Website Loading Speed

Please forgive the length and breadth of this information. There is much to consider!

Most of us feel as if the world is going faster every day — and the online world is leading us there. We expect quick answers and quick access because most of us are regularly connected to the online world through our computers and smartphones. Many of us get impatient when we can’t connect quickly.

Access to your website is no different. If your potential prospects and clients can’t connect to you quickly through your website, they’ll simply move on. Studies have shown that three seconds is the limit; if your site hasn’t loaded in their browser in that short length of time they might as well have closed the door on your website. Actually, the metaphor should be that they actually didn’t even get into your website!

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A dozen or more things can affect the loading speed of your website and most all of those we have control of — if we choose to exercise that control. In order of importance, I’m going to give you a quick primer on the four main ways one can obtain optimum website-loading speed and explain, in simple layman’s terms, how I achieve them for you:

The Webhost

This is almost certainly not the company that delivers the internet to you (e.g. Shaw or Telus). It’s also not necessarily the company that administers your domain name. It’s the company that actually hosts your website; where the files reside that form the skin and bones of your site. Webhosts that offer super-economical hosting deals are able to do so because the files from your site are sitting on a server computer with dozens or even hundreds of other sites, sharing the resources of the one computer.

One can spend hundreds of dollars a month by renting space on a dedicated server — but that is overkill to the extreme and wouldn’t offer enough speed to make the cost worthwhile for most businesses.

Image Optimization

In the early days of the WWW, websmiths like me were ultra-sensitive about how many images and graphic elements they put onto websites. With dialup modem connections over phone lines being the norm, loading even moderately-complex images could take minutes to come into view on a page Most consumers – both businesses and home – now have very high-speed connections to the internet, making image optimization a non-priority for many websmiths.

It is my second-highest priority when considering your website loading speed. It is that way for two main reasons:

  1. People forget that a large – and annually increasing – number of people are accessing the internet via two wireless technologies: Wi-Fi and cellular. No wireless technology will ever achieve the data throughput that a physical (cable) connection can, so the size and efficiency of transferring images from your website to the screen of a smartphone, tablet, or laptop is still a major consideration.
  2. Why wouldn’t you want your website to load onto someone’s screen in two seconds instead of three? The internet can provide instant gratification and you have the power to facilitate it!

There are two primary ways I apply image optimization techniques in your website:

  1. If the display size of the image is 800 by 600 pixels then that is the size that the image that is stored. You have no idea of how many images are stored as something larger – sometimes considerably larger – and cropped on-the-fly as the image is loaded! This seems to be so obvious, but many lazy websmiths will not do this because it takes a bit more time to prepare the image properly.
  2. I use special image optimization software to shrink all of them by 50% or more. You might be surprised to learn that there are ways to eliminate much of the detail of an image, yet have it maintain its clarity and saturation to the human eye.

The Source Theme

I use WordPress to design and develop all of the websites I deploy and WordPress, at its heart, is fundamentally a software tool. At the heart of each of these websites is a theme, some of which are free and the rest can typically be bought for $50 to $100. The theme holds all of the structural and decorative details of a specific website design. Admittedly, using one can allow someone to build and post a website in a very short period of time if every aspect of the theme is to their liking. (Has anyone ever purchased a home where everything is perfect and to their taste?!) A theme is, to some degree, another software program; at the least it’s a very long set of instructions. The majority of these themes are severely bloated because a lot of software code is contained within them and many contain settings that one will never use. This results in pages that take 7-10 seconds to load regardless of the other aspects indicated in this article.

I build all of my websites using the same base theme which has been coded from the outset to run quickly. I then use another software tool (a page builder, in WP jargon) to add only the features, functions, and decorations you desire to be present in the site. Using the same base theme repetitively gives me a speedy edge when creating the website and results in one that operates much more efficiently.

Website Caching

I won’t go into a long explanation on this aspect of website loading speed, but it does play a considerable part and many of the sites Websmithian creates have built-in site caching. In simple terms, website caching temporarily stores web documents, such as pages and images, in a place that is more quickly accessible to your browser. These documents are typically static (non-changing) and might be served to the user repeatedly, such as when they return to a specific page while browsing.

Content Delivery Network

Typically referred to by its acronym, CDN, this strategy essentially takes the content of your website and distributes it to a number of other servers. These servers might be located closer in geographic proximity to your website visitor and essentially provide redundancy of your site’s content. When a user clicks on a link to or within your website, the CDN can potentially deliver some or all of your words, images, videos, and other media to that user a few milliseconds more quickly than your webhost.

Conclusion

I am friends of a couple in their sixties who, a couple of years ago, set out and hiked the entire 810 kilometre El Camino de Santiago trail. In preparing for their trip, which would require them to carry most everything they needed on their backs for the entire journey, literally every gram of clothing and necessities was taken into account, the results being an accumulated saving of perhaps a kilogram or two. I consider website loading speed to be a similar endeavour. Every few kilobytes of media that we can shave off the size of a website page – most especially the home page – will result in a loading time of a few milliseconds less. A faster loading time results in more “sticky” prospects, who can quickly and efficiently navigate through your website and find what they’re looking for!