April 29, 2020

Software Development

How Website Speed Optimization Can Help You Win

By Hanna Varanchuk

Website load speed is a very important indicator of its performance. It is unlikely that a potential consumer will wait long for the page to load, agree? The faster the site loads, the more time the user will be able to spend on the resource

Also, this indicator is interesting for the search engines Google and Yandex; this is one of the key ranking factors in search results. Plus, each crawler has a specific time to index one site. And the faster the site responds to it, the more pages will be indexed in one go. If the site responds slowly, then the robot will decide that it is overloaded and leave it. That’s why it’s so important to spend time and effort on SEO and website optimization.

3 factors crucial for optimization

We can analyze page load time according to conversion, visibility, and usability.

Conversion

Conversion is a crucial indicator that demonstrates the ratio of the number of users who visited the site to the number of users who bought a product or ordered a service, which means they performed some kind of targeted action.

In January 2019, Colin Lafran, editor-in-chief of Unbounce’s marketing platform, presented a report stating that unexpected delays can significantly affect the desire to buy.

Most marketers believe 2-3 seconds of load time is acceptable.

Visibility

This factor regulates how much effort the target audience performs to find the site. High download speed helps the site appear higher in search results. By the way, in the last 3 years, Google focuses not only on the speed but also on the compatibility with different devices.

Usability

User Experience is the last but not the least important factor. If people like to use your site, then they probably remain on the page.

How to measure website speed?

If you want to use your Internet resource to the maximum, then you need to analyze how fast your site is working, and then decide on optimizing the load speed. Usually, the average Speed Index is 4.7 seconds on desktop and 11.4 seconds on mobile. Google’s best practice is to have a speed index under 3 seconds.

If you manage to optimize your site as much as possible, this will give you an excellent competitive advantage. So, first, you need to evaluate the website speed.

Let’s see what tools can help:

  • Google Pagespeed Insights is a comprehensive tool for determining actual performance and choosing effective ways to optimize your site. It is convenient for using on both a computer and a mobile device. It does not show the absolute speed of the page but analyzes the effectiveness of the loading dynamics and rendering in the client’s browser. In this case, only factors independent of the type of Internet connection are taken into account: JavaScript, CSS, HTML structure, server configuration, image size, etc.
  • Pingdom is a tool for analyzing the speed of site loading with detailed reports on the types of downloaded files. The service is a good addition to checking the speed of pages on a site along with Google Page Speed Test.
  • YSlow is a Mozilla Firefox browser extension that measures the loading speed of a page and its components. In addition to measuring speed, all components are analyzed: whether there are headers, whether styles and scripts are taken out in separate files, whether compression, redirections are used. Even the relative position of the components on the page is analyzed, and optimization recommendations based on Yahoo’s own research and tests are given in this regard.
  • Performance Budget Calculator is also a free tool that will help you understand how different types of content affect the site speed. 

Ready! Steady! Speed up!

Having received the necessary data, we can proceed to optimization. 

#1. CDN is your friend

Every year there is more and more “heavy” content. Hence the speed of websites and services plays a huge role. If the speed is too low, the website can lose the audience, and in many cases – also profit. One reliable way to solve this problem is to use Content Delivery Networks (CDNs).

It is a geographically distributed network infrastructure that provides fast delivery of content to users of web services and sites. The servers included in the CDN are geographically located in such a way to make the response time for users of the site/service minimal.

#2. Hosting change

Here you have 3 options: Shared hosting, Virtual Private Servers (VPS) hosting, and Dedicated server.

Sharing hosting is a type of hosting in which the server is divided into a large number of accounts sharing the same IP addresses. Shared website hosting is the most common and economical but also has some limitations. It should be understood that some resources (RAM, traffic, CPU time) will be shared by all users on the same server. Nevertheless, if you have a small site (a resource with low traffic), then virtual hosting will suit you very well.

