Speed is essential to a successful website. Your readers or customers don’t want to wait for their content. Even if a load time under ten seconds is “good” by Neilson’s rating standards, the majority of users expect a web page to load in under two. This leads to a lot of impatient web users bouncing from site to site, trying to find one that can keep up with their demands.
Surveys show users are even willing to pay a higher price so that they don’t have to wait. Even if your site isn’t a store, this should give you an idea of what your content is worth to them. If they’d rather part with their money rather than their time, they’ll definitely not wait for your content. But there are many ways to speed up your site’s loading time without making huge changes to the content.
While it’s tough to reach that sub-two-second loading time, if you can make it under seven you’ll avoid losing the bulk of your traffic. Here are 10 things you can do to cut down on your loading time that won’t mean a huge site overhaul.
1. Weigh Speed Versus Importance
Images and apps take time to load. The more things you have on a page: the more widgets, plugins, graphics, etc., the longer it takes to load. This means that the first thing you should do to improve loading time is to take a good, hard look at everything that you have going on on your site.
There may be some things that will use load time that you can’t do without. For example, a modern site needs visual interest. It would be faster to include no graphics, but the result would be a bland, boring site that no one would want to go to. But, having dense, high-res photos may not be necessary either.
You have to decide what isn’t working or doesn’t get used that you can cut to boost your speeds. Ask yourself: what business or other value does this element provide, and is it worth the loss of viewers to add it?
2. Use a Content Delivery Network
A Content Delivery Network or “CDN” spreads out the “work” of downloading or displaying your site. It distributes the content so that many servers are pitching in. It also tries to use servers geographically located closer to your viewers. If you’re familiar with file sharing software, it works on a similar principle. Each server only has to handle a fraction of the total load. This means that you get the best speed that each server can provide for a small task. Your host may offer this feature, usually in partnership with a large CDN provider. It may be an extra cost, but is one of the most direct technical solutions to the problem.
3. Rely on the Cloud
Similar to a CDN, Cloud technology makes it possible for you to cut down on the time it takes to retrieve information by relying on other servers. If you have a cloud copy ready and waiting, incoming traffic doesn’t have to connect to a specific single machine. The cloud can take an early opening, get the information your reader needs, and deliver at the same time as the rest of your site loads.
4. Optimize Your Images
When you’re talking graphics the common assumption is that bigger is better. This is true if you want to allow users to change the image, Photoshop it, print it out, make posters, whatever they want. But if all you need it for is to display on your site, bigger is not better. You can cut down the size of the files and still display the image at high clarity. Select the appropriate optimization function in your image editor, usually in an “Export for Web” menu item. Your readers won’t notice a difference and you’ll have faster load times with smaller images. This is one of the biggest impact “invisible” fixes that no one but you will know you did. They’ll see a faster loading time with no loss of quality.
5. Upgrade to a Better Web Host
Web hosting sites are not created equal. When you’re launching your site you have to balance performance and power with the cost. Over time this is a balancing act that will continue, but as you grow your needs will change.
Let’s say that you launched a site that was a blog with a small sales section. When you start out your blog readers are a few friends, family, and colleagues. You may have the occasional outside hit and a handful of sales. As you put more time and effort in, your readership grows and to where you have to process dozens or orders a day. Your needs from web hosting sites are different now than they were when you started.
Comparison shopping web hosting sites is the best thing you can do to give your blog what it needs to grow. Search for the ratings of your current host on our site and see if you can’t find a better one.
6. Minimize the Number of Round Trips
This doesn’t have to do with file size, but how many requests a browser has to make to get every piece of the site. A sales page could need information from a database, images from a gallery, data from another site, and so on. Even if each element doesn’t take that long, they’ll add up if you have too many “pieces” to your pages or site as a whole. Look for places you could consolidate or delete page components that aren’t needed. This can be a bit more technical so you may want to consult a developer to help here.
7. Allow for Caching
Caching refers to a browser saving one “piece” of your site and then reusing it upon repeat visits, or between pages. A good example of caching would be the background image of your site. If you use the same background throughout, enabling caching means that instead of having to download it every time the page changes, the viewer’s computer would already have it. This enables it to, in essence, only load the things that are different about the new page.
8. Maximize Caching Time
Now that your site has caching enabled, you should tinker with the settings. Some things on your site never change, and some do. There are also other times that something will cached for you automatically. You can change how often a viewer’s computer would look for new information from your site. For things that are completely stable, such as the background image, you can set that to “never expire”. The downside is that to see a future change you make to the background a user would have to hard refresh the page. But it means that you don’t have to worry about the background image consuming load time while they browse your site.
9. Advertisements Matter Too
Don’t assume everything slowing down your site is in your control. For example, take a look at your advertisers. There’s a reason that running an ad blocking program improves a computer’s performance. Ads can be bandwidth hogs, especially if they include an audio or video. It can be hard to deal with ad-caused delays. After all, you can’t cut out a primary financial support for your site and yourself. But, you can talk with your advertisers, or with a web designer to figure out how to compensate for the slowness on ad-heavy pages.
10. Order Your Webpage Carefully
Sometimes you can get away with a slower load time if the viewer doesn’t know they’re waiting. The order of content on your web page is very important. You should put quicker loading things near the top of any page, and slower ones “below the fold”. This gives them something to look at while the rest of the page loads. Even a short introductory paragraph before a video allows your viewers to stay engaged while the larger object loads below. A bored viewer won’t wait for content, so you have to fill in their interest from the top.