The ideal website speed

What do Top Gun’s Maverick, a famous cartoon Roadrunner and your average website user have in common?

A relentless need for speed.

In this post, we’re going to take a closer look at the ideal website speed – and how to increase website speed if yours is too slow.

The best websites are fast ­­– across all devices. Ideally, your website should load within three seconds. Running an ecommerce site? Then a super speedy two seconds is your benchmark.

Many websites fall short of this figure, particularly on mobile devices. But don’t take that as an excuse to follow suit.

It’s well worth trying to achieve site speeds of 2-3 seconds. By making your website leaner and more agile than the majority, there are lots of benefits to be gained.

So why is website load time so important? Because it affects your website – and therefore your business – in a couple of significant ways.

The longer your site takes to load, the higher your bounce rate. That’s the proportion of visitors who leave your website after only viewing one page.

The seconds count. A site that loads in two seconds tends to have a bounce rate of around 6%. Leave your users waiting for five seconds and that bounce rate jumps to 38%.

Mobile users have even higher expectations. According to Google research, 53% of visits are abandoned if a page takes more than three seconds to load.

So a slow loading site gets fewer engaged visitors.

Amazon famously said that a one second delay in their site speed would cost the company $1.6 billion per year in sales.

And, according to Portent, sites that load within one second have a 3x better conversion rate than sites that take five seconds to load.

The upshot? Your website loading speed could be seriously affecting your ecommerce conversion rate and your bottom line.

A survey conducted by Unbounce found that slow load times negatively impact a consumer’s willingness to buy and the likelihood that a consumer will return to a site.

Nearly 12% of survey respondents said they’d be likely to tell a friend about a slow website experience.

User experience is really important if you’re looking to develop user loyalty to either your product or brand. And slow website speeds could be getting in the way of a long-term customer relationship.

Great UX. An impressive conversion rate. Low bounce rate. A speedy website ticks several important SEO boxes.

What’s more, Google lists site speed as one of its ranking factors. Simply put, a slow loading site gets less visibility in search engine result pages (SERPS).

Backlinko research backs this up. They looked at 11.8 million Google search results and found that the average page loading speed for a result on the first page of SERPs was just 1.65 seconds.

So how do you know if your website is fast enough?

The easiest way to assess website load time is to do a website speed test. And there are lots of free page speed tools available online, including one from Google.

Google’s PageSpeed Insights gives you a ton of useful info about site speed and performance. Simply enter your URL and click Analyze to see how your site is doing.

Any results in green are good. Amber indicates that improvements are needed. And red results need immediate attention.

You’ll get a green, amber or red rating for a range of site speed metrics. Here’s what all of that complex PageSpeed Insights terminology means.

  • First contentful paint (FCP): The time it takes for the first text or image to load.
  • Largest contentful pain (LCP): The time it takes for the largest webpage element to finish rendering and become usable for website visitors.
  • First input delay (FID): How long it takes for your browser to respond following a user’s first interaction with the page.
  • Cumulative layout shift (CLS): How much the content shifts during loading. The more static the page, the better.
  • Time to first byte (TTFB): As its name suggests, the time it takes for a browser to receive the first byte of data from a server.
  • Total blocking time: The total amount of time between FCP and full interactivity.
  • Speed index: How long it takes for your webpage content to appear.

That’s all pretty complex information. But if you stick to the green-amber-red system, you’ll get a pretty good idea of whether your site is meeting user expectations.

You can tab between desktop and mobile versions of your site to view performance for each. Then scroll down to see recommendations from Google that will help you increase site speed.

Or just jump straight to our recommendations below.

Too many reds and not enough greens? Then take a look at the various ways you can speed up your site.

You should always use high-quality images on your website. But large images can lead to slow website loading speeds. That’s why it’s important to compress and optimise any images you use.

By compressing images, changing their file format and enabling lazy loading (which means your images will only load when they are needed), you can really speed things up.

So how do you do this?

You can get WordPress plugins, like Converter for Media, that automatically compress uploaded images for you. This particular plugin supports WebP images in the free version and higher quality AVIF images in the paid-for pro version.

Alternatively, you can compress images manually by using a free service such as TinyPNG or Squoosh.

The website hosting provider you choose has a big impact on the speed of your site. There are lots of different hosting options to choose from including:

  • Shared hosting – where you share disk space and RAM with other sites using the server
  • Virtual private server (VPS) hosting – where you share a server with other websites but get your own dedicated part of it
  • Dedicated server – your very own server that you don’t have to share

Shared hosting is the cheapest option but also the slowest. Having a dedicated server is much more expensive but you get guaranteed site speeds.

Most businesses don’t have the budget to set up their own dedicated server. So if you’re choosing between cheaper, non-dedicated hosting options, remember that some are better than others.

A general rule of thumb? If you skimp on hosting you’re unlikely to get decent site speeds. Invest in a hosting provider that prioritises website speed and performance for the best results.

Here at Radical Web Design, we like to recommend SiteGround hosting. We think these guys offer an excellent cost/performance balance.

When search engines find it easy to read your CSS, JavaScript and HTML code, your website loads faster.

Minifying this code means removing any spaces, characters, elements or comments that aren’t needed. This then reduces the size of your files and makes combining them much easier.

A little code spring clean could help to speed up page load time. And there are various ways to approach the minification process.

Ask a web developer to take a look. Or use a website plugin that will do all of the hard work for you.

Website plugins offer lots of great functionality. But add too many of them to your site and you may see website speeds start to suffer.

So try to reduce the number of plugins that your site uses. Start by deactivating and deleting any that you no longer use.

Also, check for any plugins with overlapping functionality. It may be that one plugin can do the job of two.

And if you’re worried that one particular plugin is the primary culprit for your slow site speeds, do a little experiment. Try deactivating it. Then see whether your scores in PageSpeed Insights have improved.

If a single plugin is making a big difference to your website speed, it may be time to find another solution.

Redirects are implemented when a user clicks on one webpage but then gets forwarded to another.

As your website grows and changes, a few redirects are pretty much inevitable. But remember that every redirect creates an additional HTTP request and increases page load time.

So do your best to avoid redirects wherever possible.

You can also try a tool like Screaming Frog. The free version of its SEO spider tool identifies any redirects in use on your website so you can see and delete any that don’t have a clear purpose.

When you enable browser caching, a browser will store copies of your site so it can load recently visited web pages more quickly, without having to request the content again.

You can install a free or paid plugin – like WP Rocket – that will implement browser caching for your site.

Alternatively, if you’d rather do without the extra bloat created by yet another plugin, a developer can enable browser caching for you.

A CDN is a network of servers that works alongside your host. As well as hosting your site on a primary server, you can use CDN servers to store copies of your site.

This means that data requests don’t have as far to travel. A CDN will automatically load content from the server closest to each website user. In doing so, the network helps to increase website speed.

Some hosting providers provide a CDN as standard. But, if not, you can use plugins, like the one available from CloudFlare.

Sometimes small changes like those listed above just aren’t enough to make real improvements to your site speed.

If your website is packed to bursting with plugins, if mobile responsiveness was an afterthought or if coding is far too clunky, tinkering around the edges may not achieve the website loading times you’re looking for.

A new website – that embodies minimalist design principles – could be the best route to an ideal website speed, providing you with better web traffic, conversions and UX performance too.

Want to know if your site could use an overhaul? Then get in touch with the Knowninnorfolk team.

Tell us about the problems you’re facing and what you want to achieve. And we can recommend website improvements – whether that’s a bit of website maintenance or a complete redesign.

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