Improving Versioning of WordPress Static Files

I was recently asked to improve the PageSpeed and YSlow scores of a WordPress-based website that I work on. One of the items that PageSpeed checks is “Don’t include a query string in the URL for static resources,” (under the “Leverage Proxy Caching” heading). I suspect this is most important when you are using a CDN, or otherwise run through a proxy server. WordPress puts a version in the query string of any JavaScript or CSS that’s enqueued using wp_enqueue_script() or wp_enqueue_style().

Interestingly, PageSpeed doesn’t seem to complain about the WordPress-included static resources that have a query string on the URL, only about static resources on 3rd-party URLs. I’m not sure why this is, but let’s remove the query strings from the WordPress-included static resources anyway, while still maintaining a version somewhere in the URL so we can set far-future Expires headers.

The format of a WordPress version tag is ver={version number}, like this:, but should be more cacheable. There are two steps to making this happen:

1) Use Apache’s mod_rewrite to Serve the Correct File to the Updated URL

In step 2 we’ll be moving the version tag to the beginning of the URL, we only need one RewriteRule to make it work:

# This goes in your .htaccess file, before the WordPress section
<IfModule mod_rewrite.c>
RewriteEngine On
RewriteBase /

## Cache-Busting ##
RewriteRule ^ver([\d\.\-a-zA-Z]+)/(.*) $2?ver=$1 [L] #match something with the version tag right at the beginning of the URL
## Done cache-busting ##


The rule above matches any URL that starts with “ver” followed by any number of letters, numbers, periods, dashes, and underscores, captures that collection of characters up to the first forward slash, then it captures everything after the first forward slash. The URL is rewritten as $2?ver=$1 where $2 is everything after the version tag, (the original URL, with no version tag), and $1 is the version number that’s added, internally, to the query string, but never appears in the browser.

Note: It is probably possible to leave off the ?ver=$1, but I haven’t tried it yet.

Now and should both serve up the same style.css file.

2) Filter the URLs for Enqueued Scripts & Styles to Move the Version Tag from the Querystring into the Path

The URL for every enqueued Javascript is filtered by the script_loader_src filter, and the URL for every enqueued stylesheet is filtered by the style_loader_src filter, so we’ll use these filters to put the new, improved URL in the HTML. This is an absolute URL, so we can take it apart, move the parts around so that it looks how we like. Here’s the function I’m using to change the URLs, plus two lines to hook on to the filters:

 * Changes WordPress's default versioned URLs from putting the verion in the
 * querystring to putting the version as part of the file page, (requires 
 * .htaccess modification to work). If there's no version in the querystring
 * one can be added by setting the $defaultversion.
 * @param  string  $url            The URL to change the location of the version.
 * @param  mixed   $defaultversion A string default verion. Defaults to false, (
 *                                 no default version).
 * @return string                  The new URL.
function jb_better_versioned_url( $url, $defaultversion = false ) {

    // don't bother for the admin
    if ( ! is_admin() ) {

        // parse the URL
        $parts = parse_url( $url );

        // and the querystring
        $query = wp_parse_args( $parts['query'], array() );

        // check if there's a version in the querystring. If so, do more.
        if ( isset( $query['ver'] ) || false !== $defaultversion ) {

            if ( isset( $query['ver'] ) ) {
                // prepend "/ver" + {version value} to the *path*
                $parts['path'] = '/ver' . $query['ver'] . $parts['path'];

                // unset the version in the querystring, since it's in the path now.
                unset( $query['ver'] );
            } else {
                $parts['path'] = '/ver' . $defaultversion . $parts['path'];

            // if this is a PHP file just let it be.
            if( ! preg_match( '~\.php$~', $parts['path'] ) ) {

                // start rebuilding the URL string
                $url = $parts['scheme'] . '://' . $parts['host'] . $parts['path'];

                // see if there's still anything in the query
                if ( count( $query ) > 0 ) {

                    // rebuild query with whatever remains
                    $parts['query'] = build_query( $query );

                    // append it to the URL string
                    $url .= '?' . $parts['query'];

    return $url;


// hook onto the filters
add_filter( 'style_loader_src', 'jb_better_versioned_url' );
add_filter( 'script_loader_src', 'jb_better_versioned_url' );

With these two modifications all of your JavaScript & CSS will have the version in the path instead of the querystring. In addition, any images, fonts, or anything else referenced with relative URLs from your stylesheets will have the version in the beginning of their URL, which will be rewritten and the file served properly. This way if you ever have caching problems you can bump a version number and browsers will pull new versions of all your static resources.

A Word of Warning

This involves considerable coding acrobatics, and adds complexity to your WordPress-based site, for speed improvements that may not be very large, and may not exist at all, so use this method at your own risk.

I have this code in production, but would love to hear the opinions of others on it, that’s what the comments are for, or Twitter, or elsewhere – just let me know where the technique is discussed.

