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Are you looking for a way to minify the CSS and JavaScript of your WordPress site? If you recently ran a performance audit on PageSpeed Insights, you may have noticed the following recommendations: “Minify CSS” and “Minify JavaScript”.

PageSpeed Insights flags all your content if it considers that your CSS and JS files are larger than they need to be. 

This article explains what minification of CSS and JavaScript means, why it’s important for performance, and which online tools and plugins you can use to minify your files.

What’s Minification?

Minification literally means stripping out unneeded parts of CSS and JavaScript files to make them more compact. When developers write code, they will include line breaks, white space, and comments which make the code easier to read but are not needed by your browser to process the code. This optimization technique is done without altering the main function and behavior of the general code while significantly reducing their file size. 

The main benefits of minification are reduced bandwidth usage, page size, and loading times.

Which resources can you minify? Both JavaScript and Cascading Style Sheet (CSS) are resources that can go through minification. Let’s go over both optimizations. 

What’s CSS Minification?

CSS minification means minimizing CSS from the original size to its smallest size without affecting its primary functionality and breaking the page’s design. 

Example of minified CSS - Source: WP Rocket
Example of minified CSS – Source: WP Rocket

What’s Minification in JavaScript?

JavaScript minification is the process to make the JS code more compact to ensure that the files are parsed through and delivered as quickly as possible. 

Example of minified JS - Source: WP Rocket
Example of minified JS – Source: WP Rocket

Note: HTML can also be minified. The resulting HTML page will be a smaller version of the original file, and it will remain a perfectly valid code.

What’s the Difference Between Minification vs. Compression?

The main difference between minification and compression is how the file size is reduced. Compression (GZIP) means replacing the repetitive code with a pointer that uses fewer spaces than the text. For example, after GZIP compression, you won’t see every single <div or {, in your code file. If GZIP discovers some repetitive text or characters, it won’t display all occurrences. 

File size comparison GZIP compression vs Minification - Source: CSS tricks
File size comparison GZIP compression vs Minification – Source: CSS tricks

Compression is the action to archive files in smaller sizes to make faster requests and reduce the data transfer time. Therefore, compressed code must be uncompressed before execution, while minified code is still a valid code that can be run immediately. 

Important note: with minification and compression, the page will have smaller resources – consisting of less code – but the visitor will see the same content.

Why CSS and JS Minification is Important

CSS and JS minification are important for reducing file size, improving page performance, and passing the related PageSpeed Insights audits. Let’s go over the main benefits of minification. 

Minification Helps to Boost Performance

CSS and JS minification improve your WordPress site’s performance on four different levels: 

  1. Improve Loading Time

JS and CSS minification increase page performance and improve the loading time of your site. For example, when minifying JavaScript, you get a lower JS file payload that reduces the time spent parsing scripts. This results in faster page loads and a well-improved page experience.

  1. Improve Largest Contentful Paint (LCP)

Largest Contentful Paint (LCP) is a Core Web Vitals metric that measures exactly when the largest element of the page becomes visible for the user. Minification can help to fix the causes of a poor LCP. Both techniques are recommended by Web.dev to improve server response times, reduce JS and CSS blocking time, and improve resource load time. 

  1. Reduce File Size for a Faster Delivery

According to CSS tricks, Gzipping reduces the file size by about five times as minifying does. Minification is recommended to give a little boost to your site and speed up data delivery. 

  1. Reduce CDN billed bandwidth usage

Minification shortens load time and optimizes the script files, reducing CDN bandwidth consumption for your web pages. A CDN usually charges you by the amount of data transferred from the servers to the customer. As a minified code needs less bandwidth, it will lower the monthly cost of a CDN. 

Minification Addresses Specific PageSpeed Insights Audits

When running a performance audit on PageSpeed Insights, you may see some recommendations related to minification. 

