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How to Improve Website Load Time

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In today’s highly competitive market, having a fast website has become a requirement. Otherwise, your customers will turn to the competition for the online experience you fail to offer. As technology improves, we have become less patient. 

The Importance of Website Load Time

Today, users have no patience for websites with poor load speeds or inadequate performance. Slow speeds kill conversions. In fact, 47% of consumers expect websites to load in two seconds or less — and 40% will abandon a page that takes three or more seconds.

In a study done by Akamai, about half of web users expect a site to load in 2 seconds or less. Users tend to abandon the site if the it isn’t already loaded within 3 seconds. An even more alarming statistic is that 64% of shoppers who are dissatisfied with an online store’s experience & loading time will take their business elsewhere.

This means you’re not only losing your current visitors and decreasing conversion rates, but you run the risk of your site losing traffic from those customers who may have referred your website to others.

For this reason, you should be measuring the results of one change versus another so you can determine what gives the best results.

Here are a few useful tools:

  • Google Page Speed Insights – This free tool from Google will check any URL and run a test on your site for its performance. It provides different results for how your site works on both desktop and for mobile platforms. It will cover many of the areas discussed in this article and give suggestions about what might specifically be causing your site to slow down. However, this tool does seem to be very aggressive and sometimes unrealistic, so keep this in mind.
  • Pingdom Website Speed Test – Pingdom also has some great speed testing solutions, which can test your site from multiple locations around the globe (this is one of the reasons why it’s a good idea to use a CDN; more on this below). It provides many practical solutions for improving your speed.
  • Yslow – This is a free plugin for your browser. A grade based on the number of HTTP requests, image sizes, whether a CDN is being used, etc. can be provided by Yslow.
  • Performance Budget Calculator – This is a helpful little tool for figuring out what sort of content you can “afford” (based on bandwidth) to keep your site running optimally.

Below are some tips to improve website load time:

Minimize HTTP Requests

HTTP (Hypertext Transfer Protocol) Requests are counted whenever a browser fetches a file, page, or picture from a web server.

According to Yahoo, these requests tend to take up about 80% of a Webpage’s load time. The browser also limits requests between 4-8 simultaneous connections per domain which means loading 30+ assets at once is not an option.

This means that the more HTTP requests you need to load, the longer it takes for the page to go and retrieve them all, increasing your web page’s load time.

Reduce the number of HTTPS requests your site is making by minifying and combining files. This process will accomplish two goals:

  • Reducing the size of each file on your site
  • Reducing the total number of files on your site

Minifying the files on your website will eliminate a lot of unnecessary code, formatting, and whitespace. The result will be a leaner, faster website.

Use a Content Delivery Network (CDN)

You can leverage outside servers to improve page load times for your visitors. Hosting your site on a single server means that a request is sent to that specific server each time a user visits your site.

In instances of high traffic, all of your users will experience a significant slowdown due to the sheer number of requests being made at a single time. A Content Delivery Network (CDN) can help to alleviate the strain on your website.

A CDN allows you to cache your site on a network of servers that are based around the globe. When a user visits your site, all requests will be routed to the closest server. CDN’s help to eliminate latency issues that users tend to experience when they’re physically far away from the hosting server.

Cloudflare is one of the most popular CDN’s on the web, but there are several providers to choose from.

Browser Caching

Browser caching allows assets on your website to be downloaded to your hard drive once into a cache, or a temporary storage space. Those files are now stored locally on your system, which allows subsequent page loads to increase in speed.

You can experience website speed improvement by enabling caching on your site. Though this method doesn’t speed up your website for first-time visitors (you’ll have to rely upon other methods for that), you’ll significantly improve load times for returning visitors.

 

Compress Images

Consider reducing the size of your images without negatively affecting their quality. You can accomplish this by using a plugin. Plugin compresses your images and ensure they don’t lose quality in the process.

If you find yourself using large images, especially for hero images, run them through an optimization software like Compressor.io or Image Optimizer. Keep all your images below 150KB, nothing above 1920px in width, at an average/medium/72dpi quality level. Any larger and you’ll notice the images loading very late after the page renders as well as the slow response times to user behavior.

While images will still take up the majority of your HTTP requests, optimizing them and your other assets will ultimately keep the sizes of them down and increase your website’s overall performance.

 

Use Asynchronous Loading for JavaScript Files

Two different ways can be used to load your scripts. If your scripts load synchronously, they load one at a time, in the order they appear on the page. If your scripts load asynchronously, on the other hand, some of them will load simultaneously.

Loading files asynchronously can speed up your pages. Because when a browser loads a page, it moves from top to bottom.

If the file that is not asynchronous, it will stop loading until it has fully loaded that particular file. If that same file were asynchronous, the browser could continue loading other elements on the page at the same time.

Conclusion

Web page load speed is important for attracting and retaining customers. In general, we distinguish between frontend and backend techniques for improving your website speed. The backend, or the server part of your website, stays invisible to the end-user. But it matters a whole lot when it comes to your website’s speed. Even non-techy people can implement some of the techniques discussed above. Some of them require specialists with a deep technical background. However, any and all efforts towards improving your website’s speed are worth the time and effort.

Looking to optimize your website the right way the first time around? Venture and Grow is an agency dedicated to helping  businesses thrive online. We offer web design and management that follow site speed best practices for the best performance.

We’ll build your website right the first time, so you can focus on growing your business. Contact us today to learn more about how we can help grow your business.

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