Page Loading Speed: Win the WWW battle.

In the last decade or so, the World Wide Web has seen a huge boom in all of its aspects. Starting from a space where “computer enthusiasts” hang out in quirky forums to a seamless integration into your everyday life. Nowadays, every single thing can, and in most cases is, managed by the World Wide Web: From socialization, shopping, hobbies, studies and finding a job to controlling your house and even watching live feeds of rockets going to space without any delay. 

In an environment of this magnitude, having a slight advantage over your competitors can make a huge difference in your website’s audience experience and engagement.

One of the points that affects the experience of your website’s visitors is the time needed for a page to load. We live in a fast-moving world, people want things the quickest possible and are unhappy when they need to wait. Studies have shown that 40% of users will bounce from a page if it takes more than 3 seconds to load.

Are you one of this 40%? I definitely am!

It is not a secret anymore that Google penalizes websites that load slowly and consider it as a ranking factor when it comes to on-page SEO mainly taking into consideration offering their users the best experience possible.

But web page speed is not only about SEO and User Experience, it also affects conversions. During an analysis made by Walmart, they found out that users who converted were on a page that loaded two times faster than users who didn’t.

Another study showed that one extra second of load time will create a 25% decrease in conversion rates.

So in conclusion, putting an extra effort in increasing the speed of your website could have a major impact in conversions resulting more money for your business.

What is Page Loading Speed?

Page Loading Speed (measured in seconds) refers to the time needed to display the entire content of a web page in the browser window or the time needed for a browser to receive a web server’s first byte.

Keep in mind that Page Loading Speed is different from Site loading Speed that refers to the average speed of several sample pages on a website.

What is considered as a good Page Loading Speed?

According to Google, the best Loading speed is 3 seconds or less.

Sadly, in an analysis they made targeting 11 millions mobile ad landing pages in 213 countries, they found out that 70% of the pages needed more than 5 seconds to load the visual above content and more than 7 seconds to display the full content taking into consideration that 53% of mobile users will bounce from a page that takes more than 3 seconds to load.

How to test your page Speed?

There are many tools you can use for checking your page speed for free such as:

It is a tool developed by Google to webmasters that will measure your website speed, both for mobile and desktop versions, on a scale  from 0 to 100, with 100 being the best result. In addition to that, it also provides a list of speed issues and optimization tips.

It aggregates information from Page Speed Insights and gives a speed grade between A and F as for a detailed list of issues to fix.

Apart from measuring the Loading time of your page, one of its strengths is showing page load time from 25 different locations.

Works the same as other tools, but in addition enables you to test page speed for different browsers and location.

Five tips to optimize your Page Loading Speed

1. Shrink your images

Images are considered to be the most costly resource on your website. When a visitor sends a request to retrieve your website it just requests for the .html file. Upon retrival, visitor’s browser proceeds in reading the code line by line. For every image you have, it needs to go to the server, ask for it and then download it. The larger the size of the image is, the more it takes for your website to load. To resolve this, you can use image compressor tools that makes your image smaller in size such as:

Another way to reduce the size of the image is to change its format. If you have a .png images, you can convert them into compressed .jpg using a tool like Browserling.

2. Choose the right Web Hosting

Web hosting is a service where you can store your website (or any file) in, and is accessible to public. Its infrastructure, if not handled properly or if their main goal is quantity over quality, can turn out to be one of the main reasons why your website is loading slowly.

Three different options of Web Hosting are available:

  • Shared hosting
  • VPS hosting
  • Dedicated server

Shared hosting is the cheapest option where you will be sharing resources as CPU, disk space, RAM with other websites hosted on the same server.

With VPS hosting (Virtual Private Server), you will still be sharing the server with other websites but you will have your own dedicated portions of the server’s resources.

Dedicated Server is the type of hosting where you can lease an entire server without the need to share it with anyone. It is way more flexible than shared hosting and VPS hosting offering you a lot of space more and full control over the server. You will need to manage it, be responsible of its maintenance as configuration and technical setup.

Based on my personal experience, I strongly recommend Digital Ocean as they enable you to pick the technologies you want based on your needs, have an extensive documentation to support any scenario that might happen, let you pick the physical  location of your machine and when you sum everything up they are cheaper and faster than any other web hosting service that is mainstream.

3. Enable browser caching

Imagine having to open a gallery with 1000 images every couple of minutes, your browser would need to download everything over and over again. Caching resolves exactly this problem: The elements of the page you visited are stored on your hard drive in a cache or “temporary storage” so the next time you visit this page, your browser just pick up the files without having to send another HTTP request to the server in order to retrieve them.

New visitors come to your site with an empty cache so making your page fast for them is a bit critical. It mostly affects returning visitors providing them with a better user experience.

It is quite easy to setup for simpler systems based on what server you use inside of the web host.

 If you have a custom HTML website and are using Nginx follow this guide https://www.techrepublic.com/article/how-to-cache-static-content-on-nginx/

For Apache, follow this guide https://www.liquidweb.com/kb/how-to-configure-apache-2-to-control-browser-caching/

If you have a WordPress website, I consider that the best plugin to enable caching is W3 Total Cache.

4. Minimize the HTTP requests

In order to download each different component of a webpage as videos, images, scripts, stylesheets…, an HTTP request is made, so the more component you have on your page, the longer it will take for it to render.

By right-clicking on your page and clicking inspect then clicking “Network”, you will be able to see all of the requests your page currently makes including the “Name” of the files, their “Size” and the “Time” needed for each one of them to load.

On the left bottom part of the screen, you can see the number of request that the webpage makes. Reducing this number or even the size of the files will definitely speed up your page.

5. Minify and Combine files

After knowing how many requests you webpage does, you can start by exploring the files you have and reducing their number and size by minifying and combining them.

Minifying a file consist in removing whitespaces, comments, line breaks and unnecessary and repeated code

Regarding combining files, a good practice will be to create external files of CSS and Javascript instead of including the same code on every page enabling the document to downloaded once for each visit to the website. This way, instead of loading multiple lines of code for each page, it will refer to the script or stylesheet already downloaded.

Conclusion

As the seconds battle rage on in the WWW, be the future millisecond winner !

Page Speed is a crucial and very important factor that you will need to take into consideration while optimizing your website not only to be valued and recommended by search engines but also to offer your audience a great experience, increase user engagement and also, increase your conversion rate.

Improving your page load time is very challenging and will require a lot of research, testing, resources and time but it will impact positively your overall website performance.

The points mentioned above don’t represent the only things you can do to speed up the loading time, there are a lot more things to be done as monitoring mobile page speed (AMP), reducing external scripts, reducing redirects, using CDN, minimizing time to first byte… and a lot lot more!

But well, those tips could be a good place to start!

Good luck!

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