From SEO to conversions, to user experience and beyond, page speed has a direct correlation to the success of your website. The investment of time and resources into developing a well thought through website speed optimization plan is worth the effort – because when done right, the actions you take can expand your reach, increase click-through, and ultimately lead to revenue.
Page speed first came to prominence in 2010, when Google officially announced that it would be involved in search ranking calculations. SEO experts quickly began optimizing on-page elements to maintain and improve page rankings. Those that didn’t fell behind.
Before this, speed was significant for one particular reason: conversions. Today, many users expect pages to load in 2 seconds or less, abandoning visits if load times take too long. A 1 second delay in page response can lead to a 7% reduction in conversions.
Let’s take a look at website optimizations that anyone can do. We’ll explore the tools, techniques, and technology available to site owners, and provide actionable strategies for implementing speed improvements. This way, you’re able to create the user experience you want and drive towards the site growth you’re looking for.
Too often web designers create and upload image files with high resolutions. High-resolution images mean bigger file sizes. Bigger file sizes mean longer loading times.
A 1 second delay in page response can lead to a 7% reduction in conversions.
One of the fastest (and easiest) website speed optimization techniques is image compression. It’s important to consider two core attributes during the optimization process:
If images are over-optimized, their quality suffers. According to ConversionXL, users spend an average of 5.94 seconds looking at a site’s main image. If that image isn’t high-quality, those users are going to instantly look elsewhere. Poor-quality images and design can be just as problematic in terms of bounce rate as them not loading in the first place.
Image optimization is simple with managed hosting. All WordPress and WooCommerce plans come with an image optimization plugin that automatically initiates every time you upload a new asset. This optimizes your time and allows you to work on what you want to, instead of having to focus on how best to optimize an image.
If you want to manage image files manually:
- PNG files are good for graphics and illustrations as they are designed to compress images as much as possible without quality loss.
- JPEG files are best for photographs. JPEG compression works well with complex images — just make sure to check that they remain a suitable quality.
- Measure how much space an image requires beforehand. If it’s going to sit in a 100×100 pixel space, use a canvas of that size when building it.
- If possible, SVGs are effective for minimizing file size and maintaining quality due to being code.
Simplify Web Design
When it comes to website speed optimization, less is almost always more. Instead of adding additional functionality where it’s not needed, consider how features will affect site delivery to users.
That being said, simple website design doesn’t mean featureless. Rather, it means considering where you want a user to go and how you can make their journey to that point as simple and relevant as possible.
Visually complex sites are judged as being less beautiful than their simpler counterparts.
It’s also better if website design isn’t complex. In an early UX study conducted by Google, which has set the scene for UX design in the last several years, it was found that users tend to judge a website’s aesthetics within 1/50th – 1/20th of a second. Visually complex sites were almost always judged as being less beautiful than their simpler counterparts.
We fundamentally believe that making simple websites should be easy. To that end, we’ve bundled the Beaver Builder plugin with all of our WordPress and WooCommerce managed hosting plans. Beaver Builder helps site designers with a simple and easy to use drag and drop page builder, along with customization options site owners need.
As you simplify your website’s design, pay attention to these things:
- What is the goal of your website? Where do you want users to land? Considering how to get them from point A to point B is critical, not only for simplifying a site, but also for optimizing the user experience.
- Earlier this year, we found that 85% of enterprise stores do not use hero images. This is a core component of their website speed optimization strategy. How important are your hero images? Can they be simpler?
Caching is site speed’s silver bullet. It helps website owners automatically deliver content to more users at faster speeds.It works by storing page elements on a visitor’s computer the first time they visit a site. During subsequent visits, instead of having to re-download them from the server, the user will be able to use the copy stored on their computer.
However, there are limits to what caching can and can’t do. Traditional caching only affects static elements. This includes images and some types of code. It does not help with dynamic elements like shopping carts.
There are dynamic caching options available for ecommerce stores, but these tend to require more in-depth customization and set up.
Nexcess solutions come with caching options enabled and optimized by default. The Nexcess Cloud Accelerator allows for our advanced Nginx caching system to be activated with one click in your client portal, significantly improving website speed.
As you’re considering caching tools for you website, think about the following elements:
- Which caching tools are available to you and which is right for your site? If you’re unsure, talk with your hosting provider. Our tech experts are always happy to explain your options to help you make a good decision.
- Should you also be caching dynamic assets? This is often a good idea for ecommerce stores. Varnish is a good option for Magento storefronts.
- Equally as important as caching is the number of PHP workers supporting your site (it’s more important for ecommerce stores). Check how many your solution offers and see if you need to upgrade.
Explore Different Integration Options
Integrations and functionality add-ons can be just as detrimental to site speed as on-page elements. A well-executed optimization strategy considers to what effect any integrations are utilized and whether they have been implemented suitaby.
Integrations can include plugins, extensions or add-ons, and they may live on the same server as your site, or they may exist in an external container. Regardless of where they exist, it’s important to consider two things:
- What are an integration’s resource requirements?
- What effect does an integration have on the user experience?
Nexcess solutions come with two options for optimizing your integrations. The first of these is container add-ons. These are designed to run outside of your core hosting account, saving resources for site visitors and website speed.
Integrations, when employed effectively, can provide solid functionality without sacrificing much-needed resources.
The second of these is specific to WordPress and WooCommerce solutions – plugin packages optimized for site speed. From Glew.io (analytics that runs outside of a server) to automatic image optimization, each plugin has been selected based on its ability to improve site speed and the user experience.
When choosing which integrations to add to a site, consider:
- What are its resource requirements? Analytics software can be particularly resource heavy.
- Scheduling tools like RabbitMQ. These can help reduce strain from resource heavy integrations by scheduling them to run during off-peak times.
- Container-based integrations that run outside of your main hosting account. Explore the different container options offered by Nexcess.
Use a CDN
Have you ever visited an international site and been faced with a homepage that crawls? Chances are that the site is delivering content to you from somewhere else in the world. It’s the time it takes to reach you that’s causing the longer load times.
The answer is to implement a CDN (Content Delivery Network). A CDN caches static elements (like images) in locations around the world, so visitors to your site can download them from their nearest location. This can increase speed significantly.
A CDN allows for localized delivery of assets to site visitors based anywhere in the world.
Nexcess offers a CDN service with all of our hosting solutions. Depending on your base plan, this may cost extra. If you’re uncertain which plan is right for your site, talk to a Nexcess team member.
When choosing a CDN, pay attention to:
- How many locations does it offer? Are they locations near your target audience?
- What bandwidth does the CDN have? If you’re unsure what you need, talk with one of our experts who can help determine what’s optimal for your business.
- Does the CDN include an SSL? An SSL certificate will help ensure your site is secure.
Prioritizing Website Speed Optimization
Effective website speed optimization strategies are targeted. Optimization is often done with a core objective in mind. To that end, think about which pages are the most important to your site experience and focus on those as a top priority.
In most cases, homepages are vital. They often function as a starting point for visitors. Ensuring they load efficiently can engage a visitor when they first arrive at your site, and significantly reduce your bounce rate.
If you’re running an ecommerce store, product pages are also important. They serve as solid, bottom of funnel touchpoints for conversion. If they load slowly, you are going to see a higher than expected bounce rate.
Optimization should have an effect on your site as a whole. However, focusing on core pages will help you to improve specific, high-value user experiences quickly and effectively.
Website speed optimization is core to delivering the right user experience. There are numerous methods for optimizing a site, each of which can be adjusted to align with your core objective. Working through each and testing your site speed is key to securing the best results.
Get started with a managed hosting solution that provides optimizations by default. Learn more.