If your website is slow to load, you probably want to look at some ways to improve your website loading time. Website load time is used as a ranking factor by search engines, and studies have shown that people will leave a website if it doesn’t load in 2-3 seconds.
While the specific plugin solutions mentioned in this post are meant for WordPress websites, the basic ideas can be used for any site. Check with your hosting provider or website software if you need help with a non-WordPress website.
Smaller image files load faster. It’s important to resize and optimize the images used on your website. If you’re using picture you took on your smart phone, or full size images from many stock photos sites, those images could be 4000 px wide or more. You don’t need to have images that big on your site.
Check out this blog post for more tips on how to resize & optimize the images.
Compress Files using GZIP
GZIP is a server based compression tool that makes file sizes smaller for transfer from your server to the visitor’s browser. GZIP can be enabled at the server level with your hosting company, or you an use a plugin like WP Rocket (premium) or Check and Enable GZIP Compress (free, in the repo.)
Minify code (HTML, CSS & JS)
Minifying code removes the unnecessary spaces, line breaks, and comments that are in programming files. These elements make the code more readable to us humans, but are completely unnecessary for the server and your browser. WP Rocket is a great plugin for all kinds of WordPress optimization, including minification. If your website is hosted on SiteGround, you can use the SG Optimizer plugin to minify and optimize your files.
Be careful though – minification of some files can have unexpected consequences. Be sure to make a backup of your site before enabling any minification.
Concatenate CSS & JS
Concatenation means to combine multiple files into one. Typically this is used in conjunction with minifications. This means that there’s less files that have to be requested and downloaded, and the files are smaller. The Autoptimize plugin (free) can help with this, as well as WP Rocket (premium).
You can help this by keeping all of your CSS edits in one place. Avoid using multiple CSS customization methods, such as the Additional CSS option in Customizer, plugins like CSS Hero, and child themes. This makes more files that need to be loaded, and concatenation plugins often can’t combine those different sources.
Leverage Browser Caching
When you request a website, your browser will keep a copy of some of the files in a temporary storage called cache. This is so that it doesn’t have to get files over and over again that may be used on every page of your site, like your logo graphic, font, CSS files, etc. However, the default amount of time the browser holds files isn’t very long. You can direct the browser to hold on to certain kinds of files in the temporary cache longer so pages will load faster for your visitors on successive visits to your site. When the browser runs out of room, if will start to eliminate the oldest files first and will re-download them as needed on your next visit.
Note – this does not apply to files loaded that aren’t coming from your website, like Facebook Pixel scripts, Google Analytics script, and other types of tracking files. The caching time for those files will be determined by the server they come from.
Bonus – Use Good Hosting
No optimization technique is going to help if your website hosting is just slow to respond. One of the metrics that I look at when auditing the loading time and performance of a website is the Time to First Byte (TTFB). This is the time it takes before a hosting company starts sending back in information to the browser when a page is requested. Even if you’ve optimized and minified and concatenated all of the files on your site, if the server is slow to response, your site will be slow to load.
As an example, I once had a new client with a slow website. Before I did any other work on that site, I cloned it so I could work with a copy on my dev server. By simply changing the hosting, the loading time went from 26+ seconds down to 4 seconds.
If you’re looking to move your WordPress website to a new hosting company, I use and recommend SiteGround. They will help you move your site as part of their amazing customer service.