4 Essentials for a Fast Website
Those few extra seconds that your website takes to load may be costing you valuable user engagement and sales.
Step 1: Get a CDN
In simple terms, a CDN (or Content Delivery Network) is a service that delivers your website to your visitors faster by placing the files physically closer to them. This shortens the distance that information has to travel. When you go to a store, you go to the one closest to you because it’s faster, right? Target, for example, has thousands of stores across the country in order to make shopping more convenient (and faster) for its customers.
Similarly, a CDN uses a network of computers that are geographically spread out so the one that is closest to you can provide the content you are looking for. If someone in Florida is requesting a page on your website, a server in Florida will deliver the site to them more quickly than a server in California. The CDN uses logic to decide which of their servers is closest, then uses that server to deliver the page you are looking for.
As magical as that process might seem, there is nothing difficult or mysterious about setting up a CDN. You just have to choose a provider and walk through the steps. We show you how to do everything from start to finish here: Make Your WordPress Site 223% Faster With A CDN.
Step 2: Optimize Images
If your website isn’t loading quickly, one of the primary reasons is likely that your images are not optimized. You want your site to have great, high-quality images. But if you aren’t optimizing them you are unnecessarily increasing the amount of data on your page which will slow everything down.
Here are three considerations for optimizing your images:
Consideration #1: Make sure that your images are correctly sized for your page. Don’t upload an enormous image and then display it as a 400x400 pixel square. Forcing the browser to figure out how to display the correct size causes additional friction and slows the site down.
Consideration #2: Save your files for web or use a plugin like Smush It to lossless-ly compress the images to their smallest possible size - without losing any image quality! Check out the two images below. On the left we have the image without compression. On the right, the image size has been reduced by 74%. Notice a difference? Neither can we!
compressed image (74% size reduction)
Consideration #3: Consider lazy loading your images. Though you may not be familiar with the term, you can just about guess what this is referring to. Rather than rushing to fully load every image as soon as your visitor lands on the page, this process allows the browser to be a bit lazy and only load those that are “above the fold.” It will wait until the user begins to scroll before loading images further down the page.
Step 3: Implement Browser Caching
Browser caching is a way of storing files on a visitors browser to help things load more quickly on future visits. So rather than having to communicate with the server, the browser can just look at the locally stored cache and serve up the website lightning fast.
There a number of ways for you to leverage browser caching on your website. Plugins like WP Rocket or W3 Total Cache can make this process super simple, or you can talk with your hosting provider on how best to implement browser caching.
If you’re more hands-on and have the experience you can make changes to your .htaccess file and skip the plugin, but for most users the plugin will be the easiest way to go and will provide additional features to help you speed up your site.
Step 4: Use GZip Compression
GZip is a file format used for compressing data to its smallest size before delivering it to where it needs to go. You know how some of those fancy mattresses you can buy online show up in a small box because they’ve compressed it and sucked all the air out before packaging it? GZip is sort of like the digital equivalent of that process.
By removing unnecessary white space and other elements in the code, the ‘package’ of your website is reduced as small as possible and, as a result, can be delivered more easily and quickly to where it needs to go.
We recommend going the plugin route for this as well, as it is nice and easy and there are plenty of other features to take advantage of that will justify the use of a plugin.
If you’ve taken our advice about getting on a CDN, it is likely that GZip compression is being taken care of already. If so, you’re good to go!
A good browser caching plugin like WP Rocket can also handle GZip compression with just a click. Or, if you prefer the manual way, you can again make changes to your .htaccess file to do it yourself.
Host with Onsharp and get WP Rocket FREE.
If you’re really focused on the importance of site speed (which you should be!) you may find that you’ve got more work in front of you than you thought. Have no fear! Talk to our experts about your options. Whether it be moving to our high-speed hosting or exploring a website redesign, we can help you ensure your site is fast and effective.