Websites are becoming more complex and cool, but unfortunately for many companies this also means these same websites are becoming less usable, rendering them useless. For instance, when a website does not load quickly, it negatively impacts user behavior, which leads to decreases in sales conversions and revenue.
A website can slow down for a number of reasons, including low server memory, competing resources, or data influx. If a web server is slow, it will hinder the website’s performance. Likewise, if your site is receiving a great deal of traffic that can also slow down load times or disrupt a user’s experience entirely. Navigation, web design, images and apps will also affect how quickly and effectively a website is displayed.
Bottom line: Website speed can be the difference between generating and losing revenue.
Website Performance Impact on Sales
Never stop monitoring website performance. It should be part of your team’s daily operations as it pertains to web design workflow. Check home page load time, process load time, and conversion rates at regular intervals.
Don’t think a couple of seconds can make a difference? Think again. According to Jupiter Research, the average online shopper in 2006 expected a web page to load in four seconds. Today, those same shoppers expect web pages to load in two. Poor web performance is one of the biggest reasons online users are dissatisfied when shopping online.
Online shoppers who experience performance issues will abandon a site or switch to a competitor. Because page load time is important to web browsers, even Google has begun factoring site speed into their algorithm when ranking websites.
Responsive Design is the New Normal
Today, website visitors expect a cohesive experience across devices; from desktop to mobile. So now, not only do you need to consider how your website performs across desktop web browsers, you must also consider optimizing it for mobile devices. This is where responsive web design comes into play.
Responsive web design (RWD) design is a web development approach that creates dynamic changes to the appearance of a website, depending on the screen size and orientation of the device being used to view it. It is important to note, though, that just because a site has responsive web design and looks good on a specific device, does not necessarily mean faster load times. And just because your site loads faster on a mobile device, it does not mean a visitor will stay longer and engage with your content.
How to Optimize Website Speed
Get a dedicated server.
One way to improve performance is to move to a faster server or get a dedicated server. Although it may cost more, being on a slow server can cost you even more in sales long term. According to HostDime, “Cheap [web] hosts offering high or unlimited bandwidth will conveniently leave out how slow your site will be. More powerful servers generate pages and process the databases faster than cheap, outdated servers you’ll find with some hosts… The more sites on a server means more resources those sites use up, which equals a slower page load for your website. If you are sure that your code is optimized and everything is good on your end, your best bet may be to upgrade your server for top loading speeds.”
Use a CDN.
Compress images and text.
Another way to improve website performance and speed up page load times is to compress images and text. A server does not have to send out as much data this way. Some hosting providers automatically compress websites, and there are a number of tools you can use to test whether or not it is compressed. Most sites are image heavy, so if you want to optimize an image without losing visual quality, you can use a tool like Yahoo’s Smush.it. For web graphics, use GIFs or PNGs rather than JPGs.
Just like a physical store needs organizing, your company website needs regular cleaning. When it comes to page-load optimization, every kilobyte counts. Web performance is a critical part of a customer’s experience. Don’t put optimizing a website’s loading time on the back burner, as it can be detrimental to loyal readers or repeat business.
This article has been edited and condensed.
For over a decade, Mike Quinn has been active in website design and development. After completing formal training in multimedia technologies in 2002, he became a founding member of a Pittsburgh based design company, Yellow Bridge Interactive (YBI). YBI’s focus is creating SEO-friendly websites that utilize the latest design and programming techniques.
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