In the competitive 21st century marketplace, merely having a website is no longer going to set you apart from other businesses. Website performance, among a select number of other factors, is one of the most important keys to driving more traffic to your web presence.
According to studies, the highest conversion rates occur on websites with two or fewer seconds of loading time (Portent 2019). This means that even if your website traffic is exponentially increasing month on month, unless your visitor’s experience and your site’s performance is top of the line, you’re going to lose them long before they become a lead or convert into a sale.
Understanding that you need to improve your web performance is one thing, but knowing how to improve its performance is something else. There’s a lot to it and for that reason we’re going to break it all down for you right here.
What is website performance?
What do we really mean when we talk about the performance of a website? Generally, the term refers to the measurement of the user or visitor’s experience on the website itself.
This can include the important aspect of load time on the site itself, the time it takes to download files from the website, the usability of the actual website and more.
You may see the acronym CX used when reading about increasing and improving web performance. Standing for customer experience, CX refers to the overall design and development of your website so far as it enhances the general experience of a visitor to it.
Why is website speed important?
Website speed is one of the most influential factors in determining how well your business’s website performs. There are a few reasons why this is.
1. It decreases the bounce rate
Your website’s bounce rate refers to how many people visit one page of your website and then leave before clicking elsewhere i.e. turning into a lead or sale. The lower your bounce rate the better your website’s performance. Studies have indicated that up to 40% of visitors leave a website if it takes longer than one second to load! (Neil Patel)
2. It improves SEO
Search engine optimisation (SEO) is very important in ensuring your website appears near or at the top of relevant keyword searches in Google and other search engines. An important part of Google’s complex algorithm for determining which website to rank high is the general performance and loading speed of a website. After all, they also want Google users to have a strongly positive CX.
3. It increases conversion rates
Estimates indicate that for every extra second your website takes to load, you could be losing up to 7% of conversions. (Neil Patel) Whether for good or bad, internet users just do not have the patience or tolerance to wait for websites with bad performance and speeds when there are other options out there.
Why do websites load slowly?
Your website loading speed can be negatively affected by a number of factors, such as:
- Your backend website code is too long and bulky.
- You’re using a suboptimal Content Delivery Network (CDN) or no network at all.
- Your website’s overhead is too large due to excessive plugins or themes.
- Your CSS (Cascading Style Sheets) are not optimised.
- Issues with your caching. Or in other words, browsers’ ability to copy and store static versions of your webpage.
- Media files being too large.
- Some media files are missing or not found.
- Too many plugins are slowing your website down.
Understanding what affects website performance
The images that you upload and use on your website can make a dramatic difference in your website performance.
For one thing, large sized images or images with high resolution take up more storage space. Think of it like a suitcase, the larger and heavier the items you add to your suitcase, the slower you’re going to be dragging it around. The same is true of your website. Even images that are not compressed can slow your page load speed.
As a general rule, optimal website image sizes are 1080 x 1080px.
Widgets and plugins
Plugins are highly useful pieces of extra code that can be added to your website to perform a specific function. There are many different kinds of plugins depending on what you want from your website.
While most plugins are pretty straightforward and small, the ones that are more complex in terms of coding and functionality can slow your website’s loading time. There’s no real calculation for working out the optimal number of plugins. After all, you could have dozens of plugins that don’t affect the loading times at all and one rather bulky one that will delay your webpage loading for a significant period of time.
If you’re unsure which (if any) of your plugins might be affecting your website speed, make sure to have a chat with your website hosts. They should be able to determine what’s causing the lag and delay.
Often one of the most overlooked factors when considering how to improve performance on your website, your server and/or host can actually make a huge impact.
The two main factors that determine your host’s impact on speed are:
- Hard Drive: Web hosts using a solid-state drive rather than the standard hard drive will ensure your website loads more reliably, quickly and easily.
- Bandwidth: The more resources your host offers the better your web performance. For example, a dedicated server (compared to a shared one) will mean quicker loading times and easier access for visitors.
