Website speed is one of the key elements that help (or detract) from establishing a positive first impression for visitors. In today’s world of instant gratification, we expect websites to be lightning-fast and always available. Therefore, when visiting a website, we tend to expect the website to be there, ready for us to click and browse.
Studies have shown that even small improvements in website speed can have a huge impact on user experience and conversions. For instance, Pinterest managed to reduce their perceived wait times by 40%, resulting in a 15% increase in search engine traffic and sign-ups. And they’re not alone. There are plenty of case studies out there that prove the point.
We are not going to ask you to dig through your website’s backend to fix it (or most likely, break it). There are tons of technical articles and documentation around performance, particularly on WordPress. And while we utilise these techniques on a daily basis, we want to present five simple and straightforward tips that won’t require a lot of technical skills or thousands of dollars in development costs.
This one is usually overlooked, and it is perhaps the easiest and least expensive component to look at when trying to reduce a website’s time to load.
As with any product or service out in the market, not every hosting is the same and there is a reason why there’s such a broad range of options. Without naming names, there are crazy cheap prices starting at $4 per month to premium hosting plans at $150 per month. So, it’s no surprise that there is so much confusion and a lot of businesses end up paying the cheapest option.
Long story short: avoid shared hosting environments. Instead, use either a Virtual Private Server (VPS) or even better use a cloud-based environment. With a VPS you are sharing resources with just a small number of websites while cloud hosting options run your website in an isolated software container that is optimised for performance. On top of that cloud-based hosting solutions usually offer edge-caching (which we’ll talk about later in this article) and scales according to traffic needs.
The Domain Name Service (DNS) is one of those elements that is taken for granted, when in fact it is a key component that will impact the performance of a website.
A faster DNS resolution speed means a shorter time for users to access your website. A DNS provider can improve the resolution speed by strategically placing their servers in different locations worldwide, minimising network latency. Companies like Cloudflare, Google or AWS have the infrastructure and resources to optimise performance and reliability.
Some DNS providers offer advanced features such as load balancing, geolocation-based routing, and content filtering, which can further enhance website performance and security.
Again, if you are using a standard DNS provider or the same DNS where you bought your domain name, it is likely this service is not optimised for performance. Changing DNS is a simple thing to do, shouldn’t cause any disruption and will make a significant difference in terms of speed.
So far, we have focused on the external components of a website: hosting and DNS. But there are a lot of moving parts that are equally relevant and while these might be more time-consuming, will also make an important difference.
The first one to look at is website images. The size of an image can significantly impact website performance. It’s important to use appropriately sized images that are optimised for the web by resizing and compressing them – while making sure that quality is not sacrificed. In a WordPress environment, there are multiple plugins that facilitate and automate that process (i.e. Imagify), while there are other tools that will help to compress images before uploading them to your website (Photoshop, tinypng.com, imagecompressor.com, etc).
If you already have a running website with hundreds of images, a plugin could be the best option as it can compress images in bulk. If you are planning to launch a new website a combination of both techniques is ideal.
Caching enables web pages to load more quickly, as the page can be retrieved from the cache instead of being generated dynamically in real-time. This can significantly reduce the time it takes for a user to view a web page, improving the user experience. Search engines consider page load times as one of the ranking factors. Caching can help improve page load times, which can, in turn, improve search engine rankings and drive more traffic to the website.
While there is no definitive answer, most WordPress sites use between 6 to 10 plugins, however, we’ve seen websites with over 50 active plugins! While that may seem like a good idea at first, it’s important to consider the impact of these plugins. Not only do they pose potential security risks, but they can also bog down your website with unnecessary scripts and operations that can harm your site’s performance. So, before you take drastic measures like recreating your website, take a moment to evaluate the plugins you’re using. You may be surprised by how much of a difference it can make.
Website performance is a crucial factor that can significantly impact user experience and conversion rates. While there are many other technical elements to look at, these five changes will have a direct impact in terms of speed and in some cases will only require an email to your hosting provider or web development team.