Whether we are aware of it or not, users’ attention span has gotten a lot shorter as the latest technology ushers in more advanced and data-hungry smartphones and tablets.
Even when studies prove that it takes an average of 1 to 10 seconds loading speed before someone leave a website, one can’t deny the fact that website owners only have a few moments to draw them in and make their stay worthwhile.
If you want your potential customers to stick around enough for them to engage or purchase something from your website, you need to understand the value of page load time and how it affects a visitor’s user experience. Keep in mind, users care about how fast your page speed is as much as the content and design of your site.
In this blog post, we’ll discuss these topics:
- What is the Optimum Page Speed?
- 3 Main Reasons Why Site Speed is Important
- What are the Common Factors that Slows Down a Web Page?
- Tools to Keep Track of your Web Page Speed
What is the Optimum Page Speed?
In the recent years, the focus has increasingly shifted to mobile. While many people still find desktop useful for their daily online experience, it’s hard to deny that mobile has now become mainstream over the past years. However, one common denominator here is the fact the users expect websites to load fast, whether they are on desktop or otherwise.
So, website owners who are able to provide lightning fast and consistently smooth user experience have the greater chance to amplify their customer engagement, rank above the search competition and increase conversions and sales.
Arvind Jain, a Google engineer believes that every millisecond matters. Anything beyond 400 milliseconds or a blink of an eye is already considered too long for user’s to wait. People are less likely to visit a website less often if it loads slower than its competitors by a mere 250 milliseconds. But user expectations on website performance may vary depending on the content. Some people are more likely to wait for a video clip than if it were a search result.
3 Main Reasons Why Page Speed is Important
Here are the top 3 reasons why you should pay more attention to increasing your site’s page speed.
1. It is one of Google’s ranking factors
Back in 2010, Google revealed that they are using page speeds as one of their factors. While site speed is not the strongest factor, it is still important when ranking against your competitors on search engines. A slow page speed could mean that it can crawl only a handful of web pages which can have a great effect on how often it can index your site. So if you want Google to drive more traffic, make sure to speed up your website.
2. It improves Conversion Rate
Since visitors are more likely to leave slow loading websites and look elsewhere, this can negatively affect your site’s conversion rate and overall bottom line. Amazon revealed that for every 1-second delay, their conversion rate declines by 7%. After Walmart overhauled their website speed, they reported a 2% increase in conversion for every 1 second of improvement and an increase of revenue by 1% for every 100 ms of improvement. By optimizing their website speed, these e-commerce sites have seen profitable results for their effort.
3. It reduces bounce rates
Bounce rate is the percentage of visitors who visit a website and don’t come back. Higher bounce rates could mean that more visitors are abandoning your site. While, a lower bounce rate indicates that your site is relevant to your visitors; offering chances for more leads, conversions, and sales. So even if you have the best content in the world, people are more likely to leave when your site is slow.
What are the Common Factors that Slows Down a Web Page?
One of the main culprits for a slow-loading website is unoptimised images. Large, high-resolution images can take longer to load as compared to normal size images. So how do you optimise these images?
- To resize images before uploading them, you can use any photo editing tools available or install WP Smush plugin to automatically smush images using powerful compression technique.
- Convert using the appropriate format: .png for graphic images, .jpeg for color-rich photos, and .gif for animated images.
- Strip out any redundant metadata.
Themes and Plugin-ins
Themes and plugins are useful but be wary of some that are packed with too many elements and features. That’s because they can significantly affect user experience in the long run. Don’t install plugins that have bulky codes or themes that are resource-heavy and uninstall those that you don’t use anymore.
Not using Gzip Compression
Gzip compression allows you to compress files sent to a browser from the server. This can trim down the size of the files exchanged and shorten the time it takes to load a webpage.
A huge chunk of the content found online is video content. These externally-embedded media can be one of the common culprits on why your page load speed is slow.
Too many ads
There’s nothing wrong with placing ad banners or widgets on your site to help generate income. However, having too many of them together, especially ads that pop-up, will surely slow down your website.
Not using CDN
A visitor’s location can also impact how fast they can access a website. CDN or Content Delivery Network is a network of servers located in multiple data centers across the world. The best thing about CDN is that it can deliver the content to a user quickly by sending cached files from locations closest to the user. Most users can enjoy basic CDN services for free, but, the premium options may be slightly costly. So, try other methods of accelerating your site speeds before choosing a premium CDN solution.
Too many HTTP requests
A website is a collection of different files. The volume of demand for requests made on the server may also strain the website’s page load time. So, the more HTTP requests are made by the browser to retrieve a file from the server, the longer the elements are rendered. Some examples of HTTP requests are loading scripts, loading HTML, loading CSS stylesheets and loading images and media.
So, to lower your HTTP requests, we recommend using CSS Sprites, which is basically a group of images that are joined as one. Let’s say you need to render two versions of the same button, what you can do is combine them together. In this way, you only need a single HTTP request to retrieve the whole CSS Sprite and you can show the requested image depending on the situation.
Not Updating the CMS
It’s very important to always update your CMS, plugins, themes and other software used on your website as soon as the latest version is available. This ensures that your software has the latest features and security updates that can improve your site’s performance and speed.
Not Optimizing for Mobile Users
Speed is as important on desktop as it is on mobile since mobile devices have lower capabilities to render a heavy website than desktop. To provide a greater user experience for your mobile visitors, choose a mobile-friendly version for your site that’s faster and slimmer. You have the option to either choose a responsive web design, a separate mobile version or even a native application. Check out the initiative on Google Accelerated Mobile Pages to see how your website can benefit from such an implementation.
Not Using Browser Caching
A website has permanent elements such as stylesheets, images, etc. that can be saved or “cached” in a visitor’s browser for future use. Some of these page elements generally stay the same across all pages and don’t change that often.
With browser caching, the web browser will save a copy of the file for a certain period of time. It prevents the browser from retrieving it each time a visitor revisits the website later on. Make sure to add “expire” headers on your site to inform browsers not to request these files again for a specific period of time. Most servers have an absolute expiration date enabled which is based on the time the file was accessed or have been changed on the server.
Cheap Web Hosting Service
We hate to say this, but as the old cliche goes: you get what you pay for. A cheaper web host might save you money now but the potential headaches due to poor features and customer support. It will even cost you more in the long haul. If you’re expecting huge traffic spikes, more multimedia content, and data download, consider investing on a reasonably priced but high-quality web host.
Choosing the right web host can make a huge difference in your website’s page speed because you get not only fast and reliable support, you get ample storage space and better speed and bandwidth. Make sure to shop around, check out the reviews from customers before settling on one.
Tools to Keep Track of your Web Page Speed
You may want to use any of these free and premium sites to check your website speed if you want another opinion about your website speed.
If you are serious at growing your website’s presence online, then make page speed optimization your top priority. We hope this article has given you ideas on why page speed is important to a better user experience, SEO and conversion. By following the tips and tools we recommended, you are definitely on your way to improving your site speed.