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A Guide on How to Improve your Website Speed

Page load times are often overlooked and this could be damaging to your business. But the great news is that it can be easily rectified if you know how.

Our expert team at Intuitiv works closely with many clients in the B2B web design sector and is here to share some key findings with you today. Come and discover why site load speed is so important, how to test it and how to speed up your website.

Importance of website speed

Website speed is simply the time it takes for a website to load for a visitor. All of the various elements on a webpage will have an effect on the load time efficiency. In theory, the more there is on a site, the longer it will take to load. But there's much more that goes into the equation and as you'll see throughout this article, there's plenty you can do to mitigate unnecessary lag.

There are no rules and regulations controlling website load speeds. A site won't suddenly be removed from the internet because it doesn't load fast enough. However, the slower it loads, the fewer people will see it. And that is the exact opposite of what any website owner wants to see.

What is a good website speed?

It's no secret that our online attention spans are getting shorter every day. Visitors to a website are no longer prepared to spend more time than necessary waiting for content to load. A general rule of thumb is that it shouldn't take more than two seconds for a site to fully appear on a user's device. Any longer than that, and they will likely get frustrated and click away.

Given that a website should load quickly to engage a visitor, it's surprising to know that most websites actually take a lot longer than this. Several surveys have been conducted and the average speed tends to come out anywhere between 6 and 10 seconds. That's way off the mark if we're hoping to keep the user's attention.

Why is website speed important?

It may not sound like a big deal, but in the real world, any site loading delays can cost a business dearly.

Throughout our experience of web development in Oxford, we have seen that load time will often determine whether or not a visitor sticks around to view a site. Some researchers suggested that even as little as half a second is too much for some people. That means lightning-fast page loading needs to be achieved if a brand is going to hold its own on the net.

Search engines have hundreds of different criteria for creating search results. Page load speeds it's just one of them. If a site falls down in many areas, then achieving the first page of Google isn't going to be possible.

Losing potential customers before they even get through the door isn't the only issue here. If somebody visits a site directly, then it's possible they will wait a little longer for specific content to load. But they're unlikely to stick around and convert into sales if the page is too difficult to work with. A fantastic user experience doesn’t start with an unexpected delay.

How to test site speed

Before getting into the details about site speed testing, it's important to understand individual requirements. Not every website has a commercial element and so converting users won't be the priority here. Some visitors are looking for key information on a specific research topic with no end purchase in mind. Therefore, they're more likely to wait for a PDF to download or graph images to appear, for example.

So what is a good website speed for different site types?

  • E-commerce sites - Google recommends aiming for between 400 milliseconds and 2 seconds on all devices
  • Non-commercial/info/research - Try and keep it under 4 seconds

Website testing tools

Testing a website speed should be fairly simple thanks to the range of tools that are available out there. Some are more in-depth than others and will offer complex metrics. Others are basic in their approach and will simply offer a broad idea of how a site is performing as it loads. If you need help with web design in Oxford and site speed testing products, then we’re always here to offer advice.

Google PageSpeed Insights

Google is one of the first places that many website administrators will turn to for advice. After all, it is where most search engine traffic comes from and it makes sense to hear what they have to say.

This insights tool will give a sliding scale result from 0 to 100. Load times towards the top of the scale are seeing the fastest results.

It is possible to run tests across different devices such as desktops and mobiles. And this is always useful for determining where to put in the most effort to improve load times. Sometimes, it makes sense to create a mobile site that is a lot lighter than its desktop companion. Many websites are created using responsive design tools and this simply produces the same result for all devices. But giving a bit of individual attention to the mobile site may take a little longer to produce but will give better results and increase the user experience.

One of the useful parts of Google insights is that it will go into detail about the page loading process. These core web vitals will allow for a more in-depth look at key elements rather than a blanket overview.

Pingdom

Pingdom is another tool that offers results from 0 to 100. It is easy to use and anyone who has never tested website speeds before should get along just fine with this product.

