June 28, 2013 by Roman Ožana

What’s Slowing Your Website Down

When Google announced in April 2010 that website load time has a direct impact on Google Rank, it validated what many had suspected for some time: page load time is incredibly important to our web browsing experience. 

The truth is, we live in a world where the need for speed dominates every day life. We want everything, and we want it now. Based on this reality, the speed of your site will affect every metric that matters. Bounce rate. Conversion. Pageviews. Revenue. Ranking.

It appears, we children of the web have no patience for waiting. Even if it’s for a fraction of a second longer than usual.

Why does page speed matter? 

Since Google is “obsessed with speed”, they include something called page speed in their ranking algorithm. And even though, page speed is just one of 200 signals Google uses to determine rank, it can make a difference.

John Ekman claims that page speed helps to improve your business in 2 positive ways:

  1. Faster load times lead to a better ranking, which in turn yields higher traffic.
  2. A fast page speed means a stronger website performance, meaning you can improve your conversion rates.

The basic gist? If you website is slow, it creates a poor user experience. This means you’ll have a high bounce rate, your page views will take a hit, and unfortunately, you could lose revenue.

So, what slows down site speed? 

  • Host: A great place to start is your host. If you share a server with others, this could mean you experience periodic bouts of uneven service quality.
  • Ads: Displaying ads isn’t a complete no-no, and of course it’s a great addition to your site if you’ve got high levels of traffic. However, this isn’t cause to overload your site with too many ads. It’s important to consider how much time each ad will take to load and weigh that against the possible traffic you could lose if your ads take too long to load.
  • Widgets/plugins: Don’t suffer fro widget overload. Sure, technology has made it easy to share and embed – it’s amazing. But don’t get too widget happy or you could pay a response time price. To sum it up – make sure you know what kind of drag a widget or plugin will have on your website.
  • Images: Visual design is a great way to grab people’s attention and pull them into your site. That being said, giant images can make downloading a slow process.
  • Browsers/Apps: Sometimes browsers and apps are incompatible. It’s inconvenient, but it’s also your responsibility to test your website in all browsers to make sure there’s no clashing.
  • Code Snippets: Each time you drop in a snippet of code, e.g. an analytics code to measure performance, you add another call to your server. Keep this in mind when you’re adding to your site, every millisecond counts…and it can add up fast!
  • JavaScript: Sites often add in external JavaScript code for graphics, advertising, widgets. While this might mean you’ve got a dynamic website on your hands, parsing JavaScript will add additional time to your page load.

What you can do 

So, how can you speed up your download time? We’ve got a few tips and tricks to decrease your page load time and help you increase overall performance and user satisfaction.

Create a browser cache for static files.

Browser caching allows a visitor’s browser to store copies of your website’s individual pages. If you enable browser caching, the browser will store certain contents in its cache. This means that the next time a user returns to your website, your browser will have certain content available in its cache and your page will load much faster.

Minify your JavaScript, CSS, and HTML code.

Slim down your code. Get rid of HTML comments, CDATA sections, whitespaces, and empty elements. The more you decrease the size of your code, the faster your load time will be.

Eliminate unnecessary widgets/plugins.

As we mentioned above, widgets and plugins can cause some serious drag on your load time. So, if your website is slow – do some spring cleaning. And be ruthless. Go through your website and assess whether the functionality you gain outweighs the loss of site speed. Check out tools like YUI Compressor and UglifyJS to help you optimize and compress your code.

Create image sprites.

Since a webpage with too many graphics can take a long time to load, opt for image sprites instead. An image sprite is a collection of images put into a single image. Then, you can isolate the single image you need using CSS. Image sprites help you to lower the number of server requests you send and saves bandwidth.

Optimize your images.

Get rid of extraneous comments or colors. You should also make sure to adjust the size of your images before you add them to your website. Although images can be adjusted in the backend of your site, this often means your browser will have to execute multiple commands. And remember, keep image size to a minimum, as large graphics can mean more added loading time.

CSS on top and JavaScript at the bottom. 

In the spirit of keeping things clean and lean, make sure to place your stylesheets in the document head and your JS code at the bottom of the page. Placing your CSS files at the top prohibits progressive reading, while the JavaScript prevents a page from stalling while waiting for a full code execution.

We would also suggest running your page through Google’s PageSpeed Insights and Yahoo’s YSlow to learn more about ways to improve your performance based on the best practices for high performance web pages.

Quick Testomato Tips  

We may not have all the answers for you, but we do offer some simple solutions to help you with your website speed.

Here’s a few quick and easy ways that we can help:

  • We can measure your download speed time
  • Alert you to tested pages that were not fast enough to be downloaded
  • Alert you to page timeouts that occurred throughout the day
  • Catch when a service provider has been shutdown (which comes in handy if you don’t use your own server)

Did you find this post helpful? What other tips would you suggest? 

Leave us a comment here or on Facebook. Or, tweet us directly @testomatocom.

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