In this age of broadband, with high-speed servers that provide the internet on computers with powerful processors, how long will we wait for a website to load up before we get fed-up and click away?

I'm sure we've all experienced the frustrations of browsing a particular website and it taking an absolute age to load up (if it does load up). With the majority of internet browsing now done on mobile phones, the unresponsive issues that some websites possess have come more to the fore – and that could mean a long spell out in the wilderness of the internet if your website doesn't get its loading speeds right.

According to research undertaken by digital performance firm, Dynatrace half of us will only wait for 3 seconds before clicking away. The speed of the availability of the internet has become paramount and even a wait of an extra second clearly affects our patience and our opinion of a website, even a brand, if it keeps us waiting for longer than we see fit. The study also found that websites that are just half-a-second quicker will see 10% more people stay on and possibly convert into a sale. If you run your own ecommerce website then these statistics may make for some daunting reading – it's clear that improving yourwebsite's load speed is vital if you want to run a successful ecommerce business. To combat these issues, websites need to put in place an effective ecommerce solutions plan.

Affects on ecommerce businesses

Despite the improving connectivity speeds, even the major retail websites have actually seen their loading speeds slow down over the last year – this is because of the various elements included on their pages, mainly embedded connections to third-party platforms such as Facebook and Twitter have been holding them back. This means that ironically, despite websites including new and interactive technologies on their website, are actually slowing themselves down and making their output unresponsive – something which we've learned that users will quickly grow wary of and go clicking somewhere else. Being an ecommerce website – this is business that is being lost simply because of a few seconds.

The best way, as with anything in life it seems, is just to keep things simple. Many people, keen to make an impression, choose to overcomplicate things, adding elements that the environment isn't really ready for. Is it really a shock when over-complicating things mostly doesn't present the results that they were after?

Ask yourself these questions before you consider the design of your page;

  • What does the user want? Quick loading speeds and access to clear and concise information about what they're looking for.
  • How do I achieve that? By keeping the design relatively simple, still attractive, but there's no real need to go overboard on graphics just to catch somebody's eye – the content is by far more important and making that eye-catching and entertaining to follow is the way forward. If you are also able to implement marketing tactics, such as Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) that can give your content a long-term presence in a search engine's rankings, then all the better.
  • Do I really need X-element in my website? The added embedded code and functions of add-on apps, for example, affect the speed of a website greatly – do you really need them to make a conversion though? An example could be a pop-up chat function, which aside from being greatly annoying if it pops up as the user is browsing your content - it's arguably useless. If the user wants more information, then they can send you an e-mail/interact on social media anyway. Have a think about how you can minimise your website, without losing the crucial elements that you need to land a conversion.

10 ways to speed up your website's loading times

Knowing that making your load times as fast as they can be are vital to your ecommerce business – here are 10 steps on how to implement some changes that will speed up the load times of your web pages;

1. Minimise HTTP Requests – according to industry leaders, 80% of a webpage's load time is spent downloading different parts of the page, such as any images, or the style of the background and various scripts etc. All of these elements require a HTTP request and the more HTTP requests that a user's browser has to go through, the slower the page will load. As mentioned, the best way to improve the speed of your site is to simplify your design – this is because it will require less HTTP requests and the browser will be able to load the page faster.

Some tips to improve the rate of your HTTP requests include;

  • Only insert elements that you truly need – look at your pages and streamline them best you can.
  • Use CSS instead of images whenever you can
  • Combine your style sheets into one
  • Reduce the amount of scripts and place them at the bottom of the page.

2. Reduce the response time of the server – The amount of time that elapses between your web browser making a request to the server of the page it wants to load, to it being loaded, is called Server Response Time. According to Google, the speed of your response time should be no less than 200 milliseconds – slower speeds suggest to many that your website is unresponsive. You are able to use any simple web application that monitors the speed to inform you of how fast your page is running. If Google measures your site as being able to run at their preferred speeds – then aside from the main aim of your website being responsive to browsers, Google will be more likely to rank your website higher in their search engine – whilst slower websites will be down-ranked.

