In 2021, optimizing site speed is a must if you want to build a successful online business. The reason is that site speed affects search engine optimization (SEO), user experience, bounce rates, and most importantly, conversion rates.
However, a recent study suggests that the average time it takes to fully load a web page is 10.3 seconds on desktop and 27.3 seconds on mobile.
In other words, website owners are always struggling to optimize the pages on their sites. Here are some of the most common problems that can slow down a website and solutions that every site owner can benefit from.
Reason 1: Poor quality hosting services
Optimizing website speed starts long before you have an actual website. Finding a high quality Managed Service Provider (MSP) and choosing the right hosting service is as important as applying any of the techniques ahead. In some cases, upgrading to a better hosting plan or migrating to a different MSP can resolve your site’s performance issues.
This is why relying on a cheap shared hosting service is not the best foundation on which to build your website. Plus, shared hosting has its drawbacks – you’ll be sharing server resources (processor and memory) with other websites. And the worst part is that these resources will not be evenly distributed. Therefore, the speed of your website can be affected by a lack of resources.
- Choose a high quality managed service provider
- Choose a scalable hosting solution that can guarantee availability, security and performance (Cloud, VPS, Dedicated Server, Colocation)
- Make sure you can count on 24/7 support
Reason 2: Lack of a caching layer
Of all the techniques for optimizing site speed, caching is probably the most important. Caching is the process of storing a copy of your website’s files in a place called a web cache.
Without caching, the client’s browser has to request your website’s resources (HTML, CSS, JS) from your origin server every time instead of accessing them from a local or staging cache. This lack of caching layers can result in slower response times because servers have a limit on the number of requests they can handle simultaneously. Once this limit is reached, each request is placed in a queue, resulting in longer load times.
- Configure caching rules manually – You can manage your website’s caching policy through HTTP headers. You can change them through your web server configuration.
- Use a content delivery network (CDN)
- Use caching plugins to automate the caching process
Reason 3: you are not using a content delivery network (CDN)
Network latency is a common issue for websites that don’t use CDNs. This happens when the physical distance between the user and the origin server is too great. A CDN is made up of a number of servers in different places around the world. Their main task is to shorten the physical distance by serving the content from the nearest server to the user.
As a result, your website will load faster. Websites that attract visitors from all over the world benefit massively from the use of a CDN.
- Contact your managed service provider as they might offer CDN service
- Install a CDN plugin if you are using a CMS like WordPress
- Contact a CDN provider like Cloudflare or Stackpath
Reason 4: Images not optimized
Image bytes are roughly half of all bytes on an average page. Basically, without image optimization half of your website is not optimized. By applying different optimization techniques, you can reduce the size of image files, allowing the browser to download and process them faster.
- Image compression is the process of reducing the size of an image. Lossy compression greatly reduces the file size, but it decreases the quality of the image. Lossless compression does not reduce file size as much but maintains the same quality.
- Image Lazy Loading means loading only images that users are currently viewing. Therefore, if the user does not scroll to an image, it is never loaded.
- The new generation image formats (PEG 2000, JPEG XR, AVIF and WebP) have better compression and quality characteristics. Using them allows you to reduce the file size without compromising the quality too much.
Reason 5: your site code is too heavy
The more code to run on the server or browser, the longer it takes for your website to load. This, in turn, negatively affects the actual and perceived performance of your site.
- Minifying the code means removing unnecessary parts like white space and comments from the code.
- Code compression involves applying algorithms to rewrite the binary code of files, using fewer bits than the original.
Render-blocking resources, such as CSS and JS files, must be downloaded, analyzed, and executed before the rendering process can continue. Dealing with these resources means applying different techniques that help the browser prioritize the resources that are critical for the user. This leads to faster load times and better perceived performance.
- Critical CSS is responsible for styling the elements above the waterline. You can insert this CSS instead of using a stylesheet (external CSS). This allows the browser to prioritize it and instantly load content above the waterline.
- Reduce unused CSS. Unused CSS rules are those that are not used to style the page a visitor is currently viewing. By reducing them, browsers can render your content faster.
- Defer JS means telling the browser to run a script file only after the HTML document has been fully parsed.
Bonus for WordPress users: Reason 7: Install too many plugins and use a bloated WordPress theme
The WordPress library is full of great plugins. However, installing tons of them will negatively affect your website performance as it will increase the amount of code to be executed.
This point is also valid for other CMS sites. Using too many third party plugins / extensions will slow down your site. Another common WordPress issue is using a bloated theme. Some themes contain a lot of unnecessary stuff (like stylesheets or JS scripts), which increases loading time.
- Get rid of unnecessary plugins
- Install lightweight and frequently updated plugins that offer multiple features
- Use a light theme