Making your website load faster is a huge asset – it’ll make people love your brand, increase conversions and even reduce your ad spend with Google – which all adds up to more customers, quicker. Decreasing load time may require specialist support but you should check out these 10 things before you consider hiring an agency.
Get a speed test from Google
Our article here is all about why you should worry about website page loading speed as a major contributor to your annual profit figure. Why not not grab a free speed test from Google right now – it’s not only free but you simply pop in your url and get a report in seconds.
Image: Google Page Speed Insights results for The Ambitions Agency showing 90 score
1. Start with image file sizes for a faster loading website
Large images are an absolute disaster for page loading speeds. We’ve come across websites with image file sizes measured in MBs rather than KBs. In simple terms images rarely need to be more than 300kb on a website.
Use a plug-in to compress images…if you must.
There’s no denying that for a large website with lots and lots of pages the task of reducing image size will be impossible so a plug-in may be a good idea. Plugins such as Smush for WordPress and Optimus will do a nice job of compressing the images and helping the website loading speed. However as you will see elsewhere in this article, plug-ins themselves can harm your desire for a faster loading website.
2. Lazy Loading of images is a neat trick…
Having discussed making your images as small in terms of file size as possible it may be that you really want to drive your website page loading speed up even more. So consider lazy loading. This means that images are simply not loaded for the viewer in the initial download of a page.
In the Uk The Sun uses this technique very heavily. As an image-based newspaper it wants large, high quality images and it also wants fast page loading: Impossible? No! Simply don’t load the images at first – afterall, people may never see them, especially those lower down the page. Find out more at web.dev
Normally a website loads all the files it needs to display your page in order. If it comes to a big file it waits to load it before moving on. You can, however set it to load files out of order or to give it it’s proper name: Asynchronous loading – or deferred loading. Again there are plugs for WordPress such as Async which works with Autoptimize to help deliver a faster loading website.
To minify code simply means to take out any unnecessary spaces, punctuation and characters. It’s not exactly a task you could undertake manually so a plug-in called Autoptimize does the job and sets you on the way to a faster loading website.
5. For busy sites a Content Delivery Network can offer much faster website page loading speeds
CDNs are simply a network of servers which all get updated from your primary web server. With your website copied to a local server, each site visitor avoids the long trip to fetch your site from you and simply has to pop over to their local server.
One of the most well-known CDNs is Cloudflare. We’ve used them for a website that had huge traffic spikes around certain ticketing events. The CDN was able to cope with the demand for web pages which went from just a few hundred to almost a million requests simultaneously at peak time.
6. Browser Caching will make for a faster website load time
If you read a newspaper daily online the chances are very high that the logo, masthead and other elements unlikely to change are stored on your machine rather than being downloaded every day. This saves time on each new download.
It’s equally unlikely that the news articles are cached more than a day or just while you use the website.
So caching means the storage of items on the visitors machine that are unlikely to change. GT Metrix are an excellent resource for all things to do with website page speed loading and offer a great testing tool as well as this piece on browser caching.
7. Is your hosting provider holding you back?
Where your website is stored is a key factor and it can be quite hard to work out if your server is working slowly. A good start may be to check this list of hosting companies – rated by website loading speed among other factors.
8. Check plug-ins for faster website load speed
Yes, I know we’ve recommended a bunch of plug-ins in this article! Plug-ins are very useful but you may be amazed to look down your list of plug-ins and see how many are no longer used. So a great way to make your website load more quickly ( and to reduce safety risks – plug-ins do form attack vectors for hackers) is to make sure that any unused plug-ins are deleted.
If you have a slow website then the next step would be to turn-off plug-ins one by one to see if any of them are causing your issue. As a general rule it is vital to minimise use of plug-ins. The more you use, the greater the risk of conflicts between them and issues with site speed.
We recently had a website with a speed issue which only occurred once we had connected up Hubspot. The Hubspot technical team were responsive and helpful but even with their huge resources and knowledge they couldn’t fix the issue. We tried the process above and found that a very small plug-in for forms was conflicting with Hubspot and leaving us with a snail’s pace loading speed on mobile.
9. Reduce redirects
Redirects are used when you wish visitors to one page to be taken somewhere else – for example if you have moved domains or re-organised your site. Often they are vital to your site experience but they always mean a delay for site visitors and will count against you in a Google Speed test.
In just the same way that your Google Speed test may surprise you, why not quickly get a free look at how many redirects you have on your site? This great tool Patrick Sexton’s redirects mapper will show you what is going on.
Image: Screenshot from Patrick Sexton’s redirects mapping tool showing URL entry box.
10. Cache your web pages
In a similar way that browser caching helps website loading speed, caching ( or storing) your webpages can reduce the work for visitors by having them stored and ready on your server – you’d need to speak with your hosting provider to do this – or you can use a plug-in and do this at your website.
It’s quite interesting ( well I think so) to realise that WordPress is a dynamic content management system. OK well that’s not the interesting bit but what it means is that your website doesn’t exist as a page, it exists as a set of instructions which are to be followed each time someone visits your site.
Imagine giving someone some bricks, wood and paint every time they want to visit a shop. First they have to build it!
So caching actually builds the webpage and leaves it ready to go. Clever huh?
It is not always a good use of your time to work through lists such as these, we do understand. Our team of digital experts are always on hand to consult on any particular issues you may have or to simply take on the task of making your site whizz-bang fast.
To get your website loading faster simply get in touch.