I'm frequently asked about how to improve website performance and I always say there are three elements that one must first consider - Speed, Conversion, and Responsiveness.
A small business website design doesn't stop at having colorful images and a cool layout. In fact, a lot of pretty websites don't perform well.
I tend to lean towards keeping a website simple and thinking about how helpful and useful a website will be when a visitor decides to check it out.
"An ounce of performance is worth pounds of promises." - Mae West
In this article, I'm going to talk about how to improve website performance and how making even little tweaks to your small business website design can really impact performance.
Why is speed so important? Simple, website speed drives conversions and sales.
It's like your daily commute - the faster you get to your destination, the higher chances of getting things done and the slower the commute is, the more time, money, and energy are wasted.
Oh yes! Your website only has a few seconds to make a really good and lasting impression. A few seconds can bring in more sales or repel customers away.
In other words, website users are impatient and there's nothing you can do about it other than making sure your website is performing at its best.
So how do you improve website performance when it comes to speed? Let's take a look.
First of all, what in the world is HTTP?
HTTP stands for "Hypertext Transfer Protocol". This protocol happens when your computer and a server transfer files to one another. These files are pages, pictures, stylesheets, scripts, Flash, etc.
According to YUI Blog, 80% of the response time is tied up in HTTP requests which means the more files a website has the slower the speed gets.
How do you improve this? Here a couple easy steps:
Remember that the number of images plays a huge role in the speed of a website. The more images your website has the more "roundtrips" the server takes to get all the resources needed. What's the workaround? Use Sprites.
Sprites are a single image that combines all background images. They help minimize the following:
Online tools that can help you with this task:
According to Yahoo, approximately 90% of today's Internet traffic travels through browsers that support gzip which is why compressing is a great way to ease website latency.
Images on your website can take up a ton of space. Optimizing and compressing them (without impacting image quality) can help you see a huge performance increase too.
Online tools for HTML compression:
Tools for CSS compression:
Tools for Image compression:
Another way for you to improve website performance in terms of speed is to use a CDN.
Content Delivery Network refers to a group of servers spread in multiple locations around the world which work together to shrink file sizes and send files faster.
Top CDN service providers:
Many web hosting providers offer a CDN with their services. Sometimes it's included and other times it might be an additional cost.
Either way, you might want to check with your web host to see how they can help.
Many small business website designs are often full of files like stylesheets, scripts, and images.
Anytime someone visits a website, his or her browser stores a ton of these files onto that person's hard drive. This reduces the HTTP requests frequency and makes browsing faster on the next visit.
Those files have an expiration date in the header known as “expires” headers. By default, that expiration date could be set to 24 hours.
Things to consider about this rule:
Static components – Set a “Never expire” policy far into the future for images, Flash, scripts, and stylesheets.
Dynamic component – Use a cache-control header to help the browser with conditional requests.
Keep-alive is a handshake between a web browser and a server to hold the same connection open for sending and receiving multiple files. It helps to speed up connections because your processor, network, and memory aren't stressed too much.
Here are two common ways of enabling keep-alive:
There are some great online tools that can analyze the speed of your website. These tools are very helpful in deciding if your website needs some tweaking. Here are a few you might want to bookmark.
Another important element of website performance is conversion.
According to Google, "In Analytics, a conversion is the completion of an activity that is important to the success of your business, such as a completed sign up for your email newsletter (a Goal conversion) or a purchase (a Transaction, sometimes called an E-commerce conversion)."
Website goals vary depending on the industry, size of the business, and purpose of the business. Here are some examples:
After handling the speed issue, it's a perfect time to work on getting your website visitors to click that sign-up or buy button.
Traffic is useless if a website isn't converting visitors into customers!
A responsive web design (RWD) is as important as speed and conversion. In an age of fast-changing screens, a website has to stay afloat by adapting to these shifts.
It is important to have a responsive small business website because...
Let me discuss a few simple tips on how to improve website performance in terms of responsiveness.
Most small businesses don't need a completely custom built website. If that's the case for you, then I'd highly recommend using one of the many proven content management systems or website builders to create your website.
Why? Because they have a lot of great responsive features built in.
Here are a few to consider:
Always prioritize building a website that is mobile-friendly then scale up to tablet and desktop designs. Remember that if the text or image is easy to view on a mobile then you shouldn’t have any issues with other devices.
A responsive website should be easy to navigate.
Your menus should be easy to locate and use. If it's not easy for visitors to find and access what they are looking for your conversions will suffer.
Mobile devices are a lot simpler than desktops. If you want your website to work perfectly on all types of screens and devices, make sure your text, images, and buttons are easy to read, see, and select on mobile.
Overall, a simple website design will work well on any type of screen. The fewer complications the better. Here are my recommendations:
I hope you found these tips helpful and allow you to improve your websites performance.
A small business website design can improve tremendously if speed, conversion, and responsiveness are prioritized.
So what do you think? Feel free to comment below or share.
Header image courtesy of Pexels.com.
Tim Fitzpatrick is the President of Rialto Mobile Marketing. At Rialto Mobile Marketing we create marketing systems to help small businesses achieve simple, sustainable growth. We help small businesses differentiate themselves from the competition, work with more ideal clients, command a premium for their products and services, and make marketing easier with consistent, repeatable results.