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Why does website speed matter?

Website speed refers to the amount of time a browser needs to fully load functional pages from a given website. In a world where most users now prefer to access websites while on the go on their mobile, a poorly performing site can drive users away and result in worse conversion rates.

Search engines, like Google and Bing, also tend to prioritise serving relevant information to users as quickly as possible, so site performance, especially on mobile, is an important factor in SEO rankings.

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How fast is fast?

Google recommends keeping the website load time under 2 seconds, and faster is always better when it comes to Search Engine preferences.

There are some free tools you can use to measure your current website performance and see which factors are impacting it – some great examples come from the likes of GTMetrix and PageSpeed Insights.

How can I improve my website performance?

There are many things you can do to optimise your website and bring the website speed under 2 seconds. Here are our top 5 recommendations of simple steps you can take to improve your website performance.

1 – Caching

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Website caching is the fastest way to improve performance. If you are on WordPress, there are many plugins, like for example WP Fastest Cache, that can be easily installed to cache pages as static files, which are then served to the users, reducing the processing load on the server.

Google says “Caching works by categorising certain page resources in terms of how frequently or infrequently they change … It’s beneficial to you and your users to determine which types of content are more static and which are more dynamic”

2 – Use a Content Delivery Network

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Content Delivery Networks, or CDNs, cache content in different locations around the world in order to store the content closer to the users. This massively reduces load times, because the requests from the user browsers don’t have to travel all the way to the origin server, which is usually only located in one place.

There are many options for a CDN and some, like Cloudflare, also offer free packages.

3 – Image optimisation

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The heavier a page is, the longer it will take to load. Media files, like videos and images are usually the ones to blame when it comes to slowing down websites, so it’s always a good idea to serve files that have been resized and optimised for web.

Images can be easily resized using a software like Photoshop, which will also allow you to save them in a version that’s been optimised for web. Plugins like reSmush.it are also able to automatically optimise all of the images on the website upon upload, saving you time and effort.

4 – GZIP compression

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GZIP is short for GNU Zip, and it’s a popular lossless data compression method, which can be used to reduce the size of a website’s pages and code. Consequently, GZIP compression means taking a set of data, so for example the code the website is built in, and compressing it losslessly, so without losing any information.

The typical compression ratio for this method is 70% but for large assets it can go up to 90%. GZIP is free and open source and it can be enabled in a number of ways on any server.

5 – Move to a better host

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Hosting location and performance are also very important factors when it comes to website performance. A server with a slow response time or with poor technical specifications will take longer to display any website hosted on it. Hosting location will also play a part in it – if content is hosted in different data centres spread around the world it will take longer for the requested information to reach the user’s browser.

It’s always good to test the speed of the server the website is hosted on (for example with Bitcatcha) and check where the data centres are located.

How does website performance impact conversion rate?

According to industry research, “website conversion rates drop by an average of 4.42% with each additional second of load time” – such stats significantly highlight the effect site speed has on both conversion rate, and user experience.

When a user first visits your site, you want to establish the best experience for their needs, and leaving a user to wait for several seconds is often off-putting, and is likely to result in increased bounce rate, and reduced user engagement.

Final Considerations

Ultimately website performance is one of the most important aspects of any web-based project. Considering the implications of additional functionality, server infrastructure, and advanced interactions should be a core component of any development process.

At Regency, we always strive to deliver website that load fast and perform well. Whether you are looking for a new website or seeking to improve the speed of your current website, get in touch. We can be reached by email at hello@regencycreative.co.uk or by calling 020 8144 1909