As the world moves into a faster, more technologically savvy age, consumers are expecting companies to keep up. New technologies are appearing every day, increasing the speed of the internet with every innovation. As a webmaster, you have just a few seconds to grab and retain your visitor’s attention. It doesn’t matter if you sell goods, offer services or run a blog: If your website is slow, you will be at risk of losing traffic, visitors and money. In fact, in a recent survey of their clients, SiteGround reports website speed as the #2 user concern behind security.
Although having a web host that uses the latest hardware and speed-enhancing technologies is essential to website performance, it is not the only thing that can be done. There are several tools and techniques that can be applied to improve speed. I’ve outlined some of the major components below.
Identifying and Prioritizing Issues
First thing first: Is there an underlying problem with your site that is causing it to be slow? The easiest way to check is to do benchmark testing. Luckily, there are many free tools online that can be used to do this, and the more tests you’re able to perform on your site the better.
If the benchmark tests show an issue on-site speed, the next step is to identify the cause. While every website is different, there are a few common issues to start with:
- Too many heavy visual elements like sliders, carousels, etc. on a single page;
- Too many social and sharing plugins and widgets
- Too many external fonts
- Bloated themes with too many features
- Large and unoptimized images
Once the research is completed, you may find that there are numerous issues. Instead of tackling all of them at once, the key is to prioritize. While some problems may be a quick fix, others may be extremely time consuming but will result in only minor speed improvements. T
here are two things that you should always consider when prioritizing your fixes:
– How difficult will it be to fix the issue?
– What effect will resolving the issue have on your site?
You can use the answers to these questions to create a list of optimizations, starting from those that will have the most significant impact for the time spent.
Optimizing Page Size and Content
The goal of a website is to be eye-catching, but you won’t keep the attention of your end-user if the site is slow to load.
Additionally, image size is extremely important, as they’re an essential part of a website. Be sure to use appropriate sizes so they’re not bogging down the load time.
Optimizing Themes and Plugins
Both themes and plugins are essential to the speed of your site since they’re pieces of code that your site executes when it’s accessed.
Look for themes that are already in your repository or find one through a reputable provider. It’s important to have a well-written theme because the quality of the theme code affects every part of your site, and some added features may slow it down. You don’t have to be a good developer to have a good site, but make sure your theme is written by a good one.
When it comes to plugins, if a plugin includes several functions, make sure you use most or all of them. Don’t install another plugin if one of your active ones can already do the job. And always keep your plugins up-to-date, or you’ll miss out on important things such as security patches, bug fixes, or speed improvements.
There are constantly new features being introduced into the market, many of which will allow your site to operate better and faster. Finally, if you’re not using something, delete it! It’s good security practice and one less thing to slow down your back-end.
Optimizing Server and Hosting
One way to optimize your website is to take advantage of server-level caching. Caching is a great technology that saves the outcome of different operations that your site must perform in order to display your final content to the website visitor. It then serves this ready “content” for the next visitor of the site much faster, because all the computing of the page is already done and saved.
You can easily enable server-level caching from your control panel, which will provide performance improvement. Depending on the website, loading time can go from 2-3 seconds to 0.5 seconds! Using such a caching service will also increase the amount of traffic you can handle on your account.
If you have visitors to your site from around the globe, it’s a good idea to use a CDN service, which clones your website amongst multiple host nodes. Then, when a visitor requests a URL, it gets served from the closest host node rather than from the central server.
Lastly, you can also use SSL and HTTP/2. SSL protects visitors and customers by encrypting all of the information that is traveling between the browser and the server, ensuring extra security for your users and their data. It’s strongly recommended for all websites. The HTTP/2 protocol is much faster and allows the browser to make multiple simultaneous requests for resources to the server, which results in faster and safer sites.
Optimizing for speed is a continuous and important part of building and maintaining your website. Without optimization, you risk spending more money, losing visitors and conversions and even damaging your brand and reputation. By using the above tips, you’ll be well on your way to having an optimal website experience.