How to improve website load speed

By 28/04/2019 Jul 8th, 2019 Development, SEO, Strategy
Technical

How to improve your website load speed.

I managed to reduce my website’s load speed by half. Bringing it down to less than half the recommended speed. And yes, you can do it too. Here’s how.

 

First of all it’s important to know why your website speed is so important. One of Google’s page rank signals is your website’s speed. The faster your site the better Google will rank it. Site speed also helps with the user experience. A fast loading website means that your visitors won’t have to wait long to view your pages resulting in less of them leaving in frustration.

Here’s some of the key steps I took to improve my website’s load speed:

Website content audit

The first thing I did was take stock of my current website. Being a few years old this was quite a task. I found out that I had many incomplete pages that I had started and then abandoned. But these pages had already been published. Even though they were not visible to visitors, Google could index them and was likely marking me down because of this – these had to be deleted. I also saw that I had blog posts that I had finished, but had not yet published – they had to go live. Some of my content didn’t make sense anymore and I suspected that I had strayed from my original strategy. I saw that there were still services on my website that I was not offering anymore and needed to refocus.

I needed to take a fresh look at my website strategy and content strategy, to find out if my website was still following it. After tweaking my strategy, deleting useless pages, avoiding duplicate content and leveraging the strongest content I had I was ready to move on to the next step.

To find out how we can help improve your website load speed get in touch

Optimising images

Images can make up for most of a website’s size. While it is a good idea to include images for a great user experience they need to be optimised so that they don’t take as long to load. There are three quick ways to improve your page speed with images:

  1. Reduce the the width and height of each image to exactly the amount that is required for where they will be on each page.
  2. Optimise the images with Photoshop to get them to be at the best possible quality while the smallest possible size.
  3. Use the correct image type for different types of images. Where you have images that use many colours which bleed into each other like photographs must be saved as .jpeg files. Images that use very few colours like a logo should be saved as .png files.

Minify

There’s lot’s of unnecessary stuff in the CSS, JavaScript and HTML files that take up space and make a website take longer to load. Minifying these files removes spaces, commas and other characters that are not required.

File compression

Using Gzip to compress my CSS, HTML and JavaScript files helps improve website load speed. Basically what this does is squeeze these files to as small a size as they can be, just like a zip file.

Redirects

Redirects are basically telling specific pages to redirect to other pages. They have their place, but are one of the areas where improvement on site speed can be made. By reducing the redirects on my website I managed to squeeze a little more speed out of it.

To find out how we can help improve your website load speed get in touch

Removing render-blocking JavaScript

This is one of the biggest problems with most WordPress websites. JavaScript is the code that enables a website to use sliders, fading, flipping, unique fonts and other things that make the user experience more engaging. But they come at a cost. By moving them down to the end of the code on the pages they load after the content of the page has loaded. Thus making the page load faster. Yes, eliminating the use of JavaScript altogether would get rid of this problem, but that would also result in a boring website that does not give the visitor a great experience. It’s all about getting the right balance.

Browser caching

Caching is like a memory of your website pages that is kept in servers around the world. Browser caching is the memory of your pages inside the browser you are using to see the pages. Modern browsers like Chrome are able to cache web pages which results in much faster load speeds because they don’t have to go back to the website’s server to get those files again. So enabling browser caching can make a big difference to your website’s load speed.

Improve server response time

This one can be tricky and you may need assistance from your website host. What you’re aiming for is a server that has a quick response time to serve the information that your website needs. Make sure that you’re using the most up to date version of PHP and that your server is in good health. All low cost website hosting providers use shared servers. What this means is that the resources are being shared by many other websites, which always means that your website is competing with them for resources. Thus slowing your website down. I recommend using either a cloud server with abundant resources and only a limited number of other websites on it. Or by using a dedicated server for your website. This last option can be very costly.

Use a CDN

Some website host providers offer a content delivery network (CDN). What this means is that they have servers in major centres all around the world. The benefits are that visitors view your website from the closest server to them geographically. Although this may seem insignificant it makes a huge difference. There are free versions of CDNs and paid for versions which come with more services that assist in all of the above ways to speed up your site.

These are just the main ways I was able to improve my website’s load speed. There is always more that can be done and I’m already looking at ways to improve. If you know some tips please share them in the comments below.

To find out how we can help improve your website load speed get in touch

Sean McMahon

Author Sean McMahon

Sean McMahon is a digital strategist and website designer based in Johannesburg, South Africa. He has been in the digital design industry since 1998 and currently heads up Electric Pencil.

More posts by Sean McMahon

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