Ever wondered why your beautiful website full of high-quality images, compelling sliders, and auto-play videos, doesn’t convert? What’s worse, people don’t even seem to appreciate all your hard work, as for some reason, they leave the site seconds after they enter it – even before it gets to load?
What many website owners still don’t realize is that their potential customers left “because” of all the great things that they’ve prepared for them. Naturally, it’s not that they didn’t like the graphics or sliders – but rather because they didn’t want to wait for so long to see them!
No one wants to wait for ages to open a site when they can just hit the back button and go to another one. This is also why website performance and speed are one of the core elements that can impact your online business. So, how to improve them?
Tactic #1: Get a Fast Cloud Hosting
Probably nothing has a more profound impact on your site’s performance than your hosting. Assuming your website visitors have a decent network connection, it’s your server that will be responsible for processing and making your website available to them. The good news is, you don’t have to choose a dedicated hosting for $100 or so bucks a month right from the start. But I would avoid cheap, $1/mo. shared hosting packages too.
If you are just starting out, your best bet would be a managed website with cloud hosting. In my opinion, it offers the best quality for the price – you don’t have to worry about setting up the hosting (compared to a VPS), get dedicated server resources (unlike in a shared hosting package) and don’t have to spend $100s of dollars just to have your site online.
Simple, isn’t it? Naturally, hosting is just a foundation – there are a few other things you could do to ensure your site stays fast. Especially that, even the best hosting won’t help you avoid a report like the below if you don’t take a proper care about other things on your website:
Tactic #2: Get a Light WordPress Theme
If you are using WordPress to build your website, don’t choose the all-in-one themes that look great on paper but are slow and hard to customize. Instead, look for themes that are created specifically with performance in mind specifically for the thing that you would like to focus on the most. Building an online store? Choose an e-commerce theme. Creating an online newspaper? Choose a magazine theme.
In fact, this tactic should be used on all websites – regardless of whether you are using WordPress, Joomla!, or any other CMS.
Tactic #3: Get Rid of Everything You Don’t Need & Optimize Images
Remember the sliders, auto-play videos, and heavy images I mentioned in the beginning of this article? Get rid of them. If you really need videos, make sure that you host them on external sites such as YouTube, and embed them, without an auto-play. Don’t use any sliders at all – these not only slow down your website, but are proven to decrease your conversion rate.
What about images? While you don’t have to get rid of them, make sure that you optimize their size – you can use tools such as TinyPNG, Kranen or plugins, such as Smush. All of them can reduce the size of an average image file by up to around 80% – and that’s without reducing its quality. Just make sure that you manually reduce their dimensions before uploading – having an image that’s 4000×4000 is not necessary unless you are a professional photographer displaying his portfolio.
Tactic #4: Enable Gzip Compression
But images are not the only thing which you can compress. Another great thing which you can use to compress your documents is Gzip. It allows you to shrink many other files, reducing the time that visitors take to browse the website.
How does it work? It’s simple – the files get compressed before they are sent to the browser. Once the browser receives them, they are unzipped and presented to the user. How to enable it? Usually the easiest way to do that is to contact your server support – they should be able to do that in a matter of minutes.
Tactic #5: Minify JS, CSS, and HTML
Not fast enough just yet? No worries – there are still ways to improve your website performance by reducing the time it takes the browser to process your website’s files. One of them is called minification. What’s that?
Many plugins, scripts, as well as developers themselves, write unnecessary lines of code in the files – usually to signal an important spot, leave a note or to make the code more readable for the human eye. What minification does is it strips all the unnecessary stuff like indentations and other characters that, while making the code cleaner, add extra bytes and milliseconds to its processing. While on one file it doesn’t look like much, all these processes quickly add up.
Tactic #6: Use Caching to Reduce Server Load
Sometimes, the whole website may be “cached” – other times you might want to cache particular files that are the most troublesome to load. Or, you might not even use the server to do that caching work at all! Instead, you can ask your visitor’s browser to do that – what’s known as browser caching.
Tactic 7: Reduce the Number of Server Calls
Server calls, known as HTTP requests, are used by the browser to load the website. Basically, every file that’s responsible for what the user sees on the screen at a particular moment needs to get “called” by the browser. While it’s not a big deal on small websites, just like the code in non-minified files, their number quickly grows and can slow down the site significantly.
The good news is, there are many ways to reduce them – some of which were already mentioned in this article – such as Gzip compression or server caching. Other ways include reducing the number of 404 links (you can do that using free plugins such as Broken Link Checker), as well as the number of redirects (which are often used for SEO purposes).
Implementing all of the above tactics should result in significant performance gains. Naturally, while many of them are a one-off thing, you should still “comb” through your website from time to time, looking for things that could affect its performance – such as unoptimized images or broken code. Luckily, these shouldn’t have any critical effect on the site as a whole. At least as long as you take a proper care of the seven code things listed in this article!