How to Make a Website Faster: Enhancing Performance and User Experience

Lightning fast website speed

Making your website faster is essential for improving user experience and attracting more visitors because your visitors will leave if your website is not loading fast enough.

In this article, we will guide you through the many ways, including getting the fastest web hosting providers, best practices, and how to test website load speeds. With lightning fast speeds on your website, you’ll get less churn, more conversions, and ultimately, more revenue for your business!

Key Highlights

  • Website speed affects user experience, including page load time, navigation, mobile responsiveness, conversion rates, and overall user satisfaction
  • Common reasons for slow website speed include large images and videos, excessive HTTP requests, unoptimized code, slow server response time, lack of caching, poor hosting, and external scripts and plugins
  • Consider the best practices and advanced techniques for website speed optimization to make a website faster
  • When choosing a hosting provider, it’s important to consider factors such as server location, dedicated servers vs. shared hosting, cloud hosting, and website speed
  • Use various tools to test your website speed, identify areas for improvement, and track progress over time

How Does Website Speed Affect User Experience?

Website speed affecting user experience

As a matter of fact, 40% of people will abandon a site if it takes longer than three seconds to load.

Think about this for a minute. You have spent time and money creating a beautiful website, paid for good SEO and state-of-the-art web design. And in three seconds, all that becomes irrelevant because your website took over three seconds to load.

Look, it’s a cut-throat business, and maybe even unfair, but that’s why you’re here. Let’s show you more ways website speeds affect user experience before discussing their reasons.

Page Load Time

Have you ever been excited to find information online, only to be disappointed by a slow-loading page? It’s frustrating, right? Well, it turns out that page speed is crucial to keeping visitors happy and engaged on your website. In fact, Google even takes page speed into account when ranking websites.

To be fair, no user sticks around a webpage that takes forever to load. High bounce rates and lower average time on the page are often functions of low speed. Visitors are less likely to engage with your content. Jakob Nielsen, a web usability expert, found that there are three response-time limits that are determined by human perception.

  • The first is 0.1 seconds, which gives users the feeling of an immediate response. This is the ideal response time for a website, as it supports the feeling of direct manipulation.
  • The second limit is 1 second, which keeps the user’s flow almost seamless – even with a slight delay, they still feel in control of the experience.
  • Finally, the third limit is 10 seconds - anything longer than that, and users will start to lose interest and want to perform other tasks while waiting for the computer to finish. In fact, a 10-second delay without any feedback will often lead visitors to leave a site immediately.

Navigation

Slow-loading pages can also sometimes cause delays and errors that affect navigation and user flow. But if you simplify your menu structure and reduce the number of clicks required to access information on your website, you can effectively optimize navigation for maximum website speed.

For example, say an e-commerce website called eBay had a complicated menu structure and the pages loaded pretty slowly, users are more likely to abandon their shopping carts. Another thing is, users could also get quickly frustrated if they had to click through multiple pages to find the information they need. By the way, eBay loads just fine, I think.

Mobile Responsiveness

Out of all devices, mobile device users are the most likely to leave a website that takes too long to load, because the competition for their attention is stiff. I have found that the best way to prevent a bad user experience and make your website load more quickly on mobile devices is to use a responsive design and optimize images and web layouts for mobile.

Responsive design makes your website look great and work properly on any device, from a desktop computer to a mobile phone. Optimizing images means compressing them to reduce file size without losing quality. There’s more to talk about so check out these tips for mobile-friendly web designs if you want to know.

Conversion Rates

A metric for measuring how many users take a desired action on your website, such as making a purchase or filling out a form is known as conversion rate. In addition to user experience, website speed can also affect conversion rates. How? Well, slow-loading pages can increase bounce rates and lower engagement, which always leads to lower conversion rates.

It gets worse when your lead generation website has a slow-loading contact form. You may find that users abandon the page before submitting their information. Similarly, if you have an e-commerce website plagued with slow-loading pages, users may abandon their shopping carts, resulting in lost sales.

What Are the Common Reasons for Slow Website Speed?

Slow website speed

Large Images and Videos

Large images and videos make your website heavier to process,  resulting in longer page load times and more frustration. To improve your website speed, you can compress images, videos, and other forms of media on your website to reduce file size without sacrificing quality. There are many video and image compression tools online that you can easily utilize.

Excessive HTTP Requests

Excessive HTTP requests can also slow down website speed. This is typical of websites that have too many scripts, stylesheets, and images on their web pages. As a walkaround, you can combine both CSS and JavaScript files, and minimize the use of external scripts and plugins. In my experience, this can help reduce HTTP requests.

