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How Fast Does Your Website Load? Does It Matter?

2020-06-22

The slower your website loads, the more likely people are to click away from it. In fact, a recent report from Google shows that when load times increase from one second to three seconds, bounce rate (the number of people who enter the site and then leave) increases by 32 per cent.

Clearly, the speed with which your website loads matters a great deal to the success of your eCommerce business. Read on to learn more about the importance of website load times and gain some valuable tips on how you can start speeding yours up today.

How to Measure Website Load Times

If you’ve never paid much attention to the amount of time it takes for your website to load, now is a great time to do so.

Don’t wait until you see your bounce rate go up or until people start complaining about your website load times to take action. Figure out where you’re at as soon as possible so you can make adjustments if needed and keep your customers happy.

There are lots of free online tools that you can use to measure your website’s load time. The following are some of the most well-known tools eCommerce businesses use to ensure they’re sites are loading in an efficient manner:

These tools provide a lot of valuable data regarding your website. This includes the amount of time it takes for pages to load, as well as the page size.

Some feature a waterfall chart, too. This provides a handy visual to help you understand page loading behaviour and identify potential problems on your site.

When testing your website’s load speed, it’s best to test it on a desktop computer as well as a mobile device. Some sites load very quickly on desktops but struggle on mobile devices.

Considering the fact that almost 60 per cent of all online searches take place from a mobile device, it makes sense to ensure that folks trying to access your eCommerce site from a smartphone can do so without any problems.

Why Do Website Load Times Matter?

There are lots of reasons why you need to take your website load times seriously. The following are some of the greatest advantages that come with having a website that loads quickly:

Improved User Experience

A positive user experience ought to be a top priority for any business owner with an eCommerce site.

When people have a positive experience visiting your website and don’t have to spend a ton of time waiting around for it to load, they’re going to be more inclined to visit it again in the future. They’re also going to be more likely to recommend it to their friends and family.

All of this leads to increased traffic for your eCommerce site. It helps to decrease your bounce rate as well.

Increased Conversions

Remember that a decreased bounce rate and increased website traffic both can contribute to increased conversions, too. If you find that people are visiting your site often but aren’t sticking around long enough to make a purchase, the issue could be the amount of time it takes for the site to load.

By decreasing load speeds, you could increase the likelihood that they will spend more time on your website. There’s also a greater chance that they will be interested in buying what you’re selling.

Better Search Engine Rankings

Most eCommerce business owners understand the importance of search engine optimization (or SEO) and good search engine rankings. When they think of improving their site’s SEO, though, they think mainly about things like keyword usage and content readability and forget about the impact that load speed has on their place in search engine results.

By making load speed a priority, decreasing bounce rate, and increasing traffic, your website is sending a positive signal to the search engines. This, in turn, helps it to rank higher, which then can lead to more traffic and higher conversion rates. 

Factors That Influence Website Load Times

If your website doesn’t load as fast as you’d like it to, there’s no need to despair. There are plenty of factors that influence website speed and, the sooner you can identify them, the better off your eCommerce business will be. Here are some of the most significant factors that can slow down your website:

Server/Hosting Issues

Often, issues with your website’s hosting company and its server can have a big impact on the website’s speed. If the server doesn’t have sufficient resources, the site will slow down.

This issue is especially common when you’re using a shared server. Shared servers can be fine when you’re first getting started. As your website begins to grow, though, it may require more bandwidth than what the shared server can provide.

If you’re using a shared server and are experiencing slow load times, you might want to consider upgrading. A virtual private server (or VPS for short) or a dedicated server might be more beneficial. This is especially true if you’ve recently seen a significant increase in traffic.

File Types and Sizes

The types of files on your website, as well as the size of these files, can affect the load speed, too. In general, when you have lots of large files on a page, or if you just have lots of files, in general, the page is going to take longer to load.

This is a common problem. Luckily, though, it’s relatively easy to fix. There are lots of strategies you can use to compress and optimize these images and files so that they take up less space. We’ll explain more about them later in this article.

Plugins

Plugins can be very useful when it comes to enhancing your site and making it more functional. At the same time, though, it’s possible to have too much of a good thing.

