So, your new website is looking good. Great content, brilliant images, attractive layout, are all adding up to a great user experience, except for one thing – your website is s-l-o-w.
The attention span of a typical web surfer is notoriously short. Studies have shown that anything over a 3 second load time results in a 40% abandonment rate. Almost half of your visitors will move on before your page has finished loading! In fact, those same studies indicate that 47% of all users expect load time of 2 seconds or less. Google has added page speed to the metrics they use to rank their search results.
Speed Drives Revenue
It stands to reason that the speed at which your site engages the viewer has a direct impact on the revenue you hope to gain from it. Once you capture and hold your viewer’s attention, your content has the opportunity to do its work, turning a visitor into a customer. The faster your site can do that, the better for your bottom line.
Page Speed Test
The first thing to do is determine if you really have a problem. There are a number of tools on the web that will scan your site and deliver information on what each element contributes to your load time. Gtmetrix, Pingdom, and Google PageSpeed Insights are a few of the many available tools online. A search under “page speed tools” will turn up at least a dozen more. Run as many of these as it takes to get a picture of the biggest offenders slowing down your site, and address these first.
Many Small Tweaks
Once you’ve identified the most significant slowdown factors on your site, there may still be hundreds, or even thousands, of small tweaks, which, when added up, can offer huge benefits. Some of the most common ones are:
Show the good stuff first – How quickly does your site show something interesting? Sometimes, a lot of page content occurs near the bottom of the page, or “below the fold,” and isn’t visible until the visitor starts to scroll down. Try moving the most important content to the top of the page.
Lazy loading – Using a process called “lazy loading” will defer loading below-the-fold images and text, giving preference to content near the top. Remember, the idea is to get their attention as quickly as possible. The sooner you engage the viewer with something impactful, the less likely they are to jump off.
Optimize images – If your images take up more than 1mb of space each, you are not only wasting server space but adding unnecessary load time for each one.
Get rid of Flash content – Flash has become outmoded, and is slow. Use HTML5 instead.
Fix broken links – Every time you try to send someone to a page that no longer exists on your site, your server has to work extra hard. If it can’t find the page it has to deliver a 404 page. This is a multi-step process that can slow you down.
Reduce redirects – Too many of these can slow your site down and negatively impact user experience.
Use a CDN – A CDN, or Content Delivery Network, stores copies of your site in servers closer to your visitors’ locations to decrease latency, or the time it takes to deliver your content through the network.
These are just a few of the many ways to optimize your site’s performance. It’s likely that no single factor will account for all your issues with slow site speed. Over time you will win by making constant small changes, to give your visitors an experience that will keep them coming back.