Website speed is becoming ever more important every year and 2021 is no different. Search engines such as Google are favouring better-performing websites, which include web pages that are optimised for speed, both on desktop and mobile. Google is constantly changing its algorithm for search engine optimisation (SEO) and many websites suffer major consequences from it. Speed optimisation is one factor that Google has favoured in recent years and the company will be placing even more priority on faster websites across 2021. Therefore, we have laid out some core reasons as to how you can improve your website speed in 2021 and make sure your company does not suffer the effects of a slow-performing website.
What is the Importance of your Website’s Speed?
The importance of a websites speed is often overlooked; however, it can be boiled down to three fundamental categories:
A) To Convert,
B) To Be Found,
C) User Experience (UX).
It is a simple as this, the quicker your website is, the more likely it will convert. Whether your website is an e-commerce store, a one-page website, a B2B website, and so on, you need will concrete speed optimisation in order to increase your conversion rates.
The Amazon Case Study:
According to research carried out by HubSpot, as little as a 1-second delay can reduce conversions up to 7%. We can translate this website speed issue with Amazon, if Amazon’s page speed is reduced by only 1 second, it could cost them $1.6 billion per year!
Now we are starting to see the bigger picture of speed optimisation. Therefore, the formula is: quicker page load speed = more conversions.
To Be Found:
What is one reason you have a website in the first place? To be found. Yes, you want people to find your website, if you sell shoes and have an e-commerce website, then you would hope to be found if somebody is looking to buy shoes online. However, SEO guidelines require high-performing websites, which means, you need speed optimisation. As previously mentioned, to increase your chances of being found, to increase your SEO and visibility online, you need to have a faster website, because that is what users like. Users like fast websites because it is more efficient, Google likes to please its users, therefore, Google favours fast websites.
User Experience (UX):
The fundamentals of all businesses are your customers and if your customers are not happy, then you will be unlikely to convert with them. This applies in-store and online, you want to keep your customers, or in our case, your users, happy so they are likely to come back to your website (to your business), to recommend you and to, importantly, purchase your products/services. However, web page speed plays an integral role in keeping your users happy. Keeping with our shoe’s analogy, if you wish to purchase shoes online, you find a website on Google, you click on it and you end up waiting 5, 10, 15 seconds, it will become frustrating and most likely you will find another website (directly losing a customer to a competitor). User patience has decreased majorly over the years to an expectation of just 2-4 seconds, whereas, in 2000, websites had an expectation of around 30 seconds. Incredibly, 64% of smartphone users expect a page to load in less than 4 seconds and we can expect this time to reduce every year. Therefore, if you wish to keep your customers happy, then you need to invest in website speed optimisation for a better user experience.
So, we have discussed a few core reasons as to why a website’s speed is important, so what techniques can you do to increase your website’s loading time?
What are some Techniques to Improve your Website’s Page Speeds?
1. Image Optimisation:
Optimising your website images is one of the most effective methods to speed up your website and account for one of the most common issues people have with website speed. Imagine optimisation can be attended to via various means, some are as follows:
a. Image Compression:
Large image files can have drastic implications on your website’s speed, if your image file is too large, you will often see a staggering loading effect of your images on your website, typically being one of the last assets to render. You can compress your images using several free online image compression tools, or by using photo-editing software such as Photoshop. We tend to try to keep my larger images (such as background images) to around 180kb maximum and smaller images up to 100kb maximum. By compressing your images, you can see significant website load time decreases and may just be the reason you get that extra conversion.
b. Next-Gen Image Formatting:
Next-gen formatting is one of the more technical image optimisation techniques that can help your website speed in 2021. Next-gen image formats are: WebP, JPEG2000 and JPEG XR. Google prefers if your website endorses these image formats for a more efficient image loading. However, you need to be careful and check browser compatibilities with these next-gen image formats as they are not all compatible across all browsers. We tend to use the WebP format as it is compatible with Google Chrome and we set fallback images in either the standard JPG or PNG formats. Therefore, if a user is not using Google Chrome, the fallback image will kick into place. You can set a fallback image using the <picture> tag, more specifically, you would specify something along the lines of:
<source srcset=”yourimage.webp” type=”image/webp”>
<source srcset=”yourimage.jpg” type=”image/jpg”>
< source src=”yourimage.jpg” alt=”Your images alt tag”>
To format your images in a next-gen format, you can use many free online resources such as ezgif or if your website has been developed on WordPress you can use the plugin Smush Pro.
