The Top 10 Ways to Improve Site Speed
Site Speed is a crucial part of every website, and even more so for eCommerce sites. From SEO to conversions and the overall customer experience, site speed is one of the things you definitely to pay attention to and monitor at all times.
Site speed is now more important than ever due to Google’s pending algorithm update in May 2021.
This new update will prioritise page experience signals and penalise slow-performing websites.
So what exactly is site speed and how do you improve it?
Site speed refers to the amount of time it takes for users to see fully loaded pages and to interact with the content on your website.
But why is site speed so important?
Well, Google pays extra attention to user experience and always has. How users interact with your website affects SEO and this is why it is so important.
The faster your site is the better the user experience will be. On the flip side, the slower your site is the worse the user experience will be.
Site speed is also one of the key reasons why users leave your website. Having to wait more than 3 seconds for your site to load is not something many people will do before they bounce, so try to keep load time below 3 seconds.
But how do you keep site speed below 3 seconds?
To answer that question, we’ve put together the top 10 ways to improve your eCommerce websites speed and performance in a way that will improve the user experience.
So let’s jump right in and see what’s slowing your site down.
For eCommerce sites, images usually take up over 50% of a product page’s size. Therefore, it’s one of the easiest and fastest ways to increase your eCommerce sites speed and overall performance.
You can compress images using Photoshop or other free online tools like TinyPNG or Image Compressor.
You should compress images in both file size and dimensions. Also, consider using jpeg format, as opposed to PNG or other image formats, as they are generally better for images on the web.
Do not use any more images than you need to effectively showcase your product. Unnecessary images will slow down your site and lessen the customer experience.
Use External Video Hosting
Even though videos were not used as much as images, they’re now more popular on websites and they take up a lot of space.
Video files can easily exceed 100MB, which is a lot if you consider hosting them on your server.
To put this into perspective, for each user who wishes to watch a video on your eCommerce store, your server will need to deliver that huge video file to them all at the same time.
Depending on your web hosting plan, you may have limited bandwidth which will result in lags and slow video play.
The best way to avoid slow server response is to host your videos on external video hosting platforms such as YouTube, Vimeo, Wistia, etc.
All you have to do then is to embed the video on your site. This step will save you lots of space, which in return will result in faster load times and a better customer experience.
Upgrading hosting is definitely one of the first things most people should consider when trying to optimise their eCommerce website for performance.
However, if you’re serious about your site’s speed and truly understand the importance of a high performing website, then upgrading your hosting plan is something well worth considering.
This is even more important if your site’s traffic is very high. The higher it is, the slower your website will get. So, you’ll need a high performing web hosting plan for this to work.
Optimise your Thumbnails
Ecommerce sites often use thumbnails images on various category pages. This is great in general, but be careful how you use them.
Thumbnail images may be used many times during the shopping process of which some can be very critical points. The last thing you want is to prevent category pages from loading quickly as it may cost you, potential customers.
The best way to prevent this issue is to reduce the file size as much as possible. Thumbnails are not designed so users can take a really good look at a product, so you can sacrifice image quality for a faster load time.
Reduce HTTP Requests
Each element on a page, such as an image, video, widget, HTML files, CSS files, etc. is equal to 1 HTTP request. The more elements you have on a page, the more requests are made to your server to render them when a user loads one of your pages.
Think of it as multitasking. The more tasks a person needs to perform at the same time, the more likely they will be slower and less effective.
The first step to reducing your site’s HTTP requests is to figure out how many it makes. GTMetrix is a free online tool that will help you figure that out.
Once you analyse a page, you will get a report with a list of all the requests. Then, you can decide which of those elements you can remove in order to increase your site speed.
Minify your Code
This step (depending on the platform you use) can involve very little or a lot of work. For example, WooCommerce users can use a plugin that automatically does this for you. Otherwise, you’ll need a developer who knows what needs to be done.
To minify your website’s code means to remove, fix, or edit unnecessary or duplicate code without having any effect on how browsers process and display your site.
While this may sound like a hard task, the difference it will make to your site speed is definitely worth the effort.
Use a CDN
CDN stands for content delivery/distribution network and refers to a network of servers that are used to deliver the content of a site.
Generally, there are two issues when you host your site on a single server.
First, loading times are slower based on one’s location, meaning that the further away a user is from your server, the longer it takes for them to load your site.
Second, the more people visit your website at the same time, the more difficult it will be for your server to respond to all those requests.
A CDN helps you tackle those issues by creating copies of your site that are stored at multiple data centres across the world so that users can access your site faster based on their location.
Prioritise Above the Fold Content
To further improve the user experience and your site’s load time, you can implement a solution that is known as lazy loading.
Lazy loading is quite helpful as it loads the content above the fold first (the content that appears on screen without having to scroll), and then loads the rest of the content as a user scrolls down.
This way, users don’t have to wait until all the page elements are fully loaded, but they can access your site faster and then load more content as needed.
This way, product pages with lots of images and videos can load significantly faster, resulting in better site performance and improved user experience.
Reduce the Number of Plugins you Use
As a final step, you can reduce the amount of 3rd party integrations or plugins you use on your site.
Think of plugins as tools you connect to your eCommerce site for extra functionality. For example, you may have Google Analytics to monitor traffic, or HubSpot as your CRM, or other software for tracking visitors.
The more you have, the slower your site will be as each one of those tools requires an extra HTTP request.
Remove the ones you are not using, are not necessary or are not adding any value to your business or the overall customer experience.
Continue Monitoring your Site
As a final step, you should keep monitoring your site regularly because your website/eCommerce is like a living thing.
With time, it evolves and grows. As a result, there may be times where you create new content or update existing without keeping in mind site speed and the overall performance.
We suggest you use free online tools like PageSpeed Insights, GTMetrix, or Webpage Test. They provide you with a great way to better understand what’s wrong with your site, with useful speed insights, and ways to improve it.
Site speed is undeniably a very important aspect of every website, and even more so for eCommerce sites that have lots of products.
This guide provides you with the information you need to improve your site’s speed and performance as well as knowing what things to look at if you ever want to choose or upgrade your existing eCommerce platform.
While all eCommerce platform providers do their best to create a fast and reliable platform, only a few actually achieve the desired results.
On that note, why don’t you have a look at the Aphix Digital Platform that was designed and built with speed in mind?
You can request a demo and a member of our team will be happy to show you how our eCommerce platform may be just exactly what you were looking for.