Why is my website slow?

By November 17, 2016 November 22nd, 2016 Performance

Do you like waiting? Neither does anyone else. So it’s only logical that websites that load quickly will earn more money than slow sites.

This can present a bit of a paradox when it comes to building your website though. Animations, social integrations, and 3rd party content are all features that our clients routinely request. However, depending on how these features are implemented, they could be the very things that are slowing down your site.

Let’s take a look at some of the most common contributors to slow websites and how you might reduce their impact.

Problem #1: Slow server response time

Solution: Enable server caching
Difficulty: Easy

Have you ever noticed how older websites often load very quickly? One reason for this is the server isn’t “thinking” very hard. Outputting a text file upon request is a very easy task for a powerful computer.

However, as the Internet has evolved, many content authors have switched from uploading plain HTML files to using sophisticated content management systems. But this has come at a cost. With a content management system, the server must dynamically generate your web pages before they can be sent to the user.

Fortunately, you can have your cake and eat it too. Many CMS’s have the ability to cache (store a copy of) your static pages. When a certain page is requested, all the server has to do is retrieve the copy.

A great example of a caching plugin is WP Super Cache.

Problem #2: Many external resources

Solution: Enable browser caching, compression
Difficulty: Moderate

The phrase “web page” is actually a bit deceiving. Rather then being a singular entity, most web pages are a collection of many different resources. Each of these resources require a separate round trip between your user’s browser and your server.

Your server can instruct your users’ browsers to store a copy of frequently used resources. For example, if your logo appears on every page of your website, there is no reason your user’s browser would need to fetch a brand new copy every time they navigate to a different page. Interestingly, these caching instructions are often not enabled by default.

Also, most modern servers have the ability to compress files before sending them to the user. This can reduce page load times considerably. Like caching, compression often must be enabled manually.

Autoptimize is a WordPress plugin that can help you enable browser caching and compression.

Problem #3: Inefficient source files

Solution: Optimize images, minify source files
Difficulty: Moderate

Optimizing and minifying might sound a lot like compression, but they are actually different. Compression preserves every part of the original file. Optimizing and minifying is all about identifying and eliminating less important components within your resources.

Autoptimize (mentioned above) can help with minification, and here’s a good example of an image optimizer for WordPress.

Problem #4: Disorganized contentcomputer work

Solution: Prioritize
Difficulty: Developer required

Have you ever noticed how a web page will jump around while it’s loading? That’s because not every part of the page loads at the same time. Despite those annoying pages that never let you finish reading a paragraph, this is actually a good thing. It allows your users to start reading while the rest of the page loads.

However, this fact will only work to your advantage if the content that appears first on your web page is loaded first. Easy, right? Well, as strange as it sounds, it’s not uncommon for resources that appear on the bottom of a web page (or are invisible) to load before the content at the top of the page.

This problem is definitely the most challenging on our list. Rearranging resources has the tendency to break a site. Once you’ve mastered the other items, call your developer  and see if they’re ready for a challenge.

Need help speeding up your site?

These are just some of the most common causes of a slow site. If you’d like to find out exactly what is slowing down your site, we recommend Google’s PageSpeed Insights.

If this list has left you feeling a bit overwhelmed, don’t worry. For an experienced developer, optimizing a site for speed is actually a pretty straightforward task. Feel free to get in touch. We’d be happy to help you speed up your website!