Speed Up Your Website and Applications: How to Improve the Page Load Speed of Your Website and Applications
Site speed is critical for a successful website. Speed affects everything from a website's visibility on SERPs to conversion rates, engagement, and overall customer satisfaction. Needless to say, optimizing your website's speed is a necessity, but that doesn't make figuring out how to do it any easier.
Discover why your website may be lacking in the speed department and learn how to speed up a website and why web admins should take site speed seriously.
In a hurry? Here are the key topics to understanding the importance of Page Speed:
- How Fast Should Your Page Load
- 15 Reasons Why Your Website Loads Slowly
- Tools to Help Diagnose Your Desktop and Mobile Site
- The Relationship Between Page Speed Insights and Lighthouse
- Top 10 Ways to Speed up Your Website
- Existing Platforms - Open-Source Hosting
- The 5 Key Areas That Influence Site Speed
- Asset Management
- Channel Management
- The Infrastructure
- Why Are Some Websites Slow?
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Why Should You Care About Page Speed?
So does it really matter how long it takes for your website to load? Well, yes - it happens to matter a lot. The need for speed is increasing. You're probably well aware speed is just as much of a hot topic among SEO practices as keyword optimization and title tags. But now, Google is giving the SEO community something else to talk about.
Google recently announced what they're calling "Core Web Vitals" as a ranking factor, and speed is at the heart of this new announcement. SEO experts have been trying to achieve the best page score ever since Google became a thing; however, with Core Web Vitals metrics, website owners now know what the ideal speed they must aim for to get to the top of the SERPs - and it's causing a bit of fear! Websites today often concentrate on accumulated scores that show up on tools like Pagespeed SpeedInsights, Pingdom, and GTMetrics. The issue with these tools is that they tend to focus on the overall speed instead of individual user experience metrics. Core Web Vital's concept is to encourage web admins to improve speed metrics that benefit the users and not the browser or bots.
Research conducted by Google has found that 53% of mobile website visitors will leave if a webpage doesn't load within 3 seconds. If they bounce, they don't "bite" on your product. A slow web page is one of the main reasons for abandoning an online purchase.
According to skilled.co, pages that loaded in 2.4 seconds had a 1.9% conversion rate, 3.3 seconds had a conversion rate of 1.5%, 4.2 seconds had a conversion rate less than 1%, and 5.7+ seconds had a conversion rate of 0.6%. Reducing page load times can help reduce drop-off rates, increase sales, and encourage browsers to return your site.
How Fast Should Your Page Load?
Exactly how fast is fast? The short answer is your page should load as quickly as possible. In 2021, Google aims for under a half-second which may be ambitious. However, as a general rule of thumb, the recommended page load time is under two seconds.
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15 Reasons Why Your Website Loads Slowly
Is your page load speed lagging? Below are 15 of the most common problems that contribute to slow site speed.
- You're not using CDN for caching.
- There's excessive overhead in your database. Logs, transients, and other entries from plugins or themes can build up over time.
- Poorly written CSS that isn't optimized or used at all.
- There are caching issues within your platform or the APIs.
- Your media files are large and unoptimized.
- The code is far too bulky.
- Missing files may be causing errors.
- Too many plugins can slow the site down.
- You're using a poor hosting provider (no scale on the infrastructure).
- You have too many server requests all at the same time.
- There is poor platform design and no background workers to take care of long CPU-intensive requests like file downloads or PDF generation requests.
- You're using an outdated CMS platform. Monolithic platforms with code bloat are not designed to get to the information quickly - this is the big game changer!
- The updates you're using don't scale for speed.
Tools to Help Diagnose Your Desktop and Mobile Site
Now that you know what could cause your website speed to be slower than you want, it's time to learn exactly what the culprit of your lackluster site speed is. To do this, there are plenty of Free Website Speed Test Tools. We've taken the liberty of testing and trying some of the more popular speed test tools - so you don't have to.
Here are our top picks.
Google's Lighthouse is usually recognized as the golden standard for web performance improvement. You'll need to make a Google account, but most of the features are free.
