Imagine it's a lazy Sunday afternoon and your potential client is sitting in front of her computer thinking about buying your amazing product. She types your URL into the browser and waits... waits... waits... and it's only your header that's loaded. She then clicks on the little red x in the top corner of the browser. Not only will she go away without ordering your product, but also never visit your site again.
And if you think it's a story I created to shock you, you're mistaken!
Why is your website speed important?
According to research
- half of a website's visitors expect the site to load in 2 seconds,
- 40% of them leave the site if this is more than 3 seconds,
- about 75% of mobile users have experienced that a site loaded too slowly,
- one second delay in site load resulted in 7% loss of conversion (eg. 7% fewer orders on the website).
- Google doesn't deny that site speed has an important role in website ranking (if your site is slower, it will be ranked lower in search results).
(Here's Kissmetrics infographic about the results of this research.)
Check how fast your site loads
How can you check the load time of your site?
There are many free online tools to measure it (just type in the URL of your site beginning with http://):
(According to my experience, Google PageSpeed Insights is stricter than eg. GTmetrix.)
How can you make your site load faster?
(Beware, some techy info is coming - but you already know it's crucial to have a fast loading site, so read through!)
Optimize your images
Most beginner site owners and bloggers make their site load like molasses by uploading photos straight from their camera. These hi-res images can be thousands of pixels in width, loading the site with hundreds of Mbytes or even GBs.
Never upload hi-res photos in the original size to your website, always optimize them (or make sure you use a plugin that resizes and optimizes your images on WordPress or use the built-in image editor in Squarespace.) Always save your images for the web at 72 ppi. (Hi-res images are 300 ppi.) Here's my detailed blog post on how to optimize you images.
Image file format matters too. If it's not necessary (eg. you need an animated image), use pngs instead of gifs. If you have a blog or a photography site, choose jpgs (these are compressed carrying less data). If you want to read more about image formats and the right choice for different types of usage, check out this infographic.
If you don't want to/can't do anything else, at least optimize your images!
Optimize your code
If you use WordPress, some caching plugins, eg. WP Total Cache will do this for you (don't forget to set it up correctly) and there are also separate plugins which can compress code.
If you have a Squarespace website, you don't need to do anything, as it's already done (thanks, Squarespace! :)).
If you use WordPress, you might also consider the number of your plugins. Are they all really necessary? Don't overload your WP with a lot of plugins, as this can make your site slower.
choose your hosting wisely
Servers are not the same. Cheap hosting means you share virtual server space with a lot of other users, which influences your site load too.
If you have a site with many visitors (<10k visitors/mo), consider moving to a dedicated server or VPS (Virtual Private Server).
Choose a host that provides outstanding service and maintains its servers. There are hosts that won't let you use caching plugins, so choose your host wisely.
Leverage BROWSER caching
Better hosts provide gzip compression on their servers, which is a great way to reduce load time. If your site is on a server that doesn't make this possible, you can still use code snippets (or a plugin for WordPress) that will solve gzip compression.
It's worth leveraging browser caching as well. This means you notify the browser to save certain static data (eg. your logo image which is the same on each page). When the user visits your site again, this won't need to be requested from the server again - and your site will load faster.
(On WordPress a better caching plugin will do this, on Squarespace, it's done.)
USE a content delivery network
A CDN or Content Delivery Network is a network of global servers which allows a user to request a website from the closest server, thus receiving data faster.
If you target users from all over the world, you should consider setting up CDN. (Squarespace has its own network of CDN servers for images.)
CloudFlare has a free plan if you wonder what to use.
What site speed results did you get? Do you need to work to make your site faster? Share it in a comment!