With so much effort going into both the design and the content of a website, (and nowadays the SEO too), it is interesting to note that one of the most important factors on how people interact with a website is not SEO, design or content, but the speed that the page loads in their browser. These days internet users wont settle for slow sites – they expect instant results and instantly loading pages. Most surveys of web browsing habits reveal that if a site takes any longer than 3 or 4 seconds to load, more than three quarters of visitors to that site will never come back to the site.
Even worse, a recent study by Fiona Fui-Hoon Nah has revealed that surfers are getting even more impatient, and are often unwilling to wait more than a mere 2 seconds! So what can a designer do to improve their site loading speed?
Next, it is worth looking into optimizing the images on your site. Often these will be the largest files that a site will deliver and it is essential that you make sure they are correctly optimized. If the images are being exported out of Photoshop then you have to always make certain that you ‘Save for Web’. Images that are smaller and do not employ a wide range of colors can be saved as PNG or Gif files whilst those with a wide spectrum of colors and a great deal of detail should be saved as JPG files. Remember also to save any of your images to the exact size you want to use them at, rather than saving an image at a larger size and then scaling it down with HTML.
Thirdly, look at how you control caching – if your website generates pages dynamically then investigate how to cache a static version of your pages and your database queries. By doing this your content will not need to be created dynamically every time that a user loads your website. If you are using WordPress, for example, there are all kinds of caching plugins you can get your hands on, such as W3 Total Cache and WP Super Cache.
There are other tricks and tweaks you can use to give your website a turbo boost, but if you start off with the recommendations outlined in this article you should see some real improvements in the performance of your site, something that will in turn improve the visitor statistics and conversions.