Unoptimized Code

Unoptimized code can be a culprit behind slow website speed. Optimizing code using techniques such as minification and simplifying code structure can reduce file size, improve website speed, and enhance user experience.

Slow Server Response Time

Slow server response time is a major player in driving visitors away from your website due to longer page load times. Lucky for you, you can use a content delivery network (CDN) or a content distribution network to improve server response time.

CDNs work by distributing content from an “origin” server and caching that content close to where each end user is accessing the internet. Alternatively, you can use a hosting provider with blazing servers. We have reviewed some of the best hosting providers in 2023 here.

Lack of Caching

When someone visits a website for the first time, the browser makes contact with a remote server that hosts the site by sending a request. Once the request is sent, the server replies with the website’s information. HTML is the first thing to load and in effect becomes the skeleton of the site as the rest loads. As the browser reads the code, it sends more requests to the server to get more information about the page.

This process takes bandwidth. Caching is important because it helps site speed and increases efficiency in this process by reducing the number of requests sent to the server; if the browser doesn’t have to send out as many requests, the site will load faster. It not only results in faster loading times but decreases the load on the server as well.

Poor Hosting

Poor hosting can negatively impact website speed and performance. When choosing a hosting provider, consider factors such as server location and performance metrics.

Avoid poor hosting experiences by checking out our recommended web hosting providers

External Scripts and Plugins

External scripts and plugins can affect website speed and increase page load times if used excessively or improperly. To optimize their use, you can reduce the number of scripts and use asynchronous loading.

What Are Some Tools for Testing Website Speed?

Website speed test tools

Google Pagespeed Insights

This is a  free tool from Google that analyzes your website’s speed and gives you a score out of 100. Google Pagespeed Insights tests your site for both desktop and mobile devices and provides suggestions for improving speed by optimizing your HTML, CSS, JavaScript, and images.

Gtmetrix

Gtmetrix is another free tool that provides a more comprehensive report on website speed. It includes page load time, page size, and the number of requests made. It also provides suggestions for improving speed by optimizing images, reducing the number of requests, and minimizing the use of external scripts and plugins. You can also test your site’s speed from different locations and it will show you a graph of your page’s load time.

Pingdom

With Pingdom, you can view your website speed report at a glance. Everything including page load time, page size, and the number of requests made is presented in an easy-to-read format. Pingdom also has an option for viewing performance grades and will give you suggestions for improving your website speed.

You can also check how quickly or slowly your site’s speed is from different locations and you get to see your page’s load time visually presented in a waterfall graph. What I like best about it is the ability to set up alerts for when your site’s speed drops below a certain threshold.

WebPagetest

WebPageTest is an open-source web performance tool providing diagnostic information about how a web page performs under a variety of conditions. It offers an online version where each test can be run from different locations around the world, on real browsers, over any number of customized network conditions.

WebPagetest allows you to choose the browser and device to test your site’s speed, which is particularly useful for testing on mobile devices.

Lighthouse

With Lighthouse, you can compare your page speed to that of every webpage that is crawled by a search engine and then evaluate it with a score from 5 categories: Performance, Accessibility, Best Practices, SEO, and PWA. This is given a score between 0 – 100. You will also get suggestions for improving your site’s performance from Lighthouse, such as reducing the number of requests and optimizing images.

A “Good” user experience (green) score is above 90, a “Poor” one (orange) ranges from 89 to 50, and a “Bad” end-user experience (red) is a score lower than 50.  Lighthouse also provides a report on your site’s accessibility, including the use of alt tags for images and proper heading structure.

Yslow

Finally, YSlow is a free browser extension that analyzes website speed and provides a report on website performance, including page load time, number of requests made, and suggestions for improving website speed. The tool grades your website’s speed on a scale of A to F and provides a detailed report on website performance.

YSlow also provides suggestions for improving website performance, such as using content delivery networks (CDNs) and reducing the number of requests. The tool can be used with Firefox, Chrome, Safari, and Opera.

What Are the Best Practices for Optimizing Website Speed?

Website speed optimization

Your website speed being slow can negatively impact your site’s search engine rankings, leading to reduced traffic and lower visibility. It doesn’t matter if you have the most complex and good-looking site if it takes forever to load.

Everything comes down to speed and there are various reasons why your web pages may load slowly. I’m going to show you some useful tips and techniques on how to improve your website performance and speed and ensure a smooth user experience.

