We’ve all been there. You’ve just Googled a question that you really need to know the answer to (Should my pumpkin pie be this runny before baking it?). You click the first result, which looks promising, and then…you wait. The site is crawling. All you see it white space. Maybe the header has loaded. You’re frustrated. You just want to know that your pie is okay. So, you hit the back arrow and try again.
As the user, you’re frustrated by slow sites. In a world of instant gratification, you want answers now. This is why when we build a site, we place a priority on optimizing a site to perform the fastest that it can. And, not only do users like fast sites, Google does too.
“2 seconds is the threshold for ecommerce website acceptability. At Google, we aim for under a half second.” -Maile Ohye, from Google
In March 2018, Google announced that after a year and a half of experimentation, they would be migrating sites that follow the best practices for mobile-first indexing. Before this change, the indexing would use primarily the desktop version of a website, which was causing issues for users browsing the internet on their smartphones. Often, the mobile version of a site is vastly different from the desktop version. So, Google has set out to resolve this discrepancy.
“Mobile-first indexing means that we’ll use the mobile version of the page for indexing and ranking, to better help our—primarily mobile—users find what they’re looking for.”
This does not mean that there will be any changes to the overall indexing system. There is still one index robot that does all the work. But, instead of picking up the bulky files from desktop sites, it’s going to choose the one page whitesheets presented to him by mobile versions of websites. His job is then faster, meaning the user gets results more quickly. Everyone is happy.
What Influences Site Speed?
When it comes to finding out what is slowing your site down, there are a number of ways to go about it. One of the best places to start is running a site speed test. A few of the main culprits include:
Images often account for most of the downloaded bytes on a web page and also often occupy a significant amount of visual space. Because of this, optimizing images in a website can lead to large improvements in site speed. However, there is not an exact science as to how to best optimize images, and the solution is not one size fits all. Finding the optimal settings for your image requires careful analysis along many dimensions: format capabilities, content of encoded data, quality, pixel dimensions and more.
Both poorly written code and code that carries out superfluous functions fall into this category. Poorly written code can take longer to render, therefore slowing down site speed. Various developers have different ways of writing out tasks, and one may write a faster execution than the other.
Superfluous functions can include code for Facebook pixels, tracking software, Google Analytics (although we don’t recommend that you ever remove this) and other “background” tasks.
When your webpage has a redirect, it triggers two response cycles—one to pull up the original page, and another to pull up the page that the redirect links to. If a site has too many redirects, for example /landing redirects to /cooldeal which then redirects to /awesomepage, then the site has to keep triggering these response cycles, which can impact load time and site speed.
Server Response Time
Server response time measures how long it takes to load the necessary HTML to begin rendering the page from your server, subtracting out the network latency between Google and your server. There are dozens of potential factors which may slow down the response of your server: slow application logic, slow database queries, slow routing, frameworks, libraries, resource CPU starvation or memory starvation.
We recently built an ecommerce site, and, if you’ve read the blog, you’ve read about our failure. But, through that failure we learned a lot about how site speed can make or break a user experience.
Speeding Up a Sinking Ship
Part of the plan to help stop the Grizzlyhive* (*Hypothetical name…read the article to find out more) ship from sinking was to speed up the site load. When we evaluated the site, some of their pages were taking as long as 20 seconds to load! Not good. So, we dug deep. Some of us ran analytics. Some of us dug into the code. Together, we came up with a list of things that seemed like they would help.
One of the services that we use on our sites is Mouseflow. It allows us to watch users as they navigate a website. Sounds helpful right? It is. But, it adds unnecessary code to the website. As much as it pained us to get rid of this (very helpful) tool, we started to see faster page loads.
Another issue that can dramatically affect site speed on ecommerce sites is image size and compression. On a site where people are shopping, you want them to see multiple products at a time, displaying choices to the customer. However, these images take time to load. Once you start loading 20 or more per page… things slow down. In this case, wayyyyy down. So, our web team worked some wizardry (we aren’t going to give out all of our secrets) and bippity-boppity-boo, the images got smaller and loaded faster. How much faster, you may ask? The average page load on the site is now down to an average of 4 seconds. Boom.
Let Us Help
You may be reading this and thinking, “Man, my site is really slow. I don’t want to be scaring off customers!” And, well, you’re right to be thinking that. But, you don’t have to be scared. We can help. Just let us know.