Optimize your website for the holiday season

It’s that time of year again when your website is about to get a lot more traffic. This also means that you will be getting more emails from frustrated customers about slow loading webpages and failed checkouts. Your bounce rate goes up and you start seeing all of those holiday sales slip through your fingers.

What’s an online shop to do?

Just make your website faster

Why don’t you take 5 minutes and make your website faster – go ahead, I’ll wait.

It’s tougher than it looks, isn’t it? It’s not always clear where to start or what is making your website slow.

Let’s break it down

Each time somebody visits your website, the browser requests the necessary resources from your web server to load the page. Imagine your website’s HTML, CSS, javascript, images, video, etc., traveling along a highway from your web server to their browser. Like a real highway, the lanes on the road are limited, and there are (likely) a lot more resources traveling along that roadway than the browser can handle. This can slow things down... a lot.

You’ve probably noticed your website or other websites you browse load slowly before. You have to wait for images or text to appear, and it seems to take forever. This is because those assets are caught in a traffic jam, but there are a few things you can do about it to stop this from happening on your website.

Create more lanes

You know that “HTTP” that appears before your domain name in the URL bar? That is the protocol that enables websites to function, it also is what determines how many lanes your highway has. There’s a new version “http2” and it allows for many more lanes, which means that web browsers can download more assets at a time, which will in turn make your website load faster.

If you use an ecommerce service like Shopify or Squarespace, you already have this feature. If you have a custom Magento or WordPress website, you may not – it’s worth checking with your developers or webshop to enable this.

More lanes aren’t always the answer.

So now you’ve upgraded your domain to take advantage of http2, and sure the site does load faster, but let’s get it loading even faster.

If you use a template, I’d be willing to bet that there are a lot of features you don’t use. It’s oftentimes the case that commercially available templates are built for looks rather than speed, and older templates can be out of date and not include the latest best practices when it comes to keep a site loading quickly.

Sometimes you can upgrade templates or add basic functionality that will decrease page load times, and sometimes you need to call your developer and have them work their magic.

Now we are at the point where you need to get your developer involved. There are a few pieces of low hanging fruit that you can have your dev work on in short order to increase your page speed and save the holiday season from certain disasters.

Here are some options:

  • LazyLoad Images – This is a tried and true method, and now this technique is built into browsers. A lot of sites use video now as well, and this technique can work for videos as well as images.
  • LazyLoad Videos – A lot of sites use video now as well, and this technique can work for videos as well as images.
  • Shrink your image size – We wrote about this several years ago, and the techniques are still just as useful today. You can actually start this process, if you have someone on staff that is handy with photoshop(& willing) you can have them resize images to fit the area they occupy on your website. If that’s not possible, you can have an agency do that for you. Even more - they can program your site to resize the images for you.

Hopefully this article is helpful for you to get a sense of what kind of work goes into making your site fast, and conversely what makes your site slow. Most of this work requires your web developer to get involved, but the result will be a faster site that helps your users accomplish their goals faster, which means happier customers and higher profits.

View of a highway with no cars on it in first person perspective with snow capped mountains in the distance

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