Everything You Need to Know About Website Speed in 2020

Website speed is a measure of how fast your website loads once someone is directed to it; either by clicking a link or via typing out your URL. On average, a website takes about 22 seconds to fully load on a mobile and 9.3 seconds on a desktop. 

The few seconds that pass when we wait for a site to load can feel short and insignificant, or they can feel endless and become the tipping point for your website’s performance, and the experience your users leave with.

What a few seconds can do

1. To your Consumers 

52% of customers say it's important for pages to load quickly, and a 1 second lag in speed causes customer satisfaction to reduce by 16%

Seemingly ignoring the average time taken by a website to load, research shows that 53% of mobile users leave a page if the loading time exceeds 3 seconds- meaning more than half of your visitors decide to leave your page before even seeing it. This happens regardless of how popular your site may be- Google themselves experienced a 20% drop in traffic due to a miniscule fall in the website’s speed by 0.5 seconds. 

79% of users are less likely to buy from a site again if they are dissatisfied with its performance

The whole point of having a website is to generate organic web traffic to gain ROI, and in this fast paced world people are only willing to give you a few seconds to do this. Thus, keeping your loading time under 22 seconds would be ideal, but under 3 seconds would be perfect. Take any longer, and customers become irritable, and are more likely to switch to your competitors. 

44% of customers will tell their friends about a bad experience online

Besides that, bad news tends to spread fast; so one negative experience is bound to reach the rest. According to The White House office of Consumer Affairs- dissatisfied customers tend to tell 9-15 people about a negative experience, and some even go as far as telling 20 or more- all it takes is a single second to set your business up with a negative reputation.

2. To your Ranking

Another important element that determines the traffic you generate is your visibility- which is affected by your ranking, and speed is now a ranking factor.

Search engines like google understand consumers’ need for speed, and that faster websites provide better experiences. Therefore, they prioritize them and take it upon themselves to reward websites that load quickly by giving them a better ranking.

statistics showing how the bounce rate increases with loading time.

A site that takes a long time to load is bound to have a high bounce rate; which is the rate at which people enter your site, but then go back to the SERP (Search Engine Results Page). Research shows that there is a resultant increase in this rate by 113% as the loading time for a page increases from a mere 1-7 seconds. The search engine gathers that this is a negative response from the consumers, and thus causes your ranking to fall. 

However, if your site appears to be providing positive customer satisfaction in these sectors, your ranking will be boosted. To find out more ways to improve your ranking, check out our article containing 5 Tips for Ranking First on Google.

3. To your Conversions

Another goal when it comes to generating traffic is creating conversions- which occurs when visitors convert by completing desired actions; such as making a purchase, signing up for newsletters or filling out forms.

$18 billion a year is the cost of abandoned shopping carts for online retailers

However, if you are experiencing a loss in traffic or consumer satisfaction, then the probability of your conversions falling increases. Since we already know that slow websites are significant deterrents of traffic, it can be concluded that they also repel conversions. As shown above, millions of dollars in revenue are lost each year due to people abandoning their online shopping carts, and it is just a few seconds of waiting that make this difference.

Thus, time is quite literally money, and for every miniscule amount by which the loading time for a website increases, a business will lose out on possible revenue.

Now that you know what can happen in just a few seconds, take it upon yourself to test your own website’s speed and see if it needs any improvement.

Website Testing Tools

Timing your website with a stopwatch would prove to be unideal, so take to the internet to find tools that will do it for you, and tell you what’s slowing you down. While there are plenty out there, we’ve gathered the 3 most reliable ones below for your own perusal.

1. GTmetrix 

Analyzing process of ShiftX Media's website on GTmetrix

This speed testing site is free, easy to use and very straight forward; all you have to do is enter your URL, and it shows you your results in a graded format so you can understand whether the feedback is negative or positive.

The results are accurate and can be discernible even if you don’t know too much about the components that affect speed.

Upon showing you your results, the site gives you the option of viewing the average- so you can see where you stand in the spectrum of things. Along with the issues, the site also provides suggestions on how to fix them.

While the default testing location is set in Vancouver, Canada, you can change the location upon creating an account to see how your site performs in various target locations. The accounts comes in the silver, bronze, gold and custom plans.

