Lazy loading: How it works and how to enable it on your WordPress site

Lazy loading is a website technology that waits to load your site’s assets until they are needed. This is in contrast to eager loading, which seeks to load everything on a page as soon as the page is loaded. By default, websites make use of eager loading, but lazy loading enables your website to appear to load much faster because it prioritizes things that are visible immediately. Here’s how lazy loading works and how you can enable it on your WordPress site.

How does lazy loading work?

The concept behind lazy loading is simple: Prioritize loading visible resources and wait to load everything else. For example, if you have a large photo gallery at the bottom of a webpage, and it isn’t visible until a user scrolls down, it should be loaded after everything that shows up on the page as soon as a site loads. While “lazy” typically sounds like a negative character trait, when it comes to websites, lazy loading is desirable. Perhaps it should instead be called “intelligent loading” or “optimized loading,” but despite the name, lazy loading is good for your website.

How can I enable lazy loading on my website?

In the past, lazy loading has been complicated to enable due to conflicting web standards. Thankfully, WordPress has been pushing to standardize the specification for lazy loading. WordPress has developed a first-party lazy loading plugin, but it is currently only in testing phase because the specification (the code that indicates to browsers to implement lazy loading) is still not finalized. Once this happens and lazy loading provides a consistent experience across all browsers, WordPress will integrate the lazy loading plugin into WordPress core. The WordPress team is hoping to have this enabled in WordPress 5.4, set to release on March 31, but the implementation could be delayed until WordPress 5.5 if the specification is still not finalized.

Update: Due to browser compatibility, lazy loading was not included in WordPress 5.4. It was included in WordPress 5.5, released August 11, 2020.

So for now, the best thing to do is patiently wait until lazy loading is integrated into WordPress core. You can always install the lazy loading plugin to access the feature now, but you could experience trouble with some browsers if you do. Thankfully, this change will be coming to WordPress core soon, and it’ll be very easy to implement once it arrives!