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Website Speed Optimization- Techniques, Performance Testing, and Improvement Practices

Poor website speed is one of the most frustrating things that will make people off from your resource. The website speed makes the first impression about your business. You need to understand that you won’t get a second chance when you come to user experience.

Websites that perform well in conversion, engagement, ranking, and user experience tend to generate high returns. Slower websites will cost you money, and they could damage your reputation. Reducing the page load time will help improve marketing and sales processes. You’ll increase your traffic and attract more qualified prospects that can be converted into sales. We will give you recommendations for improving your website’s performance and page load time in this article.

Importance of website speed optimization

Page load time is a web performance metric that shows the time needed for a page to show on the user screen.

Let’s take a look at how the website speed optimization influences the critical factors of website success:

  • conversion
  • visibility
  • usability

Conversion. Getting people to convert from one page to another is essential for your business’s success. They might buy your product, sign up for a newsletter campaign, register for a web seminar, or download a guide from you.

The faster the page loads, the higher conversion rates it’ll have. According to the research, the 1-second delay means a 7 percent reduction in conversions. For instance, a page slowdown of 1 second could cost Amazon $1.6 billion in sales.

Visibility. Your website’s load time also affects how easily users can find it. One of the things that Google considers is web page load time. Poorly performing websites have a poor user experience and gain less promotion in search results, so they need to be improved. The Google search engine has started ranking also based on mobile versions of pages, even for desktop searches. This choice aims to protect users from sites that don’t perform well on all devices.

Usability. Usability like website page speed, loading time, and website responsiveness directly impact customer loyalty. The better your website performs, the more satisfied a user will be. A great user experience helps you build a large customer base and strengthen your brand.

Ways to assess your website speed

Before starting your website performance optimization, you should first identify your current loading time. If you want to get the most out of your website, you need to set your website performance goals first. According to Google’s research on the average mobile speed across industries, just a fraction of sites are close to their recommended speeds.

So, if you optimize your website speed to an acceptable level, you will get a significant ranking advantage over competitors.

The methods for speeding up your website listed in this article are quite different and may cause issues with other aspects of your site. That’s one reason why we recommend analyzing the site speed after each change to see which changes deliver the best results.

Performance evaluation tools are worth trying:

  • Google Pagespeed Insighterunsthe performance test on your site and provide recommendations on improving performance. It works for both desktop and mobile versions.
  • Performance Budget Calculator is a free tool that helps figure out what type of content you can use to keep your site running optimally.

Performance budget calculator

Performance budget calculator

Guidelines to speed up your website

Once you’ve tested the speed of your site, you can start optimizing its performance. There are many different ways to make a website work faster, and we’ve put together a list of the most useful ones.

1. Use a Content Delivery Network (CDN)

A Content Delivery Network (CDN) is a group of computers located in multiple locations that provide web content to end-user devices. If you host the website on one server, all of your visitors’ requests are sent to the server simultaneously. Because of this, the time required to process each request increases, which means that it takes longer for requests to be processed. Besides that, the load time also increases when users are physically located farther away from the server. With CDN, when a user requests a file from a web server, the request is sent to the closest server. As a result, the content is delivered to a user quicker, and a website works faster. It is a relatively expensive but effective way to optimize the load time.

2. Move your website to a better host

There are three possible types of hosting:

  • Shared hosting
  • Virtual Private Servers (VPS) hosting
  • Dedicated server

It’s essential to choose a fast web host to ensure better optimization. The most popular type of hosting that is used all over the world is sharing hosting. That’s the cheapest way to get your site online in a short time and for a low fee. With shared hosting, you share CPU, disk space, and RAM with other sites using this server. Why shared hosting isn’t as fast as VPS or a dedicated server.

Virtual Private Servers and dedicated servers are much faster. VPS uses multiple servers for content distribution. Having VPS, you share the server with its other users and have your part of the virtual server where your configurations don’t influence other clients. If your website has the average traffic or you have an eCommerce site with traffic spikes in some periods, VPS will be the optimal solution for you.

The most expensive hosting option is to use a dedicated server which can be your physical server. In this case, you pay a server rent and hire a system administrator to maintain it.

3. Optimize the size of images on your website

Everyone loves eye-catching images. Many photos, images, and graphics on your product pages improve engagement. In the case of successful eCommerce sites, images are a vital part. The negative side of the image use is that they are usually large files that slow down a website.

The best way to reduce the image size without compromising its quality is to compress images using such tools as ImageOptim, and JPEGmini. The procedure may take a bit of time, but it’s worth it. Another way to reduce the image size is to use the HTML responsive images <secret> and <size> attributes that adjust image size based on user display properties.