GTmetrix plans:
Bronze- $14.95/mo
Silver- $49.95/mo
Gold- $149.95/mo

There are also options to change your browser, and simulate various types of connections and devices down to the model and resolution. These filters can be saved- avoiding the hassle of having to fill them in every time you need to test your website’s speed.

The account also provides additional options of blocking out advertisements so you can observe how they affect your site, and even allows you to record your page as it loads; creating a video which you can rewatch at a slower pace to pinpoint any issues.

2. Pingdom

Pingdom waiting screen

Pingdom too is simple and easy to use, as well as understand. Its free speed test provides different testing locations, a grade breakdown of your results, and it lists out the issues with your site and helpfully pairs them with suggestions for improvements.

The site also allows you to access more tools through cost effective plans which are well worth the investment, as they improve the experience your site provides in the long run. Besides page speed monitoring, Pingdom also provides transaction monitoring, real user monitoring and uptime monitoring; allowing you to test all parts of your website to ensure that your consumers get the best experience.

3. Google PageSpeed insights

ShiftX Media's results on Google PageSpeed Insights.

The results from this particular site are definitely reliable and also useful; as they come from the main rankers themselves- Google.

This site also gives you the option to view your site’s performance in both mobile and desktop versions, and grades each one accordingly. The scores are categorized into colors so you can get a better idea of your overall performance; red would be considered slow, orange would be average, and green would be fast.

This test also provides suggestions for improvements as the others do, and its results could be useful to gain some insight into the determinants of your ranking.

With 3 useful tools like these, testing your website’s speed has never been easier. 

While local factors also determine your website’s speed to a certain extent; there are also other internal and external elements that can affect it just as much. 

How to Increase your Website’s speed

1. Compress and resize your images

pie chart showing how images take up a majority of the space on the shiftX Media website.

Research shows that images account for 67% of the total weight of websites, meaning that they’re the main culprit for slowing them down. the above pie chart was made using the data from our own site; showing how accurate this statistic is. However, images are vital in order to create attractive and interesting content; so we cannot ditch them altogether. Instead; we can make them smaller.

If you want to crop images, doing it before you add them to your site would prove to be more effective than just adjusting its parameters in the site itself; the page will just load the full image, and then adjust itself to the given size. Doing so would just slow down your page unnecessarily; which is why it’s better to stick to the alternative.

In less obvious terms, the weight of an image also takes a great toll on speed. Many websites tend to obliviously upload images which are unnecessarily large; while its mass may not be visible in the parameters or the image- it certainly affects the performance of the website. This can be avoided by compressing your images. 

Many people worry that the quality of their pictures will fall due to compression, but as long as your image has less than 256 colors it in- there will be no noticeable change. Instead, it’ll be a lighter burden on your site. There are various tools available on the internet to this; our personal favorite would be Tinypng– it shows us how much space we saved on this very post.

WordPress itself has its own compressor called “WP Smush”. All you have to do is preset the maximum width and height for your pictures, and any images you upload thereafter will be compressed to fit; or in other words- “smushed”.

Besides that, you could also convert your image files into other types depending on your preferences. Images lose data when they’re in the format of JPGs- which would be ideal if you were to upload multiple images, as it would load quickly while maintaining its appearance. 

If you want to avoid losing any data, you could vouch for using PNGs- which are ideal for images which are highly detailed. However, they will be larger than JPGs. 

GIFs are also an option; these should be used for simpler graphics with less detail as they already take up a lot of space. 

2. Get rid of unnecessary paraphernalia

Every detail you add to your site contributes to the overall code and size, and some elements might take longer to load than others. Thus, reducing unnecessary content would prove to make it load faster. This includes everything from the text and redirects to the line breaks and general spacing.

If you’re page is taking a long time to load, it could possibly be because it’s bloated, and each piece of content you add to your site is contributing to the problem.

how each component of a website contributes to the overall number of requests made

The plugins, cookies, images, GIFs, and videos you put into your site add to its size, and send HTTP requests to your website’s server in order to present them to the user. The more requests that have to be sent out, the longer a site takes to load. The pie graph above shows the proportion of requests that each component of our website is responsible for.

