Make sure your website download speed ‘performs’ well when people access it

Many companies rightly pay a lot of attention to whether their website appears near the top of relevant web searches – after all if your website isn’t easily visible, you will struggle to attract customers.

However, almost as important is how your website download speed ‘performs’ when people access it. Undoubtedly you will have had frustrating experiences of various websites you have visited, such as having to wait a long time for features and content to load.

If your potential customers find it frustrating to use your company site, then they may well decide to abort their visit to your site and/or decide it’s not worth the hassle of visiting the site again. Worse still, they could decide to check out your competitors’ websites instead and may find that these perform much better. This could all lead to lost revenue and maybe reputational damage as well.

Akamai Technologies, a provider of online transaction solutions, has carried out research indicating that the average internet user now expects a page to load within two seconds.

So, as well as considering Search Engine Optimisation (SEO), make sure you also pay attention to website Page Speed Optimisation.

Online marketing specialists SEMrush recently carried out a survey in which they randomly selected 150,000 websites. They analysed both desktop and mobile versions – always remember that your potential customers could be accessing your site from all manner of devices: PCs, tablets, smartphones, laptops, etc. Many people report that sites can be much less user-friendly when accessed on mobile devices.

It is inevitable that the majority of people who visit a retail website leave without making a purchase, as perhaps they were only ever intending to browse what was on offer. However, previous research by Radware, a provider of application delivery and cyber security solutions, indicates that the cart abandonment rate for retail websites visited on mobile devices is as high as 97%. The equivalent figure when the sites are accessed from a desktop is 75%.

The most startling result from the SEMrush survey was that 82% of the sites analysed had at least one issue that was causing a significant negative impact on the site’s performance.

The issues identified by the study were:

  • Unminified JavaScript and CSS files (affecting 68.09% of sites)
  • Slow website page load speed (43.28%)
  • Uncompressed JavaScript and CSS files (43%)
  • Uncached JavaScript and CSS files (25.46%)
  • Uncompressed website pages (16.99%)
  • Re-direct chains and loops (7.21%)
  • Too large JavaScript and CSS total size (2.26%)
  • Large HTML page size (1.26%)
  • Too many JavaScript and CSS files (1.06%)

In response to its findings, SEMrush has the following tips for companies seeking to improve the performance of their website:

  • Don’t use links to other webpages unless these are really necessary
  • Keep the size of each website page, including the total size of JS and CSS files, below 2MB
  • Consider if having top-quality visual content is really necessary. Whilst you may want a few pictures and some fancy graphics to make your site look good, and to communicate what you can offer, does every corner of the page need to be filled with visual content? Where you decide that visual content is necessary, then can you feasibly reduce the format, resolution, or quality of the content?
  • Can your website page content be condensed into a short engaging video?
  • Ensure JavaScript and CSS files are minified – this means things like removing unnecessary lines, white space and comments from the source code
  • Merge multiple CSS and JavaScript files into single files where possible
  • Consider changing your hosting provider to one that offers better server performance
  • Ensure browser caching is enabled

Other tips for making your site easier to use include:

  • Examine the feasibility of using a content delivery network, where the website uses a collection of web servers distributed across multiple locations
  • Ensure that the website home page loads faster than the other pages. If you can still have things on the home page that will arouse the potential customer’s interest, then hopefully they will be prepared to wait a little longer for the other site pages they visit to load

Companies who really want their website to work for their customers and other users should ask their IT function or external IT services provider to carry out a comprehensive audit of their website download speed performance. Although it may cost a certain amount initially, there could be significant long-term benefits for your company.

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