Over the weekend, we took a look at our website and decided on a strategy of how it could be improved. After some analysis, we decided that reducing the page loading time would be an excellent way to spend a Saturday afternoon.

Why focus on the page speed? There are a number of reasons for improving your website’s loading speed including conversion rates and search engine favorability.

Search Engines Love A Fast Website

Google has said that page loading speed is one of the most important factors in how they rank a website. Google rewards clean, well created sites that load quickly. This has been apparent since 2011 when Google introduced their own suite of software for determining a web page’s loading time.

Since then, page speed has been one of 200 factors used to rank your website. A faster website may mean a higher website ranking.

 

Customer Experience

How many times have you left a website before it’s loaded? Perhaps the website has only taken 3 or 4 seconds to load, but sometimes that’s too long. Recent studies have shown that online users hate to be kept waiting:

  • 51% of online shoppers in the US claimed that they will not complete a purchase if the website is too slow.
  • 47% of web users expect a website to load in under 2 seconds. Many users will visit a competitor instead of waiting more than a couple of seconds for a page to load.
  • A website that loads quickly is good for business. According to a study, a one second delay can cost 7% in conversions on your website.

These factors are useful to know in the dental industry. If your practice website is fairly slow, you can expect to lose out to competitors with faster websites and cleaner code.

 

How To Speed Up A Website

We’ll take you through the steps we took to improve our own website. This started with a Pingdom.com test (http://tools.pingdom.com/fpt/). After testing our website at Pingdom.com, we were told that our home page:

  • Was 3.7mb in size
  • Took 4.2 seconds to load
  • Had a “perf” grade of 72/100

This is fairly sluggish for a website in 2015, and so we quickly got around to introducing measures to improve our website’s loading speed, whilst reducing the size of the site.

Images

As you’ll probably be aware, our homepage is made up of many images which help to display our services. However, these images are also fairly large, some as large as 500kb (half a megabyte). Each image was processed through TinyPNG.com – a free online tool which helps to reduce the size of images. On average, our images were reduced by 71% in size.

Images that were 400kb were now closer to 100kb in size, and many of the “screen” images you see on the home page were taken from 110kb each down to 35kb each. This on its own reduces page loading speed, because your computer doesn’t have to take as long to download each image.

 

Page Caching

Our website runs on WordPress, and as such we were able to easily install a plugin called W3 Total Cache – a free to use plugin which helps to reduce the page loading speed by reducing the server loading time, which reduces the page loading time.

There are many settings to go through on the W3 Total Cache plugin, but by using the default settings we were able to reduce page loading times.

A check after this stage showed that we’d reduced our page size to 2.4mb and the page loading time had dropped to 2.7 seconds.

Minifying

Minifying simply means to reduce the amount of CSS and Javascript files which need to be loaded. Some large CSS and Javascript files can take a fairly long time to load. Using a Minifying plugin called “Better WordPress Minify”, we combined all of the CSS and Javascript files into just one or two files, which again helped the website to load a little faster.

Scripts To Footer

Another plugin we installed was called Scripts To Footer. This does exactly what it says: it puts all of your Javascript, CSS and other files into the website’s footer (the bottom of the page). This has no effect on the website’s overall design, but does help to load the page a little faster.

CDN

If you want your website to load faster, you really need to start using a CDN. A Content Delivery Network basically takes a lot of your website’s scripts/code and places them on a remote server, so that no matter where your visitor is in the world, the website will load quickly.

Moving on to a CDN can reduce your page speed time by a couple of seconds. At DentalWebsiteDesign.com, we are using a service called CloudFlare which takes care of the majority of our loading issues.

 

Conclusion

After taking these steps which only took around an hour to complete, we have managed to improve the website immensely.

Here are the new statistics:

  • New page size is: 1.7MB (was 3.7MB)
  • New loading time is: 947 milliseconds (was 4.2 seconds)
  • Perf grade is 96/100 (was 72/100)

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