Every second that it takes for your website to load reduces your conversion ratio by 7 percent. Even if you aren’t selling something, you still risk losing a large percentage of your visitors to a website that suffers from lag time. Fortunately, there are some simple steps that you can take to ensure that your site loads quickly enough to avoid a high bounce rate. The following lists the ways to build a faster website.
1. Create a mobile-friendly design.
Although surveys have shown that people are slightly more patient when browsing the Internet via a mobile device, you will still lose approximately 51 percent of your visitors if your website takes more than 10 seconds to load. To put this into comparison, 40 percent of online shoppers will abandon a site that is not fully loaded on their laptop within three seconds.
Statistics have shown that utilizing a mobile-friendly design that loads within five seconds and is easy to navigate from a smartphone or tablet can dramatically improve your conversion ratio. In fact, 97 percent of mobile users are happy to wait up to five seconds, and this is a realistic load time for a well-designed site. Keep in mind that websites that are not mobile-friendly can often take an exorbitant amount of time to load, and they are less likely to be easily navigated by the average Internet user.
2. Consider a minimalist approach.
Minimalism is a design concept that embraces the adage of less being more. When a website uses the minimalist design, it typically has a small amount of images, a lot of blank space and eye-catching fonts and colors. Even the most basic black and white color scheme can be visually stunning when put together the right way, and this will make it possible for your website to load rapidly on any device.
3. Use a CDN to reduce lag time and bandwidth consumption.
Content delivery networks (CDN) have one primary purpose: to reduce lag time. Additionally, using a CDN will reduce bandwidth consumption on your web hosting infrastructure, thus improving access and saving you from excess cost. A content delivery network will cache content, including images, videos, HTML files, stylesheets and scripts on a distributed set of servers around the globe.
More advanced CDNs provide intelligent caching for items such as dynamically-generated objects, which are generated anew for each visit. This includes all of the content that would otherwise be uncachable on websites managed by content management systems (CMS). This is vital for many popular CMS sites, including WordPress, Joomla! and Drupal.
In addition, nearly all CDNs will provide additional front end optimization features such as image compression, code file minification and auto gzipping. Finally, some will also offer added security features, including auto-SSL encryption, spam filtering, integrated web application firewall and DDoS protection.
It should be noted that the performance advantage of using a CDN comes from the geographic aspect. Since data is cached and served from servers in different locations around the globe, audiences from other countries will benefit from shorter latency times. Thus CDNs are especially beneficial for websites that operate on a wide scale in countries such as the US or China or those that address international audiences.
4. Invest in bandwidth for a faster website.
The bandwidth allowance that your web hosting provider offers will dictate a limit of how much data can be transmitted to website visitors during a certain billing period. In other words, if you run out, visitors will either see an error message or experience severe lag time because your host begins throttling your usage. Investing in a scalable solution can eliminate this particular issue. For example, some hosts offer bandwidth usage that grows with your consumption needs through a pay-per-use structure. In addition, using a CDN can help reduce consumption on your main webhost.
5. Research your website hosting options to find the best one.
If you will not be self-hosting your site, it will be vital to look closely at all of your website hosting options. Some companies are able to offer faster loading times due to a distributed infrastructure. Some will offer unlimited bandwidth and space usage. However, this will not be as beneficial as expected if the hosting company also has a high downtime incidence.
The best recipe for success is finding a hosting provider that promises an uptime of 99.9 percent and has a physical presence near your main audiences. For example, if most of your audience is in the Asia Pacific region, it makes sense to host your website in a datacenter in Singapore or somewhere nearby.
6. Forego Flash.
Flash animations and graphics might look pretty, but they will dramatically slow down your loading time. Additionally, they are not read properly by search engines, and this can hurt your Google ranking. When you combine this with the shocking fact that 2.1 million Americans still use dialup and are unable to load Flash, it becomes clear that this is a design technique that you should minimize or forego altogether.
7. Learn how to use image compression correctly.
Image compression is a popular method for speeding up websites, but if it is done incorrectly, you will be left with blurry images that turn off consumers. The first thing you need to do to avoid this problem is to determine which file type is the most suitable to fulfill your needs.
In most cases, using JPEG is ideal for photos, while using PNG is great for website elements that require transparency. When publishing photos on your website, find the right balance between quality and file size. Most content management systems can automatically resize your image into different sizes upon upload.
For web publishers, the choice is between lossless or lossy compression. Lossless compression provides the highest quality image. You can get a smaller file size with positive results by turning to a lossy compression, but this is best utilized for images that do not have a large amount of detail or color diversity. Designers prefer to stick with lossless compression for higher-quality images. However, if you have a large quantity of images, you may have to use lossy compression to achieve a faster load time.
8. Turn off auto-play music and videos.
Auto-play music and videos may look flashy and nice, but this is also one of the easiest ways to slow your load time to a crawl. Not to mention the fact that these design elements are often viewed as annoying and intrusive by Internet users. Avoid both of these problems by turning auto-play off. You can still have the music or video available, but give visitors the choice when to play videos so that these do not stream unless clicked.
9. Utilize browser caching.
Browser caching is a faster and less expensive way to deliver content to visitors from all over the world. Google recommends this process to developers, and it can be especially helpful when someone visits your site on a regular basis. Instead of connecting directly with your server each time, the cached version is shown for whatever period of time you specify. If the visitor clicks to a new site or hits refresh, your server will be prompted to provide the latest data.
10. Optimize CSS.
Cascading Style Sheets, which are better known as CSS, offer a better method for designing the look and flow of your website. Instead of relying on HTML and images on their own, you can define formatting and styles through CSS to streamline loading times. Stylesheets are often cached by the browser, and a capable CDN will also cache the CSS for you to improve loading times. It’s a good idea to load content first before styles so that devices with slow connections or small screens can load and display the most important content first prior to formatting.
As you can see, regardless of whether you have a large online business or simply want a speedier experience from your personal website, there are numerous techniques that can dramatically reduce your load time and give you a faster website. Using these tips will enable you to offer visitors the type of performance that they expect, regardless of whether they are shopping or simply looking for new information.
Featured photo credit: Viktor Hanacek via picjumbo.com
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