The internet is all about communication. People communicate with people, servers communicate with servers. But what happens when the person in front of you doesn’t respond? Or you always have to wait a few seconds. It can be frustrating.
This very much applies to the web – when you have to wait every time to get a response, you get annoyed. Now imagine how much slower this is when you see how servers talk to each other. They constantly ask about new resources or changes.
If one of the servers responds slowly, it will delay every single resource. Imagine this happening for over 200 different requests (and sometimes way more than that) for every single page load.
Just how bad is this? The following quote sums it up nicely:
“One Second Could Cost Amazon $1.6 Billion In Sales” – fastcompany.com
Another insightful quote we’ve used to prepare our “WordPress Retainers 101: The Complete DevriX Tutorial” says that, “A single second delay in your website’s loading time can result in a 7% loss in conversion, and 40% of web users will abandon a website if it takes longer than 3 seconds to load.”
That’s a lot less than Amazon, but not every site’s CEO is ranked as “the richest man in the world”. But for any business, anywhere, 40% of its user base is huge!
Another scary number is “51% of U.S. online shoppers cite slow site loading times as the main reason they abandon a purchase.”
Speed is that important. And speed is a goal, it’s not something you can achieve overnight. In this article, we will take a look at some of the most often seen problems that cause delays in a site’s load time.
1. Non-Optimized Images
One of the biggest impacts on a site are the images. No, we’re not only talking about speed impact, we talk about a means to convert your visitors. Images are a great way to turn a boring page into a place that turns visitors into customers.
And this is why images are used so often. We don’t want you to remove them, but what you can do is optimize them. The issues seen most often with images are:
- File dimensions that don’t match the box the image is in. That means a file that is 1200x600px displayed in a box of 300x150px is squished. All those pixels are lost. Reduce the image size to 300x150px and you will save more than 80% of the file size.
- Reduce the quality. Now that sounds off, but it’s a method to greatly reduce image size. And here’s the good part – reducing the quality isn’t always noticeable. Optimization can reduce more than 80% of the file size while still looking the same.
- Use sprites when possible. At DevriX, we prefer icon fonts instead, they are easier to use and faster to serve. You might want to check them out.
- Use solid JPG images instead of transparent PNG ones when possible. Sometimes you have a background image on a section with some color overlay. If that won’t change, just export the final image with its overlay as a JPG and minify it. This can reduce more than 90% of the file size.
2. Poor Web Hosting
Among the factors that affect a website’s performance, hosting is a big player. There are many different types of hostings to begin with and sometimes switching to a different plan or a different hosting altogether might be a good solution.
A common thing among most hosting providers is the type of host you can pick:
- Dedicated servers are physical servers dedicated only to your website. Normally, corporate websites, 24/7 online businesses, and other high traffic websites use dedicated servers to run smoothly. Although they are more expensive than the others, they have a higher number of resources and less downtime.
- The websites that are supported by shared servers are likely to run slow. The reason is that shared servers are not dedicated to one website. These websites have to share resources and that’s where it can affect your performance.
- Cloud-based hosting is something that comes at a steep price. The good thing is that whenever you need more resources, they will be allocated. The bad thing is that if your site is not optimized, it will require more and more resources, and that will cost a lot more in the long run. That’s another big reason why you should solve your performance issues as soon as possible.
- VPS shares the same machine with other hosting clients, so it’s similar to dedicated servers, but it’s not only for you. You can see it as the middle option between shared and dedicated.
You can find more information about the types of hostings here.
Another good thing to look out for when picking your new (or next) hosting company is the support. Make sure it’s one that can respond quickly. Just filling in forms is not enough. Emergencies happen and the faster the hosting company can respond, the fewer visitors (and money) you will lose.
Read customer reviews about the company and its support. Make sure that the site showing reviews about a particular web hosting company is not operated by the same company.
Consider Uptime Claims. Business-related websites are likely to be affected by uptime. A web host that offers a 99.9% uptime guarantee is better than the one offering 99%. Do a little math and you’ll find out that 0.9% difference is equivalent to three days out of 365 days.
