The Jetpack team has been quietly testing a new plugin called Jetpack Boost, which addresses website owners’ performance and SEO concerns. Version 1.0 was released today, one month after the final pre-release came out in March.
Boost is a separate plugin under the Jetpack brand and it does not require Jetpack core to work. The first iteration bundles three performance modules:
- Local Critical CSS generates optimized styles for the homepage, posts, and pages to display content faster, especially for visitors on mobile devices.
- Lazy Image Loading loads images as the visitor scrolls them into view.
Once the plugin is installed, users can toggle the modules on or off. Optimizing the site’s CSS can be a lengthy process but it shows a progress bar and alerts you if are trying to navigate away from the page before it’s finished. Jetpack Boost displays an initial score when it’s first installed and will update after optimizations are put in place.
Here’s an example score from a relatively unoptimized simple blog with 20 active plugins:
After installing Jetpack Boost, there was a significant improvement on scores in the dashboard. It’s not a magic wand but it’s a fairly user-friendly way to tackle some basic performance issues that may translate into a better visitor experience.
Checking the before and after scores on web.dev demonstrates a noticeable improvement on the Core Web Vitals assessment. For some websites this could mean the difference between passing or not (meaning 75% of pages on the domain pass).
Automattic engineer Nauris Pūķis, who worked on the project, said one reason the plugin was created was to help users “get their Web Vitals up and make the web a better place.”
Google Search will be adding Page Experience to ranking signals in May 2021, and WordPress sites need all the help they can get. Page Experience is measured by a website’s Core Web Vitals metrics, but these scores are not easy to improve without some technical knowledge and troubleshooting.
Despite Jetpack already including so many different, varied features, Automattic opted to put the Boost modules in a separate plugin.
“We want Jetpack Boost to have a life of its own – focused on performance and make it available to everyone, including people who don’t want to use the main Jetpack plugin,” Pūķis said.
The plugin was built with the same modular structure as Jetpack core, so users can easily deactivate modules they don’t want to use. This is helpful for ensuring compatibility with other performance or caching plugins that website owners may already be using.
“You’ve probably noticed that both Jetpack and Boost have lazy loading images – it’s the exact same module,” Pūķis said. “If the user happens to have both Jetpack and Jetpack Boost active – it’ll just use the most recent version of Lazy Loading Images.”
The features in version 1.0 are just the beginning of Automattic’s plans for Jetpack Boost. The project appears to be on track to become a full-blown performance plugin that may even migrate some of Jetpack core’s performance-related functionality.
“Version 1.0.0 is being released the “one-point-oh” way,” Pūķis said. “We’re releasing as early as we can call it stable – but there’s so much that we want to do. Starting with simple modules that package up other typical optimization techniques (like concatenation, minification, maybe even photon?) – all the way to more advanced ideas like performance tracking, intelligent performance suggestions, etc.”
Pūķis said none of these ideas are set in stone and the team is open to exploring and building modules that will have the highest performance impact after getting more feedback.