Long gone are the days of dial-up where we once sat and waited for minutes just to see a single web page or photo load. However, with ever increasing internet speeds and faster servers, it has become easy to overlook just how big an impact page load time can have on your bottom line.
Amazon claims that an additional 1 second in load time will cost them an estimated loss of $1bn in revenue and an extra 100ms in load time, that is 1/10th of a second will cost them 1% in sales.
Google has further reported that an extra 0.5 seconds in search page generation time dropped traffic by 20%.
Another study by Akamai has found that nearly 50% of people expect a web page to load in two seconds or less.
While large corporates tend to have entire teams allocated to reducing their website load times by utilising expensive content delivery networks (CDNs) and pricey optimisation procedures. Smaller businesses are usually stuck at the mercy of their designer’s skills to rollout budget hacks in order to get their website download times down.
This article is designed to act exactly as a list of hacks, or a list of requirements that you should include when commissioning the building of a new website.
- Minimise the number of things on each web page. This is technically known as minimising the number of HTTP requests, but essentially it is about reducing the number of things per any one page where ever possible.
From the website designers perspective, this will include things like combining multiple style sheets. Reducing the number of scripts and using CSS rather than photos and images where ever possible.
- Make sure that your photos are compressed and no larger than they need to be.
There are a myriad of tools available to streamline this process, but the principle is that most images will only be viewed at a certain size and at a certain level of detail, while most photos and images will be taken/designed to contain a lot more information that what will be displayed to the user. The principle of compression is about only showing what is necessary and minimising the overall amount of data that needs to be sent to user when they request the website.
- Get the right host. Often a small business will setup their new website with the cheapest host that they can find online, and while sometimes this can work out okay, there are a few rules that can be helpful in making sure (especially when starting out) that this won’t be a fatal move.
The first of which is to ensure that the server is in the proximity of those who will be accessing the website. If your target market is global, then your only option is to pay for CDNs (as mentioned above) however, if you’re targeting a local area the rule is to make sure the server is at least in the same country as those who will be viewing the site. Apart from this making sure the hosting company has a good reputation is key and don’t ever go with a self-hosted solution or a free one.