It’s been widely reported that audiences start abandoning web pages after three seconds of a page loading. With page loading times also being taken into account by search engines as they calculate page rankings, what should you do if your own site runs slowly? Few companies have spare funds for a complete site redesign, particularly on complex platforms containing ecommerce or database functionality.
Fortunately, improving page loading speeds doesn’t require major surgery. A variety of simple techniques will help deliver content to browsers quickly enough to retain the audience’s attention. Implementing WestHost’s affordable tips for reducing the time it takes to display online content will keep people engaged and on your site for longer – another metric used by Google and Bing to determine which pages deserve prominent ranking positions…
Design for mobile
The growing domination of mobile browsers over desktop ones has been well publicized. Even if your site is already live, any future additions like blogs or product pages should be mobile optimized. Responsive pages resize to suit output screen resolutions, while restricted pixel widths encourage a minimalist approach to design and functionality. Replace header or sidebar navigation with dropdown hamburger menus, remove unnecessary GIFs or background graphics, and ensure content galleries like photo slideshows can be operated by touch as well as arrow keys or a mouse. Compact registration forms are strongly recommended since typing on smartphones is often challenging, but even desktop audiences won’t want to complete numerous fields that also take extra time to load and display.
Optimize homepages first
Homepages are usually the first (and often the only) part of a site that many visitors see, so they’re crucial for optimizing SEO. Yet many companies cram numerous superfluous details onto their homepages, which then load slowly and display inefficiently. Since most inbound links drive traffic to homepages, this is the first place to start overhauling existing content. Use tools like Google’s PageSpeed Insights to generate a list of recommendations about improving page loading speeds. Comparisons with key rivals may also identify distinctions between your homepage and higher-ranked alternatives.
Divide content across sub-pages
The points made above are particularly pertinent since some websites have adopted single-page formats. This is a no-no in terms of site performance, since everything from contact details to blog posts and staff overviews are displayed in one place. Unless you need dedicated product pages, try to keep the site below ten pages in total. Also avoid branching sub-menus, which are hard to navigate on small devices. Homepages require short and compelling CTAs to drive traffic further into the site, while secondary pages cover the whys and hows.
Graphics are often the most data-intensive elements of a webpage. From background images to high-res photographs, it’s crucial to minimize these without causing pixelation. A smartphone snap might occupy 5MB of hard drive space, but it’ll display just as well at a fifth of that size. Batch compression with specified image dimensions will ensure consistency, and always choose efficient file formats like JPGs over BMPs. Similarly, there’s no need for videos to play full-screen. YouTube videos can be displayed on your site but hosted remotely, so data requests are processed by Google’s ultrafast servers rather than your own.
Avoid autoplaying media content
If you are going to offer video content, ensure it doesn’t automatically start buffering. This is hugely detrimental to page loading speeds, as servers fight to display static contents alongside buffered video streams. The delayed reaction before a file starts playing may result in a nasty shock as it bursts into life, potentially causing acute embarrassment if the sound is also turned on. Whether your site contains music, video clips or anything else, autoplaying media content should always be avoided. Audiences understand a white circle with a right-facing triangle in it will enable them to play a file, so let them decide if their connection speed is up to the task.
Deploy browser caching and cookies
One of the easiest ways to accelerate loading times is by enabling caching. Most elements of a page won’t change from one visit to the next, and caching specific elements on local devices ensures faster access for returning visitors. The process of enabling caching is as simple as adding code to the .htaccess file on a server, explaining what should be cached and how long it should remain in memory. Cookies operate according to similar principles, accelerating login times and remembering a particular browser from previous sessions.
Deploy WordPress plugins
If your site is hosted through WordPress, there are numerous plugins available to accelerate page displays. A caching plugin like WP Rocket will serve high-speed static HTML content to visitors, while BJ Lazy Load ensures images on scrolling pages only load as they become visible. The graphics compression outlined above can be undertaken in batches of 50 photographs at a time via WP Smush, with visuals and other data stored on rapid access servers courtesy of Cloudflare’s content delivery network. Finally, and perhaps ironically, Query Monitor identifies any plugins slowing down the website, enabling them to be removed.
Delete outdated or obsolete elements
Eliminate page redirects
Whenever a browser is redirected, it has to abandon the original URL it was attempting to access in favor of another one. Each additional HTTP request increases loading times, as audiences are bounced from one location to another. Moreover, redirects are increasingly associated with site cloning or unsolicited software downloads. There are rumors that Chrome will block redirects entirely next year, which means permanent 301 or temporary 302 redirects ought to be eliminated. It’s much better to streamline your site so everything is in one place, even if a degree of domain authority is lost in the process.
Use a dependable hosting partner
One of the biggest factors affecting page loading speeds concerns the quality of the host platform. A network of international servers will meet individual page requests more quickly than a single server halfway round the world, particularly if the host provider is capable of increasing its bandwidth offerings in response to traffic spikes. At WestHost, that’s exactly what we do for clients as far afield as San Francisco and Singapore. We offer dedicated 10/100TB servers for larger clients, with affordable shared hosting meeting all the needs of small companies. Cloud-hosted virtual private servers represent a third option, utilizing ultra-fast solid state drives. Whichever hosting option you choose, our priority is always to deliver your content as quickly as possible – boosting audience retention and maximizing SEO in the process.