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When the WordPress core performance team was announced last fall, general excitement was heightened with a sense of mystery. Website “performance” could refer to almost anything, from how fast the PHP code executes to how snappily the React-based Block Editor runs. Or it could refer to the types of database optimizations many developers have long dreamed of (how large is your postmeta table these days?).
When you consider that WordPress handles both the backend content management system as well as the actual content of your website, the focus for performance gains could be endless. However, because the team at Yoast was a big driver in this initiative, most casual observers were pinning their hopes on some front-end performance enhancements, features that might specifically appease the fickle Google gods that came down from the mountain-top clutching the Core Web Vitals etched into stone.
The Performance Lab plugin also makes extensive use of the WordPress Site Health screen, located in the Tools menu. If you’re unfamiliar with the Site Health screen, you’re not alone. This relatively new addition to WordPress (introduced in 5.2) is a collection of deep diagnostics and overall feedback on important parts of your site, like checking version numbers and environment settings. It was only recently (5.8) that developers have even had access to the Site Health screen.
To be clear, what often makes the difference in a feature project like this is how much it aligns with the goals of major stakeholders. In this case, with a lot of support from Google and Yoast, it’s no surprise that we’re seeing this much action on this feature project when compared to many of the other priorities in WordPress. This is clearly a set of tools that will benefit the WordPress ecosystem as a whole; it’s just lucky for most of us that they seem to benefit Google as well.