Welcome to the new era where cloud-caching goes mainstream (vs server-caching).
What is NitroPack? What does it do? And why do people rave about it so much? How does it help speed up sites and improve page scores?
And more importantly (for my fans), does Johnny like it?
Where should I start first? The good or the bad? Ok…let’s start with the GOOD!
1. It really does speed up sites.
The sites feel fast. Most of the time, instant load upon a single click. Then again, it IS a caching plugin/service and this is what caching is supposed to do.
- JUNE 1, 2021 UPDATE – I’ve been hearing more complaints about NitroPack not being as fast. I wonder if their service pre-caching is slowing down under the growth of new users, or otherwise not being as sustainable. Just a thought.
2. It gives you better page scores.
Oooooooh! Now it sounds like I’m just teasing but it’s real! Turning on NitroPack is quite possibly the easiest most effortless way to improve your page scores. You don’t need to learn a damn thing about speed optimization. Just enable NitroPack and your “D” grade can become a “B” or even an “A”. Hate all you want, the NitroPack really delivers the nitro!
3. (REALLY) Easy to use.
Listen up, “simple” cache plugins….NitroPack really is the simplest cache plugin out there. Like stupid simple. The plugin settings is one screen with 3 toggle switches and one slider. You don’t have to read online guides on what settings to pick or learn speed optimization. Of course, of course…all the settings are on their website. But still…it feels simpler and that’s all that matters for many people.
4. Tons of features.
Really comes with everything. Caching. Pre-caching. Minification, merging, critical CSS. CDN. Lazy load. Image compression. JS defer. And also you can granularly choose which post types get optimized or not. It really does have nearly every single website speed optimization feature and function you could ever ask for. And all conveniently loaded into one service. How handy, right?!
5. Automated optimization service.
NitroPack fills in that special gap of not only giving clients the tools but actually making the best decisions for them. It makes you realize where all caching plugins fall short…that they don’t help if users don’t know how to use them.
1. Ugly FOUC issues.
Every single client of mine using NitroPack has a FOUC issue. Heck even the official NitroPack site has it. LOL. You can see a split second where the styling slides into place. Call me a dinosaur but IMO it looks so unprofessional. But hey… if it doesn’t bother you…then it doesn’t matter!
2. Sometimes not that fast.
It bothers me to no end that even the official NitroPack site is kinda *sticky* load. It’s not that fast. Even after I’ve already visited the pages and pre-warmed its cache, they’re still sticky! The good news is that my client sites do load fast with NitroPack.
- You can see fast sites like this: https://thriveagency.com/
- And then slow sites like this: https://www.ishine-trade.com/
Yes…both are on NitroPack. So whatever the case may be…you know it’s not always a guaranteed miracle. I hate that even the fast one still has sporadic FOUC issues. Just remember that the best way to test speed is right in your own browser and see what’s actually loading. Don’t be surprised when a NitroPack site doesn’t load so pretty when analyzed from an actual browser.
3. The price is wayyyyy too expensive.
The price you pay for NitroPack can be even more than your webhosting, especially for the higher plans. And kudos to them, taking advantage in a consumer market that doesn’t know any better. Repackaging overly technical services into a dumbed-down simplified product for end users. It’s great marketing and product execution. But if only people knew…just put that money into your webhosting server and you’ll might get a much better overall loading experience for so much less (depending on your webhost).
- NitroPack costs $132/month per site if you have 1 million pageviews/month.
- That same $132/month easily get you a VPS server that’ll handle 2-3 million pageviews (if not more) and cover as many websites in there as you want.
But of course…in this random match-up scenario, we have to assume that you have a good webhost or server.
4. I think NitroPack “cheats” the page scores.
For example, when I tested a client site. It wouldn’t show the proper number of requests. My browser network tab was showing 152 requests (5.3mb) but GTmetrix only showed 19 requests (246kb). Congrats. They found a way to cheat the page score…but you can’t cheat the user experience. If all you care about is the number…then stick with it. But if you want to know how many MPG your car actually gets, then be cautious.
UPDATE JAN 16, 2021:
- This has since been commented on by Deyan (NitroPack CEO) that it only seems that way because NP moves certain processes off the CPU main thread and some page tests don’t report that.
- So while NP doesn’t cheat the scores it certainly optimizes things in a way that cause your site to appear better and loading fewer things on those scores.
- In reality, your website is still loading everything. I’ll comment more on this if I come back to check on this further.
- UPDATE MAR 21, 2021 – webwhim finds more explanation for potential NitroPack black hat SEO cheating?
- UPDATE NOV 11, 2021 – chats in Google SEO community accusing NitroPack of black hat SEO. And here’s NitroPack’s response to cheating claims. I let you decide.
- UPDATE NOV 26, 2021 – I made a new NitroPack review, briefly describing what changes I’ve noticed.
5. Automated cache configurations can cause issues.
If you have a complex site with complex caching or optimization needs, I think NitroPack may get in your way. Its strength of being super easy to use can also be a con for advanced users. WooCommerce sites or sites with lots of custom/dynamic AJAX stuff may have issues.
I don’t actually know this for a fact, ok? It’s just speculation. If you have a complex site and slow as heck, please try NitroPack for us all and report back here in the comments!
My verdict on NitroPack
I like what NitroPack is doing…but I don’t like NitroPack.
- It delivers a fantastic user experience and pushes the limits of what caching can do.
- I love that it’s bringing edge-caching to the masses (only they just don’t realize it).
- I also enjoy the in-house (automated) JS combine tactics. A centralized cloud service like that could certainly benefit from a known list of JS conflicts similar to how Wordfence benefits from a known list of security exploits.
- NitroPack is also a great bandaid fix for sites on slow servers and with limited caching options.
- Another side benefit is that it’s an easily-reversible optimization attempt. If it doesn’t work, you only paid for a single monthly fee. It’s not like you bought a super expensive plugin, hired an expensive speed-op developer, or migrated everything to a new server.
My gripe with NitroPack is that it’s stupidly expensive (especially for someone like me who knows what they’re doing) and still doesn’t deliver a professional page load experience. FOUC is just a major no-no in my book. I think of the word “amateur” every time I see it.
JULY 16, 2023 UPDATE:
I’ve been seeing NitroPack on more and more client sites and will happily report that it’s much improved in terms of any buggy behavior. The sites I’ve seen lately are well-optimized, snappy quick, and not as obvious FOUC issues from before.
The edge-caching revolution continues!
The good news is that edge-caching technology has already advanced so much. It used to be only for simple CDN things like static assets (CSS, JS, images, etc) but has now grown into caching even the full page cache at the edge.
There are so many boundary-crossing cache plugins and cache services that do more or less of the same thing. In time, they’ll all compete with each other to improve performance while decreasing prices.
- Cloudflare APO – utilizing their massive CDN presence and long experience in cloud-caching and cloud-processing.
- QUIC.cloud (by LiteSpeed) – leveraging their amazing free LiteSpeed cache plugin with their own CDN network. And it’s much cheaper than NitroPack.
- Rocket.net – webhosting service that does page-caching at the edge.
- All existing cache plugins – you give it some time and I bet many plugins and hosting services will start offering some degree of this (page-caching at the edge).
Who should use NitroPack?
Anyone on a crap server, bloated site, with zero knowledge of speed optimization, care (too much) about page scores, and don’t mind paying the premium.
- NitroPack – the quick-fix bandaid solution to all your speed and page score troubles!
For everyone else…trust me, you can get a better experience with normal cache plugins and save a ton of money in the process. Or better yet, put that money towards fixing/rebuilding your site and remove the crap that was slowing you down in the first place. Fix your problems at the root cause!