One of the most common problems that web design teams are asked about by prospective clients is slow loading websites. In this age where everything has to happen five seconds ago, and with super-fast broadband, it is an issue that does not normally have one generic answer. The reason for this is there are numerous reasons why a website might be loading slowly, and often more than one of them is occurring at the same time.
Apart from the fact that it is an inconvenience to all, a slow website has more far-reaching consequences. An immediate consequence is that having worked hard via SEO, or paid advertising such as Google Ads to drive traffic to your website, it is all to no avail as visitors simply click away when the website does not load within the first few seconds.
This not only is a huge lost opportunity in terms of generating leads and making sales, but it can also negatively impact your search engine rankings too. When Google sees that visitors are clicking away almost immediately or that they are spending very little time on your website, they see that as a red flag and a consequence of that is that they will be less keen to rank your website high on their search rankings.
So, there are plenty of reasons for wishing to increase the load speed of your website, and to do that you need to understand some of the main causes of it loading slowly. Here are 7 of the most common reasons which can all be rectified relatively easily, but please get in touch with Slinky Web Design if you need help.
Poor Hosting Provider
If you were to do any amount of research into hosting companies you would soon find that there are lots of them, and each of them will claim to offer almost 100% uptime and guaranteed fast load speeds. Unfortunately, that is not the reality, and many of them fail to deliver on what they promise.
If your website is hosted on one of the sub-standard hosting services, and it is loading slowly then it is highly likely that using such a host that is one of the root causes of the problem. Lower quality servers that cannot cope with any reasonable amount of traffic and which host many websites are not going to be able to cope, and thus the loading speeds of the websites hosted there are going to suffer.
Conversely, there are many excellent hosting companies available, and whilst some of them might cost a little bit more, that investment is more than repaid when their top specification servers allow your website to load almost instantaneously and close to 100% of the time, meaning the traffic, aka visitors, landing on your website remain there and for longer, giving you more opportunity to turn them into leads and customers.
Not Using A Content Delivery Network (CDN)
If you have lots of content on your website it can be a double-edged sword. On the positive side, lots of content can provide visitors with information, entertainment, and advice that they like and in turn, it builds trust in your company or brand. On the downside, lots of content can be a drag on the loading speed of a website, especially if you use multimedia content such as videos. One solution to this issue is to use a Content Delivery Network, or CDN as we shall refer to it from now on.
A CDN is a series of servers that are located in multiple locations around the globe. If you have subscribed to a CDN service, content from your website can be stored on these servers and it means whenever someone visits your website, it will be the servers closest to them geographically that load it. By doing this, the time for your website to load is much faster, and this continues for as long as the visitor is browsing through your website.
Not Optimising Images
The loading speed of any website is influenced by many factors, and one of them is the size of the files which have to load each time the website or one of the website’s pages is opened. Whilst some file sizes will be pretty much set, such as text, there are some file types that you can optimise with regards to their size, and some of the easiest are image files.
Many business owners are shocked when it is pointed out to them that over 50% of their website’s ‘size’ are images that have not been optimised and as such are causing it to load much slower than it could. By taking the original image and using simple software to reduce its overall size there is often not any apparent loss in the quality of the image.
Should you try to reduce image sizes, but the quality does suffer, then one option would be to host the images on a different server so that they are loaded independently of your website. Amazon Web Services (AWS) are one such service, and the cost of using this, or any other similar service, is relatively low, especially for smaller websites.
Not Using Caching Options
As we have already mentioned, when your website loads in someone’s internet browser there are multiple files that are all loading at the same time. In many cases, these files are static, which basically means they remain the same each and every time your website is opened by someone visiting it.
These static files give you an opportunity to utilise caching techniques via plugins or coding which can reduce the load time of your website on most browsers. In effect, instead of these static files being requested each time from your server and as such increasing the time it takes your website to load, they are served up automatically due to the cached requests, and thus the load speed is increased.
An offline analogy would be the wasted time it would take a restaurant owner printing out a new menu every time someone who visits their restaurant asks for one. Instead, because the menu is ‘static’, or the same each day, they have menus pre-printed and available immediately when one is requested.
Too Many Page Elements
Often the issue of a slow loading a website is simply that the website has too much going on. By that, we do not just mean visually, but throughout its many pages where there will be content, interactive elements, scripts, stylesheets, HTML code, plugins, and lots more besides. Bear in mind each instance of one of these elements loading takes time, and even if that is measured in a fraction of a second, all these fractions soon add up.
At some point, the time taken for everything to load is such that there is an identifiable delay, and that is when your website’s visitors notice it, and we should by now know the consequences of that. Whenever possible the simpler a website is the better, and unless an element of the design is deemed absolutely essential, consider excluding it, or possibly optimising it by reducing its size.
Have you ever looked at the source code of a website? If not, press CTRL + U now and you will see the source code of this very page. In effect, the source code is the DNA of a website and is what makes it able to exist and function. Now, unless you plan to become a programmer there is never any need for you to actually know what source code to use, but you do need to have an appreciation that it can impact the load speed of your website.
When websites are being built, it is rare for someone to sit down and literally type out the entire source code of the website, and if someone offers to do that for you, we suggest you tread carefully. Instead, websites are built on platforms such as WordPress using tools and software, and the people using these are skilled professionals in the sense that a skilled carpenter might use tools to build a piece of furniture.
If the person building your website is not a professional or lacks much of the knowledge required to design an effective website, there is a risk that the coding behind some of the elements they include in the design is an unnecessary drain on the server, and as such slows the load speed down.
More Traffic Than You Expected
This final reason for your website loading slowly is actually a nice problem to have, and one which is usually remedied very easily. What can happen is a website receives a lot more traffic than was originally expected as a result of excellent SEO and high rankings, or that a paid advertising campaign has been particularly effective at generating clicks to that website.
Your hosting package will have an allowance for bandwidth, which in effect is a measure of the amount of traffic coming to your website. If the amount is higher than expected and reaches the limit, then your website’s load speed will slow down.
The remedy is simply to contact your hosting provider and request that your service is moved to one which has higher bandwidth and can accommodate the higher levels of traffic without any reduction in loading speed. It may cost a few extra dollars a month, but with all that extra traffic now able to access your website quickly, it will soon pay for itself.