In 2019 there really is no excuse for a slow website. With every business fighting for the top spot on search engines it’s no surprise that Google has stated that page speed is a ranking factor. If that wasn’t enough to get you testing your website’s speed, then these statistics might:
- 47% of users expect a web page to load in under two seconds
- 57% abandon a page that takes more than three seconds to load
There are lots of speed test tools you can test your website with. We recommend testing it on two or three of them and then comparing the results. Here are a few speed test tools we use: Pingdom, Google Speed Test, and YSlow. Each tool will give you advice on how to speed things up, and they all make different suggestions, but here are a few things that should improve load times on any website:
Optimise your images
Every time someone visits a web page the browser has to load every part of the page, so if your images are bigger than they need to be they’ll be slowing down your website.
First the smallest screen image resolution you can get away with is 72 ppi (pixels per inch), any smaller than that and the image will appear fuzzy, any bigger and it will slow your down the loading of the image.
Next, you should make sure your images are the right size for how they’re showing on your web page. Content management systems (CMS) like WordPress will allow you to upload your images at their original size and will then resize them for you, although this makes your life easier it still means that the browser will have to perform multiple tasks to download and resize the image as the page loads. To save your page loading time, resize your images before you upload them.
Finally, try compressing your images – this will reduce the file size and again further speed up the time is takes for them to load. There are a number of online image compression tools you can use before you upload, such as TinyJPG and ImageSize and WordPress plugins that can optimise images you upload.
Do a plugin purge
When using WordPress it may seem tempting to add lots of fancy plugins; there are thousands available and the majority of them are free. But beware; they require resources to run, and the more resources used the slower your website will be. A quick way to resolve this issue is to perform a plugin review on your site – then you can remove any that are unnecessary or inactive, or find alternative plugins that require less resources to do the same job.
Install a performance plugin
Whilst it’s good to get rid of any extra plugin chaff on your site, there are a number of free and premium performance plugins that, with a little tinkering, can really help you to speed up your site. Good free ones include WP Super Case and W3 Total Cache. You can get fairly good results using these free ones, but our favourite is a premium plugin called WP Rocket – it’s well worth the investment.
Upgrade your web hosting
Many people choose the cheapest hosting option when they start out, which usually works well for a new website while you’re beginning to build visibility and traffic. However, problems can arise when traffic and the size of your site begin to increase – you’ll need to upgrade your hosting plan to match that increase, otherwise it is likely to cause slow and glitchy performance issues. A simple solution to this is to move from standard shared hosting to a cloud or VPS solution. This can make a huge difference to how quickly your website loads – check with your hosting provider to see if it’s time to upgrade or explore other hosting options.
Enable browser caching
Browser caching enables a user’s browser to store copies of your site’s pages so that when they return in the future the content can be called up from browser cache, rather than having to reload the whole page. This is easily done with any of the performance plugins mentioned above. N.B. This will only speed up your website for users who have visited your website before.
Minimise and optimise redirects
It is important that you regularly check the links on your website to make sure that all of your links – internal and external – go directly to the main URL for a page. When you do need to use a redirect make sure you only use one redirect for a page. You never want a browser to have to do the work of redirecting a visitor from one page to another that redirects it to a third page.
Use Content Delivery Networks (CDN)
Content Delivery Networks are vast networks of servers that are housed around the world. Typically, if you’re not using a CDN, then your site will load from your web hosting server’s central location for every user on your site, no matter where they are geographically. If you use a CDN then your site will load from the server closest to the user and not the central location where it is hosted, these servers are known as POPs (Points of Presence). For example if you are based in California and visiting a website in the UK it will load the site from a POP in California or at least a location in the USA.
Keep the design and theme simple
It is good practice to prevent page speed issues in the first place so opting for a good host, CDN and theme can make all the difference. Try to ensure your page layout isn’t overly complicated or elaborate; minimal is better when it comes to optimising the speed. A good design and development team will take this into consideration when building your website.
Clean up your website’s database
WordPress is really helpful in that it saves drafts and revisions in case you make a mistake – but this can quickly clog up your database, as can old images, media files and plugins. Try using a tool like WP Optimise to clean up your database.
If you’d like help with anything we’ve mentioned above, please get in touch.