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Site load times: we feel the need, the need for speed!

11 June 2018
A person looking a their watch | Site load times: we feel the need, the need for speed! | Neon

With filming underway on Top Gun 2, the need for speed is back in the headlines. But Maverick and Iceman aren’t the only ones who need to quicken the pace. In the reality of a mobile-first Internet, speed is of the essence. Every second counts and every second costs!

The duopoly of Google and Facebook are both prioritising speed. Facebook, for example, has its own website alternative, Instant Articles, which reduces the need for those using the platform to promote content to speed up their own websites.

Google has also developed a product – Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP) project – and is going to great lengths to emphasise its benefits. Moreover, the Mobile First Index means that it will judge the speed of the mobile version of a site, not the desktop version when evaluating its rankings.

As the below graph from Moz shows, speed has always been an important search ranking factor, but now it’s critical.

A graph showing time versus search rank position | Site load times: we feel the need, the need for speed! | Neon

Speed and conversion rates

So speed is important for gaining new visitors to your website, but it’s equally important once you get them there.

A Google study showed that 53% of visits are abandoned if a mobile site takes longer than three seconds to load, yet for 70% of the pages they analysed, it took nearly seven seconds for the visual content above the fold to display on the screen. In a world of fleeting attention spans, Internet on the go, and second screening, every second counts.

A graph showing bounce rates against load times | Site load times: we feel the need, the need for speed! | Neon

How do you speed up a website?

At Neon, speed is in our DNA. We pride ourselves on building light weight, lightening fast digital solutions that convert. We do this in a number of ways.

1. Optimise Images

Images need to be downloaded by browsers to be displayed, so the larger the file size, the longer they’ll take to load.

A few different issues impact file size. Firstly, the actual dimensions. Image sizes should be kept to a minimum as it’s less load for the site to struggle with. Secondly, there’s metadata such as comments and non-required colours.

The latter can be removed using one of many online tools, such as Tiny JPG and Optimizilla.

2. Reduce the amount of loaded resource

The higher the number of requests made to the server, the more time it will take for the website to load.

It’s therefore important to reduce the number of separate elements a web page has to resource, and the simplest way to do this is to group and combine static resources such as styling or script files.

3. Gzip compression

Similar to how files are zipped up on a user’s computer to make them easier to transfer and store, they can also be compressed on a server.

Enabling gzip compression on a website can drastically reduce the amount of data sent from the server to the visitor’s browser and keep your site moving along quickly.

4. Ensure the hosting environment is suitable

Not all web hosting servers are the same. There are different types of environments based on the different levels of performance required. Each server’s configuration will affect how well it (and your site) performs.

Most basic hosting plans available provide just enough processing power and storage to run a basic website, however when a website scales or requires maximum up-time then a custom solution should be considered.

Take time to consider your options and make sure you select the right one for you.

5. Enable Browser Caching

When a browser caches a website, it keeps a snapshot of the static files utilised by the site and serves them to the visitor. This means it’s easier and faster for the site to serve them to visitors.

At the browser level there are a number of methods and plugins that can be implemented. The most popular for WordPress users are W3 Total Cache and WP Super Cache.

6. Check your speed

If you want to assess how fast your own website loads, there are simple Chrome extensions that will time it and provide some basic detail on the different elements that are having a negative effect.

Google also provides some handy page speed insights for you. Just plug your domain in and see what it tells you.

And of course, if you need any support in speeding up your website, just get in touch and we will be happy to help.

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Want to be at the top of the search ranks? How about a website that’ll give your audience a great experience? Or maybe you’re looking for a campaign that’ll drive more leads? Get in touch to find out how we can help.

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