21 Aug Is Your Website Too Slow?
As we’ve written before on our humble blog, your website doesn’t just represent your business, it is your business! Whether your business is exclusively e-commerce or exclusively brick-and-mortar (although most are now a bit of both), the first contact people have with your enterprise is your website.
Much has been written about the detrimental effect that a slow website has on driving sales. But how can you tell if your website is slow? Your competitors won’t let you know! Nor will the visitors who quickly bounced off because they had to wait too long (which in web speed time is three seconds or more. Think about it – when was the last (or first) time someone called to complain about your slow website? They simply left – presumably to one of your competitors’ sites – never to be seen again!
What may seem acceptable to you may not be to potential customers. With this in mind, we provide this quick guide to website speed.
How fast should your site be?
Although three seconds is generally considered the limit of visitor patience, the time you should be aiming for is substantially less. As we covered in our blog post – “Why Your Website Needs to be Up-to-Speed” – the average visitor will only tolerate a load time of up to two seconds for ecommerce sites. Google’s engineers have found that potential customers will visit a site less often if it’s slower than that of a close competitor’s by more than 250 milliseconds. Yes, you read that right – milliseconds. Among their other discoveries: even 400 milliseconds – literally the blink of an eye – is too long for website visitors to wait for a page to load!
Also keep in mind that most people access websites on their smartphone. A website that isn’t optimized for mobile provides a poor user experience (UX) for many reasons – including slow speed. Google reports that a web page can take up to nine seconds to load on a mobile phone. As revealed in our blog post – “How to Tell If Your Website Needs a Redesign” – consumers expect a seamless UX on all mobile devices – otherwise, you’ll lose out on leads and customers. According to Google, 61% of users are highly unlikely to return to a website that doesn’t work well on mobile, with 40% moving on to visit a competitor’s site.
What is slowing down your website?
Actually, website speed is a complex matter. As Blue Corona points out, “Website speed is a fluid concept, for two reasons: Webpages don’t load all at once – they load piece by piece. Website speed varies from webpage to webpage and user to user, depending on each page’s attributes and the user’s browser, device, and internet speed.”
Blue Corona identifies the following as factors that increase page load time:
- An unresponsive website (non-mobile-friendly).
- Numerous 301 redirects.
- Compression enablement.
- Slow server response time.
- Website caching for images and resources.
- Too many resources or elements on a page.
- Unoptimized images.
- Unoptimized CSS.
- Using the synchronous version of a script.
- Having too many plugins.
- Website isn’t responsive or the viewport isn’t correctly sized.
- Too-small font sizes.
- Typography that isn’t search-engine-friendly.
Assuming you’re interested in troubleshooting on your own, there are free diagnostic tools you can use to test your website’s speed, and drill down to identify specific issues. A great place to start is with Google’s PageSpeed tools. These consist of PageSpeed Insights – which, as the name implies, analyzes the content of a web page, then generates suggestions to make that page faster – and PageSpeed Modules, which optimizes your site automatically. Speeds are given for both mobile devices and desktops.
Other helpful tools presented by Google include:
Test My Site – A speed test specifically for mobile, this measures your site’s performance and provides a list of specific fixes that can help your business connect more quickly with potential customers. Just type in your URL, and you’ll see how your site scores within moments. A detailed report with tips on how to address areas of poor performance – and where to go for help at no charge – is available via email.
Google Page Lighthouse – This tool is designed to help ecommerce businesses track site load times, accessibility and SEO. Lighthouse identifies problems and provides advice on addressing them in order to improve the user experience.
As featured in our blog post – “Handy Tools to Get Your Website Up-to-Speed” – other popular free web speed diagnostics include the following.
GTMetrix – This tool gives you insight on how well your site loads and provides actionable recommendations on how to optimize it. The results overview shows you the browser and location used for testing, PageSpeed and YSlow scores, page load time, number of requests and total page size. The basic service is free, but registration and a GTMetrix PRO paid account will unlock much more detail. Nifty features include a developer’s toolkit, the ability to monitor pages, set up monitored alerts, test from multiple regions and video capture – which allows you to record a video of your page loading and pinpoint exactly where bottlenecks occur.
Pingdom – Based in Sweden, Pingdom offers a free website load speed test. The test is designed to help make your site faster by identifying what about a webpage is fast, slow, etc. Pingdom is designed to be an easy-to-use tool built to help webmasters and web developers optimize their website performance.
Beyond the speed test, Pingdom offers (for a monthly fee) specific test and monitoring features for ecommerce websites, developers and managers. Other features include comprehensive alerting and reporting, a combination of synthetic and real user monitoring (RUM), and a detailed and thorough root cause analysis for website uptime and performance incidents.
What can speed up your website?
Regular website maintenance is essential to preventing issues that can slow your site. Our blog post – “The Importance of Website Maintenance” – covers the following tasks that should be performed on a monthly or annual basis:
- Run backups often (time them to run daily after-hours if the website gets updated daily).
- Update contact forms and captchas.
- Update security settings.
- Resubmit sitemaps.
- Delete spam emails.
- Fix broken links.
- Run a speed test and perform fixes.
- Update plugins. (Note to WordPress users – let the developers release the inevitable bug patches before updating. Also give them time to be compatible with your theme so nothing gets broken. You can always revert to the previous version if you run into issues.)
- Optimize databases.
- Clean out old post revisions.
- Purge cache.
- Compress images.
According to Small Business Trends, WordPress is now used on 30 percent of the top 10 million websites. Writing for Winning WP, Daniel Pataki advocates for GTMetrix. His article, “Speed Tips For WordPress Users,” lists the following quick fixes:
- Use a page caching plugin, such as W3 Total Cache, WP Super Cache or WP Rocket.
- Go through your site’s images and ensure they’re all as optimized as they can be.
- Enable gzip compression, minify all scripts and leverage browser caching wherever possible.
Other ways to improve your website’s speed
If your website isn’t already on a content delivery network (CDN), consider making the switch. A CDN is a group of servers strategically placed around the world, with the purpose of delivering content much faster. When a visitor makes a request to a website, that request is routed to the nearest possible CDN edge server, thereby reducing latency and improving site speed.
Website speed can also be greatly improved by using a fast web host. Virtual Stacks Systems has economical hosting plans, powerful data centers around the world and 24/7 technical support. We provide dynamic hosting solutions for both enterprise and e-commerce sites – and seamlessly support WordPress sites. And, of course, we develop new websites and redesign existing sites to be optimized for speed – as well as provide website maintenance. Contact us to learn more and get started!