There are many factors that go into building a good website. We often focus on the visual — does the site have an engaging design? Is the information clearly presented and easy to follow? While these elements are very important, there’s no disputing the fact that page speed is one of the most critical components in creating a good user experience.
What is page speed? Strictly speaking, it refers to how fast the content on your page loads. It is closely related to site speed, which is usually measured as the average loading time of several individual pages.
Why is page speed so important? Well, when you construct a website, you are trying to appeal to two separate audiences — human users and search engine bots. These bots crawl the internet, scanning websites to gather information, which can then be used to rank sites according to relevance, authority, and trustworthiness. Google’s overall aim is to direct us to websites that will satisfy our search intent while also providing a good user experience. We don’t need to tell you that a page that takes more than a few seconds to load is not going to engage its users.
In fact, studies have shown that 1 in 4 users will abandon a website that takes longer than 4 seconds to load.
If you are talking to a web development services team about upgrading your current website, one of the first things they will talk about is page speed. This single factor can be the difference between Google ranking your website highly or letting you languish near the bottom of a search engine results page. With that in mind, keep reading to discover what factors affect page speed and how you can go about improving your website’s results.
Factors that affect page speed
Picture someone lining up to run a 100m race. If they’re wearing a skin tight, streamlined running suit, they’ll have no problem racing along the track. If, on the other hand, they’re wearing a snowsuit and heavy boots, it’s going to take them a lot longer to get to the finish line.
Now, imagine that person is your website. The more features you load your website up with, the slower it is likely to run.
Of course, this is an entirely simplified explanation but it can help us think about the factors that affect page speed. These factors include:
- Images: Photos, graphics and illustrations are a great way of engaging your users. Unfortunately, they tend to also slow your website down, particularly if they have not been optimised correctly.
- Website host: Regardless of whether you are building a site from scratch or are using software like a Drupal CMS, you will need a server to host your website. Your choice in host can have a significant impact on page speed. There are plenty of tools out there, including Hostscore, that can help you find a server that meets your needs.
- Too many widgets and plugins: Widgets and plugins can be used to customise your website. Unfortunately, they tend to also be a burden on your server, dragging your page speed down. Be selective in your use of plugins and make sure you are only sourcing them from a reputable developer.
Tips for improving your page speed
To improve your page speed, you first need to know what you’re dealing with. There are quite a few tools out there that can be used to provide an accurate page speed measurement. The best is probably Google’s PageSpeed Insights. Simply pop your URL into the tool and click analyse to learn valuable information about how your website is performing. Google even gives you their own tips for improving page speed, it being in their best interests that websites run efficiently.
Before we talk about general strategies you can use to improve your page speed, it’s important to note that your page speed will be different on a desktop device to a mobile. It’s well worth auditing your site on each of these devices, as Google takes both into consideration when ranking websites.
Once you’ve established your current page speed, try implementing these strategies to improve your user experience:
- Optimise images: Ensure your images are both the correct size and the correct format. There are plenty of compression tools out there that can help you with this.
- Simplify your code: Now, this should only be done by a professional as playing around with the backend of your website could have some pretty damaging consequences. Ask your web development services team to take a look at your code and reformat where appropriate. Alternatively, you can download a plugin to do this for you.
- Reduce redirects: Redirects can occur if you have moved or deleted pages from your web site. This is a relatively common occurrence, and redirects are a great tool to prevent your users from arriving at a dead end. Unfortunately, too many redirects layered on top of each other means it can take far too long to for a page to load.
As a business owner, it’s likely that you will constantly be making changes to your website; adding new content, removing products, and updating your images. Every decision you make needs to take into account page speed and the impact that a change will have on the overall user experience.