Driving Next-level Page Performance for a Fintech Disruptor

Digital agency Hallam guides Sonovate to world-class website performance with WP Engine’s industry-leading WordPress platform.

Industry: Financial Services

Site: sonovate.com | hallam.co.uk

Challenge: Improve website performance, UX, and SEO for one of the fastest-growing business finance lenders in the UK.

Solution: Site migration from Sonovate’s previous hosting provider to a dedicated server via WP Engine’s enterprise WordPress platform.

Results: Immediate performance improvements, including a nearly 95% reduction in Time to First Byte after leveraging WP Engine’s WordPress-optimized server architecture. Additional performance improvements include:

  • Avg. Page Load Time (sec) -43.84%
  • Avg. Page Download Time (sec) -76.49%
  • Avg. Server Response Time (sec) -30.70%

Sonovate provides tech-driven finance for the global contingent workforce. From starting as a challenge to the banks, Sonovate has grown to become the leading finance platform for funding the future of work, helping businesses of all sizes access and manage their funding requirements through its app or via its API.  Created to make it easier for businesses and individuals to run and manage their working lives, to date Sonovate has funded over £2.75 billion in over 40 countries.  

Hallam is a collaborative digital agency that uses strategic skills, creativity and technical edge to help its clients grow their revenue and thrive online. Steered by strategy and long-term vision, Hallam works in partnership with its clients to develop integrated marketing campaigns that shout about what they do. A WP Engine Agency Partner, Hallam is trusted by leading brands such as the United Nations, Speedo, Boots Hearingcare and AGA Rangemaster, delivering top-quality digital marketing to both national and international clients.

“There was no doubt in our mind that moving the site from its previous hosting environment to WP Engine’s platform would yield immediate results.”

—Jon Martin, Technical Director, Hallam

Right-sizing Performance For Tech-driven Finance

Sonovate was founded in 2013 as a way to provide embedded finance and payment solutions to the freelance workforce. 

Led by a philosophy of “smarter pay for the new working world,” the Cardiff, Wales-based company aims to be the funding platform for the future of work—a focus that’s proven particularly prescient in recent years as remote roles and the gig economy have rapidly expanded. 

Sonovate’s growth has been equally impressive. In addition to being named the first fintech “unicorn” in Wales, more than 3,300 businesses funded by Sonovate have paid 30,000+ freelancers, contractors, and gig workers (more than £2.75 billion in invoices to date) in over 40 countries.

In tandem with that success, Sonovate’s digital marketing strategy has also widened over the years. In 2021, the company began working with collaborative digital agency Hallam for assistance with SEO and content optimization. 

“The Sonovate team initially approached us for support with SEO across their website,” said Hallam Technical Director Jon Martin, “but SEO isn’t just content strategy and keywords, it’s highly dependent on how well the pages themselves perform.” 

Digging deeper into Sonovate’s digital footprint, Martin and his team discovered that performance issues were more significant than initially thought. 

“Long server response times were causing pages to load slowly ” Martin said, “and given the potential for this issue to go beyond SEO and cause things like site abandonment and lower conversions, we wanted to tackle it immediately.”

Time to First Byte (TTFB), which is a key indicator of page load speed, took center stage for Martin and his team. While Google lists a “good” TTFB as 800 milliseconds or less, Sonovate’s site was in need of improvement, showing an average TTFB of 1.7 seconds.

“Sonovate had created a beautiful website,” Martin said, “but its underlying infrastructure wasn’t providing the power and compute resources needed to ensure a seamless user experience. As such, the site was not living up to its potential.”

Raising the Bar With a Seamless Migration

Martin and the team at Hallam began discussing options with their counterparts at Sonovate, examining the best path for moving the site from its original hosting provider to WP Engine’s platform.

“There was no doubt in our mind that moving the site from its previous hosting environment to WP Engine’s platform would yield immediate results,” Martin said.  

“And because the Sonovate site had been built on WordPress, it made it extremely easy to move it to a WP Engine staging site and show the client just how much faster it could be, before doing anything else.”

As a WP Engine Agency Partner, the team at Hallam has access to free staging and development environments, advanced developer tools, and a dedicated team of agency support specialists who work hand-in-hand with agency partners and their clients to ensure the smooth delivery of each and every project. 

With all of these tools at their disposal, Martin and his team copied the previous Sonovate site and deployed it to staging, quickly demonstrating the values for various pages and performance metrics across the site, including TTFB. 

“Just by moving the site onto a dedicated WP Engine server, we saw the TTFB numbers drop,” Martin said.

The proof of concept provided the team at Sonovate  with all the assurances they needed to move forward. 

“With Sonovate’s green light, we formally migrated the previous site over to WP Engine’s platform and pushed it live, with the performance benchmarks we had seen in staging holding up just as well on the production side,” Martin said. 

After the site had pushed live, the team at Hallam continued making optimizations to the site, helping the Sonovate team fine-tune its content strategy with a powerful foundation underpinning their efforts. 

“Once we had the site up and running on WP Engine's platform, we commenced with additional SEO work, fully confident that it was being driven by best-in-class infrastructure,” Martin said.

The Results

Post migration, performance improvements to the Sonovate site were immediately apparent, with average TTFB dropping to  90.5 milliseconds—a decrease of more than 95%.

Additional performance improvements post-migration include: 

  • Avg. Page Load Time (sec) -43.84%
  • Avg. Page Download Time (sec) -76.49%
  • Avg. Server Response Time (sec) -30.70%

“And that was simply due to the new server infrastructure and WP Engine’s WordPress-optimized platform,” Martin said.

Additional enhancements made by the Hallam team improved page speeds even further, providing Sonovate with the high level of performance it requires to deliver a fast, seamless digital experience to its online visitors. 

“After the site was migrated, it finally had the right infrastructure supporting it, which helped all of its exceptional content come to life,” Martin said. 

“This was a great, quick win for Sonovate and for our team, who time and time again have partnered with WP Engine to provide exceptional outcomes for an enterprise client.” 

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