May 07, 2014

What is Site Speed and Why is it Important?

In this week’s Tip of The Week we talk about site speed and the factors that can affect it.

Site speed is the time it takes between a user typing in your URL or clicking on a page link and when they see your content. It’s important because slow load times can cause a potential customer to lose interest in your site which affects conversions and repeat visitors. 

Site speed can also affect Search Engine Optimization (SEO). Google and other search engines penalize slow performing websites. If your website is on par with your competition, but their site loads faster they will be ranked higher than you.

What affects it?

Site speed can be affected by many different factors:

  • Server Time - The time it takes for your server to respond to the request.
  • Caching - The storage of temporary files on your site. Caching your website is a positive as it allows the browser to pull the last version and only look for changes instead of loading the whole page.
  • Layout - The design of your website should avoid having too many ads and focus on real content.
  • Css / JavaScript - Css and JavaScript are the programming languages that tell browsers what content should be displayed where. A site won't display until all JavaScript is downloaded. 
  • Plug-ins - Plugins add additional code to your site that needs to load before it can display to the user. Not all plugins are made the same, some require large amounts of JavaScript or Css, while others do not, by researching the plug-in before installing you can avoid potential speed issues.
  • Mobile Responsiveness - Mobile Responsiveness can be achieved in multiple ways when building a website, if done incorrectly it can add too much code to both the mobile and desktops versions affecting load times on both sites. 
  • Images - Images make every great website pop, but having too many or large files where a smaller image would suffice slow down load times.
  • Redirects - Redirects are gaining popularity in website design, many sites use them to remove the www in the address bar or the reverse. You can see the practice on our website typing in ibeccreative.com will redirect you to www.ibeccreative.com. It is the equivalent of telling the browser to load two different pages before you see content.

How do I know if my site is loading fast enough?

An easy test you can use is the Page Speed Test offered by Google. Simply type in your URL and you’ll be presented with suggestions to improve both your mobile and desktop sites.

How do I fix the errors?

Many of the errors can be fixed without a full website redesign. Slow server? Upgrade the plan you are on. Static Pages? Add a caching plug-in that will help them load faster. Image sizes slowing things down? Replace BMPs and TIFFs with JPGs or PNGs, and crop out extra space.

Other errors will take a little more effort. Large amounts of HTML, Css and JavaScript? You’ll need a website developer to help fix the code. Mobile responsiveness issues? Depending on your CMS you might need a website developer to fix as well.

Using the best practices for increasing site speed will ensure visitors stay longer on your website. This engagement will lead to more conversions and retention!