Website Speed Guide

Website Speed Guide

How to make sure your website is optimized for speed Do you know how slow your site loads? Your TTFB is comprised of three elements: HTTP request time Process request time Response time Here’s a visual representation showing how the time to first byte works. Reduce your images sizes Visual elements are necessary on your website. But with that said, images can really slow down your loading times. After the images are compressed, you’ll want to make sure that you’re saving them as the right file type. Minify and combine files Each file on your website will increase the time it takes for a page to load. Combining files reduces the number of HTTP requests by concentrating them into smaller groups. There are two options: Synchronous loading Asynchronous loading Files that load synchronously load one at a time, based on their location on the page. The problem with this is that if one file is taking longer to load, no other files will get loaded until that particular file is complete. With that said, too many plugins can make your website heavy and slow down your loading times.

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How to make sure your website is optimized for speed

Do you know how slow your site loads?

Website speed needs to be a top priority for all websites in 2019. Why?

Just a one-second delay in loading time results in:

  • 16% decrease in customer satisfaction
  • 11% fewer page views
  • 7% loss in conversions

Amazon says that one second of load lag time would cost them $1.6 billion in sales each year.

So, how fast should your website load? 47% of people say they expect pages to load in two seconds or less and 64% of mobile users expect sites to load in less than four seconds. However, the average loading times for various industries in the United States don’t meet those benchmarks. Take a look at this research from Google:

Average Speed Index

As you can see, the average website speed for all of these industries is significantly higher than the best practices line.

If you can speed up your website, it will give you a huge advantage over your competitors with slower loading times. You’ll want to aim for your pages to load in three seconds or less. That’s because 40% of visitors will abandon sites that haven’t loaded within three seconds. But obviously, the lower you can get that number, the better.

OK, now that you understand why website speed is so important, it’s time to do something about it. I created this guide of best practices that will help you speed up your website.

So read carefully and make any necessary changes to your site moving forward. Don’t be intimidated by any technical terms that you’re unfamiliar with — I’ve done my best to explain everything in plain English, so it’s easy for everyone to follow along.

Minimize your HTTP requests

HTTP requests are made for each element on your website. I’m referring to things like images, scripts, and stylesheets.

Research shows that 80% of website loading time is related to downloading on-page elements. So for those of you who have lots of these components on your website, you have more HTTP requests.

Using your developer tools settings, you can figure out how many requests your website currently makes. Then, take steps lower that number. Reduce clutter on your website and simplify the design.

You should also eliminate unnecessary redirects. While these are often needed for fixing broken links, they create additional HTTP requests. This will slow down your website speed.

I’d recommend using a tool like Screaming Frog to help you identify all of your redirects. Once they’ve been identified, get rid of the ones that you can live without. Only keep the ones that are absolutely necessary.

Reduce the time to first byte (TTFB)

TTFB refers to the time browsers need to wait before getting data from the server. Simply put, it’s basically how long it takes for a page to start loading.

Your TTFB is comprised of three elements:

  • HTTP request time
  • Process request time
  • Response time

Here’s a visual representation showing how the time to first byte works.

Time To First Byte

If your website has a fast TTFB, then requests can be delivered to the browser faster. Ultimately, this gets your content loaded for visitors faster.

You should be aiming for a TTFB that’s less than 200ms. Use WebPageTest as a resource to identify your time to first byte.

TTFB WebPageSpeedTest

Just look at the “first byte” column to see where you stand. For those of you who have a TTFB that exceeds 200ms, you’ll need to take steps to improve that number. Here are some common issues associated with slow TTFB:

  • Server configuration
  • Network issues
  • Content creation
  • Website traffic

One of the best ways to reduce your TTFB is by enabling browser caching. Make note of that — we’ll discuss how to execute on that concept in greater detail later in this guide.

Make sure your web hosting plan meets your needs

Cheaper isn’t always better. When your website was new, you might have gone with a budget hosting plan to keep costs low. However, as your traffic increases, you’ll need to make sure that your hosting plan is upgraded.

There are four types of web hosting:

  • Shared hosting
  • VPS hosting
  • Dedicated server
  • Cloud hosting

The plan you choose and the company you use will impact your website speed. Rather than spending all day discussing the pros and cons of these hosting options, it’s in your best interest to review my guide on everything you need to know about web hosting.

This will give you the information needed to choose the best web host that will speed up your website.

Run compression audits

In order for your website to be as fast as possible, you need all of your files to be as small as they can possibly be. Just make sure that you’re not sacrificing quality, of course.

Smaller files load faster — it’s as simple as that.

I’d recommend running a compression audit with a tool like GIDNetwork to give you a better idea of how compressed files can speed up your website. Here’s what the audit looks like for Quick Sprout.

Compression Audits

To test your website, all you need to do is enter the URL and click “check.” As you can see from this audit, Quick Sprout isn’t compressed. The tool also offers a “what if analysis” to show you the benefits of compressing your website.

Compression What If Analysis

This chart shows what my website would look like at different compression levels. It tells me that at the fourth level of compression, the size can be compressed to 131 bytes compared to 178 with no compression. The download would also improve from 0.12 seconds to .09 seconds.

These numbers are pretty marginal for my website, which is why I don’t currently have compression enabled. However, some of you might learn that your site can greatly benefit from compressed files after running this audit.

Which brings me to our next point . . .

Compress your files

Let’s say your compression audit looked something like this.

Compression Test 2

There is a huge difference between no compression and the first level. Those figures continue to improve as we reach level five.

In this scenario, you’d absolutely want to enable compression. Gzip is the industry standard for this practice.

This software locates lines of similar code and then replaces them to make all of your files smaller. It’s ideal for HTML and CSS since those files tend to have lots of whitespace and repetitive code.