No doubt you’ve read, heard about, and likely experienced the importance of a fast loading website. It’s a conversation that’s been around since the days of dialup connection – if you still remember those days. It’s become increasingly important these days as people’s patience for a slow website is all but non-existent.
This is compounded by the fact that the different devices people use vary widely in their connection speed. We have access to high-speed internet that render a highly graphic site very quickly, unless it’s being shared with people streaming Netflix, or having a shared office connection where speed can vary. At the same time people on mobile devices have much more limited connection speed and data limitation.
What can be done to speed up your website?
First thing is to have a conversation with your webmaster. Your website speed may be limited by the website CMS, large image files, inefficient or outdated code, or the server itself. There are typically 5 different things that you should consider, and talk about with your website provider.
Ensure your server supports the website needs
Depending on the amount of traffic your website receives, and what your website is meant to accomplish, you may need to consider the type of server your website is hosted on.
We recently rebuilt and launched a website on the client’s existing server as per their request. Within 1 week we migrated the website to a whole new server that would better suited for their needs. The new website was taking 6-8 seconds to load despite all of the optimizations put in place. Once moved, the website was served up in less than 2 seconds.
gZip compression is available on most servers and you can usually just request that your hosting provider activate it for you. This is a form of compression run at the server level to speed up serving all of your website files and can have a significant impact on page load times.
Compress Everything – videos, images and script files
Did you know a video background can easily add 3-5 seconds to the load time of your page? This can be even longer if it’s being loaded on a phone.
Using video background has become very popular with such high bandwidth being available these days. It creates movement on the page and helps engage visitors visually. However that point is moot if people leave your website before they ever load the full page. Even when using Youtube or Vimeo to stream the video, it’s important to consider load times for non-optimal connections. You can take a 18MB video and compress it down to 3MB without losing impact.
Images can have the same impact. Consider this: 426kb file can be compressed down to to 28kb, a 93% decrease in size. That’s the difference between a bear and a small microwave. Which one would you rather move? Aside from the obvious danger of attempting to move a stubborn and likely annoyed bear of course.
There are tools which can help compress files as you upload them to your website, such as reSmush.it or kraken.io.
On average, when we’re launching a website, it comes with 100 of images. Once they are optimized and compressed during the launch phase, that media library comes down to 23 – 57mb. This has a huge impact on speed of the pages.
Make sure pages are being cached
Caching is the technical term for storing data in a temporary storage area, usually your computer. Browsers cache a lot of information so that when a visitor comes back to your site, the browser doesn’t have to reload everything on the page, just portions of it. This not only speeds up the pages for returning visitors, it also reduces the load on your web server so that they can go to quickly delivering the page to new visitors.
Use a Content Distribution Network (CDN)
Content distribution networks, also called content delivery networks, are networks of servers that are used to distribute the load of delivering your website content. Essentially, these are copies of your site are stored at multiple, geographically diverse locations so that users have faster and more reliable access to your site.
If a website is hosted in Texas, visitors from the southern states will be able to load it much more quickly than people viewing it in Canada. So if your audience spans a large geographic area, a CDN will help ensure quick delivery of your content no matter the location.
This is not necessary when your organisation is focused on fairly local traffic, such as the same province. Most websites do not use CDNs unless they are aiming for a global audience – such as Amazon or Apple.
Have a trusted web developer
Having a web developer goes a long way when it comes to the effectiveness of your website. The efficiency of your CMS is based a lot on the underlying code and the various addons used to give your site the functionality you’re looking for. This can range from a shopping cart, booking system, directories and many others. All of these things need to be integrated seamlessly to balance function, form and delivery.
Although this article only speaks to speed optimization, there are many different elements that need to be considered. Everything from the user experience and journey, search engine optimization, conversion rate and more. This is where a robust team can do wonders.