Earlier today, I went to get a sandwich at a new shop that opened in the strip mall where my office is. They were short staffed today, so the man running the register was also the person making the sandwiches.
When I arrived, there were two people in line ahead of me, and they were hmming and hawwwing….taking what felt like FOREVER to order. I was REALLY hungry and already knew what I wanted, but still tried my best to stay patient. When it was my turn, the cashier thanked me for waiting, took my order, and then ran to the back to make all three of our sandwiches.
During that time, another customer came in. She stood in line for probably about a minute, looked at her watch, and then spun on her heel and left. It just took too long to even put her order in and she wasn’t willing to give up her time to wait!
This is the same thing that happens on your website if a visitor perceives it to be loading too slowly. When visitors leave a website quickly, it affects that website’s “bounce rate.” It’s important to strive for a lower bounce rate. If we were talking about the sandwich shop situation in website terms, that would be a 25% bounce rate because 1 out of 4 visitors left right away.
ACTION ITEM: Check your current page speed. My favorite tool for this is Pingdom: http://tools.pingdom.com. Make sure to select the geographic location closest to your server.
The slower your website loads, the more likely a visitor is to leave.
Attempt to keep page load time under 3 seconds!
Here is a great infographic about page load time and its effect on bounce rate from Google.
What are some factors that can cause slow website page speed?
Page speed is an incredibly complex subject, because there are infinite possibilities when it comes to content and architecture of a website. It’s impossible for me to go through every individual situation in a short blog entry or video.
Below I will to describe some of the most common issues affecting website page speed, why they are an issue, and how to lessen the issue.
Hosting is a Major Factor in Website Page Speed.
Shared hosting plans are slower because more than one website is saved on the same server. Dedicated or cloud hosting is the best to have; but it is generally prohibitively expensive for a music studio.
It’s important to use a hosting company that does their PHP and mySQL updates and that that hosting company makes it easy-ish for you to do some of the technical things required to help speed up your website, which we will discuss later.
Avoid hosting companies owned by EIG, which include bluehost, hostgator, a small orange, and a long list of many more. GoDaddy is also not ideal. My favorite host for the price and the service is SiteGround.
The location of your hosting server affects site speed. If your server is located in Japan, but your music studio is located in the United States, it is going to load slower for you than it would for someone in Japan.
Choose your Platform Wisely.
It’s no secret that I’m not the hugest fan of WYSWIG platforms such as Wix, Squarespace, or Weebly. This is because in order for them to function and be able to have lots of features available to be used by millions of website creators, they have to add a LOT of extra code.
Users of these services have the disadvantage of having almost no control over various server and coding issues that one would have control over when using traditional hosting.
That said:it’s not the end of the world if you use these. Just be aware that there’s little you can do to fix your page speed in this situation (skip down to images, videos, and sounds!)
Special Considerations for Website Page Speed when using WordPress Themes & Plugins
The benefit of a self hosted WordPress website is that it allows for the user a lot of control – when they know how to take that control. The downfall of this in some cases is that because the programmer of a canned theme can’t predict what the creator of the website is going to be doing once they hand it off, they have to add a bit more code than they might if they were coding a website just simply by hand. This also allows theme and plugin creators to keep costs low for you, which is why having a professional website no longer costs $10,000 to create like it did about 10 years ago.
How to lessen this?
- Only use plugins when necessary.
- If you have the ability to hardcode something into the footer or header, or ONLY on the page it needs to be on, do that instead.
Examples of things you should hardcode:
- Facebook pixel
- Google Analytics Tags/Tag Manager Code
- Active Campaign Code
An added benefit to hardcoding: you’re not exposing your wordpress installation to as many vulnerabilities, which can often be caused by plugins.
Too-Large Images Can Drastically Affect Website Page Speed
Images are generally larger files. Often, my clients send me files that their logo designer has sent, or photographer has sent. Those files are meant for print, and are much too large in terms of pixel dimensions for a website.
How to fix?
- Keep in mind that image resolution only affects an image when it is printed. The only thing that matters when using photos is the pixel dimensions of an image.
- Avoid uploading photos that have very large pixel dimensions or have very high resolution.
- Sometimes I will ask for a “higher quality image” when working with a client, but that is so that I can zoom in, do some minor photo editing in some cases, and then shrink it down to an appropriate size for a screen.
Avoid Unnecessary Videos or Sounds
Videos and sounds are very large files, therefore they take a lot of time to load. Secondly, its usually most cost and time effective, and more secure for you to embed a video on youtube or vimeo rather than uploading it to your website and coding the embed tag there. Because the file is now hosted on another web server, it has to pull that data from the other location, which also takes longer.
How to fix?
- Use media sparingly. Consider if that media is truly helping your get your message across instead of just putting a video up because it will “look cool.” Try to limit only one to a page.
- Talk to your web developer about other ways you might be able to speed up your site if it includes a video.
Appropriate Use of Fonts is Important
Fonts can be resource intensive. Try to avoid using more than 1-2 fonts on your site.
Even Google’s Services Contribute to Slower Page Speed
Believe it or not, Google’s own services (Analytics, Adsense, Tag Manager, Maps, etc…) add a little bit of time for your site to load! In Google’s page speed tool, they don’t even exclude their services from the speed analysis. There is really not too much you can do about this easily if you want to use these services.
You may not be able to eliminate JS on your website, but sometimes a caching plugin can help.
Websites Can’t Live without HTML and CSS Code
In order for a website to run, it’s necessary to have both CSS and HTML code. This can have a marginal effect on site speed. If done poorly, it could have a bigger effect.
HTML is like the backbone of the site, and CSS provides the fun stuff (ie: fonts, colors, some layout elements).
You can minify your HTML using a caching plugin (or can do it by hand in cases where that’s not an option…but it’s a pain).
In many cases, CSS can be combined into one file, but again, it’s important to talk to a web developer about this, because changing the order or location of files can affect how your website looks.
While website page speed is important, it is not the only thing that you should worry about when creating a website. The most important thing is to consider your overall user experience at all times.
- Check your page speed on pingdom. If it’s below 3 seconds, you’re probably OKAY when it comes to page speed
- Avoid putting anything extraneous on your website. Consider carefully the elements on your website, especially your homepage.
- Make use of caching plugins when possible.
- Keep images small.
- Contact a web developer if you need extra help!