At Supersonic Playground, we use various tools such as Google PageSpeed Insights, GT Metrix and Pingdom Website Speed Test to benchmark the performance of our client websites and to give us a good idea of what might be influencing website speed.
Why is website speed important?
Google suggests that for a website to be fast, it should load in under 3 seconds on both mobile and desktop devices. Research conducted by Think with Google tells us that websites that take longer than 5 seconds to load – have a bounce rate of 90% compared to just 32% if it loads in under 3 seconds. Moreover, 79% of consumers state they wouldn’t return to a website that was slow to load.
To emphasise the importance of speed a little more, it’s also a vital ranking factor for Google.
Please read our blog: 3 reasons why speed matters for more detail on why website speed is important.
Now that we know why speed is critical, let’s look at five tips to help you improve your website’s speed.
1. Hosting, hosting, hosting
Your hosting solution can have a severe impact on the speed and general performance (uptime and security) of your website. It’s vital to do your research and find a hosting provider that offers everything you need. It’s also important to note that hosting should never be an afterthought or purchased cheaply. Good hosting can range from a few hundred pounds per year to several thousand, but if you’re considering investing a significant sum on a new website, why scrimp on hosting when it could make or break the success of your new site? As an example, we offer annual hosting for our clients at £300 + VAT per year on our dedicated WP Engine server.
We’ve listed a few different types of hosting below. The best hosting for your WordPress site will depend on its size, complexity and what you’re looking to achieve.
- Shared hosting
- Virtual private servers (VPS)
- Dedicated servers
- Cloud hosting
- Managed hosting
Learn more about the different types of hosting
Installing a caching plugin to your website can dramatically reduce the time a page takes to load. Caching creates a copy of your website and then serves this copy of your site to users rather than fetching it every time someone clicks through. We recommend WP Rocket as our caching plugin of choice to clients. Caching can also be enabled on a server-level, so finding a hosting provider that also offers performance features like this is a top tip.
Images are great for adding visual impact to a website and helping your content engage visitors. However, they can also affect performance and slow down your website, especially if they’re not optimised. A well-built website should resize images so that they’re not too big or slow to load, but it’s still worth taking the time to optimise them so that their file size is as small as possible. There are free services online such as Tiny PNG, or you can pay a small fee to services such as Imagify to bulk-optimise images.
We also recommend using lazy loading on your website to improve loading times. With lazy loading, images will only load once they enter the visible screen, i.e. when a user scrolls down to them, as opposed to all of the images loading when someone lands on the page.
4. Number of items on a page
When it comes to the number of items on a page, fewer is better so you should be mindful of elements such as blogs or news articles which may have no set limit, causing indefinite scrolling which can slow down the load speed. This also applies to other areas of the site where you may have excessive functions or features. It’s essential to balance the length of the page and the number of items on that page with speed and general user experience. Too many items can also be a little overwhelming for your visitors.
5. Themes and plugins
The great thing about WordPress is that it is an extendable platform for DIY users, with plugins that can help you achieve just about anything. The downside of this is that each plugin you add to your website comes with additional ‘bloat’, so the more you use, the slower your website will become. This is because all plugins are made in isolation and do not consider your specific website or other plugins you might pair it with.
Third-party themes have the same problems. These can often be very slow, with some of the free or cheap themes barely scraping 10 out of 100 on Google PageSpeed Insights. Again, this is because they cater to individuals and businesses from a variety of industries with different functional requirements; hence they’re usually packed with features you’ll never use.
Plugins should be used sparingly, so if you find yourself needing to use lots of them to achieve advanced, comprehensive or complex functionality, then you may need to consider a more custom website, built to your specific needs. Working with a web design agency is the best way to do this as they will strip everything out and build your site from scratch, minimising bloat and maximising performance.
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