If you’re overzealous when it comes to the number of plugins you’re using for your site, or if you’re using unoptimised plug-ins, you’ll likely notice an increase in your website’s load times as a result. This is especially true if you’re using plugins that make lots of database queries and require lots of assets to load.

Traffic Volume

The more people are visiting your website, the slower its load times are likely to be.

Very large increases in traffic can even cause your website to crash. We’ve all experienced a website that shut down during a big sale, for example, because so many people visited it at once, right?.

When traffic increases to levels that your website’s server and hosting platform can’t handle, the site is likely to slow down in response.

How to Speed Up Website Load Times

Are you ready to speed up your website and address the issues outlined above? The following are some of the best practices you can implement to make sure your website loads as quickly as possible:

Reduce HTTP Requests

Approximately 80 per cent of a page’s load time gets spent downloading various parts of the page. This includes things like images, scripts, and stylesheets. For every one of these elements, an HTTP request gets made.

The more on-page components you have that need to be downloaded, the more HTTP requests need to be made. By reducing the number of HTTP requests required for each page of your website, you can speed up the load times in a major way.

A good starting point for reducing these requests is to figure out how many your site is making. You can do this by using your internet browser’s Developer Tools. After you’ve seen how many requests are being made, you can take steps to combine files and decrease the requests.

Reduce File Size and Combine Files

Two steps you can take to decrease the number of HTTP requests your site makes are reducing file size (also known as minifying files) and combining files.

When doing this, it’s best to start with your site’s HTML, CSS, and JavaScript files. They are the most important and tend to have the greatest impact on your site’s load times.

It’s especially important to take this step is you built your website using a templated website builder. These tools simplify the building process, but they also have a tendency to create messy code that slows down the site.

To minify files, remove unnecessary formatting, code, and whitespace. To combine files, consider using a plugin like WP Rocket. This makes it very easy to combine files and reduce their size without you having to do a ton of extra work.

Defer JavaScript Loading

When you defer a file, you stop it from loading until other elements of your web page have loaded.

By deferring larger files, such as JavaScript, you can make sure that all the other content on your web page loads quickly and without any delays. That way, people can still access the most important information on the page without being held up by a large file’s slow load time.

The WP Rocket plugin makes it very easy for you to defer JavaScript loading. If you prefer using Drupal instead of WordPress, there are also modules you can add that defer JavaScript and speed up your site’s load times.

Upgrade Hosting

If you think your website’s slow loading is due to a hosting issue, it might be worth looking into a different hosting plan. Reach out to your hosting provider and find out what other options are available to you.

Upgrading to a virtual private server can be a good step up from shared hosting that doesn’t cost too much extra money per month or per year. VPS hosting still requires you to share a server with other websites, but you’ll have your own dedicated portion of the server’s resources.

Dedicated hosting is also a potential, although much more expensive, option. It’s meant for very large sites that receive high numbers of traffic each day. Companies like Facebook require dedicated servers.

Enable Browser Caching

When someone visits a website, the elements that make up each page they visit are stored in a cache on the person’s hard drive. The cache is a type of temporary storage. It allows the browser to load the webpage without having to send additional HTTP requests.

By enabling browser caching, you can store a cached version of your website on each visitors’ browser. This, in turn, allows them to return to your site in the future and have it load much faster than it would otherwise.

Reduce Plugin Usage

There are lots of plugins that can help you speed up your website’s load times and improve the overall functionality of your website. At the same time, though, if you have too many plugins, your site will slow down.

Go through all the plugins you’re using for your site and consider which ones provide value and which ones do not. Then, get rid of those that aren’t having much, if any, impact on your site. You’ll be amazed at how much faster your site can load when you get rid of these superfluous plugins.

Reduce Redirects

Finally, make an effort to reduce redirects on your website.

When you move pages or delete them from your website, redirects will be needed to prevent visitors from running into Error pages. If you have too many redirects, though, they can create additional HTTP requests, which can lead to slower load times.

Do your best to minimize the number of redirects on your site. Try to get rid of them entirely if possible.

Speed Up Your Website Today

As you can see, the speed of your website matters a great deal. Luckily, though, there are lots of steps you can take so that your website loads faster. Keep the tips outlined above in mind and you’ll have no trouble speeding up your website and improving your eCommerce business’s bottom line.

Do you need more help speeding up or enhancing your website? If so, check out some of the other resources on our site today.