Google Lighthouse runs a barrage of tests to determine the performance, accessibility, and search engine optimization of web pages and then generates a report on how well the page did, letting you know what needs to be improved.
Click on the link to check out the quick-start guide on using Lighthouse.
Google PageSpeed Insights grades your website on a scale from 1 to 100. The higher your number, the better optimized your site is. You want to reach for anything above an 85 as it indicates your site is performing well. Another cool thing about PageSpeed is that they give you reports for your site's desktop and mobile versions.
PageSpeed Insights measures how your page can improve its performance on 'time to above-the-fold load' and the 'time to full page load.'
The Relationship Between Page Speed Insights and Lighthouse
PageSpeed Insights measures the performance metric only, where Lighthouse looks at other aspects of a website, like SEO, accessibility, progressive web app, etc.
Other Diagnostic Tools We Like Include:
Top 10 Ways to Speed up Your Website
Use the strategies below to help get a higher score on Lighthouse or another one of the tools we mentioned above.
- Minify and combine files
- Reduce server response time
- Choose the right hosting option for your needs
- Run a compression audit (you can use GIDNetwork)
- Enable compression
- Enable browser caching
- Reduce image sizes
- Use a CND
Existing Platforms - Open-Source Hosting
Slow page load speed could also be a direct correlation with the platform you're using. The number of plugins required just to make these sites function is astronomical. Major open-source power players like Magento, WordPress, WooCommerce, and Drupal often use templates with lots of redundant code. On top of that, they require 20+ plugins to function the way you need them. It's up to you to keep the plugin relevant, usable, and secure. Issues associated with plugins often include the site falling over, and plugins are a significant opportunity for hackers. In addition, open-source hosting is left to the client or developer. A CDN must be sourced and implemented, while security practices must be implemented and maintained.
The 5 Key Areas That Influence Site Speed
A lot goes into a website. Paying closer attention to the following areas can help increase website speed and performance.
1. Development Improvements
Front End Technologies - What You Should Know
- Templating Role: Templating Languages are somewhat of a hot topic nowadays. While some argue they're irrelevant, a lot of website owners are migrating and trying to hit better Lighthouse Scores without any JS Framework.
- Template Caching: Aka Dynamic Page Caching, Template Caching allows you to cache entire templates, making your pages much more lightweight.
- Template Rendering: A template provides the basic HTML and serves it to the users. If you use a templated website builder, they sometimes create messy code that can slow your site.
- Browser Performance Usage: Maximise what you can do with the built-in browser tools or browser extensions to improve speed.
2. JS Plugins
- Cache in the browser
- Avoid using too much memory
- Prioritize access to local variables
- Implement the optimizations that you would apply in any other programming language
- Skip using global variables
- Use tools to detect problems (Scroll up to view our favorite diagnostic tools.)
3. CSS Performance
It's essential to optimize your CSS so that it's faster-loading, simpler to work with, and more efficient. The following tips will help you maximize CSS performance.
- Replace images with CSS effects
- Eliminate unnecessary fonts
- Use modern layout techniques
- Reduce CSS code
- Simplify your selectors
- Use CSS animations (CSS animations will not work in older browsers such as IE9 and below)
- Adopt SVG images
- Avoid Base64 Bitmap images
- Consider progressive rendering (it defines individual stylesheets for separate components)
4. CSS & JS is Designed for Various Channels
An API (Application Programming Interface) allows applications to access data and interact with other software, operating systems, or servers. APIs are responsible for delivering a user response to a system and sending the system's response back to the user.
Here's what to consider when it comes to APIs.
Headless APIs: A headless CMS can deliver your content through an API directly to where you need it. They make content accessible for display on any device, without a built-in front-end or presentation layer.
API Access: API Access ensures calls with authenticated logins can enter APIs. APIs can also access user data when given permission.
API Caching: API Caching allows you to store copies of frequently accessed data in several places along the request-response path. You can set caching instructions for your entire API.
