People have an increasing need for speed.
That goes for websites, too. If your page doesn’t load like lightning, your business, brand and bottom line will suffer. Your SEO will also wither.
Website owners should reflect upon their own browsing habits. Does anything make you crankier than clicking—and then waiting, and waiting some more? A single second’s delay in page load time can lead to a significant loss in conversions.
Thankfully, there are many ways to increase your speed. Start with these five tips:
1. Check your current speed.
No need to pull out a stopwatch. There are plenty of free online tools to check how fast your website loads. One is Pingdom, which helps you quickly check load time and page size, as well as how your speed compares against other websites.
If your site takes four seconds or longer to load, you have a problem.
2. Shrink large files.
Optimize images before uploading them. Adding full-size photos and other chunky hunks of content can severely slow your site down.
The goal is to make your website as light and nimble as possible—in terms of file size—so that it uses less bandwidth. Those raw images from your phone camera or stock photo repository might be several megabytes apiece and can weigh down a page.
Pixlr is a free alternative to Photoshop that enables you to optimize images for swift uploading.
3. Use a content delivery network.
CDNs work by replicating an entire website across servers scattered worldwide, so it can be downloaded by the nearest visitor. This allows for faster loading, because physical proximity does make a difference, even online.
Say someone in Siberia wants to shop your U.S.-based mitten surplus website. It will probably take several seconds longer for that potential customer to load the website from an American server than from one based, say, in Vladivostok. Shaving seconds off your load time could be the key to going global with your mitten empire.
4. Upgrade your hosting.
There are free web hosting companies, and there are good web hosting companies, but you rarely find overlap of the two.
A web host that offers server space at minimal or no cost usually employs a shared server, which crams customers into a tiny sliver of cyber space. That poses serious risks, including the possibility that your site could experience loading problems if a server neighbor uses too much bandwidth.
It costs a little more, but it’s worth checking into either a dedicated server or a virtual private server.
5. Don’t self-host videos.
If you think images hog bandwidth, wait until you upload a bunch of videos onto your website.
Actually, you shouldn’t put any videos on your website. Not even one.
Wait, aren’t videos the most popular form of content candy in the galaxy? Yes, they are. This is not to say you shouldn’t use videos—just don’t put them on your website.
Instead, upload videos to a third-party service such as YouTube or Vimeo, and link to your pieces from your website. That way, everyone’s happy. Your visitors get to feast on all the videos they want, and your page load times don’t suffer.
Bonus tip: Every week, test and tweak.
There are many more ways to trim your website loading time. Keep in mind that there isn’t a one-time, surefire fix. Speeding up your website requires steady effort.
Test your speed regularly, and tweak accordingly. Every fraction of a second counts, and any way you can cut load times is a win for your business.
Gary Stevens is a front-end developer and active GitHub contributor.