Owning and maintaining a fast-loading website might seem like an easy job, but it isn’t. When someone clicks a link, dozens of requests are processed and served within the few seconds it takes the website to load. If it isn’t properly optimized it, you could end up with a slow loading website. But what makes a website slow to load?
Well, there could be a lot of culprits that make your website slow to load. But sometimes it might not be an easy fix, especially if it’s on a well-established website with a lot of content.
But no matter how hard it is, it should always be the top priority. Slow websites often increase the bounce rate, reducing the number of visitors and ultimately, reducing the number of sales.
Google used an AI modeled on the human brain and nervous system and found out that bounce rate increases drastically with every second the website takes to load.
How to Avoid a Slow Loading Website?
This article will cover the main culprits of a slow loading website, but before we get into that you need to find out if your site is slow. You might be used to a slow loading websites and not see a problem with yours. That’s where speed measuring tools come in handy.
On of the most popular ones is PageSpeed Insights and it analyses your website’s speed and gives you a detailed report. There’s also a Chrome extension called Lighthouse which will make the whole process a lot easier.
1. Choose Only The Best Web Hosting
There are many things you can optimize to combat your slow loading website. Web hosting is not one of them.
Web hosting is basically a house for your website. The important thing that’s dependent on web hosting is the response time. It’s the time from when a person rings the bell to when the owner opens the door of the house.
The best web hosting services open the door much quicker than lower-end hosting providers.
It’s the TTFB (Time-To-First-Byte) that Google takes into account in their search rankings. But no matter how good your server is, if it’s hosted in the US and you’re trying to access it from Europe, there will still be a high latency. This is why you should choose a server location that you think satisfies most of your visitors.
2. Optimize Images
If a website hasn’t been optimized before, it’s very likely that images are making it painfully slow. Even if it’s a WordPress website, images can still be large in file size, even though their resolution is lowered.
There are a few rules to follow to make images load fast.
#1: Don’t serve images bigger than they need to be
This process will be automatic if you’re using a platform like WordPress. To do this, you need to create multiple copies of each image, all of them should be sized appropriately for different devices.
In combination with code that detects the devices, this will make sure you’re not serving a 3000×3000 pixel image to a mobile device because the additional pixels wouldn’t matter to a mobile user.
#2: Optimize your images
Even though you’re serving appropriately sized images to all devices, they still might not be properly compressed. When compressing images, it’s sometimes possible to lose 50% of the file size without any degradation in quality.
There are many tools for this like a CDN, image compression plugins or just plain old manual compression before uploading.
Another method of optimization is to upload your images in the .webp format, although this might not make the biggest difference.
#3: Implement lazy load
Lazy load is a tool to prevent the loading of images that aren’t visible in the browser window. These images won’t affect the initial load time, but will still load after the visitor scrolls to them.
This will greatly improve the loading time of your website, especially if you have some image-packed web pages loading slow.
Lazy loading might be hard to implement if your website is built from the ground up, without any platform. But the good news is, if your website is built on WordPress, there are a ton of plugins that can help you implement lazy load with one click.
3. Minify and Defer Assets and Scripts
Fortunately, there’s a not-so-hard fix to this. Instead of using a one-file script or style, split it into multiple files and load only what you need for a certain page. By doing this you’ll remove unnecessary code and ultimately increase the page’s speed.
Other than splitting the scripts and styles into multiple files, you need to minify them. Minifying is a compression method that removes all unnecessary characters from a file, in order to reduce file size. Note that this also makes the files unreadable.
The final optimization is using defer or async to load the scripts. This will make the browser continue t render the website while loading the scripts. This is easy to do, but if you’re on WordPress, please look for a plugin to do this. Here’s how to do this:
4. Use a CDN (Content Delivery Network)
Before CDN’s, when people tried to connect to a website, they were very much affected by their location. If you’re located in Germany and you try to connect to a server in New York, that’s a long distance that the data has to travel.
But nowadays, pretty much all websites use a CDN. The most used one seems to currently be Cloudflare, as it’s free to use.
What a CDN basically does is cache some static website resources in dozens of locations throughout the world. When those resources are requested, the CDN serves them from the location nearest to the visitor.
By using a CDN, your website will load much faster for visitors from around the world. If a website that is hosted in New York gets a visitor from Germany, the CDN will serve the cached resources from a server in the EU, reducing the distance from the visitor to the server by more than 50%.
Cloudflare’s Network – These are all used for their CDN
5. Leverage Browser Caching
What you can do to improve this process is increase the cache expiration time. This is done through the .htaccess file.
6. Implement WordPress Optimizations
The previous optimizations can be used on any website. But taking into account that WordPress is used on over 30% of websites, it’ll be nice to include WordPress-specific optimizations.
#1: Remove unnecessary plugins
You might like the new plugin you just installed that enables a nice and beautiful function. But have you considered if it’s making your website slow to load?
Probably not, as you can’t see a difference in the browser you’re using.
Every plugin you install affects the website speed in some way. The general rule of thumb is don’t use too many plugins. Use only what is absolutely necessary and nothing else. Plugins can degrade your website’s performance or even worse, create security vulnerabilities.
#2: Try to find an optimized theme
The most important thing to consider when optimizing your website for speed is the WordPress theme. If you install a bad WordPress theme, there’s no easy way to improve its speed. That’s why you should test some of the theme’s demo pages with Google’s PageSpeed Insights tool to make sure it’s fast.
Website Slow to Load? You Can Fix That!
In the end, no matter how much you optimize the website, if your web hosting has a high response time, you’ll need to purchase a new one. That’s why it’s important to choose a good one at the start.
Even if everything is perfect, sometimes it’s more work to optimize a website than to build a new one. That will give you an opportunity to create a blazing-fast website that is optimized from the start.
If you’re building a new website, using a platform like WordPress will do you wonders, and if you pair it with quality WordPress hosting and a fast theme, there’s nothing that can go wrong.