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A faster website means more customers.

Monday, August 26 2013 8:30 AM
By Michael McClure

How long do you wait for a web page to load? Three, four, five, maybe six seconds tops? In a fast paced world of 24 hour news, instant streaming video, mobile push notifications and overnight shipping, we all desire to gain access to information immediately. What does this mean for your slow loading website? Potential for losing leads.

According to Google Developers, "Fast and optimized pages lead to higher visitor engagement, retention and conversions". I couldn't agree more. I can't count the number of times I've waited for a website to load only to hit the dreaded back arrow to find another company's website.

Let's talk for a moment about a slow loading website in different terms. Let's take the slow website and turn it into a slow moving checkout line. Ah, now you can relate, right? You're on your way home from work, pick up a handful of items at the grocery store only to be met with a deep and slow moving line. Tick tock tick tock. As soon as you see another, shorter, lane open up you immediately jump lines. This is what your customers are doing when they visit your slow website. Instead of waiting for your site to load so they can get your phone number, they've bounced back to Google, clicked a competitor's website and are now talking to them. Going back to our analogy: your lost customer has dropped all of their groceries on the floor and gone to another store.

With that analogy in mind you can see the importance of a quick loading website. Now take that 5-6 seconds of waiting and cut it way down. This is the amount of patience a customer on their mobile device is willing to wait for a page to load. With mobile traffic increasing worldwide, having a quick loading site is crucial to meeting the demands of your customers.

How To Improve Load Time

Hopefully by now you're asking, "How do I speed up my website? How do I keep from losing clients?". Depending on how old your current site is, the answer might be as easy as having your web designer tweak a few  files. Below is a short sampling of several things that will vastly improve the load time of your website.

Make Fewer "http://" Requests
Each time a request is made to load an asset (whether your page is loading a style sheet, image or javascript file), it slows down the page. Each of these requests takes a split second to communicate from the browser to the server. The more files requested the more time it takes your page to load. Although a split second doesn't sound like much, they can add up quickly. In short: use as few assets as possible while still creating a great looking site.

Optimize CSS Files
Use as few styles sheets as possible. If you can combine multiple style sheets into a just one or two, that is optimal. Better yet, if you can minimize this file by compressing all the code, that's even better. Also, place all of your CSS files up high on the page. This allows the page to render all your graphics correctly as soon as the page loads, without any flickering or jumping around the page.

Combine Javascript Files And Compress Them
Again, use as few javascript files as possible. If you can combine multiple files into one or two files, do it. Compressing the files will also save load time. On average, javascript files can be compressed down to save 25-35% in file size or more.

Optimize Images
If your designer is using PNG files to build the graphics for your site, have them run through a PNG compression tool like TinyPNG to compress them even further. If there are any JPG files on the site, make sure they are saved for the web and always save them with Progressive loading turned on. Progressive loading allows the image to load on a page in multiple passes vs. waiting for the whole image to load before it is displayed on your site. Another tip for images is to combine several icons/graphics that are used multiple times throughout your website (like social icons or graphical buttons) into a single sprite file. This allows for one image request to be made vs. multiple requests. You can then use CSS to display them appropriately.

Compress Data Using Gzip Compression
Gzip, what's that? Gzip compression is a method of compressing data on the server before it is sent to the browser. Once the data is in the browser it is decompressed and displayed on the page. All of this happens in fractions of a second and can help speed up your website. By using this method of compression, you're effectively reducing the response size by about 65-70%. This translates into a quicker page load.

Leverage Browser Caching
Another quick technique to help speed up your website is leveraging browser caching. To explain: each time a page on your site is loaded, the server sends the page and all associated files to your customers computer. Their computer caches these files in the temporary storage of their browser. The next time they visit the same page, the server once again sends them all the necessary files even if the files have not changed since the last time they visited the site. By setting a longer expiration of these files (including images, javascript files and CSS files), the server will not need to resend the files that are already on their computer. Instead the browser will serve up the local copy and in turn your site loads faster. Since most images, CSS files and javascript files do not change on a daily or even weekly basis, setting these to have an expiration date for at least one week (maybe even one month) will limit the amount of files being served to your customers browser...which makes your page load faster.

Test Your Website's Speed

To see how fast your website is, use the free Pingdom Speed Test website. Not only will it show you your site's score, it will also give you helpful tips on how to improve the speed of your site. Their tips include leveraging browser caching, minimizing http requests and other performance enhancing ideas we did not discuss here.

With the recent redesign of our own website, one of our major goals was to create a faster page load. Using the techniques we discussed above, we were able to go from a homepage load time of over 1.5 seconds and 48 http requests to an improved 847ms load time and 30 http requests. According to the Pingdom Speed Test test results, our new website now loads faster than 92% of all tested websites. Pretty impressive.

360ideas.com speed test


Although optimizing your website for a fast page load may seem overwhelming, they're important for business. Simply put, a faster website will lead to more sales and better client retention. If you're a business owner who needs help optimizing your website, give us a call. Creating fast and beautiful websites is our business.

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