When talking about optimising a website, you could be talking about one of two things. The first is SEO, that is optimising your website for search engines. The second, and one we will focus on with this article, is how to optimise your website from a performance perspective.
When we talk about optimising website performance, it comes down to one key metric. Speed. Web users are known to be lazy and impatient. Designers and usability experts will often talk about having a window of only a few seconds (at most) to engage a visitor who has landed on your site. And that is true.
However, if your page takes more than a few moments to load you will likely lose the vast majority of users before they even see your content, let alone. eCommerce giants Amazon revealed some years ago that for just 100ms of latency on their web page, it can cost them 1% of sales. Some estimate that one second could cost a staggering $1.6billion.
Research by Akamai found that 47% of web users expect a page to load in two seconds or less. It has also been found that slow loading pages in eCommerce has cost the businesses over £1.7bn in just one year of lost sales.
These are drastic figures, but they underline the key point. If your website performs badly, you will lose your audience.
So, what can we do about that? Here are five tips to optimise website performance.
1. Delay loading content, where possible
Okay, given what we have just discussed, this sounds crazy. However, it’s not. You will increasingly see that as web pages have tended to become incredibly image-led and long, images do not always load until the user scrolls to where that content is. This is called “lazy loading” and can help to greatly reduce the load time of your pages.
2. Optimise your images
Images are a major cause of performance issues on websites. However, in today’s world, there is no excuse for it. Most image editing applications allow you to save your images in low resolutions, or lower qualities, and even “Save for Web”. This reduces the size of the file right down to something more manageable.
Another important step to take with images is to resize them (dimensions) to the size you want them to appear before uploading them to your website. This prevents the website itself from having to resize the images and use up more vital resource.
3. Optimise your code
Another cause for sloppy loading times can be the code that is behind your website. Using clunky HTML should be avoided, while weighing the site down to tens or hundreds of CSS files should also be avoided. Try adopting LESS CSS to improve performance. It will also make your code much easier to maintain in the future.
4. Use a Content Delivery Network (CDN)
Even if you only have a small website or blog, you should consider using a Content Delivery Network (CDN). There are both free and cheap options for CDNs available and having one in place can greatly improve the speed of your site, even for users in other locations around the world using slower connections. Most web hosts will have an option built in so make sure you activate this.
5. Discard plugins that you no longer require
Blogging platforms and open-source content management systems are great for webmasters to implement lots of powerful functionality. However, most of the platforms come bundled with themes, templates and plugins you do not need. Additionally, you will likely install a plugin, use it for a short while or test it, and then turn it off on certain pages. If plugins are not needed, delete them completely from the website.
Aside from the performance issues that a high number of plugins can create, there are also security issues with plugins that are no longer maintained. Additionally, some plugins may just be poorly coded and again add strain to the website.