How to Make your Business Website Faster
The development of technology over recent years has created an appetite for a speed of obtaining data, from dial up broadband to fast 5G networks and fibre home broadband speeds, with each step of improved development, the speed ability has increased.
This same user appetite extends to the speed expectations of websites themselves, as customers expect seamless and fast website loading speeds when browsing, an easy navigation layout and prompt access to the product selection in order to proceed with research or to ultimately place an order or book a service.
Google recommends that ideally a website should load up within three seconds and that 40% of browsers often leave a site should it not load within this timeframe. Therefore, the first step to optimising your website is to discover the current speed of your website by running a speed test.
There are a range of reasons why a website may slow down, which we will be covering, along with the steps to take in order to make your website faster and therefore improve your website visitors’ experience.
Research Content Delivery Networks
Content Delivery Networks or CDNs, are the network of servers distributed globally, that enable a variety of differing types of content to be shared online.
The purpose of the network is to extend the provision of the servers and attributable data centres so that they are geographically closer to the end user, and therefore increasing the speed of data shared and pages loading.
The use of the network also reduces the likelihood of server overload by balancing the traffic demand across the network, improving reliability for users.
Large companies may choose to research the option of implementing their own CDN, ensuring the stability of access and improved experience to website users, globally.
Be Clever with Imagery and Photos
Traditionally, websites with lots of photos or complicated animations would dramatically slow down the experience for the user, causing frustration due to the refresh speed, which could result in customers leaving the site before they found what they were seeking due to the lack of speed.
There are a range of methods that can be used to improve the experience for customers without reducing the use of photos on a website such as:
- Adaptive images – Adaptive images is a tool that rescales the view of your website depending on the screen size of the visitor automatically, optimising the entire website including images, in order to save bandwidth and maximise speed performance.
- Compress Images – There are a variety of online tools available that can compress the size of images without compromising the quality of the image. Such options could be a low-cost solution to increase the loading speed of the website pages.
There are a range of compression audits available online which assesses the uncompressed size of the page in order to make informed decisions about compression options.
- Using Image Formatting – An alternate option is to change the type of format that images are stored as on your website in order to reduce to size of images. One example of a modernised image format is the JPEG XR file format, that has been developed with further colour accuracy and image definition but also with higher compression ratios to reduce file sizes by up to fifty percent.
- Combine Images Using CSS Sprites – Each image on your website traditionally will require individual trips to the server in order to provide the data to load, however the use of CSS sprites combines the individual image into one, therefore reducing the number of server requests in order to save bandwidth and improve the overall website’s speed.
Another setting to consider when using CSS is to select the load setting as asynchronous, meaning that the items on the website load simultaneously rather than one at a time, which increases the user experience.
Furthermore for optimum speed, CSS should be reviewed to remove any unnecessary line breaks, in order to simplify the instructions and reduce the data size on the webpage.
Plugins are pieces of software or add-on applications that provide differing functionality to a website including customisation of content or optimisation.
Each plugin will vary in the tasks that the software is designed to undertake from images, sounds, animation or videos, however enabling many plugins on your site can slow down the website. In addition, the use of poorly created or aging technology plugins can reduce the performance of a website and therefore regular reviews should take place, evaluating the activated plugins on your site in order to keep the website running smoothly and as fast as possible.
Organising the Loading Sequence
Review the Website Hosting
There are a range of hosting options available for website owners to choose from. Although it may feel cost effective to choose an economical package, cheap hosting is not always the best option for optimising the speed of your website.
Three types of hosting available:
- Shared Hosting – This is the most economical type of hosting, most suitable when websites are experiencing low traffic, however once the visiting volume increases, shared hosting may not keep up with demand.
- VPS Hosting – With this option, although the server is shared, each site has its own dedicated proportion of the server, therefore protecting the resources for your website.
- Dedicated Server – This is the post expensive server option, however if your website is receiving a lot of traffic and therefore slowing down in speed, you may decide that a decide that a dedicated service is now required.
Website owners are encouraged to review their current hosting type is suitable of the current traffic needs.
As popular online boiler platform Heatable explains “We changed to a dedicated server back on our gas boiler ordering platform back in 2018 and noticed an instant improvement in site speed”.
Enable Browser Caching
The first time a user visits your website, the content is stored on their hard drive in a cache, otherwise known as temporary storage, which enables the website to load much quicker the next time they visit, without making another HTTP request to the server.
In order to set this up, a website must select caching by enabling the cache setting. The process to enable browser caching will vary depending on how the website is set up, however further instructions will be able to be found online.
Keep Alive Response Headers and Expiry Headers
There are settings available to retain the web browser to server link, known as keep alive responses, instead of commencing a new connection for each request, which improves the website speed for users.
Such settings do have expiry dates that specific file headers are to be stored on the user’s computer, which the default is often 24 hours. Changing such settings will enable users to return to your website without re-loading the content and therefore affecting the speed.
During this article we have been reviewing various methods of assessing the current speed of your website via speed tests or compression audits for example.
We have also discussed a range of small configuration changes that could be made to improve the speed of the website for users such as compressing images and site content, reviewing hosting settings and browser cashing.
Such improvements can increase a user’s experience on your website and therefore increase the likelihood that they will proceed to browse and perhaps place an order.