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?
Image that you’re searching on Google. You’re typing “running shoe size 10”. The first results seems to fit, so you click it. You wait. And wait. And wait. Your screen stays white while your browser’s progess 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 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 to long to load. You went back and picked a different search result. All that maybe even unconsciously. So what does this mean for the operator of the first website? The bottom line is: fewer sales. He lost you as a potential customer to the competition, simply because his website didn’t load fast enough.
As you can see, your website’s loading speed has quite the effect on user experience (the experience the user has in dealing with your website). This is especially 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 ranking. 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
But before you can move to improve your website’s loading time, you should run a website performance test. How this works and what tools we recommend will be discussed in our upcoming article “Measuring Website Performance”.
Tip 1: Optimize images
Your images leave the most room for improvement. Here you will likely find many megabytes waiting to get optimized. First, you should check with what resolution the images are embedded in your website. The resolution of photos by modern cameras and smartphones is simply too high. 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 of course varies depending on the resolution. As a rule of thumb, images should not exceed the 0,3 megabyes 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 that work? Caches are basically buffer memories, where often used data is stored. This data can be retrieved faster than the kind that first needs to be downloaded from a harddrive or a server. You only have to worry about two types of caches: browser cache and server cache. We recommend to implement both for an ideal pagespeed optimization.
But one step at a time. The browser cache is stored on the device of your website’s user. When he visits your website for the first time, some data is temporarily stored 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 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 stored on his device again. In rare cases, browser caching can lead to display errors, because the user’s device might still have saved an old version. So if you decide to change your website’s design, users with an older cache might not be able to properly see the changes. This can be fixed 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 redcued, 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 URL in question. 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 renders the communication between CMS and database unnecessary and you end up improving your pagespeed by up to 500%.
Tip 3: Select Your Animations Carefully
Everything that somehow moves on your website slows down the loading speed significantly and makes 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 worsen the user experience. Especially complex layout animations are unfavourable.
Don’t use Image Sliders
There’s one thing we can’t forget: image sliders. Even though these animated slideshows have long lost their special status, most websites still use them. Nowadays, these sliders only excell at one thing: reducing your pagespeed. We recommend to replace 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. The key is that the resources are distributed dynamically between the websites. Depending on your rate, you can then only access a certain part 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 your website alone has access to all resources covered by your rate. There are specialised hosting services 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 isn’t a good idea when it comes to improving your website’s performance. Professional hosting providers usual have a better internet connection and 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 to opt 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). This network consists of servers from all around the world. Each server has stored a copy of your website. Your website is then delivered to the user through the closest server. This significantly improves your loading time and contributes to a better user experience. Having an international website makes this all the more relevant. The most well-known CDN is Cloudflare.
Conclusion: Page Speed Optimization is a Must-have
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 to start with Tip #1 and #2 and then work your way down step by step. If you need professional assistence for page speed or search engine optimization in general, get in touch with us now!