Watch page load times when using WordPress social bookmark plugins

I’d like to make my blog posts more share-friendly by adding buttons at the end of every post for the most popular bookmarking/sharing web sites like Twitter, Facebook, Digg and so on. There’s a wide range of social bookmark plugins available for WordPress. A plugin that immediately caught my eye is SexyBookmarks. It looks great and you can choose between several catch phrases like Sharing is caring or Sharing is sexy.

Added 12/5/2010: Please be aware that the sprite generation algorithm in SexyBookmarks has been optimized and the following statements about SexyBookmarks are no longer valid!

Today, the Site Performance tool for my web site in Google Webmaster Central showed a hefty 50% increase in page load times! I quickly ran a web page speed report of my main page:

Responsible for the increase are the two .png graphics from the SexyBookmarks plugin. They add a whopping 220k of data to each page which makes my pages loading slower than 69% of all (not just on my site) pages seen by GoogleBot. This is not only bad from a SEO viewpoint. If SexyBookmarks is activated, all first-time visitors to my site will have 1 to 5 seconds added to the page load time, depending on their connection speed. Even though SexyBookmarks looks stunning, all that glitters is not gold.

I’m still looking for a resource-friendly, visually appealing social bookmark plugin for WordPress. It has to integrate nicely into any theme I throw at it. It should be maintained in regular intervals, I don’t install plugins that have been last updated in 2008 or earlier. I don’t like bloated javascript pop-ups like Add to Any as well.

I happen to like a plugin called Sociable. It has a very low resource footprint and doesn’t use any pop-ups.

What social bookmark plugin are you using on your WordPress site?

Update 1/17/2010: Josh from sexybookmarks.net just came up with a cool solution to reduce SexyBookmark’s image footprint a lot. You may want to have a look at his blog article “sexy got sluggish”. I’m pretty impressed by Josh’s fast reaction to my post and will be using SexyBookmarks as my favorite social bookmarking plugin again once v3 is out.

12 thoughts on “Watch page load times when using WordPress social bookmark plugins

  1. Hi Jan,

    Thanks for the honest review… I’m aware of this issue, and trying to find a viable solution that doesn’t just replace the image size lag with php script runtime lag…

    See, the image sprite was an excellent idea when the plugin was first launched, as it only had 15 or 20 sites to choose from. A single image with 15 or 20 icons was still quicker than loading up 15 or 20 separate images… However, now that we have nearly 80 in a single sprite that’s almost 6,000px wide… It’s beginning to get a bit out of control.

    One issue that we can correct immediately is the sexy-trans.png image… To this day, I still don’t understand what exactly made me make the background image as a sprite… Nobody is ever going to use more than one background image anyway, so there’s no need to load more than what the user selected to begin with! lol

    Even though you weren’t happy with the performance of the plugin, it’s actually refreshing once in a while to get an honest point of view rather than flocks of people singing it’s praises… Helps to grow it in the right direction.

  2. Oh my gosh, you indirectly helped me sooo much… I didn’t have any idea that that “Site Performance” tool existed in WT… Wow, this is going to improve my blog’s load times a LOT!

    I think I’ll join you in waiting for sexybookmarks to release the next version before installing.

  3. Hey Jan… You should be able to see my email address via this comment… Would you mind emailing me?

    I have the dynamic sprite generation function working and tested on my end… Would you mind beta testing it on your end to see if it is satisfactory?

    Thanks!

  4. Hi guys,

    nice article Jan.
    I also like Josh’s plugin but it seems to me that you are still loading a >200kb image sprite when the site is loaded. And maybe I am blind but I cannot find a spritegen folder in the plugins folder. Or I don’t see how to activate the Dynamic Sprite Generator feature for the plugin.

    Regards,
    Daniel

  5. Hey Daniel,

    This is Josh of SexyBookmarks… We had to revert the plugin back to an older version because the sprite generator wasn’t working properly for everyone…

    So the current version of SexyBookmarks doesn’t have the feature. However, we plan to release the new version (v3.2) on Monday, and it will indeed have the new sprite generator feature included.

    Sorry!

  6. Thank you so much for your quick answer Josh.
    This is much appreciated.

    I just created my own sprite and it seems to work and should the new feature work properly then I don’t even have to worry when I need to add one ore more social icons.

    But anyway I am looking foward to the new plugin.
    Great work Josh.

    Have a nice day.
    Daniel

  7. I am running 3.2.3.1 and having a problem with very slow load. Your Plugin is awesome but I had to deactivate it because it is way to slow. I have a number of other Plugins running that may be causing the problem. I would like to really like to reactivate your Plugin.

    Could you please take a look and let me know if there is a fix for the slow load.

    http://www.horseawho.com

    Thanks

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