I got the load time down from 9+ seconds (according to Pingdom) to something in the 2-4 second range. Where it falls in that range seems to depend on the atmospheric pressure.
To achieve this result, I took the following steps:
- Tweaked some W3 Total Cache settings
- Stopped banging my head against the W3 Total Cache minification settings, and fired up the WP Minify plugin instead.
- Swapped out the two slowest design elements for faster lower-tech versions
- Removed the archive drop-down, which amazingly was responsible about half of the HTML for this page, although it showed up as only one line in the margin if you didn’t click it. Now, instead I have a new freestanding archive page via WP-Archives. This is one part of the revision that still needs work — right now it takes waaay too long to build the archive page when someone visits it, and I fear it could bring the server to its knees if some malicious robot decided to hit it a lot (I have set it to noindex, nofollow and blacklisted it in robots.txt, but that only works for good robots).
- Installed the Wp Smush.it plugin to automate the reduction of image file sizes that I was doing manually with the GIMP
- Moved some static files to Amazon S3 & CloudFront, for a cost of a penny or two per day — unless of course traffic should go up all of a sudden.
I picked Amazon because it is integrated with my server and also W3 Total cache. But the user interface is awful and the help files are hard going. I’m still not sure I’ve set things up right.