A fast-loading website is critical to your online success. Optimising your website load speed can not longer be considered a luxury but an essential component to any web development project.

In 2024, people simply don’t have the patience to sit around waiting for a page to load like they did 10 years ago.

A slow-loading website is a significant hinderance to your site’s success, as increasingly impatient visitors will simply click away if too many seconds pass.

Research by Google has shown that website visitors will bounce 32% more when a site’s load speed increases from one to three seconds. At five seconds, the bounce rate increases to 90%! 

This then raises the question: How to improve website load speed?

This question is particularly important for small businesses and emerging entrepreneurs who are looking to grow their traffic and brand recognition online.

Therefore, critical success factors for websites, such as quick loading times, will be more important than ever.

In this article, we’ll share some key advice to help you find, learn and use the latest tools and techniques to boost your website’s loading speed, focusing on popular platforms like WordPress and Shopify.

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The Importance of Website Load Speed

A slow-loading website is beyond frustrating for users. It doesn’t result in people simply tapping their fingers and patiently waiting. Instead, they just leave.

Over the years, we have gathered website data showing how speed is turning away their potential customers. 

For instance, 61% of users say they are unlikely to visit a mobile website again if they have problems accessing it and 40% will go to a rival website instead.

Additionally, we found that a mere 0.1 second decrease in mobile site load times will yield an 8% to 10% increase in eCommerce conversion rates.

Another potential issue is websites that do not load completely. As many as 39% of visitors will leave a website if images are slow to load or will not load at all.

It is also expected that a typical website should load in no more than two seconds, according to 47% of users.

It should be clear from these statistics that users quickly run out of patience and psychologically devalue your brand when they are made to wait too long. Your brand might be seen as inefficient as your website. 

Thankfully, nothing is unfixable. These issues can be avoided and user engagement can be improved with a few upgrades and tweaks to your website’s performance. 

In rare cases, a site might need a total overhaul since it was poorly optimised from the start. However, this is usually only the case with DIY websites or very old sites that haven’t been updated in a long time.

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The Impact Of Slow Website Speed on SEO

Did you know that it’s not only humans who like fast websites? Search engines prefer quick-loading sites as well. 

Search engines measure speed and rank the value of your website based on the speed it achieves. Lower rankings mean lower visibility on search engine results pages (SERPs).

Understandably, search engines like Google don’t want to recommend sites to users that will yield a frustrating experience, as it reflects poorly on them. 

Therefore, it stands to reason that a speedy website will boost your search engine optimisation (SEO), raising your chances of being seen and interacted with online.

15 Ways To Improve Website Load Speed

Before you address any problems, it’s important to evaluate the severity of the issue. Using tools like the ones listed below is a great way to figure out your general site speed and visitor experience:

Three tools we recommend you use are:

  1. PageSpeed Insights
  2. Pingdom
  3. GTmetrix

These tools can give improvement recommendations and are of great help when setting benchmarks for a speed optimisation project.

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1. Image Loading

Images are essential for a visually appealing website, but improper optimisation can easily degrade the user experience.

You can (and should) have the most breathtaking pictures with high resolutions, but they need to be scaled correctly.

Resizing by scaling keeps the total pixel count but reduces the number of pixels displayed per inch (PPI). An expert web designer will know how to do this correctly.

Alternatively, you can always try to do this yourself using tools like these:

Generally, WebP is the recommended image format for websites as you can get great lossless and lossy compression. This means that no data from the original image is lost.

2. Browser Caching

A browser cache is essentially a digital storage room that captures elements of your site and saves them on a visitor’s device when they first visit your website so that those elements don’t need to be downloaded again upon revisiting.

This process makes follow-up visits from the same device easier and faster. Your website development team will implement caching tools via it’s code or plugins can be used on platforms like WordPress:

3. Minifying Code

Minification, also referred to as minimising code and markup, essentially involves the removal of unnessary characters from your website files.

This process is executed in your web pages and script files (CSS, JavaScript and HTML files). Along with image optimisation, this is a great contributor to page load speeds and bandwidth usage.

