Ease of use is key to how long a visitor stays on your website. You need to make it as convenient and enjoyable as possible. One of the key points that visitors look for is the speed at which the website loads.
Even a few seconds can make a big difference in user satisfaction, turning visitors into customers. Loading time can also affect your Google rankings.
40% of users say they will leave a site if the loading process is longer than just three seconds. It simply doesn’t matter how attractive your site is, how colorful, or how interesting the content may be.
People don’t like to wait. The internet is the place where visitors expect instant gratification and constant stimulation.
Google has long used the speed at which a website loads as part of its ranking algorithm. If your site loads more slowly than is acceptable to the average user, Google evaluators will mark it as having issues around usability and search engine optimization.
The lower the ranking, the harder it is for searchers to find your website. If you are getting fewer visitors, you are losing money. Even fractions of a second can make a major difference in how well people like your website.
Time, energy, and money put into speeding up your site’s loading time is well spent. It can result in an immediate increase in the number of visitors and how long they stay.
The load time problem
Several things contribute to longer loading time. If your website has a large number of images, if the files are large, if there are many requests to access the page, the server has to work harder, making it slower. This also applies to CSS various scripts that you might have.
High-resolution graphics always take longer to load than those configured for faster load times. Though you lose something in resolution, you more than make up for it in speed. Most people can’t tell the difference in an image that is high resolution and one that is specially configured for faster loading.
Also, some images can be converted to SVG. For example, your logo, social sharing icons or whatever small graphical element you have. There are plenty of tools you can use to convert from PNG to SVG and vice-versa. If it makes sense, you can re-create your logo in CSS directly as well.
First, check your site loading speed
There are several essential tools that will help you assess your website’s speed. These are the two most important ones.
How to achieve a faster loading time
Use CSS sprites
For each graphic on your site, an individual trip to the server is required to grab all of the necessary data to make it show up on the visitor’s computer screen. Multiple trips take time, adding to the speed of the page load.
By using sprites, you can reduce the time factor. It allows the data for all images to be combined into one aggregate image. Tools like SpritePad, CSS Sprite Generator, and ZeroSprites all are helpful to facilitate this process.
They take the CSS background-image and its corresponding position information and accurately display the right image in the right spot on the screen while speeding up the loading process.
Most servers use Gzip on files before the download process is requested, using either a built-in routine or a third-party app.
Use a CDN network
A CDN, or content delivery network, helps reduce load times. This type of service is available both for a fee and for free. It is worthwhile to experiment to find the one that works best. Expensive services tout their efficiency, but be sure to check out lower-priced and also the free alternatives.
CDNs work by making images available geographically close to the computer making the request. The images are stored on a variety of servers in various countries around the world.
Proper setup is essential if you want to make the most of a CDN. If you need to move images and content to an external domain, check with an expert to make sure your visitors can easily find you. Your website’s search engine optimization strategy can easily be upset with badly configured equipment.
Remove unused CSS and then minify your CSS and JS files
Be lean in your approach to the setup of your CSS files. When you have protocols that aren’t in use on a page, it takes just slightly more time to load. By removing the unnecessary rules, you help your site load as quickly as possible.
Browser caching, don’t forget about it
The computer that your website visitor uses can help speed up load time. It automatically stores scripts, images, and stylesheets on its hard drive, which reduces the time it takes to load the page next time the person visits. You can use this fact to your advantage.
The data is stored on the personal computer for a pre-determined length of time based on the expiration date, or expire, in the header code. Most expires headers are automatically set for 24 hours. This short period isn’t necessary to meet any computer protocol.
Instead, switch the code to “never expire” so that every time your visitor arrives on the site, a minimum of data needs to be downloaded to the device. Expires can safely be used for all types of data, including images, stylesheets, and scripts. A cache-control header is useful to let the browser handle conditional requests efficiently.
On WordPress? Use a cache plugin
With the popular WordPress, you can use caching as a way to ensure faster loading times. The cache plugin is able to generate its own copy of your site, collecting them on servers in the form of static files, or as database queries. The server can produce the cached page for a visitor instead of the original page.
Using a cached version lets the system make the loading faster, resulting in happier visitors. The server has to do less work and the entire process is more efficient.
In addition, using one of these plugins reduces the need for a number of code modifications, including those for database and browser cache, as well as minifying CSS and JS files.
Only use the necessary plugins
Though cache plugins are great timesavers, too many plugins end up increasing load time. Be sure to use just the ones your site requires. In addition to adding to the time and effort required for loading, they can also cause you security problems and lead to crashes.
Spend the time to get rid of plugins that aren’t being used. Also, deactivate those that slow down your loading time. You can check which ones are troublesome by disabling them one at a time, then checking the performance and speed of the server.
Other tools that you should consider
You can get specific help for loading times by making use of Google’s PageSpeed Insights. Its purpose is to analyze the performance and load time and then make specific suggestions to improve both.
The tool will score the loading and general functionality on a scale of 0 to 100. If you can get your page to 85 or better, you can be sure that your site is in good shape and that the loading factor is well within the proper range for visitor satisfaction. Google updates the tool on a regular basis, so it is worthwhile to retest often.
The purpose of the tool Yslow is to analyze performance and suggest improvements. It is able to grade a page on several rulesets, defined by the user.
The faster your site, the better your visitors like it. This has an immediate effect on how well your site, products, and services convert visitors to customers. Even a second has a positive, and immediate, effect on the people who come to your webpage.