You don’t have to be a digital marketer to know that slow loading pages are annoying — you just have to stare at a loading screen for more than three seconds.
Page speed (and its sister term site speed, the average of several page load speeds across the site) is the first element of your site a customer interacts with, and you never get a second chance at a first impression.
The optimal load time for higher conversions is between 1.8 and 2.7 seconds, and for lowest bounce rate, even faster — no higher than 1.2 seconds and as low as 700 milliseconds. And it’s not just a UX question. Google considers page speed and site speed in their algorithm, so long load times will hurt you in the SERP — and are proven to result in lost conversions.
So how can you fix your slow loading pages to give customers the experience they demand and deserve?
First, Clock Your Site
You can’t fix a problem without understanding its scope — especially when that problem is invisibly distributed across a large volume of pages. You’ll want a precise breakdown of both page speed and site speed.
It may be useful to organize the audited pages by slowest load times, highest monthly service volume, or broadest business impact (especially if you’re operating at the enterprise scale) so you can fix the biggest issues first.
Reduce, Reduce, Reduce
It makes sense at face value: the less information your page is transmitting, the faster it will load. Your slowest loading pages maybe be unnecessarily bogged down with uncompressed files and poorly-optimized code.
There’s also Accelerated Mobile Pages, or AMP, a stripped-down, super-lightweight page format designed for ultimate readability. While not mandatory, AMP pages can be a good idea for pages where you just want someone to read your content (not coincidentally, news articles have seen a lot of early AMP adoption). But beware, because of its minimalist codebase, certain elements like forms won’t work with AMP.
Slim Down Your Site
The shortest distance between two points is a straight line. For our purposes, those two points are the initial click and a fully loaded page — so we want as few things in between them as possible. Too many stylesheets, images, and scripts get in the way, and so do redirects. You want as little extra on your site as possible; if it doesn’t serve a real purpose, it’s just hurting your site speed.
Enable Browser Caching
A good way to speed up slow loading pages is to let the user do a little bit of the heavy lifting. Browser caching enables portions of your site to be stored in the user’s cache, which means on subsequent visits, part of the puzzle is already done.
In tests, enabling browser caching could knock nearly 2 whole seconds off the load time. Your mileage may vary, but if you’re focused on repeat visits and want the user’s experience to improve over time, browser caching is a good way to do that.
Optimize Your Images
The modern web is heavily visual, which means images can take up a lot of loading time, but there are best practices when loading images on your site. Avoiding BMP and TIFF files can help enormously, and even cropping edges or reducing color depth a little bit can make a difference.
JPEGs are better for photographs, whereas PNGs are best for graphics with fewer than 16 colors. On the more technical side, make sure none of your images have blank src attributes, as this can cause unnecessary traffic. For a more in-depth look, check out Google’s best practices for image optimization.
It’s easy to forget about site speed, but it’s one of the most crucial and front-facing elements of any site. The average page load time across the internet has actually been increasing in recent years, so if you can nail this, you’ll stand out in the crowd.
Slow loading pages mean lost business and a lousy UX. But a truly exceptional site speed can give your user a meaningfully better experience — and that will have a definitive impact on your business.