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Website Performance – Why does speed matter?

Published by Richard Hills on September 15th, 2020

Website performance is important. Google prefers websites that are fast.

Fast websites get better organic search results and pay less for ads.

Fast websites massively improve the visitor experience and increase the overall conversion rate.

Need convincing? 

We helped a client that increased their conversion rate by 20% by improving their page speed and generated an additional £40,000 in revenue over 3 months.

How do I improve the speed of my WordPress website?

Invest in good hosting

A good hosting provider will optimise their server to deliver content to your visitors fast. You need a service provider that has preconfigured GZIP and HTTP/2.

For WordPress hosting, we recommend WP Engine, Kinsta or FlyWheel. Kinsta and Flywheel will even transfer your site for you.

If you prefer to run your own servers, we recommend DigitalOcean and ServerPilot.

Avoid WordPress Plugins

Each WordPress plugin that’s installed will slow down your website. Plugins are also the most common causes of a security breach. Our advice is to reduce the number of plugins you use, pick plugins from reputable developers and keep them up to date. 

Always remove any plugins that are not used anymore.

Pick the right WordPress Theme

Lots of themes come with multiple options that you will never use. If you’re buying a WordPress theme, make sure it doesn’t require lots of additional plugins to function. 

The best option is always to have a custom theme or WordPress site designed and developed around your business. This approach always gives the best results as the design is based around your content and calls to action, and in turn, your business goals.

Use an up to date version of PHP

Make sure you’re using a new version of PHP, at least 7.3 or above. There are substantial performance improvements with PHP 7 and you’ll notice a difference straight away. 

Good hosting providers will have PHP versions preconfigured.

Reduce image size

One of the biggest causes of slow websites is large images. Make sure the images on your website are the correct size and use a lossless compression tool like TinyPNG

Always use the appropriate image format; SVG for logos, PNG for images with text and JPG for everything else.

Replace all GIFs with videos. An MP4 video file compressed correctly is often much smaller than a GIF.

For sites with lots of images consider adding lazy loading. Lazy loading is a technique that only loads images at the moment needed – when they come into view on the page, speeding up the initial load time of your site.  

Use browser caching

Browser caching is the temporary storage of HTML, CSS, JavaScript, images and other multimedia files to reduce the server load time. The browser will call on these files locally which is much quicker than calling them from a remote server over the internet.

For these next few you’ll probably need a developer…

Reduce website animations and effects

HTML5 has come a long way and the number of CSS effects and animations available is almost endless – this does come at a disadvantage. The more effects you add to a page the harder the browser needs to work to render the page = the slow the page will load.

Consider animations wisely. We recommend only animating four things: position, scale, rotation and opacity.

Reduce the number of HTTP Requests

HTTP requests are calls from the browser to the server. Every time we load a resource – style sheets, scripts and third-party resources such as fonts or analytics scripts – increases the number of HTTP requests.

Reduce the number of HTTP requests by combining all site CSS and JavaScript into a single file and make sure any other third-party scripts are really needed.

When it’s not possible to reduce the number of requests, always use “dns-prefetch” in the header. 

When the browser requests a file from the third party your visitors won’t have to wait for the DNS lookup which will speed up the load time.

Remove Unused CSS

Every line of CSS, used or otherwise, adds load time to the page. When your page loads, the browser reads every line of CSS and only uses the lines that are relevant to render the page. Removing unused CSS from your site will make the file smaller so that it’s quicker to load and the browser is only reading lines that are in use.

How do I know if my website is fast enough?

Every website we build goes through thorough testing. We use a range of tools to simulate real-world situations such as loading a site on a mobile device using 3G as well as testing on multiple browsers for performance and functionality issues.

There are a few quick and easy tools we recommend to test your website speed; Page Speed Insights by Google and GTMetrics

Our aim is for a page to fully load in 2.5 seconds or under.

What’s the best plugin and tools to optimise my WordPress site?

There are two plugins we’ve seen some good results with:

TinyPNG – for optimising PNG and JPEG images.

Autoptimize – to optimise lots of technical things that will improve the load speed of your website.

If you’d like any help with optimisation of your website feel free to reach out to us.