Another common problem that many sites have is “time to first byte” or TTFB. This is the time between sending a request to the site (opening a page) and receiving the first information (bytes). The best way to improve this number is by setting a CDN.
3. Bloated with Assets
- See which plugins you can disable. Chances are that most are not even needed.
- Those plugins that are needed often have a better replacement. Some plugins include a few different CSS and JS files that can be easily minified into one.
- Use a plugin like autoptimize which grabs different assets and combines them into one.
There are many steps that can be taken to improve the aspect of a site. And many times they are different for every site. We cover the major steps to improving the overall user experience and reduce the hosting costs of a site while increasing conversion rates with our retainer plans.
4. Lack of Compression
HTML, CSS, and JS are written by developers in a way that they can understand it. It’s human readable code. But the server doesn’t need this. It can manage with anything as long as it’s valid code. So why not remove all the needless empty spaces, long names and such, and just serve as small as possible file? Smaller = faster.
This is where compression comes into play. Previously, we looked at the assets like CSS and JS files, but there’s more to compress.
Or for a WordPress site, you can install a plugin like WP Rocket that will deal with optimization/caching.
5. Too Many Plugins
It was briefly mentioned in a previous point, but it deserves its own place in the list. Reduce the number of plugins as much as you can.
- Do you really need those 295 custom shortcodes? (If you already use them, then it’s not a good idea to remove them).
- Is your huge slider with over 1000 animations and options utilized to its full potential or do you have two slides with one animation on your whole site?
- Is your “playlist” plugin really needed when you have used it only once on a post from a few years back?
Even if it sounds like a lot it’s scary how often plugins are installed just because and never removed afterward.
Many include JS and CSS files. Many add a ton of options to your DB. Some are horrible at requesting information and will greatly reduce the responsiveness of your server. Add a few hundred visitors and lack of cache and it will eventually become a huge issue.
All of those problems can be solved by removing what is not really needed. You can begin with plugins like sliders, galleries, shortcodes and so on. But note something important – if they are in use on the site, you might break something. Shortcodes will appear in plain text. Make sure you have removed them or that they are not already in use.
And this is where the big problem is – if you don’t think you are going to use a certain plugin for a long period of time, consider whether it’s worth adding it to your site.
6. Loading Images or Videos That Are Not Yet Visible
Once again we come back to the images. But this is a bit different because it doesn’t matter what type of image it is. It can even be a video.
The problem here is that you tell your server to fetch all the images while it loads. Sounds reasonable, you want to show them to the visitors after all. But what about the images that they can’t see right away? Those are the images after one-two scrolls. They are not on the screen right away, so there’s no reason to download them.
This can be a huge factor for mobile users who have limited speed or data available.
The solution is lazyloading. A fancy term for a simple thing – fetch the file only if it’s needed. Only if it’s on the screen. And it’s very effective on videos too. You don’t want to load all the iframe contents and scripts to play a video that is not yet on the screen.
A few quick solutions to this are B J Lazy Load and LazyLoad for WordPress. Irony or not, suggesting a plugin after the “Too many plugins” section makes sense. These plugins try to improve the speed of your site. Not all of them are effective, so it’s always good to do a before and after check.
See How Your Site Performs
The tool we recommend for this task is GTMetrix. It will give insight into what is wrong on your site. If you believe your site is not performing well, it’s very possible that one of the reported issues from GTMetrix is related to the common problems listed above.
But even though solutions are mentioned all over the web, it’s not always easy to fix it on your own. Improving the speed of a page is an art. It requires careful planning about how a certain change will affect the site in both usage and speed.
Sometimes deactivating a bad plugin is the worst thing you can do. Enter the white screen of death – a fatal error on your site that can be easily solved by a developer but one that should probably never have happened in the first place.
We use the best practices to ensure that a site is operating as expected at all times, and if a problem arises we can fix it quickly. If you find your site loads slowly and has a hard time of dealing on your own or you don’t want to risk breaking it, make sure to get in touch with us.