January 25, 2019

How Do I Make My Website Load Faster?

Slow loading websites kill sales

If you already have a website, do you know how long it takes to load when somebody visits your site either on a desktop computer or a mobile phone? The answer is probably no, and you could be losing a ton of possible leads and sales if it’s not loading - fast.

Why? Because we live in a fast world and people are now notoriously impatient when it comes to information available at their fingertips.

They expect “results right now” when browsing the net.

They want a smooth experience so they can effortlessly receive the information they were searching for.

In recent studies, about half of all web users expect a site to load in 2 seconds or less. If it isn’t loaded within 3 seconds, those users tend to abandon the site.

An even more alarming statistic is that 64% of shoppers who are dissatisfied with an online store’s experience and loading time will take their business elsewhere. (Online shopping behemoth Amazon stands to lose up to $1.6 billion per year if their site was slowed by just 1 second!)

Clicking or tapping on a website link seems simple. But behind the scenes, hundreds of requests are instantly pinged around the world to bring you the images and text.

There’s a lot going on in those few short seconds, and a lot can go wrong in that time. Things can start to slow down, taking your website with it.

The bottom line is that your users expect your website to load fast, and they won’t stick around if it doesn’t.

With that in mind, let’s look at the most common reasons why your website is slow to load and ways to optimise your website for the best possible performance - which will increase your sales!

1. Server performance issues

Your website loads from the ground up and it all starts from your browser (Chrome, Explorer, Safari etc) sending a “ping” (response time to a request) to your server.

It’s asking for all the information and data, so it can load up your website.
If your server’s performance is low, it will take longer to respond. It doesn’t matter how quick everything else is, a slow server will always give you a slow start.

Poor server performance is almost always down to your web host. A cheap web host will usually give you a shared server, which means you’re sharing space and resources with countless other websites and you will be charged extra if you use more than your fair share.

If your site is slow, it’s partly because you’re in a queue with a lot of other sites.

If a hosting plan sounds too good to be true, it probably is!

Many of us are bound by cashflow when it comes to what we want to achieve with our business.

Don’t fall prey to a cheap hosting deal as chances are you will end up forking out a lot more of your hard-earned dollars in the long run.

You should check customer reviews before you commit to a website host and remember that cost should only be a factor of the overall services that a hosting company can provide, depending on your business needs. This is the first thing you need to get right from the start.

2. Location of your website server

We’ve all made long distance phone calls, so you already know that it takes longer to make the connection and that’s because the information needs to physically travel to get there.

The same thing happens when you click on a website. One you click, you send a message to the server asking it to load.

If your server is based in America, and an Australian visitor clicks on your website, the information has to travel all the way across the Pacific Ocean requesting access to the server. Then, it must travel all the way back to load it on the visitor’s screen.

Do your research before signing up to a hosting provider.

If your business’ target market is in Australia only, then you may want to consider an Australian service provider with local servers. This will undoubtedly allow your site to load quicker.

But be careful. Some of these companies charge a fortune for their hosting so it’s best to check out what other customers have to say about them first.

Alternatively, there are several international hosting providers that have servers or data centres in numerous countries around the world, and by signing up with them, your site information will be requested from the closest server to your site visitor’s location.

Lexa Digital chooses to use SiteGround for our hosting needs. We find them to be superior in price, speed, ease of use, and overall performance. They also have integrated Cloudflare so your website will load ultra-fast no matter who clicks on it. Check them out for yourself: www.siteground.com

3. Increased traffic will use more resources on the server

If your website is experiencing a lot of traffic at any given time, it will eventually cause your website to slow down.

At its current level, your web server can only serve a certain number of people at once. Kind of like queuing in a shop. The more people that come into the shop, the slower they get served.

The same thing happens on your website. Your server will try to manage all the extra traffic, but it will slow down somewhere in between.

So how can I speed things up without losing all my customers?

There are a few factors you should assess first in order to help your website perform faster whilst experiencing high traffic. I have listed the integral areas below.

4. Browser caching is a vital part of your site performance

When someone visits your website, the elements on the web page they are trying to access are automatically downloaded and stored on their hard drive in a cache (temporary storage).

So, the next time they visit your site, their browser will load the requested web page very quickly, without having to send a request to the server again.

WordPress offers a vast range of Caching plugins.

The best WordPress caching plugins are W3 Total Cache, which is the most popular performance plugin, and WP Super Cache, which is best for websites with high traffic and underpowered servers.

For those not using WordPress, your site builder will have a caching service available in the dashboard settings.

5. Extra-large images on your site will slow      download time

Remember the good old days of dial-up internet? A large image could take minutes to load. One. Small. Bit. At a time. It was agonising, to say the least.
Thankfully, things have improved greatly since broadband, but the general rule still applies.

After you ping the server, it will start carrying each bit of a website to your browser screen. If you’ve got a ton of large images on your website, you’re adding extra load time for every picture, as they take up most of your page space.

Having lots of images isn’t a bad thing, as they bring life and emotion to a site. But most people go wrong by forgetting to optimise their graphics for page speed and the size of the page.

Format selection, resizing, and compression are the among the biggest factors in reducing the size of a page and increasing speed. Avoid using BMP (Bitmap) images and try to work towards compressing your images down to between 60 to 70 percent of their original size.

Your images will look the same on the screen, but they’ll load faster for your visitors.

If you use WordPress, there are heaps of plugins available to make your images less bulky.

If you’re looking for an easy, straightforward way to alter your images, tools like Smush are a good start.

It will automatically resize, optimise, and compress images for free. You can also compress up to 50 images at a single time and you can elect to automatically compress upon upload, making it super easy to keep your website load time down.

If you prefer to Photoshop your pics before uploading, try using TinyPNG. These guys give you a little bit more control over your finished product and tell you how big your image is without having to leave the site. Try it for yourself: www.tinypng.com

6. Keep your code clean and your file requests low

We’ve already explained how big, heavy elements take much longer to load but it’s not just about their size. It’s how many of them there are and ultimately, it’s about how simple the code is that makes your site.

Every small element on your site requires a different file request to load. Every CSS file, every image, every social sharing button, and every piece of JavaScript is a new file request.

Your server can only handle a certain number of requests per second. If you’re on a small server, that’s going to seriously slow things down when you have a high traffic period.

Flashy websites that are bloated with features will undoubtedly have clunky code that will dramatically lower site speed.

Stay away from pre-built website templates that have a lot going on. Some may look great, but ultimately you need to keep your site clean and simple and you’ll be one step closer to maintaining optimal site speed.

We have built our ready-made website templates around speed and overall functionality using a feather-light theme in WordPress. That way, customers know they’re not getting a bulky back end that will drag their site down with unnecessary code.

Wrapping Up

There are several tools available to help diagnose your site load speed, however, keep in mind that varying factors may cause this speed to differ throughout the day.

High traffic periods and a visitor’s personal internet connection are just a couple.

We recommend conducting 2-3 tests per day. That way you can get an overall picture of how it’s performing.

Website Speed Test

But first, let’s see how quickly your site is loading right now. Here is a simple speed test tool you can use:

https://tools.pingdom.com/ - enter the page URL in the first field and then choose a location from the drop-down box to the right.

Eg. For Australian websites, you would choose Pacific – Australia – Sydney.

Remember that it is running a test on individual pages of your site, not the whole site itself. Take note of the detailed report it produces which is choc-block full of useful information.

We recommend testing every page on your website so you can get a clear picture of what needs to be fixed, and where.

If you would like more information on anything discussed here or anything website related in general, get in touch with us today.

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