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How Does Website Loading Speed Affect Its Performance?

Website loading speed is crucial for the performance

I Feel the Need, the Need for Speed

Google has always said your website loading speed is a significant part of your visitor’s experience and just recently they officially confirmed that loading speed was indeed one of the aspects they take into consideration when they assess the quality of a website

Websites are increasingly more sophisticated and have many programs running under the hood that give animations, high resolution images and other content to provide your website with engaging content giving your user a better experience.

Content, Speed and Fixes

The internet is a very competitive environment and website owners and web developers must use cutting edge programming and technology to keep up with the innovative fast past and maintain their website’s profile.  

It is a constant challenge for the website designer to balance the interesting interface with the website loading speed and ensure their services can be viewed on various devices, be it a wide screen desktop monitor, a tablet that can be either portrait or landscape or a smartphone, which is smaller.

Responsive design may affect page speed

There are quite a few very good page speed measuring tools with many useful features. Once completed, the test report comes with tips on how to improve performance and fix flaws. The list would most likely look like this (with particular reference to test the WordPress based sites):

Icarus Web Development website loading speed test result

Slow Loading Issues?

If you complete the above list as part of your website maintenance, fixing and improving where suggested, and your website is still loading slowly it’s time to look into the backend related issues. I mean the TTFB, also referred to as ‘wait time’, which basically is the time it takes the client to connect to a server and start downloading. You might think it’s hard to figure out how to settle down on this but actually the TTFB depends on the following four features:

Preferably designed with the WordPress in mind.  Also, VPS is definitely superior to a shared host.

Kinsta and Cloudflare are probably the most popular.

That would be quite a tricky challenge, fortunately there are some ingenious plugins out there.

Picking a premium service will ensure low latency for queries to be answered.

At the moment the importance of TTFB optimisation is highly questionable, I would consider premium options with regards to large websites only, especially if you are on a tight budget.

Website's waterfall graph breaks down the page performance

The waterfall graph of the test report for database queries will help you figure out what takes too long to load and what is the cause of the lag. These tools not only help improve the website loading speed but give a greater insight in the general condition of the website.

Website Loading Speed Optimization Services

Dynamic WordPress websites are very complex and it’s due to this complex structure it is quite a challenge to speed up a website.  WordPress users have the options of many free plugins that can save lot of time for a moderately skilled web master. Although one must be very careful picking the right plugins and set them up in the most efficient way.

Modern, attractive WordPress themes come with many functionalities, external libraries and plugins exponentiating https requests and slowing down the loading time – it’s always better to build a website from scratch than buying an off-the-shelf theme.  

If you’re on a budget consider a high quality theme that is light, responsive and suited for your needs without unnecessary options. Then avoid too many plugins; each of them has its own CSS and JavaScript files which might need to be minified and combined. As a rule of thumb: less is more – at least when dealing with website loading speed optimisation.

Getting Speed Optimisation

It’s important to look after the total website weight if you don’t want your visitors to bounce due to the loading time. Fortunately, it’s possible to compress your files by enabling GZIP compression. You can easily complete this using a few WP plugins like WP-Rocket or W3 Total Cache, or by implementing the following code into the .htaccess file into the root of your website:

# Compress HTML, CSS, JavaScript, Text, XML and fonts
AddOutputFilterByType DEFLATE application/javascript
AddOutputFilterByType DEFLATE application/rss+xml
AddOutputFilterByType DEFLATE application/vnd.ms-fontobject
AddOutputFilterByType DEFLATE application/x-font
AddOutputFilterByType DEFLATE application/x-font-opentype
AddOutputFilterByType DEFLATE application/x-font-otf
AddOutputFilterByType DEFLATE application/x-font-truetype
AddOutputFilterByType DEFLATE application/x-font-ttf
AddOutputFilterByType DEFLATE application/x-javascript
AddOutputFilterByType DEFLATE application/xhtml+xml
AddOutputFilterByType DEFLATE application/xml
AddOutputFilterByType DEFLATE font/opentype
AddOutputFilterByType DEFLATE font/otf
AddOutputFilterByType DEFLATE font/ttf
AddOutputFilterByType DEFLATE image/svg+xml
AddOutputFilterByType DEFLATE image/x-icon
AddOutputFilterByType DEFLATE text/css
AddOutputFilterByType DEFLATE text/html
AddOutputFilterByType DEFLATE text/javascript
AddOutputFilterByType DEFLATE text/plain
AddOutputFilterByType DEFLATE text/xml