c. Image Resizing:
Image resizing is another common issue that website owners tend to do. If your image takes up a space of 400px x 400px then your image should be those exact dimensions, however, it is common for people to include an image without resizing it, or developers tend to resize the image via CSS or HTML, however, this still means you have a larger than needed image that is trying to load, which will still create loading issues. If you resize your images to the actual size needed for the website, then you will speed up your website’s loading time. Luckily, WordPress users need not worry as there are a lot of plugins that can handle this for you and, more so, it usually creates multiple image sizes of each image you upload.
d. Lazy Loading:
Alternatively, if you use a CMS such as WordPress you can find multiple plugins that can perform lazy loading image optimisation for you, such as Lazy Load.
e. Content Delivery Network (CDN):
A CDN is usually a last resort and can be overkill for smaller websites. However, it is a great technique to improve your website speed, especially for websites that have many images. Basically, you would use a CDN to host your image assets and then your website would call the CDN to send the images to your website when needed, this, therefore, reduces the weight of your website and increases speed. Additionally, a CDN can be used to offload assets other than images, you can offload different types of files that all contribute to reducing the weight of your website, which, in turn, enhances your website page load speed.
2. CSS and JS File Minification
On the other hand, if you are using WordPress you can find many plugins such as Hummingbird that can minify files for you.
3. Server Upgrades
What type of server are you using? Your server can have a big impact on your website’s speed times, especially as your website can be hosted across the world, even if your audience resides in one specific country. Therefore, it is best to get a server that is located in the optimum country of your audience. Furthermore, the type of server can affect your website’s speed. Commonly there are three types of website server hosting: Shared Server, Virtual Private Server (VPS), or a Dedicated Server.
Shared hosting is one of the most common forms, due to its low costs, however, because you share a server with many other websites, it will also have the slowest server response times. You will share CPU, disk space and RAM with other sites on that server.
Whereas VPS hosting and Dedicated Servers are much quicker as they give you more independence from other websites. Although the VPS hosting still shares a server with other websites, it is much less than the Shared hosting and other website configurations that do not influence your own.
A Dedicated Server, the most expensive option, provides you with your own physical server and in this case, you would pay a server rent and even hire a systems administrator to maintain the server. You could also go further and research cloud hosting, hybrid cloud hosting and some more modern forms, however, the three listed are the more traditional and common forms of website hosting.
4. Reduce the Number of Plugins (WordPress Speed Optimisation)
In the case of using a CMS, such as WordPress, website owners and even developers, tend to install plugins without really knowing their consequences. You have a problem; you research a plugin to fix it and you install the plugin. However, what you are doing is adding more code to your website, with every plugin you install you are adding weight to your website. This is one of the leading causes of slow websites on CMSs. You can increase your website speed by streamlining the number of plugins uses and by making sure you only install what is absolutely necessary.
5. Website Caching
This technique is especially relevant to websites with a lot of traffic. Every time a user enters your website, your webpage needs to render time after time, for each user, this process can be very slow and increase your speed times. Therefore, to reduce the need to render your website time-after-time for each user, you can simply cache it. Caching uses your current version of your website and presents that every time, until your website is updated (in which it will need to refresh everything to show the updates).
Website caching is an extremely easy process on WordPress and there are popular plugins that have millions of installs such as W3 Total Cache. However, if your website is a custom one, then it is a bit more technical, you can learn about website caching here. This technique can save your users a lot of time and give you the website speed you desire.
And Then Some…
The aforementioned website speed techniques are just 5 of many others factors that can help speed up your website, if you wish to learn more about website speed optimisation, you can contact us directly at firstname.lastname@example.org for a free consultation.
How can you Test your Website Speed?
Now it is time for the finale. Testing your website speed can be a bit overwhelming. Firstly, there are multiple tests to choose from, ie. PageSpeed Insights (Google), the Google Lighthouse test, GTmetrix, Pingdom, and many more. Secondly, the jargon can be a bit confusing, you may see terms such as Time to Interactive (TTI), First Contentful Paint FCP), Total Blocking Time, and much more. Therefore, it is important to understand what you need to know, what is important to fix, and how you can go about optimising those changes for your web page speed.
If you are interested in increasing your website’s speed or even learning more about website speed optimisation, then contact Absolute Websites for your free consultation and website speed performance assessment.
Additionally, check out our article that outlines what you need to do to score high on Google’s Lighthouse test. See our Google cheat sheet here.