We can’t stress this enough — a slow-loading site crushes your online presence. And it does so in a ton of ways.
Visitors won’t wait for a page to load. And if they do, they’re likely to bounce after 3 seconds.
When it comes to your site’s load time, every second counts. If you can’t speed things up, you’ll suffer from reduced visitor traffic, low conversions, and bad search rankings.
This leads us to the question…
What slows down a website?
The quick answer is size.
A lot of things happen on the backend when people load a webpage. If you load your website with a huge amount of scripts, images, and files, it’ll take longer for browsers to drag it up.
But as your website grows, so does its site resources. How can you keep it up to speed even then?
This article will teach you how website elements impact loading time and what you can do about it.
7 Actionable Tips to Improve Your Site Speed
Reduce your site’s HTTP requests
HTTP requests affect your site’s user experience.
Each time a user visits a page on your website, their browser sends an HTTP request to your site’s server for every content on that page. Your server then returns with the right files to the user’s browser.
The more — and the larger — the files requested, the longer it takes for your website to load.
So how many files should a webpage contain?
Hubspot’s Jeffrey Vocell suggests a figure between 10-30 files.
This isn’t an easy goal to achieve, considering the number of HTTP requests for most top-performing sites averages between 69 to 74 requests.
What can you do to minimise your site’s HTTP requests?
First, check how many HTTP requests each of your webpages need and which files take the longest to load. Google Chrome’s Network panel is a great tool for crunching these numbers.
Now that you know what’s weighing your site down, you’ll know what you need to work on, which includes:
- Removing unnecessary or “filler” images
- Compressing the remaining images’ file sizes
- Minifying and combining files together
Let’s talk about some of these processes in more detail.
Each file on your website contributes to its loading time, as they take up HTTP requests.
Keep your site up to speed by reducing or “minifying” its file size.
This process simplifies files, removing bits of characters that aren’t essential for the code to function. This way, you won’t have to delete files if you don’t need to.
If your CMS doesn’t provide a minification plugin, consider using free online tools like the CSS Minifier to reduce file sizes.
Through these tools, you can also optimise your files by combining two or more files together. This minimises the number of HTTP requests your website needs to load.
Place scripts below the fold
Here’s a webmaster tip: Put all your .js files at the end of the page, before closing your body tag. This will allow more of your content to show up as you wait for your scripts to load.
Using the async and defer attributes
The async and defer attributes will help you gain more control of your external .js files. Here’s how each works:
- Async — It lets the script load with the rest of the page. Using this also means scripts will load out of order.
- Defer — This attribute loads the script only after your content has loaded. So it loads scripts in order.
We recommend using async for the more essential scripts and defer for the less essential ones.
At the end of the day, you’ll have to prioritise the elements of your page your users need the most and decide from there.
Optimise your time to first byte (TTFB)
TTFB is the amount of time a web browser needs to wait before it receives the first byte of data from your server.
To ensure an optimal website, your TTFB should not exceed 500ms.
Before you can improve your TTFB, you should first know how to measure it.
Moz recommends an open-source tool called WebPageTest. This will provide you with a chart of all the resources your webpage needs to load and the response times of each.
Now that you’ve got the data, what can you do about your TTFB? Here are two methods to consider:
- Improve your latency by using a content delivery network. This reduces the distance between your site’s content and your audience — more on this later.
- Get the right equipment to power your website. For medium-sized businesses, it’s best to steer clear from a shared hosting plan. Otherwise, you run the risk of putting your server speed at the mercy of other websites. Instead, use dedicated hosting from a reliable provider.
Use a content delivery network (CDN)
To ensure a faster website loading speed, you’ll need your data to be closer to your users. So if your target audience is in Singapore, you’ll want to host your website under local server hosting.
But if you have clients from halfway around the world, then consider using a content delivery network (CDN).
A CDN refers to a group of proxy servers deployed across multiple data centres worldwide.
If you’re publishing content from Singapore, CDN servers will automatically copy that content to servers located all around the world. Then, a particular server delivers cached web content based on the user’s geographical location.
CDNs take the extra burden off your server, increase site loading time, and improve your site’s user experience.
CDNs often benefit high-traffic sites that cater to a global audience.
Related Article: How to Use Content Delivery Network to Speed Up Your Website
Images make up about 21% of your website’s total weight. And when all you have are large-sized images, imagine how that takes a toll on your site speed.
Decrease your site’s loading time while keeping it visually pleasing. Optimise your images with the following tips:
- Compress your images. Use image compression tools that reduce image sizes without destroying its quality.
- Resize their dimensions. Do this before you upload images to your site.
- Use images only as needed. Utilise CSS and HTML to stylise your website instead.
Want more image optimisation tips? 5 Image Optimisation Tips to Make Your Website 10x Faster
Enable browser caching
Caching prevents a browser to download the entire content every time a user visits a particular webpage.
When you enable browser caching, you’re storing some of your data on the user’s computer. This way, it won’t take time for their browsers to load your website on their next visit.
Enabling caching minimises HTTP requests and speeds up your loading time in the process. It’s a great tip to apply for websites that contain a ton of scripts and visual elements.
There’s no denying the importance of having a fast-loading website. But these methods are irrelevant without competent infrastructure backing your site — or your clients’.
Make sure your hosting plan meets your business’ needs. Check out Vodien’s hosting plans.