Best Practices For Website Performance Improvement

Best Practices For Website Performance Improvement

While our forte is in the e-Learning/course-building and Learning Management System (LMS) areas, we also design and host websites for clients, including shopping cart integration to sell e-Learning, books, DVDs and more. When we were looking at adding more e-Learning websites for clients hosting and selling our custom-built courses in the Managerial/Supervisory field (Supervisory Skills for First Time Leaders) and in the Gas Processing/Energy Industry field (Gas Processing Course Software Bundle), we realized we needed a baseline of best practices with these new sites. I thought this would be valuable information to share with many of our clients who have their own sites as managers, trainers, speakers, and coaches, to get the best speed and performance improvement out of their websites, which impresses users (and impacts Google search results).

Website loading time guidelines: If your site loads in…

  • 5 seconds – it’s faster than about 25% of the Internet
  • 2.9 seconds – it’s faster than about 50% of the Internet
  • 1.7 seconds – it’s faster than about 75% of the Internet

No one will ever contact your site and gush over how fast it is or how smooth it’s performance  is on their laptop or tablet, but they will complain or abandon your site if it takes too long to load, which is a killer for a business-generating website. Reducing page load times will reduce your visitor bounce rates and increase your conversion rates – something our clients love to hear! The best way to find out what’s wrong with your existing site, is to run diagnostic tests (don’t worry, you don’t need to set up an account, provide an email, or be a site administrator to use these) that analyze your site for areas of performance improvement, including web page performance, resource caching, data upload rate, image download size, and client-server round-trip times.

There are two great resources (and free too!) for analyzing your website speed and performance improvement with recommendations and help with areas to change:

Google Page Insights

  • Gives a full overall performance rating of your site
  • Recommends use of other tools to improve your site speed
    • PageSpeed module to automate site speed (https://developers.google.com/speed/pagespeed/module/)
    • PageSpeed Mobile to check the mobile version of your pages on tablets and phones
    • This requires a binary installation onto your website back-end (via Apache or NGiNX) which is good for regularly hosted sites and with a hosting service like us that has access to website developers.

NOTE: For sites hosted in the cloud that have no back-end access, or clients who need a programmer to update it, this is difficult to handle.

GTmetrix

  • Gives a full overall performance rating of your site
  • Recommends WordPress, Page Slow, and CDN optimization methods
    • WordPress Optimization Guide (link to their WordPress speed-tracking plug-in (https://gtmetrix.com/wordpress-optimization-guide.html)
      • Includes the use of other great WordPress plugins like
        • W3 Total Cache (to speed up loading of pages, which increases the server performance and decreases download time for site visitors)
        • WP Smush (for helping with the loading of images, as large images on your site or blog may be slowing it down without you even knowing it)
    • Front-end and Server-side components load-time information (https://gtmetrix.com/why-is-my-page-slow.html)
    • Content Delivery Network (CDN) information (https://gtmetrix.com/why-use-a-cdn.html)
      • NOTE: Using a CDN is an advanced technique only needed for large sites which use many, many images and video.

Optimizing Images

One big factor of a website’s slow performance when loading is the images on each page. If those images aren’t optimized, then they will take longer for your pages to open, with many users leaving before they get to your content, sales message, or products. Ensure your images are optimized when they are uploaded and used in your site to see a performance improvement.

Most users only wait 3-5 seconds for a website to load

A factor of Google’s page ranking algorithm uses page load time

Amazon Inc. tries to keep image file size below 70kb per image; having it higher and increasing load time by 1 second can cost them $1.6 Billion/year

For WordPress sites, utilizing a plugin like EWWW Image Optimizer Cloud ensures all images are optimized in size when they are uploaded to the server, automatically.

  1. Pages load faster. Smaller image sizes of less than 70kb means faster page loads.
  2. Faster backups. Smaller image sizes also means faster website backups.
  3. Less bandwidth usage. Optimizing your images can save you hundreds of KB per image, which means significantly less bandwidth usage.
  4. Better Privacy. The cloud servers do not store any images after optimization is complete, and you retain all rights to any images processed via the cloud service.

Trying these methods will help your website with a performance improvement that will enable your website messages to be more effective to a receptive audience.

NOTE: If you have a website administrator/programmer available to work on your site, they should also be doing the following performance improvement actions.

Defer Parsing of Javascript

Ensure your website programmer goes over the site so JavaScript files should not be loaded into the head of your HTML document, but rather near the bottom as (although this doesn’t reduce the total number of bytes that needs to be downloaded by the browser) it displays the web page content before the JavaScript is fully loaded.

Database cleanup

Every month your website administrator should go over the site’s database and optimize the fields so that the junk data is removed and the server is defragmented. NOTE: Server response time for database queries should be under 200ms.

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