Remember how frustrating it used to be to try to do anything at speed with a dial-up modem? We waited ages for things to load, and while it was irritating, still we waited.
It’s entirely possible that dial-up internet used up all our collective patience with the internet. Because these days, we want pages to load pretty much instantly.
A commonly-touted benchmark for page load speed is two seconds, as that’s apparently how long most people are happy to wait for the information they’re after. Various bodies of research show that bounce rates go up dramatically every second after this as people lose patience (or become actively annoyed).
From a business point of view, it makes no sense to lose people in this way.
A fast-loading website is important because it:
- creates a more positive experience for your visitors,
- reduces the environmental impact of your website, and
- improves the SEO of your site.
If your website is loading slowly, here are some ideas of the things that may be slowing it down.
There are too many files on the page
When it comes to website page speed optimisation, the first thing to consider is the number of files that need to be requested to load the page.
In a nutshell, the fewer files you request, the faster the page will load.
Files can include things such as images, scripts, fonts, and stylesheets. When I develop a custom website design, I usually combine similar files and compress them to reduce the total number of files.
If you’re building your own site, try to limit the number of plugins and extensions. These will load in all of their own files which can really rack up your file list quickly.
Likewise, don’t add ten images to a page when you can convey your message in 5 or less.
Adding third-party tools to your website can also cause a significant slowdown of your page load. These tools can include:
- Social media feeds
- Tracking scripts
- Video embeds
- External reviews widgets
Not only are these type of tools notoriously slow, they are also likely to bring all sorts of digital privacy horrors to your site too. They are best avoided.
Consider which features you and your visitors actually find useful and ditch the rest. Less is more!
The files are too big
Website page speed is also affected by the size of the files on your page.
Typically, most of a website’s page size will be made up of images, so this is often the best place to start.
You can use an online tool such as tinypng to compress your images before you upload them to your site.
For WordPress users, the EWWW Image Optimizer plugin can compress images automatically (as well as serve up your images in webp format which loads faster than standard jpg and png images).
Also remember to check the dimensions of your images. For example there’s no need to load in a full size 4000px wide photo straight off your phone that sits in a template that’s only 1000px wide.
And go easy on the gifs and videos as these have an even bigger footprint than standard images!
Other causes of file bloat can be found in pre-made website theme templates that include code to do 100 functions when you only need a few of them.
Poor Website Hosting
As well as making your website more efficient by reducing the number and size of your files, choosing a good hosting package to run your website on is equally as important.
Otherwise, it’s like training hard for a race and then choosing to run it wearing a lead jumpsuit.
A good, quality hosting package will have all sorts of amazing techy features such as file compression and server caching that run under the hood of your website to make it load faster.
For more advice, check out my tips for choosing good website hosting.
Tools for testing website page speed
Google PageSpeed Insights
Google PageSpeed Insights gives you a score for page speed out of 100. You get the results for your website on both mobile and desktop, and some technical tips for how to improve your score.
Note that while this is useful as a guide, Insights scores should be taken with a pinch of salt. For example, you can sometimes get marked down for negligible things, which in reality make little difference to your loading time.
Website Carbon Calculator
The Website Carbon Calculator ranks your website in terms of the amount of carbon dioxide generated by servers each time your website loads.
It also provides some easy-to-understand comparisons, like how many trees are required to absorb all that generated CO2.
Note that the comparisons are based on 10,000 page views in a year, so you might need to do some maths based on your own website traffic to work out your personal impact.
If you like some help speeding up your website, you can pick my brain in a website consultancy power hour.