Improving Website Load Times
Performance can mean the difference between a successful website or not. Don’t think load times are important? Consider this:
One study found that 40% of users will abandon a web page if it takes more than three seconds to load.
Because Google has indicated that site speed influences its ranking algorithm, your page load speeds are affecting your search rankings (and therefore your traffic) before your users even reach your page.
Here are a few (reasonably) easy and a couple advanced ways to improve your site speed.
- Simplify your design
- Optimize your images
- Reduce the number of plugins on your site
- Enable HTTP compression
- Use website optimization services (Cloudflare)
Simplify your design
The design of your website is controlled by CSS, or Cascading Style Sheets. CSS is what determines the look and formatting of your website. You can simplify the loading process by combining multiple stylesheets into one and using CSS instead of images wherever possible. Load time is also affected by the number of scripts on your site, so work on reducing the overall number, minimize or compress them and move any necessary ones to the bottom of the page.
Optimize your images
There are two important things that affect how your images load on your site: size and type. Many people are guilty of loading giant image files to their site and relying on their website templates to resize them. The problem is, that giant file has to load first and is then resized, which slows down the whole process. If your content management system doesn’t allow you to crop or resize your image before adding it to a page, you may want to resize your files appropriately before you upload them.
The file type can also affect load times. Generally speaking, JPG files should be used for images and PNG files should be used for buttons and icons. Avoid GIF, BMP, and TIFF files.
Reduce the number of plugins on your site
If you’re using a WordPress site, you should routinely evaluate the performance of your plugins. Too many plugins can slow down your site, and may even cause security concerns if they’re not regularly updated. Take stock of the plugins you use on a regular basis and delete unnecessary ones. Of the plugins you routinely use, do some research and read reviews to see if there’s an equivalent that performs better.
Give these updates a try and see how your load speed improves. If you’re still seeing slow load times, consider contacting your hosting provider to see what kind of environment your site is hosted in. It may be possible for them to upgrade your hosting and reduce load times.
Enable HTTP Compression
HTTP compression makes web pages and other types of web files smaller in size using compression technology like gzip. Because smaller files take less network bandwidth, this results in faster page load times. Modern web servers and browsers all support compression so the ability to handle this form of optimization is already in place. However, this does require specialized server administration to configure and enable compression for websites.
Use Website Optimization Services (Cloudflare)
Another website optimization field that has emerged in recent years are next-generation CDN (content delivery networks) providers like Cloudflare that offer end-to-end website optimization services. This entails a subscription to their service, but afterwards your website’s server administrator can set things up so that the service will handle virtually all aspects of your site’s optimization automatically.
This story was originally published in September 2015 and updated in September 2017.