Nobody has time for a website that is slow, not you the business owner, nor your potential client who is most likely viewing your website on a mobile device, where speed is even more crucial. Often times, we’ll help clients with the speed of their website, and/or upgrade them to a website that is not only faster, but of course more efficient, converts better and so on…
Let’s explore what exactly causes a website to load slowly:
There are numerous issues that cause a website to not load in the optimal 1-2 seconds that Google’s algorithm points the needle at, as well as what’s suitable for your users. Let’s face it, most customers/potential clients have very little time to invest in looking for something they need. On top of that, as humans, we tend to have a very short attention span too, so if a website is taking too long to load, 9 out of 10 times, that client is going to go elsewhere.
Culprit #1 – Slow Server
Think of your website server as the engine in your car. If the website “weighs” too much for the engine to handle, then the server will without a doubt run slow. This is common when a client is oversold on a less-than-adequate server for the size and type of website he/she really needs. Servers come in all configurations. The faster the server and more storage, the more expensive it costs. Just like the car analogy above, the nicer the car, the more it will cost.
How a faster server makes your website load and run faster
Servers are no more than very large network hard drives and CPUS that run on lots of electricity and requires heavy-duty cooling and maintenance to keep running at peak levels and supporting millions of websites across the globe. Servers are often housed and owned by hosting companies, and then resellers (like ourselves and 98% of other providers in our field) rent space on those servers and re-sale to clients. Companies such as GoDaddy opens in a new window and Hostgator opens in a new window and many others are good examples of budget-friendly, shared-hosting environments that offer web hosting directly to the client. The problem with these types of companies, is that they offer too many tiers, often times convincing clients into saving money with the cheaper plans just to win their business. What they receive for that lower cost, is subpar performance and websites that run slow. This puts more responsibility on the web developer to tweak the website to run so lean, for the prime reason of compensating for inadequate server storage and CPU performance.
<p”>Spend a little extra money and choose a dedicated server that is proven to be faster. There are many great hosts on the market, with Cloudways being our favorite opens in a new window. For the past 3 years, we’ve switched all new clients over to Cloudways opens in a new window, which is a great cPanel environment, allowing the developer to choose from a variety of servers, speeds, storage capacity options, as well as the location of your server. We can normally get websites loading in the 1-2 second range without much outside work due to the superior quality and speed of their servers.
Culprit #2 – Old WordPress Website with Outdated Themes and/or Plug-ins
90% of websites are built using an open-source framework known as WordPress. WordPress has become the most widely used website builder over the years due to its versatility and ability to serve both simple websites, as well as very complex builds that requires lots of development, programming, etc. Plug-ins are used to run most of the functionality on your website ranging from the actual page editor, to contact forms, slideshows, security and compliance upgrades, and the list goes on. Themes are the “skin” of a website, and when the theme itself or plugins become outdated, this can slow the website down either by an incompatibility issue between the latest WordPress version, or by an attack (known as malware). Attacks are normally caused by a plug-in becomes so outdated, that it’s technically a security risk. Malware and malicious “bots” will find open doors into the site from these compromised plug-ins. This results in a massive drain on CPU usage, as the server is now having to compensate for the drainage the malware is causing by constantly pinging the website.
Always keep your website updated with the latest version of WordPress, the latest plugins, and the latest version of the theme files. If all 3 of these are taken care of on a monthly basis, the chances of your website getting hacked or slowing down decreases dramatically.
Culprit #3 – Website Not Properly Optimized for Speed
Assuming that your server is properly sized and tuned for high performance, and we know that your website is free of malware, all plugins and theme files are up to date, now it’s time to turn to what’s usually the cause for a slow website. Poorly optimized. Below is a list of suggestions that will help ensure that your website is optimized to its highest potential for load speed. More importantly, Google is looking very closely at this as a ranking factor in 2021, also know as “Core Web Vitals,” part of their latest algorithm that was released earlier in the year.
1. All images should be compressed, but without degrading the quality of each image
If your website is WordPress, there are multiple plugins that can help automatically compress all images in your Media Library, including any new images you add in real-time. Our favorite is called WP Optimize opens in a new window, which is a fairly lightweight caching plugin, and it’s also free.
2. Enabling a caching plugin
To reiterate #1, some caching plugins will compress images like WP Optimize does, but the other features that caching plugins do will created a “cached” version of the page, which basically means there’s a delay from when you publish an update to the site and when a user sees it, which in result puts less weight on the browser when it comes to loading. If you’re making lots of updates to your website, it’s best to disable caching, otherwise you’re going to be frustrated manually clearing the cache every 5 minutes to see your updates.
Obviously, most of these suggestions and edits aren’t meant for the novice, more for a seasoned web design team who does this everyday. However, if you’re feeling adventurous and are determined to do so on your own, hopefully this article gives you some great starting points for speeding up your website, or preventing your site for potential road blocks that cause a slow website in the first place.