In today’s business world, you not only need a great website, you also need to ensure that your website is constantly functioning properly. As a result, network performance monitoring—the process of identifying your website’s bottlenecks, slow spots, malicious threats and overall server performance—is a key aspect of modern IT management
Though the right software can help you find out what’s wrong with your network, it can’t always help you find the correct solution right away. Once you use that software to identify a problem, the next step is learning how to fix it both in the immediate moment and for the long term.
To begin, let’s take a look at a recent survey of 200 consumers by Software Advice that discovered key factors that will make customers unlikely to return to your website.
Two of the problems listed relate to long load times for a website, indicating that this can be a tremendous problem for businesses. In fact, the survey also found that a majority of customers will wait no more than six seconds before giving up on a site!
Amount of Time Consumers Will Wait for a Website to Load Before Clicking Away
Clearly, if your site’s load time isn’t up to snuff, you’re losing a sizable portion of possible customers. That’s why we reached out to some web experts for their advice on making sure that your site loads smoothly and quickly every time. These five tips will help you ensure that you don’t lose customers to a slow-loading website.
Reduce Image Sizes
Without a doubt, the number one tip provided to us by experts about how to improve your site’s load time is to reduce the size of your images.
As Sean Mallon, the CEO of Bizdaq (a startup that helps people buy and sell businesses), explained, “Images can be far larger than they seem on the page, and having an image that’s unnecessarily large will impact load time. This is an easy fix, though, and there are many online tools that will help you to reduce an image’s size. Try to keep them below 100kb to make pages load faster.”
This is particularly important if your website is image-heavy, or if yours is an industry that relies heavily upon mobile access. According to Bob Bentz, president of mobile-first digital agency Purplegator, “This is especially true for a restaurant, for instance, where the majority of the users will be using mobile, and often not on wifi.”
Tom Kleingers, senior web architect and owner of web services company Evanston Avenue, pointed to a useful way to solve this problem—utilize image sprites. As Kleingers explained, “An image sprite is a single image file that contains a collection of images. After the single image file is served to the browser, cascading style sheets can dictate which image is shown by defining the location within the image file. Image sprites are especially useful for serving up a large number of smaller images, such as icons or client logos.”
Use a content delivery network
Another solution shared by several of the experts we spoke to is to use a content delivery network (CDN) for your website rather than traditional methods of web hosting.
Wes Marsh, director of digital marketing at web development platform Solodev described how a CDN works: “If you could travel at the speed of light, you could circle the earth seven and half times in one second. Since data doesn’t move at light speed, you need tools to help you get your website’s content to your users all around the globe as quickly as possible.
“That’s where a CDN comes into play. A CDN relies on groups of servers that house copies of your site content in strategic places all over the world, thus enabling your content to be served faster to your users. There are lots of CDN vendors including Amazon Web Services Cloudfront, Cloudflare (free WordPress CDN), Google Cloud CDN, and more.”
Thomas Jepsen, CEO of Contractor Quotes, said that using a CDN “means that the user will no longer just be asking one server to send back the website, but rather the website will be stored on many different servers, and the server that is closest to the user will send back the website.”
Caching (hardware or software that stores data so that future requests for it can be delivered more quickly to visitors) often goes hand-in-hand with a content delivery network. The servers which deliver the website to your visitors can, and should, store a data cache that makes them work even quicker.
Jepsen said that, “Using a CDN service like Cloudflare, you can store your site as a cache, which saves a lot of database loading for pages that are static in nature, as many are.”
Even if you aren’t utilizing a CDN, you should still enable caching for your site. Raj Shah, SEO manager of TakeLessons Live, pointed to this plugin that you can use on a WordPress site to establish a cache system. As Sha explained, “It’s the easiest tool of its kind in the market for non-techies.”
Limit plugins, videos, and Flash
Although some plugins will help your site load faster (like the one we discussed above, used to enable caching of a WordPress site), others become an unnecessary burden on servers and cause load time to lag. This is especially true for plugins that aren’t frequently updated and may be operating on older systems that take longer to connect with updated software.
Shearly Reyes, the digital marketing manager of iHealthSpot, suggested making sure all of your plugins are explicitly useful for your site, and to eliminate the rest: “We all love plugins. They are wonderful . . . except for when they slow down your website. If you have extra plugins that you don’t need, deactivate and delete them. Make sure that you are only working with the essentials.”
Reyes goes further, though, and suggests that you also limit the usage of videos on your site: “Videos in the header are a huge issue for site speed, especially on mobile experiences. Also, do note that some people may not want to spend valuable GB of their monthly plans looking at the nice video on the header.”
This goes along with a piece of advice given by several other experts we spoke to—eliminate Flash. Though Flash videos may look good, they take an incredible amount of time to load relative to other video formats. Sean Mallon recommends that “A better option is to embed a video from YouTube or a similar service, as that reduces load times considerably.”
If you must have video on your site, then, make sure you’re using a format for that video that optimizes load time.
Remove anything unnecessary
Though all of our experts had specific, directed advice like the tips we’ve already discussed, the overarching theme in their suggestions is to ruthlessly trim the fat on your site, eliminating anything and everything that isn’t necessary from a functional point of view.
Obviously you want your design to look nice, but the most beautiful page in the world won’t do you any good if your customers click away before it can load. Form should follow function when it comes to web design. Make sure that your site focuses on what your business needs, and then create a simple, aesthetically pleasing design around those necessities.
As Sean Mallon explained,“load times are affected by anything and everything on the page. This means that anything on the page that doesn’t need to be there will be making the page load slower, and affecting load times for users. Removing anything that shouldn’t or doesn’t need to be on a page will help to reduce load times, and keep more people on your site.”
A quick wrap-up
The key to speeding up your business’ slow website, then, is to implement software and hardware fixes like a CDN and caching, while at the same time trimming down image sizes, eliminating or reducing the use of plugins/video/flash, and simplifying your design so that you focus on a simple, optimized website that quickly loads for your customers and provides them with the functionality that your business, and their purpose for visiting your page, requires.
Do you think we missed something? Let us know in the comments below and be sure to check out: