Countless benchmarks show that a couple-second delay in website loading decreases conversion rates, page views, and overall customer satisfaction by dozens of percent. It means load time is crucial enough to affect any website content even before users see it. One way or another, every website sells something: content, products, services, etc. The sales efficiency suffers when its vehicle slows down.
Website performance optimization is a powerful weapon in the fight for customers. Therefore, everyone who masters the weapon has a bigger chance to win in the never-ending competition. Website performance is multifaceted in terms of the available improvement approaches. They are diverse enough to require particular skills and knowledge as well as time to acquire. Here are some tips on how to speed up a website. They all are based on our vast hands-on experience in web development services. Read, learn, and boost your web project.
Many web designers and online entrepreneurs tend to ignore their website’s loading speed in favor of either eye-catching design or abundant content. Whether or not load time is a primary metric in terms of priority may remain questionable. However, nobody argues that the ever-so-desired great user experience directly depends on how quickly a requested web page appears on the screen. Users often evaluate a website through its loading speed since it delivers what matters—the first impression.
A metric like loading speed becomes especially critical when a website has many competitors across a particular business domain. The more competitors the project has, the more significant the role of its website performance occurs in business battles. Ecommerce stores that offer similar goods have to use all possible tricks to catch the buyers’ attention, for instance. Hundreds and thousands of rivals are forever on their toes, and consumers always have a choice. Online stores hardly can afford to pay no attention to load time, unlike personal pages of those who offer something unique (writers, artists, crafters, etc.).
Another aspect of the website’s performance problem relates to search engines. They rank websites with algorithms that assess various factors such as website responsiveness and load time inter alia. Understanding what page speed (load time) means in this context is crucial. The period between clicking the link and downloading web page content from a hosting server into a browser is what we call website load time. The shorter the period, the higher the ranking provided by search engines. Isn’t this a competitive advantage? Indeed it is.
Some may argue that a few moments mean nothing in web browsing. However, stats show otherwise. Tons of studies have been made in recent years to demonstrate the users’ behavior in response to web page loading delays. They vary from study to study insignificantly. But all of them confirm a common trend: web surfers hate waiting. Just to reflect the trend, below are numbers showing that website speed optimization always makes sense:
An inverse dependence exists, as well. When Mozilla focused on separate web page optimizations and decreased page load time by 2.2 seconds, 60+ million yearly Firefox downloads occurred.
Why does this happen? Neuroscience offers an answer: humans need only 100 milliseconds to catch and process visual information. A 1-second page scroll is comfortable enough to feel control over the page downloading process. At the same time, a 10-second delay leads to nothing but frustration and a strong need to abandon the website with no return.
One regular customer is better than two newcomers, as many successful entrepreneurs believe. It makes sense if we assess the significant effort needed to retain customers. A website can take over a large share of customer retention when meeting user expectations. Increased traffic, conversions, and sales are the positive outcomes of an effectively performing website. And high load speed is an integral element of such performance.
Any business can benefit from proper web page optimization in two major aspects: SEO and user experience.
Search engine optimization covers several website features besides successfully selected keywords and tags. It’s critical to make your website as relevant to search engine requirements as possible to see it atop the Google rankings. The higher the position, the greater the number of potential visitors. Fast load speed is recognized by Google’s algorithms as a sign of a user-friendly website deserving of a higher position in the search results. Fast-loading pages allow crawling bots to capture and examine more content to attribute it to relevant inquiries.
Even though search engine algorithms can change over time, the common trend always remains more inclined toward user-friendly pages. Google ranks faster sites as more relevant to users’ queries since speed is one of the criteria of SEO. You may suppose that such criteria prioritize content over speed. This is only partially so. In fact, precise keywords and fast load speed are two sides of the same coin for Google bots. Even the best-matching content can fall behind when low website speed prevents it from competing with faster rivals.
Search engine algorithms are indifferent to your emotional opinions when websites with less-matching content appear higher in rankings than your page. Taking every opportunity to push your website higher in Google listings is a viable approach to continuously fighting for customers. Optimizing website speed is one of those opportunities. In many cases, site speed optimization takes less time and resources than many other SEO practices. Being thoroughly conducted once, it can keep bringing benefits to your business over months if not years. Faster websites are more user-friendly according to search engine algorithms and, therefore, more efficient in terms of ROI.
The SEO principles used by Google regarding your website hint at what you should prioritize when building your project. The user-centric approach is worth keeping in mind to optimize your website according to user expectations. All users appreciate and expect a smooth user experience, consciously or unconsciously. This is about the desired user engagement that strongly correlates with a great user experience.
