Here are the main contributors to a slow website:
- Too many web server (“http”) requests: fonts, images, scripts, SSL certificates, stylesheet (CSS) files, and other site assets.
Server requests typically account for 80% of page load speed.
- Excessive page file size: e.g. file sizes that are too large, such as images, self-hosted videos, etc.
- Custom, or alternative, web fonts
- Poor-performing web host (a.k.a. server farm), particularly for shared hosting environments
- Third-party applications – like Facebook, Twitter, and other embedded HTML code
Ways To Improve Your Website Page Load Speed
- Reduce number of server requests by combining scripts and CSS files; replacing images with CSS-styled text and elements; and removing unnecessary site features and elements
- Reduce image file sizes – ideally less than 50 Kb.
- Use standard web fonts, or web font optimization techniques if custom fonts are required
- Change your web host
- Use third-party applications sparingly and only when necessary
- Implement site caching, and a Content Delivery Network if necessary
- Leverage third-party streaming services – like YouTube, Vimeo, and SoundCloud – to host video and audio files
Why is Page Load Speed Important?
Most visitors will not wait more than 3 seconds for any page to load, so your site conversions suffer as your page size increases. For many desktop users with fast Cable Internet connections, page size is not that important. But for mobile devices with less memory, and particulary for 3G networks, file size hinders page load.
Google recommends a maximum page file size of 300 Kb for optimum search indexing; Google reports the average web page file size is about 320 Kb. Yet, in 2013, many sites will approach 2 Mb in size.
I try to adhere to Google’s recommended 300 Kb maximum whenever possible, and I try to keep server requests below 20.
How To Prevent Making Your Website Slow (or The Cost of Free)
- Avoid WYSIWYG (What You See Is What You Get) and DIY (Do It Yourself) HTML site builders. To make HTML editing easier, these tools often integrate bloated code that is more difficult to change and maintain. Worse, they frequently create sites that are not accessible, mobile- or search engine-friendly.
- Avoid Website Templates that include too many bells & whistles
- Avoid WordPress Themes – free or premium – that include too many site features because each feature, used or not, adds to ‘code bloat.’ Many premium WordPress themes can exceed 2 Mb in size (six times Google’s recommended maximum) with over 100 server requests.
- Choose a quality web host.
- Hire a web developer – not a graphic designer, intern, or student – to build your website. You would not hire a painter to build your car’s engine, right?