Optimize Images and Videos

Images and videos that are too large can significantly slow down page load times. To optimize these elements, it’s important to compress images and use a web-friendly format such as JPEG, PNG, or GIF. Additionally, it’s best to reduce the size of videos or use an external hosting platform like YouTube or Vimeo to reduce the load on the website’s server.

Minimize HTTP Requests

HTTP requests refer to the process of loading different elements on a website, such as images, scripts, and stylesheets. The more requests a website has, the slower it will load. To minimize HTTP requests, it’s important to reduce the number of images and external scripts used on a page, and to consolidate CSS and JavaScript files.

Use Browser Caching

Caching refers to storing website data on a user’s device so that it doesn’t have to be loaded from the server every time the user visits the site. This can significantly speed up website load times. To use browser caching, it’s important to set expiration dates for different types of content, such as images, CSS files, and JavaScript files.

Minimize CSS and Javascript Files

Unoptimized CSS and JavaScript files can also slow down a website. To minimize these files, it’s best to reduce their size by removing unnecessary comments and whitespace, and minifying them using tools such as Grunt or Gulp.

Reduce Server Response Time

Server response time can be affected by a variety of factors, including server location, server configuration, and server load. To reduce server response time, it’s important to optimize server configuration, reduce server load, and choose a reliable hosting provider with servers located closer to the website’s target audience.

Use Content Delivery Networks (CDNs)

CDNs refer to a network of servers located around the world that can deliver website content faster by storing cached versions of the site’s files in different locations. By using a CDN, website owners can reduce the amount of time it takes for content to be delivered to users, leading to faster load times.

Minify Code

Code minification refers to the process of removing unnecessary characters from website code to reduce its size and improve load times. This can be done manually or using tools such as Grunt or Gulp.

Prioritize Above-the-Fold Content

Above-the-fold content refers to the portion of a website that is visible without scrolling. Prioritizing this content can help to speed up website load times by optimizing the critical rendering path and using techniques like lazy loading to defer the loading of non-critical content until later.

What Are Some Advanced Techniques for Optimizing Website Speed?

6 useful techniques for optimizing website speed

Http/2 and Server Push

Imagine not having to search for a term on Google before getting all the information you need. Well, HTTP/2 Server Push is an optional feature of the HTTP/2 and HTTP/3 network protocols that don’t predict your request but does something similar. It allows servers to push resources to the client’s browser before it even requests them, which can significantly reduce page load time.

Server Push improves website performance and reduces latency by loading resources preemptively, even before the client knows they will be needed. For example, images, CSS files, and JavaScript files can be pushed in advance, so they’re ready to use when the user requests the page.

Gzip Compression

Gzip compression is a method that compresses website files and reduces their size before transferring them to the user’s browser. Smaller files load faster, which means that gzip compression can significantly reduce page load time.

Enabling gzip compression is easy. You can do it through your server configuration or use a plugin if you’re using a content management system.

Lazy Loading

Lazy loading is a technique that delays the loading of non-critical resources on a website until they’re needed. This means that images, videos, and other multimedia content will only be loaded when visitors on your website scroll to the part of the page they are relevant to. By using lazy loading, you can reduce the initial page load time, which can improve the user experience.

You can use JavaScript libraries like LazyLoad or IntersectionObserver to implement lazy loading. Eager loading is also another useful technique. You should find out more about Lazy vs Eager loading and the cases where each one is relevant.

Asynchronous Loading

Sometimes, you can’t help but have a large piece of multimedia, usually an image, as your website banner or at the top of the page. In cases like this, you don’t want users to have to wait till the image loads before they can access the rest of your website. This is where asynchronous loading becomes formidable.

Instead of blocking the loading of the rest of the website until the image is fully loaded, the image can be loaded asynchronously in the background, allowing the rest of the website to continue loading. Asynchronous loading allows resources such as JavaScript files to load asynchronously, which means that the rest of the page can continue to load while the resources are being fetched. By deferring attributes in script tags or using async, you can implement asynchronous loading.

Progressive Web Apps (PWAs)

Progressive Web Apps (PWAs) are web applications that provide a native app-like experience to users, with features such as offline access, push notifications, and app-like navigation. PWAs can improve website speed and user experience by providing faster load times, even in areas with poor connectivity. They can be utilized by using service workers and web app manifests.

