Plenty has already been said about the importance of website load speed. Attention spans have dropped to an all-time low and are dropping even further, and people just don’t want to spend precious seconds of their lives waiting for web pages to load.
So, if you’ve already had your website built by a professional developer who used coding best practices, your website should already run at a good speed. If not, then take a look at our list of how you can improve your website’s speed:
Using caching software on your website is one of the easiest ways to speed up your site. When you visit a website that uses web caching software, your machine will essentially download a copy of the page and it’s elements (images, text, etc) so that when you access this page again, it will load the copy already on your computer instead of downloading it again. Cached files will stay in your machine for a certain amount of time or until the website refreshes its own cache.
If you’re using WordPress, there are a whole host of cache plugins you can easily install on your website. Our favourites are WP Rocket and W3 Total Cache. The instructions are fairly straightforward for these, however, we would recommend you speak to your website’s developer before installing one.
For custom-built websites, we would recommend speaking to your developer and asking about using caching software on your website.
Content delivery networks (CDN) are fantastic if you’re delivering content in more than one country. CDNs are basically collections of servers all around the world that store a copy of your website, ready for users nearby to enter your website’s URL into their browser and download the copy nearest to them onto their computer.
So, say if I hosted my website on a server in the UK and added it to a CDN, if someone from Australia typed in my website’s address, they would access the copy held on a server in Australia (assuming the CDN has one in that country), thus reducing the time it takes to download the web page.
There are many CDNs available, both free and paid. Our favourite is Cloudflare – their free plan should cover most of your needs. If your website is secure with HTTPS you will need to pay for a premium account. The instructions they give you are pretty straight-forward. You will need access to your domain name to change the nameservers to their’s and get yourself set up on their CDN.
This one is a bit more complicated. HipHop Virtual Machine (HHVM) is an open-source virtual machine that you can install on PHP websites (such as WordPress or Magento) to accelerate load speed. Developed by a team of Facebook engineers, HHVM powers many websites including Facebook and Wikipedia and has shown to load a default WordPress backend 10 times faster.
This one is a bit trickier to install. You will want to consult with your developer first and link them to the HHVM website where they can gain instructions on how to add HHVM to your website: hhvm.com.
#4 Change Hosting
Hosting can make a huge difference when it comes to website speed, stability, and even security. With so many reasonably-priced options available, there’s no excuse not to have good hosting behind your website.
First, research which company offers a good package for your specific CMS (some companies are well-known for their WordPress hosting, while others may be better with Magento). Many hosting companies offer free website migration, but before you go ahead with it, or if they don’t offer it, speak to your website’s developer beforehand to ensure it all goes smoothly.
#5 General Practices
The thing that will make the biggest impact is what you put on your website. If you have loads of big images that aren’t properly sized or compressed, then your site will struggle to load it all.
Other best practices include:
- Not using CSS in posts and pages – keep all your CSS code in a single file.
- Try to use minimal redirect – only use them where needed (e.g. website structure change).
- Specify the image dimensions in your <img> tag.
- Fix any 404/410 errors.
- Keep videos to a minimum.
Perform a content audit on your website. If your website is particularly slow, then look at sizing down or removing images, as these tend to be the biggest anchor to site load speed. Also, consider hosting videos on youtube and embedding them in your web page instead of hosting them on your website.
Putting Them To The Test
Before you try one (or more) of these ways out on your website, do a speed test (Pingdom’s is one of our favourites). Then once you’ve added caching software, a CDN, HHVM, changed hosting or revised the content on your website, do another test and compare the results. This will give you an idea how well it worked for your website and how much of an improvement a small change can make.