Speed kills, or the lack of it does anyway. A site's loading time is a major component of the user experience. Studies show that the majority of users will wait just three seconds for a site to load. Customers who never see your content will never buy anything from you.
It’s also in your best interest to have a fast site for SEO purposes. Google demands a site that loads quickly and efficiently because they want to direct searchers to the best possible experience. The search giant has been factoring site speed into its page rankings since 2010. If your site is slow, you'll likely slide down the rankings on your most important keywords and phrases. Even customers willing to wait those few extra seconds for your site to load might not get the chance, because they won’t see you in the search rankings.
The majority of users will wait just three seconds for a site to load.
How do you fix it?
There are really two types of steps that you can take to fix this:
- Steps that you can take to speed up your site
- Technical steps that your website design, IT department, or hosting company can help with
Steps That You Can Take
Do you make changes to your site yourself? Do you have a content management system (CMS)? If so, you may be (unknowingly) making your site slower if you aren't following some basic rules:
1. Upload images that have already been resized.
- If you don't need a billboard-sized image, don't upload one.
- Many CMS tools will make it look like the image has been proportionally resized without actually resizing it. In cases like this, visitors will still need to wait for the original giant image to load. What you see is not always what you get.
2. Watch out for junk code
- The best practice is to write directly in your content management system rather than cutting and pasting from a word processing program.
- Many word processing programs like Microsoft Word or Pages will add lots of unnecessary coding in the background that will be carried over when you copy and paste it.
- Should you write in a word processing application, you should either paste it into a plain text document first (Notepad) and then paste it in or paste it into the editor using the editor's “Paste From Word” function (if available).
Technical Steps That Can Be Taken
One measure to pay close attention to is TTFB—time to first byte. TTFB is a measure of the responsiveness of your site. Technically, it's the length of time it takes your site to provide data to the user's browser once they click to fetch your URL. It should only be a few milliseconds.
Entire books have been written about site speed and many of the following topics. This is a brief list of the technical steps that can be taken to improve site speed.
- Assess the present situation with Google's PageSpeed Insights tool.
- Consider using CDNs, or content distribution networks, which help deliver content more quickly and efficiently. They're not too expensive and may be worthwhile. Amazon, Akamai, and MaxCDN are a few examples.
- Compress HTML by using Gzip, a simple open-source utility that reduces page size for loading. Learn more about Gzip.
- Look into your server specs. Make sure that you're providing enough power and bandwidth to handle your traffic.
- Optimize everything. Follow best practices from Google and other search engines, like Yahoo.
- Use lazy loading for heavy elements like images. Lazy loading (aka dynamic function loading) defers the loading of non-essential images or other specified elements until the user needs them, thus speeding your initial load time.
Another way to speed things up? Click this link, quick! The team at New Perspective can analyze your site and optimize it for speed, making both your users and Google very happy.