Speed is Critical

Users prefer faster websites. It’s no surprise: Always-connected devices, gigabit Internet offerings and cloud-based mobile shopping platforms have conditioned consumers to expect speedy and responsive web experiences. New research, however, puts hard data behind this common knowledge. As noted by BizReport, a study found that even a 100-millisecond decrease in page loading time meant a 1.11 percent increase to session-based conversion. On the other end of the spectrum, users are willing to abandon websites if they take more than four seconds to load. The result? Site speed is make or break for your business — here’s how you stay ahead of the curve.

Need for Speed

Speedy websites offer a number of direct advantages for your business. As noted by Internet Retailing, faster web page-load times help bump up the average pageview per user (PPU). An increase of one PPU, in turn, meant almost $400,000 more revenue each year for an “average” company. Business.com, meanwhile, points out that search engines like Google do take site load speed into consideration when compiling their search rankings, giving faster sites the edge when it comes to making the front page. On the flip side, slow sites can drive customers away in droves. This is especially relevant since mobile devices have overtaken both desktops and laptops as the top web browsing choice. If your site’s speed isn’t optimized for PC users, mobile users will encounter even larger lag times and take their business elsewhere.

Fixing Quick

Wondering if your web page is fast enough for tech-savvy consumers? Start with tools like Google PageSpeed Insights or the Pingdom Website Speed Test to get a handle on the average user experience. If results aren’t promising, you’ve got a few options to help streamline the site.

First up? Your frontend. Good places to start include:

  • RedesignRemove old content, re-organize existing content and use fewer “widgets” to cut down load time.
  • Picture perfect — Scale images as appropriate with HTML5 to accommodate responsive design or opt for SVG (scalable vector graphic) format for simplicity. Also, opt for CSS styling over images for backgrounds and borders.
  • Flash off — Just 25 percent of sites now use Flash. Where possible, rebuild Flash plugins as quicker-loading HTML5 options.

If that works, great. If not, consider improving your backend infrastructure with options such as:

  • Content caching — Use plugins to create static content that is easily processed and delivered.
  • “Minify” — Toss unnecessary characters to reduce file size without impacting performance. In WordPress, for example, you can use WP Super Minify or Better WordPress Minify. While in Drupal, opt for Speedy or straight-up Minify tools.
  • Consider CDN — A content delivery network (CDN) ensures data is dynamically stored on servers close to visitors’ physical location, based on their IP address, to speed up content delivery
  • Go private — In some cases, web hosts or on-site servers may be your fast failure point. Private cloud hosting both increases site security and reduces the potential for site slow-down.

Bottom line? A one-second improvement in website speed translates to a 7 percent jump in conversions. Even small issues with speed, meanwhile, can send customers packing — especially if they’re on mobile devices. Make sure your site is ready for big traffic, multiple device types and critical consumers by addressing both frontend and backend performance problems.

Infographic created by hosting solutions company SingleHop.