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Have you ever noticed that some websites load lightning-fast while others seem to just take forever? It's not just you—websites that load slowly are a real pain. In fact, studies have shown that website visitors expect pages to load in two seconds or less. If they don't, they're likely to move on to a different site.
While that's handy to know, the real issue is when the slow loading website is YOUR business site. What then? Don't worry, we'll help you figure it out.
In our experience, the three biggest factors that have the biggest effect on your website's speed are images that are too big, bloated and uncached files, and a slow server. We'll take a look at each of these issues and what you can do to fix them.
One of the biggest factors in image load times is the file size of the image itself. The larger the file size, the longer it will take for the image to load. Images should be saved at the smallest file size possible while still maintaining quality. One way to do this is to save images in either .jpg or .png format, both of which support compression. Compressing an image will reduce its file size without significantly affecting quality.
You should also look at the number of images on your website pages. The more images there are, the longer it will take for all of them to load. One way to mitigate this effect is to lazy load images—that is, only loading images as they come into view instead of loading all images at once. This can be especially effective on pages with long scroll lengths (like product pages with multiple product photos).
If you're having issues with images slowing down your site, use this checklist to speed things up.
1. Use images that are sized and compressed for the web. There are many tools available that can help you optimize your images for the web without sacrificing quality. (We include Smush Pro on all of our hosted websites). As a general rule of thumb, you want all of your images under 200kb, and you want to avoid anything bigger than 500kb like the plague. There's almost never a reason for an image to be that big on your website, and it can drastically slow down your page speed.
2. Use responsive images. Responsive images are images that are sized appropriately for the device they're being viewed on- so a smartphone might download a smaller image than a desktop computer would. This ensures that users aren't stuck waiting for large images to load on their slower mobile connection speeds.
3. Consider using lazy loading when you have a bunch of images outside of the initial viewport (that means they start out further down on the page than what you can see). Lazy loading is when an image is only loaded when it's scrolled into view. This means that users don't have to wait for all the images on a page to load before they can start viewing and interacting with your page.
4. Use a content delivery network (CDN) . A CDN is a network of servers located around the world that delivers content to users based on their location. By using a CDN, you can improve your website's performance by delivering content from a server that's closer to the user's location. If your website is on Wordpress, we recommend looking at Cloudflare - they have a great CDN and a host of other tools to help speed up your site. This can have a huge impact on your site's loading speed.
1. Bloated code. Code bloat is one of the most common reasons for slow website speeds. Code bloat occurs when a website's code consists of large amounts of unnecessary data. This extra data can come in the form of comments, extra whitespace, and unused code blocks. While comments and whitespace don't take up much room, unused code blocks can add a lot of bulk to your code base. And the more bulk your code has, the longer it will take for browsers to parse and render it. To avoid code bloat, keep your code clean and concise. Only include comments when absolutely necessary, and remove any unused code blocks from your site's code base.
Most websites rely on plugins and scripts from third-party providers in order to add additional functionality. However, if these plugins and scripts are poorly coded, they can cause significant performance issues. In some cases, they may even conflict with other parts of your website's code, resulting in further complications.
3. Unnecessary HTTP requests. Every time a user visits your website, their browser sends an HTTP request to your server asking for the resources needed to render the page (e.g., HTML files, images, etc.). The more resources a page has, the more HTTP requests have to be made—and the longer it will take for the page to load completely. To reduce HTTP requests, minimize the number of resources required to render each page on your site. One way to do this is by using image sprites—combining multiple images into a single file—instead of using multiple individual image files. Another way is by using caching techniques that allow browsers to store frequently accessed resources locally on users' computers so they don't have to be downloaded from your server every time they're needed.
If all of this sounds technical, it's because it is! Here are two best practices for cleaning up your code.
1) Audit your site plugins. If there are any plugins that you have installed on your website that you aren't using or that you could live without - delete them! (Of course, back up your site before ripping out plugins juuuuuuust in case something breaks!)
2) Use a Performance Plugin. We use Hummingbird Pro for our client sites to combine and minify your code files, handle page caching, and monitor the uptime of our websites.
3) Use a CDN. To get even more bang for your buck, you can move your domain to Cloudflare to take advantage of their CDN and other optimization tools.
If you have a slow server, it can hurt your business in a number of ways.
1. Slow loading times: The most obvious is that your website will load slowly. And as you've probably experienced yourself, if a webpage takes too long to load, visitors are likely to click away before they even get a chance to see what you have to say.
Pro tip: Google uses page loading speed as a ranking factor, so if your site is slow, it's likely that you'll be buried in the search results.
2. Downtime: A slow server can also lead to increased downtime for your website. Downtime occurs when your site is inaccessible due to technical issues like server problems. Not only is downtime frustrating for your visitors, but it can also hurt your bottom line—after all, if potential customers can't access your site, they can't buy from you.
3. Additional Security risks: A slow server can also make your website more vulnerable to security risks. Hackers often target slow websites because they know that the site's administrators are likely stretched thin and may not have the time or resources to patch up security vulnerabilities as quickly as they would on a faster site. After all, if a site isn't investing in a decent web host, they probably haven't invested in adequate security, right?
So how do you fix a slow server? You don't - you move your website to a faster server. Web hosting is 100% one of those things where you get what you pay for, so if you're paying a couple of dollars a month to somebody like Bluehost (shots fired, pew pew!), there's just not going to be a world where your site is lightning fast.
So there you have it. In our experience, these are the biggest culprits for why your website would load slowly. Now, if you're sitting here thinking to yourself - "This was helpful, but making all these changes sure sounds like a pain in the ass...", then we've got an offer for you.
We offer fully managed website hosting - which means we're positioned to take all of these concerns off your plate, but we also understand that trusting a new company with something as important as your website is a big step! So, submit the form below, and we'll audit your website to determine where we think the biggest culprits are that are slowing down your site. If we think that we can help you, we'll clone your site and make all the performance updates that we would normally make. Then we'll let you review the cloned site and compare the results from Google's Pagespeed Insight tool between your current site and the new and improved one. Only pay for hosting when you're satisfied that everything looks good and performs better than ever. If that sounds like a deal, fill out the form below.