When smartphones and tablets were new and responsive website design was in its infancy, web design had several recognizable trends: large, hi-resolution header images, parallax, and lots of motion effects. While the websites looked beautiful, they had a problem: They were painfully slow. This was particularly true of WordPress websites, which utilized themes and templates across its landscape.
Over the past decade, not only have web users grown less patient but Google and the powers that be have decided (and rightfully so) that websites should load as fast as possible. Google began to officially count site speed as an SEO factor in 2010, and it has only grown in importance since then. What this means for businesses is that having a website that loads fast is both beneficial to their visitors and crucial to its SEO performance. Page speed plays a huge role in increasing sales, getting more conversions, and ranking higher for your desired keywords.
At ASUN Digital, we don’t see page speed importance going away. Page load times play a major role in our web process in everything from content strategy to design considerations to how we program. If your website is slow and you need to fix it, or if you’re redesigning your website and want to ensure it’s as fast as possible, here are a few key factors to consider to make your website load faster and provide a better experience for all users.
1.) Compress and resize all images
A majority of warnings for page speed come back to images and videos. As a practical matter, make sure you aren’t uploading hi-res versions of images and that images are sized appropriately for different screens. Showing the same background image on desktop that you do on mobile is unnecessary and costs you valuable load time.
If you’re having your website redesigned, consider where your images will have the most impact for your brand and product display, and pare back in other areas where large photos are just extra dressing. Those full width pictures of the downtown skyline on every page look beautiful, but they may end up hurting your website speed and losing you potential customers in the process.
If you’ve gotten strategic with the design and your site still requires a lot of images, you can further optimize your file sizes by installing a compression plugin such as WP Smush or Kraken.io that will automatically resize and compress your uploaded images.
2.) Use a good caching plugin
Installing a good caching plugin is a quick and easy way to improve website speed. Caching plugins save a static version of your website in between any updates you make so that your web server isn’t being tapped every single time a user hits the page. As WordPress Rocket explains, this minimizes the amount of data being loaded so that your site performs as quickly as possible.
A good caching plugin can make even the slowest of websites faster. Here are some of the best WordPress caching plugins in 2019 that ASUN Digital recommends:
3.) Redesign the mobile version of your website
In theory, responsive websites should work on any virtually any device. In reality, you should likely have significant differences between your site on desktop and mobile.
The technology between desktop computers and mobile devices is still vastly different. Mobile phones don’t have the same processing capabilities that computers do, and desktops are generally connected to much faster internet than mobile phones that are likely to be using 4G data networks.
To determine if this is an issue for your visitors, dig into your web analytics. Do you have a large audience of visitors on mobile devices? Are bounce rates unusually high for mobile users? If so, you need to make design changes.
One real-world example: A hospital saw that users on mobile devices visited the urgent care and walk-in clinic pages at a much higher rate than desktop users. Noticing this, the hospital redesigned its navigation and homepage information for mobile users, placing walk-in/urgent information at the top of the screen.
4.) Update your theme
5.) Move to a faster server
If your site is still running slow after you’ve optimized your theme and your content, it may be time to move to a better server. Not all servers are created equal. In fact, servers are one of the most hidden culprits of website lag time. Servers that are poorly managed or use old hardware will cause websites that are ready and optimized to still load slowly.
As a rule of thumb, serious webmasters should avoid cheap shared hosting plans. We recommend investing in a good VPS or a dedicated server (if you need it) to seriously boost your performance.
Luckily for WordPress users, there are dozens of options that can fit any budget. Just be sure that your server is equipped and optimized for your site and you shouldn’t have any problems.
If you have a lot of international traffic—or even from the other side of the continent—another option is to switch to a Content Delivery Network,* which will improve your load times to visitors who live further away from your server’s physical location.
For instance, when someone from Miami visits your website, the CDN would load your website from a server near Miami. When a user from England visits your website, the CDN would load your website from a server in London. It gives your websites a speed boost for visitors across the globe. We recommend Cloudflare, which has a free version or Stackpath
*Content delivery networks (or CDNs for short) are clusters of servers that are spread across the world. Servers have a physical residence, and using a CDN is an effective way to speed up your website.
Still lagging behind? You might need a new website
It’s not what you want to hear, but it’s true more times than not. Optimizations are just that: optimizations. They aren’t fairy dust to fix websites that are badly developed or broken.