Did you know that a delay of one second in page load response can lead to a reduction in the number of conversions you enjoy by up to 7%?
On top of that, over 40% of site visitors expect your website to load in under two seconds, and the same percentage of users will abandon your site if they experience more than a 30-second delay.
Almost 80% of e-commerce consumers have also stated they are less likely to return to a website and make future purchases where the site was slow to load.
These figures from Kissmetrics should come as no surprise to anyone who has worked in eCommerce.
In a consumer environment short on time and big on expectation, page load times are critical to the success of your entry and expansion into the online marketplace.
While some site loading problems go right back to the code of the site itself and are difficult to fix, most site loading times can be significantly improved by investigating a few simple – and fixable – issues.
1. Hosting and Server Ability
The most significant factors in page speed and page loading times can be addressed by carefully choosing for hosting company that looks after your website.
While shared hosting on some servers works like magic, the quality can vary dramatically between one host and another. For smaller websites, shared hosting is usually not a problem. But for large scale websites and expansion, you might need to consider moving up to a virtual private server dedicated hosting or a Content Delivery Network (CDN).
The benefits of a dedicated web host will often far outweigh the additional cost, even if the difference is only calculated in milliseconds.
It’s essential not only to tackle server issues with regard to the loading of the pages but also the amount of traffic you anticipate.
You need to consider the server hosting companies at home rate. I recommend going for 99.9% uptime. I would definitely not choose any hosting company that had less than a 99.5% uptime.
2 Plugins, Tools and Software
Rich media tools, plugins and sophisticated add-ons can all have a significant impact on your site speed. One of the easiest ways to strip some milliseconds of your loading times is to go through and be ruthless when it comes to plugins and add-on tools.
The question to ask is, does this feature motivate or contribute to site conversions?
If it does not improve user experience and site outcomes, then ditch it.
No one really cares about falling snow on their screen at Christmas when they are trying to buy a watch, and no one enjoys pop-ups interrupting their ability to make buying decisions.
Not all add-ons and plugins are created equal. So, it may also be a good idea (if you sincerely believe you can’t live without a plugin, to consider trialling other plugin authors.
3. Website Data Size
Website data and file size refer to the kb or megabytes of each component that is necessary to load in order to display your page.
This includes images, text and other rich media such as video.
Depending on your sites’ architecture, you may be able to install add-on software and plugins to deal with images on the fly. Alternatively, you will have to reduce file images using some other tool before uploading.
While such media can enhance the user experience, it can also drive your users insane. Nothing that takes over 2 seconds to load should be permitted on the site.
Make sure you are only using images, fonts and video where it improves user experience.
Most regular images can be reduced in size to under 100kb.
Also, keep in mind the difference between using your own server resources or hosting video compared to linking and displaying the videos of other platforms such as Youtube.
If you can take advantage of Youtube’s’ bandwidth – all the better.
4. Number of HTTP Requests
HTTP or HTTPS requests are a websites’ call to resources that are hosted on another server.
Your loading times will almost certainly suffer if you are making multiple calls to the same off-site server. One way around this is to combine scripts. If you are a WordPress user and not that good with code, you can usually find a good plugin to help with combining these scripts.
CSS image sprites v are another way of minimising these requests and will subsequently speed up the sites’ loading times.
Again, file size is the thing to monitor. If the overall file size is larger when combined – don’t do it. Every byte counts!
Site caching refers to the storage of files on local computers. It allows sites to load quicker on a users system since it no longer has to keep fetching them from the host each time.
Logo’s, permanent images and external scripts are all examples of things that can be “cached” locally.
The upside is an increase in speed. The downside is that users may not see the latest content if it is simply delivering cached items.
Using expiration dates in your header scripts or the .htaccess file can help reduce site loading times dramatically and ensure fresh content is served to users only when necessary.
6. Malware and Trojans
One of the more sinister things affecting site speed is the presence of malware. Malicious software not only damages sites (and their reputation) but also causes sites to increase their page loading times drastically.
Only ever use trusted software on your site and ensure that you maintain adequate security measures. Strong user passwords, SSL and encryption, are all important factors for a safe site that can fend of load-eating, code-destroying trojans and malware.
Scan your site regularly for malware using one of the many software scanning tools available online.
You think it’s a good thing, right? And it is. But it can negatively impact your site loading times and over the long run your sites ability to look after its user base.
Keep an eye on your traffic, monitor page speed in relation to traffic and if necessary, upgrade your hosting server.
Spikes in traffic are great, but only if you can accommodate them. If you are getting more and more traffic – and it’s becoming the norm for your site, it will eventually slow you down.
Your server can only handle a certain number of requests at a time and will then require additional resources in order to cope. If you are experiencing high traffic and a subsequent reduction in site speed, refer to your host and compare the options you have for upgrading to something designed to handle higher traffic numbers.
One of the things you do not want to do is start guessing the causes of your slow pages. Tools such as GTMetrix and Google Page Speed Insights are excellent free tools and invaluable tools for conducting an overall audit of your site. Use them to pinpoint the exact nature of the page sped problem and identify what it is that is slowing you down.