Fast website is a dream of every business or blog owner on the internet. However, only a few have actually done some work to achieve results in website optimization. The general opinion usually ends with the hosting question, when talking about website speed. Majority of websites’ owners believe that having an expensive hosting provider will basically guarantee a fast website – that is simply not true.
Making your website fast is a process, and you not only need to make one-time adjustments but maintain them over time, since on the internet things change very fast. The website you’ve created and optimized today might not work as fast in the future, due to the fact that you will most likely add more content, pictures, functions etc. over time.
Good web hosting is only one of many factors that affect website speed, and we are going to discuss some others later. In this article we are also going to present the most common ways to improve your website speed. It will help to improve your visitor’s user experience by enabling the website to load faster.
Simple Faster Website Tips for Free
Here are the most basic tips for a faster website. Web developers can help you in each and every of these steps. They are in no specific order and all are equally important, so you should decide individually, which of these tips you can use and make adjustments.
All developers want to achieve their goals in their own ways, so websites are more different than one might think. These tips are general and you should be able to make adjustments easily, but in some cases, one or two tips might not be suitable for a particular website in a particular situation.
Specify the character set – this one is quite simple but can help make your website a little faster. The idea is to set your website’s character set – it will help the browser to process and display the website’s content faster, because it will know how to read the code.
File compression – the general idea is that a visitor downloads all the content when he/she visits the website. So the website should be as little in size as possible, and here is where file compression comes in handy. It can greatly reduce the size of files that your visitor downloads. You can use gzip compression format supported by most web servers and browsers. It works like this – web server compresses the files, the visitor then downloads the compressed archive, which is processed by the internet browser, and the website content is displayed. This can greatly improve website loading speed.
Reduce image size – a large high quality picture can really slow down your website because all that content will have to be downloaded by the visitor. This is why reducing the image size can significantly improve your website. The easiest way to reduce image size is to simply crop its size with as simple a software as Paint. For example, if you need an image on your website, which is supposed to be a 200px wide, don’t just upload the image of 1000px wide – it will be displayed smaller, but the visitor would have to download the full-size image. Simply crop the image to the size you need.
Minimize HTTP requests – HTTP requests are requested from visitors every time someone visits your website. The browser generates a different HTTP request for every file it needs to download in order to load your website. The more files, the more requests, the longer loading time – it’s as simple as that. However, that doesn’t mean it’s good to have a few enormously large files – that will most likely slow down your website as well. You can generally check the request with a Developer tool that is nowadays available on most browsers. For example, in Google Chrome, you can simply press “F12” and check the “Network” tab when certain website loads. You will see all the requests that are made for a certain web page. Most likely, you will find some unnecessary requests that could be removed or optimized. Other tips mentioned here can be helpful for minimizing HTTPS requests.
Reduce redirects – redirects are usually used to correct broken links when some web pages are deleted and replaced with new ones. Most likely a common website won’t avoid redirects completely, but you can improve the situation in most cases and eliminate unnecessary redirects. By reviewing redirects you can also notice that some of them are redirecting to another redirected page, which creates an even more complex chain – you should avoid those.
Remove bad requests – Over time older websites may acquire bad links that point to a broken page or missing images from external sources (error “404 Not Found”). A website is not supposed to have many of them, but they still generate an HTTP request and lead to a bad user experience – check for these pages and avoid them.
Browser caching – when you visit any website, your browser will download files from that website. The cache helps to save downloaded files locally on your computer and load them faster next time you visit the same website. Website related content caching settings and preferences can be set using plugins like WP Total Cache or .htaccess file for static content caching. Caching will help to improve your website loading time. Here is some Google information about caching https://developers.google.com/web/fundamentals/performance/optimizing-content-efficiency/http-caching .
Choose your plugins – most websites are based on the open source CMS, it also offers a variety of plugins to help simplify your website management and functionality. However, it’s not always helpful and can, in fact, be the reason why your website is slow, or even cause security issues. Don’t use plugins for everything, some things can be done manually. Some plugins are not updated regularly (or ever) and can eventually just slow down the website. Even if you have only a few plugins, it’s good to check them once in a while, to see if they are still as effective.
What Is The Hosting Part?
Hosting is important when talking about your website speed, but it’s not the only factor by any means. Most of the time, hosting works just fine, unless there are some obvious issues like maintenance, attacks, malfunction, etc. Two factors are believed to make the most impact on website speed: its hosting type and its location.
Let’s say, you have to choose between two most popular hosting types. It can be either a VPS or a shared hosting. VPS will most likely be self-managed, so you will be able to set it up and optimize as much as you need to. This is a great option for more complex websites, generally it demands more resources due to the way it works.
On the other hand, shared hosting will be much better for blogs or simple e-commerce websites. Usually shared hosting is already configured and optimized to meet the basic and most common needs of a smaller website. You can’t make server-level changes or improvements on the shared hosting server, but you can focus on improving the website, in order to maximize its loading time.
The other important factor of hosting is its location. For example, you don’t want your hosting to be located in the USA when the majority or all of your customers are from another continent – Europe or Asia – and vice versa. This is a self-explanatory thing – the distance adds latency and it results in lower loading speed.
By this example, I don’t refer to websites like eBay, Amazon or other global brands, since their resources are much bigger and they can afford expensive hardware and online services. On the other hand, things like CDN could be used even by a more common website – this technology allows your website to be loaded from a different location, thus providing a faster loading for a visitor. Here is more information about CDN https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Content_delivery_network
Fast Website Is a Process
Having a fast website is not a one-time task, you need to monitor it constantly and make small adjustments over time to keep it that way. When the goal is to have a fast website, you should be realistic about it. If it’s a complex code with many functions and content, like some e-commerce shops out there, it most likely won’t be as fast as a WordPress blog website could be. However, it is also true that your website loading time can be improved in most cases, even if you think you have reached the limit.
Our recommendation would be to monitor your website, even if you have reached your goal and your website is loading fast enough at the moment. Do it just make sure that the new redirect is not causing noticeable issues or that all of your external images are working fine, to see if there are any broken pages and etc.
Here are a few most common online tools to check your website, some of them offer a scheduled test, while the results are sent over email to you. All of these common tools analyze your website and provide various information about it and the insights into the possible improvements.
- Pingdom → https://tools.pingdom.com
- GTmetrix → https://gtmetrix.com
- PageSpeed → https://developers.google.com/speed/pagespeed/insights/
Investing time to make a fast website pays off: your visitors will not be annoyed by slow loading, they will find the information fast and their user experience will be pleasant.