Light speed with 0's and 1's

We’ve all experienced it. You know what I’m talking about. Slow loading pages! It can be so frustrating. I like to think I’m a patient person, but not when it comes to viewing web pages. If a page takes more than a few seconds to load, I’m outta there… on to greener pastures. Apparently, I’m not alone. According to a 2012 infographic from the Online Graduates Programs, around 25% of people say they would abandon a webpage that takes more than four seconds to load. Are you losing visitors due to slow loading pages?

Why is Page Speed So Important?

There are a number of reasons page speed matters:

Improved User Experience (especially for mobile users)

No one likes waiting. A faster site means a more enjoyable experience and makes it more likely that people will share your site and recommend it. Mobile users are increasingly expecting a web-browsing experience similar to what they get on their PC.

Reduced page abandonment

Faster loading sites mean users stay on the site and view more pages.

Increased conversions

Websites with faster load times generally see higher conversion rates. A “conversion” is getting your visitor to do what you want them to do, such as buying your product or signing up for your newsletter.

Improved search engine ranking

It is obvious that the speed of your website can improve (or hinder) your users’ experience. But did you know that Google actually uses page load speed as one of its factors in ranking your site? Faster is better.

Factors that effect page load speed

There are a lot of factors that effect how long your webpage takes to download. It can get pretty technical, but just to give you a sample, here are a few important ones. To fix most of these, you’ll need some technical expertise or need to work with your developer to optimize.

The number of “HTTP requests”

A web page is made up of a bunch of different files and each file represents an “http request.” You have the main html page but then also have style sheets, javascript files, images, video, and potentially external pages such as social media links, etc.

  • The CSS files should be combined into a single file where possible. Off-the-shelf third party templates can often be pretty bad about adding a lot of different CSS files.
  • The Javascript files should be combined where possible and where it makes sense.

The size of your images

We’re really talking about file size as opposed to how wide or tall an image is (although the 2 are related).

  • Be sure and optimize any images that you use on your site using a program like Photoshop, or Gimp (free image editing software similar to Photoshop), or through an online photo-editing program such as pixlr.com.

The size of your other files

The size of your other files (e.g. your html, CSS, Javascript and video) effect the overall amount of data that has to be downloaded.

  • Files such as your CSS and Javascript can be compressed or “minified,” which removes extra spaces and characters to reduce the overall size of the file.

The distance from your server to the user

The further the data has to travel, the longer it takes to download the page. The time it takes is known as network latency.

  • If you are focused on a specific geographic area, try to use web hosting from a data center as close to that area if possible.
  • If you have a broader audience, such as national or international, consider using a Content Delivery Network (CDN). A CDN basically replicates your website (or portions of your website) and serves them from data centers closer to the user so that the user is accessing your data from a closer location.

The response time for your webserver

If you are on a shared webserver that has a lot of other websites on it or is underpowered, this can increase the time it takes for the webserver to send the data.

  • Avoid cheap web hosts. Cheap web hosting isn’t so cheap when you factor in other costs such as slow response times and more potential security issues. They often use small web servers or overload the web server with too many websites.
  • Be sure you are using GZip compression, which compresses your files before they are downloaded. Also, look at using caching and other techniques to speed up the server response time.

This list is far from exhaustive. Google has some additional suggestions to make your website run faster at https://developers.google.com/speed/articles/.

Some tools to help check your page load speed

Here are a few tools that you can use to check your page load speeds. Many of them allow you to check the page load times from specific cities and may even give specific recommendations. If your business targets a local market, then be sure and use the closest city to your location.

Conclusion

Your page speed is a critical piece of your web experience. It not only is an important factor in your users’ experience, but can also influence your search rankings. As you grow and evolve your website, it is important to periodically check your page speed using one or more of the available tools. If you see any issues, work with your developer to optimize your web experience.

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