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The Importance of Website Speed: What web developers can do

Picture this. You click through to a site from the search results. Your expectations are high. But the site hangs. Half a second feels like a long time online, two feels horribly slow. You click away. Google also dislikes slow-loading websites. The algorithm is primed to give search prominence to fast-loading sites, suppressing slow loaders in the search results. You can see why website speed is important.  When choosing a website development partner, make it someone like us, an experienced B2B website team who understands exactly how to make your site load instantly. Here’s what you need to know.

Why Website Speed is Important

Whatever the device we expect many of our digital experiences to be presented to us quickly, without a noticeable delay. While a few seconds in the real world isn’t much to write home about, five seconds waiting for a regular page to load stands out. Your pages and content have to load faster than that on mobile, tablet, laptop, TV and desktop. You know yourself the effect on the user experience can be dramatic.

Most of us expect websites to appear and become usable very quickly, more than half of us are not prepared to wait more than two seconds. Unless it’s a page people don’t mind loading slower, like secure payment, slow speed creates a poor first impression for your brand. It hints other things might not be as good as they seem behind the scenes. When trust matters, slow load speed can be more than inconvenient for a visitor.

As we’ve mentioned, Google uses aspects of ‘page experience’, including speed, in its website ranking assessments. And people expect websites to behave like desktop apps, with the same fast loading times and sites that respond almost instantly. Think it, do it. When it doesn’t happen, people are disappointed. Every great positive user experience is a fast one.

You can see how a slow transactional site like an ecommerce store will potentially lose customers. In marketing terms that doesn’t just mean losing the one sale, it means losing all the potential future purchases the person could have made. People often abandon shopping carts if a site isn’t working as they expect because it gives such a bad customer impression.

How to Test Website Speed

Luckily there’s a choice of excellent online tools to test and analyse website speed and performance. While they’re all good it makes sense to check it using multiple tools to find the average, a baseline to track improvements. You might have to configure a few details, for example the test location. Here are some of the tools we rate highly.

Google Pagespeed Insights

Since 2010 Google has made page speed an important ranking factor for SEO. The useful tools they provide free include the page speed tool. Google Pagespeed Insights gives you the information you need direct from Google itself.

Google Mobile Website Speed Testing Tool

Mobile friendliness and page speed go together, which is why Google has provided this mobile speed testing tool, powered by the PSI tool.


Pingdom is an independent website monitoring service with an excellent speed testing tool.


Gmetrix is another excellent independent speed testing tool, easy to use and giving you a really comprehensive analysis.

There are plenty more. Try a few, and pick those you like best.

How to Speed Up a Slow Website

Now you know how to tell if your site is loading slowly, and it isn’t as good as it could be, how do you speed it up? And what is a good page load time, anyway? You need to know what good speed performance looks like before starting on your speed optimisation journey.

Google best practice suggests pages should load within 3 seconds. In reality most websites are nowhere near this fast. The trick is to make the load acceptable to users. Here are some of the things web developers can do to speed up a slow website.

  • Minimise HTTP requests by reducing server interactions, taking the load off server resources to keep things nimble
  • Minifying and combining your site files, for example combining multiple Javascript files and / or CSS files into as few small files as possible so they take up less space
  • Host bigger files on external hosting platforms
  • Using something called asynchronous loading for your CSS and JavaScript files, where the various files load as needed rather than all at once. Until a user navigates there, the content isn’t served from the server to the user. If your scripts load synchronously, they load one at a time in the order they appear on the page. If your scripts load asynchronously some load simultaneously
  • Deferring JavaScript from loading until the basic, most essential content has loaded, giving the user a great experience from the start 
  • Optimising the server response time so the DNS lookup takes less time and the pages load faster
  • Optimise CSS delivery, the code that drives the style of your pages
  • Using the best possible high speed hosting. As a rule the cheaper the hosting, the worse the quality and the less reliable it is. The smaller and simpler your site, to a degree, the less this matters. But imagine a freelancer website representing a person’s entire business. In fact every business deserves the best hosting they can afford
  • Put over-the-fold content first, only surfacing below-the-fold when the user scrolls down
  • Enabling compression to make resource hungry content smaller and less resource-hungry. Did you know you can run a compression audit? There are ways to make sure it’s always taken into account, for example a plugin to do it for you 
  • Enabling browser caching so next time a person visits the pages are served up instantly
  • Reducing image file sizes and image sizes without losing their quality, clarity, or kerb-appeal – going back to fix old images as well as reducing new ones going forwards
  • Retiring old and irrelevant content when it isn’t needed any more – for example hundreds of products no longer in stock and they never will be
  • Use a content delivery network, a separate network of servers that together decrease load times

This is a selection of many, many things that we can do, small and large, to make your site load as quickly as it possibly can and deliver the fastest, best UX. 

Does Connection Speed Affect Website Performance?

Bandwidth is the maximum amount of data transmitted over an internet connection in an amount of time calculated in megabits per second (Mbps). It affects website performance by slowing things down. Websites with high traffic need more bandwidth for optimal performance. The more your bandwidth, the more visitors your website can take at a time. This means you should plan for unexpected traffic spikes when choosing hosting. 

Imagine a web page full of big image files and another page that’s simply plain text. Large images and video demand high bandwidth to be usable. If you were around in the old dial-up days you’ll remember how slowly even the smallest .jpg would load. Video streaming was out of the question. Do you remember how frustrating it was?

These days, with broadband, it’s hard to imagine using a 56K modem limited to a maximum download speed of 56,000 bits per second. Superfast broadband, at 30 Mbits a second and up, is an entirely different animal, as is Ultrafast at 300Mbits/sec.

Get your website speed right

Now you know the importance of website speed. It’s an essential part of a long list of simple but essential things you can do to help your site rank better in search, tick all the technical boxes, please Google and delight visitors. Go here to learn more about B2B website development from Intuitiv.

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