The enhanced speed of internet has made the internet users impatient enough, to tolerate the long load time of websites. Over the period of time, the ‘website load time/ speed’ factor has become predominantly important for all websites.
However a good website is expected to load within 2 seconds. Before we tell you ways of improving website loading speed, it is important to know what you lose out with a slow website.
It kills your visitor’s interest, and urges them to move on to another website offering similar products/services. Further, it is imperative to mention that no matter even if your website displays the most appealing design and contour, it will serve no purpose in this case.
All that investment which you have put in for your marketing and advertising, shall fail to give you the returns you have been expecting. Your ads might get enough clicks (we understand you are paying a painful amount for each click) but your traffic won’t stay long enough on your website to buy.
Google considers a user’s experience in ranking a website, which is influenced by how long it takes for your page to load. The ‘load time’ impacts the visit duration of your traffic, your website’s bounce rate, number of pages browsed and number of repeat visits; all these are important components that decide web page ranking in Google’s algorithm.
It is important to first know exactly how long it takes to load your website before you start optimizing. Just a rough estimate is not good enough. Here are some free tools you can use:
To improve loading speed of your webpage, first you need to understand the process happening in the background while your page is loading. A lot of steps take place between your pressing enter after typing the website URL in your browser’s address bar and you seeing the page on the browser. Let’s discuss the major steps that enable a website to load and what we can do at each step to make it faster:
First of all your browser looks for the DNS names for your website and tries to connect to the server. It depends on your hosting company how long the DNS lookup will take and it depends on your server how long it takes to reply for a connection request. DNS lookup time is reasonably fine for most of the reputed hosting companies and connection time will depend on how busy your server is. So, a dedicated server will perform better here as compared to a shared hosting account.
Next, your browser sends a request for the web page to the server. Server processes your request and replies back with the requested content. Here one factor is time taken by server to process your request. The time taken will depend on resources of your server (processor, memory etc), the script you are running and size of database (if you are using any). At this stage a server with better resources and an optimized scripts (if it’s not a static page) matters a lot. Most people want dynamic websites these days which fetch data from their own database and various third party sources in real time. So efficient coding is necessary to speed up the website loading time.
Most of the time between your request and you seeing the page is spent on transferring the data (HTML, images, CSS, etc) from server to your machine. So, any efforts invested on reducing the time to transfer the content from server to your machine gives back remarkable positive effects on overall response of your site. This time depends on size of data to transfer and your internet connection speed.
But how can you reduce the amount of data to transfer?
All the modern browsers support data compression and so, the server can send all the data to your machine in gzip compressed form and the website visitor’s browser can extract it (To learn how gzip works, read this post). Depending on type of data, the size can be reduced 2 to 10 times or in other words the time consumed to transfer your page from server to your machine can be reduced to ½ to 1/10 by using data gzip compression.
When you load a page, initially html of the page is received by the browser which has references to other resources like style sheets, images, java script files etc. And then for each resource the same process is followed from first point. So, what can we do at this step to speed up website loading process? The compression as explained in previous step applies for all the resources. But here we can do a lot more.
After your page html and its resources are loaded it comes to the efforts needed by browser to draw the page before you. Below are some points which make it easier for the browser to render the page and hence improving the overall website response time.
Browser starts fetching the pages before images are loaded and later draws images at their places when those are loaded. So, if the width and height of an image is specified in HTML, the browser will create a proper placeholder for that image and will draw the image in that place when loaded. But if dimensions are not specified, the placeholder will be of browser default size say 10x10px and when the image is loaded, browser will need to re-adjust everything to draw the image at that place. This increases efforts of the browser and also leaves a bad impact on user. The visitor might have started reading the content on the page before the image was loaded and now all the page content will move from its place to make way for the image.
Mostly images are used on a website in their original size and form, and placed on it by using CMS tools such as WordPress, Joomla etc. The browser takes much more time to load an image and resize it according to the backend command, than to load the web pages. So, it is advised that the images intended to be used on the website must be edited to properly fit into the webpage. This would decrease the load time of a website, considerably.
As the old saying goes- “Overuse of anything is detrimental!”- Even Plug-ins, for that matter!
The latest plug-ins created and released over the open sources seem to be very tempting to add on to a website. However, it is imperative to note that each plug-in that is being used consumes certain web resources. So, only those plug-ins should be selected which are truly important according the functionality of your website. Every time, before installing these plug-ins do a tradeoff between the functional aspect of the plug-in you are installing, and the reduction in the speed it would cause to your website, and then take a call!
CDN or Content Delivery Networks play a significant role in enhancing the speed of a website. If the content of your website is stored in such networks, it becomes readily available for a user. This means that you can make a request to refer to the content of your website in a much faster manner, using the server, which in a way is geographically closest to the visitor of your website. It has dual benefits attached to it. By placing the content in CDN Networks, the search engines as well as the visitors find it much more convenient and faster to retrieve your data from your CDN Network, than from local or closed servers. (Read user reviews on CloudFlare as a CDN)
So by following these simple steps, you can make a lot of difference to your website’s loading time. If you had hired a super affordable designer who delivered a decent looking website that takes too long to load, question your choice again. Website loading time is something he should have taken care of without you having to ask for it.
Also Read: 7 Valid reasons to go for a website redesign
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