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In 2023, the WordPress community witnessed a significant milestone in website performance, with Core Web Vitals (CWV) showing significant improvements for both mobile and desktop users. This article delves into the specifics of these improvements, exploring their implications and the evolving landscape of web performance within the WordPress ecosystem. What Are Core Web Vitals? Core Web Vitals are a set of specific metrics designed to measure the quality of user experience on web pages. This set of metrics is also a confirmed ranking factor for Google Search. As part of Google’s broader Web Vitals initiative, the metrics focus on loading performance, interactivity, and visual stability. They apply to all web pages and are important for site owners to measure and optimize. There are three key metrics within CWV: Largest Contentful Paint (LCP) evaluates loading performance. A good user experience is indicated when the LCP occurs within 2.5 seconds of when the page starts loading. First Input Delay (FID) measures the interactivity of a page. For a good user experience, the FID should be 100 milliseconds or less. Cumulative Layout Shift (CLS) assesses the visual stability of a page. A good user experience is maintained if the page has a CLS of 0.1 or less. These metrics are designed to be measurable in real-world scenarios, reflecting critical aspects of user experience. In addition to these, there are other vital metrics: Time to First Byte (TTFB) and First Contentful Paint (FCP) are key aspects of the loading experience and help diagnose issues with LCP. Total Blocking Time (TBT) is important for diagnosing potential interactivity issues impacting FID. While important, they are not part of the Core Web Vitals set because they are either not field-measurable or do not directly reflect a user-centric outcome. WordPress Core Web Vitals Improve In 2023 WordPress CWV improved substantially in 2023. The mobile CWV passing rate has increased by 8.13%, rising from 28.31% to 36.44%. Similarly, the desktop CWV passing rate improved by 8.25%, moving from 32.55% to 40.80%. This improvement is significant, considering the base values from which these percentages increased. In relative terms, the new passing rates are approximately 29% higher than the previous ones on mobile and 25% higher on desktop. This progress outstrips the improvements made in the previous year, where mobile CWV improved by 6.99% and desktop by 6.25%. A line chart illustrates the gradual improvement of WordPress’s mobile CWV passing rate over the year, with a slight dip between March and April 2023 due to a change in the Largest Contentful Paint (LCP) algorithm calculation. CWV Metrics For Mobile The improvement in individual CWV metrics on mobile platforms is noteworthy. The mobile LCP passing rate rose by 8.89%, the CLS passing rate by 4.22%, and the FID passing rate by 0.87%. LCP experienced the largest increase, aligning with the WordPress performance team’s focus on this metric, considering it had the lowest base passing rate. Despite a modest increase in FID, its already high passing rate makes this less concerning. The TTFB rate, while not a Core Web Vital metric, is integral to LCP and received attention in 2023. The mobile TTFB passing rate improved by 3.10%, and the desktop rate by 3.53%. Impact Of WordPress 2023 Releases The release of WordPress versions 6.2, 6.3, and 6.4 focused on improvements in load time performance, particularly impacting LCP and TTFB metrics. For each version, data was compiled comparing sites before and after updating to the new version. This approach, though not a strict A/B comparison, helped reduce noise and provide clearer insights. For instance, the release of WordPress 6.2 showed a 0.01% improvement in mobile LCP and 0.65% in mobile TTFB. Version 6.3 brought more significant improvements, with a 4.72% increase in mobile LCP. The release of WordPress 6.4 also contributed to the improvements, albeit more modestly. How WordPress Core Web Vitals Impact The Web WordPress’s high usage rate means its performance has a substantial effect on the overall web. In 2023, WordPress’s improvement in CWV passing rates exceeded those of non-WordPress sites. For example, the mobile CWV passing rate for non-WordPress sites improved by 3.68%, compared to WordPress’s 8.13%. This demonstrates WordPress’s significant role in enhancing web performance. Interaction To Next Paint Arrives In March 2024 Looking forward to 2024, WordPress faces new challenges and opportunities. One major change is the replacement of the FID metric with Interaction to Next Paint (INP). INP is a more comprehensive measure of interactivity, and its introduction is expected to lower overall CWV passing rates. The WordPress performance team is considering this in their planning for 2024, inviting community contributions to their roadmap. Next Steps As a marketing professional, it is essential to stay current with the latest developments in Core Web Vitals, considering the implications for website performance and SEO. With the upcoming shift to INP in 2024, it’s vital to prepare for these changes and consider how they might affect your website’s performance metrics. Given this change, WordPress developers and site owners should start focusing on optimizing for INP. Prioritizing INP means optimizing your site to ensure that it responds quickly and smoothly to user interactions. Another suggestion was to explore more ways to improve TTFB. This may include optimizing hosting environments, using caching strategies, or adjusting content delivery networks, rather than just focusing on the server response time within the WordPress core. Featured image: Primakov/Shutterstock

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