Turbocharge your website’s loading speed

Remember dial-up internet?

Watching a webpage load from top-to-bottom in little blocks?

Yeah, crap wasn’t it?

Well, this ain’t 1999 anymore. The Y2K bug didn’t materialise, that kid from the 6th Sense isn’t so little anymore, and waiting ten minutes for a webpage to load is a thing of the past.

Or at least it should be.

A fast loading speed for your website is essential for both search engine optimisation AND user experience (we talk about this in more detail in a minute). So you may be surprised to hear that we see lots of sites through our website audit service that reminds us of dial-up.

Users expect nothing less than a fast site and there’s no shortage of competition out there if yours isn’t up to scratch.

So, we’ve written this article to help you turbocharge your website’s speed.

Why Should You Improve Your Website’s Loading Speed?

First of all, you don’t have to have a fast website.

You won’t get kicked off the internet for having a slow site. It’ll still be live, functional and accessible to 99.9% of your users. But that absolutely does not mean it’s not worth worrying about.

Quite the opposite actually.

These are the two main reasons your site should be as fast as it can possibly be:

User Experience (UX)

There are a huge amount of things involved in delivering a great user experience.

If you visit a website and it doesn’t load, or links don’t work, or there are intrusive pop-ups flying in all over the place, or the whole thing looks like the aftermath of a two-year-old getting hold of mummy’s makeup, what do you do?

That’s right, you leave and you take your business elsewhere. So does everyone else, and that’s why your website needs to load faster than fast.

Think about this; 47% of users expect a web page to load within 2 seconds, and 40% will abandon a website completely if it hasn’t loaded within 3 seconds. And those figures are from 2019, so they’ll only be getting bigger.

Search ranking

Want your website to be on the first page of Google?

Of course you do.

The vast majority of site owners are all in a race to the top of the search engines. But if you ignore the loading speed of your site they really aren’t going to care about you.

Google use a super-complicated algorithm to rank search results, but what it boils down to is this; they want to see quality, relevant content, on a secure, trustworthy site with a good user experience. And page loading speed is a crucial element of a good user experience.

So if your site is more tortoise than hare, this is a race you just won’t be winning.

7 Steps to Speed Up Your Website

Step 1. Image Optimisation – Dimensions

One of the biggest drains on a site’s loading speed will be using images that are too big for their intended purpose. Now, there are actually two types of ‘too big’.

The first would be too big in terms of the image’s physical size – Don’t go using an image that’s 3000 pixels wide when it only needs to be 300. That’s clearly unnecessary and will make that image load about ten times slower than it would if it were sized correctly.

Now imagine that issue across 20, 30, maybe 100 images on your website and you can see that it will cause some problems for your end user.

It’s a simple fix.

Resize your images to the correct dimensions before uploading them to your website. Or if that ship has already sailed for you, there are some WordPress plugins that can help. Try Smush – there’s a free version as well as a premium option that can help you out.

Ironically though, the more plugins you use the more the site will have to load for an end user. Yes, that too will impact your site’s loading speed, but nothing like massive images will.

Step 2. Image Optimisation – Compression

So now you know about the importance of your images being the correct dimension.

The second part is more art than science, and there’s no definitive right or wrong answer to it. We’re talking about image quality, and it affects the file size of your images immensely.

Just like in part 1, you want your image to be as small as possible for its intended purpose. A typical full-quality Jpeg image can be several megabytes in size. Whereas the same image can be compressed to a fraction of its original file size. But that doesn’t mean it should be.

When you compress you lose image quality. Take a close look at it, and if you’ve compressed an image too much you’ll see the loss of quality is drastic. What was once a nice, crisp image is now a blocky, hideous mess. You need to channel your inner Goldilocks and find that ‘juuuuust right’ amount of compression to get the best compromise between too big and too gross.

Want to know more about image optimization? Check out our other post about how to optimize your website images, including the different file types you can use.

Step 3. Page Speed Plug-Ins

Typically, there will be an obscene amount of lines of HTML, Javascript, and other code that can be condensed or even removed completely from your website’s source code. without affecting the functionality of your website. But DO NOT start hacking away at your source code yourself – unless you really know what you’re doing.

If you’ve got a WordPress site, you’re in luck. There are plenty of free plugins that mean you can bring your loading times down without even looking at any code, let alone editing it. Check out Autoptimize, Page Speed Ninja, or Fast Velocity Minify for a start.

They’re generally easy to use, and there’s a wealth of tutorials for them online if you get stuck. Using one of these simple plugins with effective caching settings can buy you back a huge amount of loading time.

Step 4. Lazy Load

When you visit a website do you always read every last bit of a page? Do you scroll all the way to the bottom?

I’d hazard a guess that you don’t.

The bulk of a user’s time on a web page is spent in the first two screenfuls of content. This means that depending on the length of your web page they could be loading a lot of content that they never see. 

With lazy loading, you defer the loading of non-critical content on a web page, such as images and videos, until the user needs or interacts with them. This means lazy loading can increase your page speed by not loading content that users may not see or engage with.

Lazy loading can be achieved with code changes, but there are also a number of plugins that can add lazy loading to your site like the ones we listed in point 3.

Step 5. Lose The Clutter

If you’ve optimised your images and condensed your excess code, you’ll already be getting a respectable page speed score. But there’s more you can do. Even though they’re turned off, unused themes, inactive plugins, and any other kinds of deadwood you’ve got cluttering up the backend of your site will impact your page speed.
Get rid of them.

Pro tip: leave one inactive (preferably WordPress default) theme as a fallback option in case your current theme doesn’t work for a user. An ugly website is still better than no website at all!

Step 6. Use a Content Delivery Network (CDN)

A CDN is essentially a network of servers that work together to load the content of a website much faster than a typical server would allow. It’s certainly not free, but – among other things – it will increase your page loading speed significantly.

Normally, a website will load one thing at a time according to its priority. But using a CDN means your website has access to more than one server, allowing it to load multiple assets at any one time. More servers means more actions processed, which means more speed.

Step 7. Mobile

The majority of web traffic is now done through mobile devices. Search engines also use the speed of the mobile version of your site as a ranking factor so don’t be tempted to overlook the speed of the mobile version of your site.

Use smaller, mobile-specific images where you can, or a plugin like Smush that optimises your images for different devices on the fly. A full-width image on a laptop needs to be much wider than one on a phone screen, so why force phone users to load enormous images if you don’t have to?

3G internet isn’t exactly Broadband, so any kilobytes you can save on file sizes will help your mobile loading speeds.

Alongside your images, audit your site’s content, features and functionality to see if you have anything on your desktop version that can be removed for mobile users.

You do? Then why just remove them for mobile users? Remove them from the whole site and you’ve sped up the user experience across all devices. Win, win.

Written by Kayleigh Nicolaou

Co-founder of Kakadu Creative, Kayleigh has worked in the media industry since 2007, managing projects and campaigns for clients ranging from independent high street stores, to music festivals and international brands.
September 7, 2020

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