Overall, just make sure your pages are as lean as possible, and don’t overcompensate.

3. Make Cache

Upon visiting a website, the components that sent out the HTTP requests are saved temporarily in a cache on your hard drive. This ensures that they won’t have to be sent again the next time your browser has to load the page, and the cached version of your website will be displayed to users. As explained before, a reduced number of HTTP requests cuts down the loading time.

Think of it as your favourite barista remembering how you like your coffee, and having it ready for you to pick up- saving the time it would take to make the order.

This can be done by editing your HTTP headers and adding an expiry date to certain types of files; its default setting is at 24 hours. They can vary for different files- if they’re updated regularly you’d want to make it a short period of the minimum one month as opposed to one year. While you can go over a year, it’s not recommended as it will never expire. If the period is too long then users may not be able to view the latest updated versions of your site.

Research shows that 40-60% of a site’s daily visitors have no cache; so a user’s first visit will be longer than their second. Thus, upon this initial visit- your site should be fast enough to make them want to come back to use their newfound cache. 

4. Review your Host

When creating a business site, Hosting servers come in handy to provide you with all the resources you’ll need. You can still have a website without them, but users would not be able to access it- which just defeats its purpose.

If your hosting package is one where the server is shared by multiple other sites- it could be slowing you down. This is quite a common problem when it comes to using free web hosting. The solution would be investing in dedicated hosting, but many people don’t want to pay for something they can get for free. However, as we have proved before; faster websites bring about higher ROI.

5. Utilize more CDNs

Now that you have your host, you’ll need a Content Delivery Network to speed up the process of delivering your content to users. These are a collection of servers that share your website’s static files and deliver them to users within their geographical perimeter whenever they’re requested. If the server is closer to the user, the content will load faster.

There are several CDNs; many large websites invest in them to ensure that their users can have quick access to their pages all over the world. If your goal is to reach a larger global audience, then investing in CDNs will prove to be useful. However, it’s unessential if your website is more dependant on local SEO. For example, the website for a restaurant in Sri Lanka wouldn’t need to be seen by the people in Russia; so a longer loading time in their region would be harmless.

By joining a CDN that doesn’t serve your country, your SEO value and website traffic could be adversely affected by the increased loading time. So depending on your target audience, the effect of CDNs could either be negative or positive.

6. Be an AMP

Mobile phones take longer to load content than desktops- this is due to the comparatively lower processing power. However, optimizing your website for mobiles will improve this time, and allow it to load the content much faster. It will also improve customer satisfaction, as people tend to not trust sites that perform slowly. 

Speed and mobile optimization are vital components in Google’s new algorithm; especially since research shows that the number of mobile searches recently outnumbered that of desktop searches. Thus, it is only expected that they cater to the majority, and prioritize the sites that live up to these standards.

Yet despite this fact; research shows that the conversion rates from mobile users are actually lower than desktops. This is once again due to the recurring issue of not having websites being optimized for mobile phones. So doing so would also improve your conversions via your speed.

Accelerated Mobile Pages were created by Google to speed up the loading time of website pages on mobile devices. As previously mentioned, most searches come from mobile devices as opposed to desktops, which is why it is important to cater to them. However, mobiles have lower processing power; justifying the need for optimization. Doing this will improve the mobile experience your website provides, and also boost your mobile rankings.

coding to make an AMP for your website.

All you have to do is insert the coding shown above into a file with an .html extension. Click here for a version that you can copy and paste, and for more details on making your AMPs.

A clone of each page will be made for this version with separate URLs, and it will appear whenever searches are made on mobile devices- which will be tracked by Google itself. 

It doesn’t require that mobile users should be redirected from the original desktop version to the mobile version; a process that would’ve taken much longer considering that mobiles would have to load all the desktop content with their lower processing power. 

A problem would be that it cuts out the dynamic features on your site that are causing it to slow down, so that means that any large files could be excluded, but it will prove to provide a better overall experience for mobile users.

To summarize everything you need to know about website speed;

“Consumers are more demanding than ever before. And marketers who are able to deliver fast, frictionless experiences will reap the benefits.” –Think With Google

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