Did you know that, according to research, 83% of users expect websites to load in 3 seconds or less, but the median load time of the top 500 eCommerce websites is 10 seconds?
It’s no wonder that the Internet is full of trolls, comment spam, and generally unhappy people: everyone’s disgruntled from waiting for websites to load.
Faster websites make more money, have happier users, and boast higher conversion rates than slower ones. You can see all the research in the infographic below:
It’s a fact that having a fast site will benefit you in one way or another, even if you’re not in the business of selling things online. But how can you improve your load times and increase your page speed, especially if you have a media-heavy site?
Here are five ways that you can speed up your website and improve your user experience.
Compress and Optimize Your Images
The biggest culprit of slow websites is usually images. Nine times out of ten, if a site is taking a long time to load, it’s because the website has a media-heavy homepage. It may look nice, but that won’t matter much if visitors aren’t sticking around to see it.
Luckily, there are a few options to optimize your images for the web, intelligently compressing their file sizes without losing much quality. Here are three you can try:
- “Save for Web” in Photoshop: Typically best for smaller JPEGs. Saving for web can cut corners here and there, and 10 KB saved may not seem like much, but it does add up over time.
- Kraken Image Optimizer: This online image optimizer is great for larger JPEGs, like big homepage graphics that have to look great but can’t take forever to load. The sample on their site shows a nearly 1 MB image compressed by 74% with almost no difference in quality.
- TinyPNG: Need a transparent PNG? TinyPNG offers high-quality PNG files with transparency, no loss in quality, and extremely low file sizes. Both online and Photoshop plugin options are available.
Experiment With “Lazy Loading” Images
If your individual pages have a lot of images – for example, if your website includes illustrated guides, how-tos, or large photos – compression will only go so far. To combat this, you can implement a jQuery Lazy Load plugin, like this one, to delay the loading of images until the user scrolls to them in their browser.
Although Lazy Load may not help with short websites or landing pages, it can drastically reduce load time and server strain on very long or image-intensive pages.
Use a CDN
Image credit: “NCDN – CDN” by Kanoha
A content delivery network (or CDN) is one way to increase the speed with which your website content is delivered to users, no matter where they are located. Unlike single server models, in which your content is stored in a single location, CDNs keep your content cached on multiple servers, and your site is delivered to users from the server that is either physically closest or fastest.
CDNs, like CloudFlare and Amazon FloudFront, typically offer both free and paid plans. Paid CDN plans may offer prioritized requests or other benefits that allow your site to load consistently, even when experiencing heavy traffic or a DDoS attack.
Utilizing a CDN may offer only minimal benefits, or it may speed up your website remarkably, if you serve a high number of international visitors. However, considering the low cost (that is, nothing), it is worth reviewing to decide if there are benefits for your website, especially if you are publishing high quality media on your site.
Reduce or Remove Redirects and Bad Requests
If you think a 404 “not found” error is just a bad user experience, think again: the more 404s you serve, the more strain you are putting on your server. Each time your site has to perform a lookup and return an error, you are wasting resources. The same applies to 301 redirects in your .htaccess file, which must load and be “read” before any content is delivered to your users.
To find any bad requests or errors that may be slowing down your site, access Webmaster Tools, then look for the Crawl Errors report. This will provide a list of any errors on your site, including soft (temporary) 404s and missing pages. From here, you can correct any problems on your site. Visit this report regularly to ensure you aren’t unknowingly removing content or slowing down your site with 404s!
Additionally, open your .htaccess file (if you have one) and look for any old 301 redirects that can safely be removed. If an old URL hasn’t been accessed in more than two years, it’s probably fine to take it out – Google’s definitely caught up by now, and it’s doubtful the page is bookmarked or linked anywhere.
Upgrade Your Server or Switch Hosts
If all else fails, and your site is still slow to load, it’s time to turn your attention to the server. Limited resources on your host’s side can prevent your website from being served to visitors in a timely manner. In this case, your best option is to either upgrade your hosting plan, or – if you’re already at the top tier with your current host – find a new home for your site.
If you’re using cPanel on a Linux hosting environment, you can find a variety of bandwidth and resource logs and reports under the “Logs” menu. The Bandwidth report can specifically show the amount of time it has taken for your site to be served to visitors. If the numbers here look consistently high, and you’ve already taken steps to optimize your content, it’s time to consider an upgrade.
These are five ways that you can speed up your website, improve your conversion rate, and get your visitors to stay on your site for longer. Remember: even small changes can make a big difference, so don’t hesitate to experiment and try new things.
What tips do you have for speeding up your website?
This post was written by Dan Shaffer who is an Internet Marketer at WebpageFX. Follow him @ShafferDan for even more tips to improve your website!