And We Do This Ltd

How to Make Your Website Run Faster

One Mississippi, two Mississippi, three Mississippi, four Mississippi

Four seconds doesn’t seem like a lot of time at all, but in the instant-gratification world that we live in today, four seconds is all that stands between your website and 25% of your total website traffic. A quarter of all website visitors will abandon a website if it doesn’t load in under four seconds. Not only does a slow site jeopardise a quarter (or more!) of your traffic, it can signal to Google that your site has a poor user experience and dock your influence in the search engine results.

We’ve put together a list of best practices for speed optimization to help you clear out some of the dust bunnies in your code. Following these general rules can not only increase your site speed but also your potential reach and ultimately customer conversion.

Rule 1: Test, test, test

You can’t track improvement if you don’t have a base variable to compare it to. Regularly testing your website speed is crucial to developing a cleanup plan and monitoring all speed progress. There are plenty of resources available online to test the speed of your site for free – we suggest testing your site on at least two different platforms:

When testing your site speed and developing your blueprint, keep the following points in mind:

Rule 2: Run a frontend diagnosis

Running a website is a lot like a owning car: if you invest in trying to make it look nice on the outside but forego investing in the infrastructure under the bonnet, you run the risk of having a shiny but absolutely useless car. A brand new spoiler isn’t going to save your car from a dead engine in the same way that an excessive number of plugins won’t save your website from outdated code. What’s the use of having a great-looking website if your customers aren’t patient enough to load it? When it comes to optimisation, checking under the bonnet of your site a great place to start.

Take a good, hard look at both the layout of your content and code. Can your content be restructured? Can your code be simplified? The world of web development is constantly changing, so what made sense for your site five years ago might not make sense for it now. Re-evaluate your site structure and remove any duplicate content to help reduce site “weight” and improve user experience.

Replace any dense plugins like Flash with HTML5. While Flash can breathe life into your pages, it brings with it a whole host of baggage, both in terms of actual weight and in terms of user experience. As its name suggests, Flash has an infamous reputation for being a diva and hogging your PC in all the wrong ways: resource-hoarding, clunkiness, poor UX… It even has it’s own Occupy movement.  HTML5 can not only do the majority of what Flash can do quicker, but it comes with a significant advantage: HTML5 is optimized for all mobile platforms, whereas Flash is not. That means that if your site is dependent on Flash, you’re losing a significant amount of mobile traffic, which is one of the biggest reasons why many of today’s industry leaders are calling for an end to Flash.

Speaking of mobile, consider the mobile responsiveness of your website. This year, after a lot of anticipation, we’ve finally seen mobile search volume outweigh desktop search volume, and its upward trend doesn’t seem to be slowing down anytime soon. While you’re adjusting your site’s structure, be sure to take into consideration how your site currently reacts to being accessed through tablets and smartphones. Optimizing your website to go fully responsive – in other words, adaptable and accessible across many different platforms and devices sizes – can not only help improve your site speed on these platforms but can give you a tiny boost in the search engine results over competition who have yet to make responsive site changes.

Rule 3: Invest in backend upgrades

The backend of your site is responsible for digesting requests made by the visitor and delivering the requested data back to the visitor. Like the support beams of a house, a website’s backend is seldom physically seen by a website viewer, but is critical for site function. Backend development simply makes sure that all of the website pieces are stored on a host and are accessible when requested. Queries that are poorly coded, too large, or poorly managed can stall data requests and become a roadblock for the user.

One quick way to help streamline the communication between a website host and the user is to strip and condense the request script as much as possible through a process called minification. Minification takes a look at your source code and takes out any and all unnecessary characters like whitespace characters and commas. This minimizes your script size and therefore the size of the data request itself, which in turn decreases page load time. Minification plugins can be found and run online for JavaScript, WordPress and Drupal.

Another quick and easy trick to speed up backend load times is a process called caching. caching is a common practice among website owners that helps streamline requested data by taking some of the request strain off of the server. When a website ‘caches’ content, it tells your local computer to store previously accessed static data (like HTML) into a temporary file. If you leave a website that utilizes caches and then return to it later, your computer will fetch the cached content first from your hard drive before attempting to load the rest of the page. This improves site performance by taking a bulk of the full request away from the website host, allowing it to process the remainder of the request without the redundancy of reprocessing static information.

Proper website storage is also integral to maintaining a speedy site. What host your website lives on and how many other websites also live on that host can impact both the maximum size of your website and also the maximum size of allowable traffic to your site. It’s important to ensure that your website is housed on a scalable, secure host. Scalable infrastructure allows you to increase your website resources in the event that traffic to your site spikes, like when you launch a new product or have huge company news.

The above infographic from cloud-computing company SingleHop outlines some additional steps towards increasing your website speed. Nobody likes a slow, clunky website, so you’ve got nothing to lose by optimizing. Your customers will thank you for it.

Guest blogger: Rick Talavera, Singlehop Cloud Hosting