Dealing with a slow WordPress admin dashboard is frustrating. You try to perform important actions only to be forced to wait for what seems like an eternity to get anything done on your website dashboard. Who would want to wait for an age for every action to take effect?
This is a relatively common problem. The backend admin panel in WordPress can be slow even if the frontend of a site loads fast. This is not just an annoyance. It can cause businesses to lose money because your time is the most valuable asset.
Whether you make a profit with a cooking blog, eCommerce store, or a dropshipping store, you could experience a slow WordPress admin issue.
You’ll notice there’s lots of advice on getting faster loading times for WordPress pages. There’s not a lot of information on speeding up the admin dashboard. What are you supposed to do if the frontend is quick, but the backend barely crawls along?
Let’s start by taking a closer look at the problem. If we can understand why it occurs, we have a better chance of finding a solution.
What Causes Slow WordPress Admin?
It is hard to determine what’s causing a slow WordPress admin for a specific site. The most common explanations for a poorly performing admin dashboard are:
- Use of resource-heavy plugins,
- Overloaded or under-powered hosting,
- An outdated version of PHP,
- WordPress Heartbeat API,
- Cluttered database,
- Redundant dashboard widgets,
- Low WordPress memory limit.
How to Fix Slow WordPress Admin?
Here are a few steps you can take to improve the loading of your WordPress website admin:
1. Use the latest version of PHP
Apart from being a security risk, outdated PHP affects performance in all kinds of ways. The exact version of PHP that your site uses depends on the PHP version, which is installed on your hosting server.
Besides being more secure, newer versions of PHP offers significant improvements in performance. That is why the WordPress core team is pushing WordPress users to update to the most recent PHP version.
The latest version of PHP can manage more than triple requests than PHP 5.6. But despite that, most WordPress users still use PHP 5.6 version or older.
Running the older versions comes with no benefits. The WordPress benchmarks show that speed and performance increases are significant in newer versions. There are really no perks of using older versions of PHP or keeping plugins that don’t support the latest releases.
2. Remove unused, outdated, and unnecessary plugins and themes
It’s easy to accumulate redundant plugins. We all do it. We upgrade and update but forget to get rid of the unnecessary, outdated stuff. Unfortunately, it can have negative repercussions for your site. Having lots of unused themes and plugins is a common cause of slow site speed and security issues.
Get rid of unnecessary plugins. This means anything you never or rarely use. Think of it as spring cleaning. If it were a sweater you hadn’t worn for two years, you wouldn’t hesitate to get rid of it.
Make sure to check for plugins that are no longer supported by their developers. While they may still be functional, there’s no easy way to fix them if they break down. It’s much better to find replacement plugins that come with full support.
This means deleting anything that:
- you’re not using.
- is out of date.
- the developer no longer supports.
- provides a feature or functionality that’s not really necessary for the website.
- causes more trouble than benefits.
The fewer plugins and themes you have, the easier it is to troubleshoot performance (and security) issues if they arise.
3. Limit content displayed in the WordPress admin
If you navigate to the Screen Options menu at top right, you’ll see an area of WordPress that enables users to change how many posts, pages, or custom post types like WooCommerce products, orders, etc. are included also.
The default number (if you haven’t made any changes) will be set at twenty. Some WordPress users alter this number to prevent pagination. I recommend you keep it at 20 or below. This will restrict the amount of content your site needs to load on each of its pages.
You will need to use the “next page” option more often, but it will speed up your website dashboard as less content will be required to load each time.
4. Clean and optimize database
Optimizing your WordPress database can give a boost in performance to any website, regardless of having problems with your dashboard. Your WordPress database stores redundant information such as deleted comments, transients, post revisions, etc. by default.
This is especially common with WooCommerce stores have lots of expired transients in a database so optimization can help a lot if you manage online store.
As you create and publish content, install and delete plugins and themes, the database gets filled up with unnecessary information. There are plenty of plugins – such as WP Optimize – which are designed to help WordPress users clear out their databases. It’s like emptying your internet browser’s cache.
5. Identify poorly performing plugins
When you first install WordPress on a website, your dashboard loads fast. This makes sense; the database is empty, so there’s nothing in there to slow it down.
But as you install more plugins, it starts to slow down, right? As you use WordPress and create content, you naturally accumulate dead weight in the form of unused plugins and all the other things.
