Knowing what the main factors are that affect your website performance is one thing, but there is also much you can do to optimize your site as much as possible. Without going through an exhaustive list, here are some tweaks you can make to increase your site performance.
1. Opt for Better Hosting Server
Your web hosting is one of the most vital parts of your web performance.
If your site is suffering under your current plan you may simply require more resources and moving to a better plan may work for you.
There are web hosts and then there are excellent web hosts. Each web host will have different features, so look out for key items such as proprietary caching technologies, solid state drives or control over critical areas. Shared hosting often has less in terms of resources and if you’ve outgrown that you may need to look at either VPS or Cloud hosting.
There are times when simply choosing to move to a better web host may work as well. Before you undertake to do so however, spend some time doing research to find out what your most reliable options to move to would be.
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2. Use a Faster DNS Provider
What is a Domain Name System (DNS)?
The Domain Name System (DNS) is the address book of the Internet. Whenever a user input a website domain to his/her browser, for example – google.com, the DNS helps locate the IP address of the domain name so browsers can load the website.
How DNS Affects Your Website Performance?
Where you buy your domain name matters as various domain name services have different performance. DNS resolution takes time and since it works on hardware, there can be variation in response speeds.
Before you scoff at this, do note that the difference in performance can be pretty significant. For example, where Cloudflare resolves in less than 15ms, some providers may take as much as ten times longer than that.
How to check your DNS speed
To check your Nameserver performance you can use a tool like the one on Site 24×7. Run it with your domain name and it’ll let you know how long your Nameserver took to respond to a query. If it’s too high, you might want to consider changing Nameservers. This isn’t difficult to do.
Switching nameservers to improve speed
There are both free and paid Nameservers around which you can choose from. Not all paid options are necessarily better. Take for example Cloudflare. They are among the fastest in domain name resolution with quick speeds even for free accounts.
However, the choice is yours. What you need to do first is to sign up with the new Nameserver of your choice. This will give you a pair of Nameserver addresses that you need to replace your existing ones with.
To do this you will need to log in to the system where you bought your domain name. Most of these have a simple dashboard for you to change your Nameservers with. In the example below, I’m going to show the NameCheap system.
- From your account dashboard, look for an option to Manage your domain name.
- Under Nameservers, look for an option to add Custom DNS
- Enter the addresses provided by your new Nameserver service
- You MUST enter both addresses provided
Once you’ve done this, managing the records of your domain name will typically be done through the dashboard of your new Nameserver. Give the new Nameserver time to settle in (24 to 48 hours is good).
Once that’s over you can re-test your DNS resolution speed again to see if there’s any improvement. If at first you don’t see an improvement, give it a bit more time.
3. Cache Aggressively
Caching helps you pre-load static files so that they can be served faster. Instead of loading a file every time it is requested, caching speeds up the process by storing some files on the users browser. This not only improves performance but can also help reduce resource load on your web server.
Not all web servers are created equal and some handle caching better than others. For best performance, opt for a web host that offers NGINX or Varnish. Some examples of these are:
- Cloudways, which has load balancing and caching with NGINX,
- A2 Hosting, which has pre-configured Varnish with their VPS plans, and
- Kinsta, which handle everything in server caching for their clients.
Also, if you are running a WordPress sites, there are plenty of handy WordPress caching plugins available for free. Users with little technical knowledge can optimize their WordPress site in just a few clicks with these plugins.
4. Use HTTP/2
This is one of the useful features that all website owners should look out for. HTTP/2 enables multiplexing, which means that files can be sent concurrently to the user instead of one at a time. This helps the loading process.
Unfortunately, not all web hosting plans are HTTP/2 enabled and some web hosts only offer it with their more expensive plans. One way to work around this is by using Cloudflare, which can enable HTTP/2 for all sites.
5. Follow the KISS Principle
This isn’t something that is normally taught by most web gurus, but I’ve found it extraordinarily useful in so many ways. KISS is an acronym for “Keep It Simple, Stupid”. It was coined by some smart chap in the 1960s that stressed on the efficiency of simple systems.
As a rule of thumb, I find this applies to almost everything in life – even in setting up websites. By avoiding overly complex implementations and designs, you will benefit from a site that is fast and more importantly, easy to manage and maintain.
Design & Visuals
By keeping your design and visual simple, what I mean is mainly in the form of reducing overhead. A site heavy in massive, breath-taking images and stunning videos is likely to load as quickly as a sloth on a bad day. Keep it neat and tidy and try to split your video and image loading across various pages.
Code & Plugins
WordPress is such a wonderful thing because it’s highly modular and yet so simple to use. No matter what you want done, it’s likely that someone has already designed a plugin for that.
