Page speed has been used as a ranking factor by Google for quite some time now. It’s not difficult to understand why, either. In recent years, every change made to the algorithm has been deployed with one goal in mind — a better user experience. A website that takes too long to load makes for a negative experience.
These days, our time is at a premium. Our attention is being pulled in a thousand different directions at once. As a result, we’re hyper-sensitive to anything that we feel wastes our time.
And a slow-loading website does precisely that. Although common knowledge technically places the ideal load time at anywhere from two to five seconds, the truth is that faster is always better. As reported by Marketing Dive, even one extra second is enough to make more than half of mobile users abandon a site.
Suffice it to say; you don’t want that to happen — so with that said, here’s some advice for improving your website’s performance and speed.
Choose the Right Backend
First and foremost, you’ll want to make sure you choose a web host that provides you with enough bandwidth to host your site and the capacity to scale as necessary during periods of high demand. You may also want to use a content delivery network, which uses distributed proxy servers to ensure your visitors are always connected to a server that’s geographically nearby. Finally, if you’re using a platform like WordPress, only install plugins you absolutely need.
The more unnecessary plugins you bog down your backend with, the greater the chance you’ll end up negatively impacting your site’s performance.
Keep Things Light
As for media content, tone down on animation-heavy interfaces, and compress all images and files. This is especially important for mobile users, who are often on devices and connections with less processing power than many desktop browsers. Finally, do not, under any circumstances, use autoplay video.
Seriously, just don’t do it.
Reuse Page Elements
The more HTTP requests each page on your website requires, the longer it takes for that page to load. As such, especially in the early design phase for your site, you should constantly look for opportunities to streamline things. This may include loading an interface as a single image, using a static background that persists across your website, or even serving the site as a single page.
Ensure You’re Using Browser Caching
Browser caching is particularly important for repeat visitors to your site. How it works is simple. Previously-loaded static elements are stored in the user’s browser when they visit. When they return to the site, it queries their browser to load those elements near-instantaneously.
As you might expect, this has a huge (and hugely positive) impact on performance, and significantly improves page response time, particularly if you’re reusing static elements across your site, as we recommended in our previous point.
Test With Google PageSpeed Insights
Finally, once you’re confident you’ve incorporated all the performance enhancements you can, test your website with Google’s PageSpeed Insights tool. This will analyze your website’s overall performance, identify any potential bottlenecks, and provide you with suggestions for things you might improve. This is your bread and butter for performance optimization — expect to visit and revisit this page a lot.
The faster your website loads, the better. Follow the tips outlined here, and keep looking for opportunities to improve. Optimization, after all, is a process — there’s always some new improvement to be made.