Page Load Speed & Why it matters
An important factor in the success or failure of your website is the time it takes to load the page. Google likes your page to load in under 2 seconds - just putting up a page with good quality content that loads quickly will work miracles for your ranking - some website owners load a page during development on their website, and it appears incredibly quick - job done! well sadly thats not always the case. Modern browsers load images and files into local temporary files when you first load a page, and use those locally held files (termed cache) when the page is requested again. A first time visitor though, has to load those files from your webserver transfer them to their local machine, and then render the page (that's the process of displaying images and formatting text). We have seen webpages which take 35 seconds to load for a first time visitor, but 1.7 seconds to load for a repeat visit. Research has shown that slow web pages (and by that we mean pages that take more than 4 seconds to load), lose 50% of visitors to rivals.
Why does page load speed matter?
Really fast pages make an impact before even the visitor has read the content, they convey a consious and subconsious message about your companies approach to quality, customer service, and the importance of online services within your business. Search engines want to convey a quality experience for their customers; their search algorithms avoid awarding a top ranking for slow pages as page speed is an important signal that the page has the potential to contain quality content.
If your web page is slow; what message does that convey to potential customers (and search engines) about your company. Really fast pages make an impact before even the visitor has read the content. So speed can be an important indicator of a company's approach to quality, customer service, and online services.
What causes slow pages?
Poorly Written Websites
Modern browsers are incredibly tolerant to errors, so whilst a page may look great; it might not be written very well. It takes browsers time when there are errors on the page to work out how best to render a page. In addition, when your page is visited by search engines, they analyse the page to see if it contains errors, it's one of the quality indicators (or signals in SEO parlance) they use to help their ranking algorithm determine your quality score.
The larger an image the longer it takes to transfer across the internet right? yes that's true, but just because an image looks small on the screen does not mean that the actual image file is not huge. We have seen a website with a logo file which on the screen measured 100 pixels wide, but was 10,000 pixels wide in the image file - the html code tells the browser to resize the image. We typically find that the majority of images on a website have not been optimised, and this can seriously affect page load time. Search engines can calculate the size an image is displayed on the screen, and the size the image file actually is. If the two differ widely, it marks down the quality score for that page. In theory you should have a different image file for each device size (i.e. mobile, desktop, tablet).
Computers ignore whitespace (spaces, newlines, tabs) in programming code. Programmers and software engineers prefer nicely formatted text, which makes it easier to read. The additional overhead caused by this whitespace can be hundreds of kilobytes or even megabytes of unncecessary data. We'll discuss in the next article how to keep the software engineers, internet users and website owners happy.
Poor design is often responsible for poor performance. Overbloated themes and templates are common on the internet, they typically look great, but contain huge images, and massive amounts of code, which the typical website never needs. Some website designers also take shortcuts copying websites styles they have used before, but which increases page load time. Designs should be lean and only contain the styles and code necessary to run the website. For each file that the website requires it has to make a separate request to the webserver, which has to find the file, load it, and transfer across the internet to your browser. it's imperative to minimse the number of files required by a website, and again thankfully there's techniques to optimise even poorly designed websites. The previous statements don't mean that you must have a text only website, you can have an image and video rich website, but you must design the website with this in mind.
Cutting and Copying Text from word processors
When you copy and paste text from a word processor into a web page, it will typically copy in all of its internal formatting code, so you see on the screen
This is some formatted text but the code to produce "This is some formatted text" when pasted from a wordprocessor is huge - take a look yourself
It's very tempting to opt for cheap hosting, it's all same right? in reality that's not true. If you are using a shared hosting platform it's possible that you are sharing an ip address (and hardware) with up to 2000 other websites. To maximise the benefit to the service provider (did I say that, I meant to say client), they impose restrictions on what optimisation functions a website can use in order to restrict the amount of CPU and memory used by a particular website. The hosting platform will also be sharing disk with other applications in the datacenter. All of which can contribute to either a slow or inconsistent response time from the webserver. Google likes your webserver to respond in under 200 milliseconds. Remember your webserver has to serve each file required to render your web page. So hosting is an incredibly factor important in response time. You can check your page speed using google insights