We have all gotten so used to high-speed internet – even the slowest broadband is much faster than the dial-up services that came before – that our perceptions of what constitutes a slow website have changed considerably. For a website to be considered slow today, it doesn’t have to leave us sitting staring at a gradually-loading page for minutes on end. Instead, anything that is noticeably slower than we are used to, even if it is still relatively fast, will reflect poorly on a website.
Most of the time, when a website is taking longer than usual to serve to visitors, it is because the web developer hasn’t followed best practices. If you allow your standards and operating procedures to slip, it’s easy for your website’s speed to slow down.
Why Speed Matters
There are a number of reasons why it is in your interests as the owner of a website, or its associated business, to ensure that it operates as smoothly and efficiently as possible.
- Protecting your reputation. If your website doesn’t appear to visitors to be designed and maintained to a professional standard, they may well infer that you aren’t paying it the level of attention that it deserves.
- Repeat visitors. Visitors to your website are unlikely to become regulars if they have a poor user experience. In fact, if someone tries to load your website, and gives up because the page they have requested takes too long to load, it’s possible they will walk away and never come back!
- Best practices. Ensuring that your website operates as quickly and efficiently as possible will encourage you to follow best practices with regards to the design and development of your website. It will also encourage you to think carefully about which elements and features you implement as a priority.
Common Causes For Slowdowns
Any website can suffer from slowdowns if it isn’t maintained properly. Following best design and development practices from the very beginning will help to avoid problems further down the line. However, you should never assume that just because your website was fine last time you checked, your next addition won’t bring it to its knees.
Inefficiencies in your design, whether in the form of excessive and unwarranted additions to your website or in poor coding practices, can cause your entire site to function much slower than it should. Fortunately, most of these inefficiencies are easily remedied and can be avoided altogether if you follow best practices.
Improving Your Speed
When you do encounter problems with your website’s speed, do not panic! Most of the time, slowdowns are caused by relatively easy to solve issues. This is good news for website owners, especially those who are dependent upon their website as a source of income. Here are some of the most effective ways of improving your website’s speed in both the long and short terms.
Use Scroll Triggers
Scrolls triggers are a very effective way of reducing the load on your website. Scroll triggers are something that your mobile users, and those browsing over cellular data rather than Wi-Fi, will particularly appreciate. With a scroll trigger, media elements on your website will only be loaded when they need to be when the user scrolls down the page enough to view them. This is a simple, but very effective means of reducing the load of your webpage.
Cut Away the Excess Elements
Having elements only loaded when they are necessary is an important step in the right direction. However, you should also ask yourself if those media and elements need to load at all. Once you start thinking carefully about it and being a bit more ruthless in your decisions, you’d be surprised at how much of your website doesn’t actually need to be there.
As well as considering which elements you can remove entirely, you should also do a full audit of the file types that you are using. For example, you don’t need super-high quality, uncompressed image files for all the graphics on your website. Where there are animations, consider whether they are necessary or whether they are adding needless weight to your page.
Review Your Web Hosting
If your website is loading slowly for all visitors, and you have checked to make sure that there isn’t anything unusual going on with the underlying code, it is likely an issue related to your web host. Naturally, the most reputable web hosts will be able to offer you excellent speeds and they should operate efficiently the vast majority of the time.
However, there are some web hosts out there who are better than others. Make sure that you carefully check out any web host you consider using before you commit to them, and you will minimise your chances of a nasty surprise once you are a customer.
Web hosts, or at least the people that work there, are only human. Even the best web hosting service in the world can experience technical issues now and then. Each web host will have contingencies in place to keep websites online as much as possible when serious issues occur. But it is still possible for a web host and their customers to be affected by technical bugs. This is why 24/7 support is so important in a web host. If you are facing a slow website with no obvious cause, it is worth getting in touch with your hosting provider.
Make Your Redirect Landing Pages Cacheable
Most internet browsing today is done on mobile devices. Many websites that offer a mobile version use a different URL, e.g. www.example.com becomes www.m.example.com. By making the landing page cacheable, you prevent your mobile users from having to load the page every time they are redirected to the mobile version.
A website’s speed is one of the most telling measures of its overall health. The average internet user simply won’t have the patience for an inefficient website. By following the steps outlined above, you can rapidly improve the speed with which your website loads and give all of your users the best experience possible.