People are no longer as patient as they used to be. As soon as a prospect clicks a link to a page on your site, they expect the page to render in less than three seconds. If the page does not load in that time up to 49 percent of people will click away and consider other options.
If you are an e-commerce site, the consequences for your business can be quite grave. Research suggests that 79 percent of people who click away after your page loads slowly or lags will never return. These are incredible figures that should alarm every website owner.
Page speed is basically the time it takes from when you click a link to a page to when all the media content on the page has fully loaded. If your pages load slowly, not only will your efforts at attracting customers to your site be in vain, because your click-through rates will be so poor, your search engine rankings will also take a nosedive.
Besides the CTR, other page rank metrics, like time on page and social shares also suffer. No one is going to spend time exploring a slow site nor share content that is difficult to consume. With low search engine rankings, your chances of being discovered online wane significantly.
While new visitors to your site are being frustrated into leaving before even trying your offers, your more loyal customers’ patience with your site may already be wearing thin. Losing old customers costs even more than attracting new ones.
And as more people move to the mobile web, Google has swiftly moved to a mobile-first ranking system. This means you now need to pay even more attention to how well your mobile website performs. Recent research has shown that visitors to mobile sites expect your pages to take no more than five seconds to load. That forces an even greater need for website speed optimization.
What do you do as a website owner?
Well, you improve your site speed. But website optimization is not an overnight exercise. It requires changing your whole ethos around website design. It involves forgoing things you have now been wired to believe are what makes good websites.
Today we discuss a few ways you can adapt to improve your site speed. This is your guide to website speed optimization.
It is fair to say you can’t do without images on your site. But you can be more intentional about the size and type of images you use, as this alone can improve your site speed. Generally, JPEG images are easier to process and are best when picture quality is really important and the image itself does not require much modification.
GIFs, though very engaging, should be used minimally. And for logos, icons, and illustrations, PNG images are best. Images that are too large also don’t display very well, besides taking longer to load. Ensure a good balance between image compression and maintaining good image quality. For JPEGs, a 60-70 percent compression will ensure acceptable image quality while reducing your images to a good size.
Plugins are intended to improve your users’ experience with your website. And for the most part they do. But one too many plugins will slow your website. Too many plugins available today just add fancy features that have a more negative effect on your site speed than they have a positive one on your user experience.
Keep plugins to a minimum and only use those that add to your site’s performance. Try to avoid plugins that load too many scripts and content pieces, those that perform overly complex tasks, and those that index resources on external APIs.
Websites are built on code. But just as website articles can be made more concise, the code infrastructure on which your content sits can be minified by using fewer lines of code, operators, and declarations. Lightweight and shorter code ensures faster download times and parsing, which all improve the user experience.
Caches are basically small files that browsers compile every time you visit a page so they don’t have to index the page from scratch the next time you visit. Enabling website caching thus lessens the time websites take to render pages for repeat visitors. Assuming these are your loyal customers, you at least have a chance to improve their experience and retain their business.
Content Delivery Networks (CDNs) on the other hand are an extension of caches. They are networks of web servers hosting cached files generated globally scattered web traffic. Every website visitor is directed to a CDN server closest to them.
In effect, CDNs pool caches for site visitors from the same geographical regions for the benefit of others around them who may wish to visit the same sites. CDNs are thus caches at scale. And using them can have a profound effect on your page speeds.
Using poor website hosting services has a big effect on your site’s overall performance. While free and shared hosting by content management platforms like WordPress have democratized the internet and enabled more people to have an online presence, they are just not good enough for a serious business.
Ultra-performance websites and business sites require an investment in dedicated or managed hosting. Larger businesses will do even better by investing in collocated hosting. As your content libraries grow, and incoming traffic increases, your hosting also needs to improve. Otherwise, your page speeds will drop to a snail’s pace and your user experience will suffer.
If your site lags, fails to load and takes too many steps to purchase a product, visitors will switch to your competitors in a heartbeat. There is a lot more you can do to increase or at least maintain your site speeds. But the few we have discussed here are a good starting point.
Webmasters Group is Web Development & Designing Company serving clients in Melbourne and beyond. We aim to build fully responsive websites that are optimized for both search and conversion. Contact us and let us help build your next site.