In our example below, PSI recommends “to minify CSS and JS” to save 2.47 s and 2.4 s. It also flags the URLs that need to be optimized in priority. PageSpeed Insights triggers the rules below because you can reduce the size of your resources through minification:

Minification’s recommendations - Source: PSI
Minification’s recommendations – Source: PSI

As seen previously, minification also affects the Largest Contentful Paint (LCP) grade. 

Core Web Vitals (LCP) - Source: PSI
Core Web Vitals (LCP) – Source: PSI

Now that we have explained what minification is essential for performance, let’s go over the techniques to minify CSS and JavaScript on your site. 

How to Minify CSS and JavaScript in WordPress

You can minify CSS and JS by using online and development tools or with the help of a WordPress plugin (as recommended by Google).

How to Minify CSS and JS Without a Plugin

Let’s go over the main techniques to minify JS and CSS. 

Online tools

  • Toptal (previously known as Javascript minifier) – a user-friendly tool with an API. 
Minifying JS - Source: Toptal
Minifying JS – Source: Toptal 

And it also works with CSS:

Minifying CSS - Source: Toptal
Minifying CSS – Source: Toptal
  • CleanCSS.com – a simple online resource to compress and minify both CSS and JS.
Minifying JS - Source: CleanCSS.com
Minifying JS – Source: CleanCSS.com

Development and servers tools 

  • UglifyJS – NodeJS has plenty of CLI libraries to minify the code, and UglifyJS is one of them. 
  • Visual Studio, XCode (Apple’s users), Netbeans – they are all IDEs (integrated development environment) that helps minify JS or CSS manually. Most IDEs and code editors have extensions to allow minification automatically. For example, this is the extension marketplace for Visual Studio:
JS & CSS  Minifier extension for Visual Studio - Source: Visual Studio’s marketplace
JS & CSS  Minifier extension for Visual Studio – Source: Visual Studio’s marketplace
  • Minifying on the server-side – some servers Nginx or Apache can be extended to minify with a custom module. Let’s go over two examples.
  1.  Custom module for Nginx: Nginx Minify (from Github) 
  2. Custom module for Apache: Apache can also auto minify using “mod_ext_filter” with a library.
  • Content Delivery Networks (CDNs) – Many of them support minifying assets on edge. A popular example is Cloudflare, and its “auto minify option”:
Auto minify settings - Source: Cloudflare
Auto minify settings – Source: Cloudflare
Want to learn more? Check our guide about the best CSS and JS minifying tools.

⚠️ If you are not comfortable manipulating JavaScript and CSS files and re-uploading them to your server, you may prefer using a WordPress plugin to do the job for you. 

How to Minify CSS and JS With a WordPress Plugin

PageSpeed recommends using a WordPress plugin to minify CSS or Javascript. 

PSI recommending WordPress plugins - Source: PSI Diagnostic section
PSI recommending WordPress plugins – Source: PSI Diagnostic section 

Amongst the best minify plugins, you’ll find: 

Minifying CSS in one click - Source: WP Rocket
Minifying CSS in one click – Source: WP Rocket
Minifying JS in one click - Source: WP Rocket
Minifying JS in one click – Source: WP Rocket
  • Autoptimize – it can aggregate, minify and compress scripts and styles.
Free download of Autoptimize - Source: WordPress repository
Free download of Autoptimize – Source: WordPress repository
  • Asset Clean-up – It minifies CSS and JS files, including inline code within style and script tags. 
Free download of Asset Clean Up - Source: WordPress repository
Free download of Asset Clean Up – Source: WordPress repository

Once the minification is done, we recommend doing the two following verifications:

  • Check that the page is not broken on the front-end (the process can occasionally break how scripts works or style renders).
  • Verify that the minification is properly working. 

How to check if minification is working? 

  1. Run your URL through Google PageSpeed Insights and scroll to the “diagnostic” area. If Lighthouse does not flag any issues, your site is minifying the code. 
  2. Go to SEO Site Checkup and run a quick audit of your site. If the CSS is minified, you’ll pass just like in our example below: 
Checking if the code is minified - source: SEO Site Checkup
Checking if the code is minified – source: SEO Site Checkup

What’s the Real Impact on Speed with Minification?

