Even the most diligent business person knows that conversion is about much more than just marketing and product specialization. If you want to close the deal, you need to provide the client with an efficient and effective setting in which to view, test and purchase your product. Yes, that means you need to put some effort into making sure your brick-and-mortar store is well-appointed and strategically organized for max ROI, but it also means that your virtual store needs to function seamlessly for your customer—translation: they had better not be waiting ages for content to load.
This is the challenge all online retailers face: making sure plenty of quality content is available for the customer to view while ensuring that said content is accessible instantly at the touch of a fingertip (“instantly” being the key word).
Considering the fact that page load speeds of just 2-4 seconds will cause up to half of site visitors to abandon a webpage altogether, speed should be one of the most pressing issues on every entrepreneur’s bottom-line-oriented mind. If that isn’t enough to convince you, take a second to absorb the idea that Google went mobile-centric as of 2017. Why is that important? Because page load speed now also plays a significant role in determining your search ranking.
For a few more mind-blowing stats on how your site performance affects conversion rates, check out our article on Ecommerce Essentials. For those of you who are ready to rev your engines now, though, let’s take a look at the best ways to increase page load speed and site performance.
1. Simplify Content
The good news is that the most effective way to boost your speed is also amenable to implementing a more modern design: minimalism and streamlining. Often, the thing that slows sites down the most is the time it takes to load page elements due to HTTP requests. By cutting down on the number of images, style sheets and scripts, you go a long way to reaching the ideal page speed:
Images – Probably the most user-friendly way to quickly affect your page load speed is to make your images more mobile ready. You can quickly and easily reduce the file size of your images by cropping, changing the resolution (resize and save the file so that the web browser doesn’t have to do it), or compressing them. Adobe image editing software allows you to save an image specifically for web and devices, which is also where you’ll convert the image to sRGB color mode to further optimize your image for web applications. Another quick and dirty tip is to use JPG files for photographs while using PNG files for basic graphics, like logos.
White space – Your code contains plenty of spaces and tabs that do nothing for browsers but slow them down. To remove the white space from you code without having to do it manually—resulting in possible errors and a quickly depleting hairline—minimize CSS, HTML, and JS files using plugins, like the WillPeavy minifier.
Compress – Just like compressing a file into a zip reduces its size, compressing your site also reduces its bandwidth and HTTP response, making it up to 70% faster. You can use a tool called Gzip to compress the site, but you’ll also need to allow compression on your server. Follow the links to take steps using Apache, Nginx, and IIS. Save this step for your IT professionals or outsource to people who really know what they’re doing.
2. Servers and Hosting
Sure, content optimization is a huge part of keeping your site functioning at lightning speed. To use mail delivery as an analogy, a delivery man is going to get your items to you much more quickly if he’s only carrying 20 standard letters as opposed to 20 shoebox-sized packages. At the same time, however, he’s also going to get those items to you faster if he’s driving a truck as opposed to riding a tricycle. This is where server and hosting consideration comes into play. Most businesses are going to start out on a shared server—they’re by far the most affordable option, after all. When it comes to security, speed and customization, however, there are plenty of options available. For those who are ready to graduate to big-league methods, read on:
CDN – Content delivery networks are essential for ecommerce sites that plan to sell globally. Rather than making someone in Timbuktu wait for your content to travel around the world from your server, CDNs spread their content amongst multiple servers all over the globe so that whatever needs to be downloaded is plucked from the server closest to the user. CDNs are great for storing JPEGs and other image files that are typically large and slow to load.
VPS – Virtual private servers are the best hosting choice for smaller businesses. As opposed to shared hosting (a fine and cheap option for very new enterprises), VPS servers allocate independent pieces of bandwidth, processors, memory, and disk space to each website so that one company’s content does not affect another’s. This makes for much faster speeds than a shared server at a much lower cost than shelling out for a dedicated server. Companies going this route can expect to pay between $20-50 monthly depending on whether your account is managed or not.
Dedicated hosting – By far the best hosting option available to major enterprises (we’re talking at least 500K visitors/month), dedicated hosting is just what it sounds like: a single machine serving your needs and your needs only. The best thing about dedicated hosting is that you own the rights to the machinery and can configure it however you like, which is only a significant bonus if you’ve got the IT manpower to support and manage the system. Cost for this benefit will run you anywhere from $100 to several hundred dollars per month.
Web App Monitors – Why not get a little help managing all the speed optimization you’ve worked so hard to achieve after following the steps listed above? This is actually a measure that Google recommends as well, and it can be accomplished quite easily by hiring a monitoring solution, taking advantage of site speed test tools, and implementing Google’s own test tool to receive insights for improving performance.
If you are interested in your companies page load speed and want to improve these times, contact us for advice.