The speed of your website is vitally important, as there is a direct correlation between the loading time of your website and bounce rate (the number of people that leave your site prematurely). To better explain this term ‘bounce rate’ picture a busy high street, where there are loads of people walking around, looking for a solution. They’ll wander around a few different stores, and as the store owner, what you really want is that person to spend a reasonable amount of time in your store as this will greatly increase the probability they’ll spend money, and the more time they spend, normally, the higher the order value. This is why big brands invest so much in visual merchandising.
Now, picture a frustrated store owner that has plenty of customers walking in, but as soon as they walk through the front door, they turn around and leave. This means that whilst they have high traffic, they have very low engagement with their store, and therefore people simply don’t buy anything.
When it comes to a website, it’s even easier to leave, as it’s simply a click of the mouse! There’s no effort required – you didn’t park the car and walk down the street, and there’s no emotional commitment – in the sense that you don’t see the shopkeeper’s heart breaking as you turn straight back.
Having a high bounce rate is going to cripple your business success, and whilst a high bounce rate can be attributed to other factors such as a lack of engaging content, lack of relevance, lack of a clear user benefit, or difficult navigation… it has been found that 40% of potential customers will leave your website if the site takes more than 3 seconds to load.
In an increasingly impatient world, particularly online, where people are bombarded with content choices and overwhelmed with options, ensuring the optimum load speed of your website is one of the most important cornerstones of converting “lookers into buyers”.
In this article, we’re going to look at things you can do to improve the load speed of your website. Whilst this article is geared primarily toward WordPress users the underlying principles are applicable to all platforms.
Load speed can be contingent on your hosting provider. Hosting is something you seriously want to consider before committing to a provider; comparing the reviews of each hosting service before committing to one, particularly with regard to downtime (you want this to be extremely low) and download speed (the higher the better) if the best bet. If you have a high volume of traffic to your site you might want to consider upgrading from the standard ‘shared hosting’ to private hosting.
- DEACTIVATE AND DELETE UNUSED PLUGINS
There are many plugins on offer that can provide all sorts of advanced functionality to your site, but sometimes, websites are incredibly sluggish to load due to being clogged up with far too many plugins. There’s an element of a ‘child in a candy shop’ when it comes to selecting plugins, in that some business owners and even web designers feel the more the better… but this can seriously impede load speed.
The first place to look are the reviews for the plugin itself, and then if your site is slow to load try using a page speed test with the trial and error method of deactivating each of your plugins to see how they affect the load time of your site. Additionally if you are not actually using a plugin, then delete it, rather than keeping it on your WordPress installation.
- OPTIMIZE IMAGES
There are two core aspects to focus on when it comes to how images impact upon the load time of your site; size and format. Many website owners use massive images and then scale them down using CSS. The challenge with this, is that browsers still load the full size image. As an example, if you have an image that is actually 6000 x 6000 pixels – perfect for full screen retina display – but if the image being presented on your site is only 600 x 600 as, let’s say, a navigational graphic, then the user’s browser must load ten times more than necessary. If you have multiple images on a page this can seriously affect load time.
The best option is to resize your images before you upload them to your site – using an image editor such as Photoshop. Something to consider, however, is that if your image is being viewed on a retina device, then you might want to upload an image scaled at 200% of what you wish it to appear on a web browser – in order to ensure the image is displayed crisply on retina screens.
In terms of the format of your images, JPEG and PNG are the best options. JPEG is the most popular, because some older browsers don’t support JPEG. Try to avoid using GIFs, BMPs or TIFFs.
- LOOK INTO FASTER ALTERNATIVES
We have all sat, patiently staring at the screen, waiting for an important document to load in PDF format… perhaps it’s an essential document like your car insurance policy or the instruction manual for the boiler you’ve misplaced.
When it is essential, we are happy to wait for content to load, but when it is not essential (e.g. a hotel brochure, free ebook, or sales catalogue) we are more likely to click off and check out the next website; as a result, at this critical point of engagement, customers are being lost.
There are ways to minimize the file size of PDF’s (which helps load time because there is simply less data to download) in addition to several alternative formats. If you head over to https://www.brandbits.com/blog/publishing/online-flipbook-benefits/ you’l find 12 reasons why you should be using Flipbooks rather than PDFs in your website, and one of the biggest benefits is based on speed optimization.
- ENABLE BROWSER CACHING
When you regularly visit a website, the elements of the page that you frequently visit are actually stored on your hard drive, in a temporary storage folder, known as a cache – the benefit of this is that the browser can then load the page without having to sent another request to the server.
As a result of enabling browser caching, you are able to temporarily store data on the user’s computer, which means they will have a much faster experience.
- LIGHTEN THE CONTENT (PARTICULARLY ADVERTS)
Consider the basic mathematics of a web page being delivered to your device. There are several elements to load; some of which are behind the scenes, such as cascading style sheets and HTTP requests whilst others are more obvious – such as the amount of images, videos, adverts and text that are required to be displayed.
Text is one of the fastest components to load, so in terms of optimizing pagespeed, try not to worry too much about text. Large image files, however, can seriously slow things down as can videos… but an element that people overlook is that of hosting adverts; particularly pop-up adverts.
The challenge with adverts, is for them to display, a lot of communication has to take place behind the scenes – and the more communication required, in terms of HTTP requests, the busier your web page is, meaning the slower your site will be to load. Think of it this way, imagine how fast a postman can complete his round with 20 deliveries to make vs. 80 deliveries. The fewer deliveries, the faster the page will load.