Why is my website slow and how can I make it faster?

My website is slow and takes a long time to load up!

Put yourself in your user’s shoes. Imagine you do a Google search for something. You type in your question or search term desperate for an answer or solution. The results appear and you see a lovely looking title and description that matched your search terms. This could be the one link that might be exactly what you were looking for! You click it, you’re moments away from a potential winning solution. But nothing… still loading, sigh… the website is slow. You hope that the website will load soon, you need your answer.

How long until you give up? Like waiting in a shop for the slowest checkout person ever to scan your entire trolley’s worth of shopping… infuriating!

slow website loading speed

A slow website is extremely frustrating!

As web developers we are building our websites to load within 3 seconds as a general rule. Quicker if possible! If your website does not load within 3 seconds you are likely going to lose a lot of traffic and frustrate a lot of people. It’s bad for everyone. You may a have a great looking website with loads of fancy stuff going on. However if it’s slowing your website loading speed to the point where people are hitting the ‘back’ button to click a different link then what’s the point!?

Google is starting to add website speed as a factor into search result ranking

Not only is relevance of content important now along with SEO and keywords but speed is becoming more of a factor too. We agree that this is a great way to rank websites or at least one of the ways. It almost rewards the business or developer for investing time and effort into creating something that works really well. Getting your website speed up involves some important decisions and some fine tuning.

Why is it all so slow?

There are many factors that dictate the speed of a website and it’s load time. Firstly, website hosting. If your website is slow then it maybe something to do with the hosting server. There are many hosting companies out there that are notorious for poor hosting services and slow speeds (not naming names). Often people will buy their hosting service based on low cost. But you do get what you pay for when opting for a hosting company to go with.

Our hosting services at Digital Fuse may cost a bit more than some, but it is for a good reason. For great website speed the hosting service needs to cover: decluttering of old files and useless files on the server, proper DNS setup (see our blog post on the basics of DNS), efficient technical hardware such as processors and good software handling disk quota and bandwidth (see our jargon buster). A good hosting company will also help improve speed by optimising server side aspects such as ‘gZip Compression’ and ‘Expires to Headers’.

Website Theme

Secondly, the theme. Having an all singing all dancing theme with all the options under the sun may seem handy. Although are you using all of its features? What about all that stuff that you don’t need within the theme? It’s probably all still being loaded just in case someday you might need it. This is one of the main causes of a slow website. Try using a theme that is lightweight and gathers a good set of results at GTMetrix prior to any content being added. Maybe run the live demo of the theme through GTMetrix to gauge the speed of it before purchasing. The results are by no means absolute gospel but will definitely give you a great indication of how the theme performs.

Website Content

Thirdly, website content. Website content such as text and images and videos all carry weight, mainly the images and videos. Images need to be optimised and this is very important. Taking a photo with your brand new, high res, digital camera, then importing them to your computer and slapping them in your website is a big no no! We’ve seen images on websites that are over 12mb each! There is absolutely no need for this kind of file size for an image on a website. (Unless you are using a full size cinema screen as your computer monitor…) Optimising your images by compressing them and / or scaling them down will help speed up your website loading time.

How do I speed up my website?

Videos are another heavy resource if not optimised or configured correctly. Rather than embedding videos on your website from the server perhaps look at uploading to YouTube or Vimeo and then embedding a link from there. These media based websites have powerful optimising software that will reduce the video size down significantly without causing a huge loss in quality. The videos will buffer for a second and stream directly from YouTube or Vimeo through your website. Playing a lot quicker than from your server unoptimised and putting less load on your website and server.

Also look at reducing all the fancy animations that may come with your theme. All that extra Javascript and jQuery can bloat a website page size up a great deal. And all that extra website weight just to have all your panels fade in, or bounce across the screen? Its not always worth it if your trading in speed for fancy looks. Go easy on the animations and keep the fun fancy stuff to just a few sections of your website.

Plugins

Last of all – website plugins. Does your website have over 20 plugins that add extra features to your website for functionality? Sometimes lots of plugins can’t be helped but keeping them to a minimum will reduce ‘calls to scripts’ or ‘http requests’. These calls and requests slow down a website load time and its ability to deliver it to the user’s browser window. Keep your plugins to a minimum where you can!

Again, some plugins cannot be avoided particularly if you have a shop with something like WooCommerce. There are many add on plugins for WooCommerce to increase functionality within your online shop. Furthermore, we’re all aware that there are website speed optimisation plugins out there. Caching plugins, auto optimise plugins and more. Be wary of these. Do the best you can to increase your website speed before even thinking about these plugins. These great sounding plugins can also have an impact on your website. They often add even more calls to scripts and can conflict with each other if more than one is added. This is going to slow down or even break your website. If you feel the need to use one, then just use one and one only.

Don’t allow your website to become slow and unusable!

The main point of your website will be to have users and people from all over come and visit and see what information you have on offer. If those people cannot access your information quickly and easily they WILL go elsewhere. If someone has to wait longer than 3 seconds for your website to load their mind will drift and they’ll lose interest. You don’t want them sitting there wondering what they are going to cook for dinner or what other things they could be doing in this wasted time. Get your website speed up and compromise on the fancy animations. Lose or optimise the huge images. Take some time and do some speed research when choosing a theme. It’s not just about how a website looks and what it offers, it’s how it works and how fast and efficiently it works too (Google will love you for it!).

For more information or for a free website speed check with solutions on improving your website performance please get in touch or visit our Speed Optimisation service page.

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