The optimisation of your website is key to it’s success. User retention can rely heavily on visitors being able to load your website quickly and efficiently. You have less than 3 seconds before visitors decide your website isn’t loading quick enough and they may move on.
This blog will talk about your website from a user experience point of view because really that’s the most important factor of any website. However, what’s also extremely important is the optimisation of your website for search engines. Speed and optimisation is a ranking factor and it’s very important to remember that. The tips in this blog will coincide with good user experience and SEO for search engines.
1. Where do you start?
Whilst in this blog I’m going to outline a few WordPress plugins that will help you optimise your website, there’s a couple of things you need to think about before you even have or build your website.
- Hosting – It’s really easy to get sucked into the the cheaper hosting plans that seem to offer more than you’ll ever need but what you’re actually doing is filling up the low tier spots on a shared server with hundreds of other people all hosting their websites too. It’s always worth spending a little more on hosting and choosing higher spec’d servers running SSD’s and the alike.If you’re a client of ours, you’ve nothing to fear. We will always choose the best solution for you and your requirements.
- Design & Theme – If your design houses a lot of unnecessary images, you’re adding more data for users to download when they visit your website. You could be adding seconds onto load times by using unoptimised images to your design. If you choose to run a theme, check that it’s not bloated with added extras that you’ll never use. Read the reviews and see what people say.
2. Your website is up and running, what do you do now?
So your website is up and running and everything seems to be going pretty well. Chances are, they are! At this point there’s nothing wrong with your website (as long as you have a good web developer) but there’s a few things you can do to make it even better.
Firstly, have a look at what google says about your website by using Page Insights. A word of caution, take these stats with a pinch of salt and the expectation that it’s very unlikely you’ll be able to achieve 100/100 on the scores.
Google will analyse your website and tell you what you need to do to improve it. There’s going to be loads of stuff that you may not understand but hopefully the tips in this blog will help. If by the end of all your optimisations you’re achieving scores of 70+ for both mobile and desktop then jobs a good’un!
Let’s start by knocking off the majority of those optimisations in one fell swoop.
W3 Total Cache
Quite possibly the most powerful FREE plugin we use on our websites. Another word of caution though, there’s a LOT of advanced stuff here and I would highly recommend finding a guide on setting this beauty up AND backing up your website before installing the plugin.
With this plugin you can achieve the following optimisations:
- Caching – Caching is when your website serves up a copy of itself to new users that gets stored in their browsers. Then, when that user comes back, their browser can load up the content it’s already seen without having to download it all over again. This can literally shave off seconds to your loading times.
- Compression (gzip) – This comes server side from your hosting. W3 Total Cache will enable compression for you which can reduce the size of transferred responses by up to 90%. Basically, it’ll bundle everything down into a small package so it’s sent to the user to download in a much shorter time.
These three optimisations alone are going to do wonders to your Page Insights scores. But I would like to repeat that these are advanced steps and you should ALWAYS back up your website before making any of the changes. Or, ask your friendly neighbourhood web developer and I’m sure they’ll be able to help.
Optimise your images
Images can increase the load time of your pages, even more so if you haven’t optimised them before you’ve uploaded them to your website. We normally say keep the longest side of your images at 1000px and keep the file size below 200kbs if you can. WordPress does a lot of nifty optimisations itself but the last thing you want to do is put a 5mb image on your website that users have to download.
You can also try Lazy Loading your images, which means they’ll only load onto the page when your user actively scrolls to the location they’re at. A great plugin to achieve this is BJ Lazy Load.
This is less of an optimisation and more of keeping your website secure. It’s almost a plug and play installation. You can install it, run through the set up and leave it on your website. It’ll monitor your website, keep out all the nasties and make sure your website doesn’t get hacked. It also does a fantastic job of keeping you notified with what’s going on with your website.
Look to use a CDN (Content Delivery Network)
This sort of arcs back to choosing your hosting wisely. Your server location is often an oversight that we see a lot. Why use a hosting company that has servers in the US when you’re a UK business with UK customers. Your users will have to download your website from a server much much further away.
But what if your website is global? And you have customers from all corners of the globe? That’s where a CDN comes into play. There’s 100’s of CDN businesses out there and what they’ll do, for a monthly fee, is host copies of your website. When a user hits your website the CDN will kick in and show them a copy from a server closest to them. Thus reducing the load time.
It’s very important to optimise your websites to the best of your ability. Not just for user experience but also for SEO. I hope that the tips in this blog will help you achieve a more optimised website for both users and search engines.
But always remember, whether you’re an existing client, a new client or just someone looking for a little more info. Contact us and we’ll be more than happy to help.
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