Recently, the client contacted us because they’d had some complaints from customers about the speed of the website. We tested the site ourselves, and it seemed OK. Certainly not lightning-fast, but nothing out of the ordinary. We even ran some online reports, and the results confirmed that everything was set up correctly, and that the site wasn’t unusually slow.
The client did still have issues themselves though, so we dug a little deeper. It turned out that the speed issues weren’t a factor on every page of the website – just those related to the membership system, and also on the back-end of the site (WordPress). So we tested those features and found that there was definitely a major problem. Some pages were taking up to a minute to load!
Finding the cause
No matter what service we’re providing, we always present our clients with the best options available to them. In this case, because this was an issue which only recently occurred, and the website was published a few years prior, the client had the following options:
- We could investigate the issue and charge by the hour, which means an unknown cost to the client. Not ideal in this case.
- We could put a website management plan in place, which includes an initial tune-up. On our lowest tier plan, this option was likely to be significantly cheaper than the “by the hour” option.
Our website management services include tasks such as software upgrades, bug fixes, speed and security enhancements, backups, and more. So it was a no brainer for the client to choose that option with all of those benefits, instead of an unknown one-off cost.
So, using some specialised tools, we analysed the load time of various components of the website. (This is different to running a free online speed test, because those tests don’t tell us specifically what part of the website software may be causing the issue.) Because we already knew that the issue was somehow related to the membership system, we looked here first.
After going through a few scenarios, turning on and off specific software and features in the website, and so on, we managed to isolate the problem. The membership system was automatically sending new member details to MailChimp, but at some point recently, that stopped working.
For that software to work, a valid licence key had to be entered into its settings. This licence information was supposed to automatically report back to the website of the company who developed that software, but the company’s website was no longer online.
This was causing the software to continually try to validate the licence key, which it couldn’t do, and this resulted in a 45 second delay in loading pages. Because the software was only loading up on membership-related pages on the website – such as the registration page, and the membership back-end – this explained why some pages were extremely slow, and others weren’t.
We removed the MailChimp software and replaced it with another option. There was a bit of extra work involved to connect that properly to the client’s MailChimp account, but nothing too major. This fixed the issue with the 45 second delay.
On top of that, because of the age of the website, there were some settings and software packages in place which we have stopped using in more recent times. Also, WordPress has improved so much over the past few years, that when we upgraded that, some of the other software packages were redundant. By removing those unnecessary components of the website, the overall load time improved by a further 20% right away.
There was also some software in place which, at the time, was the leading package for speeding up a website. But three years is a long time in technology, so we now use a completely different set of tools for website speed optimisation. We replaced the old with the new, and among a host of other tweaks to the website configuration, overall we cut the website load time down by more than 95%.
Because all of these tune-ups are covered in all of our website management packages, even on the lowest tier plan, this means that the client now has a fully up-to-date website, new software features, daily backups, daily speed tests, and someone looking after everything going forward. And all for a low monthly fee. We call that a win-win!
Speed is an important factor in a website’s visibility in Google, and also in converting website visitors into customers. So the massive speed boost will help to not only bring in new website visitors, but increase sales for our client over time.
What we learnt
It’s vital that website software is not only kept up to date, but being actively monitored. With our reporting tools, we would have known immediately that the software was no longer working, and fixed it on the spot.
Website management can protect your website from hackers/spammers, avoid general speed and security issues, and more, but don’t forget that it can also simply keep the site operating properly. This is why website management and ongoing website support is absolutely vital to making sure you’re not missing out on new business opportunities.