Website speed is one of the most significant factors influencing search engine rankings and website popularity among the targeted audiences. According to Statista, at least 73% of all mobile Internet users in China prefer to visit websites that can load in under three seconds or less.
Sounds like an unachievable benchmark? We beg to differ. If you follow the below advice, your website will run just as fast as the home page of any tech giant!
1. Compress Your Mark-Up Files
Even if you are running a website that does not have a lot of images or videos (e.g., a site offering expert PhD help), compressing your files is an absolute must. Website load speed depends not only on the size of their actual content but also on the size of their mark-up files including HTML, CSS and PHP. If these files are too large for the users to handle, your search engine ranking and website performance will suffer.
Fortunately, there exist great free-to-use apps such as GNU that automatically compress mark-up files without any further hassles.
2. Avoid Website Redirects
Ever noticed how some websites seem to switch to a different address once you begin loading their home pages? For example, while your browser input reads “website.com”, your browser starts to load “www.website.com”, “m.website.com” or other pages. Such a process is typically called a website redirect and it is an absolute speed killer.
Most browsers (mobile browsers, in particular) are going to slag a bit when faced with at least two-three redirects. If you want your website to be fast, be sure to either reduce the number of redirects or eliminate them altogether.
3. Plan Around Browser Caching
Have you ever noticed that some pages load faster if you regularly visit a specific website? This is the intended effect of browser caching. Most modern-day browsers store information from popularly visited pages so that the user does not have to load the entire website every time they visit it.
Similarly to mark-up compression, you can rely on free-to-use apps to set specific caching requirements for individual pages and evaluate the impacts of caching on load speeds.
4. Eliminate Load Times Bottlenecks
Even the speediest websites typically have functions that take a lot of time to load. As an example, loading a home page could take about three seconds while subscribing to the website newsletter might have a load time of five or more seconds.
If your users report having trouble with using a particular website function, make sure to contact your server provider and try to negotiate a solution that would eliminate performance bottlenecks and improve the users’ experiences.
5. Rely on Content Distribution Networks
In today’s age of most companies going global and serving customers all across the world, it is unavoidable that your website could be accessed from wildly different countries such as Germany, India, Qatar and Peru. If your servers are located in only one location (e.g., North America) visitors from other locales will experience increased load times and reduced website performance.
Luckily, content distribution networks (CDNs) are designed specifically to address this problem. CDNs automatically create copies of your website on servers in multiple countries, making sure that your load times remain consistently low regardless of the user’s country of origin.
6. Use Compressed Images
Sure, it’s nice when your website displays high-quality photos or videos. However, in most cases, such content also significantly decreases load times, particularly for mobile Internet users. So how exactly should you compromise between image quality and website speed?
Generally speaking, JPEG or WEBP images are considered a good middle ground for website hosts. Image compression is typically invisible to the naked eye, meaning that there are very few downsides to using the above formats.
7. Delete Unnecessary Plug-Ins
We love cool plug-ins as much as the next guy. Nevertheless, different plug-ins are stored on different servers which, in turn, means that each new plug-in is a significant drain on website speed.
When in doubt, do not hesitate to simply delete plug-ins that do not provide any value to the users.
8. Switch to PHP 7
While many developers and plug-ins are used to working with PHP6 or even PHP5, both of these systems are considered outdated in terms of website speed. PHP7 generally allows systems to process twice as many requests as PHP6 which is sure to make a significant improvement to website load times.
Sure, switching to PHP7 might take some time and money. But it will be worth it in the long run by attracting new users and making your website appear closer to the top of the search engine results.
9. Use Professional Services
If you have the finances to afford such a solution, it might be best to procure website optimisation services from professional agencies. In general, web developers will focus not only on the solutions outlined above but will also dig deep into the source code of your website. Eliminating ‘spaghetti code’ could result in a significant improvement to load times with no impediments to website functionality.
10. Switch to Dedicated Servers
In the majority of cases, websites are hosted using the shared hosting method. Imagine sharing an apartment with at least four-five other people who all want to use the kitchen or the bathroom at the same time. Sounds nightmarish? This is exactly why sharing server resources with other websites can be detrimental to load times.
If you have the finances, getting a dedicated hosting server could be an absolute blessing. Continuing the above analogy, a dedicated server is similar to getting your own apartment after living in a packed student dorm.
Website optimisation may sound like a very complicated process but, in reality, decreasing load times is a matter of being diligent in your hosting arrangements and using best practices to improve your users’ experiences. While the above advice is not extensive, following these 10 recommendations should bring you much closer to your audience’s expectations of website performance.