Website speed is an important factor when considering the design, functionality, performance, and search engine optimization (SEO) implications of a website. Especially in today’s world of instant gratification, it’s never been more crucial to achieve a fast page load time or risk turning away visitors before they even have a chance to see your content. However, it’s not uncommon to lose sight of page speed during a website’s development when large images, videos, nifty features, and overall functionality drive most decisions at its expense.

Below, we outlined several key reasons why website speed is important to consider when redesigning a website, as well as how to identify and resolve any issues that may be holding your site back.

Why is Page Speed Important?

Page speed directly impacts SEO and user experience. Of Google’s 200+ ranking factors in its mobile-first index, page speed is a major factor to take into consideration. Google understands that page speed goes hand in hand with user experience and thus gives preferential treatment to websites that load quickly.

The faster a page loads, the lower the bounce rate, and the more likely a user is to interact with it. Research from Google indicates a direct correlation with page speed and bounce rates:

  • When page load time increases from 1 second to 3 seconds, bounce rates increase 32 percent.
  • When page load time increases from 1 second to 5 seconds, bounce rates increase by 90 percent.
  • When page load time takes up to 10 seconds, bounce rates increase by 123 percent.

Another often overlooked aspect when evaluating page speed is wireless and cellular network connections. While websites are typically tested on fast Ethernet connects, that’s not always the case for every user accessing your site. Especially with more people using mobile devices rather than desktops to browse the web, some may be accessing your site from a spotty connection that won’t do you page load time any favors.

Measure Website Speed and Performance

How fast should your website load? Five seconds? Four? Three? Two? Google recommends that sites should load in under three seconds. While that’s not always possible, it’s a good benchmark to keep in mind as you evaluate your speed, set a performance budget, and optimize your site.

So, how does your website stack up in terms of speed and performance? There are several free tools you can use to measure your website speed and performance:

  • Google Page Speed Insights: Go directly to the source and see how Google rates your website in terms of speed. Not only will this tool evaluate the performance of your website on desktop and mobile devices, but also provide suggestions on how to improve your speed and rating.
  • Think With Google Test My Site: Another tool from Google, this feature allows you to focus on your mobile website speed.
  • Pingdom: This full-page testing tool loads complete HTML pages including all objects and mimics the way a page is loaded in a web browser.
  • WebPageTest: This tool is easy to use and delivers a very accurate measure of what a real user experiences on your site since it uses a real web browser to access the content on a website.

Troubleshoot Common Issues That Impact Site Load Speed

Once you have a grasp on the speed at which your website loads, you can then begin to identify and remedy some of the major issues that are impacting its performance. Some common site speed issues may include:

Images

High-resolution images are one of the biggest offenders when it comes to slowing down a website. An easy solution to this problem is simply to ensure you are compressing and optimizing images when uploading them to your website. There are plenty of free tools available to compress images, such as Optimizilla and TinyPNG. Additionally, lazy loading, which defers the loading of an image until a user scrolls down the page and the image becomes visible, is another solution that can improve site speed.

Fonts

There are many different fonts to choose from that go well beyond Arial and Times New Roman when designing a website. With so many typeface options, it can be easy to get carried away and select so many different fonts that your page speed suffers. Remember, even if you only use one font, every weight and variation (regular, bold, italic, etc.) counts against your website’s overall performance. Try to keep the number of fonts and variations you’re using to a minimum.

HTTP Requests

Excessive plugins, features, code, and markup can add tons of weight to a page. Each time your webpage needs to load one of those assets (a stylesheet, a piece of JavaScript, a plugin, etc.), it has to ask a server to get it, and it can only ask for one thing at a time. The average website has about 75 file requests, which can significantly slow down a site. When your page has a long list of requests, it can take a while for users to see everything on your page.

For fewer file requests, you can work with a developer to minify your HTML, CSS, and/or JavaScript code and markup in your web pages and script files. Bundling multiple CSS and/or JavaScript files into a single file is another technique that can reduce the number of HTTP requests and further improve your site speed performance.

Inadequate Bandwidth

Bandwidth is the amount of data that can be transferred between a server and a browser in a certain amount of time. While driving lots of traffic to a website is certainly good for business, it does mean that more bandwidth will be needed to cater to the increased demand or your page load time may suffer.

While your hosting plan typically dictates how much bandwidth your website has, a Content Delivery Network (CDN) can help ease the amount of data you’re using. A CDN essentially caches a version of your website at various locations, or exchange points, around the world. By having a connection at a number of different locations, a CDN is able to reduce the amount of data an origin server provides, resulting in a quicker page load time for users.

Shared Server Limitations

Just as high website traffic can lead to bandwidth issues when websites are hosted on shared plans, it can often lead to problems with page load speed. For example, if your site is hosted on an old, under-powered shared machine with lots of other sites all competing for the server’s resources, it can significantly slow down your load time. If that’s the case, you’ll likely need to upgrade your hosting but expect to pay more for premium.

The speed of your website matters to your users and translates to real money for both you and them. Need help improving your website performance? Aztek’s team of web designers and developers has extensive experience designing and building fast loading websites on Umbraco, WordPress, and more. Talk to us today to see what we can do for you.