3. Compress your site – Larger pages, which you'll probably have if you're creating quality content, will have a much larger filesize and take longer to load. The best way to reduce the size, but still keep the content intact – is by compressing them. The compression will work to reduce the bandwidth that your pages needs to load, hence reducing the HTTP response. You can compress your pages by using a tool called GZip, which compresses pages in their format before sending the pages out, waiting for users to download them. According to Google's statistics, GZip can reduce the time it takes to download a page by 70%. It's estimated that 90% of internet traffic that travels through browsers supports Gzip and it presents a great opportunity to speed up your site.

4. Enable browser caching – Every time you visit a website, the elements present on the page will be stored on your computer, in a 'cache' (or temporary storage) so the next time you visit the site, your browser will be able to load the page without sending another HHTP request to the server, hence reducing the time it takes to load. Enabling browser caching will allow the user to download the different elements they need to view your page(s) and on their next visit, the load time will be dramatically quicker.

5. Minimise your resources – 'DIY' webpage builders are great at presenting ecommerce solutions to anyone who wants to design and make their own web pages with ease, but they do tend to leave a lot of messy (and unnecessary) code – which will only work to increase the size of the page and slow its load speed. It's important that you remove any extra lines, spaces and indentations in your code so your pages will be as lean as they possibly can be in order for it to run quicker.

6. Optimise your images – Very much like a page in a newspaper – an image that is present upon a webpage can help it to look more attractive and is able to add further context to the text that is supporting it. However, many people fall into the trap of perhaps using too many images, or even if they keep their images to a minimum, they won't be compressed – which slows down load times.

Here are some tips on how to best optimise your images;

  • Crop your images so they fit the width as what is displayed on the page – if you are able to click on the image and it expands larger than it's displayed, then this is an example of an uncropped image.
  • Remove any comments that may accompany the image
  • Reduce the depth of colour to the lowest level that you find acceptable
  • Don't use filetypes such as BMP or TIFF – these are classically uncompressed image formats, displaying images at an higher filesize than they should be
  • Instead use JPEG (also commonly known as JPG) – this is the most commonly-found image type on the web for its ability to compress images to relatively-small filesizes that aids the loading speed of a web page.

7. Optimise the delivery of the CSS code – Cascading Style Sheets (CSS) plays host to the style requirements of your page (colours, images etc). Most of the time, your website will access information it needs in two ways; in an external file, that loads before your page does; and inline which is code that is inserted into the HTML itself. The external CSS will be loaded into the header of your HTML code. In general, an external style sheet is preferred by industry experts as it reduces the size of the code and creates fewer duplications, which you can imagine, helps to reduce the time it takes to load.

8. Make your 'above-the-fold' content a priorityAbove-the-fold content is basically the first thing that a user sees when they load up a webpage. This is the part that you need to make attractive (be it in its design, or the content on it) so to keep them there and have them scroll down the fold to read on. You can further increase your load speeds here (even if the page is already quick at loading already!) by splitting your CSS into two parts; a short inline part that styles the elements needed above-the-fold and an external part, whose loading can be delayed.

9. Reduce the plug-ins present on your site – If you've experienced a 'crash' whilst trying to load a webpage – then more-often-than-not, it's likely to be caused by the website having too many plug-ins or add-ons, or any of them being corrupted or unresponsive. A good way to improve your speed, is to simply deactivate any unnecessary plug-ins, so that any type of browser is able to read the code and continue to load up the rest of the page for the user in the quickest time possible, without taking the time to understand difficult plug-ins!

10. Reduce the amount of redirects – Multiple redirects to the website will create further HTTP requests and increase the load time – so it's best to keep them to a minimum. If you've got a responsive website already, then it's likely you will have redirects already in place to take mobile users from your website to the mobile version – but make sure that it sends users directly to the mobile website's URL, without any other redirects in place.

If your website is able to follow these steps and implement sufficient changes, as well as continuing to monitor them, it will go a long way to ensure that your ecommerce business will be able to present itself in the best possible way. All that's left for you is to work on your content!

Need affective ecommerce solutions to help your loading times? Choose Advansys!

We are specialists in helping all kinds of online business to achieve ecommerce solutions that will help to progress their presence online. Our services include the design and build of responsive, high-speed websites, as well as long-term ecommerce marketing tactics such as SEO as well as PPC. With a vast experience and many successful projects undertaken for business large and small, we know that we are able to help you to achieve the load speeds and conversions that you require.

For more information on how we can help to improve your presence in a search engines rankings, please contact us on 0838 050 2700 or send us an e-mail at sales@advansys.com

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