The speed and performance of your website is more important today than ever before. Users’ expectations have grown and their patience has decreased. If a website loads too slowly, users will quickly move on to another site rather than waiting another second or two. Even if users do not run away, a slow site will leave them disappointed, frustrated, and likely to abandon your site even in the midst of shopping.
Furthermore, Google has clearly stated that the speed of a site will affect a site’s ranking in the search results. So in order to keep both your users and Google happy, it is important to pay attention to site speed.
While the title of this blog post might imply that optimizing the speed of your website is simple, that is not really the case. Instead, what I want to do in this post is share with you five of the most effective things you can do to speed up your site.
5 Fundamental Ways to Improve Site Speed
1. Use a Good Web Hosting Plan
It really all starts with choosing the right hosting plan with the right hosting company. Even before talking about speed, you must have a reliable company with solid and reliable hardware to host your website. If you site is unreliable, it doesn’t matter how fast it performs. Visitors will run away and never come back. Do your homework and check out user reviews for hosting companies.
Getting back to speeding up your website, most hosting companies, such as Bluehost, offer a range of hosting plans, starting with inexpensive shared hosting and moving up through virtual servers, dedicated servers, and cloud servers. The prices increase as you move up through the different types of hosting, but the number of resources dedicated to your website also increase. While it is OK to begin with shared hosting when you are just starting your site, be sure to regularly track your traffic volume and resource usage so that you can upgrade to a better hosting plan before visitors start noticing your site being sluggish.
2. Enable Caching
Simply put, caching is the technical term for storing data in a temporary storage area. This improves a site’s performance since a lot of a page’s content is already prepared and available and does not need be fetched and processed in order to be displayed for a user. It also reduces the load of various system resources on your server.
We recommend you use the caching plugins provided by Bluehost, that are built to work best in that environment. You can find these cache settings in the performance page of the Bluehost plugin or WordPress section of the control panel.
If your site is not a WordPress site, enabling caching is more complex and beyond the scope of this article. In either case, you should discuss caching options with your hosting provider, since they will often have recommendations based on the optimizations they have implemented on their end.
3. Use a Content Delivery Network
Bluehost offers the TrueSpeed CDN inside the control panel.
4. Optimize Your Images
As users come to expect higher quality images on websites, image size becomes more of an issue for page speed. Most images can be reduced in size using either graphic-editing tools or plugins without a web user noticing any reduction in quality.
Here are the important things to remember:
- Use JPEG format whenever possible. PNG is also fine. Avoid BMP and TIFF formats.
- Crop your image to eliminate unnecessary elements and reduce size.
- Resize your images. There is no point in uploading a 2000 pixel-wide image if your web page is only 600 pixels wide.
As you might expect, there is a selection of plugins for WordPress websites, such as WP Super Minify and Better WordPress Minify, which will automatically minify your code for you. If you need to do it manually, tools like the Closure Compiler or the set of minify tools at Dan’s Tools can help. Also note that many CDNs and caching tools offer built-in minify support.
Testing and Digging Deeper
There is really a lot more to site optimization than what we’ve discussed here. However, these are five steps that will give you the “most bang for the buck.” For those of you who want to learn more and/or further optimize your website, I’d like to leave you with a list of three popular performance analysis sites (all with very useful free versions). These tools will run a series of tests on your site to identify performance issues and direct you as to how to correct them.
Each of these sites will run different tests and display the results and scoring in different ways. They are generally easy to understand and offer clear explanations and suggestions.