Website performance is something that is often overlooked by many web developers. Historically, the approach to building a website has been to make it look trendy and modern, upload lots of pictures, videos and blogs and launch it. The problem with that approach however is that it doesn’t take into consideration how the website will actually perform. And while having lots of photos and videos on your site are visually appealing, they can slow down the site and ultimately cause your visitors to leave before they even get the information they wanted in the first place.
How do companies create fast websites?
With lots of technical data, product specs and content that most of our B2B clients have, it can be difficult to parse things down so that it performs well. Here, we’ll break down some of the tools that we use to measure performance but first let’s break down the complexities of website performance.
Website Performance Defined
Simply put - when we talk about website performance, we are exclusively referring to the speed at which pages of a website load in the web browser. In this case, the faster the better because it is those first impressions that will shape whether or not a visitor stays and engages on your website.
Why is a fast website important?
Designing your website with visitor experience or user experience (UX) is fundamental to a successful website. Just like your sales approach, you tailor your discussion around the customer needs, your website should do the same. And if the words and messaging on your website are likened to your face-to-face pitch, then it can also be said that the speed of your website is the same as how fast you connect with a prospective customer phoning for more information. You wouldn’t wait several days to get back in touch with a prospect looking for information; similarly, your website needs to deliver the information they are looking for expeditiously.
What is a target page load speed?
The goal here is a maximum of 2 seconds for a page to load. This is based on Google’s development standard that was sent in 2010. Consumer expectations about website experience (UX) are steadily increasing. And although the selling process is different in B2B than it is in a typical transactional sale, the reality is that your B2B customers are also people… and they have no doubt made a purchase or requested information from online B2C sellers and that experience sets their expectations for engaging and interacting with your B2B website.
What makes a website slow?
There are a number of contributing factors that affect website performance.
Page Weight - The total size of a web page.
Images - Image files are larger than text files and take longer to load in a browser.
HTTP Requests - The number of times that the browser has to request information from the host. The more complex a page, the more requests needed, the slower the page becomes.
Browser Caching - Caching stores static data from your site in the browser of your visitors which helps increase speed.
File Compression - Shrinking down files so they can be quickly delivered on screen.
Hosting - Although affordable, shared hosting splits the server resources with many other websites on that host; an increase in demand on one site may result in slower performance for yours.
Geographic Location - The longer the distance between the visitor’s location and the server where your website is hosted, the longer it takes to load.
Permanent Redirects - Just like call or email forwarding, these are called 301 redirects and should be avoided where possible.
Tools to check website performance
There are a number of free tools that can help you figure out how your website performs. Once you have this benchmark, you can then begin to clean up the performance issues so that your website will become faster.
- Website Grader by HubSpot - Enter your web address, your email address, and in no time you’ll get a score out of 100 on page size, HTTP requests, caching, and image size.
- PageSpeed Insights by Google - PageSpeed Insights analyzes the content of a page then generates suggestions to make that page faster.
- Pingdom - Performance measurement is just one of the features they offer and is an easy-to-use tool for web managers and developers alike.
- GTmetrix - Provides an in-depth summary of performance and suggestions for improvement.
- WebPage Test - Not only tests for speed but also for security and allows testing for multiple locations and different browsers.
Tips for improving website performance
- Regardless of which tool you choose it is important to stick with only one as each tool calculates scoring slightly differently.
- Get in the habit of checking regularly. As you load more content to your site you may find things begin to slow down again.
- Perfect is the enemy of good. Don’t aim for perfect but keep working on the suggestions to gradually improve performance.
Taking time to look at website performance will help you create a better UX for your website visitors and as a result, your SEO will increase and your visitors will be happier resulting in higher conversions on your site.
With so many different factors contributing to performance, no two websites are the same which means it takes a bit of consistent effort to increase performance. With consistency, your website will perform better over time.