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Meet Hummingbird!

Hummingbird helps keep your site running fast and efficiently. In this guide, we’ll cover all of the great features available for free with Hummingbird, and at the end of the guide, we will also include information regarding the premium features you can get access to as a member of WPMU DEV. With a few simple steps, you can find the weak points in your site’s performance and develop a plan to improve. Let’s dig in!

New to WordPress? Our Installing Plugins guide will walk you through installing your first plugin. Or, if you’re a member of WPMU DEV, you can use the WPMU DEV Dashboard plugin to easily install new plugins directly to your WordPress site.

Once Hummingbird is installed, your first stop is the plugin’s dashboard, which you’ll find under Hummingbird in your WP Admin menu. You’ll see an overview screen of the tools we’re giving you to keep your site running like a champ; Performance Reports, Minification, Caching, GZIP Compression, Image Optimization (with Smush Pro),  and Uptime Monitoring.

hummingbird dashboard

2.1 Performance Report

Link to chapter 1

The first thing you’ll want to do is run a performance scan to establish a baseline of your site’s overall performance.

run a new performance scan

Click on “Run Test” to get the ball rolling!

When your scan is finished you’ll see some new information has been added to the top of your Dashboard:

performance score

At a glance, you’ll be able to see your current performance score & the date of your last performance test.

Beneath that, you’ll notice in the Performance Reports module that the results of your test are now available.

performance report results

Here you’ll find a list of recommendations, your current score on these items, and a link to “Improve” your score in each section.

performance results

At the bottom of the Performance Report section you’ll see a link to “View Full Report.” So let’s click that now to head to the Performance Test section.

performance test section

At the top you’ll see the same information that was visible from the main dashboard, and below that you’ll see the list of items that Hummingbird has noted as areas that need improvement.

If you click on “Improve” next to each of these items, the listing will expand and provide you with additional information about what Hummingbird found and how to fix it.

remove render block resources in hummingbird

For many of the recommendations that Hummingbird makes, it is able to make these improvements for you (like with Minification in the example above). But sometimes Hummingbird needs to call on other superheroes like Smush to do the heavy lifting.

Whatever the case, Hummingbird will provide you with detailed information on what is a possible area of concern, and what you can do to improve the performance of your site.

2.2 Caching

Link to chapter 2

Back on the Hummingbird Dashboard, you’ll see Browser Caching on the right hand side. This module gives you a quick overview of your current settings.

browser cahcing

After clicking on Configure, you’ll be taken to the Caching section where you can adjust your settings for both Browser Caching & Gravatar Caching.

caching options

Browser Caching

browser caching

Browser caching stores temporary data on your visitors’ devices so that they won’t download assets twice if they don’t have to. This results in a much faster second time around page load speed. Enabling caching will set the recommended expiry times for your content.

To enable Browser Caching, scroll a bit further down the page to see the various options available for configuration.

expiry settings

Expiry Settings  – Here you can decide how long you would like to keep your cache stored before it’s emptied. By default, 8 days is selected, but you can increase or decrease this as needed. If you have a static site that does not change much, you could set this for a much longer period of time.

You can also choose to configure different expiry settings based on the cache type (javascript, CSS, media, images).

enabling browser caching

Enable Caching – In this section, you will first select your server type on the left from the drop down menu, and then follow the instructions that appear on the right-hand side. If you’re using an Apache server, for example, you can simply click on an “Activate” button that will appear.

If you are using NGINX, as shown in the example above, you’ll need to add some specific code to your nginx.conf file.

PRO TIP – Don’t sweat it if this seems a little out of your depth – just open a support chat and our experts will help you out. :)

Special Note About Cloudflare

If you are using Cloudflare for your CDN, then Hummingbird makes it easy for you to connect your Cloudflare account.

Why would you do this, you may ask? Because if Hummingbird does not manage your Cloudflare connection, then you risk Cloudflare overwriting changes you make in Hummingbird.

If you don’t have Cloudflare yet, you can signup here. And if you’re interested in learning more about the benefits of using a CDN, head on over to our blog.

Gravatar Caching

gravatar caching

Gravatar caching allows you to store local copies of avatars used in comments and in your theme. You can control how often you want the cache purged depending on how your website is set up. This is a great option to enable if you have an active blog or community!

Just click on Activate and you’re all set. Simple as that.

activating gravatar caching

From here, you can choose to clear the cache when needed, or deactivate Gravatar Caching altogether.

2.3 Gzip Compression

Link to chapter 3

Next up is Gzip compression! Gzip compresses your webpages and style sheets before sending them over to the browser, which makes for faster loading times.

gzip compression

From the Hummingbird Dashboard, you can click on the Configure button to be taken to the Gzip section.

gzip compression

You may notice that a few of the Gzip features are already enabled on your website. To configure the rest, just select your server type from the drop down menu on the top right of the Enable Gzip module.

enable compression on apache servers

For Apache servers, enabling Gzip Compression is as easy as one click of the mouse.

all gzip settings enabled

Voila! Gzip Compression is all setup. Super easy, right?

