Speed Matters

Author:
23.04.2019

Once upon a time a slow website was only really bad for user experience. But these days Google and Bing are doing more than ever to use page speed as a key factor for ranking your web pages too. The reason it’s become a factor in SEO is that the search engines want to point users to the best overall experience and information. It’s not a great experience if users are struggling to load your website, resulting in many users not waiting through the loading.

In terms of user experience, Google’s own research experiments have shown that a faster website leads to happier users, increased productivity and more time spent browsing a site. So here are a few things you can do to make your website faster today.

1. Change your hosting plan…

This is the simplest solution to improve speed without getting into any code or fundamental website changes. You may have started out selecting the cheapest option, but now your website is a little more demanding and requires more attention. Often times the cheapest hosting solutions are shared hosting plans. This means your website is on a server with a hundred other websites. The reason these often turn slow is that your website will grow and start to demand more server resources which it won’t be able to get over other websites.In order to get the server resources your website requires, we recommend switching to a VPS or a dedicated server so you no longer have to share server resources with a hundred other websites.

2. Assess your plugins…

If you have a WordPress website, chances are you’ll have 10+ plugins with some of them not even in use anymore. This is an important one for WordPress. Often sites are clogged with demanding plugins slowing down the page loading when they’re not being used. It’s best to look at each plugin and see what they’re adding to the site, and to ask your developer if this same functionality can be reproduced without the overhead brought in by an external plugin. This should help when maintaining the site and ensuring there are no security vulnerabilities outside of your control.

3. Reduce the amount of HTTP Requests…

Although HTTP/2 will allow multiple HTTP requests to load quickly, they should still be kept to a minimum. Tests have shown that combining these files still results in slightly faster loading. Javascript and CSS files should be combined into a single file. It’s also best to reduce the amount of external requests, as usually share plugins will request external scripts.

4. Taking advantage of caching…

You can use browser caching to store pages as basic html files in order for them to load quicker for users. This could be a server reliant caching system such as Litespeed/Vanish caching. Regardless of which you choose, you need to ensure that it doesn’t cause issues when content on the site has been updated.

5. Make your images internet friendly…

There are usually a few things you need to make sure of before adding any images to your website. Is it the right resolution? You’ll want to make sure your image resolution is optimised for the web rather than using print resolution images which will be too high res and too large in terms of file size. Has the image been compressed? You can reduce the file size of most images by 5-25% without losing any quality. There are tools available both online and downloadable that will help you with this, the one we’d recommend is imageoptim. Have your images been cropped and resized to fit the destination of the image? Often times full images will be put in where only a portion of that image will be shown.

6. Optimize JS and CSS files…

Every website will be using JS and CSS files to influence the look and the feel of the website as well as to add basic interactive elements to the site. Although thanks to HTTP/2 these files no longer need to be merged to decrease load speeds, we still recommend that they are minified and compressed in terms of file size to reduce any loading overheads.

7. Introduce a CDN…

One last option you could look at to decrease site speeds is a Content Delivery Network. But be warned. Our recommendation is also the most difficult one to setup and implement onto any existing site. This would be a recommended solution for a website with a lot of resources (such as JS, CSS, videos, documents or images). A CDN is a network of optimised servers distributed around the world all storing your site’s resources. Then when a user loads your website, the optimised network of servers will select the closest server to the user to serve the files, which in turn decreases any load latency. Market leading CDNs are offered by Amazon and Cloudflare, so chances are you have already loaded files from their CDN.

Using any of the techniques above will make your website faster, but if you’re unsure about how to proceed here’s our top tips: Delete any unnecessary WordPress plugins to lessen the strain, and get rid of any external scripts that aren’t needed for core functionality. It’s a 15 minute fix that’ll boost your speed a bit, and make future maintenance easier in the future. Then tackle the rest when you can.