Are you a fan of slow websites? …no? Neither are we. The same goes for all the other internet users. That’s why we want to give you 5 tips on how you can improve your website’s performance.
Table of Contents
- Why is Website Performance So Important?
- Tip 1: Optimize Images
- Tip 2: Enable Caching
- Tip 3: Select Your Animations Carefully
- Tip 4: Professional Hosting
- Tip 5: Use a Content Delivery Network (CDN)
- Conclusion: Page Speed Optimization Is A Must
Why Is Website Performance So Important?
Imagine you’re searching for “running shoe size 10” on Google. The first results seem to fit, so you click it. You wait. And wait. And wait. Your screen stays white while your browser’s progress bar seems to have fallen asleep halfway through. And what about you? You of course go back to the search results and click on the next website in line. This page loads in practically no time and you’re finally one step closer to those running shoes you came for.
What just happened? You quite simply decided that the first page took too long to load. You went back and picked a different search result. Maybe you even did this unconsciously. Now what does that mean for the owner of the first website? The bottom line is: fewer sales. He lost you as a potential customer, simply because his website didn’t load fast enough.
As you can see, your website’s loading speed has quite an effect on user experience. This is particularly true for smartphone users (see mobile Usability). They are often even more impatient. And every now and then, poor reception slows down your loading speed even further.
Website Performance Is A Ranking Factor!
All of this contributes to Google declaring loading speed a ranking factor. This means that the faster your website is, the easier you will climb to the top of the rankings. The standardized metric here is called “pagespeed”. It indicates how long it takes for your website to load, meaning the time it takes until users can interact with your fully rendered website.
Measuring Website Performance
Before you can improve your website’s loading time, you should run a website performance test. How that works and what tools we recommend will be discussed in our upcoming article “Measuring Website Performance”.
Tip 1: Optimize Images
Typically, images are a good point to start with. Here you will likely find many megabytes waiting to get optimized. First, you should check the resolution of the embedded images. When used straight out of a camera or smartphone, they are likely unnecessarily big. You will need to compress these photos before putting them up on your website. Then it’s all about finding the right balance between decent quality and a small file size.
The file size naturally varies with the resolution. As a rule of thumb, images should not exceed the 0.3 megabytes mark. And now the file format comes into play. For simple illustrations and graphics using just a few colors, we recommend the format .png. For photos, use .jpg.
Tip 2: Enable Caching
Caching can enormously improve your website’s performance. But how does it work? Caches are basically buffer memories that store frequently used data. This data can be retrieved faster than others which first need to be downloaded from a hard drive or a server. In online marketing, you only have to take care of two types of caches: browser cache and server cache. We recommend implementing both for an ideal pagespeed optimization.
But one step at a time. The browser cache is on the device of your website’s user. When he visits your website for the first time, some data is temporarily saved in his browser cache. This could be images or stylesheets (design files). The advantage now is that this data only has to be downloaded from the server once during the first visit and can then be used directly from the cache. This saves valuable loading time.
The user can delete his browser cache at any point in time. If he then revisits your website, the necessary resources will simply be downloaded and saved to his device again. In rare cases, browser caching can lead to display errors due to older versions of files being stored in the browser cache. So, if you decide to change your website’s design, users with older files in their cache might not be able to properly see the changes. But they can fix it by simply deleting the browser cache.
Server caching puts the focus on the server to improve your website’s performance. Your website’s loading time can be greatly reduced, especially if your website was designed with a content management system (CMS) like WordPress or Typo3.
Content management systems save all your website’s content in a central database. Every time a user wants to load a certain page, the CMS initiates a database query to fetch the content for the respective URL. This costs valuable loading time! Using a server cache eliminates this waiting time. The content for each URL is then simply cached on the server and can be directly accessed. This eliminates the additional communication between CMS and database, and you end up improving your pagespeed by up to 500%.
Tip 3: Select Your Animations Carefully
Everything that somehow moves on your website will typically slow down the loading speed significantly and make you pay dearly in the end. Even Google actually uses the word “expensive” in their Documentation on Animation and Performance. Every additional animation increases the risk of losing the user (and Google!) due to prolonged loading times. Depending on the device, animations can also lag and thereby further compromise the user experience. Especially complex layout animations are unfavourable.
Don’t Use Image Sliders
There’s one thing we absolutely may not forget: image sliders. Even though these animated slideshows have long lost their uniqueness, way too many websites still use them. Nowadays, these sliders only excel at one thing: reducing your pagespeed. We recommend replacing them with a correctly scaled image or a strong call to action.
Tip 4: Professional Hosting
Where is your website hosted? Presumably, the same place as most websites: a shared hosting platform. Shared hosting means that many different websites share a server or certain server resources. However, you generally have no clue with how many and what kind of websites you share a server. The key is that the resources are distributed dynamically between the websites. Depending on your hosting plan, you can then only use a certain maximum of those resources. The main advantage of shared hosting is that it’s cheap. The flip side of the coin is that shared hosting translates into longer loading times for your website.
Your website will load a lot faster using a dedicated server (“managed server” or “managed vServer”). This guarantees that the resources included in your plan are exclusive to your website. There are specialist hosting offers and companies depending on your website’s structure and your CMS. For WordPress, we recommend the starter package from Raidboxes.
An actual physical server in your own office is no good idea when it comes to improving your website’s performance. Professional hosting providers usually have a better internet connection and more up-to-date hardware. Having your own server – whether in your office or on a cloud – comes with a lot of responsibility and an administrative burden. That’s why we can only recommend opting for a “managed server”.
Tip 5: Content Delivery Network (CDN)
You want to put the finishing touches to your website’s performance? Then you should make use of a Content Delivery Network (CDN). A CDN is basically a network of interconnected servers distributed all around the world. A copy of your website is stored on each of those servers. Your website is then delivered to the user via the physically closest and fastest server. This significantly improves your website’s loading time and contributes to a better user experience. Having an international website makes this even more relevant. The most well-known CDN is Cloudflare.
Conclusion: Page Speed Optimization Is A Must
Good website performance is paramount if you want to be successful online. You can make lots of small changes to optimize your page speed. We recommend starting with Tip #1 and #2 and then work your way down step by step. If you need professional assistance for page speed or search engine optimization in general, get in touch with us now!