Pingdom offers suggestions for improving speed along with detailed analysis to show where things aren't working as they should. It'll break down a website into various criteria areas and show a grading for each one. This allows for a focus to be placed on more pressing errors that need immediate attention.

GTMetrix

Beginners will also find the GTMetrix product easy to use and will enjoy the simple results. After testing a website, two main scores are given. These are performance and layout.

Performance scores show how a website is loading. These range from connection speeds to plugins and everything in between. The results for site layout give a better understanding of how placement within a page can affect the load time. This is particularly useful for content-heavy sites that could do with some reorganising.

WebPageTest

This product was created by an ex-employee from Google. So you would hope they have a great understanding of how these things work. WebPageTest offers real-world results that may mean more to the average website creator than some of the other tools. It will show if the page is usable, resilient and other attributes that will affect the user experience. There are also detailed outlines of specific areas from a page performance showing you the load times and different charts with overviews of the core vitals.

Sematext

Sematext is a thorough DevOps tool that may be better suited to administrators with more experience. It's possible to test website speeds using geo placement and various device testing as well. Key performance metrics offer a breakdown of different elements of a site and show visualisations for specific improvements. Unfortunately, this more in-depth analysis comes at a cost and they don't offer a free assessment.

Uptrends

It's possible to test a website across desktop and mobile browsers using Uptrends. It will show a Google page score along with core web vitals and loading speeds. Various suggestions are given to help improve performance and these insights help prioritise tasks that need doing. Again, this product offers a fairly detailed view and is probably better for those with more experience.

DareBoost

Maintaining website speeds using Dareboost is easy for administrators who know what they're doing; beginners may find the user interface a little overwhelming. Analysis of over 80 data points is given which is incredibly useful for those looking to make specific improvements and achieve the very highest page performance. This product also offers video playback of site loading times. This gives a visualisation of how certain elements may not be performing perfectly.

Tips on how to speed up your website

After discovering a site’s load speed, it's now time to look at how to speed up your website. The good news is that many things can be done to create a faster load time and enhance the overall user experience. This will help to retain more visitors which could lead to potential sales.

Optimise images

Images are often the biggest culprit for slowing down a website. But this doesn't mean that site designers should do away with them. They are an important aspect that drive a lot of traffic towards a business. It's possible to reduce the image sizes using a simple optimization tool which will reduce resolution and compress the file accordingly.

Minify CSS and JavaScript files

It is possible to give the server too much information and by minifying the code, things can speed up slightly. Removing white space and code comments, for example, will help show slight improvements overall.

Reduce the number of HTTP requests

Images and other elements on a website require an individual HTTP request. Each of these requests means going backwards and forwards to the server and reducing the loading speed. Reducing the number of HTTP requests will reduce the tasks being performed and increase speed.

Minimise the inclusion of external scripts

Lead generation pop-ups and CTA buttons often load from an external source. The script behind the scenes can cause loading times to increase. Take away the inclusion of excessive external scripts and websites begin to respond much faster.

Use fewer redirects

Redirects take a visitor from one place to another via a different address. This adds extra time to the process and may be unnecessary. The overall sitemap should be designed efficiently and not take users on meandering journeys to reach the destination.

Cache web pages

Web cache allows various elements of a site to stay on a user's device and are ready to be called upon next time they visit. There's no point in every tiny aspect requiring a reload every time they return to view the same information.

Leverage a content delivery network

A content delivery network (CDN) will improve overall load times by performing the caching tasks mentioned above. A request for content going to a CDN server instead of a host server will give page load times a boost.

How to improve your website speed - final thoughts

Website load times can depend on many variables. But the great news is that there are some simple steps that will go a long way to improving the overall performance. Many intricate elements can be studied but are often best left to the experts. If you feel that your site needs a little more professional attention to enhance those important load times, then get in touch with us and we can help see where key improvements can be made.

Give us a call on 01844 888 777
or contact us.


Intuitiv Digital

2 Bridge Road
Ickford, nr Thame
Buckinghamshire
HP18 9HX