A wordpress interface with shifting webpage elements

Avoiding Large Layout Shifts in WordPress

Large layout shifts can be a significant issue for WordPress users. They can disrupt the user experience, lead to lower engagement rates, and even impact your site’s SEO. But don’t worry, there are ways to avoid these issues and ensure your WordPress site runs smoothly and efficiently.

Understanding Large Layout Shifts

Before we dive into the solutions, it’s crucial to understand what large layout shifts are. In simple terms, they refer to unexpected movement of web page elements while the page is still loading. This can be frustrating for users as it can cause them to click on the wrong button or lose their place on the page.

Large layout shifts are measured by a metric known as Cumulative Layout Shift (CLS). Google uses this metric to assess the visual stability of a webpage. A high CLS score can negatively affect your site’s ranking on search engine result pages (SERPs).

Causes of Large Layout Shifts in WordPress

Unoptimized Images

One common cause of large layout shifts is unoptimized images. If your images don’t have specified dimensions, the browser won’t know how much space to allocate for them until they’re fully loaded. This can cause other elements on the page to move around unexpectedly.

Another issue with images is their file size. Large, high-resolution images take longer to load, which can also lead to layout shifts.

Web Fonts

Web fonts can also cause large layout shifts. If the fonts aren’t loaded before the rest of the content, the browser will use a fallback font initially. Once the intended font is loaded, the text may reflow, causing a layout shift.

Similarly, if you’re using icon fonts, the icons may not appear until the font is loaded, which can also cause shifts.

How to Avoid Large Layout Shifts in WordPress

Specify Image Dimensions

One of the simplest ways to avoid large layout shifts is to specify your image dimensions. By setting the width and height attributes in your image tags, you can tell the browser exactly how much space to allocate for each image.

This can be done manually in the HTML code, or you can use a WordPress plugin like Smush or EWWW Image Optimizer to automatically add the dimensions for you.

Optimize Image File Sizes

Reducing your image file sizes can also help prevent layout shifts. There are several ways to do this, such as compressing your images, using a CDN, or converting your images to a more efficient format like WebP.

Again, there are WordPress plugins available that can help with this, such as ShortPixel or Imagify.

Preload Web Fonts

Preloading your web fonts can help prevent layout shifts caused by text reflow. This tells the browser to load the fonts early in the page load process, so they’re ready to go when the text content loads.

You can do this by adding a link element to your HTML head section with the rel attribute set to “preload” and the href attribute set to the URL of your font file.

Additional Tips for Avoiding Large Layout Shifts

Use a Quality Theme

Using a quality WordPress theme can also help prevent large layout shifts. Look for themes that are well-coded and optimized for performance. Avoid themes with excessive dynamic elements or animations, as these can cause layout shifts.

Some recommended themes include GeneratePress, Astra, and OceanWP.

Limit the Use of Embeds

Embedded content, such as videos or social media posts, can also cause layout shifts. To avoid this, try to limit your use of embeds, or ensure they have a fixed size.

For videos, consider using a lazy loading plugin, which only loads the video when the user scrolls to it.

Test Your Site Regularly

Finally, it’s important to regularly test your site for layout shifts. You can use tools like Google’s PageSpeed Insights or WebPageTest to measure your CLS score and identify any issues.

By regularly monitoring your site’s performance, you can catch and fix any layout shifts before they become a major problem.

Large layout shifts can be a nuisance, but with the right strategies and tools, you can keep your WordPress site stable and user-friendly. Remember, a smooth and stable site not only provides a better user experience but also boosts your SEO performance.

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