As exciting as that sounds, beware of overloading your site with plugins. Remember that each plugin is designed by different people (and probably different companies). Their purpose is to achieve a specific objective, not to streamline your site speed.
If you can, avoid plugins for things you can manage yourself. Take for example a plugin that will help you inset tables into your text. You can easily learn some basic HTML code to draw tables instead of having to use a plugin for that, right?
Some individual plugins may slow down your site significantly, so make sure you do a speed test each time you install a new plugin!
6. Enable gzip Compression
Although web pages are typically already small, compressing them before they are sent out can still increase your site performance. If you’ve heard of image compression, or perhaps archiving (ZIP or RAR) then you’ll probably be familiar with the theory behind gzip compression. This compresses your website code, resulting in speed boosts of up to 300% (results vary).
7. Use a Content Delivery Network (CDN)
How CDN works
A content delivery network is a network of servers that deliver web pages and other content to users based on their geographical locations. In other words, it helps reduce the time taken by the remote server to respond back with the data requested by the end-users.
Usually, it catches static content stored on the nearest possible server to the user’s geographical location. As the distance traveled by the data decreases, the delivery time (or the loading speed) improves.
Using a CDN will help you serve your web pages much faster and improve loading speeds no matter where in the world your visitors come from.
If you’re the owner of a small website, then Cloudflare has a free option you can use that works just fine. Corporates and larger sites will have to pay to get on a better plan, but given the befits of a CDN, it’s worth the price!
8. Optimize Images
Although typically large, images for web use can be optimized to help keep their sizes more manageable. This is usually done by adjusting image quality since you don’t often need fantastic sharpness for web images.
There are free online tools such as Optimizilla you can use to do this, or you can opt for an image optimization plugin if you’re using WordPress. Most image optimization tools will let you finetune the resolution details on your images so that you can gradually tone it down. They’ll look pretty much the same to the untrained eye, but much smaller in size.
9. Minify Code
Again, there are tools you can use for this such as Minifier. One word of warning though. Code minification often makes it very difficult for humans to read so if you are doing all your site coding manually, this would be something to take into consideration.
10. Reduce Redirects
Normally, browsers accept various forms of addresses which are in turn translated into recognized official ones by your server. Take for example www.example.com and example.com. Both can go to the same site, but one requires your server to redirect it to the officially recognized address.
That redirection takes up some time and resources, so your objective is to ensure your site can be reachable through no more than one redirection. Use this Redirect Mapper to see if you’re doing it right.
Given the complexity of doing this right and the time involved on an ongoing basis, this is one time I’d recommend using a plugin like Redirection.
Testing Your Website Speed
There is a broad scope of tweaks you can make to your site to load faster. Some may be as simple as toggling options, while others are more involved. Still, if you were to consider them all the process might take some time.
It is best if you take a slow, progressive approach to performance improvement instead of making all your changes at once. As with anything tech-based, there is a chance something will go wrong.
If you implement changes over time and document along with tests, it will be easier to identify any changes you made which may cause your site to become unavailable or crash. Believe me – it will eventually happen.
Website Speed Testing Tools
To get started, test how fast your site is loading first. Some recommended tools are:
- WebPageTest: Collect web page performance from real browsers running common operating systems.
- Pingdom: Helps analyze and find bottlenecks in a website performance.
- GTmetrix: Analyze and offer actionable insights about the best way to optimize a webpage speed.
- Bitcatcha: Check site speed from eight countries.
For more choices – check out these free website speed test tools
Website Speed – How Fast is Fast Enough?
Aside from visitor experience, your website speed and uptime performance also affects your visibility in search rankings. Since the king of search is Google, that’s the bar you want to be aiming for. According to them, 40% of visitors will leave a page that takes more than three seconds to load (source). Users of eCommerce platforms who are unhappy with site performance are also less likely to buy from those sites again.
Unfortunately many sites still don’t meet this benchmark. In fact, I have measured some sites that shockingly take as long as 3 or 4 minutes to load.
Final Thoughts: Faster Websites Keep Everyone Happy
Broadband speeds today, even on mobile, have increased by so much and will be increasing even more. That means that there is very little excuse left for website owners to have their visitors put up with slow loading sites.
Believe me, you’ll keep losing visitors and at one point, gain such a bad reputation that you’ll be known as “Oh, THAT website”. If you’re in an online business, that makes it even worse since you’ll be killing your own golden goose.
While the above 8 tips I’ve provided are by no means the be all and end all, it should give you a start and some ideas of how to manage things a little better. Speed up your website today and retain your customers or visitors.
Don’t end up as THAT website.