Users are always looking for value that your product or service can provide. Your website is the vehicle delivering value to them. If the vehicle moves slowly, users may suppose that either the value is insignificant or you don’t care whether it can be delivered at all. Such an attitude can hardly encourage anyone to deal with your project. It doesn’t matter how great your content is if users ignore it due to unacceptable load time. Relying on the users’ patience instead of improving your website performance is definitely not a winning strategy.
Intuitive navigation across the site and minimized obstacles when browsing are the two pillars of the good UX. But they both depend on the third compulsory attribute of your website: short load time. If the time is excessively long, most users will abandon your page more likely without even trying to navigate your content. Moreover, they will never return to your project since poor user experience gains a foothold in their reflexes. Remember that a once-lost customer is lost forever. Hence, site speed optimization should come prior to any improvements you make regarding UX. Otherwise, your business risks facing low conversions and poor customer engagement. For more about the benefits and risks of outsourcing web development, read here.
Before proceeding to web page optimizations, it’s worth considering what slows down loading speed typically. The variety of reasons is not limited by the following hindering factors, but they seem the most common.
The more files a page contains, the more time a browser needs to render it. This is about the page weight determined by all included resources: images, embeds, links, etc. Experts suggest that the lion’s share of load time is spent on what end-users see, i.e., on the frontend. Minimalistic UI design with no heavy images or sophisticated layouts provides faster rendering and, therefore, shorter loading time.
Images affect the page weight as few other objects do. Images are larger than any HTML text per se. At the same time, it’s not a big deal to fix the image characteristics for better website performance. Resize your image before uploading with no expectation that a hosting server can do it properly instead of you. Use compressed file formats such as JPG, PNG, and GIF. Try to maintain a reasonable balance between the image quality and its size. Never overload your page with redundant visuals.
End-user browsers and web hosting servers communicate via HTTP(Hypertext Transfer Protocol). Each element of a web page appears displayed after a server responds to an HTTP request sent by a browser. Hence, the more objects the page contains, the more HTTP requests have to be sent and responded to; therefore, more time is needed to download the page. External resources linked to your page, such as ads, font packs, images, widgets, affiliate links, and the like, increase the number of HTTP requests. Reducing them with page design simplification is one of the effective website speed optimization techniques.
Browsers save time and bandwidth by caching web pages locally. This helps reduce HTTP requests to hosting servers. Static elements should be cached, while dynamic ones shouldn’t. Caching details and instructions come from the particular service provider you use to create and host your website.
Browsers can decompress files and display them as normal if they have been compressed before uploading to a hosting server. File compression makes the file size smaller and, therefore, easier and faster to download by browsers. Most websites use the GZIP compression standard to reduce load time.
Choosing an appropriate hosting provider can contribute to your website performance significantly. A hosting server incapable of handling traffic can cause a lengthy load time. Overtly cheap hosting plans usually imply sharing with many other websites. Such split resources can hardly work fast simultaneously when their activities increase.
The distance between end-user devices and your hosting server determines the speed with which HTTP requests reach the server. The longer, the lower. Hence, selecting the closest server to your potential audience is necessary to optimize website performance. However, your audience can be spread across the entire planet. A CDN (content delivery network) can help in such a case. CDNs offer distributed servers with cached copies of your website that can be quickly delivered to surrounding users.
Unfortunately, some hindering factors lie beyond your capabilities to fix. This doesn’t mean you may be unaware of them, however. Fluctuating traffic volumes, obsolete browsers, and poor bandwidth are some factors affecting load time from the end-user side.
Assessing website speed may seem pretty circumstantial: the same website can perform differently to different users according to particular local conditions (slow network connection and the like). At the same time, objective measurements of website speed should be conducted to realize how to improve website performance. The software market offers several related tools. What do they measure?
Such metrics as the First Input Delay and Cumulative Layout Shift belong to the Core Web Vitals defined by Google. Besides Google, other popular software solutions, such as Pingdom, provide a comprehensive assessment of websites in many aspects. They monitor various website elements to detect possible performance bottlenecks related to the file size, response time, and requests to different page parts (CSS files, images, HTML, etc.). How do they do that?
They use multiple browsers to imitate end-user experiences in different locations. In doing so, they work under the rules prioritized by a particular website owner in the context of performance evaluation. Such rules can cover server-user RTT (round-trip time), caching, upload/download data size, TTFB (time to first byte), TTSR (time to start rendering), and the like. By utilizing the metrics’ analysis results, the tools generate performance-improving suggestions related to one or another website element. For example, if an uncompressed image is detected, a recommendation may imply avoiding bulky files by using compression.
The performance score calculated by one tool may differ from the score of another since their measurement principles may vary. Hence, using multiple tools to get lost in divergent results is hardly reasonable. Choose the one that resonates with your vision of website speed optimization the most. Also, it’s worth remembering that cached and uncached websites perform differently when running speed tests. Popular website speed measurement software includes Website Grader, PageSpeed Insights, WebPageTest, and GTmetrix, to name a few.
