Contrary to popular belief, with a large array of tools available, it is not difficult to check website load speed. Nor is it that difficult to make a few small adjustments which can improve website load speed significantly and may well be all that is required to get the bounce rate down. If your business is online, load speed is crucial.
What is a Good Loading Speed?
If your site loads in 3 seconds or less, that’s acceptable. Anything beyond 3 seconds causes the bounce rate to climb up sharply. If loading speed is more than 5 seconds the bounce rate goes through the roof. Those potential customers visiting are no longer potential, they are long gone.
Visitors to slow websites react the same way as customers do when standing in a long queue. They do not like it and if it is a regular occurrence they will take their business elsewhere. So if you’re getting a reasonable amount of traffic but visitors are not spending much time on your site, it’s quite possible it could be due to slow loading speed. If bounce rate is high and conversions low, the first port of call is to check your website load speed.
How to Measure Load Speed
Page load time and time to first byte i.e. (TTFB) are two different metrics used to measure load speed.
Page load time is what matters to the visitor and as mentioned previously should be less than 3 seconds. It is the time it takes for a user’s browser to download and serve up the entire web page and is all important when considering ease of use and overall user experience.
In contrast TTFB measures the time it takes for a user’s browser to receive the first byte from the server after submitting a URL request to it. Server response time does not mean much to users but if the metric is 500 milliseconds or more, it is time to speak to your host or engage the professionals as it may well be a server side issue.
There are several free tools that not only measure page load time and TTFB but also identify hidden performance issues and offer valuable insight to the all-important, how to speed up a website question.
Below are a few tools available to measure and improve website load speed
Google PageSpeed Insights
This free tool will tell you current performance and will also offer advanced tips based on latest ‘industry best practice’ for enhancing site performance and improve website load speed.
Unlike other tools, Google PageSpeed provides a report for both desktop and the mobile version of websites.
The tool will score your website on a scale of 1 to 100, with 100 being the peak.
A score of 85 and above is quite acceptable and you can congratulate yourself. All is OK in Kansas.
Paste your site’s URL into the search field, select the server location and browser and then hit START TEST button.
This free, open-source tool captures a number of useful metrics and catalogues and displays them in different tables and charts to help you spot performance delays and increase website speed.
When you enter your URL into the server speed checker, the tool does 4 things:
Checks the URL for a valid domain.
Then checks the DNS of the URL which tells our tool where your server is located.
Takes a screenshot of your website so you can visually verify if it is testing the correct site.
Finally 10 nodes will synchronously ping your site, measuring how long it takes for your server to respond to the requests from around the world. This simulates 10 different people from all parts of the globe accessing your website at the same time.
Pingdom is one of the more popular website monitoring services today.
Just like WebPage Test it allows users to select the location from where they want to run the test. Pingdom covers all the main aspects of page speed and displays information in a neat, compact way. Compared with the first three tools, results are not as comprehensive.
Below are a few easy steps to improve website load speed.
1. GZIP Compression
Most hosts and web browsers support GZIP compression. It can substantially reduce the size of text files including HTML and CSS. GZIP temporarily replaces strings of repeat code and white space in HTML and CSS files reducing their load size in an instant. Some studies suggest GZIP compression reduces load time by almost 70%.
If your site is WordPress all users need to do is install W3 Total Cache plugin and follow the steps below.
Navigate to SETTINGS page of W3 Total Cache
Click BROWSER CACHE
Select ENABLE HTTP COMPRESSION
If your site is not WordPress you can enable GZIP compression by adding code into your .htaccess file. Google “your host” with text “enable GZIP” and you will most likely find the relevant code online. If not please contact your hosting provider.
2. Compress Images
There are many free tools online which will compress images. Image files are generally quite large and can seriously slow loading speed. Having a lot of uncompressed images on your site will hinder any chance of achieving substantial page speed optimisation so every image should be compressed. Most tools will reduce size of file without losing too much detail visible to the naked eye. Compressing images speeds up loading substantially so do not ignore this fix.
There is a vast array of free plugins to compress images for WordPress and many other tools to compress images directly online. Some of which include GIMP, ImageOptimizer and Compressor. Most offer the option of compression and tailoring the image dimension which make them a handy one stop shop if you have a lot of images to prepare.
3. Content Delivery Networks – Speed and Security
Putting all your eggs into one basket has never been best practice so utilising a Content Delivery Networks mitigates the risk of your website having load speed issues due to distance from server or high traffic. Load times increase for all users when sites receive a large amount of traffic and most servers have limited resources. Content Delivery Networks assist servers when handling a high volume of requests and also negate any load speed issues related to visitors further away from the actual server location.
Servers take the same time to process requests from users but responses take longer to reach viewers farther away because the information has to travel a greater distance. When you utilise a CDN a cache of your sites static content is stored on different servers spread across the world and when a user makes a HTTP request to view it, the CDN server that is closest physically handles the request. The laws of physics still apply but the tyranny of distance is no longer an issue if wanting to improve website load speed.
CloudFlare is probably the most popular Content Delivery Networks on the planet but there are many other worthy options also available.
4. Trim the Fat and Remove Useless Files and Plugins
Whatever your site is built in, or on, delete anything and everything that your site does not require to function. Every single folder, file, plug-in etc. on your site increases the load on your database. Whenever a HTTP page is requested it checks the database for information. Processing these database queries takes up time and resources. Trim the fat and limit the likelihood of database bloat to improve website load speed.
5. IMPORTANT: Use a Good Host
When choosing a host it is a good idea to Google “hosting reviews” as all hosts are not created equal. All have their pros and cons but some are significantly better than others. Selecting the right host is of paramount importance, particularly when you consider from where your server will be located relative to the target audience. As mentioned previously server response time can vary a great deal and from one host to another.
If your website is WordPress minification is much easier due to the many plug-ins available such as WP Rocket, designed to achieve the same result.
Please Note: Make sure you back up all files beforehand so you can restore your site if anything goes wrong.
If you want your site to be fast there is no more important process than caching. Generally caching falls into three categories: site caching, server caching and browser caching. All three by their title are self explanatory but all quite different. When all three versions are executed correctly they can increase load speed significantly.
If your site is custom-coded it is best to find a host that has server-side caching enabled. In WordPress there are also caching options and plug-ins which can perform page caching, database caching, object caching and opcode caching.
Page Caching: Pages are saved as HTML files in server’s local storage and served from the cache when visitors visit your website.
Database Caching: Database caching saves the results of queries in local storage for faster query result generation.
Object Caching: Is an internal API built into WordPress for caching complex data queries which are computationally expensive to regenerate.
Opcode Caching: Saves compiled PHP code between requests for the compiler to use. Speeds up the process generating executable code for the web server to execute.
Ultimately all forms of caching stores pages, code and script in the cache memory enabling your server to send a URL at a much faster pace to a browser after it has already been delivered once.
Webro Solutions understand absolutely load speed is crucial. Analysing and developing a strategy to ensure your website loads correctly and user experience is as optimal as possible makes good business sense. Please contact us today to discuss professional website optimisation services and what we can do to speed up your site.