Speed is an incredibly important aspect of any website, for many reasons. And as technology advances, people are only going to expect faster loading times. Many people might not understand why even a few seconds can make a world of difference when it comes to website performance, but a fast loading time has lots of benefits:

–       More new visitors

–       Higher conversion rates

–       SEO benefits

–       Reduce bounce rates

–       Increases loyalty among consumers

A fast website can improve the overall browsing experience, increase sales by increasing conversion rates and also affect your search engine rankings. Search engines are increasingly using website performance as a deciding factor in search engine rankings. Website visitors as well have no patience for a website that loads too slowly. Studies have found that “47% of consumers expect a webpage to load in 2 seconds or less” and 40% “abandon a website that takes more than 3 seconds to load.” Not only that, but a staggering (although not unexpected) 79% “of shoppers who are dissatisfied with website performance are less likely to buy from the same site again” and “52% of online shoppers state that quick page loading is important to their site loyalty” and even a one second delay in page loading time (3 second of waiting in total) will “decrease customer satisfaction by about 16%” (Kissmetrics). And unfortunately, most people (44%) will also tell their friends if they a bad online experience.

I think we can safely expect that these numbers will continue to change over the coming years, as technology evolves – people will expect even shorter page loading times and more of them will abandon websites that aren’t loading fast enough and go to the competition.

But, at the same time, people are also expecting beautiful websites, and all the elements that go into making a website more beautiful will generally make your website slower. So what is more important – a clean website with a fast loading time or a heavily loaded website that looks stunning but takes forever to load? I personally think that most websites could do without many of their ‘frills’ and focus more on designing a clean website, that is easy to understand and browse and that also has a fast loading time.

On WordPress websites, the number of plugins you use can deeply affect your website’s performance. I recommend only installing the absolutely necessary plugins and also doing some split testing to find out which plugins and themes are affecting your loading time and how they interact with each other.

So how can you increase the speed of your website? The first step should be to test your load time, and fortunately there are plenty of tools to choose from that can tell you how your website is performing.

Test your website speed

1. Pingdom

Free tool to test your website loading time and free monitoring of performance, as well as notifications in case anything goes wrong.

2. WebsiteTest

Free tool to test website speed and performance, with multiple settings. You can also use it for performance comparisons between different locations or different browsers.

3. WebPagetest

Free tool for website speed test from multiple locations worldwide. You can use it for both simple tests and advanced testing (multi-step transactions, video capture, content blocking, etc.).

4. Neustar

Use this tool for a free instant website performance test.

5. PageSpeedOnline

Check your page speed with this free tool.

6. GtMetrix

Free tool to analyze performances of any website, as well as for monitoring, graphing, ad blocking and others.

7. Vertain

Use this tool for a free speed test, or for measuring your servers’ speed and perform comparisons.

8. iWebTool

Free tool for testing speed of any website.

9. ShowSlow

Tool to help you monitor different website metrics over time.

10. WebsiteOptimization

Free website performance tool and page speed analysis.

Tools and tips to improve your website speed

W3 Total Cache – Use this Website Performance Optimization framework to improve your website’s performance. This very useful WordPress plugin will help you reduce pages loading time and you will see a 10x improvement in your website’s overall performance.

Optimize your images – When it comes to website performance, images can make a big difference. Optimizing images should be one of your priorities when trying to improve your website speed. Use this GTMetrix tool to see how your website is doing in this aspect and then use your favorite photo editing software to make your images smaller (in terms of kb). One useful trick is to always crop your images so as to remove any unnecessary white space.

Google PageSpeed Insights – use this tool to analyze different web page’s content and then get useful suggestions that will help you make that page faster. Make sure you also check out their tips on how to make website’s faster.

YSlow – use Yslow to find out why your web pages are slow and to get suggestions on how you can improve your website’s performance.

Too many widgets and/or plugins – one of the things that can really slow down a website is having too many widgets or plugins installed. Make sure you make a note of how each plugin and widget is affecting your websites’ performance, and remove any that are affecting speed. Often times you will be able to find alternatives if you really need that plugin or widget, that will suit your website better.

Overall, the importance of a website’s speed cannot be overlooked. Often times, a speedy website will bring in better results than a website filled with widgets and large images that takes more than 2-3 seconds to load. How important is speed to you when visiting a new website? Does a slow website affect your overall experience and how long are you prepared to wait before abandoning a page? Please leave your comments below:)