What is speed optimization?
Website speed optimization is the process of improving your website’s loading time and the overall perceived loading time of the site for your visitors and potential customers. While technical in nature, it is a vital aspect of your site to look at and maintain. In many cases, you can optimize your website for better SEO and ranking without making very many changes to it. However, depending on your goals, further efforts may be required to boost performance.
On some occasions, you may only need some changes made to just one part of your site, but other times a complete redesign is necessary. No matter how you decide to tackle your page speed, it is possible to do it yourself. Still, we recommend this be done by professionals.
Why should it matter?
Have you ever gone to a news site to read up on something breaking and sat there for 30 seconds… and you still have not read a single word??
Or try to click add to cart, and pay, but it took a few seconds more than you could stand and you have an important meeting to get to?
This type of stuff generally should be expected to “just work”, and not happen, but it’s rarely the case.
Here is the sad part:
Everyone is losing leads, and due to that.. revenue, because of either bad decisions, or worse, they don’t even know its happening! Imagine if you suddenly got a 20, 30, 50% boost just by ensuring your page loaded sanely or even better, near-instant. You now have revenue you never even knew you lost.
This type of thing is very common and widespread due to the lack of understanding that people are impatient and will NOT wait around.
While SEO will get a lead to the site, and since Google cares about speed, will rank it as part of that, the speed (if amazing) will ensure they don’t click out of the tab before reading the call to action you have set up in a popup.
So let’s work together and get you and your clients moving fast, as it should be!
What does it mean for your business?
The initial concerns are how the search engines will rate your website based on page speed. Since they decide who gets traffic, they must be happy with your site, and their rules are stringent regarding overall performance. Google, to be specific, has placed a high priority on the way your mobile site performs. For example, to get Google to consider your website fast, you MUST be speedy on mobile as well as desktop.
Next, your visitors must feel the site is fast. In the past decade, with the rise of mobile use and social media, visitor attention spans have shortened drastically. Because of this, just 1 second of slowness could cause up to 7% of revenue loss! Additionally, visitors will likely bounce out of impatience if your site takes more than 3 seconds to load!
Speed optimization, like SEO, is a process with many parts to it. Some are simpler than others, but it is mostly technical and focused on the engineering of your site. Here are the steps we take to ensure a fast, efficient website that provides excellent user experience (UX).
Your hosting is the first thing you must consider when building or maintaining your business website. It cannot be an afterthought. It is the equivalent of opening up a shop in a building with a strong foundation in a great location. The hosting you choose can make or break you from the start. You require reliability as well as performance. What you want to avoid is unnecessary downtime, overpriced hosting, or hosting that will underperform and leave you dry.
Outside of any marketing, you need to understand the hosting provider’s facts to know how it will impact or benefit you. We have deep experience in the hosting sector, so we know this area quite well. The majority of server space available is not always suitable for a successful business, so you have to know what to look for to get what your company needs. If you are unable to find this on your own, we can provide you with hosting that performs, and does NOT fail you.
Since your site’s code performance can be impacted by your hosting and can make any issues harder to find, getting this done first makes for a smoother process. Now it’s time to see if your coding is effecting anything crucial.
It would be best if you were not running anything you are not using, so it’s mandatory that you clean up your site and perform some standard maintenance. If you are using any poorly designed components or anything that is just slow, this is where these items will be resolved. The goal here is to remove anything unnecessary or improperly functioning that will cause your site to slow.
If any of your critical components are causing more harm than good, we will review all options before making any changes. Keep in mind that this could include removal, finding alternatives, or having to take a penalty if there is no resolution available. You want to be sure your website is functioning at its highest capacity!
Your code’s performance will also directly impact how fast your hosting can respond to requests for web pages, which will affect its capacity for users. If it is slow, this has the business impact of higher hosting infrastructure costs to handle more users. Reducing this will potentially mean serving those same users with no increase or even a decrease in needed resources.
Minification is the process of removing, formatting, and otherwise reducing the site of page assets, such as CSS and JS, while keeping site functionality intact. These files are often formatted so that the developers can read them and collaborate. Still, a computer does not need this as long as it has valid syntax. Syntax here basically is the same as the proper rules for the language in use, in the same way, you have things such as grammar for human languages.
Formatting takes up space, and thus increases the data needed to download over the internet. If not minified, it will potentially cost the visitor more bandwidth to use the site. This is very critical on mobile where there may be reduced transfer rates or high priced bandwidth rates overall. The less that is downloaded, the better it is for the user, and the less they have to wait.
