We investigate what factors affect the loading speed of your website and how it affects your customers and search engine rankings.
There is nothing worse than a slow loading website. Whether you are on a desktop computer or a mobile device, you can quickly become frustrated with a website that take ages to initially load and is slow to navigate. Having a fast website is not only important for your customers user experience, it also affects your rankings on search engines like Google.
Search engines want to provide users with the best experience so fast websites are a part of that. Ideally, Google would like your website to load in half a second and while that isn’t always achievable there are plenty of things that can be done to significantly speed it up.
Having a slow website isn’t necessarily going to make your website fall off Google but it can negatively affect your conversions (customers purchasing products, filling out a contact form etc.) and force customers to abandon your site.
In the video at the top of this article, Tammy Everts from Radware talks about how slow load times are one of the main reasons people abandon a checkout process, while shopping online.
There are a number of online tools that you can use but probably my favourite two sites are Pingdom and GT Metrix. Simply put in your websites address and it will give a load time and a score.
There a whole range of factors that affect your websites speed but here are some of the main areas.
To be live on the internet, your website would be hosted on a server somewhere. Ideally, you want your website to be on a server that is located close to you and your target markets geographical location. The reason for this is connection speed (or latency in technical terms). This is the time it takes for your computer to connect to the server and start downloading the website.
For example, if you are an Australian company and you only really offer products and services to Australian based customers then it’s best to have your website hosted on a server that is located somewhere within Australian. Pretty logical?
Generally, the difference would only be a couple of hundred milliseconds in the connection speed but sometimes this can be noticeable, especially on slower internet connections.
We can currently offer web hosting services in both Australia and North America.
One of the major reasons a website can be slow, is it contains large images. There are a number of things that affect the size of images but the two main areas are the physical dimensions of the image (height and width) and also (in layman’s terms) the quality of the image.
For your website to run quickly, images need to be optimised correctly for the web. Generally, if your website is using a Content Management System (CMS) then this should assist you with this process, because the average person shouldn’t be expected to edit photos using a program like Photoshop. Most people will attempt to add photos straight from their camera or phone which are naturally large in dimensions and high in quality.
Ideally, a website should serve up a different image depending on the device that you are viewing the website on, optimised specifically for that devices screen size.
Generally, websites are made up of multiple files and these are downloaded when you visit that website. This includes images, scripts, styling files, fonts etc. which shape the look and functionality of the site. These least amount of files that need to be downloaded, the faster the website is going to load.
As with images, not only do these files need to be low in number but also need to be low in file size.
A lot of small businesses purchase cheap templates from the internet, which is fine, however the majority of these sites are bloated and require a large amount of files to load for the website to work, making them slow.
For example, when you visit our current website around 20 objects are loaded. I did a similar test on a template website and it loaded over 100 objects.
You can use this handy tool to check number of objects loaded for your website.
When you go to a website, you computer will download certain files to your computer so that next time you visit that website it can load those files from your computer instead of re-downloading the file. This can be manipulated so that your computer will only check certain files for updates over set periods of time, so that return visits are nice and fast.
You can learn more about leveraging browser caching in this article.
Put simply, there are ways of making certain elements on your website (other than images) smaller in size so they are quicker to download. A web server can compress files so that they download fast to a users computer and are then uncompressed by the users browser on their computer. This is something you may need to talk to your web developer about but it can be simple process which should be apart of your web hosting.
Minifying is basically the process of reducing white space and unneeded elements from the websites code or programming. Once again this is something that you can talk to your web developer about, as they should be employing these techniques in your website.
While speeding up your website isn’t going see your site shooting up the search engine rankings, it is a ranking factor but probably the most important reason for a fast site is satisfying your customers. At the end of that day, that’s what it’s all about.
As time goes on, I will try and write more in depth articles about each of the factors mentioned above to give you a better insight into how to improve your website. Alternatively, if you don’t have time to fix your website yourself, we can help improve your website speed as a part of our search engine optimisation service.