How to speed up your website

Website visitors liked fast sites in 2018. And so does Google. In fact, Google likes really fast sites so much it is preparing to move to what it is calling a ‘mobile first‘ index in 2018.

Every second counts and even a one-second delay in page load time can lead to:

  • fewer page views

  • decrease in customer satisfaction

  • loss in conversions

Loading time is a major contributing factor to a higher bounce rate. The average user has no patience for a page that takes too long to load and quite rightly so.

So what is the recommended loading time?

Before you get started, you will need to find out what the current speed of your website is. There are some good free tools out there to do this:

For mobile sites
For all devices

According to Google, best practice is three seconds. Unfortunately, according to its recent benchmark report findings, most sites are nowhere near that.

 Think with Google  Source: Google/SOASTA Research, 2017.

Think with Google

Source: Google/SOASTA Research, 2017.

How can you speed up your website?

Here is a list of 9 page speed rules given by Google Developers:

  1. Avoid Landing Page Redirects -

    This means any redirect from a given URL to the actual final landing page. Redirects trigger an additional HTTP request-response cycle and delay page rendering.

  2. Enable Compression -

    Enabling GZIP compression can reduce the size of the transferred response by up to 90%, which can significantly reduce the amount of time to download the resource, reduce data usage for the client, and improve the time to first render of your pages.

  3. Improve Server Response Time

    The server response time is affected by the amount of traffic the site receives, the resources each page uses, the software the server uses, and the hosting solution which is used. To improve the server response time, look for performance bottlenecks like slow database queries, slow routing, or a lack of adequate memory and fix them. The optimal server response time is under 200ms.

  4. Browser Caching

    Fetching resources over the network is both slow and expensive: the download may require multiple roundtrips between the client and server, which delays processing and may block rendering of page content, and also incurs data costs for the visitor. All server responses should specify a caching policy to help the client determine if and when it can reuse a previously fetched response.

  5. Minify HTML, CSS and JavaScript

    Minification refers to the process of removing unnecessary or redundant data without affecting how the resource is processed by the browser - e.g. code comments and formatting, removing unused code, using shorter variable and function names, and so on.

  6. Optimise Images

    Be sure that your images are no larger than they need to be, that they are in the right file format (PNGs are generally better for graphics with fewer than 16 colors while JPEGs are generally better for photographs) and that they are compressed for the web.

  7. Optimise CSS Delivery

    Before the browser can render content it must process all the style and layout information for the current page. As a result, the browser will block rendering until external stylesheets are downloaded and processed, which may require multiple roundtrips and delay the time to first render.

  8. Reduce the size of the above-the-fold content (lazy loading)

    The user experience can be improved by having the above the fold (top of the page) load faster — even if the rest of the page takes a few seconds to load. This is called lazy loading and is particularly helpful for pages with lots of content below the fold.

    For example, a blog post that includes 20 photos a user’s browser would need to download all of those images before displaying anything on the page. With lazy loading, it can load the content within view first, then load all of those photos after.

  9. Remove Render-Blocking JavaScript

    Before the browser can render a page it has to build the DOM tree by parsing the HTML markup. During this process, whenever the parser encounters a script it has to stop and execute it before it can continue parsing the HTML. In the case of an external script the parser is also forced to wait for the resource to download, which may incur one or more network roundtrips and delay the time to first render of the page.

Improving your page load times is a challenging undertaking, but will have a significant positive impact on your overall site performance.

Spend some time looking through your site’s speed test results and look for the issues that have the greatest impact on your load times. Focus on those high-impact factors and take the necessary steps to get them into shape. While some of the tips here may require help from a developer, some of them can be done in under an hour.

And though some of them may seem minor, even small steps toward reducing load time can make a difference and when you consider the impact that even one second can have on your conversions and success, they’re entirely worth it.