Turbocharge your website’s loading speed
In 7 Easy Steps.
back in my day…
Remember dial-up internet? Watching a webpage load from top-to-bottom in little blocks? Yeah, crap wasn’t it? Well, this ain’t 1999 anymore. The Y2K bug didn’t materialise, that kid from the 6th Sense isn’t so little anymore, and waiting ten minutes for a webpage to load is a thing of the past. Or at least it should be. A fast loading speed for your website is essential in 2020. Users expect nothing less and there’s no shortage of competition out there if yours isn’t up-to-scratch.
Why should you improve your website’s loading speed?
First of all, you don’t have to have a fast website. You won’t get kicked off the internet for having a slow site. It’ll still be live, functional and accessible to 99.9% of your users. But that absolutely does not mean it’s not worth worrying about.
Quite the opposite actually.
These are the two main reasons your site should be as fast as it can possibly be:
User Experience (UX)
If you visit a website and it doesn’t load, or links don’t work, or there’s intrusive pop-ups flying in all over the place, or the whole thing looks like the aftermath of a two-year-old getting hold of mummy’s makeup, what do you do? That’s right, you leave and take your business elsewhere. So does everyone else, and that’s why your website needs to load faster than fast.
Think about this; 47% of users expect a web page to load within 2 seconds, and 40% will abandon a website completely if it hasn’t loaded within 3 seconds. And those figures are from 2019, so they’ll only be getting bigger.
Want your website to be on the first page of Google? Of course you do. The vast majority of site owners are all in a race to the top of Google. But if you ignore the loading speed of your site Google really isn’t going to care about you. Google use a super-complicated algorithm to rank search results, but what it boils down to is this; they want to see quality, relevant content, on a secure, trustworthy site with a good user experience. And page loading speed is a crucial element of a good user experience. So if your site is more tortoise than hare, this is a race you just won’t be winning.
How to do it
image optimisation: Part 1
THE BIGGEST drain on a site’s loading speed will be using images that are too big for their intended purpose. Now, there’s actually two types of ‘too big’. First would be too big in terms of the images physical size – Don’t go using an images that’s 3000 pixels wide when it only needs to be 300. That’s clearly unnecessary, and will make that image load about ten times slower than it would if it were sized correctly. Now imagine that over 20, 30, maybe 100 images across your website and you can see that’ll cause some problems for your end user.
It’s a simple fix. Resize your images to the correct dimensions before uploading them to your website. Or if that ship has already sailed for you, there are some WordPress plugins that can help. Try Smush – there’s a free version as well as a premium option that can help you out. Ironically though, the more plugins you use the more the site will have to load for an end user. Yes, that too will impact your site’s loading speed, but nothing like massive images will.
Plugins like Smush can take all the hard work out of image compression for you.
image optimisation: Part 2
So now you know about the importance of your images being the correct dimension. The second part is more art than science, and there’s no definitive right or wrong answer to it. We’re talking about image quality, and it affects the file size of your images immensely.
Just like in part 1, you want your image to be as small as possible for it’s intended purpose. A typical full-quality Jpeg image can be several megabytes in size. Whereas the same image can be compressed to a fraction of it’s original file size. But that doesn’t mean it should be.
When you compress you lose image quality. Take a close look at it, and if you’ve compressed an image too much you’ll see the loss of quality is drastic. What was once a nice, crisp image is now a blocky, hideous mess. You need to channel your inner goldilocks and find that ‘juuuuust right’ amount of compression to get the best compromise between too big and too gross.
Want to know more about image optimization? Check out our other post about how to optimize your website images, including the different file types you can use.
page speed plug-ins
If you’ve got a WordPress site, you’re in luck. There’s plenty of free plugins that mean you can bring your loading times down without even looking at any code, let alone editing it. Check out Autoptimize, Page Speed Ninja, or Fast Velocity Minify for a start.
They’re generally easy to use, and there’s a wealth of tutorials for them online if you get stuck. Using one of these simple plugins with effective caching settings can buy you back a huge amount of loading time.
lose the clutter
If you’ve optimised your images and condensed your excess code, you’ll already be getting a respectable page speed score. But there’s more you can do. Even though they’re turned off, unused themes, inactive plugins, and any other kinds of deadwood you’ve got cluttering up the backend of your site will impact your page speed.
Get rid of them.
Pro tip: leave one inactive (preferably WordPress default) theme as a fallback option incase your current theme doesn’t work for a user. An ugly website is still better than no website at all!
Use a Content Delivery Network (CDN)
A CDN is essentially a network of servers that work together to load the content of a website much faster than a typical server would allow. It’s certainly not free, but – among other things – it will increase your page loading speed significantly.
Normally, a website will load one thing at a time according to it’s priority. But using a CDN means your website has access to more than one server, allowing it to load multiple assets at any one time. More servers, means more actions processed, means more speed.
Cloudflare are the world’s number one Content Delivery Network service, but if you want anything more than their very basic free model (and you probably will), it can become quite a hefty outlay of cash.
Your webpage might be getting great results in a speed test, but don’t be tempted to overlook the mobile version of your site (you do have a mobile version, right? – here’s why you should).
Use smaller, mobile specific images where you can. A full width image on a laptop needs to be much wider than one for a phone screen, so why force phone users to load enormous images if you don’t have to? 3G internet isn’t exactly Broadband, so any kilobytes you can save on file sizes will help your mobile loading speeds. Choosing a good caching plugin and using a CDN will also contribute in a huge way to a fast mobile browsing experience.
Google’s Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP)
While we’re on the subject of mobile, have you ever seen that little lightning bolt icon next to a Google search result? Probably – even if you haven’t paid any attention to it. That icon tells you that this particular web page is an Accelerated Mobile Page (AMP) – a speed-orientated variant of a webpage made specifically for mobile devices.
Google’s Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP) icon
If your page load speed is slow and you’ve exhausted your other options, then you may want to use these AMP versions of your webpages. They are essentially a stripped-down, super simplified version of your normal pages, with all the pretty bits, fancy functionality and code-heavy gubbins removed. That all results in a lightning-fast website on mobile devices. Great for blogs, shops, news sites and many others, but if the aesthetic properties of your site are a priority AMP probably isn’t the one for you.
Want to learn more about AMP? Then head over to our other post to find out the what, the why and the the pros and cons.
HOW TO ANALYSE YOUR WEBSITE
You should be analysing your site regularly. But, if you’re not used to it, it may be hard to work out what to look at. So, we’ve written this blog post to guide you through the process.
FIFTEEN THINGS TO DO WHEN BUSINESS IS SLOW
Instead of being a negative it can actually be a great opportunity. We’ve compiled a list of 15 things you can do when business is slow to make the most it.
How much does a website cost?
This is probably one of the most common questions we get asked. But there are so many variables when it comes to creating a bespoke website, it’s not always an easy one to answer.