17th April 2019
Fundamental Concepts of User Experience Design
Have you ever come across a website that takes frustratingly long to load, and then decided to leave? Well, this is a common occurrence, with studies showing that 40% of people are very likely to leave a website if it takes more than three seconds to load. If this is the case for your website, it could be very problematic for your business. In this day and age, for any website to be successful no matter its purpose, it must be effective. One of the best ways to make sure that a website is effective is to make sure that it has a quick loading time.
You may ask how much difference your website’s speed can really make, but the answer is that the difference is huge. Speed can affect your traffic, page views, conversions and reputation. Studies have shown that conversion rates can drop up to 7% from just a 100-millisecond delay in load time! Having a faster website speed will provide visitors with a better user experience which is key to building customer loyalty.
Another reason your website’s speed is crucial is that speed can affect your SEO (search engine optimisation). Google loves fast sites, so, the faster your website loads the higher your ranking in the search engines will be.
However, before making changes to speed up your website, it would be hugely beneficial to check your current website load-time to make comparisons later on once you have made the changes listed below. You can check your website’s speed using Google PageSpeed Insights or GTMetrix.
If your website is too slow, this could be because you are getting more traffic than your server can support. Unfortunately, in most cases, the cheaper the hosting service, the less traffic it can support. There are three main types of hosting which provide different levels of service, and it is vital that you are using the correct hosting service to fit the size of your website!
Shared hosting– This is the cheapest hosting option and the option that most people will go for when starting with their website. It is best for sites with lower traffic (but may struggle to keep up with high volume sites). For shared hosting, you will be sharing resources such as RAM, CPU and disk space with other sites on the same server.
VPS hosting– This is the best mid-level option for hosting. Whilst you still have to share the server with other sites, you have your own dedicated portion of the server’s responses.
Dedicated server– This option gives you the most space and can handle the most traffic and usually is the best option for a faster website. However, dedicated servers are usually more difficult to set up and are the most expensive option of the three.
Make sure that if you are currently experiencing a much higher rate of traffic than you were when you last updated your server, it is probably time to move up to the next level, be that from shared hosting to VPS hosting, or from VPS hosting to a dedicated server.
More resources lead to a slower website, and every plugin you add requires resources to run. Of course, many plugins are needed to contribute to the functionality of a website, but your website will likely have some unnecessary plugins, and these should be removed by deactivating and deleting them. As well as contributing to a slower website, unnecessary plugins can also cause security issues and crashes.
When it comes to plugins, it is definitely a matter of quality over quantity! A page with 60 plugins could be faster than a page with 6. It is important to avoid using plugins which load lots of scripts, styles and overwhelm the website.
A content delivery network is a set of servers spread across the world. By using a CDN you could immediately save up to 60% bandwidth! CDNs create a faster loading process by reducing the load on single servers as they host on a network of servers across the world. This means that when someone from a different part of the world downloads your website they will be downloading it from their closest ‘edge server’ rather than from the main ‘physical server’. So, by using a CDN, this will decrease the loading time of your website, improve the performance and subsequently improve your conversion rate, SEO and user experience.
The homepage is the first page to appear when visitors open your website and therefore it is the most vital in terms of having a fast loading time. There are a few ways to optimise the homepage loading time. It is unnecessary to have full articles and lots of content on your homepage. Instead, it would be better to just have excerpts and previews. You could also try uninstalling the plugins and tools you’re no longer using, and having fewer widgets of the homepage.
Minimising HTTP requests can be done in several ways. You can try removing unnecessary images and use CSS instead of images whenever possible. You can then reduce the size of the remaining images and combine multiple CSS files together. As well as this, you can try reducing the scripts and keeping them at the bottom of the pages.
Your Content Management System (CMS) is critical to the functionality and performance of your website. It is important that you are using a reliable CMS as you risk decreasing the speed of your website by using an untrustworthy CMS or one that you have created yourself. The most popular and reliable CMS is WordPress.
Once you have done thorough research and chosen a reliable CMS, it is important to regularly check for updates to keep your website as fast as possible.
Larger pages that contain high-quality content are often the pages that take the longest to download. To reduce the bulky size and slow loading of these pages, you can use a technique called compression. By compressing files, this can retain their high quality whilst reducing the bandwidth of pages.
Images take up a lot of bandwidth when not optimised (meaning they are large in size- using lots of server resources). Consequently, they can take a long time to load and can increase the overall loading time of your website, which as we know, is bad for business.
To reduce the size of your images without negatively affecting their quality you can use a plugin that can compress your images and ensure they don’t lose quality, or, you can compress your images in a program such as Photoshop.
Videos take up even more space than images on your websites and if directly uploaded to your website this can cause a major increase in the time it takes your website to load. A good trick for speed optimisation is to upload your videos to platforms such as YouTube, Vimeo etc. and then use the link in your website.
The solutions above are just a few of the ways to improve the speed of your website, and there are many other solutions out there! What’s most important is that you take action to improve the performance of your website if you want to maximise its potential. Many people are often surprised at how updating your website and improving its performance can really make a difference to your traffic, views, conversions, and reputation.
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