AMP (Accelerated Mobile Pages)

AMP, or Accelerated Mobile Pages, is a framework that allows you to create fast-loading, mobile-friendly web pages. By using AMP, you can significantly reduce the page load time, especially on mobile devices, which can lead to improved user experience and higher engagement. To implement AMP on your website, you can use the AMP HTML and JavaScript libraries and follow AMP guidelines and validation.

How Does Website Hosting Impact Website Speed?

Hosting impact on website speed

Choosing the Right Hosting Provider

Choosing the right hosting provider is crucial for optimizing website speed. Factors such as performance, reliability, and support should be taken into consideration. Additionally, it is important to ensure that hosting provider security features are properly in place to protect your website and users.

  • Look for a provider that has a good reputation for reliability and performance
  • Consider the location of their data centers and how it will affect the speed of your website
  • Choose a provider that offers scalable resources so you can easily increase or decrease your server capacity as needed
  • Look for a provider that offers a content delivery network (CDN) for faster delivery of your website content
  • Consider the cost and make sure it fits within your budget

The Impact of Hosting Location on Website Speed

The location of your website’s hosting server can have a significant impact on website speed, particularly in terms of server response time. Choosing a hosting location closer to your target audience can improve the loading times of your site. Another option is to use content delivery networks (CDNs) to distribute your website’s content across multiple servers worldwide.

  • Choose a hosting location that is closest to your target audience to minimize server response time
  • Use a content delivery network (CDN) to distribute website content to servers located closer to your users
  • Evaluate the location of your target audience and choose a hosting provider with data centers in that region
  • Consider the quality of the hosting provider’s network and the reliability of their servers
  • Look for a provider that offers multiple hosting locations so you can choose the best one for your needs

Dedicated Servers Vs. Shared Hosting

The type of hosting plan you choose can also affect your website’s speed. Dedicated servers provide more resources and customization options, which can improve website speed. However, they are also more expensive than shared hosting plans.

Shared hosting plans are more affordable but may lead to slower website speed due to sharing resources with other websites on the same server. So in choosing Dedicated vs Shared Hosting, budget and performance should be the key factors.

  • Consider your website’s needs in terms of performance, security, and scalability
  • If your website requires a lot of resources, a dedicated server may be necessary to provide adequate speed and performance
  • If cost is a concern, shared hosting may be a more affordable option
  • Evaluate the level of control you need over your server and choose accordingly
  • Look for a hosting provider that offers easy upgrades or downgrades in case your needs change

Cloud Hosting and Website Speed

Cloud hosting is a popular hosting solution that can improve website speed by providing scalable resources and flexibility.

With cloud hosting, your website is hosted on a network of servers, allowing for better resource allocation and faster loading times. It is important to choose a reliable cloud hosting provider and optimize your hosting environment to ensure maximum speed and performance.

  • Minimize the number of requests to your server by optimizing images, scripts, and other website elements
  • Implement caching to reduce server load and improve website speed
  • Use a CDN to distribute website content to servers located closer to your users
  • Choose a server location that is close to your target audience.
  • Optimize database queries and make sure your database is running efficiently

Conclusion

It’s no secret that everyone loves beautiful and well-designed websites. However, if that comes at the cost of waiting for a couple of extra seconds for the website to load, chances are that you will lose a certain percentage of visitors. Slow loading times can significantly impact user satisfaction, navigation, and conversion rates.

There are various best practices and advanced techniques you can use to optimize website speed, such as optimizing images and videos, minimizing HTTP requests, using browser caching, prioritizing above-the-fold content, and choosing a good hosting provider. By focusing on website speed optimization, you can provide a better user experience, increase engagement and conversions.

Next Steps: What Now?

Further Reading – Useful Resources

Frequently Asked Questions

Why is website speed important?

Website speed is important because it affects user experience, including page load time, navigation, mobile responsiveness, conversion rates, and overall user satisfaction.

How can I optimize my website speed?

You can optimize your website speed by following best practices such as optimizing images and videos, minimizing HTTP requests, using browser caching, minimizing CSS and JavaScript files, and using content delivery networks (CDNs).

What is website hosting and how does it impact website speed?

Website hosting refers to the server where your website is stored and accessed. Hosting location, dedicated servers vs. shared hosting, and cloud hosting can impact website speed.

What are some tools for testing website speed?

Some tools for testing website speed include Google PageSpeed Insights, GTmetrix, and Pingdom.

How often should I test my website speed?

It’s a good idea to test your website speed regularly to identify areas for improvement and track progress over time. Depending on your website traffic and changes to your website, you may want to test every few weeks or months.

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