In this day and age nobody expects a website to run slowly. With the increased performance in affordable server technology and web hosting plans, it’s getting less and less common to have a slow running website. If your visitors can’t load the page quickly enough, how can you expect them to focus and engage with your content, or buy your products? It may seem like a simple enough concept however many website owners don’t know just how important a fast website is to their visitors. Potential customers isn’t the only thing you could lose by ignoring your website load times.
Increasing the performance of your website might seem like a daunting task, but with a few changes you can drastically reduce load times and improve the experience for your visitors. Let’s take a look at 5 easy ways to speed up your website.
1. Get a good web hosting provider
One of the most overlooked aspects of having a fast website is often using a good web hosting provider to host your website. Having an inadequate hosting provider means that your website will suffer performance-wise, and your visitors will be able to easily notice this. Slow network speeds and frequent outages will simply cause potential customers to avoid using your website. You want to look for a hosting provider that’s geographically close to you, with a secure and reliable network, as well as good disaster recovery methods and offsite backups.
Choosing the right hosting plan for your website is also a major factor in the speed of your website. If you choose a package with insufficient resources for the amount of visitors you have, or not enough storage space, you’ll encounter issues with your website. On the other hand, you don’t want to end up spending too much on a hosting plan that you don’t need.
For regular or small websites, shared web hosting or enterprise web hosting should be sufficient. However if you’re hosting an eCommerce website or online program, you’ll want to choose a Virtual Private Server or a Dedicated Server.
2. Minimize your webpage content
An easy and quick way of speeding up your website is to compress or minimise the content on your web pages. In other words, you want to decrease the size of each asset that the website serves, so that your visitors can download the web page faster. The most common way of doing this is using compression tools to minimize the file size of the individual images – high res images can be reduced by as much as 95% of the original size!
This also applies to code over the website as a whole. Any CSS you use should be minified to reduce the amount of code each visitor needs to download, and further increase website speed. Redundant code should be removed, and unnecessary files should be removed from the website.
3. Limit your plugins
Plugins offer some of the most useful tools and features around, and a huge portion of WordPress websites utilize plugins for extended functionality. What many website owners might not be aware of however, is that plugins can have a detrimental affect to the performance of a website running on a Content Management System (CMS) like WordPress or Joomla. It’s therefore important to consider which plugins are necessary and which are not.
The most common offenders of resource-hungry plugins include poorly configured caching plugins, badly setup security plugins, and related post plugins. eCommerce plugins can also cause speed issues, especially on shared web hosting setups (where eCommerce platforms are not recommended). The general rule of thumb is that if it’s not absolutely necessary to the running of the website, it shouldn’t be installed.
4. Use a Content Delivery Network (CDN)
Content Delivery Networks, or CDNs, utilise servers in different locations to serve visitors with the web page content in the fastest method possible. This means that you will automatically download the website from the server which is geographically closest to you. CDNs are a great idea for anyone planning to have visitors from different parts of the globe, perhaps geographically far from where you are.
Using this method of content delivery will greatly improve the speed of your website to all of your users, but especially those in remote areas or far away from you. Some CDNs also provide caching services which will hold your website in a cache for a certain amount of time if it goes offline – meaning your visitors will still be able to see your website as if it was online.
5. Utilise Caching Software
If you’re running your website on a Content Management System like WordPress or Drupal then you can take the advantage of a range of caching plugins to further reduce the load times for your visitors. Plugins like WP Super Cache and W3 Total Cache create static versions of your website which can be downloaded faster than the usual dynamic web pages your browser needs to download. Using caching mechanisms properly will give you faster load times and more happy website visitors.
Installing plugins is made easy with the most common CMSs and can be as simple as clicking a few buttons. More advanced settings can be modified, but most caching plugins make a difference to speed without any complex configurations necessary.