Have you ever tried to visit a website that took longer than five seconds to load so you've abandoned ship?
Of course you have. In fact Google says 53% of mobile users abandon slow websites after just 3 seconds – meaning every day, companies around the world are losing customers simply because their site is too slow.
Now, there may be many reasons why your website is slow, everything from huge images to trying to load too many ads. But to make sure people can actually get to your site you’ll need an SSL certificate first, once you have that you can start worrying about site speed.
So – with your SSL certificate in hand – let's tackle your website speed.
The aim of this blog is to give you clarity on your website speed and how to identify, and fix, some of the issues, here are the top three:
1) What device are you using?
If you load your website on mobile and desktop at the same time, the desktop will always win. This is because your computer is more powerful than your mobile phone and can send and receive more requests back and forth from the server (more on that later).
On mobile, you need to be ruthless. Think about what is really important for your users, and get rid of unnecessary ‘decoration’ – things like complex scroll animations or large videos. If it doesn’t add value then lose it.
The fact is your users have come to your website to learn, buy or apply for something. So the quicker they can do that and the easier you make it, the happier they’ll be.
Simply put: the less there is to show, the quicker it is to load.
Did you know that you can see how your website loads on mobiles using Google Chrome from your desktop computer? Here’s how:
- Right click the page, then ‘inspect’, and drag the console using the edge until you see the ‘network’ tab.
- Click the network tab and then select ‘online’ and you can select what network to test.
- This will reload the page and simulate what a phone user would see and experience.
2) How big are your files?
Another reason your website may be slow is because you are trying to load gigabytes of data to the users’ browser. For example, if you upload an image directly from your phone to your website, it's going to be an unnecessarily large file size, far bigger than it needs to be. Ideally this image should be compressed, or resized, before you upload it.
Below is an example of an uncompressed image on the left (3.8MB) and the same image compressed on the right (1.9MB):
Spot the difference? Probably not. And if you can’t, neither will your users.
To compress your images, here are some tips:
- Upload your image to a free compression website, like imagecompressor.com, and re-download it before using it on your website.
- Use paid or free applications for your computer that allow you to compress multiple images and folders in one go. Something like uPic would be a good choice.
- Install plugins for your website that will do the hard work for you. WordPress has a good option for this called Smush.
To take it a step further, you can load the images as WEBP instead of JPEG or PNG. WEBP is Google’s very own image format which reduces the file size. To do this you will need to use a plugin on your website like WebP Express.
Images aren’t the only thing that could be slowing down your website. Your website’s code, and the files stored within it – for instance, your fonts – can affect loading speed. Luckily, there are ways to compress these too.
Your web team can use minified coded files and font files to remove any redundant white space, and merge multiple files into one which will ultimately improve the speed of your website. To make sure you are serving minified files correctly, you can run your website through a speed test which will highlight better speed opportunities for you or your developer.
Make sure you have a caching policy for these minified code and font files. Caching allows your website’s visitors to store these files locally on their device for a set period of time (which you’ll decide). This means that when they visit your website again, its pages will load much quicker since their browser remembers you.
3) How many files are you loading?
It's not all about how large the files are; it's also important to know how many files your website is loading at once.
These are known as ‘http requests’ and if you are trying to load multiple files from multiple places, you are going to slow down your site.
Here’s how it works: your website lives on a server and when a user types in your url (or web address) that user's computer is asking your server for the files over the internet. But, if it has a lot of stuff to ask for, it’ll have a lot to load which will only increase how long your visitor has to wait.
If you are using third party resources – for instance, embedded YouTube videos or an API – your visitor will have to wait for these to load too. So, if you have a web page that loads text from your server, images from another server, and YouTube videos as well, it would have to go to three individual servers to load your website content – which could be slow.
To resolve this it’s best to load as much as you can from your own server and reduce the number of files by merging them together by using dedicated plugins. Need help with this? Get in touch with the FINALLY developer team.
Ok great, but how do I know if my website is slow?
You can find out your website speed by going to Google's PageSpeedInsights and entering your website address. There you’ll be able to see your speed score for mobile and desktop (you can switch between the two on the top left). Plus it will give you insights on how it can be improved and examples of how to optimise your files, such as below:
Additionally you can use Experte to bulk test your whole website!
In summary: why is my website slow?
Now you know three ways you can improve your website speed and how to check it. Although you may need a developer's help, there are certainly things you can do to increase your website speed yourself.
As always, we are here to help. Get in touch with FINALLY today to find out how we could speed up your website.