2.4 Minification

Link to chapter 4

Minification is probably one of the most powerful features within Hummingbird.

If you are on a Single WordPress installation go to Hummingbird/Minification and click Activate Minification to begin or, if you are on a Multisite, go to Hummingbird/Dashboard and under Minification module setup your desired options.

Minification module

Minification on Multisite is done on a per site basis. This means that each subsite (including your main site) would need to have a separate Minification setup. This is not something you would always want for your subsites administrators to have (since it can break the Front End of their subsite) so you can choose who can make these adjustments or you can disable it completely.

The administrators of Subsites on your network will have a link guiding them to this manual, but if you want to grab their attention and leave additional notes, regarding Minification or anything else for that matter, checkout Ultimate Branding.

Activate minifications

Let’s begin – click on Activate Minification in order to scan and minify your files!

Minification scan

During the checkup process, you’ll be able to choose to store/host your stylesheet files (.css) and Javascript (.js) files on our CDN. Take note that this is all done in the background via CRON task (so it does not slow your site in the process) and will take some time to finish, so just give it a few moments and then refresh your main page :)

By default we minify your files via our API and then send them back to your server. With this setting enabled we will host your files on WPMU DEV’s secure and hyper fast CDN (only available on the Pro version) which will mean less load on your server and a fast visitor experience.

Should you use a CDN for your WebSite? We think that you should, as it will give your website an even better performance, but if you have any doubts or you want to learn more about CDN take a quick look here.

If you wish you can skip this option for now but don’t worry as you can always enable/disable it later from Hummingbird/Minification/Settings.

In this example, Hummingbird was able to reduce my files by 57%. You can also see that 129 files were identified and 65 of them optimized (more about skipped or ignored files below). Note that the PRO version gives you access to Super-compression (this is automatically enabled within the PRO version) so you can get even more savings/compression by upgrading your plugin.

Files

Minification engine will list all the files it was able to locate and each file will have its own status. You will encounter these statuses:

Minification status

Already compressed – marks the files that are already compressed (like *.min.js and *.min.css.). Compress option will be grayed out here as those files are already minified

Compress – marks the files that can be compressed (selected by default for compression). Under those files you will see that they are still compressing…

Minification compressing

In order to trigger Compression of your files (and the Cron job that does this) just refresh the Main Page of your site from the Front End and then refresh the Minification page from the Back End. Results will be something like:

Can’t be compressed – marks the files that can’t be compressed (usually it’s external resources).

Make sure to always check file status so you can see what is happening or does it need an extra action :)

Advanced mode

If you wish to delve deeper into Minification and further optimize the speed and loading time of your site click on the Advanced mode.

Minification advanced mode

Before you start please get familiar with the basic guidelines given here.

The most important thing when working with Advanced mode and making changes to how your site loads files is that you test things out after every single change.

It is not recommended to select all your files, click on Bulk Update, and enable all of the options at once. This could have disastrous consequences for your site, and break a lot of things! Please do not do this!

You won’t be able to apply every option to every file, so it is very important to test as you go. (and make sure to click on Save Changes beforehand!)

If a change you make does not work or affects the Front End of your site, then just go back to the Minification section and undo the last change you made. After you save your changes again and clear your cache, everything will be right back as it was before.

This process can take some time to get right, but once you do it will be worth it! Remember if you get stuck or have any questions, our support team is always available to help you out.

Let’s explain the available options first.

Compress – Compression removes the clutter from HTML, CSS, and Javascript files. Smaller files, in turn, help your site load faster, since your server doesn’t have to waste time reading unnecessary characters & spaces.

Combine – Whenever possible, Hummingbird can combine smaller files together to reduce the number of requests made when a page is loaded. Less requests mean less waiting, and faster page speeds!

Minification engine is built in a way to respect WordPress dependencies for styles and scripts. That means that two or more files will be combined only when they have identical attributes otherwise they will be skipped. For example, if you choose to combine file 1, 2, 3 and 4, Minification engine will first try to combine file 1 and 2 and if that fails (due to dependencies described above) it will then try to combine file 2 and 3 and so forth.

If your Minification page does not contain the Combine option this means that the Combine option is disabled because your server has HTTP/2 activated. HTTP/2 automatically optimizes the delivery of assets for you

Footer – When it comes to render blocking issues and WordPress, the best practice is to load as many scripts as possible in the footer of your site, so slow-loading scripts won’t prevent vital parts of your site from loading quickly. For each file and every file, you will be able to decide whether you want to move them to the footer or leave them in their original position. You can read more on render blocking and positioning here.

Inline – only available for CSS (.css) files. A quick explanation: To add CSS styles to your website, you can use three different ways to insert the CSS. You can Use an “External Stylesheet”, an “Internal Stylesheet”, or in “Inline Style”. The inline style uses the HTML “style” attribute. This allows CSS properties on a “per tag” basis.

