resources OR schedule writers’ access time to limit server overload.
Final WP Admin Speed Killer: Oh Man! Slow Hosting!
Not every Web host takes great pride in their high-spec server performance and page loading speed like WPX Hosting.
For example, very cheap hosts are only financially viable with ancient, overloaded servers and horrible support – the numbers just don’t work financially e.g.
By comparison, here is how WPX is rated on Trustpilot:
So the fastest way to test if your slow Web host is the problem is to use that empty-default-WP-installation test above.
That will quickly tell you if it’s time to move on to a new faster Web host or whether it is your own site configuration choices that are causing such a slow WP backend.
That won’t be the case at WPX as you saw above how quickly an empty WP site loaded from our high spec servers and 26 end-point CDN:
While other factors can cause a slow WP Admin area, the ones above are the most likely and the solutions/tests described above should quickly pinpoint where the trouble lies.