As a web designer, you need to leave no stone unturned until you can provide the best possible experience to your target audience.
Appearance? Sure, that matters as well, especially if you want to impress first-time visitors.
What you really need to focus on, however, are the experience factors that can help you compel visitors to immerse down the path to conversion. This includes your website copy, CTAs, navigation, and — you guessed it — loading speed.
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How a Slow Website Kills Conversions
In other words, a website’s revenue potential could be cut by around half just because people aren’t willing to wait a few moments for it to load.
As impatient as the online audience may seem, they’re not to blame why slow websites are being abandoned. After all, it only takes a few clicks to go to the next alternative site, which could provide them with a better browsing experience.
That’s why you should take it upon yourself to improve your website’s loading speed and make sure more of your visitors stay and, hopefully, be compelled to convert down the line.
Here are some of the best tips that will help you get started:
1. Compress Your Visual Content
A website can be as extravagant and visually-loaded as you need them to be. Just remember to compress your visual assets to prevent them from taking too much bandwidth, which could, in turn, slow your website down to a crawl.
For this, you can utilize handy image compression tools like TinyPNG and TinyJPG — both of which can be used for free. All you need to do is upload your image, let the tool do the work, and then download the optimized files.
If you use WordPress, there are also a couple of plugins you can use to automate the image compression process:
Believe it or not, the white spaces, comments, and other unnecessary characters in your codes may also impact your website’s loading speed.
If you don’t use a lot of interactive elements, CSS customizations, or custom-built widgets, then it may not be a problem at this point. Otherwise, minifying your website code assets will result in perceivable improvements in performance.
Now that you know how to optimize your website’s visual content and codes through compression tools, it’s time to learn about Gzip compression.
In a nutshell, Gzip compression can reduce the size of web pages by up to 70% through the website’s .htaccess file. This can be accessed via your web hosting solution’s control panel, normally through a “file manager” tool.
You can then enable Gzip compression by copying the following code into your .htaccess file:
Due to the delicacy of server files, it’s recommended that you create a backup of anything before you start editing them.
There are also a couple of plugins that can help you enable Gzip compression on WordPress sites. Just don’t forget to double-check if your compression is working with a tool like Check GZIP Compression.
If you cater to an international audience, you should know that the physical distance between a user and your web host’s server directly affects latency, which pertains to the delay before data transfer requests are received and fulfilled.
A solution, of course, is to pick a capable web host at the specific location you’re targeting. But what if you want to accommodate users from different locations all at once?
That’s where CDNs or Content Delivery Networks step in.
Put simply, a CDN is a network of proxy servers that are distributed across multiple locations. They work hand in hand to store, manage, and distribute cached website files — serving nearby users and eliminating the problem of latency brought about by physical distance.
Below is an infographic from Incapsula that illustrates how a CDN’s architecture works:
Image Source: Incapsula
Thus far, the optimization strategies outlined above are some of the few solutions that can benefit most websites, from leveraging a CDN to implementing various forms of compression.
That doesn’t mean, however, that they’re one-size-fits-all solutions that can provide every website with the same results.
Remember, different websites have different needs. To identify which optimization strategies will bring about the most performance gains, you can depend on a performance analysis tool like Google PageSpeed Insights.
It’s about as straightforward as you can get with a cloud-based utility software. Simply enter your website’s URL, let PageSpeed Insights complete its analysis, and then look for the “Optimization Suggestions” found at the bottom of the results page.
Lastly, you shouldn’t forget your mobile users when optimizing your website’s performance.
Under most circumstances, your website’s loading speed should remain relatively consistent across different platforms. But if you want to further improve the experience of your mobile users, you definitely need to check out the AMP Project — an open-source initiative to enable websites to achieve near-instantaneous loading speeds on mobile devices.
AMP relies on seven total components that work together to improve the performance of mobile websites. Below are some of the most important ones:
- Loading page layout without waiting for resources
- Extension mechanisms won’t block page rendering
- GPU-accelerated animations
The only downside to AMP is that it has a steeper learning curve than the rest of the strategies mentioned in this guide. If you’re new to the concept, then the best place to start would be the official AMP Project resource library.
A website’s performance is one of the things you can’t afford to overlook if you have ambitious goals for your websites. If you are using WordPress you should check this complete guide on how to speed up your wordpress site in 9 easy to follow steps.
It doesn’t matter if you run a niche blog or a full-fledged online store. If you want your target audience to stay, appreciate your content, and turn into loyal subscribers or paying customers, you need to work on your website’s loading speed.
With the time-tested tips above, that’s exactly what you can accomplish. Good luck!