Boosting WordPress Performance With Custom Upload Directories

Stephen Yagielowicz

One of the major benefits to using WordPress is the platform’s robust media upload and processing capabilities, which allow images, for example, to be resized, reused and archived using a default process that may make sense to many users. In this basic setup, the default WP upload directory (wp-content/uploads/) is used to add images to the core file directories, putting multimedia files into a growing directory structure that can make image management and site backups more difficult.

A big culprit in this management problem is the default usage of month- and year-based subdirectories, which spread out content based upon when it was uploaded, rather than upon its type. For example, a post made today would include any uploaded images (including post thumbs) thus: These month and year directories are automatically generated upon media upload.

Specifying a custom upload directory will help better maintain WordPress-based websites while opening the door for significant performance upgrades.

For a site that is built out over a number of years, this directory structure can swell out of control, having a dozen annual folders, multiplied by the number of years the site has operated; so a five-yearold site could have at least 60 active image directories — hardly an ideal situation.

Consider the case of a site overhaul, when after that five years you decide to update the theme to include larger thumbnails: wading through all of those folders would not be nearly as easy as finding all of your thumbs in one folder, i.e. /images/.

Sure, there may be sophisticated database operations that might make changes easier, but these options are beyond the grasp of many WP-based website owners and could have disastrous consequences, making a well thought out directory structure instantly valuable.

Another major benefit of specifying a custom image path is the great ease with which remote image servers may be used. For example, specifying as the upload directory (or and then having your server admin point to that location when media and visitor volumes warrant), allows users to offload this static content to a dedicated server, the cloud, or a CDN, boosting the website’s performance.

One final note: you may find it handy to add a “designator” to the filename of post thumbnail images — for example, thumb-filename.jpg as the preview for filename.jpg, allowing for easier identification and grouping when scanning a directory full of images of mixed sizes, but with similar names.

You will find the various options for media management, including the upload path, available in the Word-Press admin. Go to Settings > Media > Uploading Files and take it from there, for a faster, more manageable website.