Page loading speed is the time it takes for a visitor to load your website page. It’s a fundamental principal of any website, and you might not realise just how much of an effect it’s having on your business. It’s the ultimate fear that a visitor who reaches your site, will only be prepared to wait up to as little as 3 seconds before abandoning it altogether.
Why is page loading speed so important?
Faster websites make more money. Visitors are more likely to revisit, repurchase and refer your website to their friends if they had a positive user experience (UX). We’re living in the digital age: a visitor can always find a faster and therefore more attractive alternative. Optimising page loading speed (and subsequently reducing visitors’ wait time) can lead to significant improvements in customer experience, conversion rates and ultimately, your sales. The age old saying “time is money” springs to mind, especially with the knowledge that the faster your website loads, the quicker a customer can complete their transaction. It needs to be seamless. Your page loading speed competes with the patience of a potential customer. The aim is to retain your impatient visitor and avoid any frustration. You should keep them on your site long enough to convert them from browser to customer.
Page loading speed is also affecting your SEO
When it comes to search engines, it’s survival of the fittest…or in this case…the fastest. A website with a slow page loading speed is more likely to lose visitors who will venture to a site that IS deemed fast enough. But, how fast is fast? Your page speed should be 400 milliseconds – no more than the blink of an eye. Consequently, search engines penalise the ranking of your website if it’s not performing well. Take Google as one example, who consider a variety of factors when determining a website’s ranking. Quality content and mobile optimisation are integral components if you want to impress Google and climb up their SEO ladder, but speed is crucial. If your business is investing money into SEO and you’re not seeing results, then page loading speed could be the problem.
So how do I know if page loading speed is my problem?
It all begins with data, and you can read a little more about just how crucial it is here. There are many online tools that allow you to test your site and identify what is slowing it down so that you know exactly what to fix. If you use Google Analytics, you will have access to the average time it takes for your page to load or download. Another important factor for page loading speeds is your server, and Google Analytics can also provide information on how long it’s taking for your server to respond to your website. Just login to your account and navigate to Behaviour > Site Speed > Overview as a start.
Collecting this data will help you to test adjustments to your website, and track exactly how much sales have risen or fallen as a result. Other alternatives to GoogleAnalytics include Pingdom and Dotcom-Monitor. Pingdom costs $13.95 per month and is a powerful website monitoring service with an abundance of features. One of its most useful features is the automated checks and alerts service. As a Pingdom customer, you will be notified when Pingdom spot errors that could be slowing down your website. Dotcom-Monitor is also a great web-based tool that provides a waterfall analysis (a visual chart to show your data). You will also be able to view your page loading times from different locations - a useful tool when considering the locality of your site and business.
What could be slowing down my website?
It’s important that your code is both clear and well-written, however there are other factors that could be affecting your page loading speed negatively. Now, it’s time to streamline your site…
Choose your graphics
Just as larger files take longer to download, vibrant graphic designs and themes directly increase your page loading time. They might look great, but this might not matter if your visitor doesn’t even wait it out. Before committing to a theme throughout your site, a simple A/B testing will pick up any implications of your chosen graphics. Remember, it needs to be lightweight, as unnecessarily large files can seriously slow down page speed.
Choose the right web host
In some cases you get what you pay for, and depending on your position, it may be worth upgrading to a website host who can deliver a better service and a higher performance for page loading times.
Use a caching plugin
A caching plugin is a kind of digital temporary storage uni. Many caching plugins are free (with WordPress), or low cost. The cache is an area in the computer’s memory that stores frequently accessed information on the user’s local hard drive. In turn, this means that when a user opens a recently accessed file, the browser will have most (if not all) of its files cached.
That "must-see" video that you’re convinced will grip new customers may be doing quite the opposite. Try providing a link to video content rather than embedding it. The same rule should be applied to high-resolution images, which take much longer to load than optimised images. It’s pretty straightforward to speed up images and their loading times by zipping them, which is referred to as compression. Compressing images using a tool like Gzip reduces the bandwidth of your website and saves you even more storage space, thus offering a good user experience (UX) to your visitors.
Improve your time to interact (TTI) speed
Use a tool like Google Analytics to understand page loading speed TTL – time to load, as well as TTI – time to interact. Your TTI is the crucial moment at which a page displays its primary interactive content. It’s important to know how long it takes for a page to deliver a specific experience to your customer.
Many of these practices, including file caching, are already taken care of within most ecommerce platforms (like Shopify). If you’d like to read more about how it works, click here. It’s important to note that one of the biggest contributors to page loading speed is your theme choice. There are many different themes available and it can often be difficult to assess whether they’ve been developed to a high standard. We recommend that you read reviews or test the loading speed of any websites which are already using these themes.
Want to read more? Elkfox is a Shopify Expert, helping e-commerce businesses grow, develop and promote themselves. Read our blog and subscribe for more marketing tips, and talk to us about how we can help you grow.