4. Reduce the number of plugins

Plugins are standard components of each website. They add specific features suggested by third parties. Unfortunately, the more plugins are installed, the more resources are needed to run them. As a result, the website works slower, and security issues can appear. As time passes, the number of plugins grows anymore. We recommend checking out all the plugins you have installed and deleting unnecessary ones. First, run the performance tests on your page to discover which plugins are slowing down your website. Not only does the website speed depend on the number of installed plugins but also their quality. Try to avoid plugins that load a lot of scripts and styles or generate a lot of database queries. The best solution is to keep only the necessary ones and ensure that they are updated.

5. Minimize the number of JavaScript and CSS files

There are many tools to minify, compress, and optimize HTML, CSS, and JS files. If your website contains lots of JavaScript and CSS files, it leads to many HTTP requests when your site visitors want to access particular pages. These requests are handled individually by each visitor’s browser, which slows down the website’s performance. By reducing the number of JavaScript and HTML5 files, you’ll improve your site’s performance. Grouping all JavaScript into one file and grouping all CSS files together is a good idea. It will reduce the total number of HTTP requests made by your site.

6. Use website caching

Caching is the act of storing the current version (or cached copy) of your website on the server so that when you update your website, the new version is already available for visitors. Each time the user visits the site, the cached web page doesn’t need to send database requests. The web page loads once and then shows up on every screen without reloading it.

7. Implement Gzip Compression

Gzip compression is an effective way to compress files. It minimizes the number of HTTP requests and reduces the time it takes for the server to respond. Compressing the files before they’re sent to the browser helps speed up the loading time. On the user side (the part where the user downloads the file), a browser unpacks the files and shows them. You can use this method for any file on your website.

8. Database optimization in CMS

Database optimization is an effective way to increase performance. Each CMS requires its optimization measures and also has several specific plugins. If you use a CMS with lots of plugins, the database size will increase, and your website will run slower. For instance, the WordPress CMS stores comments, blog posts, and other information that take up a lot of data storage. For WordPress, for example, you may consider Ultimate Website Speed And Security Optimization.

9. Reduce the use of web fonts

Web fonts have become increasingly popular in web design. Using web fonts slows down the page rendering time. Adding web fonts adds additional HTTP requests to external resource requests. the following measures will help you:

  • Use modern formats WOFF2 for modern browsers;
  • Include only those character sets that are used on the site;
  • Choose only the needed styles

10. Detect 404 errors

A 404 error means that a “Page isn’t found.” This message is provided to browsers or search engines to notify them that the content of a page has been removed. You can use error detection tools to detect and correct 404 errors. We’ve already mentioned that additional plugins can negatively impact your website’s performance, so we recommend running the resource through an external tool for error detection.

Once you’ve detected all 404 errors, you need to assess their generated traffic. If these dead links no longer bring any visits and thus never consume your server resource, then you may leave them as they are. If these pages still have some traffic coming, consider setting redirects for external links and fixing the link addresses for the internal ones.

11. Reduce redirects

Redirects slow websites down by creating additional HTTP requests, which slows them down. We recommend keeping them to a minimum or eliminating them if you must use them. Before optimizing your site, you should first run a site scan to identify all redirects. If you want to know whether they’re helpful or not, you need to see if they serve a necessary function and then remove everything else.

12. Use prefetching techniques

Prefetching entails reading and executing instructions before a user initiates them. The technique is relatively standard. It works best when you can anticipate user actions. For example, you might preload some content or links before they arrive on the page. Most browsers allow for prefetch by default because they assume user behavior patterns, so they’re not going to slow down your site just because you’ve got a lot of images. However, UX specialists, designers, and engineers are more likely than developers to understand user behavior and provide browser hints to help perform prefetching.

There are three main types of prefetching:

DNS-prefetching. The practice entails resolving domains into IP addresses in advance.

Link Prefetching. If you are sure that a user will click on a specific link to navigate to some page, you can apply this prefetching. The method is helpful for stable user journey actions, like moving to the shopping cart page after one or several items were added.

Prerendering. This approach means rendering an entire page or some elements in advance.

While prefetching is effective, it requires deep user behavior analysis to make precise assumptions.

Wrapping Up

A typical user expects web pages to load within three seconds. If you don’t meet this expectation barrier, you lose a lot of traffic and, consequently, your revenue.

So, we recommend applying a simple yet effective website speed optimization approach:

  1. Check and evaluate the critical factors of website success, considering conversion, visibility, and usability.
  2. Test your current website speed and prioritize the pages and features that need attention regarding these three factors.
  3. Start your optimization with the most speed-reducing aspects and focus on the pages that most define your conversion success.

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