The bad news is that your users’ internet connection will most certainly affect the speed of your website. Moreover, this isn’t really something you can fix on your end.
Of course, ensuring all of the other factors outlined above are taken care of will go a long way to optimising your website’s performance and speed, even for those users stuck on subpar network connections.
How to Improve Website Performance
How can you make a slow website faster? Here’s a quick rundown of what to pay attention to and what actions to take to improve your website’s performance.
1. Optimise image sizes
Make sure all of your images are optimised for your website. This means keeping the resolution and sizes small, ensuring they are compressed where you’re able to and–for those a little more technically minded–using progressive JPEGs or next gen file formats.
2. Use a Content Delivery Network (CDN)
If you are engaging a professional web developer, make sure to speak to them about using a Content Delivery Network. Most agencies would be prioritising a CDN from the outset, but it’s worth checking just in case.
If you’re going the self-hosted route make sure to configure your DNS (Domain Name System) records properly and have them point to the CDN-provided URL (Uniform Resource Locator, also known as the web address). You’ll then need to enable your cloud CDN, configure your web server and upload your content to the Network. If this all sounds a bit complicated, make sure to reach out to us at GO Creative for more assistance.
3. Secure your website with HTTPS
HTTPS stands for Hypertext Transfer Protocol Secure and it’s a way of ensuring that visitors to your website connect via a secure communication line. Having an HTTPS is super important for both site and user security, as well as SEO.
When you use a professional developer, setting up an HTTPS is one of the very first things they should do. If you’re doing it alone, you can find some handy and advanced tips for setting it up yourself on Google.
4. Choose a reliable hosting service plan
Not all hosting service plans are equal. While it can be time consuming, doing your research and due diligence is important for ensuring your service is quality and your website performance optimised.
When evaluating different hosts, providers and plans consider the following:
- Server Reliability
- Uptime Scores
- Security Services
- Site Backups
- Availability of Support
- Account Limitations
4. Optimise CSS Performance
There are a few relatively straightforward ways to optimise the performance of your Cascading Style Sheets (CSS). But the simplest and likely easiest is to simply remove any styles and compressions, minify whatever is unnecessary and cache it accordingly. If CSS is not required for particular pages, then split it to help reduce render blocking.
All of these techniques will help to improve web performance and increase the loading speed of your website. There are, of course, some more technical optimisation techniques but we recommend those without significant experience in web development to leave it to the experts.
The activity of removing anything from your website that doesn’t belong or is unnecessary (i.e. to increase bandwidth) is canned minifying.
6. Reduce the number of plugins
As we mentioned before, plugins can be really helpful and beneficial for your website. But sometimes they can also slow down your pages and harm the overall performance.
Reducing the number of plugins will help you keep your website lean and fast, plus it reduces the likelihood that any one plugin will cause significant delay to the speed of your website.
7. Enable website caching
Your browser ‘caches’ websites in temporary storage to help you revisit pages as quickly as possible. These copies are all static versions of a webpage, which means that if you have pages on your website that do not change very often or get updated frequently you can change the settings to instruct internet browsers of such facts.
That way, visitors who frequent your website and those pages in particular will find that it loads much, much faster.
8. Use cloud based hosting
Moving to cloud-based hosting has many advantages including improving your website’s speed and performance. With improved network functionality, uptime, automatic upgrades and faster deployment making the switch to being cloud based is a relatively new but just as effective way to increase performance.
Go with the experts in website performance
While each of the above factors that can affect your website’s page load time can be addressed individually, as you can imagine, websites can be technical beasts. There’s a lot of backend work that goes into improving a website.
That’s why we always recommend speaking with a professional web developer, such as the team here at GO Creative. Not only will they have the technical expertise and experience required to improve your website’s loading speed, but they’ll also likely offer ongoing performance monitoring services. This will make sure your website is operating at peak performance today, tomorrow and the many days after that!
For a free quote to see how we can improve your website’s performance, contact us today.