Additionally, it may also be ideal to concatenate the assets. This is where assets are combined, so fewer requests over the internet to the site are made. By doing this, you also reduce site loading time.
ASYNC Loading of Assets
ASYNC loading is an optimization that changes how the web browser behaves when loading a CSS or JS asset. By default, the behavior is to stop everything, wait on it to download, then read it, run it, and continue downloading the page. This delay is terrible because it is wasting time and forcing the user to wait while the browser completes these actions, increasing the total load time.
Async loading changes this behavior, so the browser will multitask and minimize the time it takes to download these assets.
A CDN or Content Delivery Network is a distributed server network that ensures users are served their requests as fast as possible. The data sent consists of CSS, JS, images, documents, and other static files. When requested, the files are then sent to the user via the closest possible server in the network. CDN optimization ensures that your visitors have little to no delay viewing or downloading your content.
Optimizing your CDN is essential for scaling your company. This is because CDNs can often handle serving this content more efficiently and cost-effectively than any hosting provider not tailored for the task.
Image optimization ensures that the images used are not too large for the web in file size or dimensions. Downloading a 5 MB JPEG file will generally be very slow as well as costly for mobile users. The images should have a minimal to no loss in quality while doing so.
Using a 1000×1000 image in a place that is only 500×500 will mean the browser has to spend effort scaling it down to fit. This action adds to loading time, as well as the bandwidth downloading the extra unneeded data that comes with the larger dimensions. Images should also be configured to be responsive, so the correct sized image is shown on all screen sizes that may view it.
Critical CSS is an optimization that pairs with ASYNC loading. If a CSS file is loading ASYNC, it will mean the page is shown despite the CSS not being ready. This will cause a bad UX to the visitor who may feel like the page is broken.
The critical CSS is the above-the-fold content (top of the page). Anything below that is not considered critical and has no need to be displayed first. This optimization solves the issue by getting only the critical part of the CSS to show when the page first loads, resulting in happy visitors.
3rd Party Services
3rd parties are defined as anything not loading from your site, or from a server you are in control of, most commonly classified as marketing and business analytic services. Social media widgets and even ads are also often big troublemakers for performance, even if they bring business value and conversions to the site. While many of these 3rd parties can be optimized, many also can not. It is best to remove reliance on as many 3rd parties as you can in the interest of maintaining the best website performance.
An example of problematic sites that do these things for revenue, but have a poor user experience is ad-supported news sites. They often take 30 seconds to 1 minute to fully load.
We specialize in handling these issues and have no problem reducing or removing anything that could negatively impact your visitors.
Lazy loading is an optimization that prevents images, ads, social media, and other widgets from loading until you are actually viewing them on the screen. It reduces the site’s loading time significantly in many cases by deferring the call for the item to show up until needed. It is considered a critical optimization such that Google Chrome has implemented basic image lazy load support natively.
Still here? Do you want the geeky details? Not an engineer?, pass the below along to your senior engineer or CTO then!
So how is a site supposed to be fast?
Well, the number one issue is the server stack. For example, in 95% of cases, maybe 100%, Apache should not be used. At a minimum, it should be LEMP stack. In some cases, you might add in memcached/redis.
From there you need it to be able to actually scale.
The second issue is the code. Do you have 500 plugins? that’s fine, it doesn’t matter. What does matter is knowing which of those plugins are tanking your speed, the sooner the better!
Do you have a paid theme?
In some cases, it may be fine, but in our experience, a lot of them can add a lot of bulk and is a common issue. Evaluate that, make changes and be light. 🙂
The last issue is your speed reports
You know those your boss or partner (or client) seems to obsess over to get the best number?
It can be a huge rabbit hole figuring all that out, and a loss of hair in the process. This includes stuff like:
- Critical CSS
- Lazy Loading
- Async JS/CSS loading
- Google’s WebP image obsession (and the fact IE/Safari refuses to get on the WebP train!)
- Image Optimization (ya know, those PNG/JPG/GIF’s?)
- Social buttons and widget boxes (talking to you Facebook like box!)
- Dealing with all those wonderful SaaS-based scripts that the business and marketing folks have a love affair with…
Each of these can be a headache and a rabbit hole on its own. Combined, and you are in for a long R&D session to present a result for approval.
We have explained our website speed optimization process, how it affects you, and why it is essential. It is a vast and complex topic similar to SEO, that improves conversion, rank, and growth of your business.
If you would like to reap the benefits of a fast and efficient business website, we are ready to work with you!