What is Killing Your Page Load Speed?

Do you know how fast your website loads? You probably think you do. You know load time is important. You’re on your site all the time. It loads quickly for you, after all. But when was the last time you ran a proper test?

Don’t forget, the site you are used to seeing regularly is likely cached, meaning your browser has stored certain bits of key information to make it load faster. First-time visitors won’t have that luxury. So it’s important to run regular tests through sites like Pingdom or WebPageTest. Go ahead. Run it. I’ll wait.

How was your grade? Was it a B? Or a C? Worse?

Facts and The Furious

Here are some important statistics to put that grade and load time in context:

73% of mobile internet users say they’ve encountered a website that was too slow to load.

Three-quarters of people using the internet on their smartphones might as well be the entire world. Basically everybody knows what it is like to go to a site and have it take what feels like forever to load, especially on their phones. It’s a frustration we are all familiar with.

The first 10 seconds of a page visit are critical for a user’s decision to stay or leave.

Forget load times for a second. You’ve got 10 seconds from the moment a user types in your URL or links to your site to hook them into staying for longer. That’s not a very long time. You certainly can’t afford to spend much of it showing your users a loading bar or a pinwheel.

47% of site visitors expect the page to load in 2 seconds or less.

40% of site visitors will leave if page load takes more than 3 seconds.

You thought 10 seconds was short? Try 2-3 seconds. That’s how much of that first 10 you should be allowing for page load, and no more. Once you cross that line, you start losing potential site visitors.

The reality is, it doesn’t matter what actual site load averages are industry wide. It doesn’t matter how realistic the 2-3 second expectation is. What matters is that 2-3 seconds is the expectation. If your site takes longer than that to load, even if your visitors do stick around, you are starting out on the worst foot possible – disappointing your visitor’s expectations.

Google factors page load speed into their site rankings.

There are more than 200 signals that Google uses to determine your site rank on search results. Page load time is one of them. 1 of 200 might not seem like a lot in the grand scheme of SEO, but every little bit helps, and you might not have control over many of those other 200 factors. Page speed is something you can take actions to fix.

So, take another look at that Pingdom/WebPageTest score and the load time. Process it. Realize you probably have some work to do. Okay.

So what is slowing your site down, and what can you do about it? 

Updates

Depending on who your hosting service and what CMS platform you are using for your site, there may be themes, plugins, apps, or even core software which all require regular updates. I know all of that updating is annoying (which is why some platforms like Squarespace do it for you), but ignore them at your own peril. These updates usually do things like patch security issues, fix bugs, and improve compatibility with modern browsers. All of that translates to faster load times if you update, and slower load times if you don’t.

Image Optimization

Images that you put on your site can potentially come from all different sources and software. Wherever they come from, you should do your best to optimize these images for web using compression. When it comes to compression, there is generally a direct trade-off between image quality and file size. The more you compress, the lower the quality, the smaller the file size. You’ll have to decide how far you are willing to go in that trade off, but the upshot for your website is that the small you’re able to get those images, that faster they will load on your site.

It’s worth noting that HTML 5 makes it easy to resize large images to smaller sizes right through your site. This can be a very helpful feature for responsive web design, but it can actually hurt your load times since you are still keeping a large image on the server. It’s worth your while to output the exact image sizes you need and display those, so that your users’ browsers don’t have to do the work of resizing images during your precious page load time.

Style Gone Wild

Having well-coded and efficient CSS stylesheets and Javascript scripts can make a significant difference in page load. Rather than have styling and scripts scattered throughout every page of your site, make sure you keep them in external files, and put them as close to the tag as possible. And in those external files, make sure the code is written cleanly without a bunch of excess or unnecessary stuff bogging down browsers.

Cold, Hard, Cache

I mentioned caching above as something that your browser is probably doing when visiting your site… but that’s no guarantee. Take steps to ensure that your site and your CMS are caching the latest version in your users’ browsers so that your site will load faster on repeat visits. Need help with your page load speed? Contact 10twelve today!