How fast does your website load?
When was the last time you checked a website optimisation report and do you know what you can do to speed it up?
Read our post to identify ways to make your website load lightening fast and improve the effectiveness of your website.
The time it takes for your web pages to load is important, now more than ever before. Unlike 10 + years ago, the primary method for accessing the internet is via mobile devices. Connectivity to the internet is constantly improving and with 4G, it’s almost outperforming rural home based broadbands but the fact is this: make your site load fast or risk losing visitors.
Key Factors for Websites
- Fast Loading Pages
- Mobile Friendly
- UX Enhanced
- Secure Pages served over HTTPS
The first step is to find out how well your website loads. To do this, we recommend using GT Metrix and Google Page Insights which will let you know how fast your site loads and areas which can be improved.
The first step is to identify what can be adjusted to improve the page load times.
Web pages should load faster than 5 seconds
This is trickier than it sounds, as the speed of your page depends on numerous factors. It’s far easier to make a fast loading page with simple text content, than one which is media rich with news, multiple images, video embeds etc.
The time it takes for a page to load depends on:
- Code quality of your website
- Images Forms and Compression Levels
- CSS / JS Files
- Plugins and Routines
- Caching Tools
- Use of CDN
- Server website is hosted on
The speed will also vary, depending on which base system / framework you use. The quality of the coding will directly influence the page load times.
A common CMS (Content Management System) is WordPress. We use WP for our own website and although we like it, out of the box, WordPress is NOT fast. Luckily, there are ways to improve the performance but it takes knowledge of the system and various software plugins to improve page load times.
When we first built the site below, it ranked C and D in GT Metrix which is typical, but not good enough.
Example website optimisation report from GT Metrix
We can see, the overall page load speed isn’t too bad. It’s under 5 seconds which is a good thing, but there is room for improvement.
Identifying the problems and rectifying the issues
To improve page load times and ultimately the UX (User Experience) of your website, it’s beneficial to run a GT Metrix report and work your way through the listed issues, correcting them as you go and re-running the report until you reach a satisfactory point.
It is important to test your website constantly as you go to make sure nothing breaks!
The report below, demonstrates what we aim to achieve for sites once optimisation has been carried out.
Visitors are far more likely to use a website which loads fast and is easy to navigate, than one which takes ages to load each page and is hard to navigate.
Google Page Speed
Google’s Page Speed tool measures the performance of a page for mobile and desktop compliance. When it runs, it collects the URL in two modes, calculating results for mobile and desktop devices independently and outputs a score between 0 and 100 for each.
A higher score indicates better compliance. For example, 85 or higher confirms your site is OK and should be a benchmark to aim for. Anything lower, as with GT Metrix, investigate the alerts, research them and address them.
Analyse, Research and Optimise
The report from GPS will advise elements needing attention:
- time to above-the-fold load: Elapsed time from the moment a user requests a new page and to the moment the above-the-fold content is rendered by the browser.
- time to full page load: Elapsed time from the moment a user requests a new page to the moment the page is fully rendered by the browser.
PageSpeed Insights only consider the network-independent aspects of page performance:
- server configuration
- HTML structure of your pages
Working your way through the reports in either GT Metrix and / or Google Page Speed should improve the relative performance of your pages.
Top Tips for tweaking your site(s)
Running the reports, is the first stage. This gives you the information you need, to be able to take it to the next stage. If you know what you are doing, this is fairly routine stuff, but more often than not, the DIY user ‘has a go’ but can easily break things.
Here are some of my tips for optimising your website and web pages
Take a Backup …
PLEASE do this and don’t forget. Yes, it’s boring and additional work BUT before you start adding plugins, adjusting code and tweaking your site, grab a backup ‘just in case’ …
*As an alternative, consider cloning the live site to test your adjustments on a development copy. If you are on CPanel, Softaculous allows quick and simple website cloning to allow you to run a development version of your website.
Many of the elements which need fixing in the GT Metrix and Google Page Speed reports can be influenced by installing the excellent plugin, W3 Total Cache. You can search for this in your website admin plugin area.
There are two modes in W3TC
For ‘most’ people, the automatic mode will be a simple switch on and forget job. It will have a positive effect on your website load times and GT Metrix report.
The manual mode allows much more fine control over Caching and Minification as well as CDN which are all factors that will be noted in your website optimisation reports. Configuration of these will require more advanced information, which I will cover in a future post, specific to configuring W3 Total Cache for WordPress.
Once you have your backup (database and website structure), my advise is to:
- Keep a log of changes you make so you can revert to a previous setting if things play up
- Work through the optimisation reports, dealing with each red flag /warning and read the suggested tips
- Implement each stage one at a time and test, then test again
- If minimising JS or CSS, make SURE you clear website and system cache to ensure you load latest version
- Run a Fresh Report after changes added to website to review the changes
I do not plan to get into the realms of CDN (Content Delivery Network) and advanced settings for W3 Total Cache in this post, as I plan to cover that in my next post. However, it is something you should be considering and it will help you achieve a better grade and improved page speed. Adding a CDN can be done at a later stage.
Need help with Website Optimisation?
This is a technical side to SEO and something not everyone is comfortable with. By using GT Metix and Google Page Speed, you can find out what issues slow your site down and spend time to learn about ways to fix them. If this is something you can’t allocate the time to, call us on 0800 756 9975 and we will be glad to assist.
Very helpful tips Justin. I was wondering, does page speed have to do with the hosting provider?
Definitely. I am working on one at the moment and the page speed is affected because of the server side settings. Moving the site from a low spec shared hosting environment onto a dedicated, high spec server improved the performance of the site significantly.
Interesting! Thanks for responding Justin!