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Your website’s performance is a direct representation of your business, and by today’s standards, the average consumer expects a fast-loading website. Not only is a technically sound website important for a smooth user experience, but it also impacts your search-engine optimization, hence affecting how Google ranks you on searches.
Two seconds is the absolute maximum load time you should aim for; anything longer than two seconds will definitely push a large percentage of visitors away, which increases your bounce rate, the fancy internet-marketing term professionals use to refer to the percentage of visitors who enter a web page, then leave rather taking a follow-up action to view other pages, fill out a form or click on a button. The average website, however, takes far longer to load at almost five times the recommended time. Additionally, mobile load times can be up to three times longer than desktop ones.
Most websites are slow-loading, therefore acting as “visitor repellant,” so you must understand what some of the more common reasons are for a website loading slowly and how to avoid those problems. Here’s why it may be happening to your website.
1. You’re not using a content delivery network (CDN)
If your website sits on a server located in Houston, Texas, and someone is trying to access your site from Canada, there is going to be a slight delay while the server renders your website to his or her browser. A content delivery network uses servers located all over the world, which creates a much shorter distance between the users and the server rendering your website. Using a CDN will drastically improve your website speed almost instantly.
Streaming services such as YouTube and Netflix, for example, use content delivery networks to make it easier for you as the end-user to buffer their content. Netflix makes multiple copies of its library content in all different sizes and formats and places them in servers located strategically around the world for the most optimal delivery to its clients. This method ensures quick loading times.
There are plenty of affordable CDNs to look into, and they can be upgraded down the line as your website traffic and the revenue it generates justify a paid subscription. Do your website a favor by starting to research and find that perfect CDN that best compliments your needs.
2. You could have some sloppy website code
If a lot of extra code has to be executed on the server or within the browser, it will lead to longer loading times. If a web developer is inexperienced or simply lazy, it can result in what we call sloppy code that essentially has to work harder to perform simple tasks.
Clean, minimalistic code is the best approach, and if your website is loading like a turtle, it’s definitely worth it to hire a freelancer or web-development firm to clean it up. Removing unnecessary code will reduce load times, and some parts can be compressed, which will result in fewer bits required than the original code.
3. You might be using too many plugins
One of the reasons so many businesses build their site using WordPress is because of the many plugins available — many of which are free. Installing too many of them, however, adds a lot of extra code that decelerates your website and creates an incredible amount of redirects and calls. From the hundreds of websites my marketing firm worked on, I can assure you that roughly 96% of them had way too many plugins; less is more in this scenario.
The same theory also applies to apps on Shopify and other ecommerce web platforms. When you have a lot of third-party apps and software installed that weren’t built to specifically work together, it can become a cluttered mess of code that works against itself.
A lot of plugin developers are focused on creating a popular plugin and not creating one that is built for speed performance. If a plugin is mandatory, then by all means use it. Nonetheless, it might be a good idea to uninstall and delete any plugins that aren’t vital.
4. Low-quality shared-website hosting
If you are hosting your website on a shared hosting account, you are already at a disadvantage even before looking into your website’s actual code. Many business owners don’t know the difference between hosting options and simply go for the most affordable option. You should definitely consider investing in hosting if you intend to have a successful website. Perhaps you’ve outgrown your current web-hosting service.
When your website sits on the same server as hundreds of other websites, there is going to be a major lag due to the server resources being spread so thin. You also risk downtime in the event one of the other websites on the server is attacked in any way.
It’s better to pay for quality-managed hosting or use a popular cloud option like Amazon Web Services (AWS). Businesses that want a strong foundation and modular growth might want to look into having a dedicated server all for themselves, as those provide the utmost protection and security.
5. Your images are not compressed
The cherry on top and definitely the most common reason why your website could be holding you back is having large images that are not properly compressed. Images are a major part of all websites, and if your images are not compressed, your website will lag and suffer. Without image optimization, each page has to render the full-size file, which can cause major delays, especially if whoever uploaded the images didn’t resize them accordingly.
By compressing all of the images on your website, it allows both desktop and mobile browsers to download the contents of each page and process them faster, displaying the page to the viewer with more ease. Start by using JPEG 2000 files, as they have better compression qualities.
Next, use a compression plugin if you are using WordPress. Smush is one of the most effective, and once you install it, you can compress all existing images with a single click and set it to automatically compress all future uploaded images. You might be used to building everything from the inside out; however, when you’re thinking of crafting an incredibly unforgettable user experience, always build with the exterior in mind. In this sense, the “exterior” refers to the front end of your website.