Patience is a virtue. But beware if you are testing your website user’s patience for more than 3s! Yes, that’s the magic number of page loading time. A study conducted by Google long back, the findings of which still hold good, suggests that a large number of website users abandon a site (bounce) when the page takes longer than 3s to load. The bounce rate further increases as the page/site load time increases.
Why is Page Speed Important at all?
Page speed is the measure of how fast the content on a web page loads. It determines how long the page visitors will have to wait before they find what they are looking for. Needless to say then, that in an age and time when we all want to usher the best customer experience, a lousy page load time can mar the prospects of the site.
Further, the page load time is also an important SEO factor that is considered by Google algorithms while ranking pages. Longer page load time means fewer pages indexed by the Google crawler within a specific time budget of the crawler.
Thus, the page load time is a crucial factor that determines whether the page will be found by a user or if the user will stay on the page.
How to decrease the page load time?
If page load time be such an important website metric that it can make or break conversions, then it is only obvious for you to reduce it such that it works in your favor and gives the users a great experience.
While this is often touted as a not-so-easy task to achieve, it isn’t truly impossible either if a few things are kept in mind while designing the website. Here is a list of things you can do to get your page up to the optimum speed.
1. Compress the Images
Everyone loves HD images. The clarity and vibrancy of colours make them look like the best thing for our website aesthetics. True! But then there is more to a site than just aesthetics. Large sized images can severely impair page loading speed. Instead, compressing images using tools or plugins, many of which are freely available within the Content Management Systems if you are using one, are an easy and inexpensive way to optimize the page loading time. Photoshop is also useful software that can effectively reduce image size while giving you complete control over the quality.
2. Using Browser Caching
The browser cache could be that storehouse of information which can salvage page load time for you. For each returning visitor, the page that loads can make use of a number of elements like images, stylesheets, JS files, etc. that are stored in the browser cache. To leverage this feature, all you need to do is use an appropriate plugin if you are using a CMS or, set the ‘expires’ header to a year so that the information is stored in the cache for that length of time and can be retrieved when needed.
See how we improved our loading speed for the testing purposes with Swift WordPress caching plugin.
3. Optimize Your Code
Another good way to optimize the loading time is by minimizing the space that the code takes up. Minimizing HTML, CSS, and JS files by removing unnecessary spaces, commas and other characters, code comments or, unused code can make noticeable changes in page load speed. Again, as always, plugins can optimize your code like a breeze without you having to be a coding genius.
4. Use AMP
Most of the web traffic today, comes from mobile devices. Users like to access information or perform transactions on the go where using internet on mobile devices is the most obvious choice. Hence, it is important that your webpages be easily accessible on mobile phones and be mobile-responsive too. To enable this, Google rolled out the Accelerated Mobile Pages project which enables faster page loading on mobile devices. These pages, devoid of any formatting, load much faster and thus enhance user experience. All you need to do is use an appropriate plugin or, simply follow a tutorial if you are already familiar with HTML.
If you are using WordPress, than AMP4WP plugin is something you will definitely want to use instead of a default AMP plugin that comes with the WordPress installation.
5. Reduce Page Redirection
Imagine the frustration of driving to a venue just to know that the physical address has been moved to a new location. Similar frustration results when you redirect website users to new pages. The disappointment and the bounce rates are higher in case of mobile users who may be using less reliable networks. Not only this, the redirects also reduce page load speed. Thus, it is only intelligent to reduce page redirects unless absolutely necessary.
6. Reduce the Time to First Byte
Time to First Byte or, TTFB is the time taken by your browser to receive the first byte of information from the web server. Though there is no evidence to suggest that decreasing TTFB improves SERP rankings, there is enough correlation between low TTFB and high SERP rankings. Even if one was to ignore these stats, it makes sense to improve TTFB to provide a better user experience and faster page load speed. According to Google, an ideal TTFB would be under 200ms and anything above 500ms needs to be worked upon.
a. Opt for a high-quality web hosting
There are many ways using which TTFB can be reduced. Improving web hosting services is one. Opting for low-quality web hosting might save you a few dollars but the long wait for your page to show up can end up boosting your competitors’ business in the long run. Thus, it is always prudent to opt for a high-quality web hosting to reduce the response time.
Check out this list to see which web hosting is the most suitable for you.
b. Use Content Distribution Network
It is but natural for response from a server to be slow if the request is coming from half way across the globe. Use of Content Distribution Networks (CDN) therefore is a practical option if the traffic from across the globe matters to your site. CDNs replicate the content to multiple locations across the world so as to make it available at a location closer to your users and hence reducing TTFB.
c. Update plugins and themes
If you are using plugins for your site, make sure their performance updates are applied from time to time. Some plugins that either make your site unnecessarily slow or, are no longer in use are best removed. However, the trade-off between removing a plugin which slows your site, and improving load time can be made only based on the plugin’s utility.
A Final Note
Nothing can be more heart breaking than a high bounce rate or, a low conversion rate on your site after you’ve spent numerous man-hours going through UI designs and designing the best possible user experience. You chose the best images, icons, content, plugins and what not. But, all of that together may have left your site too heavy to load fast. This is when it’s time for you to take the page speed test and consider improving it if it isn’t already per the industry benchmark. And that’s when considering these points will be helpful. So, speed up before you lose traffic or business to your competitors.