A sluggish website doesn’t just annoy you and your visitors— it can help push your website further down Google’s search results pages too. And the worst part is, you may have no idea it’s happening. Here’s what you can do to diagnose and speed up your website.
When I began designing websites in the mid 90s, most people had dial-up access, which meant it took about 15-20 times longer to download a web page, compared to today’s broadband access.
In the mid 90s, I did everything possible to reduce the file size of my web images, since they were the biggest potential bottleneck at that time.
As internet access speeds increased, I paid less attention to image file sizes. However, with mobile access growing; the use of higher resolution displays; and a greater reliance on database-driven websites (yes, like WordPress), a slow website, is, once again, a serious concern. And unfortunately, this is no trivial matter, especially on image intensive websites.
Things That Make Your Website Slow
Here are a few speed bumps you’ll want to watch for:
- Avoid budget hosting companies, especially if you’re using WordPress or any other content management system
- When possible, avoid loading numerous resources from other servers (e.g., ads, scripts, images, etc.)
- Avoid excessive use of plugins; keep them, and WordPress, updated
- Optimize your website for mobile use by removing large graphics altogether from the mobile version of your website
But Just How Slow Is Your Website?
There are quite a few tools you can use to see how your website compares to others, and see what’s causing it to slow down. One that I like is Pingdom.com’s Website Speed Test. In addition to the speed comparison to other websites, it provides a detailed list of resources and displays the length of time it takes for each to load.
For example, the map graphic I illustrated (on my home page) is considerably large compared to the other images. Incidentally, the map graphic does NOT appear on mobile devices, by design.
Using a simple image optimizer called ImageAlpha (for MacOS), I managed to reduce the file size of this image from 453kB to 139kb!
Using Pingdom.com, you can also see other resources. For example, the length of time it takes for the AddThis widget to load! Not a fan of this script— I’ll need to fix this as well!And finally, I should mention that Google has its own page speed analysis tool called “Page Insights“. This one is better suited for a technical audience (web developers). However, as you might expect, Google has very high standards, and this tool may be a better indicator of what Google’s search algorithm uses to grade your website.