Website speed is directly related to the success of your online endeavor, whether it be a personal blog or tricked-out eCommerce store. The honest truth is the human race is far from patient. Gone are the days we had the patience to hide out in a tree for a few days waiting for a saber-toothed tiger to wander past so we could drop on top of him with a stone knife and – voila – dinner for a week. In today’s world, if your website doesn’t provide the goods in a matter of seconds, that potential reader or sale will most assuredly click away. We said all that to say this. Would you take eight steps to decrease your website loading time by 50% if you could? Try the following.
#1. Web Host and Server
The company you choose to host your site is the first and perhaps biggest decision you’ll make in regard to an online presence. While the lower-priced shared hosting approach might work perfectly fine for a personal blog or basic informational website, you also run the risk of residing on a server along with dozens of other websites that includes, if your luck is particularly bad, a resource hog. If your site loads slowly, check into upgrading to a VPS or a dedicated plan. They’re more expensive but the bump in page loading speed might be worth it.
#2. Update Darn It!
If you’re running a CMS like WordPress, don’t ignore the little message that pops up in the dashboard area and offers to update the software. The same goes for whatever themes or plugins you use. Performance can get stinkier than bantha dung if you don’t install the latest version of these babies. Updates aren’t just a means to waste your time. It’s a continual process of streamlining, refining, and replacing old code that is either buggy or a security risk. Your best plan is to set this to happen automatically.
#3. Reduce Requests
When something happens on a website, it generates a server request. The more of this communication that goes on between computer and server, the longer it takes to load your website. If you decide yours is too slow, it’s time to take inventory on how you can reduce the number of server requests. Got a ton of big, beautiful images? Get rid of some of them. Running a CMS site with an armful of unused plugins? Delete them. Don’t interpret this to mean you should toss ’em all. A good plugin is worth its weight in Bitcoin but a bad or unused one is wasted resources. A plugin like this renders images only as they come into view of the browser window.
#4. Caching – Not Ka-Ching
Enable caching. While you might consider it a geeky term that is automatically too hard to understand, we’re here to tell you it’s not, but it is important to your website’s performance. Here’s the thing. WordPress and other CMS options are more complex than the original static HTML the internet originally grew upon. This complexity slows things down. By using a plugin to cache your site, you generate a static HTML version for elements that don’t change. This means a visitor isn’t downloading an entire page over and over as he or she clicks around. Yes, that’s a good thing.
#5. What the Heck is a CDN?
A Content Delivery Network (CDN) is a service you get in addition to your web host. Essentially, we’re talking about a way to deliver your website’s content from a geographically closer point when a visitor shows up. For example, say your host’s servers are in Houston, Texas, and you get a visitor from jolly, old London, England. Information has to fly through a cable buried under the Atlantic, thousands of miles. Even at internet speeds, this makes for a slow browsing experience. A CDN is comprised of a network of servers at various spots around the globe. When a server request is made, the server physically nearest the spot of the request is chosen to deliver the website content. For those involved with eCommerce, where quick website reaction times are perhaps most critical, this speeds things up a lot!
#6. Image Optimization
This one will be short and sweet. Take the few extra seconds to optimize your images before you upload them to your website. You can’t believe the faster load times you’ll achieve. ‘Nuff said.
#7. Stop Pinging and Tracking
In the old days, pre-2000, pings and trackbacks were all the rage to let you know when someone linked to your content. It’s kind of fallen out of favor because it slows down and clutters up website loading. In WordPress, it’s a simple matter to turn these off. If you have a plain, old HTML website and no clue as to what to do, ask your friendly neighborhood web host technician. They’ll be able to put a stop to this nonsense.
#8. Clunky External Scripts
Those fancy social media buttons plastered all over your website come at a price, and that price is slower page-loading. We’re talking about Twitter follow buttons, Facebook like buttons and even the script associated with embedded YouTube videos. If you’re addicted to them, that’s fine, but you should be aware that each of these bring with them a script and more code that affects page-loading time.
The Bottom Line
We’ve just provided eight real-world ways to turn your bloated website back into a lean, mean, page-loading machine. Implement all these and you should notice at least 50% increase in loading speeds. Maybe more. Here’s wishing you many speedy server requests.
Gary Steven is a front end developer and part-time blockchain enthusiast. He’s a blogger and volunteer on the Ethereum project. He’s also a passionate advocate for online person privacy and education.