10 Easy Ways to Speed Up Your Ecommerce Website
Site speed is simply how quickly a browser loads pages from a given site.
That’s it. Oh, and fast site speed is good.
- faster sites rank better in search engines
- speed optimization reduces server load
- a fast website increases conversions
And slow site speed is bad.
- 47% of consumers expect a web page to load in 2 seconds or less; any longer and you’re pissing off half your visitors
- 40% of people abandon a website that takes more than 3 seconds to load
- a 1-second delay in page response can result in 11% fewer page views and a 7% reduction in conversions
Conversions are already hard enough to come by, you need every one you can get; losing 7% on something that’s easily fixed doesn’t make much sense.
So let’s do something about it. Here are 10 ways to speed up your ecommerce website, and sell more because of it.
1. Reduce HTTP requests
Did you know that 80% of the end-user response time is spent on the front end downloading the files that, together, are responsible for how your site appears and operates?
When you visit a website, your browser is constantly asking it to display. The entire visitor-website relationship is one of request and response. And this communication is done through HTTP (hypertext transfer protocol).
So when a site is loaded with tons of images and scripts and pages, the site’s server heeds the HTTP requests and loads the files contained on the site.
The problem is that a high number of HTTP requests can slow down your site’s load time, which ultimately damages the user experience.
And nobody wants that.
One way to reduce the number of files… and thus reduce the number of requests… and thus increase your site speed… is to combine numerous files into one.
Ever heard of variable fonts? In order to use a typeface for typical use on a site for body copy you would need at least four files: regular, italic, bold, and bold italic. You’d need even more for image captions, then a bunch of heights and widths on top of that tailored for responsive design.
What variable fonts do is combine an entire typeface into a single font. It’s basically a single file that acts like multiple. (Check out Jason Pamental’s site to learn more.)
And it’s just one way to reduce HTTP requests, and improve both your site speed and your user experience.
2. Load things asynchronously
By now we know that every website, every page, is made up of multiple files and scripts. And these components need loading.
When your site loads them synchronously, it loads them in order, one after the other. And if one element is big and clunky, well the other ones will just have to wait.
When you instruct your site to load its scripts asynchronously, it loads them at the same time, it loads them simultaneously, meaning less lag and fewer delays.
You know after dinner, when you have 100 dishes to wash? Imagine you could wash them all at once, like you had 200 arms, instead of having to do them one at a time.
3. Use compression
Similar to bundling up all your fonts into one, compression reduces the size of your site’s files, saving bandwidth and speeding up your site.
Because, just like fewer files is good for site speed, so too are smaller files.
When it comes to compressing your site’s files, you can’t do better than choosing GZIP. Google runs on it. Yahoo! runs on it. In fact, all modern browsers support and automatically negotiate GZIP compression for all HTTP requests.
The reason why? Because it shrinks response size by more than 70%, making things so much easier on browsers
As the internet has evolved, and websites have become infinitely more complex and attractive, it’s hard to imagine anything working without GZIP.
If you haven’t already, you need to use GZIP to improve your site speed.
4. Don’t forget to cache
When browsers request a webpage, the server takes time to process those requests.
A smart ecommerce website will run a cache plugin to help with them.
What a server cache does is, after the first request (from any user) is fulfilled, the server remembers it and, next time, it delivers the same data to anyone faster. This isn’t just beneficial to return visitors, but to every single person who comes to your site.
It also means that your site can handle more and more people on it at once because the server load is reduced by so much.
So, to recap, when you cache, you provide faster loading times, faster site speed, better user experience, and can accommodate more visitors.
Sounds like a win.
5. Only load what you need
It’s actually a good thing.
Lazy loading is the concept of only spending memory and time loading an object or a section of a page when a user needs it.
Rather than spending all that time upfront loading every single aspect of a page, your server can focus (and deliver) on the elements that matter to the visitor at that exact moment.
Makes sense, right?
Restaurants understand. When they get a customer’s order—maybe a couple of appetizers and a main—the chefs don’t launch into making everything all at once; that would cause a terrible backlog and prompt the customers to complain or even leave.
Instead, they make the first dish, then, while the patron is enjoying it, spend that time preparing the next one.
It makes for a more seamless experience.
6. Stop collecting plugins
Hey, we love plugins as much as the next conversational AI provider, but they do have their downside.
Sure, they can make your life easier and optimize your site experience… but they can also take a terrible toll on your site speed.
Slow plugins are a killer, as they affect every page of your site.
Audit the ones you have and determine which ones are doing more harm than good, which ones you can live without, and lose ‘em, quickly.
Your site speed depends on it.
7. Reduce the size of your images
A brilliant blog author once said:
One way to improve your site speed is to pay attention to the weight of the images you include on it. It’s all about finding the format that best suits the image and the page, whether that’s PNG, JPEG, SVG, or another one. If your images are in the wrong format, you could be adding unnecessary weight to your page.
But it’s not all about format. Quality has a huge impact on your site speed too.
Product shots shouldn’t be compromised—they should be high-quality and accurate—but if they’re contributing disproportionately to a reduced site speed, you need to take another look and decide what’s more important.
8. Find a better host
Not all website hosts are created equal.
To begin with, and as Quick Sprout points out, web hosting comes in all shapes and sizes: shared hosting, dedicated hosting, VPS, managed hosting, server cores, different RAM, CDNs, SSL certificates, etc.
As an ecommerce professional, you’ll have to determine what’s important to you. But whatever you do, please, please, please don’t let the cost of the monthly hosting fees make your decision.
As with most other things, with web hosting, you get what you pay for, and the cheapest option will only result in headaches like slow site speed and crashes.
Find a hosting service that can support you as you scale your online business.
9. A mobile-first mentality is a must
Since 4 out of 5 ecommerce transactions happen on smartphones, your site needs to perform on handheld devices.
If your site speed is second-rate, people aren’t going to hang around; there’s just too much else on their phones to distract them away from your site.
If you optimize for mobile, then not only will you keep more people around on their phones, but your desktop site will perform better and faster too.
If you can make it on mobile, you can make it anywhere.
10. Measure and optimize
An online business does not run itself. There are always things to do. And when it comes to site speed, your job is never done.
You have to monitor your site speed to make sure it’s always performing as well as possible. The good news is that there are great tools to help you measure that performance.
Our two favourites:
Both are very user-friendly, very quick, and very free.
Use them to track your site speed and make changes as needed.
And of course, feel free to refer back to this article to remind yourself of the many ways you can speed up your ecommerce site.
Your business’s success depends on it.