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Did you know that slow-loading web pages are highly accountable for a website’s high bounce rate? A study by Akamai Technologies found that 57% of visitors will wait a maximum of 3 seconds for the page to load before clicking away. If your website loads longer than 3 seconds, online users are most likely to abandon your site and never come back.

But don’t panic! A slow page loading time can be fixed with simple tricks that you can easily manage if you have a decent grasp of your website’s code and hosting. You don’t have to do a complete site renovation. Instead, first try these 5 simple tips to boost your site’s performance:

1. Optimize your images.

Website performance

This is a rule of thumb for all website owners: keep the file size of images to a minimum. Even the most high-def pictures can be optimised without a noticeable change in quality. If your website has image-heavy pages, like galleries and portfolios, then you should learn the basic optimization techniques.

These include cropping unnecessary parts, converting the images to a lower resolution, and saving them to their appropriate formats – there are even pieces of software like ImageOptim that can help you out. Also, HTML scaling can do more harm than good because it still loads the original size of the image before scaling it, so try to resize the images directly with an image editor.

Case Study: Tweetbot for iPad

Although Tweetbot isn’t a website, this case study truly demonstrates how important image optimization is to loading speeds. The Tweetbot app for iPad is currently 33.4MB – of which, 26MB are images. Image optimisation halved the size of this app; reducing load speeds from over 8.6 seconds to 1.2 seconds. That’s an improvement in load speeds of over 700%! Naturally, this improved performance resulted in a notable increase in downloads on Apple’s App Store and an increase in user satisfaction.

2. Enable caching.

This overly technical term is actually pretty simple. Some files on your website change occasionally, like your sales copy, images, CSS, and Javascript. Without caching, your browser automatically downloads all resources on your web page every time a user loads and reloads it, regardless of whether something changed or not. The result – slow page loading.

But if you enable server-side caching, your users will just load a cached copy of these resources instead of downloading everything again on subsequent visits. This will result in fewer HTTP requests and reduced bandwidth costs for your site, not to mention a faster loading speed.

Case Study: Wombat Servers

I speak from personal experience in regards to this case study. My own website, Wombat Servers, previously did not take advantage of caching. Using Pingdom’s website speed test tool, our website took 3.12 seconds to load from their Sydney test location. After enabling caching locally on our server, our static files loaded in just 1.04 seconds – that’s an improvement of over 50%. These increased load speeds increased Wombat Servers’ average bounce rate from 30% to just 22%.

3. Use a CDN.

Content Delivery Networks are web services where you can store static web files like images, audio files, videos, CSS, and Javascript. This pretty much acts as a worldwide cache for your website. Instead of hosting your website and storing all these files on a single server, you can use a CDN to distribute them and load them across multiple systems.

For instance, one of the largest CDNs, CloudFlare, has servers around the world – in the US, Europe, Asia, and Oceania. Understandably, loading web files from a server in the same country as your users is much more efficient. What’s even more awesome, is that some CDNs are free to use!

Case Study: Imgur switches to CloudFlare

Although your site is unlikely to receive the traffic of Imgur, a popular image sharing website, this case study truly demonstrates the benefits of Content Delivery Networks. Try it for yourself – open Command Prompt (PC) or Terminal (Mac) and type ‘ping imgur.com’. In all likelihood, you’ll see a low number (ms) – meaning the site is loading from a server geographically near you, and improving speeds.

Imgur reports that their bandwidth usage was reduced by 5 pentabytes as a result of caching to a CDN, reducing the overhead costs of running their website too.

4. Avoid bad requests and redirects.

These two are the bones of your website because they render additional HTTP requests that slow down your page loading time. Broken links are especially annoying for visitors and can cause a bad website experience. So restrict your use of redirects and use a link checking tool to scan your site for bad links. Plus, always update your URL resources and references so that they will lead to where they are supposed to be. How many times have you browsed a website and gotten an error because the page was old?

5. Minify your Code.

Simple: cleaner, leaner code means a faster page loading time. And you know what that means? Happier users.

So, optimize your code – remove spaces, delete unused and duplicate entries, and just keep those lines compact. This will make your website browser-friendly and will speed up the downloading, parsing, and execution time of your code. You can also enable data compression so that your web contents will be compiled in a gzip format before sending them over the network for download.

Case Study: The Up Group

Admittedly minifying your code won’t improve your page speeds as much as our previous tips, however every millisecond your customer has to wait for your page to load will decrease conversions. The Up Group’s website decreased 80kb as a result of minifying both CSS and Javascript files, improving website load speeds.

These 5 simple tips usually do the trick in optimizing your website’s performance. Try them out and you will see a noticeable change in your page load speed – a crucial factor to get higher conversion rates and search engine rankings. You could even quantify the difference – use Pingdom’s website to test your load speeds before and after optimizing your site. Good luck!

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Posted by Javed Ali

With a background in web hosting, web development and online marketing, Javed currently runs Wombat Servers, an Australian server business that offers consumer game servers (such as Australian minecraft hosting), as well as business services such as dedicated servers.

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