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Today, people have zero tolerance for slow website load times. Any delay in reaching the content they want means they will go elsewhere. If all things are equal, including SEO and content quality, the faster website will always win. Why is this? Because website speed affects every metric that matters. We’re talking bounce rate, conversions, search rankings, page views, and, especially, user experience. In this article, we will explore website speed in detail and provide some tips to speed up your website.
Website speed refers to the speed at which is downloaded and displayed on a browser. Most of us are familiar with the pain of watching an image appear on screen, one section at a time. That represents slow website speed.
Google uses website speed as one indicator to rank pages. Slow load times will drop your search rankings and incur higher bounce rates. This hurts conversions.
Trust, satisfaction, and conversions increase the faster your website loads. The problem is, that most experts estimate that anything slower than the blink of an eye is considered bad. According to Microsoft specialist and computer scientist Harry Shum, “a difference of 0.25 seconds, either slower or faster, is close to the magic number for competitive advantage on the Web.” That’s 250 milliseconds – and it can make or break your sales performance!
eCommerce websites have about 5 seconds to engage visitors before they consider leaving. Of course, about 40% of visitors leave a website at the third second of waiting – even before their presence is tracked by analytical tools. What’s worse, there’s a good chance they will turn to a competitor for the same content – only they’ll get it faster. A safe assumption for optimal load time then is about 2.7 seconds or less.
If this seems like high stakes, it is…but don’t give up yet! The benefits of a fast website are even more dramatic! Here are two examples.
Mayank Agrawal, CTO, and co-founder of DotcomWeavers says, “Website speed is one of those elements that pays out big rewards for small improvements. It should be high on your list of business upgrades because that’s exactly what it is.”
Enable caching. When the server receives a request, the website must pull content from a database before it appears on the screen. This takes time. Caching temporarily stores a copy of web content, which allows the site to answer repeated user requests more quickly. By delivering cached copies of the requested content instead of pulling it again, you can reduce load times.
Optimize images. High-quality images such as TIFFs and BMPs take up a lot of space and create slower page load times. By selecting different image file formats, you can increase website speed. JPGs are best suited for quicker loading because they require limited processing time. Use PNGs for icons and logos and GIFs for simple images. Image size also matters. By matching images to the dimensions of your web page template you can save valuable image bytes. Setting fixed width and height commands is an efficient way to optimize images. Finally, image compression is a great way to balance both image size and quality.
Choose dedicated hosting. Dedicated hosting means that you are the only user on the server, and its processing power and resources are for your website only. Choose a dedicated server if you have a resource-intensive website, or want to make sure you are getting the best speeds possible.
Optimize your databases. This approach involves removing useless data and irrelevant content from your databases. By doing so you will eliminate clutter and reduce the size, which translates into efficiency and smaller processing cycles.
Optimize your code. This involves analyzing website code and database queries to identifying slow areas. It is easy to fix these hotspots once you find them. By employing a better algorithm or modifying the code, you can work around these bottlenecks and improve efficiency and performance. Please note that some of these suggestions are best left to your website developer. They will have a clear understanding of how to accomplish your goals.
In conclusion, fast website speeds are essential to eCommerce success. A faster website will improve your performance, which in turn will lead to more traffic, leads and conversions.
For more information about optimizing your website speed or to get started on your next eCommerce project, please contact us today.