Research has shown that a slow website cost the U.S. economy $504 billion annually, and that a single second delay in site speed will result in a 7% loss in conversions; for perspective, a single second delay in site loading speed will cost Amazon.com $1.6 billion in sales annually.
When building a website today, there are so many factors to consider but website speed is one critically important factor that many people ignore. Improving your website speed will touch every aspect of your business; it’ll lead to more traffic (research has shown that 40% of people will abandon a website if it takes more than 3 seconds to load), it’ll lead to improved search engine rankings (site speed is one of the factors used by Google, and many search engines, to determine which websites to rank) and, as shown by several studies we referenced earlier, it will lead to significantly improved conversion and revenue for you.
Here are some tips to make your website blazingly fast:
1. Get a Better Host: Sometimes, the simplest solution is the only necessary solution. There are several factors that influence how fast a website will be, and while some of the other tips in this article will make a big difference if things are in place, it wouldn’t matter if your web host sucks.
Often times, it has been observed, that a heavier website with many addons and requests could be much faster than a smaller website with fewer requests due to the host used; as much as is possible, you want to avoid using shared hosting to power your websites. At a stage, you should get your own VPS or dedicated server.
Some notable examples are Umbrellar Cloud Hosting, WP Engine and Bluehost.
2. A Robust CMS: All CMSs are not created equal, and it’s easy to fall into the trap of using a non-robust CMS if you have a big company with lots of talented developers; indeed, your engineers could be very brilliant, but unless in very rare conditions, it will be much better to go for a robust CMS like WordPress. WordPress is open-source, and it’s gone through a lot of development to make it fast, robust and secure; it also makes it easy to have any customization that you seek. Alternatively, you could go for Joomla or Drupal too; these are robust CMSs that have gone through a lot of development and improvement, and you’ll often have a much faster website on them than if you were to reinvent the wheels.
3. Enable Caching: Every time a user visits your website, their browser sends a request to your server for your website’s files; if this persist, and you have a website that is visited by a lot of people regularly, there’s a slight delay in how soon each user is able to load your website. By enabling caching, you can allow the user’s browser to download a cached version of your website, that doesn’t make a lot of request on your server, if nothing has been changed on your website.
With caching enabled, when a user tries to visit your website again, their browser sends a request to your server to see if there has been any change since their last visit; if nothing has changed, they will be sent the cached version of your website. If there has been an update, their browser will download the newer version of your website. This article on DesignHall is a good start to help you understand how browser caching works.
4. Use Expires Headers: Whenever a user visits your website, stylesheets, scripts, images and some other files that make your website look appealing when it loads will be stored in their browser for, usually, a duration of 24 hours. This is controlled by “expires headers” which by default is set to 24 hours; in other words, after 24 hours your visitor’s browser will request new files from your server, leading to a slightly delayed loading speed.
The reality is that very few websites need expires headers to be set to 24 hours; unless you’re constantly changing essential files like stylesheets and scripts, then you don’t need it. You can make your website much faster by setting expires to 1 year, or never. This way, the number of requests a user’s browser has to make is limited, thus making your website faster.
5. Combine Images into CSS Sprites: When you set up your website, there’s a good chance that the background images that make your website look so appealing are a variation of different images; this is how things work by difficult, and the problem it causes is that each image leads to a unique request whenever a visitors browser tries to load your page. In other words, if there is a combination of 10 background images, your website visitors’ browsers need to make 10 unique requests for your website to be fully displayed, and this will reflect on your website speed.
Combining images into CSS sprites ensures that all your background images and combined into one, significantly reducing the number of requests your users’ browsers have to make when trying to load your website, making it much faster. You can use SpriteMe to combine your images to a CSS sprite.
6. Use CDNs: There are several factors involved in how fast your website loads for users and, all things being equal, the location a user is trying to access your website from can add to its loading time at their end. For example, a website that is hosted in the US will be much faster if it is requested by a user in the US than if it is requested by a user in Turkey. Using CDNs solve this problem.
A CDN ensures distribution of your website to several servers across the globe, as opposed to just the server your hosting offers, thus making your website much faster by serving visitors a version hosted on a server closest to them. Someone in India or China will be served a version in Asia, as opposed to the general version with your web host.
7. Control Plugins and Addons You Use: CMSs like WordPress can be superfast because, by default, they come with the barest minimum framework necessary to power your website; this ensures a blazingly fast website. However, over time, as you want new features you need to install plugins or addons to enable these features; these plugins and addons create more requests, leading to delayed loading time for your site.
If you’re installing plugins on your site for the sake of it, you need to stop if you want a fast website; ensure that you only install the absolutely essential plugins. You should also avoid using outdated plugins, or plugins with bloated code; not only will they make your website slower, but they could be manipulated to hack your website.