We’ve seen how minification can help improve the performance of a WordPress site (even Google recommends doing such optimizations). 

To understand the importance of minification on performance, let’s run an audit on PageSpeed Insights. There will be three steps: 

Step #1 – PageSpeed Insights audit without any optimizations

The recommendations I get from Lighthouse are related to optimizing my CSS and JS, including its minification:

Caching and code optimization recommendations - Source: PSI
Caching and code optimization recommendations – Source: PSI

I’m also seeing some render-blocking issues with an estimated savings of 1.43 s. Why is that related to minification? PSI recommends minifying CSS to eliminate render-blocking resources. Minification is an important performance technique to address such recommendations; however, there’s something else you should do to tackle it fully. We will go over it in step #3

CSS and JS are the render-blocking resources - Source: PSI
CSS and JS are the render-blocking resources – Source: PSI

The overall performance is not so great either, with a 69/100 grade:

Overall performance - no optimization
Overall performance – no optimization

Step #2 – Minification and GZIP compression by WP Rocket🚀

After activating WP Rocket, I could see some instant improvements in the performance and the PSI audit, namely:

  • The “Minify CSS” and “Minify JS” issues have been solved and moved to the “passed audit” section. 
  • My warnings about caching and compression are also fixed because WP Rocket automatically enables page and browser caching, and GZIP compression:
Performance without WP Rocket Minification and GZIP compression by WP Rocket 🚀
  • Thanks to minification, my overall performance went from 69/100 to 82/100, which is a neat improvement. 
  • My LCP is now in orange (2.1 s with minification) against 5.4 s before. 
Performance without WP RocketMinification and GZIP compression by WP Rocket 🚀


Step #3 – Minification, compression, and other advanced optimizations techniques by WP Rocket 🚀

Thanks to additional WP Rocket optimizations, I also managed to fix the “Eliminate render-blocking” audit issue. 

Performance without WP RocketFull performance optimization by WP Rocket 🚀

By minifying JS and CSS along with other code compressions and optimizations, WP Rocket also improved my overall performance grade and put my Core Web Vitals in the green:

Performance without WP RocketMinification and GZIP compression by WP Rocket Full performance optimization by WP Rocket 🚀

If you want to minify your code and speed up your WordPress site, here are the WP Rocket features you should use: 

  • Minify JS and CSS: 
CSS and JS files minified - Source: WP Rocket
CSS and JS files minified – Source: WP Rocket 
💡 Why are you not seeing an option for HTML minification? WP Rocket decided to stop the “minifying HTML” option. According to GTMetrix, the impact on performance was not so important.
  • GZIP compression: WP Rocket automatically enables HTML, CSS, and JS compression to render the files sent to the browser faster.

In addition to the minification features, in the 3rd step I enabled the following features and achieved the 97/100 PageSpeed Insights score:

  • Optimize CSS delivery – Remove unused CSS option:
Optimize CSS delivery - Source: WP Rocket
Optimize CSS delivery – Source: WP Rocket
  • Load JavaScript deferred and delay JS execution: 
Load JS deferred and delay JS execution Source: WP Rocket
Load JS deferred and delay JS execution Source: WP Rocket 
⚠️ Minification might break scripts and styles on some edge cases. To avoid this, WP Rocket has an extensive compatibility library for automatic exclusions whenever they find any.

Wrapping Up 

We are building more and more advanced sites today that require more features, more code (and sometimes more plugins). What is critically important about minifying CSS and JavaScript is that they are both render-blocking resources –  without optimization, they will impact performance. 

Minifying your code is one of the best ways to reduce the size of JS and CSS file size. Smaller files improve download speeds, which can significantly depend on your website’s size. 

One of the easiest ways to minify CSS or JS is to use WP Rocket. The plugin can also optimize the CSS delivery, defer JS and delay JS execution. No risks are taken: you have a 14-day money-back guarantee if you see no speed improvements.

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