Nowadays, everybody is obsessed with speed. Internet Connections, computers, 3G, browsers… Phrases like: “I sent you an email a minute ago. What do you mean you haven’t received it yet?” or “Our international Skype free video conference has a 1 second lag between the image and the sound. Sooo annoying!” are part of today’s world. So is your website up to speed?
Page loading time is critical for a couple of reasons:
#1 – Usability
There is nothing better than a slow loading website to damage your conversion rate. Slow loading websites generate fewer page views per visit and visitors ultimately spend less time on site. A study done by KISSmetrics shows that 40% of consumers abandon a website that takes more than 3 seconds to load. They also show a correlation between page loading time in seconds and page abandonment rate.
You work hard to make your website attractive and engaging for visitors and ultimately potential customers and you spent time putting strategies in place to attract people to your site via SEO, social media, email marketing. Don’t waste all these efforts by having slow loading web pages.
#2 – Search engines
In April 2010, Google has made it official that Page loading time is a ranking factor. Not only do you have to worry about your website usability, you need to make your website faster to make Google happier as well.
How fast is your website?
Now that you are convinced that you need a website that loads at the speed of light, how can you tell how fast or slow your website is? Well, there are a few free great tools you can use to test the loading time of a page:
- Webmaster Tools Performance (compares page loading time with that of other websites)
- Pingdom tools (allows you to test the page speed, the DNS Health and Ping and Traceroute.)
- Yslow (gives you detailed suggestions on how to fix issues slowing down your page)
- Web Test Page (let’s you test the page speed according to different browsers and compares before and after caching)
These tools usually give a grade to your site/page. They also explain what is wrong with it and how to fix it. Most of the time, it will be too complicated for a non-technical person to understand but if you send this report feedback to your webmaster and he/she will know what to do with it.
Here are a few ways to make your website load faster:
- Check your server: Some servers are slower than other, depending on how old they are, how many sites they host and how much room you have allocated on that server. A dedicated server would perform better than a server on which you share the bandwidth with possibly hundreds of other sites.
- Make sure there are as little server calls as possible: Referring to external files is the first steps. Try also not to have too many images, icons and little objects that clutter your loading queue. You can use some tricks like sprite.
- Optimize image size: Choose a proper file format. PNGs usually load fast. Gifs are best used for small icons and JPGs for pictures. Image formats like BMPs or TIFFs can slow down your pages for example. You should also reduce the size of your images as much as possible until it starts affecting their quality. To compress them, you can use tools like jpegtran or jpegoptim for JPG, and OptiPNG or PNGOUT for PNG. If you are using a WordPress site, a plugin like Smush.it can be very handy to compress your images.
- Use gzip compression: If your host supports it, using gzip compression can reduce the size of the files sent to browsers by up to 80, 85%. This article gives you more info about gzip compression and explains how to set up your server. If you don’t know whether your website is already compressed or not, you can test it here.
- Cache your webpages: A cached version of a webpage is a version that has been loaded previously and is saved on your machine. It is faster to load a cached version from your machine than to have to reload the page from the start every time. It helps the server because it doesn’t have to rebuild the page for each request. However, a cached page may not be up-to-date until it is refreshed. A good WordPress plugin to manage your cache is called: W3 Total Cache
- Limit the use of Flash: Flash is nice. Flash is shiny, pretty and animated…but Flash can slow down your site quite a bit.
- Secure your website: Viruses are not only for computers, websites can catch them too. It is possible that your website has a virus or malware that is slowing down the loading time.
Of course, the loading time of your web pages is also affected on the user end. They speed of their internet connection, the browser they use and many more things can also impact how fast or slow your website will load on their computer but you don’t have any control over that. The only thing you can do is make sure you have done everything you could on your end to make your web pages load faster.
If you are going to make your website faster, I suggest you run the tools presented in this article, then implement some of the suggestions and run the tools again. Feel free to post the results here and share your comments and experience.