There’s little more frustrating than waiting for a web page to load. If your website is slow you’ll be losing customers. The stats are clear, the slower your site the sooner people will leave it, you’ll have less sales and people are less likely to come back.
If increasing your chances of getting a customer isn’t incentive enough to speed up your site also consider that website speed is factor in your search engine optimisation. The faster your site the more likely Google will rank you higher.
Can you speed up your site?
The good news is that yes, it’s possible to speed up pretty much any website. If you’re technically confident then there are many avenues to pursue. If you’re a website owner and don’t know the technical side of things so well, you’ll have less options unless you contact a specialist like Webbed Feet.
The quick win – upgrade your hosting
The easiest way to speed up your site is to use a better server or hosting package. If you’re using a basic hosting package then it’s likely you’re being squeezed onto a server with hundreds of other sites each fighting each other for resources. This is called shared hosting, if you’re paying someone like fasthosts/1&1/heart/etc less than £5 per month you’re likely on this slow, shared hosting.
Choosing a virtual server or cloud hosting package while more expensive will mean your website has a guaranteed amount of resources (processing power & memory so you’ll be unaffected by other websites on the same server. If you’re already on a virtual server or cloud hosting upgrade to a dedicated server, or to a more powerful cloud hosting package.
If you combine upgrading your hosting with customising your server for your website it’s often possible to get gains of 10x the speed.
If you’re not confident moving your website to a new host then get in touch with Webbed Feet – we frequently take on new clients and move existing websites to faster hosting packages to speed up their websites.
Make your server faster
Once you move beyond the low end shared hosting you’ll start being able to customise your server. With a bit of knowledge you can make sure that whatever CMS (Wordpress, Magento, Joomla, etc) you use runs faster.
Switching from Apache to Nginx is well worth the effort as it will have an instant speed boost. You might need to change a few settings but most CMSs can easily be run on Nginx.
On the server itself you should try to ensure that gzipping is enabled to compress the files being transferred. This not only speeds up transferring files it also reduces your bandwidth.
Make sure that caching and expires headers are set up properly so that a user’s browser can cache images without downloading them every time they visit your site.
If you can, look into installing a server side cache like Memcache or Varnish, these will save a copy of the rendered page meaning that the next person who views that page will be sent a cached copy. This lightens the load on the database and the server speeding things up.
A Content Delivery Network (CDN) will speed up your website
A CDN saves copies of your images and pages at various places around the world. When a user visits your site the image will load from another server close to the user reducing the load on your server, and making your website load faster for the user.
There are different levels of CDNs, and different levels of service. That said you can try Cloudflare for free, even this basic package can make a real difference. It’s fairly easy to set up and works well, although it can cause occasional issues with some sites, especially ones with user logins.
Choose a fast CMS to run your website
Content Management Systems (CMS) like Wordpress or Joomla and shop systems like Magento and Woo Commerce that offer a lot of features tend to be slow. Wordpress especially can be incredibly slow by default, it requires care to set up correctly and a reasonably expensive hosting package or it will always be slow.
We’ve sped up WordPress websites with 12s load times to 3s, we’ve reduced Magento load times from 40s to 2s by choosing a good host and setting up the server. So it’s not an insurmountable problem, but it will take some effort.
If you’re designing a new website you’ll want to bear this in mind, if you’re likely to have a lot of data you’ll probably want to avoid a bloated CMS.
For example one estate agent we helped had a few hundred properties but because of how badly Wordpress stored this data it split this information across 150,000 entries in a database. The server couldn’t cope with pulling out a 100+ bits of data from the 150,000 entries, something that wouldn’t be an issue on a more suitable CMS.
A custom system, as we use for many of our clients, allows us to streamline the code to run quickly and isn’t bloated with unnecessary code. One of our sites requires just a few percent of the resources a bog standard WordPress website demands.
If you want to speed up a Magento website you’ll need to make sure you’re using a fast server that’s well configured. A basic hosting package will guarantee a slow Magento website.
If you use a lot of plugins for your website you should try and thin them down, each plugin will slow your website so remove anything you don’t need.
Think about your images
Images typically take up the majority of the size of a web page, so avoiding unnecessary images can provide a good boost. You should also make sure that the images a well compressed and resized to the size they will be shown on the screen.
Many CMSs, like Wordpress, will upload large images by default when a smaller one would work better. Make sure your CMS is configured properly to avoid this.
If you’re using an image slider then you should think about scrapping it! From a usability point of view they are bad as they tend to hide content from people that scroll past or force people to wait for the relevant information to appear, before it swiftly disappears. If you are determined to keep an image slider trying and reduce the number of images as the large images they use will slow down the page load.
Technical ways to speed up your website
You should try and reduce the number of file requests, the more you have the slower the web page will be to display. Aside from images look at CSS and JS files, if you’re using wordpress with a few plugins there’s likely to be 10-20+ of each type. This can really slow down loading times, minifying these into a single CSS and a single JS file can dramatically speed up your site.
Take a look at the dev tools in your browser, it will show you a breakdown of load times for each file a web page calls. You’ll be able to see which files are slow to download or blocking other files. This will give you a good plan of attack.
What is the easiest way to speed up a website?
Simple, call a professional. We can take your existing website and speed it up, there’s no need to design a new website, though we can help with that too! We improved our client’s sites from over a minute per page to a couple of seconds, and we can do the same for you.
Our team of developers know their servers inside out and have worked with all the main CMSs. You’d struggle to find anyone better suited to speeding up your website.