Defer (Force load this file after the page has loaded) – For JavaScript (JS) files you will have the option to Defer it (force load it after the page had loaded). This means they will load only after everything else on your page has loaded, which allows you to load the most important files & content first.

Excluding files – This will just exclude the file from the output.

Right above the list of files, you’ll see two more options:

Bulk Update – if you know you have multiple files that need to have a single action applied to them, you can click the checkbox next to each file and then click on the “Bulk Update” button. A screen will then popup that will let you choose which options to apply to all of the selected files.

Note that you can not Defer a CSS or set Inline for Javascript.

Filter – Looking for something specific? No worries! Just click on Filter, and you’ll be able to view/sort files from a specific plugin or theme, or even search the file you want to optimize by name.

You can also see two buttons in the top right of this section:

Re-check Files – this option allows for you to have Hummingbird scan your site again to check for any new files while preserving current setting. For example, this is handy if you installed (or uninstalled) a plugin and are not seeing the files added to the list here.

Clear cache – this option clears all local or hosted assets and re-compresses files that need it.

Settings

Minification settings

Under Minification/Settings you can:

Super-compress my files – Compress your files up to 2x more than regular optimization and reduce your page load speed even further. This is Auto Enabled on the Pro Version and is not available on the FREE version

Host my files on WPMU DEV CDN – By default your files are hosted on your own server. With this setting enabled we will host your files on WPMU DEV’s secure and hyper fast CDN. Only available on the Pro Version. You can choose to activate/deactivate it here. This is only available on a Single site installation, on Multisite CDN is controlled via the Network Admin settings for all the subsites.

Reset to defaults – If your frontend has fallen apart or you just want to go back to the default settings you can use this button to do so. It will clear all your settings and run a new file check.

Deactivate – you can completely turn off Minification here.

2.5 Image Optimization - with Smush

Link to chapter 5

Once you’ve run your first Hummingbird scan, you may find that some of your images need to be optimized.

images need to be optimized

Your Hummingbird results will tell you if these images just need to be compressed, or if compressing and resizing is necessary.

For resizing, you can turn to the WordPress image editor to crop and scale those images to match the embedded size in your content.

wordpress image editor

For compressing, Hummingbird enlists the help of Smush. You can find Smush in the WordPress repository if you are not a member of WPMU DEV. Or you can install Smush Pro from the WPMU DEV Dashboard.

install smush

If you already have Smush installed & activated, you will see an Image Optimization module on the Hummingbird Dashboard that gives you a quick overview if you have any images that need to be optimized.

image optimization module

Additional Information

After you activated Smush, head over here to read our usage guide to learn how to use Smush. And then to our blog for additional information about image optimization, and how to get the most from Smush Pro.

 

2.6 Uptime Monitoring - Pro

Link to chapter 6

Uptime Monitoring is one of the awesome perks exclusive to WPMU DEV members.

uptime monitoring in hummingbird

These features allow for you to set up email notifications alerting you immediately if your website goes down, and also letting you know when your website has come back up. You can also keep track of some helpful statistics that help you keep track of how long your site was down for, when the last time your site went down, as well as your server response times.

To get started, make sure you have the WPMU DEV Dashboard installed & activated on your site – and ensure that you are logged into the Dashboard with an active WPMU DEV membership. (Uptime Monitoring will only work with an active membership.)

activate uptime monitoring

When you return to the Hummingbird Dashboard, you’ll see a blue Activate button in the Uptime module. Click on this button to be redirected to Uptime Monitoring section within Hummingbird.

uptime monitoring results

At the top of the Uptime section you’ll see a lot of interesting information regarding your site. Since this is the first time I’ve turned on Uptime Monitoring, there isn’t much information to see. But once you’ve had Uptime Monitoring running for awhile it will look like this:

uptime stats

Beneath this, you’ll find a nifty graph of the response time of your site at various times throughout the reporting period:

response time graph

And even further down you can see a log of all the times your site was inaccessible for visitors:

downtime

Pretty cool, huh?

Uptime monitoring pings your site every 2 minutes and if your site did not respond or your HomePage took more then 30 sec to load it will send you a notice. If, on the other hand, everything works and loads normally but you are still getting Uptime notices please check your Firewall and whitelist these 2 IPs: 34.196.51.17, 52.57.5.20.

2.7 Reports - Pro

Link to chapter 7

As a member of WPMU DEV, you’ll have a 2nd tab available to you under Performance Scans – Reporting.

reporting settings

Here you are able to configure the frequency of your scheduled scans – from the time of day to the day of the week:

And you can even indicate if you’d like to send these reports to anyone else, such as a web developer, a client, or a business partner:

scan email notification recipients

 

2.8 Additional Help

Link to chapter 8

Do you have any questions for us? Was something in this guide unclear? Please let us know!

You can open a live support chat anytime to get started talking to a member of our support team right away. We’re always here to help.

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