From a brand value perspective, it is also a thoughtful step to take for your visitors, as it is kind to those on a limited data plan.

Some of the website minification tools we recommend can be found below:

4. Cleaning Up Code

In addition to minification, you should schedule a website codebase audit once or twice a year at least. This type of website audit will look for:

  • Outdated scripts
  • Code bugs
  • Unused plugins
  • Security risks
  • Guideline compliance
  • General inefficiencies

Auditing your website code can not only make your backend experience less complex but also improve user experience on your site.

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5. CMS & Plugin Optimisation

Content management systems (CMS) and plugins that are not regularly audited will slow down your website.  

Outdated CMS will increase your malware risks and hamper speeds due to improper or non-optimised code.

On the other hand, outdated plugins could get what’s known as ‘code bloat’ as more and more new features and tweaks are added to them.

It’s important to review the CMS platform and plugins you’re using to regularly to identify any issues or opportunties for optimisation.

6. High-Performance Hosting

Hosting should not be addressed as an afterthought or purely based on the cheapest price.

It has a significant impact on your website’s performance and can be one of the easiest ways to harm your website load speed.

To get the best hosting service, research the hosting providers available and read reviews on their server response times, stability, and customer service.

It would be beneficial to look for a hosting provider that specialises in your CMS because your server will be perfectly optimised for that platform which can improve things such as:

  • Predictable resource usage
  • Optimised server configuration
  • Faster upgrades

If you’re using WordPress you can check out our list of top WordPress hosting providers here. If you’re using Shopify on the other hand then you don’t have to worry about it, they handle their own hosting.

7. Cloud Hosting

Part of your hosting research should include a look at cloud hosting. Cloud hosting solutions will likely offer you more appropriate scalability and speed compared to regular shared hosting. 

Some examples of well-known and reliable cloud hosting providers are: 

8. Time To First Byte (TTFB)

TTFB measures how quickly your host server respond. You can use this information to strategically optimise the configuration to get the fastest possible speeds.

This is done by improving caching or selecting a hosting environment that is more appropriate for your needs. 

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9. Content Delivery Network (CDN)

A content delivery network (CDN) is a global network of servers used to host what is known as your static resources.

A static resource is an item that is not created via code during the running of a computer program. In other words, the content will not be modified from request to request. 

Examples of static resources include images, JavaScript and CSS. Using a CDN can improve your website’s speed because each visitor’s prompts are directed to a server nearest to their physical location. 

Some examples of CDN providers are:

10. Responsive Design

Responsive design refers to creating a website that works on all devices. With 92.3% of internet users using mobile phones, it is a bad business decision for you not to be using responsive design. 

Not only does it format your site appropriately for diverse devices, but it also ensures a quick load time and a vastly superior user experience.

11. Reduce Redirects & HTTP Requests

Redirects and requests are an important part of a seamless user experience, but they can affect website load speed as well.

Using them strategically and managing them proactively will reduce load times, especially for mobile users. Redirects are used in scenarios such as:

  • Webpage URL changes
  • Deleted pages
  • URLs affected by category tags or parent pages
  • New domain
  • Website maintenance
  • Merger of multiple web pages
  • HTTP to HTTPS migration

There are tools for assisting with identifying redirects. Two well-known examples are:

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12. Use HTTP/2

HTTP/2 stands for Hypertext Transfer Protocol, where the ‘/2’ represents the latest version. This performance improvement protocol creates efficient request processors, and all good hosting providers support it.

Make sure your website is using HTTP/2 and not an outdated version that will slow your website down.

13. Asynchronous Loading

Asynchronous loading could also be called parallel loading. By allowing your HTML to run as normal while the JavaScript only loads elements relevant to the sections the user is currently accessing on the webpage, your website can deliver faster page load times and a better user experience.

For example, asynchronous loading would be showing a webpage while a large image finishes downloading. On the other hand, blocking the full loading of the website and waiting instead for the picture to be 100% loaded is not asynchronous.

