With the fate of Net Neutrality still very much uncertain, it pays to begin thinking about ways you can marginalize any slowdowns in the light of potential deregulation. Regardless your level of technical expertise, here are some key areas you can address to tone up your websites.
If you pay for hosting directly, you need to make sure you aren’t using a bargain basement provider. Yes, $5/month looks great on your balance sheet but how is that going to stack up against lost revenue from users bouncing your site because page speeds are too long? Regardless if you use a provider that manages your hosting for you or you take care of it directly, you need to confirm that it provides a reliable and fast foundation.
If you don’t know how to tell a good host from bad, start with this list of cheap (in every sense of the word) hosting providers.
Hands down, the biggest culprit in page slowdowns are images that have not been properly compressed. Since stunning images are crucial to conversion, you don’t want to avoid using them but you do need to know how to optimize images so they still look good but have as small of a file size as possible.
You’ll also find articles showing you how to use page speed measurement tools to identify existing non-optimized images and test that your recent images are good to go.
Simply put, a Content Delivery Network (CDN) helps make your websites faster on a global scale by copying parts of your website that don’t change very often and always get loaded by visitors, such as images and scripts. In turn, it stores those copies on data centers across the country to serve those parts up to local users faster than if the information was only pulled from its origin server.
Most good hosting providers offer some sort of CDN as part of their hosting service or as a paid extra but you can find many reputable third-party providers regardless which hosting provider you use. Among the most common providers are CloudFlare and KeyCDN.
If you aren’t sure whether your site currently uses a CDN or not, ask your web provider or visit one of your webpages, right click an image, copy the link address and if you see something like a string of characters where your domain name usually appears, that’s a good sign you already have a CDN. For example, the ArtsHacker logo shows 2ee0tsdb27ngz4ba31r09l6e-wpengine.netdna-ssl.com/ instead of artshacker.com/ for the image address and yes, the site uses a CDN.
Sliders have become ubiquitous in web design but they are ravenous when it comes to eating up page load time. In most cases, your web platform will load all the images in a slider at the same time, even though the users don’t see them unless they scroll through the collection.
If that weren’t bad enough, we’ve known for the past two years that they are nearly worthless when it comes to actual conversion. If you need more convincing, ArtsHacker Ceci Dadisman wrote an article you need to read.
In future articles, we’ll be taking a closer look at a number of these additional options better suited for arts managers with intermediate to advanced tech skills.
- A cache is part of your server where frequently used static data is temporarily stored for faster retrieval. Loading these images, scripts, and CSS from the cache takes much less time than pulling it directly from the main server storage every time a visitor lands on your site.
- Minify scripts. This includes combining and compressing all the separate JS, CSS, and HTML scripts into single files that take less time to load.
- Database optimization. Clearing out expired autoloaded data and removing transient rows can do wonders when it comes to reducing page load times. Think of it like a cleanse for your SQL.
- Keep themes and plugins updated. You’re in luck because we’ve already covered this topic in a recent article by our resident programming expert.
- Stop using so many fonts. Sure, selecting your typography was probably an important part of your design process but I’m willing to bet you didn’t consider the font’s load time or the cumulative load time from using several different font families across the site.
- Implement Lazy Loading. This function delays showing images and embedded media (think YouTube videos) until the scroll into view on a user’s browser. For images, it’s simple in that they don’t get loaded until coming into view. For embedded content, it goes one more step by delaying loading of any related scripts (and there are dozens that come with most embedded content).