In the past, a fast website wasn’t that important. Sure, you needed it to load in a relatively timely manner but if it took 5 seconds to load or 6 seconds, it wasn’t a huge concern. A few seconds here and there didn’t matter so much. Fast forward a few years and the concern and need for speedy websites is of paramount importance. Shaving a few milliseconds off your load time can be considered a huge success and such a relatively small factor could be the difference between you outdoing your competitors both in terms of traffic levels, conversions and customer retention.
The fact is, taking the steps to achieve a heightened website speed is something that can be done and should be done by everyone who runs any kind of website. The time and costs associated with performing such a task are minimal yet the benefits to be had by doing such are huge in comparison. In short, there is no excuse for not having a snappy, speedy site.
It Starts at Host Level
Your web host ultimately provides the connection between your website files sitting on your web server and your customers web browser. The speed at which your host handles these requests and where your host is actually located plays a huge part in this.
Firstly, you need to find a proper web hosting company. One with their own servers and one with a proper hard line connection in a given locale to their local backbone. Using a hosting firm who is solely operating on a third party reseller plan is not a good idea if you’re serious about making it online. Likewise, you need to consider the location of the company you’re using. It’s no good using a web hosting firm in the United States if you’re serving content to customers in the United Kingdom. It’s going to cause unnecessary delays and slow response times.
What to Render
The content you serve will obviously be dependent on the type of site you’re running and what you’re offering to your visitors. I would not advise to show them the bare minimum solely but you should be delivering your primary content in a clean and concise manner. It doesn’t need dressing up with fancy video/imagery if all your
customers are looking for is textual information. Regardless of the subject. Obviously if your visitors are coming to your site looking for video and imagery then you don’t want to bombard them with blocks of text!
Speed Up Tips
This section could quite literally end up being 20 pages long so for now I’ll just touch on the basics.
Web Hosting – As already mentioned, your web host has the power to make or break you in terms of speed. Check the ping times between the location of your customers and the location of the web server you intend to use. This should give you some insight as to how vast your chosen how is going to serve your content and you can also compare these ping times against other providers.
Minify – There are tons of tools out there for minifying your css and js files. Here is one of them. Removing all those spaces and line breaks can save you a ton of bytes off your overall file size and obviously the smaller the files you send to your visitor the quicker
loading your site will be.
Caching – Consider caching content that is only going to be served once such as images or flat pages etc. Again there are a ton of plugins that handle this such as Varnish or PageSpeed. You can also consider using a content delivery network (CDN) and hosting common files remotely which will also come with caching features should you not want to go down that route yourself.
Minimal Images – Images are a huge drain on resources as far as speed goes. As mentioned above, give your website visitor the primary content first and delay images until the very end. This will give the customer what they want in a timely fashion which has to be the main goal.
Of course Internet connections are getting faster and people crave media in a rich format such as high resolution images and video. You should not need to sacrifice your website content simply to get a fast website. As we’ve discussed there are numerous ways around it and literally hundreds of ways to speed up your website, regardless of how much content you’re delivering to the visitor.
Competition is also increasing day to day and if there is any advantage to be had then you need to consider it. Your website speed is a huge factor and if you’re struggling to find something which sets you apart from your competitors then the speed at which your website is operating may just be that factor that gives you the edge.