Methods to increase the speed of websites should not be fewer than the hindering factors mentioned above, as logic suggests. Web designers and website owners can proactively use various optimization techniques according to the performance pitfalls potentially threatening their projects. The following web page optimizations constitute a pretty comprehensive stack of measures able to improve all major parameters affecting website speed.
As we have already explained above, HTTP requests connect browsers and hosting servers. Every part of a website appears displayed in a browser with a corresponding request. Browsers have specific limits on the number of parallel requests. This results in queues of requests that slow download time.
A thorough revision of all requests is recommended to screen the unnecessary ones when addressing excessively long queues. In many cases, removing numerous requests for external resources, plugins, and various additional files entails nothing harmful to website usability. On the contrary, websites start downloading faster when redundant requests are decreased. HTTP2 can help optimize the request issue by combining multiple files to arrive via a single connection. Your hosting provider can assist you in shifting from HTTP1.1 to HTTP2.
Any website can hardly do without visuals. But high-res graphics usually have a size and weight that affect load time. In many cases, on-site images must have the uncompromising quality to impress users. Hence, a good balance between file size and quality becomes challenging for website owners.
Another perplexing consideration is the fact that high-density displays like retina screens are barely available in all end-user devices. Using superior-quality graphics seems futile in such cases, especially for mobile browsers.
Applying file compression techniques to heavy-weight images can be a good solution for site speed optimization. The JPEG standard for multi-color images like photos and PNG for monochrome (or simple) graphics can help maintain a proper balance between load time and visual quality.
Static elements constitute the lion’s share of websites mostly. At the same time, they consume a significant share of the overall weight of all downloaded files. This means that each time we download a website, static content eats resources worth using more intelligently for dynamic elements. Spending bandwidth on unchangeable parts such as fonts, images, CSS files, and the like does not seem rational in terms of website speed. This is especially relevant to distant users who have to wait longer.
Content delivery networks (CDN) provide a decent solution with their distributed servers. The static part of a website can be cached and delivered to users from the closest server to increase the website speed. CDNs follow the cloud paradigm in data distribution by multiplying static content with their infrastructures. Utilizing CDN services can significantly contribute to website performance optimization of any scope.
It’s no secret that mobile users have long outnumbered PC users. This fact is worth keeping in mind when building a website. A traditional development routine implies creating a website for PCs with subsequent adaptation for mobile devices. Hasn’t this approach become obsolete? The current situation in web browsing suggests prioritizing mobile-first development.
Web developers should use either mobile devices or corresponding emulators to create and test websites. Mobile users should become the default target audience whose expectations regarding load time and other website features should set the tone.
High-performance hosting unlikely refers to shared plans in which multiple websites have to compete for speed within the same server. Shared hosting plans imply equal rights for all hosted websites with no priority in delivering to users. A queue remains a queue, and it’s hardly worth expecting any special attitude to your website from hosting providers unless you pay more for a managed service.
There are several types of hosting plans. They differ in prices and options. Shared ones are the cheapest plans since you share a server with some other website owners (in case you are looking for cost-saving opportunities). A virtual private server (VPS) provides much higher website speed due to using multiple hardware. A dedicated server is the most expensive hosting plan since a standalone server belongs to your website entirely. Serverless hosting is the next-gen solution when almost unlimited scalability appears accessible to website owners due to massive cloud infrastructures managed by service providers.
When thinking about how to optimize your website performance, one of the easiest solutions that comes to mind is decreasing the overall weight of each page. In addition to reducing the number of HTTP requests and compressing images, removing irrelevant plugins and links can significantly contribute to website speed.
Caching your website for faster downloading by distant users is a well-proven technique to improve website performance. At the same time, there are two sides to the caching coin. On the one hand, it provides almost instant downloading of the cached version. On the other hand, two or more versions of your site have to exist. It’s not a big deal when changes are not frequent on your website. Otherwise, continuous content management is needed. However, reduced latency and improved load time are worth the efforts for both caching and content management.
Success is not possible when performance is left to the mercy of fate. Even if your website is perfect in terms of current performance, nothing prevents it from degrading over time. Continuous monitoring of your website metrics can alert you when something goes wrong. Various website monitoring tools are available on the market. Many are free. Adjusting your website according to received measurements can keep website speed high enough all the time.
Customer satisfaction depends a lot on how smooth the user experience is. Excellent user experience, in turn, requires one to ultimately optimize website performance. Short load time is critical for delivering website content to visitors before they lose patience and abandon the page.
Efficient practices to speed up your website are not rocket science. Every online entrepreneur can possess the simple methods mentioned above. At the same time, nobody but web development experts knows all the nuances of website speed optimization. Contact our team to get assistance in making your website lightning-fast and irresistibly impressive.
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