“Site performance remains a major factor for keeping visitors coming back to a retail site. Online shoppers demand – and expect – quality site performance which is a requirement for optimal online success,” according to the Chief Strategist for e-commerce at Akamai, Pedro Santos. This statement couldn’t be any truer, taking the words from the mouth of several web analysts, developers, and online marketers. What do you do when your customers start to find rendering your website on their digital devices and desktops frustrating because one it is slow and two it does not load at all?
How much Response Time Should it Take to Load Your Webpage?
In 2009 Akamai Technologies had commissioned Forrester Consulting to conduct a research on the connection between consumer behavior and website performance. The researchers have gathered that 40 percent of online shoppers will only wait three seconds (tops) for a site to load before leaving it; whether it may be a travel or retail site. But actually the most surprising result was finding out that an average shopper will only wait two seconds for a page or a site to load, and this has set up the new threshold in terms of acceptable website response times as a result.
If Forrester’s study has not convinced you yet, Google published a blog post which discusses their own study about webpage load time in 2012 titled “Global Site Speed Overview: How Fast are Websites Around the World?” The article shows statistical records on site and page response times for different markets, places, and devices. On global median average response time, Google had recorded 2.5 seconds for desktop and 4.5 seconds for smartphone and tablet users. A year later, the internet giant released another study to confirm if the World Wide Web is getting faster, and true enough, a slight increase on page load times for desktop and mobile devices has been recorded.
If you happen to have a high bounce rate, your site’s response times might be a relevant factor and apparently this could impact your lead conversion efforts negatively. One way to know if your website is doing well is by testing it via site performance checkers such as BrowserBite, WebpageTest for speed test, and PR Checker for Google Page Rank, and iPad Peek to know how your website appears on iOS devices.
To get into the technical side of things, read below to learn some tips for speeding up your site and/or page performance.
Reduce the number of HTTP Requests
When an end-user visits your site, 80 percent of his time is spent on waiting for it to load, during which the web page is downloading all of its content from images, Flash elements, scripts, among other components. Therefore, you can speed up your site’s response time if you will reduce the number of HTTP counts necessary to load up a page on any devices. One way to do it is by combining files like all CSS into a single stylesheet, however this can be a daunting task especially CSS stylesheets and scripts may vary from one page to another. You may need to consider having a web programmer to walk you through.
Another proven-effective strategy is by optimizing your image files. If have high quality PNG images loaded up on every page, it can be a pain in the head but fortunately you can use certain apps and software tools to optimize those PNG files without losing much of its high quality. You may also use CSS Sprites to reduce your site’s image requests. You have to simply combine all your images into one image and apply the CSS background-image and background-position elements, according to Yahoo Developer Network. Combining your inline images into your stylesheets is yet another way of reducing HTTP requests while it helps you decrease your pages’ sizes. However, not all web browsers are able to support inline images as of today.
Redirects have multiple uses and it cannot be denied it is an important component of web development, too. This is especially true when you have to program a certain response between a webpage and a browser whenever it crashes due to a mishap (URL-wise) in connecting an old website to an updated one. Granted that you want to avoid giving your page visitors a hard time jumping from old pages to the new ones you will use redirects for it.
However, having a redirect between the webpage (through the HTML file page) and the end-user can cause delay in the page response time. It can slow down your visitor’s site experience because the web page can only be displayed after the HTML document has been rendered. However, if you must utilize a redirect the recommended technique by the experts is to apply 3xx HTTP status codes. This technique can ensure that the return button of the web page works properly.
Implement a Content Delivery Network (CDN)
A CDN is a group of web servers dispersed anywhere in the world to help websites deliver content efficiently to all internet users. It is highly recommended for eCommerce sites and company websites with global customers. In other words, using a content delivery network enables you to disperse your site’s content virtually and geographically anywhere. As you deploy your content across those CDN servers you are also able to get closer to the geographical location of your users, thus enhancing the loading speed of your webpage whenever a server is in close proximity to that particular user. Plus, some CDN service providers do offer advanced server solutions that can help you with improving your page performance.
Limit your Components’ Size below 25K
The rationale is that some devices, particularly Apple devices, can’t take components over 25K. However, the stated figure is actually the normal uncompressed size so to be able to achieve a significant size reduction you will have to optimize the images, minify the code, or simply utilize a certain program that is able to compress your component size. You may consult your web hosting provider if ever they offer a server-side compression, however, this option could be hard to execute unless you have some advanced knowledge in squeezing page components.
Check your Plug-Ins, are they too much?
Remove all unnecessary plug-ins on your website as they may also be responsible for slowing down your website. In some cases, some plugins cause security issues that may lead to your site crashing down at times.
Lastly, Minimize Domain Name System Lookups
DNS servers match hostnames to IP addresses so that when a person types in your website URL on the browser, he or she will be directed to it properly. However, as the browser requests the DNS server to trace the IP address for the hostname it might take 20-120 milliseconds to finish. Needless to say, the web browser cannot download any page component from the given hostname until the lookup is done. Therefore, try to avoid caching too many DNS lookups for every page to improve your site’s response times; keep it in moderation.
You may have realized by now that by optimizing your site content, compressing your components into a smaller size, and removing those unnecessary characters and plugins from your website, you could observe a significant improvement on your website’s loading speed and performance. Thus, you will finally be able to give your site visitors a higher quality of online shopping or browsing experience.