Need for speed: Improving website load times can boost your business
Wednesday, January 15, 2014
People are impatient.
A sweeping statement? Sure. But consider this interaction I saw at a grocery store just this weekend.
I was in the frozen food aisle hunting down some edamame when a group of three young men started comparing microwave meals for work-week lunches. One of them said, evidently seriously, "No, guys, you don't understand. These only take two minutes — those other ones take four! I don't have that kind of time."
Two minutes is an eternity in the lunch room. If that's the case, how long can you expect people to wait for your webpage to load?
Not long. In 2011, KISSmetrics reported that a one-second delay in page response times could cost you a 7 percent reduction in conversions. By February of 2012, according to The New York Times, Google engineers noticed a delay as short as 400 milliseconds was too much. To put that in perspective, that is roughly twice as long as it takes to blink.
No matter what you hope to gain from your online presence, whether it's sales or SEO, you can't expect to get it if your page loads at a snail's pace.
So let's speed things up with a few simple tricks that are easy to implement.
One strategy is to use a CDN, or content delivery network. These are companies who have networks of servers that not only cache data, but also figure out the quickest way to get data from Point A to Point B. This might not be feasible for small- and medium-sized businesses, however, given the expense.
Luckily, there are some no-cost options available if you feel confident playing with images. Cropping pictures can help not only maximize impact and frame what you think is important, but can also cut down on the bandwidth needed to render them, speeding up load times.
And while we all love a gorgeous, high-definition picture on our TVs, most images online don't need to be big-screen ready — 72 dots per inch (dpi) is just fine. (Bonus: Your site will load faster on phones and tablets — you do have a mobile-responsive site, don't you?)
Feeling even more confident? Let's talk code. Get into the HTML guts of your page and take a look around. Is there redundant code you can get rid of? Are there extraneous spaces you can delete? Keep in mind that smaller pages load faster. If you have all of your company's information or products on one long page, few eyeballs will make it all the way to the bottom.
For the fearless and advanced webpage-speeder-upper, give CSS Sprites a look. They combine multiple images into a single image that is easier to download, reducing demand on bandwidth. A quick search for CSS tutorials should pull up lots of information on the subject that are beyond the scope of that brief introduction. There are even online generators that will help build them for you.
Maybe you don't need all of these strategies for your particular site, but it never hurts to check.
It won't take you long, after all. In case you're feeling impatient.
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