How to Speed Up Your eCommerce Website
Website speed is critical to a business’s success, especially to an ecommerce website. Customers aren’t going to care about your products if they have to wait too long for your pages to load. How long is too long? Google recommends making sure that your pages load in less than two seconds. According to Maile Ohye, a former Developer Programs Tech Lead at Google for almost 12 years, Google tries to load its own pages in half a second.
Studies conducted by Walmart and Amazon have shown that conversions increase by 1% for every 100 milliseconds they shave off their page load time. Even Google itself found that increasing page load times by 400 milliseconds reduced daily searches by 0.6%. Doesn’t sound like much? It is if your daily searches are around 3.5 billion per day. Which equals out to be a staggering twenty-one million less searches on a daily basis. Although Amazon, Walmart and Google have seen dramatic effects on their bottom lines with a 1% increase in conversion, small eCommerce websites can also see a significant effect on profitability.
Identify the Slow Spots
Your entire site may be loading more slowly than you’d like, or it could just be certain features. Fast product pages will get customers to add items to their shopping carts, but a slow checkout process will lead to abandoned shopping carts instead of sales.
Free tools like WebPageTest can let you know how quickly some pages on your site load, but for eCommerce websites you’re going to need something more comprehensive. Load testing solutions like LoadView and JMeter can test the speed of your entire site. You can run a load test with a typical load to see how your site performs under ordinary circumstances, but eCommerce sites should be fully load tested regularly so that they perform well on heavy traffic days like Black Friday.
Your load testing solution should generate reports that help you track down and fix bottlenecks and slowdowns, but there are some changes you can make across the board.
Optimize Your Images
All eCommerce websites are photo-heavy. But photos make web pages load more slowly. You can make your photos load more quickly by making them web-friendly. Your photos should be JPEGs, and other images should be GIFs or PNGs, but only when necessary. PNGs can get much heavier and slow down even the most optimized website. Use photo editing software to further compress your image files (look for a “Save for Web” option), or install a plugin such as EWWW Image Optimizer to keep images optimized for speed.
You should also upload images that are the correct dimensions instead of dictating their size with code. When a site visitor’s browser has to resize an image, it slows down page loading. If you want to give customers the option to view larger versions of photos, make them separate files that are displayed in a pop-up or on another page.
Check Your Plugins
Smaller eCommerce websites depend on plugins for a variety of functionality. Since plugins load separately from other page content, replacing plugins with native code will speed up your site. If this is impractical, you should make sure that you’re using the fastest plugins available.
Enabling caching on your site (via code or a plugin) speeds up page load times. Without caching, a customer’s browser must recreate a page every time they visit. With caching, their browser can view a cached version of the page that loads more quickly. If you allow users’ browsers to cache certain elements of your site, such as images, the users don’t have to wait for images to download when they revisit a page.
Stay On Top of Your Website Speed
Moving forward, you should consider page load time when designing new site features. A clean design loads more quickly than busy design. Look regularly to identify broken links and other issues that can slow down your site by using the tools mentioned above. For more advanced users, Screaming Frog is always a good option for a full view of your website functionality and availability.