Optimizing Website Speed
There was a lot of talk about website speed in 2018. This started with Google announcing the 2018 speed update. Suddenly, everybody was frantic about improving mobile speed.
And they did. Average page loading times have improved in 2018.
That being said, website speed is still a bigger deal than many website owners realize. Website speed affects every aspect of your website and should be thoroughly optimized.
In 2019, speed will be more important than ever. That’s why we’ll talk about how speed influences websites and what you can do to make your site faster.
Understanding Website Speed
The first step is understanding what happens if your website is slow.
Understanding what speed does for your SEO is easy. Faster speeds equal better rankings. Likewise, slower websites get worse rankings.
Pretty simple, right?
The stats illustrate this. The average top-ranked site on Google loads in 1.9 seconds. That’s almost five times faster than the overall average of 9.3 seconds.
Speed also has a significant effect on user experience. Long load times lead to adverse effects like user frustration and lower engagement.
In simple terms, people don’t like waiting. If a website is slow, they spend less time on it, view fewer total pages, or outright leave.
Stats back this up, as 53% of users leave if a website takes over 3 seconds to load.
It might sound extreme, but the percentage is correct. Just 3 seconds of load time is enough to lose over half of your visitors.
The visitors who stay aren’t thrilled by long load times either. If your site loads in 2 seconds, users visit 8.9 pages on average. If it loads in 8 seconds, page views per visitor go down to a mere 3.3.
That’s why it’s crucial to have a fast site.
First, learn what slows down a website. You can then address the issue and make sure your site provides a great user experience.
The first step towards improving your site speed is identifying the problem. Many issues cause slow speeds. Pinpointing the problem isn’t always easy. That’s why you need to test all aspects of your site’s performance and see which areas need improvement.
When picking a speed testing tool, always look for the most comprehensive one. Look for a tool that offers testing across a variety of devices, browsers, locations, etc.
Not all users are the same. Your website might be the fastest website on desktop devices, but if it doesn’t have a version optimized for mobile browsing, you’ll be in a lot of trouble. It might also work great in Europe, but if most of your audience comes from America, it won’t be that nimble.
That’s why you need to test your site against all the options.
There’s a variety of tools that do this, but we recommend GTMetrix. It simply offers the most extensive array of options right now.
Its functions include:
- Quick speed check
- In-depth analysis
- Mobile, location, and browser dependent testing
- SEO check
- Many other advanced options
GTMetrix is also great for beginners as it lists precisely where your site needs optimization.
It also gives you resources on what to do about each issue. It is useful if you’ve never dealt with speed optimization before.
Actually, the best option for speed testing is to use several testing tools and cross-reference the results. If this interests you, Pingdom and WebpageTest are both good options.
Once you find out what’s slowing down your site, you are ready to fix it. Familiarize yourself with speed optimization techniques and try them out. Just make sure you do a backup of your website before meddling with the code.
Speed vs. Functionality
One more important point to talk about is sacrificing speed for functionality.
This is all about user experience—it is the most important thing.
There is a simple rule to remember here: website speed equals user experience. More accurately, the faster your website is the better the user experience. You typically want to do anything to improve website speed because this makes your website more appealing to users.
This means removing any unnecessary functions that are slowing down your site. It also means implementing any change that makes your site faster.
Of course, there are exceptions to this rule. You obviously can’t remove absolutely all functions from your website or all pages would look like a Word document—albeit a fast-loading one.
To put it simply, don’t go for speed optimization that makes your website less effective. If the site is faster, but user experience is worse, you’re optimizing speed for nothing.
To exemplify, perhaps your site has a lot of images. That means a lot of elements per page which means slower loading. The solution is simple—remove some images and compress the rest.
However, if you run an online store, you must have at least three images per product. You can’t afford to remove them or you’ll lose sales.
Here, you must find a balance between speed and functionality. A lot of website owners do this by setting a budget for page size—for instance, 1MB. This means you can add elements until the page is 1MB large. This is a neat trick to make sure you keep all the most important elements while maintaining speed.
If you notice that something you’ve implemented isn’t working correctly, it’s often more useful to sacrifice some of the potential speed by removing it from your code.
Speed optimization is a great thing. Still, take advice about it with a grain of salt. Make your site fast, but not at the price of making it less effective.
Also, don’t forget to pair your speed optimization with quality website hosting. A good website host makes it easier to get a fast website in the first place and makes your life as a website owner so much easier.
We wish you good luck with optimizing your website.