# Remove browser bugs (only needed for really old browsers)
BrowserMatch ^Mozilla/4 gzip-only-text/html
BrowserMatch ^Mozilla/4.0[678] no-gzip
BrowserMatch bMSIE !no-gzip !gzip-only-text/html
Header append Vary User-Agent

The GZIP compression might significantly reduce the size of CSS stylesheets and JavaScript scripts, but won’t work on images. They require another approach.

Websites need graphics. Beautiful, big pictures attract visitors’ attention and guarantee a great experience. It’s good practice to optimise and resize every image before uploading to your website. The process can be completed with popular tools like Photoshop or even Paint. The process can be tedious, so you might want to get your hands on GULP, an excellent streaming task runner.  Basic knowledge of JavaScript is necessary for it to operate, but it’s definitely worth the effort.

Modern websites consist of tens or more graphics that are constantly repeated throughout the whole project. Instead of loading all these many assets, it would be much better to combine all images to a single one and use CSS to navigate to every individual image.  This is how we create ‘sprites’, which increase the website loading speed significantly.

Caching in for Speed

You can specify how long web browsers will store the images, CSS and JavaScript files locally by leveraging your browser’s caching, the user’s browser will be asked to download less data whilst on your website.  This greatly improves the website loading speed of your website.  You determine how long your files will be cached by using Cache Control Headers or Expired Headers in the .htaccess files.

When a visitor reaches your site, its browser sends HTTP requests to the server and then renders your page. The number of these requests matter, actually every single request slows down the load time of your page.  You can identify which file is slowing your website the most by studying the waterfall in the speed load test report.

The solution to this is combining JavaScript and CSS files as well as using sprites for the images of your website. You must be aware of effect of integrating with other platforms like Facebook or Twitter can add up to the HTTP requests.

It’s not about removing them altogether, but rather finding a balanced compromise so your service ensures a great experience for the user – providing a fully functional, compelling website is part of that experience. You can combine files both manually and automatically with tools like Gulp or by properly setting WP-Rocket – connecting with a CDN platform would be a bonus.

Easy Speed Testing Tools

When it comes to the testing tools like PingdomGTmetrix and Page Speed Insight, it is advisable to take their results as guidance – there’s no point in struggling to achieve all green, 100%, highest grades.  The goal is to make the website load as fast as possible.

Dynamic websites can be fully functional ensuring user’s satisfaction of loading in less than 3s or even more for eCommerce websites.  We can guarantee that your WP website will get at least B grades in services that measure speed like Pingdom or GTmetrix eliminating the main issues you might have.

BOUNCE RATE AT LOADING SPEED UP TO 3S
11%
BOUNCE RATE AT LOADING SPEED UP TO 5S
38%
BOUNCE RATE AT LOADING SPEED UP TO 7S
53%
BOUNCE RATE AT LOADING SPEED UP TO 10S
65%

Most plugins mentioned in this post are free to use for a small website, and offer great premium options if you’d like to take your project a step further. If you make any changes to your backend files in order to improve your website performance, make sure you back them up first.  Also, use the child theme or you might lose your changes with a WordPress update and you will end up chasing the rabbit.

Unfortunately, WP-Rocket – the most sophisticated plugin that is really helpful in improving site’s performance cost just shy of $50 (£40) per year. It is a small sum, but the truth is, you might need a few services for your website that aren’t free and they could add up to a large sum.  The good news is that most of our maintenance packages include this plugin usage.

Getting Your Best Website Performance

This is by no means a complete or comprehensive solution to improve your website loading speed. Although focusing on the above problems is a good starting point.  By following this you will notice significant website performance improvement on your speed grades and will consistently get B grades across most testing platforms.  

If your main concern is your visitor experience, however, and not only your website performance you might want to consider lazy loading.  This allows for the first part of the page, above the fold, to upload immediately, so the user doesn’t need to wait for the full service to load. This doesn’t decrease the website loading speed but it will definitely improve the users’ experience.

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