The Best Caching Plugin for WordPress | HummingBird Pro

The Best Caching Plugin for WordPress | HummingBird Pro

Caching in WordPress is a complex matter; it’s not just about a page cache anymore. Caching involves CSS optimizations, above the fold ordering, gzip resources, the actual page cache and a lot more. This leads users to turn to a plugin for an easier solution, such as Hummingbird Pro or WP-Supercache.

For this post, I’m going to review Hummingbird Pro for caching. My experience shows that this plugin designed for WordPress can work wonders for those that want the complete package, and most importantly, ready to work without having to worry too much in adding extra plugins.

Stick around, because I compare Hummingbird Pro against WP-Supercache and the added bonus of Autoptimize – two plugins that are known to work well together and a very logical configuration, especially for Divi. You can also listen to a podcast episode on WP the PODCAST where David Blackmon and Tim Strifler compare the Top 3 Cashing Plugins for WordPress, including Hummingbird Pro.

Hummingbird already gives an incredibly good feature set in the free version. Today, we’re going to check the Pro version with some nice added bonuses.

The Dashboard

Hummingbird Pro has a nice dashboard interface that acts as the main place to check for any optimization. It will display the latest speed test with its current score and all the main options enabled on the plugin.

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The dashboard gives you a good idea of the optimizations already done and the main parts of the plugin. It also allows you to re-run the last test to see how you are against the last optimization done.

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Aside from taking a quick look at the status of the Page Cache, the Gravatar Caching, and Browser Caching, it also provides for a Database cleanup. The Database cleanup safely removes useless parts of your database, such as old WordPress posts revisions and transient cache. It also allows you to configure an Uptime monitor for your site and gives you extra reports on the Database Cleanup and the Performance tests.

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The Pro version also offers to install WP Smush Pro to easily compress images for either lossless formats or lossy ones.

The Performance Test Window

In the main Performance Test window, you will see the actual points on your site. You can re-run the test and see the accumulated points you have compared to the last run and even do regular scans & reports without the need to run them manually. How nice is that!

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The main section lets you to activate page cache even for logged in users, a very useful feature on sites that don’t have an active store. The plugin would even allow for caching of 404 requests and remove URL queries from cached resources. Similar to WP-Supercache, Hummingbird Pro also enables the Clear full cache when a post is published or updated, a thing that could prove useful when other options fail.

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You can also configure the exclusions either on URL strings or user agents for access to no-cache patterns.

GZIP Compression

GZIP compression is not something that the plugin can enable directly on some configurations. For example, you could enable GZIP inside apache but you can’t do that on nginx. However, the plugin shows the current status of GZIP even if it’s not directly configurable by the plugin.

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Asset Optimization

The extra asset optimization window will allow you to customize the way the CSS assets are handled. This handy tool will allow you to further compress each CSS asset individually. Comparatively, some assets have problems if they are compressed and usually, caching plugins won’t allow you to do it manually, file by file with an easy selector, you have to exclude files manually. Not so with Hummingbird Pro! It allows you to turn each CSS file optimization individually without you having to worry about filenames and exclusions. AmaZing!

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The last part of Asset Optimization allows you to add manually those files that you want to load with the “above the fold” optimization. This kind of optimization can drastically enhance performance, but at a cost. Usually a bad above the fold optimization can literally break your site. This is why it’s added as an extra option, separated from the rest of the asset optimization. Above the fold optimizations usually break styling while loading, exchanging performance for presentation. It can be either a good or a bad thing, depending on how it’s being used.

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After you enable the asset optimization, you can use the WPMU Dev CDN, included with the Pro version to upload automatically all the contents of your site, this will speedup loading as those already compressed assets are going to be loaded from a CDN.

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Advanced Tools

On the Advanced Tools, you can remove the query strings, usually a string of data that tells your browser how to properly cache the content. For sites that don’t rely too much on dynamic content, forcing the removal of query strings can prove to be very useful. You can also remove emojis Javascripts and CSS, usually removing 2 extra requests for your site.

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Uptime Menu

Finally, on the Uptime menu you can configure the uptime monitor for your site. This handy monitoring tool will send you e-mail alerts in case your site is down.

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As you can see, the plugin handles a lot of caching functions:  Page Cache, Avatar Cache and Above the Fold optimizations. It also includes a CDN for your compressed assets, allows for custom CSS compression to avoid breaking your site, supports an uptime monitor and it can even do periodic speedtests on your site to follow it’s performance. As I mentioned earlier, it’s the complete package!

Fits perfectly with Divi

The Hummingbird Pro plugin allows you to enable the Divi static CSS generation while at the same time doing CSS compression. I’ve checked the plugin for compatibility and found out that it works just as expected. Considering all the extra options the plugin has, this is just a perfect fit for any Divi site.

Performance Benchmarks Comparison

For the purpose of this review, I set performance benchmarks using a Divi site wtih a ton of articles. The following illustrates No caching, Hummingbird Pro and WP Supercashe and Autoptimize:

Considering the amount of data on the homepage, the Hummingbird Pro plugin allows me to get a nice score of just 1.46s. As no surprise, it scored definetly better than having no cache at all, but it also scored better thanWP SuperCache and Autoptimize at a 2.02s. One thing I should mention is that the Hummingbird Pro plugin refused to remove the URL queries from static resource; something that Autoptimize seems to do just fine, but considering results, the total load time has been reduced nevertheless.

GTMetrix is a lot more strict on results and this test allowed us to reduce the total loading time from 5.6s down to 4.7s. I wasn’t able to achieve a top score though, even when all the options were enabled.

Usability Hummingbird Pro

Although we have a wonderful plugin on our hands, it’s not saved from criticism. There are some inconsistencies. I found that some options that remove URL query strings worked on some sites, but not all. The disposition of the content from the dashboard and extra tabs is somewhat badly distributed and needs more coherency. This lack of a coherent interface can be problematic for inexperienced users, as there are things that seem replicated through several tabs. The main dashboard lacks consistency and should be packed more firmly together. Aside from these few inconsistencies, the performance of the plugin speaks for itself. The Hummingbird Pro plugin does exemplary work caching pages, as well as doing CSS compression and optimization. Rounding it off is a well-balanced set of added tools, like the uptime monitor and speedtest tools.

Conclusion

If you’re in the market for a complete caching system for WordPress, even with some dashboard inconsistencies, Hummingbird Pro is a viable solution that allows for the integration of several caching tools all in one place. It does a fine job all by itself without the need to use extra plugins to do the job, and includes a nice CDN for extra speedup in loading resources. Hummingbird Pro is a plugin we can certainly recommend.

We want to hear from you. Have your tried Hummingbird Pro, or maybe WP Supercashe and Autoptimize? Let us know your thoughts on these plugins in the comments below.