Get Better Page Load Times: Causes and Solutions

Get Better Page Load Times: Causes and Solutions
15 Nov 2012

The only thing worse than having no website is having a website that you can’t use.

It sits there online, dangling electric carrots of information in front of the needy masses. You may have content and downloads that users truly want to engage with but they go largely unused. You may have asked yourself on more than one occasion why your stellar content continues to go unappreciated.

Slow page load times could be the culprit.

Fixin’ Page Load Times

We’ve all experienced websites with less than stellar load times. Clicking on links and features seems to have no effect while the spinning wheel (or hourglass for the aged internet user) turns and turns while the content waits to load. These pages usually have a laundry list of issues that makes their content virtually unusable.

Today’s savvy internet user has come to expect page load times that are 2 seconds of less. If a web page takes longer than that to load, a large portion of your web traffic will bounce off of your website faster than you can say boo.

There are a lot of factors that can slow down your page load times. Let’s take a look at some of the major contributors to bad page load times and how to fix it.

Website Comments

Allowing readers and site visitors to engage on your content (blog posts and web pages) is always a good thing but a heavily laden comment section can have an adverse effect on your page load times. Too many comments bogged down by self-serving links can slow your website speed to a crawl.

Speed Increase Solution: Set the comments section on your website to a verification mode that ensures every comment left by a site visitor is reviewed before getting published. This allows you to easily filter valuable comments and to communicate and respond to those who are looking to connect.

Set your comments notifications to email you every time there is activity in your comments feed to cut down on management time. The Email Alerts Plugin on WordPress works like a charm.

SFWAD Photos

Photos and graphical content are one of the major contributors to slow page load times. The higher the file size for your images the longer the pages that contain that image will take to load.

Pages with huge images will load bit by bit (no pun intended) until the entire image is built on-screen. We’ve all been through this before. Watch out if those slow pages have more than one image to boot.

Speed Increase Solution: Take all of your web photos through the save for web and devices function in Photoshop. This process will retain the highest resolution and image quality as possible while stripping away needless info to reduce the total file size of the image.

If you don’t have Photoshop you can download GIMP, a free and open source photo editing suite, and perform a similar function. Simply click on ‘save as’ and a small window will pop up. Click on the preview button and drag the slider to a resolution of your choosing.

Too Many CMS Widgets

While widgets and plugins on a content management system can add functionality and features that push your website over the top it can also adversely affect the load times of the pages that simply carry too many add-ons.

Speed Increase Solution: Select and implement only the widgets and plugins that truly increase the usability and features that your site can’t do without. Be careful not to overload your back-end with functions you don’t really want or simply don’t need. In this case less is more.

Make a list of plugins and widgets that you use and their related functions and uninstall those superfluous add-ons that give you little to no gains.

Organize Your Code

HTML, Java and CSS build the majority of your website’s backend. If this code is put together inefficiently they can increase your website’s load time by a significant margin. If these same coded elements are assembled in the wrong order then your pages will slow down and perform less efficiently than other properly organized sites.

Speed Increase Solution: All external CSS should go first. Then include all the external javascript that runs on your site. Using this simple technique will give you a boost in page load times. Every little bit helps you obtain the goal of less than 2 seconds of total load time.

Streamline Your Code

A lot of websites have been built bit by bit and over a long period of time. Assembling content as a business or website evolves is common practice but that process does lend itself to a host of problems. Any unneeded code or poorly written scripts can cause a lag in load times.

Speed Increase Solution: Go through your code and take out any superfluous language that doesn’t actually add to your backend. Condense code snippets where possible and review your pages at least once a year to ensure the quality remains intact. Keeping your code clean will boost your page load speeds and keep your pages flowing freely.

These solutions are just the tip of the iceberg, so to speak. There are a host of other problems and solutions that can allow you to increase your page speed and slide in under the 2 second mark. Page load statistics have proven time and again that pages that take longer than 2 seconds lose out on visits, leads and eventually sales.

Can you afford to let the seconds, and potential customers slip through your electronic fingers?

Testing Your Page Load Times

If after doing all of your work on your code, images, graphics, comments streams and plugins you want to see just how much of an improvement you’ve made go to Speedtest or Pingdom and do a quick test. We’d advise anyone taking the time to increase page load times to do a test before and one right after to compare your listed speeds. This way you can track just how much progress you’ve made and if you’ve met your goals.

Remember, there’s even more techniques out there to help you speed up and beat the online competition. Here’s a few other articles on Page Load Times:

Page Load Time and Why It Matters
15 tips to speed up your website
How we made portent com really freaking fast

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