Optimizing Your Headway Powered Site


We are going to start a new series on the blog this week that will cover various topics about optimizing your Headway and WordPress powered website.

First let’s talk about what is optimization. Optimization is the process in which to improve the process in which things run. It’s to make things close to perfect.

This series is going to cover a wide range of topics, including web servers (Apache, Nginx), PHP processes, MySQL processes, and other areas to help make your site run fast!

What this is not.

This series is not going to be a simple follow everything to a “T” and you will have the world’s fastest site. Instead it’s to help you decide what makes sense for your site, and what you can do to improve your page load times.

Finally, I am not an expert. I don’t pretend to be one. The tips and tricks in this series are from my trial and error. I’ve been fortunate to learn a thing or two about configuring servers and would like to share that information with you. For the server experts out there, if you come across something that will help improve this series, please let me know! I would love to learn from your knowledge!

Who is this for?

If you are following along with this series, you are going to need to know how to access your webserver via SSH. You are going to need to have some basic understanding of working in the command-line. If these phrases are too complicated, feel free to read along, but I urge you to not try and just copy/paste the commands. There are different versions of Linux, and depending on your webhost, you may have a different setup that I’m not familiar with. While I will try my best to help you out, I can’t troubleshoot all the versions of linux out there.

Getting Started

With all the prerequisites out of the way, we are ready to begin. This first article is really just setting the stage for the areas we are going to talk about in the following articles of this series.

We are going to break this image down in to a number of articles to complete this series. But to give you an idea of what all that means I’m giving you an overview here.




Just before I get to that image, let’s talk about web hosts for a minute. I could go into another series about these and I just might once this advanced series is done, maybe a precursor to this one, however, the important piece here is that we will be talking about VPSes or dedicated servers. Shared hosts typically do not let you install anything on the server and you’ll have limited access when you login via SSH.

For the purposes of this series we are going to use Digital Ocean. They offer a low cost hosting that allows you the very best in SSD Cloud hosting. Check out this video for a quick overview of their services.

Server OS

This is your operating system for your server. We’re not calling it a web server (yet!). Typically this is a linux install (if you want it to run fast — per my experience). I’m most familiar with Scientific Linux and Ubuntu, and for this series I’ll be referring to Ubuntu since it’s a common one found on most web hosts.


The most common HTTP web server that most web hosts use. It has been the most popular web server since 1996 and since most of us are familiar with Apache, we of course want to show you how to make your site fast with it!


A new high-performance HTTP server and reverse proxy, Nginx has been around since 2004 and is used by companies that we are familiar with, WordPress.com, Github, CloudFlare, Netflix and Hulu to name a few. It’s quickly becoming one of my favorite tools to use and what better way than to show you options than to give you another option for a HTTP server.


Our database lives here. We aren’t going to talk too much about this area, until we get into Plugins and start looking at some settings with W3 Total Cache.


The programming language that makes up WordPress. We will take a look at other libraries we can install to speed up this portion of our server stack. If you are familiar with APC, batcache or OPcache, we are going to configure one or two of these to speed up the WordPress PHP code.


Did you know there’s things here we can do to improve our WordPress site? We can make some changes to our wp-config.php file to change the number of revisions, set the auto save interval. We can even set the frequency of how often the trash gets deleted.


Next we’ll get into Headway. Headway out of the box is pretty fast, but we’ll take a look at what settings and things to avoid in Headway if you want the performance gain necessary to keep your site up for high traffic


Finally, we’ll take a look at plugins, not only caching plugins but well also take a look at how many plugins we have installed, what we are using them for and so on.

Ready for this?

I hope you guys are ready for this! It’s going to be a fun series where I’m sure everyone will learn something new!

Next post in the series we will take a look at configuring our server.

If you’d like to follow along with a server you can ditch after this series, make sure to check out Digital Ocean. you can get a server for just $5.00/month!

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5 Responses

  1. Exactly when I discovered the Nginx benefits I found out WPEngine, a hosting service that has this setup by default.
    I’ve been a client for 18 months and I very satisfied.
    Of course, if you want to tweak every technical aspect of your server, Digital Ocean is the best, and with a great price too.

    • I love WPEngine! Great company! If you are looking for a managed hosting solution, they are definitely a strong contender. This series is more for the DIY person that wants to run and manage the whole kitten caboodle. Later posts we will be looking at plugins and WP related stuff. Stay tuned!

  2. I would love to learn more about Headway Themes and how serialized data can be manipulated if you know anything about that realm. With WP Engine’s Dev/Live staging environment (any site transfer for that matter) we have seen issues with serialized data not transferring properly and loss of CSS styling. WP Engine has been great; Headway simple for basic users that lack design/development expertise but using serialized data within a RDMS for a CMS with other interchangeable plugin types just seems like a bad idea. I can see why using it in NoSQL would be beneficial, but in RDMS it is counter to the point of relational data management.

    • Hi Todd,

      We are actually investigating an issue with WP Engine currently. If you could provide login information (WP & FTP) for a staging site where this is occurring, please submit a ticket via your members dashboard support tab so we can look into this!

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