You can see why asynchronous loading would lead to a better user experience.

14. Server-Side Rendering (SSR)

SSR is a potent method used to materially boost the speed of web page loading times. This smart technique operates by displaying pages on the server rather than on the browser. 

In a nutshell, this means that your webpage will load your page instantly, improving the user experience even further.

15. GZIP Compression

GZIP is a software and file format designed specifically for file compression and decompression. It will assist you by downsizing files you send from your server to a browser.

As you probably know from being this far into this article, small files is good for site speed.

Improve your website load times by enabling GZIP compression. This is done via your website’s htaccess file or server configuration settings.

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Prioritise Above-The-Fold Content

Sometimes, the perception of speed is more important than the actual speed. Strategically prioritising the timing of when certain parts load over others will give the user the perception of a fast-loading site.

For example, if you prioritise that above-the-fold content loads first before below-the-fold content, the user gets to see the information relevant to their place on the website without realising that other items are still loading out of sight. 

Font Optimisation

Fun fonts might be popular, and clients might spend hours playing around with hundreds of options, but they can undermine your speed optimisation.

Unfortunately, the most artistic fonts have a ‘weight’ issue and seriously drag down your website’s loading speed.

It is better to choose sleek, efficient fonts and use font subsetting and font swapping methods to speed up your site.

Video Optimisation

Since file size is a critical factor in speed optimisation, we cannot end this article without mentioning videos. These highly popular and entirely necessary elements are hefty and are thus prime targets for site speed optimisation. 

Thankfully, you can downsize your videos with video compression tools or deliver the footage via a CDN like we mentioned earlier.

Another strategy is to use lazy loading or to simply embed a video using a platform like YouTube or Vimeo.

Final Thoughts

Now that you know how to optimise your website speed, don’t let slow loading times undermine your website’s return on investment.

In order to succeed online and increase user engagement, you need to view your website’s loading speed as an essential feature – not a luxury.

Using all or part of the above strategies will ensure your website loads like a dream and satisfies your visitors, all while attracting new ones.

Frequently Asked Questions

Why is a fast-loading website important for online success?

A fast-loading website is crucial because it enhances user experience, reduces bounce rates and improves engagement. Research shows that a site’s bounce rate increases significantly as loading times go up.

How can website load speed be improved?

Website load speed can be improved by optimising images, leveraging browser caching, minifying code, and using content delivery networks (CDN). Additionally, choosing the right hosting provider and regularly auditing your site’s backend for inefficiencies are crucial steps.

What are the impacts of slow website speeds on SEO?

Slow website speeds can negatively affect your search engine optimisation (SEO) because search engines like Google prioritise faster-loading sites in their rankings. A slower site can lead to lower visibility on search engine results pages, impacting your ability to attract new visitors organically.

What tools are recommended for analysing website speed?

Several tools can help you analyse and improve your website’s speed, including PageSpeed Insights, Pingdom and GTmetrix. These tools offer detailed insights and recommendations for optimisation, helping you benchmark and enhance your site’s performance effectively.

How does image optimisation affect website load speed?

Image optimisation significantly affects website load speeds as large, unoptimised images can slow down page loading times. Tools like Adobe Photoshop, TinyPNG, and Bulk Resize Photos can help reduce image file sizes without losing quality.

What is the role of browser caching in website performance?

Browser caching stores elements of your site on a visitor’s device during their first visit, which means on subsequent visits, the stored elements load directly from the cache rather than being downloaded again. This speeds up the website for returning users and improves overall user experience.

Why is minifying code important for website speed?

Minifying code involves removing unnecessary characters from HTML, CSS and JavaScript files, which reduces file sizes and improves load times.

How does a Content Delivery Network (CDN) improve website speed?

A CDN improves website speed by hosting your site’s static resources on a network of servers distributed globally. This setup ensures that user requests are served by the nearest server, significantly reducing load times and improving site performance across different geographical locations.

To your success,
Jackson