What is website performance, and why is it important?

What is website performance, and why is it important?

The term for this is website performance. Website performance is the user experience and measurement of a website; how quickly the content of a website is downloaded and displayed on the user’s web browser. We all know the frustration of clicking into a website only for it to take ages to load. In fact, best practice is a 5.3-second load speed. Any longer, and customers will leave your website, meaning the opportunity for conversion and sales has been lost. You want customers to enjoy their online experience so they come back again and again; time truly is of the essence when it comes to your website.

It’s not just user experience that is frustrated by slow website performance. The ranking of your website in search engine results pages is also impacted by website performance. If customers visit your website and end up leaving due to slow load times, Google will recognise the high bounce rate and prioritise faster websites with better user experience instead.

Minification, compression and optimising elements

When it comes to optimising your website, there are steps you can take to improve its performance. The most obvious place to start is with load speed. We know that users don’t like waiting longer than 5.3 seconds to begin interacting with a webpage, and there are other metrics that also come into play when looking at load speed.

Minification and compression are two keys ways to improve the speed of your website, and if you work with us, we do this automatically on every site we build.

Minification reduces the size of the elements themselves that are being loaded on your webpage. To understand what this means, it’s helpful to point out that all websites are made up of the following components: HTML, CSS andJavaScript. HTML is the basic language of webpages. CSS enhances the HTML through adding design elements – think layout and formatting features. JavaScript adds dynamic website content, e.g. animations. Minification reduces the size of the source code by removing any additional characters (whitespaces, line breaks) and comments. These features exist in the first place to make it easier for people to read the code the developer has written, but it makes it longer for the web browser to read. However, once code has been minified, it can be un-minified and re-minified to enable easy editing.

Compression is another way to make your website faster. When users visit your website from their browser, they are making a request to the server that the website is hosted on. A request needs to be made for every individual file to transfer from the server to the browser. And the larger the file, the longer the load time. Compression reduces the file size by eliminating duplicate strings of code. Instead, symbols or markers are used to represent a repeated code, so the long string only needs to be processed once. You can also compress a minified file, which makes the smallest possible file. When building your website, we do these for you automatically, making your website load as rapidly as possible.

Optimising web page elements – fonts, videos, images and HTTP requests

Reducing the overall size of your page by reducing the sizeof the elements on the page can also improve your website performance. One element that increases the size of your page are the fonts you use, in particular custom fonts, as these need to be downloaded by the user’s browser in order to view them. Google Fonts are hosted by Google, are fast to download and are optimised to display the newest versions automatically when the web browser updates.

Self-hosting videos also adds weight to your website. Instead, try an existing video hosting solution such as YouTube or Vimeo. By doing this, your video is no longer using your server’s storage space. A video code can be embedded instead to allow the video to play on your website.

Images can also be bulky, so optimising them is important. Compression works well to reduce file size (and load time!) while maintaining quality. Also, making your images responsive so that they resize automatically to fit any screen can be done through alterations to the CSS or HTML code.

Reducing HTTP requests can also speed up your website. HTTP requests are when a browser requests information from the server hosting the website. Every single element of the web page needs to be requested, so reducing the number of these requests means a faster load time. One key way to reduce HTTP requests is to combine requests together, for example text and images. Moving JavaScript functions to display the essential functions first and not block the rest of the page from loading can also reduce the number ofHTTP requests, and minimising redirects also helps keep your website speedy.Some redirects can be resolved by using better design, for example, instead of redirecting users to a mobile-friendly version of your website, you could instead use a mobile responsive design. As your web designers, we can help with these strategic decisions to improve your website’s performance.

Conversion rate optimisation

Traditionally, conversion rate optimisation means increasing the percentage of users performing a specific, desired action on a website. For example, downloading something or completing a purchase. However, focusing on the quantitative data can obscure the individuals behind the actions. Perhaps a better way to consider conversion rate optimisation is to understand what encourages, motivates and blocks users’ actions, using these insights to improve your conversion rate. Digging deeper to truly understand the customer behind the numbers, we can help you optimise your website in the most fruitful way. 

As your website developers, we are here to do the thinking for you, and make your website as successful as possible. Get in touch with us today to find out what else we can do.

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