It’s not a trick question: is your website fast enough? Page load times can impact everything from how long users stay on your site (or if they see the content), to search rank and overall conversions.
Speed matters on two fronts – for desktop and mobile devices – with mobile speed mattering more than ever. Not only does your website have to load fast; it needs to load fast everywhere.
So how do you do it? Start by running a Google PageSpeed test to see where your site ranks (you’ll get a few suggestions for speeding up your site there as well). Then, start making these tweaks to make your website lightning fast this year.
1. Start Caching Now
Let’s start with a tip from the experts. Google puts caching at the top of its list of recommendations:
“Caching allows a browser to store frequently requested files on the user’s device for a set period of time. When caching is enabled, subsequent page loads can be more efficient.”
Caching stores components of your website in the user’s cache so that when they come back, everything doesn’t have to be downloaded again. So, the very first time a visitor comes to your site, it might take 3 seconds to load, but subsequent visits might be down to less than a second because all that data is already “stored” with the user.
While caching doesn’t do a whole lot for new visitors, it’s an amazing speed saver for returning visitors (or people browsing multiple pages of your site).
2. Optimize Images
You are saving images for the web, right?
In 2019, it’s hard to believe that many website owners are still uploading full-size images to their pages. And this is a speed killer.
Crop images to the necessary shape and size before uploading them. Compress file sizes as much as possible without compromising visual elements. Save in small file formats – JPGs consistently save smaller than PNGs, use the former file format unless you need transparency from the latter.
You can do all of this optimizing yourself in software such as Adobe Photoshop or try a free online tool such as Compressor.
3. Embed Huge Files (Such as Video)
YouTube is made to host and deliver video content at fast speeds.
Huge files can suck the bandwidth right out of your website. They can be hard to manage and compress.
Take those files off your website and use media embeds to pull in this information from external hosting platforms.
Think of it like this: YouTube is made to host and deliver video content at fast speeds. You can’t do it better than this monster. So, use it to your advantage and store video files on YouTube (or Vimeo or another video platform of your choice) and embed the content into your design. Users won’t know the difference… but they will notice how much faster your website loads.
- Defer some JS files from loading: Tell some JS files, particularly large files that don’t impact immediate functionality, to load after all other elements are complete. You can learn to do it here.
- Optimize and minify: This just makes good sense – smaller files will load faster. Don’t forget to minify that JS.
5. Eliminate Unnecessary Redirects
Are you still redirecting pages from two redesigns ago? Stop it. That’s killing load times.
While some redirects are a necessary evil, keep them to a minimum.
Use a tool such as the Redirect Mapper to figure out what redirects are active on your site, and eliminate ones that you didn’t know where there. Moving forward, consider updating out of date pages rather than adding new pages with similar content. It’s a lot better for search optimization, and all those links will continue to work!
6. Pick the Right Hosting
The right hosting account can make or break speed. If you have tried many of the other fixes here and are still having speed issues, your host could be to blame.
With so many choices, it can be tough to find the best hosting plan for your money. When it comes to hosting that’s built for speed, look for a dedicated server option. The preferred choice for most website owners is VPS hosting, which offers faster load times, but you don’t have to manage the hosting yourself.
Not sure where to start with hosting? Here’s a breakdown of seven hosting options that are built for speed.
7. Minimize HTTP Requests
The number of page elements that have to download each time a user comes to your website dramatically impacts load time. This includes everything from images to stylesheets to scripts and as much as 80 percent of load time can be accounted for with these front-end components.
The best solution is to use combined files to reduce the number of requests. That means putting all CSS in one stylesheet or combining scripts where possible.
It all comes down to lightweight code and best practices. The more each browser has to read, the longer it takes to load.
8. Strip Out Unnecessary Plugins
Nothing weighs down a website like a bunch of plugins running all the time. (Do you really need a Google Analytics plugin?)
Get rid of plugin redundancies where possible. Ditch plugins that aren’t updated regularity and don’t work with current versions of your website environment.
And for things that you can do manually … quit using plugins. They are just slowing your website down.
9. Enable Lazy Loading
What if the elements above the scroll load just a little bit quicker than everything else? This is one of those “tricks” that can work for heavier, more complex pages.
Lazy loading can be ideal for long scrolling pages. It loads content from top to bottom of the page and works great if your page has a ton of images below the scroll (even if it does run counter to some of the other advice outlined here. It’s good to have options, right?)
This is essentially a fancy caching option.
What are you doing to ensure that your website is built for speed in 2019?
Following best practices for desktop and mobile speed impacts more than just how quickly users can see your website. It influences site rank, search optimization, and conversion rates as well. (How is a user supposed to buy a product if the page doesn’t load?)
Make it a point to start cleaning up your code and optimizing your site, even if you just do one of these things per month, you’ll start to see results. Good luck!