When building a website, many people often prioritize aesthetic over functionality. This usually leads to big issues when it comes to the load time of the website.
How quickly a website loads may not seem like a big deal at first. That is until you consider that 40% of people abandon a website that takes more than 3 seconds to load.
To keep from losing traffic and potential customers, I'm sharing the top five ways you can make your website load blazing fast starting today...
1. Upgrade Your Hosting
When first getting a website designed and developed, a lot of people opt to go with the cheapest hosting package. At the time, this might be a viable option, especially for new businesses. However, as your business grows, so should your hosting. "Cheap" hosting usually means your website is on a shared server. This server isn't just loading your website, it is also loading a variety of other websites. So if and when one of those websites gets a lot of traffic, it could have a negative effect on your site speed. Or worse, it could bring down your site completely.
The best way to ensure that your site stays speedy is to switch to a host that offers dedicated servers and prioritizes speed. The host I most often recommend to clients is Flywheel. While they only support websites built on the WordPress platform, their load times are some of the best around.
2. Optimize Images
Images with big files sizes lead to slow load times. This is because the page has to load each image individually. To remedy this, you don't need to sacrifice the beauty of your website by reducing the number of images. Instead you can simply optimize the images by using a plugin such as WP Smush (free WordPress plugin), ShortPixel, TinyPNG, or Optimizilla.
You can take optimizing your images a step further by "lazy" loading them. This means that the images will only be loaded when they are about to be in view of the user. If you use WordPress, there are a variety of plugins that handle lazy loading. My personal favorite is BJ Lazy Load. Once activated, you'll never have to worry about the amount of images on your website hurting load times.
3. Use A Content Delivery Network
When you visit a website, that website is loaded from the server at the hosts location. That means if your hosting provider is located in China and someone in Kansas visits your website, it's going to take a while for that site to go from one end of the world to the other in order to be fully loaded. The way around this loading conundrum is to use a Content Delivery Network, also known as a "CDN". A CDN takes small copies of your site (known as "caching") and places them on servers all around the world. So now when that person in Kansas goes to your site, the CDN will determine which server is closest to them and load it from there. This can lead to a big decrease in load times, especially if your traffic is coming from around the world.
There are a lot of different CDN's to choose from, no matter what your budget is. Cloudflare is a great option for those who are budget conscious as they offer a free plan. MaxCDN is one of the more popular CDN's around due to their ability to implement flawlessly with most hosts.
4. Cache Your Website
The first time someone visits your website, they have to download every single aspect of the page--the text, logo, menu, etc. When they visit a second time, there is no need to reload everything from scratch. You can use a caching plugin such as W3 Total Cache to keep that content saved on the visitors browser for the next time they visit. Doing so will enable you to reduce the amount of content that needs to be loaded from your server and thus speed up the site.
5. Remove Unused Plugins
Plugins are add-on scripts that provide different functionality to a website. In todays world, they are the backbone of the functionality of a site. However, too many plugins can lead to a bloated website that loads very slowly. Many plugins are loaded on every single page (whether needed or not). To see an immediate reduction in speed, remove any plugins that are not 100% necessary.