San Diego Web Development Blog

Speed can kill your website conversions

A study by Akamai, a leading Content Delivery Network (CDN), revealed that visitors have increasingly demanding expectations when it comes to website speed. This study shows that two seconds is the new expected average load time for a website, and 40% of shoppers will wait no more than three seconds before abandoning a retail or travel site. While online shoppers may be more demanding than the average user, this study clearly indicates that website visitors expect the sites that they visit to load fast. If your website takes too long to load, visitors will abandon your site in search for information elsewhere. That means that your website's speed could be the difference between a new customer and a sale for your competition.

While there are many ways to optimize a website to decrease load time, most of them are tedious, time consuming, and/or expensive. This article is going to focus on two quick ways to increase the speed of any PHP-based website (WordPress, Drupal, Magento, Joomla, etc) no matter what platform or framework it is built with.

How fast is your website?

The first step to optimizing your website is to determine how fast your website is, and to identify the fastest ways to increase your website speed. Two great free tools for assessing your website’s performance are Google's Page Speed Tools and Pingdom's Website Speed Test. These tools will help you to assess what aspects of your website can be optimized to provide a faster browsing experience for your users.

How can you speed up your website?

The above tests will help to highlight ways that you can improve the code and assets on your website. Some of the updates may take some time to implement or may not be possible to remedy depending on what platform your website is built with.

Below are two relatively quick and easy ways that you can increase the speed of your website, no matter what platform you use:

Use a content delivery network (CDN)

A CDN is a network of servers that deliver web pages and other web content to a visitor based on the geographic location of the user and the origin of the webpage. That is, the CDN finds the closest server in its network to the user to reduce the time it takes to load a webpage. In addition to decreasing website load times, CDNs also provide advanced caching and DDoS threat mitigation. The additional layer of caching delivers web pages for a website without needing to re-load the information from the server. That is, a web page that is already cached by a CDN does not need to re-load that information for subsequent visitors. This not only improves site speed, but also reduces server bandwidth (which can lead to additional cost savings depending on your hosting setup).

Akamai is a long-time industry leader in the content delivery industry. Their focus is on the enterprise-level market. CloudFlare is Tragic Media's CDN of choice and is an up-and-coming company bringing some fresh perspective to website performance and security. CloudFlare was initially created as a solution for small and medium sized companies, but they continue to improve their infrastructure and have started to move into enterprise-level solutions. Both services offer scalable plans to fit the needs of their respective markets, and both can be set-up quickly and without any development needed.

Upgrade your server to PHP 7

This solution will only benefit websites built with a PHP platform or framework.
PHP has spent many years stuck in 5.x. There was an attempt to do a large rewrite for PHP 6.x, that never got off the ground. PHP has skipped right past the version 6 with the release of PHP version 7 in December 2015. PHP 7 has shown to have dramatic performance increases for nearly all web applications. Zend, a PHP software company, created some great graphics to highlight the performance increases with PHP 7 for many popular php-based platforms and frameworks. You can see the huge increase in performance for popular platforms like Wordpress, Drupal, and Magento.

It should be mentioned that upgrading to PHP 7 might not be as easy as adding a CDN to your website. Depending on your website platform, there may be some development required to make your site compatible with PHP 7. However, most popular platforms and frameworks have already upgraded to become compatible with PHP 7. Drupal 7, Drupal 8, and Magento 2.x are all now compatible with PHP 7! Magento 1.9 is also compatible thanks to a patch created by Inchoo. While there may be some development required, the decrease in website bounce rate and increase in visitor conversions will make the upgrade a worthwhile investment.

These are just two quick ways to dramatically improve the speed of any website easily and cheaply. There are many other ways to optimize a website, but other optimization possibilities will be heavily dependent upon your website's platform and will take more development time to update. 

If you are losing visitors and conversions because your website is too slow, contact us today for a free consultation. We will help to determine what optimization techniques are available to give your website the biggest performance boost possible.

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