If your website is too slow, check these 6 things
Learn about some common problems that could be hurting your site's performance—and how to fix them.
You've heard us talk about site speed before. Site speed can affect critical factors, such as your website's organic search ranking and the experience of anyone trying to use it.
To ensure your healthcare website is engaging to the best of its abilities with current and prospective patients, it's important to understand site speed and the factors that either rev it up or slow it down.
How speed is measured
Contrary to what you might think, site speed is not measured by the amount of time it takes for a page to fully load. Instead, it's a series of moments that when taken together, create a user's "page load experience."
How do I know if my site is slow?
Google has a free tool called PageSpeed Insights that will score your webpage's speed on mobile and desktop devices, and generate a free report detailing errors and solutions.
To come up with a score, PageSpeed Insights looks at three definitive moments that take place during the user's page load experience:
1. An initial change in appearance typically indicates that the site's server is responding. This can be something as simple as a background color changing or the first glimpse of a navigation appearing.
2. By the time the page renders useful content, most things above the fold are visible. (Above-the-fold content is the section of your webpage that first appears on the user's entire screen.) This oftentimes includes the content that's most important for users.
3. The final moment in the page load experience is the instance when the site is fully interactive.
Think with Google is another free tool that looks more in-depth at site speed on mobile devices. This tool also lets you benchmark your site's speed against your competitors.
What's slowing down my site?
It could be a variety of things and the speed tests you run will help point them out. But here are six common offenders we see on healthcare websites and some idea for speeding things up:
1. Slow servers. An underpowered server will cause lag time, especially if you have a page with lots of dynamic content (such as widgets that automatically display content like recent blog posts, upcoming events or news releases).
How to speed things up: Be sure that your hosting provider has servers with load-balancing and auto-scaling to help your site keep up with spikes in traffic.
2. Poorly optimized images or other files. The number and size of images and videos is often an issue, but convincing all of your stakeholders to cut down on these types of media can be a challenge.
How to speed things up: Be mindful of image quality and size. Check to see if your content management system (CMS) handles this automatically for you. If not, crop your image down to the recommended size and check to see if a medium-quality resolution photo will suffice. You can also ask your developer to use image lazy loading to defer loading noncritical images and videos until they're needed.
How to speed things up: Work with an experienced website development team. They will implement best practices, such as asynchronous loading, that will ensure the elements on a page load as quickly as possible.
5. Redirect chains. A redirect chain happens when there is more than one redirect between the initial URL someone attempts to visit and the page that loads. This can happen for a variety of reasons. For example, redirects may build up over time as site content changes. Another example is that you may have a site-wide redirect rule in place so that secure HTTPS pages are always displayed. A redirect chain can occur if you create a redirect that points to a non-secure HTTP URL.
How to speed things up: Audit your redirects regularly and fix any chains. A tool like Screaming Frog SEO spider can help. Your website vendor may do this for you as part of ongoing maintenance.
6. Cluttered code. Extraneous code is another problem that slows down page speed. We often see unnecessary code brought in thanks to the added formatting that copying and pasting from Microsoft Word will add.
How to speed things up: You don't need to know HTML to keep certain aspects of your page code streamlined. Your CMS may already have features built-in that strip out extraneous code created by Word docs. If your CMS doesn't have this feature, copying your text into a notepad and pasting it from there will also rid your content of the unnecessary code.
Is your website loading as quickly as it should?
If you're looking to ramp up your site speed, we can help.
Coffey's web developers and designers are experienced in creating websites that are as fast as possible while still including the features you want and that your community expects. Our CMS also helps ensure that your site stays fast as you update content over time.