Why Page Speed Matters and How to Improve It

Jayms Brooks  • 

Think that page speed doesn’t matter? Think again. At Digital Fuel, we are sticklers for fast page loading speeds from both a user-experience perspective and to improve your businesses search engine optimisation (more on that later).

We have helped many clients to optimise the loading speed of their websites, and found that speeding up your desktop and mobile site can have a significant impact on your bottom line.

Why you should care about page speed

Internet speeds have increased massively over the last 20 years. In the 90’s dial-up internet was limited to 56kbps, in 2020 the average broadband speed in the UK is 64mbps. This means that the internet today is 1198 x faster than it was in the 90’s. 

Some people believe that internet speed is no longer an issue, however this is not the case. Whilst the internet speed has massively increased over the last twenty years, so too has the size of web pages. The design trend over the past 5 – 10 years has moved to full page, high resolution imagery and videos; and the number of frameworks and libraries included on each site is increasing to include Jquery plugins, front-end responsive frameworks (eg. Bootstrap, Zurb, Ghost, etc).

Still not convinced? Crazy egg found that a one-second delay in page load time results in:

  • 11% fewer page views

  • 16% decrease in customer satisfaction

  • 7% loss in conversions. In retail, this loss can be even more pronounced at up to 20%

Furthermore, research shows that a bounce rate increases by 32% when load time goes from one to two seconds, and 90% when the page takes more than five seconds to load.

How can you improve page speed?

With every additional second of page loading time – after one second – decreasing your chance of conversion by anywhere from 2 to 4 percent, improving your page speed can have a massive impact on a businesses conversion rate and subsequent profit margin.

The first step to improving website speed is running your website through one of the many speed test tools out there. Whilst there are plenty to choose from, our top picks for scanning your page speed are WebPageTest – Website Performance and Optimisation Test, GTmetrix | Website Speed and Performance Optimisation and Google’s PageSpeed Insights

Once you, or your team, have identified the page speed you have to work with via a speed test tool, the next step is to work through the aspects that affect page load speed. 

There are five layers to consider when speeding up your website:

1. User Experience (UX)

Think about the first meaningful point of the site. This means looking at the load order of the site and prioritising which elements get loaded first. For example, if you have a news article, it’s much more user friendly to load the headline and the content first then load in graphics/menus/ads afterwards. 

2. Design: 

There are three core elements to consider when reviewing website design for page speed:

  • Reduce the number of large images used on your website

  • Compress imagery. Make use of next gen image formats

  • Remove videos or use AJAX to load video after the user clicks play

3. Front-End code:

  • Minify all code

  • Reduce CSS/JS. Remove any that isn’t used

  • Reduce render-blocking javascript. This means non-essential Javascript can be loaded after the page has loaded

4. Server side:

  • Enable caching of assets. This can be done in the htaccess file

  • Consider the physical location of your server. Is it in the same geo as your target audience?

  • If you’re serving multiple geo or have a very high traffic website then a CDN (content delivery network) may be helpful

5. Additional considerations:

If you have lots of static content pages, consider creating AMP versions. By default these are super fast. AMP is not just a consideration for page speed loading times, it also plays a role in a websites’ ranking on Google. The search engine requires AMP to be activated for articles to be featured in Google’s Top Stories carousel. Whilst Google have announced this will no longer be a requirement from 2021, it is still a useful tool to improve page load speed. 

For further help on improving page speed time, there are a number of resources that offer high quality information: WebPageTest – Website Performance and Optimization Test, GTmetrix | Website Speed and Performance Optimization and Google’s PageSpeed Insights. How we help our clients: improving website speed in practice

At Digital Fuel, we have an in-house design and development team that focus on taking your brand to the next level through digital design and the creation of technically sound, user and google friendly development.  From websites and apps to banners and infographics, we work to make sure that your users see you as you wish to be seen. We utilise all of the above tactics when designing websites for our clients.  

We favour the Smush and Hummingbird plugins on client WordPress sites, we utilsed both plugins on our site build for Digital Analytics Experts Panalysis. Implementing AMP to improve site speed, we have also created landing pages in WordPress for Bluebet  We also offer CDN hosting to any of our clients,

Site Speed & Improved SEO

For a long time Google has pushed site owners to prioritise site speed as part of what they broadly refer to as “page experience metrics”, causing the SEO community to panic that slower sites would be penalised. Back in 2010 Google announced that page speed would be a direct ranking factor and so it seemed likely that the slower your site the worse you would rank. However, various tests and case studies, such as Brian Dean’s experiment earlier this year, have suggested the correlation between page speed and rankings is not as pronounced as Google would have you think, if it’s even noticeable at all.

Then came a further announcement from Google on the subject, with Core Web Vitals revealed to be a forthcoming algorithm update that would place more emphasis on page experience metrics in determining rankings. The announcement was clear, this time round you WILL notice the difference between sites that are loading quickly and those that lag way behind. However what was unusual about this announcement was that they revealed their intention to roll this update out next year, whereas usually updates come along without warning.

This is significant because, whilst Google have claimed this is to give webmasters advance warning in the face of a challenging business climate thanks to the current pandemic, the fact remains that promising at least six months will pass before the update is rolled out means they can effectively use the “can’t say you weren’t warned” line if and when things really do start to change for better and worse.

Additionally, unveiling new tools and guidelines to further hammer home the fact that optimising page load speeds is going to be unavoidable all points to a fresh impetus in making page speed matter. The short of it is that whilst you might be getting away with a slow loading site right now, the chances of continuing to get away with this in terms of ranking competitively, look slim.

Need help? 

Our design team is on hand to help new and existing clients with improving page speed load times on new and existing websites, we can also help with improving user experience and conversion rate.

Interested in working together?

Contact our team to get started.

Get in touch