The age old question, how to make my website load faster, is a question that webmasters and business have been asking for years. More so then ever making your website load faster is becoming one of the leading factors in search engine optimization and making visitors convert into customers. So what makes a website load faster? Well making a website load faster can be broken down to a few simple elements. These elements include;
- Website Hosting
- Webpage Size
- Website Coding
- Image Sizes
- Caching/Content Delivery
These are the main elements to website load times, but they are not the only factors that influence website speed. These five elements are a great place to start optimizing your website and are some of the easiest steps to complete. Lets dive into these five elements and pick them apart a little more and see how the affect website speed and load times.
Having a good host is important for many different factors and having a host that optimizes their servers for speed is important as well. Its important to understand the different types of website hosting available today and how they are going to affect speed, lets break these types up and talk about how it all works.
- Shared Hosting – This style of hosting is a great place to get started building a website. Shared hosting is cost friendly and effective for most websites with low to moderate traffic. The downsides of shared hosting lies in the name, shared. Basically your website is on the same server as different websites. So depending on the load that the server is getting from those other websites at any given time, your website will load at different speeds. Now don’t get me wrong here I have websites on shared servers that load very quickly, but they could load faster.
- Dedicated Hosting – There are different forms of dedicated hosting, from virtual private servers to dedicated servers and more. What I really want to drive home here is that a server that features your website and your website alone is going to load faster in the long run, because your website is going to be the only website drawing on the server.
- Managed Hosting – Managed hosting can come in many different forms, but the best managed hosting gives you some great options for speeding up your website. Plus you get the benefit of your hosting company optimizing your speed for you. This means that you get the best performance from your server on many of the factors that affect website speed.
So which website hosting should you choose?
For me it all depends on your budget and ability to perform the steps in this article. Shared hosting is a great option for a small business, or somebody on a budget and if you get a host that optimizes their shared servers you can get very fast load times. A good shared hosting provider is Veerotech and on their shared servers I have websites that load in a 3 seconds to under 1 second. Dedicated hosting costs more, but if your website is getting a moderate amount of traffic, you probably have already moved to a dedicated type of server. If not you can really start to improve your visitors load times and experience by moving to a dedicated server. Once again you can get an effecient, fast dedicated server with stellar support from Veerotech. Managed hosting does cost a little more than shared, but it can cost a little less than dedicated. With that said, you can really benefit from the services you get from managed and if you use a company like WP Engine can get these services for a pretty good rate.
Other Hosting Factors That Affect Website Load Times
There are a couple more hosting factors that affect website load times. These are a little more out of your control, but you should be aware.
First is location, where your hosting company’s servers are located will affect load times. For example, if your visitor is from Amsterdam, but your websites server is in Dallas, then the visitor is going to see some increased load times. If the visitor was in Dallas, they would see some pretty fast load times. One of the methods to remedy this is using a content delivery network, which we will go over in caching.
Second is server technology, if your host is using outdated, or old/well used server technology, your website is going to see a speed decline. Think of it like the computer that NASA used to put a man on the moon, this was the size of a refrigerator and to today’s standard your smartphone fits in your pocket and is cable of far more computing power than NASA’s original computer. A method to get away from old servers, is if you start to see a decline in website speed, you could inquire with your host about the servers age and if it might be advantageous for your website to be moved to a better server.
Webpage size should be pretty self explanatory, but if not lets look at it this way. Think of the internet like a funnel, the more you pour through the funnel, the longer it takes to run through the funnel. So by keeping your website page sizes small, you naturally increase load time. There are several different methods for keeping webpages small, these range from easy fixes, to a more technical approach that we will go over in website coding. For now lets stick to the easy stuff, things to help keep your page small are
- Image Size – images contain a lot of information and if your website has images, which it should, you should be making these images the exact size they need to be. Also if your image is of a .png format, the image does not change quality and it helps it load faster.
- Java Script – Popular ad solutions and social sharing plugins along with a plethora of other internet technologies use java script. However over use can cause your website load times to slow down. By all means, use java, but don’t over do it and if you do use a lot of java script consider outsourcing it to its own file. This can be a little tricky, but helps speed up your website in the long run.
For best results you need to keep your webpages small, so you aren’t pouring too much through the funnel. Remember keep images small and be careful with Java.
Website coding is a scary thought for many, especially small business owners and individuals who have no clue how to code. This can be a problem, because if your website is not using a clean coding solution and you don’t know how to fix it, your website is loading slower than it should. There are a few website coding factors that influence website speed, the main are
- Style Attributes – if you have a lot of style attributes, they take longer to load from your html file. Again you can outsource them to their own file, so they can load apart from the rest of your page.
- Inline CSS Style Tags – again think of the funnel, if you have any inline CSS style tags they should have their own file.
- External CSS – Similar to java script and often times running in conjunction with, external CSS should be moved to its own file and coded to load when it is needed.
- Java Script – I think we beat java to death with web page size, but it does have to do with website coding. Too much java means outsourcing to its own file.
- Flash Files – I don’t use flash files, or movies on my websites, that should be enough said. If you do use flash try to keep it to a minimum.
This is where most of us run into problems and I’ll admit that I hate going through website code to outsource files, but it can really help website load times.
We kind of went through images, but optimizing your images is one of the easiest things you can do to speed up website load times. So for the sake of beating this one till it’s dead try to optimize your image sizes. What I mean by this is if you need an image that is 250×250, then make sure when you upload it, it is 250×250, try not to let your website builder scale the images, because your webpage will want to load the full size image.
There are a few easy methods for getting your website on a caching system, for the sake of our discussion I am going to recommend two different content delivery networks. Cloudflare and Incapsula re both great content delivery networks and if you want to speed up your website for free, Cloudflare is a great place to start. What caching does is stores your website within the browser of people who have already visited. This is great because most of the static resources of your website load from your visitors computer and not from your server. What the content delivery does is make the funnel a little bigger. Most content delivery systems have global network of servers and this ties into what we were talking about earlier on server location. Content delivery networks, or CDN’s optimize your content and deliver it at a faster rate then your server and they do it on a larger scale. Another upside of a CDN is that they offer your website increased security by staving off attacks from bots and hackers which is a win for everyone.
Tools That Help You Make Your Website Load Faster
While there are a plethora of website tools available online that help you determine methods for increasing your websites load time, there are 3 main tools that I like to use.
- Pingdom Tools – these tools will help you analyze your websites speed/full page test, your dns health and ping/traceroute. The full page test is the money maker for testing your website speed and determining what is taking the longest to load. This helps give you an idea of where to get started optimizing your webpages.
- SEORCH – these tools are made for a search engine optimization standpoint, but SEO and website speed go hand in hand. The basic website analysis will give you lots of valuable information for SEO, but more importantly it will show you if you have java script, or CSS files that you should outsource to their own file.
- Google Speed Test – last but not least is Google developers page speed insights. This is a great tool for optimizing your webpages because, it breaks down your code and tells you exactly what you need to fix for desktop and mobile. If you want all the resources available at Google you can find them here.
- W3Schools – If you are like me and have a minor understanding of HTML & CSS, you could have a hard time cleaning up the code of your website. W3Schools can help you learn HTML & CSS for free and is a great tool for learning the basics of your coding needs.
Last Speed Tips
I’m not a big on good endings so I am just going to though out one last list of things to keep in mind for website load times.
- Simple themes load faster.
- Less images load faster
- Clean CSS and HTML load faster
- Optimized hosting loads faster
- Less bulk loads faster
- Less plugins loads faster
Less is more with website load times and if anyone can think of anything else I left out I would love to talk about it in the comments below.