When it comes to web design, having a website that loads quickly is one of the most important things that drive engagement and conversion. People don’t like having to wait for websites to load and will often abandon the website if they have to wait too long. A speedy website will improve your user’s experience with the site, and will also support your SEO efforts.
You can test your site with free tools like Google PageSpeed Insights or GTMetrix. The goal is to have your website load as quickly as possible. Loading in less than three seconds is a good goal to shoot for. We’ve compiled a full guide to test your website speed in our “How to Test Your Website Speed” article.
Page speed tests will give you a customized report outlining what should be done to improve your site’s unique setup. Simpler Site can support you in addressing these items. We’ve found that the following five tips show most clients significant speed improvements:
Site Speed Tip 1: Use a good web host
Your web host plays an important role in your website’s performance. If your website is using a web host that doesn’t have the resources your site needs, it will likely experience speed issues.
Many people choose the cheapest shared hosting plan they can find, and if site speed/website performance isn’t a crucial issue for your business this may be okay. However, if you choose to use a shared hosting plan you’ll be sharing server resources with many other customers. This means that if another site on the server has a traffic spike or is using lots of server resources, it can impact the entire server performance which in turn will slow down your website.
That is one reason why we use WP Engine for all the websites that use our Website Maintenance services. WPEngine’s Google cloud-based platform allows shifting of server resources as needed, while being more affordable than a dedicated host. We joined WP Engine’s affiliate program because we believe in their services and as a result can offer you a discount on their hosting plans.
Site Speed Tip 2: Implement a Content Delivery Network (CDN)
According to IBM, a Content Delivery Network is a “a network of servers that is geographically dispersed to enable faster web performance by locating copies of web content closer to users or facilitating delivery of dynamic content.”
In simpler terms, enabling CDN on your website will make sure website content is delivered from a server that’s as close to the user as possible. Enabling CDN is often one of the easiest ways to see significant load time improvements.
Many web hosts offer the option to enable CDN as part of their hosting package, but you’ll need to manually enable this yourself (or through your web hosting provider’s support system). Simpler Site is happy to do this on your behalf if you’d like.
Site Speed Tip 3: Size photos for web
As a web design best practice, you should always resize photos for web before uploading them to your website. The larger the file size, the slower the page load time, so it’s important to upload an image that’s the lowest possible file size and still maintains acceptable quality.
We work with clients all the time who have beautiful photos that are several MB in size. The great news is it’s possible to reduce the file size without significantly reducing the quality of your images. To do this we use Photoshop’s “Save for Web” function.
If you have Photoshop and would like to do this yourself, start by opening your image in Photoshop and go to File > Export > Save for Web (Legacy)…. A window will appear which will allow you to choose your export quality. We find that a quality of 60 works best because it drops the file size down to below a megabyte and there’s no noticeable difference in quality.
You can also install a plugin like Smush to help keep your images sizes in check, just know this is not typically quite as effective.
Smaller files lead to faster page loads and improved user-experience & SEO. It’s worth taking the time to resize your photos!
Site Speed Tip 4: Keep your website’s core/theme/plugins up to date
From both a security and performance perspective, it’s important to keep your WordPress core files, theme files, and plugin files up to date. We do this on behalf of clients whose sites we manage. If you’d like to do this yourself, here’s how:
Step 1 (core): On the WordPress dashboard of your website, navigate to the top of the page. Here, you can see a prompt from WordPress to update to the latest version.
Step 2 (plugins & themes): On the WordPress dashboard, navigate to an option called “Updates” from the menu. This takes you to the WordPress Updates page. In the WordPress Update page, there is a list of plugins that you need to update. Choose the option “Select All” and then click on “Update Plugins”. Similarly, there is also a list of themes that have updates available. Click on “Select All” and then click on “Update Themes”. That’ll update all the themes on the page!
Site Speed Tip 5: Test various caching plugins and options
Websites that are built on WordPress need to go through many steps to load a webpage. Setting up caching on your website means that after one user loads a webpage the website will remember what that page looks like so that it can show the memorized version to future visitors.
There are several caching plugins available that are fairly straightforward to set it up. Two caching plugins we’ve used are W3 Total Cache, and WP Fastest Cache. We recommend trying various caching plugin options on a staging site and running a site speed test to compare which setup provides the best page load times. Of course Simpler Site is also here to help set this up for people who want to stay away from the technical!