Websites can be such a conundrum. We want to make them engaging, bright, rich, even innovative, but we also want them to load quickly. Of course all those fancy additions can make your website considerably slow to load. What to do? Why not turn to some best practices that maintain the look and feel you've worked hard to achieve while letting folks bring it up on their screen without a ten minute wait?
To start, you may want to run a speed test to determine whether your site really does in fact load slowly. There are a number of tools out there to help you make that determination, including a freebie from Google. If the verdict is “too slow,” here are five things you can do immediately to help your site load more quickly.
1. Get rid of excess image baggage.
Every image on your site is prone to obesity if improperly formatted for the web. Make sure new images — photos, logos, maps, drawings — have been reduced in size before you place them. Sites like Image Optimizer will reduce the file size of your image for optimal web placement.
Check existing images to see if they can be reduced in size. You’ll also want to avoid using Flash on your site since it is a huge space hog. You no longer need it to create an eye-appealing website. Another option is to look into a third-party image hosting solution such as Amazon Web Services.
2. Cache for easy loading.
If you use a content management system (CMS), research a caching plugin. No need for return visitors to load your entire site. These plugins allow them to quickly access internal pages they have visited before. WordPress offers a range of them; you can learn all about them and review user experiences by googling WordPress caching plugin.
3) Grease your entire website.
Consider a content delivery system (CDS) like CloudFlare that offers a range of solutions to speed up your site. If you have a site and a domain name, CloudFlare is an option regardless of the platform you've selected for your site.
You have to join the CloudFlare community, but thousands have done so in order to tap into the higher loading speed it promises. The basic service is free, with the usual upgrades available for a price. Joining is easy and quick. There's also Amazon CloudFront, similar to CloudFlare, which offers streamlined page loading and information delivery.
4) Streamline your gizmos.
While some plugins enhance site loading, others slow it down. Many of us have had the experience of believing we need to add some new app to our site for some purpose that has long since been abandoned. Yet the plugin remains. Do you actively use Twitter? If not, why do you need that Twitter plugin on your homepage taking up space and resources?
Plugins that take users to another site for information can be especially difficult, because contacting and loading that site can slow you down. Review your plugins, ask yourself, “How does this serve my business?” Eliminate the ones that don't.
5) Get rid of what doesn't work.
Along the same lines, you may have created a forum to glean reader input when you first launched your new business. How often is it used? How often do you check it? When was the last time you got a big payoff from it? If it isn't serving you, get rid of it.
Same with a blog. If you don't use it, or only use it once a month, you're better off removing it from your main site and using other social media means to communicate with the world. Ditto for pages with lots of PDFs that no one ever visits. PDFs can be huge and take time to load. If no one is reading your PDF press releases, white papers or special promos, remove them. You can still have the information on site if you want to, just put it in a simpler, lighter form.