Why do you need a faster website?
Fast page loading times have never been more important to web design. As the world has become more fast paced with a higher demand for instant information, our society has become less patient with slow loading websites. People want the answers to their questions and they want them NOW.
While it may only take your website a few seconds longer to load than your competitors, you have most certainly lost business because of it. When people get the feeling that the page is taking longer than it should to load, they click away. Usually to a competitors site.
It is estimated that an additional one second of page load time would cost Amazon over 1.6 billion dollars per year. That’s right. ONE SECOND. Hopefully that puts things into perspective.
A faster website can also give your SEO efforts a boost. Website speed has become an important factor in search engine optimization. But how can you make your website faster?
What can you do to have a faster website?
1. Test The Speed of Your Website
There are free tools available online that can help you measure your page speed and suggest improvements. A good place to start is there. Get a baseline reading and work to improve. Two of the best tools (in my opinion) are GTmetrix and PageSpeed Insights by Google.
These tools can provide valuable insight into your page speed and offer suggestions that can help improve things. Many of the suggestions can be done quickly and easily with immediate results.
Your initial tests might be depressing and some of the suggestions that they provide might seem a little overwhelming to the average person. You might even feel like picking up the phone to hire someone. But don’t worry. There things that you can do on your own to speed up your website. Here are four more tips on how to increase website speed.
2. Optimize Images
Your images play a big part in your website speed. More often than not, people are using images that are far too large and require more resources to display. This can cause many visitors to your website to have a bad experience. Especially users with slower internet connections.
Using appropriate file types and image sizes can dramatically improve speed. There’s no reason to use a 3000 pixel image for a space that is no bigger than 300 pixels. You can find free tools online that can help you re-size your images.
Paint.net is a wonderful and free tool that can be used for this purpose and much more. It can help you with all kinds of fun things like removing backgrounds, but in this case it’s best use is to re-size and save as different file types.
File types matter too. Using newer web friendly formats such as WebP is the best choice. These but these haven’t been widely supported by all browsers until recently. You can use the tool mentioned above to save your files as WebP and reduce their size. Otherwise, I would suggest using JPG format for your images. These are lighter weight, faster loading photos.
To give you an idea of how much of a difference file type can make, check out the image here. All images were the same dimensions. The top image was in PNG format. It had a file size of 729 KB. The second image was in JPG format and had a much lower file size, at 193 KB. But smashing them both was WebP, which topped out at 27.4 KB. That’s a big difference! And that difference translates into faster page load times.
3. Use A Caching Plugin
You may have heard of website caching. And there are lots of plugins out there that are built to do the job. But what is caching?
Server caching is simply saving dynamically generated HTML versions of your files on the server and serving them whenever a new request is made. This means the server doesn’t have to “think” as hard to construct your page for the viewer to see. This can greatly increase your website speed.
4. Use a CDN (content delivery network)
A content delivery network can really help make a website faster. They are especially important if your website receives visitors from different parts of the country or world. Popular CDNs like Cloudflare help in a number of ways. First and foremost, they store copies of your website files on various servers in different locations around the world. This is done so that your website can be served to your visitors from the closest server possible. The closer your visitor is to the server, the faster your website will be. Information traveling over longer distances is slower, even in the digital world. So closer = faster. Content delivery networks take care of this issue. Why would you want to host your files on a server in California, if your visitors are all from North Carolina? I mean, you could. But it would be slower.
There are many other benefits to utilizing a CDN that I might discuss in another article. But for now, just know that a CDN will help boost your website speed. And the best part is that you can use many content delivery networks like Cloudflare for free.
5. Check Your Hosting
Hosting is often overlooked when it comes to website speed. Make sure you are using the best hosting possible and the latest version of PHP. Many hosts provide the bare minimum resources and are even running older versions of PHP by default.
Many popular web hosting providers also use Apache servers. But did you know that Litespeed servers are up to 20x faster? And when it comes to storage, many hosts use HDD while some offer SSD (which is faster). But did you know that NVMe is nearly 20x faster than even SSD? Find out what the technical specs of your hosting are because your website speed might be suffering because of your choice of a hosting provider.
Bonus Tip: Be realistic
When you start to make changes in an attempt to get a faster website and then you check your score with PageSpeed Insights or GTmetrix, you might feel defeated. But fear not. It is extremely difficult to get perfect page speed scores, especially with PageSpeed Insights.
Even huge websites with millions of dollars and teams of developers seem to have trouble “getting in the green” with PageSpeed Insights (see Amazon.com and YouTube.com test below). But that doesnt mean you haven’t made your website faster and you can’t still reap the benefits of your efforts.