Conditionally Loading Javascript & CSS with Fancybox for WordPress

The Problem

I’ve been working on improving the performance of a client’s WordPress-based website recently and it’s become very clear to me just how much CSS & Javascript plugins load, even when it’s not needed.

On this particular website 47% of the Javascript and 57% of the CSS loaded on the site’s homepage is not required on the homepage, but is required elsewhere, so it should be loaded conditionally. Sometimes this is easy, but sometimes it’s not.

Fancybox for WordPress is not an easy plugin to make load client-side resources, after all, it’s made to show a lightbox on any image, and especially on any gallery. When the wp_enqueue_scripts action happens, where it is recommended that we set the scripts and styles that will be used on a page, we don’t yet know what will be on the page. Fortunately, we can call the wp_enqueue_script() function after that, during the body of the page, and those scripts will be printed in the wp_footer() function. The same is true for wp_enqueue_style(). So, here’s what we do:

  1. Stop Fancybox for WordPress from including its scripts & styles by default.
  2. If a gallery or image that we want to use Fancybox on is displayed, we tell WordPress to display the Fancybox scripts & styles in the footer.
  3. Enjoy faster pageloads.

Sounds simple, but there are a few interesting bits. Now for the code.

The Code

I use three functions to check if the Fancybox scripts & styles are needed. They can be in a theme’s functions.php, (where I have them at the moment), or they could even be rolled into their own plugin.

First tell Fancybox not to include its code by default. Instead of manually dequeuing every style & script, remove the Fancybox functions that do the enqueuing from the wp_enqueue_scripts and wp_head action hooks:

// don't enqueue Fancybox scripts by default.
function jb_dequeue_fancybox_css_js() {
    remove_action( 'wp_enqueue_scripts', 'mfbfw_styles' );
    remove_action( 'wp_enqueue_scripts', 'mfbfw_scripts' );
    remove_action( 'wp_head', 'mfbfw_init' );
add_action( 'wp', 'jb_dequeue_fancybox_css_js' );

Next create a function that re-enables Fancybox, and remembers that it did so. Here there are two static variables, which will hold their value between function calls, (kind of like hidden globals), which store state. The $fancybox_is_used variable is returned so this function can be called with no arguments to find out if Fancybox has been used on page. Note the priority of 25 when hooking mfbfw_init() to the wp_footer action. This is needed because mfbfw_init() prints some Javascript to the page that relies on jQuery, and WordPress prints the enqueued scripts in the wp_footer action with a priority of 20, so mfbfw_init() needs to execute with a priority higher than 20.

function jb_fancybox_is_used( $used = false ) {

    // this is returned so we can call this function with no arguments to learn
    // if Fancybox has been used on a particular page.
    static $fancybox_is_used = false;

    // remember if Fancybox has been re-enabled already, so we don't enqueue the 
    // scripts multiple times
    static $fancybox_is_setup = false;

    if( $used === true ) {
        $fancybox_is_used = true;

    if( $fancybox_is_used && ! $fancybox_is_setup ) {
        if( function_exists( 'mfbfw_styles' ) ) {
            mfbfw_styles();  // enqueue fancybox styles
            mfbfw_scripts(); // enqueue fancybox scripts
            // the 25 is important. WordPress prints footer scripts in the
            // wp_footer action with a priority of 20, and mfbfw_init() has to
            // be called after the footer scripts are already on the page.
            add_action( 'wp_footer', 'mfbfw_init', 25 ); 
        $fancybox_is_setup = true;

    return $fancybox_is_used;

Finally, make a function that looks for places where Fancybox is used on the page. On the site I’m working on the CSS class fancybox is used on images and in galleries that I want to be Fancyboxed, so I look for the string “fancybox” in the_content filter, and when it’s found I call jb_fancybox_is_used( true ) to re-enable Fancybox on the page. I added this to the_content with priority 11 because shortcodes, including gallery shortcodes, are executed at priority 10, and I want to be able to look through the output of short codes for the fancybox CSS class:

function jb_hunt_for_fancybox( $content ) {

    if( false !== stripos( $content, 'fancybox') || false !== stripos( $content, 'thickbox' ) ) {
        jb_fancybox_is_used( true );
    return $content;
add_filter( 'the_content', 'jb_hunt_for_fancybox', 11 );

If you include a something you want to fancybox in a template you can call jb_fancybox_is_used( true ) manually from the template file to include the CSS & Javascript.

Other Ways

This isn’t the only way to conditionally include Fancybox’s Javascript & CSS. Instead of using jb_hunt_for_fancybox() to filter the_content there’s probably an action or filter in the gallery shortcode that jb_fancybox_is_used() could be hooked onto. It may even be possible to use the $wp_query object in an action hook just before wp_enqueue_scripts to determine if there is content on the page that needs to be Fancyboxed, let that decide whether or not to run jb_dequeue_fancybox_css_js(), and forget about the other two functions.

Let’s Do Better

Plugin authors should be working hard to only add what is needed to each page load. Who is doing a great job? How can we hack our themes to bend other plugins to our will? Comment or tweet @johnbeales to let me know.