One of the most common reasons people have for redesigning their website is that it’s running very slowly and is frustrating for them to update their site and for their clients or visitors. We’re impatient people and waiting around a long time for web pages to load is usually enough reason for people to try another option. You have to be really motivated to keep waiting around.
Some people may not even realise their website is running slow too because they rarely use their own site, and if they do they may be on a fast internet connection at their desk, rather than testing it out on mobile connection speed where the speed is patchy.
Google uses site speed as one of its many ranking factors. It makes sense: they want to help people find what they’re looking for quickly. Recently, they began encouraging web owners to use a new technology called accelerated mobile pages (AMP). You may have noticed this while searching Google from your phone – you’ll see a little green lightning bolt indicating that the page will load really fast. Websites which provide AMP are being advantaged in Google (as well as those which load really fast and don’t provide AMP). Why is AMP fast? Because it strips web pages right back to basics, focusing on the content and not on the frills.
The good news is if you have WordPress, there is already an AMP plugin available. If you’re with Shopify, they announced in September that they’re rolling out AMP “soon” to everyone and there’s a Shopify plugin available in the meantime.
AMP is only a part of the solution to slow-loading websites.
The tricky thing is, there are many things which can cause your website to slow down. It takes some time to solve and you will need to decide what you’re willing to compromise to get your site loading faster.
Common Causes of a Slow-Loading Website
Most sites have a combination of these problems:
- If images are not optimized properly, sized correctly or if there’s simply too many of them web pages can really slow down. Quick tip: You can optimize images using: https://tinyjpg.com/
- If you’re not using a content delivery system (CDN) which serves your images to people from a location closest to them, your site will load more slowly. Quick tip: Check out https://wordpress.org/plugins/cloudflare/
- The more plugins you are running, and the more scripts you have added to your site which have to connect to other websites to work (e.g. ads, social sharing buttons, fonts, tracking code), the slower things can run. Ads are a common culprit – they connect to lots of different servers and if any of these are slow it’s bad. A poorly coded theme can also cause problems. Quick tip: Turn off ads and plugins all together and then one at a time to see how much faster your site loads as a result. Try temporarily switching to the default WordPress theme and see how fast it loads with that.
- If you have shared hosting, your site can get slower even if your traffic doesn’t increase. Other websites on your shared hosting could be making things slower. Paying $50 and up a month for your hosting usually means a much faster website too. If your traffic has grown, or your website has a lot of complex features which needs a good server to run it, then you might need to upgrade your hosting package. Quick tip: See our web host recommendations.
There are lots of tools to try and help you speed up your website such as https://developers.google.com/speed/pagespeed/insights/. Trying to get a perfect score on these tests can be near impossible though and following each step does require you to compromise. For example, if you run Google Analytics on your website you cannot get a perfect score – your website is connecting to a third party site (Google) which doesn’t cache its file. I’d rather not get a perfect score and keep Google Analytics!
Installing a caching plugin can help improve your site speed score (and the speed) – two popular WordPress plugins which do this are: https://wordpress.org/plugins/w3-total-cache/ and https://wp-rocket.me/.
Trying to get to bottom of why your site is slow loading when it’s a coding issue can be frustrating and slow work but it’s worthwhile so you don’t turn people away before they even get in the door.
Do let us know if you have any questions or need help with a slow loading site.