One of the drawbacks of today’s always-accessible online society is a desire for instant gratification. This manifests in various ways, from harrumphing at Netflix while it buffers a new video stream to grumbling about the length of time webpages take to load. The latter represents a particular challenge for the owners of ecommerce platforms or web-based businesses. Every second counts in terms of retaining potential audiences. Loading times of more than three seconds will, therefore, begin to shed prospective visitors and possible customers…
Consumer impatience has reached levels where people would rather abandon a loading page and choose a different entry from Google or Bing, than wait and see if their original choice loads. That leads them away from your site (probably never to return) and into the welcoming arms of direct competitors. Consequently, it’s essential to optimise page loading times by any means necessary – especially since this is a key factor in webpage rankings. Google takes a particularly dim view of sites which are sluggish to respond since its ranking algorithm is designed to prioritise the needs of mobile audiences on potentially flaky 4G or WiFi connections.
Fortunately, there are numerous ways to optimise page loading times. You don’t need a postgraduate computing qualification, or a youth spent coding in BASIC, to ensure your website is optimised in the following areas:
1. Compress graphics.
This might sound daunting, but it’s something you can do with the free Paint package supplied in Windows. Modern cameras take impressively high-resolution images, which can be compressed to occupy far smaller footprints without affecting how they appear on-screen. Automated batch compression is even easier.
2. Create sub-pages.
There has been a tendency in recent years to favour single-page sites for their minimalist appearance, using tricks like lazy loading to reduce loading times. However, a simpler solution is to return to a sub-page structure – brandname.co.uk/aboutus, brandname.co.uk/prices, etc – to break up content volumes.
3. Minimise plugins and CSS.
It’s easy when creating a website using platforms like WordPress to get carried away with plugins. However, every additional code element has to be downloaded separately, for every page, on every visitor’s browser. Every non-essential plugin or style sheet should be deleted to optimise page loading times.
4. Pare down copy.
The prospect of a blank webpage can inspire some to pen the equivalent of a Mills and Boon novel in terms of copy length. Resist the temptation. Not only will lengthy blocks of text probably bore audiences, but they’ll also take longer to download and display – a sure-fire way of extending average page loading times.
5. Avoid fancy visual effects.
From parallax scrolling to auto-playing video content, memory-intensive visual accompaniments to basic HTML text and JPG images are the antithesis of attempts to optimise page loading times. Video files should display as paused thumbnails, popup ads should be eliminated, and scrolling minimised.
6. Eliminate redirects.
This often involves landing pages, used to identify specific sources of incoming site traffic. A web browser is effectively having to load two pages in this scenario, increasing the HTTP request-response cycle. Try to avoid 404 redirects, dormant web addresses or obsolete URLs.
7. Choose an effective hosting platform.
One of the biggest causes of delayed loading times is a hosting server halfway around the world from individual site visitors, or a server split between too many different websites. At UK2.NET, we do everything possible (including many clever technical tactics) to ensure pages appear almost instantly.