Internet users are getting more and more impatient. In this age of information where there’s so much content out there to grab our attention, there’s high competition to keep it. In terms of organic traffic and search engine optimisation, if a user has searched for an answer to a question and you’ve got a webpage that perfectly answers that question, you’ll likely be high up the search rankings. But, if users click your link and the page takes ten seconds to load, they’re likely to abort their session and hit that dastardly back button before the page even opens. You’ve lost them before you ever really had them.
25% of users will bounce if a page takes more than four seconds to load. That’s why it’s so important to keep the page load time of your website as low as possible. There’s also the fact that good page load speeds are a Google ranking factor, and a slow website is punished in the search rankings.
WordPress is the world’s most popular content management system, and powers over 25% of the world’s websites. If you’re running a WordPress website, here are some tips on how to improve your page load times.
Choose a lightweight theme
WordPress is popular because of how easy it is to customise a theme to build the website that you want. There are over 10,000 official WordPress themes to choose from, and countless others available from bespoke vendors. Although themes that include features like sliders, carousels, parallax scrolling and animations might look cool, it’s worth considering what these extra features are doing to your page load times.
Themes with dynamic content give the web browser more to load, and more requests need to be made toyour server. This will cause page load times to slow. So, although they may look pretty, they may end up being damaging to your website’s performance and you should consider this when choosing a theme.
For more tips, read our previous blog post on optimising on-page content to improve page load times.
Optimise your plugins
Like themes, there’s a wide range of official and unofficial plugins and widgets that give increased functionality to a WordPress website. Again, these plugins can be useful but all of the extra files that come with plugins can bloat the size of the website and have a drain on page load speeds. Be sure to deactivate and uninstall any plugins that you aren’t using. There are also some plugins that will optimise your WordPress content for you.
There are some plugins out there that can actually speed your site up. Plugins like WP Super Cache use caching to help serve content to users faster, and WP Clean Up removes redundant data from the WordPress database. Read our overview of plugins that can improve page load times.
Cache me if you can
Installing caching systems like Memcached, Redis, and Varnish can improve page load times significantly. Although they all work in slightly different ways, the systems all act as a middle-point between the server and the user. Data is stored in a cache so that the next time a user wants to access the webpage, it can be retrieved from the cache rather than having to go back to the host server. These tools are easy to set up in WordPress and will improve the performance of your website.
What kind of hosting?
How and where your website is hosted also affects its performance. A low-end shared hosting solution is great for small sites with low traffic volumes, but may struggle under the high load of higher traffic volumes. Cloud hosting is the choice for increased performance. Having your site running on a cloud server means that all of the resources are yours, and only yours, unlike shared hosting when you’re competing with other websites on the same server for the same resources.
Cloud hosting like CloudNX from Fasthosts gives you dedicated resources so your performance isn’t impacted by other users, and dynamic resource allocation scales your amounts of CPUs, RAM and SSD storage automatically to cope with increased load.
And, cloud hosting solutions like CloudNX Managed Applications offer a managed infrastructure. We look after the updates and security of the architecture, so you can just concentrate on your website.
Location, location, location
Also, CloudNX gives you the option to choose where you want your data to be hosted. Naturally, the physical distance between your customers and your server can affect the time it takes a page to load. If your customers are primarily in Britain, but your data is hosted in the US, then there is a further distance, increased latency, and ultimately slower page load time.
With CloudNX cloud hosting you can choose between data centres in the UK, US, Spain and Germany.
Content delivery networks
Another way to improve page load times is through use of a content delivery network (CDN). With content delivery networks, the website data is stored on servers at a range of locations around the globe. When a user in the US tries to load the website hosted in the UK, instead of the request having to go all the way to the UK server and back, it can just go to the nearest US server in the content delivery network.
Again, this decreases the distance the request has to travel, and will improve page load speeds.
For more information, read our blog post on content delivery networks.