As easy and perhaps as cheaply as it is to acquire a digital footprint including a website, there remains a problem even today that was common back in the early days of mainstream internet in the early to mid 1980’s
Even then, as now, slow delivery of content was a problem that affected websites and the internet at large.
Slow performing websites are a major cause of concern for their owners because visitors have extremely short attention spans and any delay in load time is likely to make them leave your website rather than stay and wait to find out what it is you offer by way of service or product.
Frequently at https://digitalmarketers.co.ke in Nairobi, we get asked by clients why their websites are so slow and what they can do to fix them.
If your website does not load pronto, visitors will leave and go elsewhere. This is why it is critically important that your website loads quickly and fast for your users. A better user experience is dependent upon the speed with which your website loads.
In this post we look at issues that commonly affect website page loading speeds and what you can do to help rectify the problems.
Images – The Problem
A first reason why your website may be slow is the images you are using on your site.
This is particularly true of an image heavy website such as an online eCommerce shop, but it can affect other sites too.
Images and websites are a significant part of the digital ecosystem. In many ways images, whether static or video, are the internet. The internet is a visual medium and so images are everywhere.
When you take a photo or video with your camera or phone there is a lot of information that is stored within and with that image. Image information is recorded in a format called the Exchangeable Image File Format or EXIF. This information or more correctly metadata, pertains to specific details such as camera model, white balance, ISO, aperture, shutter speed, photo editing software used on the image and so on.
This is all very well but the problem is this information bloats images. However, EXIF information can be deleted but the problem is your website does not automatically do this.
The images thus uploaded to your website are often enlarged unnecessarily for web display with information that cannot be seen but that makes them heavy to load when requested by a visitors browser.
Images – The Remedy
To rectify this particular problem you need to optimise the images on your website and ensure they are only as large as they need to be and no bigger, in order to display the information required of an appropriate quality.
Image optimisation which reduces image file size by stripping out EXIF data and micro adjusting the photo itself can be done easily and for free on the Internet using software applications such as that at http://www.imageoptimizer.net or https://imagecompressor.com/ The resultant images are lean and quicker loading than the originals but happily retain their quality when viewed on the visitors browser.
Apart from using image optimizing software you can consider investing in a Content Delivery Network or CDN.
A CDN is a server that is located closer to the visitors locality and browser than is your webhost. For this reason images hosted on the CDN are fetched by the browser from a shorter distance and hence load quicker than those that may be hosted on your webhost which may be further away from the visitor.
Clearly this applies mostly where your website has an international audience and your site webhost is in one part of the world but your visitors and audience are half way round the globe. Where you have a local audience that is in the same geographical region as your webhost a CDN will probably not achieve much for website speed by way of speeding up image delivery.
Inefficient code – The Problem
A second reason why your website might load slowly is because of inefficient or bloated code.
HTML stands for Hyper Text Markup Language which is a core language for building website pages.
CSS stands for Cascading Style Sheets and is the code that is used to manage the look and feel of your website in terms of colours, layouts and fonts.
These programming languages can be inefficiently coded and implemented thereby increasing the load time for you website. Something as simple as making the code readable by the human eye, and therefore having white spaces between the words or many comments to explain to other programmers about the action being taken can slow down the website load speeds.
Inefficient code – The Remedy
To overcome bloated code, good webmasters are at pains to ensure the code is well designed and implemented. Furthermore they use software to minimise or minify the code by removing white spaces, comments and unused code just before deployment because browsers that load your website do not require whitespace or code comments in order to decrypt the code and load the site pages.
A cache’s primary purpose is to increase data retrieval performance by reducing the need to access the underlying slower server storage. This allows for faster loading. Caching software is available which is placed on the backend of a website from where it creates the fast cache for site visitors.
Webhost – The Problem
The third reason why your website might be loading particularly slowly is because of the server type and host that you are using for your website.
Broadly speaking there are three types of product offered by webhosts.
Shared servers are the most commonly used because of their low expense and ease of access. A shared server as the name suggests will host many sometimes hundreds of websites, on a single server that often has limited resources such as RAM, CPU and Disk Space.
A Virtual Private Server or VPS is a type of server offered by your web host that offers your website space on a compartmentalized server. This means your website has access to its own independent resources separate from any other site hosted on the same server.
A Dedicated server is offered by a webhost and in this product type your website has the entire server to itself. The entire machine and its resources are reserved for your website alone.
As you would expect from this brief description, the shared server model is the most common yet the slowest performing model of hosting. This is because hundreds of sites are using and sharing the same and limiting resources. One faulty website on the server will more than likely impact the speed performance including availability of all the others on the same server.
Webhost – The Remedy
The remedy to the slow shared server problem is to implement or migrate your website to a VPS or Dedicated server.
These two are more expensive and you will have to have technical experts to manage the servers because these two models assume you will manage the server yourself rather than use the webhosts staff to manage the server as is the case in a shared server model.
There are managed VPS solutions available for those without the technical skills to manage a server but these cost more than the standard VPS product.
Inefficient Image Loading – The Problem
A fourth reason why your website might be loading slowly is because of the way the website code is configured to load images. We’ve already seen how optimizing images is important for quick delivery but it is also possible that even with optimised images, it is still loading slowly because you are trying to display all the images on your pages instantly immediately a website user lands on the page.
This is inefficient because if a website visitor lands on your web page at the top of the page, there is no point to display images at the bottom of the foot of the page immediately. That can be effectively delayed until they scroll to the bottom of the page or wherever the image should display.
When the browser is forced to wait to render the page before showing it to the visitor because the code is fetching images not immediately required for display, you end up with a slow website.
Inefficient Image Loading – The Remedy
The solution to the problem of a slow website caused by inefficient loading of images is what is known as lazy loading software.
Lazy loading software and coding techniques determine the display aspects of the site visitor’s browser and therefore determines what images need to be displayed. It displays only what is needed and when it is needed.
In other words, the website will load images into web visitor browsers as and when they scroll to the point at which the image becomes necessary in order to complete the the image of the website page. Lazy loading loads pictures as the user scrolls down the page, facilitating faster loading of the entire page.
External Scripts – The Problem
A fifth way in which your website might be slowed down is by having too many external scripts that fetch data from external sites.
For instance, if you have what are known as scripts that fetch or send data from your site to applications outside your domain your website will have a dependency on the speed of those external sites which will be reflected and impact its own loading speed.
These scripts are useful for adding external site data to your website such as social media feeds. They are also important for taking data from your site for instance in order to perform analytics on the third party application.
However, their performance has an impact on your website load speed and can cause it to slow where the interface between the application and your website is not efficient or where the application itself has speed and processing issues.
External Scripts – The Remedy
Some external scripts such as those that take visitor data from your site in order to create analytics data are important and are generally well coded.
However, if you find you are using many scripts that add little value to your site consider removing them and finding alternative ways of engaging visitors without fetching or giving data from your website to third party sites and applications.
If you are concerned about how fast your website loads there are many tools you can use to find out the problems and to help rectify them.
Some of these tools include gtmetrix.com and Google pagespeed.
If you would like advice and help with how to speed up your website contact Digital Marketers Nairobi via our website at https://digitalmarketers.co.ke
Digital Marketers in Nairobi https://digitalmarketers.co.ke is a one stop shop for best of class full digital marketing consultancy services in Kenya.
Our sister business Nairobi Business Courses offers training in digital marketing visit them at Nairobi Business Courses