Performance problems are common. Below are 7 ideas to consider to help improve API performance.
- Add pagination to solve relatively large response payloads
- Breakdown APIs into microservices
- Create synchronous APIs
- Use connection pooling
- Add Caching
- Deploy APIs within auto-scaling groups
- Switch to asynchronous error-logging
To help increase website speed, it's essential to manage what goes on your web pages. For example, what size are your files? What type of images are you using? Even the most minor details matter when it comes to site speed.
Below are our best tips when it comes to assent management.
- Always manage the amount of content you have per page. Clear, succinct content is almost always the way to go.
- Be careful with rendering images. A poor rendering performance can translate into a relatively high bounce rate.
- The best image format is WebP. WebP provides superior lossless and lossy compression for images. You can use WebP to create smaller, richer images that make the web page faster.
- You always want to optimize images for different device sizes.
- Use real-time scaling for perfect sizes and widths.
- Size matters. File size, that is. The file size is the amount of space your file is taking up on your hard drive. Smaller images contribute to webpage faster load time.
Mobile vs. Desktop vs. IoT
You can learn how to speed up a website by addressing how you manage various channels. Of course, the way you manage your mobile site versus your desktop site will be different. As a general rule of thumb, desktop sites usually contain a wide range of content and information. Mobile sites typically include only the most important and time or location-specific functions and features. And what about the Internet of things (IoT)? IoT devices are the network of tangible objects that collect and exchange data in real-time using embedded sensors. IoT Device Management makes it easy to securely register, organize, and monitor data in the IoT environment. There are dedicated device management platforms you may want to consider.
Building a System for Various Channels: Increase website speed by ensuring your system is compatible with various communication channels. There's nothing worse than going on a mobile site and seeing extra-large images and unorganized content because the website owner didn't optimize the site for various channels. It's also a good idea to maximize the capabilities of the browser (like browser caching) to your advantage!
Minimize the Amount of Network Traffic: Nothing slows down a site like an incoming boom of unexpected traffic. You can reduce bandwidth by setting access restrictions, malware scanning, and identifying bandwidth hogs.
Next on the list of things that can make or break your page load speed is the infrastructure or the hardware, media, and software responsible for connecting computers and users to the internet. So yes, this one's a big deal. How your content as assets are distributed matters. Visitors expect a consistent experience.
Here's what your site's infrastructure should include for optimal page speed and performance.
- Caching policies
- Security policies
- Malicious traffic detection and blocking (web application firewall) to reduce traffic bottlenecks
- Unauthorized access identification and rectification
- Auto Scale for traffic spikes to maintain consistent response
- Redundancy for failures
- Reporting and monitoring (to identify abnormal behavior or poor performance 24/7 support and continuous upgrades)
Finally, the platform you use will influence your site speed. Choosing a platform that will increase website speed while delivering everything you need can be a challenge.
Not sure what to look for in a platform? If a platform can check all the boxes below, it's considered adequate; if not, you may want to consider switching.
A good platform should:
- Have architecture designed for speed without bloatware.
- Reduce external systems.
- Stay updated with the latest software systems and upgrade platform components like operating systems, language, and latest DBs.
- Have the ability to deliver the tech without plugins.
- Reduce the need for 3rd party systems that slow down the experience.
- Have a modern framework for microservices.
- Improve search performance and use tools like Elasticsearch etc.
- Offer flexible integration with other systems.
- Provide content modeling that meets your needs.
- Have a division of real-time vs. background activities to ensure that the user experience is maximized.
- Offer reporting to provide optimization opportunities. For example, reports should identify slow parts of the system and upgrade to tune results.
- Boast continuous platform updates for speed and security.
- Have performance SLAs that cover the speed and the uptime of the platform
- Provide ongoing performance tuning to ensure that the platform is working at peak performance and that any changes have not altered its performance.
Why Are Some Websites Slow?
There's a lot to consider when trying to figure out why your site's website speed isn't up to par. Response time and performance contribute to its success, so taking the opportunity to improve your site is well worth the extra effort.
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