Boost your website’s loading speed

Many factors can affect a website’s ability to load quickly — and many of them can be adjusted to improve users’ experience when visiting your site.

Slideshow: Boost Your Website's Loading Speed - [1] Cover
Credit: Computerworld / Thinkstock
Boost your website’s loading speed

Most people probably think that the only factor affecting a website’s speed is the internet signal or strength. The truth is that many factors can affect a website’s ability to load quickly — and many of them can be adjusted to improve users’ experience when visiting your site.This is important because even a hint of hesitation can cause people to abandon your site. A 2008 study by the Aberdeen Group found that a delay of as little as one second results in a 16% decrease in overall user satisfaction and a 7% drop in the conversion rate. And 47% of internet users expect a page to load up in two seconds max, with 40% of them saying they will leave the website if the loading time reaches three seconds. On the other hand, an Akamai study found that 52% of people who shop online claim that a fast-loading page will make them loyal to the site. Here are some tips on how to help lessen your site’s loading time.

Slideshow: Boost Your Website's Loading Speed - [2] Simplify the design
Credit: Computerworld / Thinkstock
Simplify the design

A cluttered web page is a slow-loading one. A site that is heavy on graphics, stylesheets, Flash and videos can seem to stall because each element has to make an HTTP request to load, and they must do it one by one. A minimalist web page, such as Google’s search page, loads fastest. If you can get by without images, create a page’s visual interest by using CSS. Reducing the number of scripts on your website will also speed up the loading time.

 

Slideshow: Boost Your Website's Loading Speed - [3] Compress images
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Compress images

Some sites, such as online retail businesses, need images. When that is the case, compression, also known as zipping, can help, reducing download times and speeding up response times. Gzip is the preferred compression format of most website designers.

 

Slideshow: Boost Your Website's Loading Speed - [4] Make use of browser caching
Credit: Computerworld
Make use of browser caching

If an image-heavy page is fairly static, you can improve loading time for returning visitors by employing browser caching, which tells the user’s browser to access the images already stored on the user’s hard drive in cached form. Here’s a sample of the code you would use:

ExpiresActive On

ExpiresDefault "access plus 1 seconds"

ExpiresByType image/jpeg "access plus 2592000 seconds"

ExpiresByType image/png "access plus 2592000 seconds"

ExpiresByType image/gif "access plus 2592000 seconds"

ExpiresByType txt/css "access plus 604800 seconds"

ExpiresByType txt/javascript "access plus 604800 seconds"

ExpiresByType application/javascript "access plus 604800 seconds"

ExpiresByType txt/html "access plus2592000 seconds"

# END Expire headers

# BEGIN Expire headers

This code will be for your .htaccess file.

Slideshow: Boost Your Website's Loading Speed - [5] Resize your images
Credit: Computerworld
Resize your images

Things can get slow if your site has to resize the images to fit every time it’s loaded. To fix this problem, scale your site’s pictures so that they can perfectly fit the page. A tool such as Photoshop will let you do this so that the image doesn’t lose quality. 

Slideshow: Boost Your Website's Loading Speed - [6] Monitor response times
Credit: Computerworld / Thinkstock
Monitor response times

Web application monitoring software such as Yslow or Google Pagespeed Tools can give you valuable insight into the speed of your site as you make adjustments. According to Daren Low of Bitcatcha, “It’s difficult to evaluate whether what you did is effective or not by simply observing the performance of the site. In order to get a clearer picture, it’s best to use a server speed checker to see the actual response speed of your site and even get some tips on how to further improve.”