Why Your Website Speed is Everything

Posted By Andi Wilkinson
Creative Director of Made By Factory. UX Designer & SEO Nerd, Andi is also a board member of Manchester Digital, and speaks and writes on a variety of web-related topics.

Time to read: 7 minutes

Website Speed

If your website is slow, you can forget nearly everything else, your visitors will get bored and leave. like waiting for a meal, people aren’t going to stick around forever, and even if they wait this time, they won’t come back.

What do we mean by page speed?

Simply put, page speed is how fast the content on your page loads onto a screen, Not to be confused with Site speed, which is an average page speed for a sample of web pages across your site.

We describe page speed in two ways.

  • Page load time: – This is the time it takes to completely render the content on a page or;
  • Time to first byte’ which has nothing to do with breakfast and everything to do with how long it takes your web browser to receive the first byte of information from the server.

So, we have established that your website speed is pretty up there on your list-of-important stuff. so how do you test it and how do you make improvements?

How can I find out my page speed?

There are a lot of page speed tools offering website speed tests and performance monitoring. You can use Pingdom Site Speed tools, or Google’s pagespeed insights, which uses chrome data.

Why is my page speed important anyway?

It’s all about visibility and where you will appear on those all-important search results. Website performance relies heavily on how fast your content loads in the browser.

Humans are fickle creatures. If your web performance is poor, your user has already left to view the competition.

Google has confirmed that site speed, and by default, Google pagespeed, is one of its core ranking factors. It is possible Google is considering the time to first byte ttfb as a ranking factor.

Web crawlers have what’s known as a crawl budget, and slow pages mean the search engine will crawl fewer of your pages, using their crawl budget. This can hurt your overall web position.

User Experience

Even without considering your position in a search engine, websites should be built for humans, after all, the speed of your web pages is vital to the overall user experience.

Data shows that pages that are slow to load have much higher bounce rates, and users spend far less time on those pages. Slow pages also negatively impact conversions, conversion rates and even the performance of your Google ad campaigns.

What are the common mistakes that slow down my pages?

The single most impactful item on our page speed list is the size of your media upload files, video, audio and image.

Other things that harm page speed is the amount of code, uncompressed code, and large javascript files, which must be understood by the browser and rendered.

Snippets of code from third-party websites can sometimes slow down your site, especially if incorrectly configured, or if the source they are coming from has problems.

So how can I increase my page speed?

There are many things you can take care of yourself, and for some of the more technical issues, you can work with a reliable web developer.

Image compression

Our first recommendation would always be let a proper SEO & web expert handle this, as its one of the most common website owner issues. We build sites for speed, and then often they become slow when users start adding their own content, Here’s what I tell people.

Don’t load images to your website straight from your camera. I have seen 12MB images on a website where they could have been less than 150KB. Images like this will completely kill a page, especially in areas where there isn’t high-speed broadband. And remember – indexing is mobile-first.

Use a software application like photoshop, to save your images out at the right size, dimensions and quality. There are free programs too, such as Gimp, but this is so important, we would recommend the £8 a month for photoshop for anyone who wants to manage their own content.

There’s a great web tool for mass edits, so long as your photos are the right dimensions and don’t need cropping. Bulkresizephoto. It’s completely free, and you can bulk upload photos, set the maximum amount of pixels for the longest side, and take the quality down. In our experience, you can safely take the quality down to 50 or less and have sensibly sized images for the web.

GZip Compression

Use Gzip to reduce file sizes of HTML, CSS and Javascript files that are larger than 150 bytes. You may need your developers’ help with this.

Minify Javascript, CSS and HTML

This is a method of removing all space on your code files and compressing them into minimal files. This can have a dramatic impact on your page speed. This is something you will need help with from your web developer. When using a website that has been built using numerous third-party themes and plugins, it can be problematic when trying to do this. Speak to your web developers.

Redirection

Having too many redirects on your website can slow a site down, as the server needs to wait for additional responses. Check for redirects. Check they are necessary.

If you delete a page, don’t just redirect back to the home page, use a 410 header which will tell Google to stop indexing the page. You can use a tool like SEMRush site audit, to check out your redirects, or fill in the audit tool at the bottom of the page, and we will automatically send a free web audit.

Removing render-blocking JavaScript

These are scripts that prevent the page from rendering until the code has been processed, but are not ‘above the fold’ which is the portion of the screen that’s visible when the page first loads. On a long page, waiting for everything below the fold to render can slow down a page massively.

Leverage browser caching

A web page will load a fair amount of information. Images, text, CSS, HTML and JS files. When someone returns to your site, the browser can cache this information, so it doesn’t have to load that information all over again. Caching is a common and excellent way to speed up your website.

Size of Database

This one gets missed off a lot, but it’s pretty important. WordPress, in particular, has a tendency to nurture extremely large databases with huge numbers of tables. Page builders serving up lots of dynamic content can also use a large number of database queries putting a strain on the speed.

Most users don’t know what they are looking for or how to clean this out, but doing so can make a vast amount of difference to your overall site speed.

Improving server response time

The speed your web server responds at can be affected by the sheer volume of traffic you receive. Your hosting solution will play a big part in this. An optimal server response time is under 200ms.

Using a content delivery network

Also known as a CDN, this is a network of servers, that help to share the load of delivering content. Copies of your website will be stored at multiple geographical locations so that your page can be served to a user from a closer data centre.

Factory offers a free and comprehensive web audit. We have made improvements for our customers that dramatically improve their conversion rates, and we build sites for speed and conversion.

For a quick, audit, use our tool below. Otherwise get in touch with a human and we can take it from there.


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