Challenge for this week - reduce bounce rates by speeding up your site.  

 
Speed up your site
 

There’s a lot of statistics out there on usability. One of the things that tops the list is the speed of a site. 

Google have been talking for a few years about the need to be mobile friendly. Their search algorithm penalises you if you’re site is not optimised for mobile, which includes how fast your site loads. This means Google will rank you lower in the search engine results and make it harder for people to find you.

Research indicates that people won’t hang about while a site loads. In fact 18% of people surveyed wait less than 5 seconds for a site to load and 49% would wait no longer than 10 seconds. This means that these people are abandoning any site that isn’t speedy enough for them. 

The same article also highlighted a few other statistics. 

  • Just 1 second too long can reduce conversions by 7%
  • The cost of a 1 second delay on a ecommerce site could cost you $2.5 million in lost sales pa (based on $100,000 turnover per day).

If you’re still in doubt as to whether this is an issue for your online business, have a look at your own web statistics. In Google Analytics, go to Audience > Mobile > Overview report. What’s the bounce rate for your mobile compared to desktop?

If you’ve got a high bounce rate then one of the most likely reasons will be speed. 

The upshot is that speed counts and will cost you money if you don’t pay attention. 

The challenge

This week I’m challenging you to assess and speed up your site. I want to show you some tools to understand how your site is performing, and how to go about getting it fixed.  While most of the solutions will need a technical bod involved, being able to understand the basic problem will help you to assess impact and prioritise any actions and how to discuss and brief your web developer. 

Having said this, there are some common reasons for slow sites that are in your control. Big images that take time to load and third party plugins will slow your website up. These are things that are actually in your control. 

Step 1

First step is to assess your page for issues. 

There’s a lot of sites out there that can assist, but Google’s online tool is thorough. In addition, Google is the most dominant search engine. Therefore, their opinion counts when it comes to speed and search engine ranking. 

Go to https://developers.google.com/speed/pagespeed/insights

Input your website address. The results for both mobile and desktop experiences won’t take long to be returned. 

 
Google page speed page
 

A few other tools you could use are http://tools.pingdom.com/ which will break  your page down into individual elements and show the time to load for each and http://www.webpagetest.org/ 

For Google, you’ll get a screen something like the following: 

 
Speed Page Test results
 

Apart from the images, most issues will be code related. This means you need to start a conversation with your web developer. 

I would also check to see if you have a bounce rate issue to back up the speed report. As outlined above, Google Analytics can tell you this. 

Step 2

Next is to interpret and make decisions based on the output. 

The following are non-technical explanations to help you understand the issues. You can use the below, and your web speed report as the starting point for a discussion with your developer to make decisions and prioritise any work that needs to be done. 

Minimise the number of elements on your pages. 

Think of your website as a bucket full of lego pieces. When put together, the lego pieces  can build something great, right? For each lego piece or element on your page, whether it’s a graphic or image or a piece of code, a call or request needs to be made to your web server to get and deliver each element. 

This is where simple design of your site comes in play. The more elements you have, the more delivery requests need to be made and the slower your site will be. 

To fix this, your web developer should consider when they are looking at this aspect of your site is using CSS as much as possible for design elements. This means that everything is downloaded in one element instead of in multiple pieces. 

Another thing that a developer can do is insert any additional scripts at the bottom of the page instead of the top. A lot of different third party services that you use on your site will ask you to insert code at the top in the header of your page. This will also slow the website up from loading quickly. Sometimes it will be important to place the script at the top but others it will ok to be at the bottom. 

Compression of large pages. 

This is like those magic t-shirts that are tiny little squares until you pull them apart and they become a normal sized t-shirt. For big and long pages a common method to speed up a site is to compress or zip these pages (like the t-shirt) so that they’re quick to download and then they are unzipped once they are delivered to your browser on your computer or mobile. 

This is a pretty typical approach nowadays so you’re web developer should be able to assist. Where it will be problem is where your developer has used a platform that doesn’t allow this type of activity

Use cache to speed up the site

Every time a person comes to your site, if caching is enabled then a copy of elements from your site are stored on the visitors computer for future use. This means the next time they visit the site it will load really quickly because the elements don’t need to be downloaded again. This is common and your web developer should be able to assist.

 Image size

It’s so easy to find a great image and then use it as is. The problem is that the higher the resolution of an image, the bigger the image will be and therefore, the slower they will be to load. This is something that you can control easily. Read this article for a quick how-to to make your images ‘smaller’ to download, but still look terrific on your website. 

You should also resize the images to your desktop page width. There’s no point in having a image 2000 pixels wide, but your site is only 800 wide. Your web developer can assist you with developing a set of sizes that best fit for your website’s design and template. 

Third party widgets 

There’s a proliferation of widgets that can be used to enhance your site’s capabilities. 

The type of widgets you might be using range from email collection popups, to analytic codes, to click to chat services. The key is to understand the benefit versus impact each might have on your site. 

Assess each one, discuss with your developer and make a decision around whether the benefit versus site performance is worthwhile. Certainly if you have multiple widgets on your site, then you should consider prioritising to make sure your website isn’t running too slow.  You may also be able to place some of your widgets at the bottom of the page to speed up the user experience. Good widgets for these are email collection popups and click to chat widgets. This means that they won’t fire until the page is fully  loaded but having a page load before asking for an email address is a better user experience. 

Speed unfortunately counts and ignoring it will eventually impact on your business’ online performance due to either: 

  • bad user experience causing people/ to leave before they get to fully consider your offering or
  • your search results and discoverability will drop as Google and other search engines rank you down for the speed of your site. 

So good luck - and go forth and prosper my friends. 

Gratefulness: 

http://blog.crazyegg.com/2013/12/11/speed-up-your-website/

https://blog.kissmetrics.com/loading-time/. 

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