Shortcodes: What Are They And Do Shortcodes Slow Down A WordPress Site?

by | Jun 5, 2023 | Design

WordPress offers users the convenience of specific code snippets that can enhance the performance of the WordPress backend, front-end interface, or website functionality.  Users can leverage these code snippets, known as Shortcodes, in WordPress without the need for extensive coding or programming knowledge. This article provides insights into the fundamentals of Shortcodes and their impact on the speed of a WordPress website.

What Are Shortcodes in WordPress?

WordPress shortcodes are special tags (short bits of code) that allow users to quickly and easily pull related bits of defined functionality into their content. You can insert them into posts, pages, or widgets, and they’ll be replaced with some sort of content when the page is rendered. Shortcodes were introduced in WordPress 2.5, and their main purpose was to provide a straightforward way to create complex HTML output in a consistent way.

If you have a plugin that creates a slideshow of images, and you want to insert that slideshow into a post. The plugin could provide a shortcode that you’d insert into your post like this:

[ slideshow id=”123″ ]

When you view the post, WordPress will replace the `[ slideshow id=”123″ ]` shortcode with the HTML that’s needed to generate the slideshow.

Shortcodes can also take parameters, allowing you to customize their behavior. For instance:

[ gallery id=”123″ size=”medium” ]

This might display a gallery of images, where “123” is the gallery ID and “medium” is the size of the images.

By default, WordPress interprets shortcodes within pages and posts. These shortcodes are small code snippets enclosed in brackets, such as [show_list]. The square braced element can take in arguments to control the output of the shortcode. Content can be wrapped in a shortcode and factored into the reformatted output. For example [show_list]The Big List[/show_list] can use “The Big List” as part of the shortcode output.

Do Shortcodes Affect WordPress’ Speed?

The effect of shortcodes on WordPress speed depends on various factors, including site caching, the source code of the shortcodes, and the number of HTTP requests. Let’s delve into the details of how shortcodes impact the speed of a WordPress website. Shortcodes themselves do not inherently slow down a WordPress website. That said, poorly coded or inefficient shortcodes can slow down a web page and delay the time-to-first byte– the initial response coming back from the web server.

WordPress Caching and How It Improves Speed

The speed impact of shortcodes varies depending on multiple factors in WordPress. When a WordPress site is properly configured with caching, shortcodes do not significantly affect the page speed. However, the performance of shortcodes also relies on their functionality and the plugins they interact with.

The speed influence of shortcodes is influenced by the page-level cache in WordPress. The front-end output of a shortcode is rendered only after the server correctly executes the shortcode calls. Consequently, shortcodes may slow down page speed if the page hasn’t been cached. However, once the page utilizing shortcodes is cached, the use of shortcodes has a minimal impact on WordPress speed.

The choice of cache plugins for WordPress also plays a role. It’s important to avoid poorly-coded cache plugins as they can potentially degrade page speed rather than improve it.

Quality of Code and Function Calls

Developers generally believe that shortcodes execute simple function calls in WordPress, which has a negligible impact on speed. However, as mentioned earlier, using poorly coded shortcodes can affect the speed of a WordPress page.

Alternatively, users can opt for manual source code integration to achieve similar performance as shortcodes. This approach requires a deeper understanding of WordPress and HTML, or one can hire developers to create custom source codes in WordPress.

Page builders in WordPress can also be used to create custom layouts. However, there is a slight difference in the speed impact between page builders and shortcodes.

How The Number of Shortcodes in a WordPress Page Affects Speed

The number of shortcodes used on a page can impact its speed performance. Having numerous shortcodes on a page can slow down the page speed in WordPress.

For beginners, using a limited number of shortcodes in WordPress content helps maintain optimal speed. For instance, utilizing Shortcodes Ultimate, one of the best WordPress plugins for shortcodes, does not significantly affect page speed unless excessive use of shortcodes is the only option.

Broader Considerations: Web Design Standards

Adhering to web design standards, it’s important to remember that adding elements to a page can potentially slow down the speed by consuming server resources and increasing function calls. Although the impact of a shortcode on speed is measured in milliseconds, the use of poorly coded shortcodes can negatively affect WordPress speed.

If achieving similar results is possible using plain HTML, it is advisable to avoid using shortcodes in WordPress pages and posts. Web browsers are better equipped to parse plain HTML, which positively influences page speed in WordPress. For example, opting to code HTML for a global layout instead of using a shortcode is a better approach.

Shortcode Plugins in WordPress

WordPress has dedicated plugins that generate output via shortcodes in pages and posts.Poorly designed plugins with inefficient source code and function calls can slow down page speed. Ideally, they need to be economical: small processing impact, or some caching method to shortcut the processing workload and make it an occasional task.

One recommended plugin for WordPress shortcodes is Shortcodes Ultimate. We used that to create and control lists. It works with templates to further format and control the output.

In Conclusion

WordPress shortcodes can enhance the performance of a website. Shortcodes are valuable tools for modifying the layout and appearance of a WordPress site. However, the impact on website speed can vary, depending on factors such as site caching, the quality of the shortcode’s source code, and the number of database calls and HTTP requests. The best practice is to limit the usage of shortcodes on any given page.  It’s crucial to use properly configured caching, and avoid poorly-coded cache plugins.


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