Patience is a virtue…which is in very short supply these days. People have become so accustomed to getting instant information that they are not always willing to wait a few seconds for a webpage to load. This is especially true if they have other options, such as the multitude of results in a search engine query. A returning customer might not mind a slow website, but a potential customer could hit the “back” button without waiting to see what you have to offer.
Is your website slow? What constitutes “slow”? And how can you fix the problem? Below are some steps you can take to check your site’s speed and reduce webpage load times.
- Testing site speed. There are multiple free services you can use to measure webpage load times and identify any items that are slowing your site down. Web Page Test and Pingdom are two useful examples. Besides showing load times, such services also compare your site to industry averages, allowing you to see whether your site would be considered “fast” or “slow.” Even if your site has no major speed problems, though, it is never a bad thing to make it even faster.
- Organize your HTML. Style sheet references should be near the top of the HTML code; references to scripts should be near the bottom. Changing the order will not necessarily reduce load times, but it will allow your webpage to show something as it finishes downloading the rest of the data. This is less frustrating for the user, and provides evidence that the page is, in fact, loading.
- Use HTTP compression. HTTP compression combines and compresses the files to be downloaded. Besides reducing the amount of data that has to be transferred, this cuts down on the number of server requests and the corresponding response times.
- Cache dynamic web pages. By saving a copy of pages that are dynamically created by your content management system, the server can serve up the cached file instead of waiting for the system to recreate the page.
- Optimize image sizes. If a picture is set to display as a 500-pixel square, don’t make the user download a file that is 1,000 by 1,000 pixels. It won’t look any different on the page, and will take four times as long to download. You should also consider how important image quality really is for your site. For some companies, high-quality photos do make a difference; for others, the faster load time of a highly compressed JPEG may be more valuable.
Improving your webpage load times may take some time. But by doing so, you can reduce your bounce rate, get more people to see your content and avoid annoying your potential customers.
*Image coutesy of freedigitalphotos.net