Do I need to speed up my site?
Chances are you have a fast connection in your home, office, and phone. Great! but the reality is that the average Internet speed in this country is about 5mb of download speed. If you're not sure what that means, don't worry. Basically it means that if you wanted to watch Netflix without constant buffering, you'd be watching at 720p or lower, not full HD. on the whole, 5mb of speed is enough for browsing but it can be slow.
So as people deal with that speed, you'll want to make sure when they visit your site that they aren't getting frustrated with the load time. According to Kissmetrics if your website takes 4 seconds to load, then you'll lose up to 25% of you're visitors. According to some Google research, the number is closer to 33% and only after 3 seconds.
So how do I check my speed
There's many great tools out there, I recommend using the tools provided by Pingdom. They'll allow you to test from California, Australia, and Sweden at no cost and without signing up. This will allow you to get insights from all over the world.
I tested my site but there's a lot of data here...
no problem let's go over it together. I'll analyze our site in this demo, and help you through it. First let's determine scope. your scope maybe different.
Scope of test:
- insure that BittersweetPixels.com is fast from the US, Europe, and Australia.
So let's run the tests in Pingdom, just type in your URL to get started:
and the results:
so from California, I'm getting loaded in less than 1 second. that's fantastic! Since we primarily work in Arizona, California, and Nevada we're hitting the target loads. If you're in the same position, primarily working inside the U.S. then you probably don't need to worry about much. But for the sake of argument, let's say I do need better speeds in Europe and Asia.
Looking at those speeds, we're not doing so hot. 3 seconds in Australia is skirting the line set by Google at 3 seconds, and Stockholm is up to 4 seconds. Yikes.
So what can be done?
There are many resource heavy solutions to this problem, including solutions like CDNs (content delivery networks). They basically clone your sites to servers all over the world so it loads faster in places far away. But that should be step 2 or 3 in the process if you can't solve the issue other ways.
The most functional solution is not necessarily throwing money at the problem, unfortunately it's also not the easiest. Pingdom provides lots of data as you scroll down the page. The next stop after the basic information is Performance Insights:
This will show basic configuration issues in the site and server that will cause a load issue. Some of these are solved with simple site updates to .htaccess or web.config, or simple server changes. You can contact your hosting provider to get a bit more insight on how to fix specific issues. In our case, the 2 items below the 100 mark are caused by Google loading resources for our captcha, so there's not much we can do about that. But on the whole you don't really need 100s across the board, just try to get each item above 90%-95%.
Next is your waterfall, Pingdom refers to this as the "file requests". We call it a waterfall because it shows which files pour in and how long they take. You can use this to see how long each file takes:
Look for files with the longest load time and consider what can be done about it. In our case, it's our images that seem to take the longest to load. So we need to reduce the quality.
Images are easily the most common cause of site loading issues. Now a secret about website images that no one knows is that you don't need the best quality images. Now don't misunderstand my meaning- they do need to be clear, and big sometimes. but quality can be PPI. Computer screens don't see it well, and PPI only matters for print really. An image can look perfectly fine on your phone or laptop, but like garbage when it prints. So for the website, it's time to reduce the quality.
A great tool for this is Kraken IO. Just upload the files here and the quality will automatically be set for websites. So that's what I did! and then I re-ran my tests:
Not a bad improvement! I went from a 4.3mb site, to a 3.6mb site. And my load times are better across the board. I'm below that 3 second threshold in Stockholm now, and I shaved a whole second off my Australia test. This a good start. But compared to the U.S. load time, Europe and Asia are still a bit high.
If you still need to improve in other parts of the world for your business needs, then you'll want to add a good CDN to your website. a popular one is Cloudflare. They have a huge CDN network that's very reliable, and they have a free tier. Given that I have my site loading in about .6 seconds in the U.S., If I add a CDN with Cloudflare I can expect that in Europe and Asia by website will load in less than 1 second.
So why shouldn't I skip to just adding the CDN?
Because a soup is only as good as it's ingredients. What I mean is that you need to feed your CDN a fast site, so optimizing that first will go a long way in your websites success.