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7 ways to improve page load times

7 Ways to improve page load times

When a consumer uses a search engine, they want to find the answer to their question or the solution to their problem as soon as possible.

A recent study has shown that a one second delay in page load time can result in up to 11% fewer page views, and 7% loss in conversions, with 40% of people abandoning a webpage completely if it takes more than three seconds to load. As well as this, page loading speed is one of many factors that affect the SEO rankings of your website.

The main factor in page loading speed is page size. Intuitively, a larger file size will take longer to load. With that in mind, we’ve put together 7 ways to decrease the file size and page load time of your website.

1. Optimise your images

Images and visuals are a great way to display information to your visitors, but they’re larger in space and size than plain text, and will increase your page load time if not optimised correctly. There are a few good ways to ensure that the images you use on your page aren’t weighing your site down.

Firstly, you can optimise your images by ensuring that they are scaled appropriately. If the original image that you have produced is 500x500 pixels, but you resize it with your CSS to display as 250x250 pixels, the browser still downloads the image in it's original size, and then it loads the CSS. So the browser is loading an image that is four times the size of what it needs to be. If you resize the same 500x500 image with CSS to show as 50x50 pixels on your webpage then the image you originally used is one hundred times bigger than it needs to be. So, always ensure that you resize your images using appropriate software before you use them on your website.

Another way to reduce image file size is to use an appropriate file format. JPEGs are the best bet, PNGs are okay, BMPs should be avoided.

2. Compress your pages

If your site is full of large, high quality images, or videos, then the page file size is going to be large too. And, as we’ve established, large file size = slow page load time. So, just as you might compress files into ZIP folders if you wanted to send them by email, you can compress your webpages into smaller file sizes without any degradation to the quality of your images or videos.

Adding gzip compression can be done a variety of ways depending on your web server and scripting language.

3. Reduce HTTP requests

If you’ve designed your website to include a lot of images, Flash scripts, and fancy transitions, then the browser that loads your page has to make requests for each of these components, which means the page will take longer to load. Where possible, it’s best to avoid superfluous features that would affect load times.

Make use of your CSS in place of background images, check how social integration affects your load times, and if possible, consider removing any nonessential JavaScript. When a browser tries to load non-asynchronous JavaScript, it prioritises it, and won’t try to load anything else whilst it’s doing so. This dramatically affects your page load time, and so non-asynchronous JavaScript should be avoided altogether.

4. Keep JavaScript below the fold

If you really want JavaScript files in your page, putting them below the fold allows the rest of the page to load before the browser starts to load the JavaScript. Keep your image files and simple code above the fold, so that they load first and then stick the JavaScript somewhere near the bottom of your page code and let the browser concentrate on loading the easy stuff first.

Alternatively, make use of async or defer attributes in your JavaScript which, respectively, let the rest of the page load whilst the JavaScript is loading, and only loads the script after the rest of the content has loaded.

5. Tighten up your code

When building your site in whichever language you prefer, you may end up with bits of code that are unnecessary. They’re not doing any harm to what your page looks like, but they’re also not doing any good, and when you consider that every line of code, every tag, and every script adds to the file size of your page, making sure that you’re only including the code that you absolutely need is vital to decreasing page load times.

Whether you prefer to use spaces or tabs to indent your code, you probably don’t need to use any at all. It makes the code look nice, but the webpage still looks the same, and little tweaks like these can be the difference between a three second page load time and a two second page load time. Which is a difference of a 7% conversion rate.

There are many resources available online that will analyse your code for superfluous scripts or spaces, and will ultimately reduce the file size of your webpage.

6. Latency by location

It may only be fractional, but page load speeds can be improved by hosting your website and storing your data in data centres and web servers in the same country as where the page requests are coming from. If you expect your customers to be UK-based, hosting your site on a web server in the UK means that the request has to ‘travel’ a shorter distance than if it was hosted in another country, which results in faster page loading times. Cluster Web Hosting from Fasthosts offers UK data centres with 100% fault tolerant architecture. 

7. Browser caching

If you expect a lot of repeat visitors to your site, enabling browser caching allows the pages to be loaded without the browser having to download all of the files again individually. Instead, on the first visit to your site the files are temporarily stored locally on the user’s computer, and so the next time they visit your page the browser can just load the various files from the computer without having to request them from the server.

 

These are just some of the ways that you can optimise your page load speeds. Remember, even if optimising only results in a seemingly insignificant one second improvement, that one second could be the difference between a customer continuing to your site, or bouncing back to the search engine.

James Norman's picture

James Norman

Content Editor James is a writer and content editor for Fasthosts. He contributes articles on upcoming trends in web hosting and technology to the Fasthosts blog.