If you have decided to begin an online business venture, it’s important to take into account the speed of your ecommerce store. A slow loading website can be detrimental for any business, and it can thwart your efforts before your fledgling business has even got off the ground.
Why speed matters
In an age where internet speeds have galloped ahead to full pelt, web users expect almost instant speeds when browsing online. In fact, research has suggested that practically half of all online consumers expect a web page to load in two seconds or less.
Web users are very unforgiving when it comes to speed, and literally even a second matters when it comes to a delay in response time. Not only can a delay of one second result in a 7% reduction in conversions, but four out of ten people agree they would abandon a web page if it fails to load any longer than three seconds.
It is not just loss of traffic and a high bounce rate that can result from slow websites; speed can affect a business’s search ranking, too. Search engines such as Google are increasingly placing high priority on website speed as a ranking factor, so if your online store is behaving very sluggishly, don’t expect to find yourself high up the rankings on search listings.
Fortunately, there are lots of strategies you can employ to bolster the speed of your ecommerce store.
Choose your host provider wisely
When searching for a host provider, look for one that puts speed at the top of its agenda. Make sure that the provider offers good uptime, is reliable and is able to work efficiently during peak traffic. Although you might be limited by budget, especially if you are new to ecommerce trading, you should avoid very cheap hosting, as this could reflect on the quality of speed times. Additionally, if you opt for shared hosting, where your site is fighting for air time with lots of other sites, this could be slowing your online store down.
Content management capability
If you are starting an online venture from scratch, make sure you use a content management system that is capable of supporting your store and is flexible enough to adapt to its changing needs. The wrong choice may encourage lazy speed times. Additionally, with more of us using mobile devices to search online, it’s imperative nowadays to produce an ecommerce site that is responsive and adaptable for use on a variety of mobile devices. Failure to do this will inevitably grind speed times down.
Once you’ve got your content management system up and running, keep software, plugins and systems up to date to ensure you are protected against viruses and bugs, and have the latest features installed that may impact upon speed. Check your site periodically for broken links that can hamper load times, and test your pages to monitor speed rates.
Reduce image size
While images are vital for any ecommerce site, bear in mind that if you overload your store with huge pictures, it may slow your site down. Avoid adding bulky images and reduce image size by using image optimisation tools and converting files to the most appropriate format. It is also worth setting height and width dimensions for the images you use within the code of your site, so that browsers are able to load the images and the page at the same time, which can increase speed times.
As well as keeping a check on the size of any images that you use, it is also worth being thrifty when it comes to page size, as this can influence speed times. You can measure the size of your page by saving it as a web archive folder on your computer – check this periodically to ensure that the size isn’t creeping up over time.
Use browser caching
If you have static content on your ecommerce site that is not likely to change regularly, you can save, or cache, it on your browser, so that this information does not need to be retrieved from a server every time someone visits a different page of your site, or revisits it after a few minutes. This can save time and improve the speed of your site.
Social sharing awareness
Social media is important for raising a brand’s awareness, and incorporating social sharing buttons on to a site can help to increase your online presence, but proceed with caution. If you add too many social sharing buttons to your ecommerce site, it can start to weigh it down, affecting speed levels. Some social sharing buttons have been accused of piling 500KB on to a website, so only incorporate those that are most relevant to your target audience.
Content delivery network
Using a content delivery network can be beneficial if you intend to attract an overseas audience, or you want to capitalise on building traffic. This involves making use of multiple servers to deliver site content to users, often basing these close to the location of visitor traffic, which can help to boost speed times of your site.
A website is like a collection of files, and each time it is used, data needs to be retrieved from the server to collect these files. The more files there are to collect, the slower your site will be to load. What can you do to reduce this? Avoid adding too many plugins or extensions to your ecommerce site, and only make use of those that are vital. Additionally, if your ecommerce site is embedded with lots of external sources, such as a Twitter feed, or Youtube videos, bear in mind that the browser will also have to look these up when retrieving files to check the IP address corresponds with the domain name, and this can further slow down the speed of loading your site. Therefore, try to keep embedding external sources into your site at a minimum to ensure the fastest speed times possible.