You go to a website and it feels like it is taking forever to load. What do you do?
Do you wait patiently for the webpage to load in its entirety? Or do you simply close the browser tab and move on with your life?
The fact of the matter is that page load time not only has a dramatic impact on user experience, but it also greatly impacts conversion rates, as well as search engine optimization.
Regardless of the type of website that you have—whether it’s a blog, an e-commerce store, an online forum, or an affiliate landing page—it is in your best interest to provide the fastest site speed and performance possible. But how do you get there?
Here are seven tips that you can use to reduce those load times and boost the user experience on your website in 2019.
1. Use a Content Delivery Network
It is substantially faster for someone in Los Angeles to access to a server in San Francisco than it is for that same person to reach a server in London or even Chicago. The goal of a content delivery network, or CDN for short, is to improve website performance by picking a server that’s closest to the end user.
We recommend you take a look at the way a CDN works, to get a better understanding on not only how the concept works, by also why it’s being used my the majority of top sites on the internet today. That’s where there’s a whole network to deliver this content.
The best CDNs take this further by offering higher-speed storage, optimization tools, intelligent and dynamic caching, and security features to optimize performance even further. You’ll want a CDN with great global network coverage and high availability solutions. The pro plan from Incapsula starts from $59 per site per month, while the business plan goes for $299 per site per month.
2. Smush Your Images
It probably won’t surprise you to learn that loading images can be one of the most taxing activities in terms of site speed and performance. Part of this has to do with resolution, but it also has to do with the level of image compression and other factors as well. There’s no real reason to upload and display a massive 20-megapixel photo if you’re just going to resize and show it as a thumbnail that’s only 200 pixels wide.
You can start from the images you actually upload to your server in the first place. Generally speaking, you don’t need images that are several megabytes in size. Depending on circumstances, you can get away with 200 KB or less with no real discernible loss in quality for most users.
Another great approach is a WordPress plugin called Smush. The goal is to cut “all the unnecessary data without slowing down your site.”
As you can imagine, the less code a browser (and server) need to run through, the faster the page should load. If you have a WordPress site, it’s easiest if you use a plugin like WP Super Minify to do this for you. You’ll want to make a full website backup before you do, of course.
As recommended by many of the top CSS sites, if you have a different kind of site or you’d rather just do it manually, there are several online tools that can do this to. Minifier is one such example. The tool works by removing whitespace, stripping comments, combining files, and optimizes/shortens a few common programming patterns.
4. Reduce HTTP Requests
All else held constant, the simplest sites are going to be the ones that load the fastest. If you have a simple, plain HTML page with plain text and minimal images, it’ll probably be quite quick. If you have a dynamic page that calls upon a number of other factors and content types, you’re going to get bogged down.
You can dramatically increase the speed of your site by reducing the number of HTTP requests. The cleaner the code, the better. Perfmatters is a performance-oriented plugin for WordPress that can automate most of this for you. It starts from $19.95 per year for one site, going up to $99.95 per year for unlimited sites.
While many site owners and bloggers might not understand what each of these settings or commands actually are, the tool makes it extremely easy to check on or off which performance options you would like enabled.
5. Upgrade to Dedicated Hosting
Most people who are just starting out with their first website, and indeed many veterans too, typically opt for shared hosting because it is usually the most cost-effective option. What this means, though, is that you are sharing resources (server and bandwidth) with other customers and you have no control over how they are using those resources.
If another website on the same server suddenly sees a monumental influx of traffic, the site speed and performance of your website will suffer. There are many variables outside of your control. To overcome this, you might consider getting an advanced dedicated server. They have managed and unmanaged solutions, but the long and the short of it is that you get a server all to yourself.
This allows for much greater customization, should you so desire. More importantly, you get dedicated hardware and much more consistent performance. That means faster speeds overall, especially when you opt for dedicated servers with better hardware too.
6. Enable Lazy Loading
Generally speaking, when someone arrives at a webpage, the entirety of that webpage will try to load. Some elements can load simultaneously, while others must load sequentially. Depending on how the site is designed and laid out, users may experience really long loading times due to elements that they can’t even see yet (and they may not ever see).
Or they’ll notice that the site is still loading in their browser, even though it looks as if the content of interest is already available. In both cases, this detracts from the user experience and hampers site speed. A way to overcome this is something called lazy loading.
When lazy loading is enabled, elements on a webpage are loaded on an as-needed basis. In this way, items further down the page don’t get loaded until the user scrolls down there. This results in the perception of faster load times, as elements higher up the page are prioritized. There’s a great guide on the Google Developers Web Fundamentals section for more on this technique.
7. Minimize External Scripts
Widgets can be great. They can be wonderfully convenient, updating your website with all sorts of dynamic content. Maybe you’ve got a Twitter widget in your sidebar that displays your latest tweets. Maybe you use a widget from Amazon to display featured products. There’s a world of possibility.
The problem is that when you rely on these external scripts, you are also at the mercy of these external scripts for page load times. If Twitter happens to be hanging for whatever reason, then your site speed suffers as it waits for that widget to load correctly. And the same is true with all sorts of “hidden” elements on your page that rely on external services too.
While it may not be completely practical to eliminate all external scripts altogether — you’d want to keep Google Analytics, for instance — it is prudent to minimize their use as to minimize their impact on page load times.
Better site performance tends to improve user engagement. Implement these tips in 2019. Your website visitors will thank you!