A virtual dedicated server assumes that the physical server is divided into several virtual servers; each is completely isolated from the others, has its operating system, and can be rebooted independently of other servers. A VPS-server is an ideal solution in terms of price and quality for most large sites, as well as web projects that need to configure the operating system.

A dedicated server is a service, which implies that you get a physical machine at your complete disposal and pay exclusively for its rental. This is the most powerful hosting option that is suitable for websites with the highest requirements.

As an alternative, you can try cloud technologies or Serverless architecture.

#3. Pay attention to the picture size

The size of the images on the site directly affects the page loading speed. Before uploading pictures to the site, you must first optimize them. Each time you upload media files to the site, think about their weight. You can use ImageOptim, JPEGmini, or Kraken.

#4. Quality and quantity of plugins

Plugins are a very useful thing, but you need to be selective when installing and managing them. The more you have, the slower the site works. Keep track of how the plugins are relevant to you, and which ones have long been covered with dust and only take up space. At the same time, the speed of work depends not only on the number of plugins but also on their quality. Avoid plugins that load a large number of unnecessary scripts or styles.

#5. JavaScript and CSS files

A large number of them, as in previous cases, slow down the site. When optimizing CSS and JavaScript files, developers have two tasks: compression and combining. Try using tools such as WillPeavy, Script Minifier, or Grunt.

#6. Website cashing

Data caching is the process of storing frequently requested data on a user’s computer or local proxy server, which greatly speeds up page loading. After setting up caching, the browser or proxy server accesses the locally stored copy of the document (page), instead of downloading it again and again on subsequent visits.

Thus, caching avoids the re-formation of pages shown during the processing of previous requests. As a result, the transmission and reception time is reduced, numerous HTTP requests are eliminated and the load on the server is reduced (up to 80%).

Caching is performed in various ways. For example, for WordPress, you can use W3 Total Cache or W3 Super Cache plugins.

#7. Gzip Compression

By adding a few lines of code and using the gzip utility, you can effectively reduce server response time and file size. This minimizes HTTP requests and reduces server response time. Gzip compresses files before sending them to the browser. On the user side, the browser unpacks the files and presents its contents.

#8. Optimization of databases in CMS

For example, WordPress CMS stores comments, blog posts, and other information that takes up a lot of storage space. Therefore, its optimization is a great way to increase efficiency. For example, for WordPress, you might consider WP-Optimize.

#9. Fewer web fonts

Web fonts provide many advantages: improved readability and accessibility (the ability to select, search, and zoom). All this gives excellent results. The question is not to use web fonts to the detriment of performance, but to competently optimize them. For this, you can use the modern WOFF2 format and use fonts when it is justified.

#10. “Page isn’t found”

404 Not Found (resource not found) is the response code of the server, which reports that it is impossible to find the page at the specified address.

It will be useful to evaluate the traffic of this page in order to understand whether it is worth bothering with redirection. In the simple case, you should consider fixing the link.

#11. Fewer redirects

Redirecting can also affect the speed of a website, which is why it makes sense to exclude them as much as possible. You can use Screaming Frog to quickly identify redirects. And ultimately leave only the most necessary ones.

#12. Prefetching 

Resource prefetching is another technique that improves performance. We can use it to tell the browser what resources the user may need in the near future before the user requests them.

  • DNS-prefetch. This technique notifies the browser that resources from a different address are being used on the page and that the browser can convert the URL to an IP address in advance.
  • Preconnect or link-prefetch. This method is very similar to DNS prefetching, but in addition to resolving DNS, this method starts a TCP connection and TLS negotiation with a secure connection.
  • Prerendering. If we are sure that a certain file will be needed after some time, we can ask the browser to download it in advance and save it in the cache for future use. It could be an image or a script, or anything else cached by the browser.

Takeaways

In an ideal situation, the site loading time should not exceed 3 seconds. Having decided to optimize your site, we suggest following these 3 steps:

  • evaluate the importance of key success factors for a site;
  • find out your current download speed;
  • start optimization using one or more of the proposed sites. Begin with the pages with the highest traffic.

Stay tuned for our new posts!

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