So, it’s time to check out your plugins. Are they still as valuable as they were? Do they still perform well? The problem to look for is not necessarily a ‘glut’ or overload of plugins, as might be presumed, but to find resource-heavy plugins.
“More plugins” does not mean your admin or site will automatically be slower. But “more resource-heavy plugins” does.
You can easily identify resource-intensive plugins with a plugin like Query Monitor. When you install and activate the plugin, navigate to the Queries by Component section.
Here, you’ll find data about the performance of all your current plugins. Check for slow ones and delete them or find replacements.
You can also do this manually but will require more work. Start by disabling all plugins and then activating them one by one. After you activate one plugin test speed of your admin dashboard. If all good, activate the next one, etc. until you find the culprit.
When you find the plugin that’s slowing down your dashboard, you don’t necessarily need to uninstall it. Sometimes changing plugin settings is a good idea to see if you can fix it before you ditch it.
6. Increase WordPress memory limit
In some cases, the admin dashboard is slow because the PHP memory limit on your WordPress is set too low. The system default is 32MB, but it’s common practice to increase it.
For example, WooCommerce’s recommended PHP memory limit is 64MB. When WordPress reaches the default memory limit, it will attempt to increase the memory to 40MB for a single site install and 64MB for multisite. If that isn’t enough, then you will see the fatal error message. Increasing the site’s memory limit can sometimes fix the issue.
I recommend trying a PHP memory limit of 128MB. That should give you plenty of extra room and, therefore, boost overall performance. The only reason it might not be big enough is if you’re running the resource-intensive site.
You can manually increase the PHP memory limit if your host allows by adding this code to your wp-config.php file:
If your host does not let you increase PHP manually, ask host support if they’ll do it for you.
Before increasing the memory limit in WordPress try to discover what is using so much memory. Often throwing more resources at a problem may cost a lot more in the long run.
7. Use Heartbeat control
WordPress Heartbeat API gives users the ability to send real-time communications between their browser and server while signed into the admin dashboard.
Heartbeat feature helps with things like auto-saving of posts in the WordPress editor, but it can also slow down the admin dashboard because it transmits a new AJAX request every 15 seconds or every 60 seconds in the rest of the dashboard. When the WordPress editor functions are open, the Heartbeat API is constantly active and consuming lots of processing time and resources.
The easiest solution is to disable it completely. If you’d rather not, because it does provide some helpful functions, you can use a plugin to regulate its activities.
If you’re using WP Rocket cache plugin, you can reduce the frequency of these requests (or even disable them) from the Heartbeat tab in the WP Rocket dashboard. You can even use a Heartbeat Control plugin to control the Heartbeat API.
Once you install and activate the plugin, go to Settings to reduce or disable the Heartbeat API for different areas of your dashboard.
8. Consider upgrading or changing your hosting
Another common reason for slow, inefficient admin dashboard is poor hosting. It’s a problem nobody wants to deal with because it might mean an unwanted migration. If your host can’t support the functionalities and performance your website needs, it’s not suitable anymore. Sometimes, we just outgrow the home we started in.
If the problem is with your host’s quality and reliability, finding a better host is the solution. However, I recommend trying all the other fixes on this list before you migrate anywhere else. Switching hosts can be a disruptive process. Make sure it’s completely necessary before you do it.
If your hosting is underperforming, it’s going to lead to a slow WordPress site and, most likely, the admin dashboard too.
Having a slow WordPress dashboard is a huge hassle for you and your team. If the dashboard itself is slow, you can’t get much work done.
Whether you sell handmade arts and crafts or earn cash posting movie reviews, you deserve to find success. When we work hard and put passion into online projects, it’s natural to expect a return.
That’s why dealing with a poorly performing website can be so frustrating. When the admin dashboard is slow, it’s almost impossible to create or publish content in a timely manner.
Fixing the slow loading of the WordPress admin requires a unique approach. Some of the tips mentioned, like choosing a quality hosting and using the latest version of PHP, will improve both your WordPress dashboard and front-end site, while others, like limiting how much backend content you load, are 100% focused on your WordPress dashboard.
If your whole website is slow, your dashboard will be as well. Check your website’s speed rating using tools like GTMetrix and Google Page Speed to see how pages are loading. If your whole site is slow, you need to implement other fixes.
Matija Kasapovic is the owner of the KasaReviews website, where you can find everything WordPress related. From tutorials, guides, tips to reviews and comparisons so you can make an informed decision when choosing the right product for your business.