Website Health Check – Speed

website speed test

With modern fast internet connections letting users browse online in near-instant speeds it is vital your website can keep up; users expect instant access to online information and will quickly get fed up and leave if your site does not deliver this. 53% of users, for example, will abandon a site if it takes over 3 seconds to load, this will then have an impact on your websites SEO as google takes into account the page load speed but also the bounce rate of people leaving your website because of the issue.

This issue is compounded with mobile users who may have slower internet connections than traditional desktop users who can benefit from super-fast connections. Mobile users also tend to have download caps meaning bandwidth is a limited resource for many.

How to Test

Now we know speed is important, the next thing to do is test your website to see if speed is an issue or not. It’s important here to keep in mind what you’re testing the website on, if you have a high-powered device and internet connection your site may load instantly for you but what about users with limited connections? Start by browsing through your site on your usual device but also use a mobile device that’s not connected via WiFi, this will also help to give you an idea of the experience some mobile users will have of your website.

Look out for pages or elements that take longer to load then they should, sometimes the issue can be limited to a few pages or a single type of page – examples could be product pages or similar pages that may have large numbers of high-quality images or that have to do some processing before outputting the content. Make a note of any pages that stand out as being problematic as well as any content that may be causing the issue.

A useful tool for testing the speed of your website is tools.pingdom.com this tool will let you scan a webpage by loading it in and monitoring the resources used. Based on this it will give you a score which can be used to monitor improvements made and see what impact they are having. The test will also let you set a location so that you can test it from different locations around the world, focus on areas that bring in your visitors – for example, if you’re a UK business the ‘Europe – United Kingdom – London’ test location would be the most beneficial to look at as it will give you real-world figures.

The results to focus on are the ‘Page size’ and ‘Load time’ figures.

How Do You Compare?

Knowing what your website is doing is one thing, but how does this compare to the rest of the internet? If you have one or two key competitors in your industry or area running these speed tests on their websites as well will help to give you an idea on how you compare.

Looking at the internet as a whole, the average loading times for websites on desktop devices is 4.7s and mobiles 11.4s however, Google suggested optimal time for loading is 3s. Webpage size also plays a large part, the average desktop webpage size is 1.96MB, for mobiles its 1.77MB but Googles suggested target is 0.5MB!

Aiming to beat out your competitors is a good idea. Getting your site to load in 3 seconds is OK but getting it to load in 1 is even better, the average bounce rate for a page that takes 3 seconds to load is 13%, for a page loading in 2 seconds its 9.6%. Taking it further a website that loads in 2 seconds vs 8 seconds would on average get 5.6 more page views! – it shows that with websites, every second count.

compare website speed

What Impacts Website Speed

Many factors impact a websites speed, some are down to how the site is built but others are down to how the site is used. It’s important to look at all areas when trying to improve speeds, it’s also important to find a balance between page loading times and the overall page size. For example, you could remove all of the styles and images from a webpage to drastically reduce the file size, this would have a positive impact on the loading times but would not make for a very appealing website!

This is especially true of visual content, like portfolios on creative websites or product pages on an e-commerce site – like with all things in life a balance between the two is key.

Images

Images have a large impact on the speed of a website, this is because they can make up a large percentage of the total page size for example on our website some pages are made up of 75% images. Finding a balance between the file size and the number of images is important.

For the images, you have to keep looking at optimising them by resizing them, so they are only as big as required and compressing them to get the file size down but keeping an eye on the quality, so they don’t become pixilated.

While you’re at it there are SEO benefits to be had in preparing images for the web, this article covers both: shopify.co.uk/blog/7412852-10-must-know-image-optimization-tips

The key takeaway here is don’t upload full resolution images straight from your camera.

Number of Files

number of files

The number of files required to load a webpage will directly impact the loading times, this is because the browser needs to download each of them increasing the page size, but another key factor is the actual number of files. This is because each and everyone needs to be ‘requested’, this process adds a lot of overheads to the process as the server has to read the request, locate the file and send it back to the user.

The result of this is sending a single 1MB file is better than sending 10 X 0.1MB files. Images are one type of file but a webpage is made up of a range of different files, HTML, CSS and JavaScript all come together to make your website work. It means however that adding additional features to a site also comes with additional overheads that will have an impact on the page loading times. Examples of these features could be image sliders, lightboxes, tracking scripts, pop-ups and live chats. It’s important to review how necessary each is keeping only the features you need. Talk to your developer about other strategies for limiting the number of files because, in some cases, multiple features can be compressed into single files!

With WordPress websites this is where plugins can have a large impact on a website, especially those that have not kept page loading times in mind – for example, by loading a feature on every page even if it’s only used on some! Reviewing your installed plugins and disabling/removing any that are no longer needed is a good habit to get into.

Hosting

Hosting issues

Not all website hosting is created equal, it is a case of you get what you pay for! Basic web hosting gets its cheaper price from sharing the server resources between more users, this leaves less of the total available for each website to use. For some websites with low visitor numbers, this may be OK but others will suffer from slow loading times as the server struggles to keep up with all of the requests.

Cheaper hosting solutions also tend to use older equipment as providers are squeezing out every penny from their investment, this equipment is slower than modern standards and closer to the end of its life bringing with it a whole host of other issues.

Ensure your hosting is up to scratch and that it is using modern technology to get the best results, all of our websites, for example, are hosted on modern SSD only hosting with a tried and tested provider.

If your website is getting a large number of visitors, it could be time to look at upgrading your hosting to give your website more resources to ensure swift loading times.

Website Health Check Guide

This is part of our Website Health Check guide, the full version with all 10 sections is available to download for free now.

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