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Digital Experiences

Why is my website so slow?

David Kenworthy
Apr, 2024
5 mins

In 1789, Benjamin Franklin penned his famous assertion that “in this world, nothing is certain but death and taxes.” We’re pretty sure that if he were still around today, he’d have one more certainty to add to his list: Slow websites lose visitors. 

Not convinced? Consider the following: Fifty-three percent of mobile users abandon sites that take more than three seconds to load, and every further second of loading time erodes conversions by up to 20%. That should be enough to convince you that the speed of your website isn’t just important - it’s downright critical to keeping users engaged and connected to your brand. In this article, we delve into the common reasons behind sluggish websites and offer actionable tips to turbocharge your online presence.

Common Causes of Slow Websites

Google Tag Manager: An overloaded or poorly managed Tag Manager has, in our testing, proven to be the number one cause of slow page speed. The challenge that you need tracking, which means you can’t just abandon your Tag Manager. With that in mind, here are some things you can do to help:

  • Regularly audit and update your tags to eliminate outdated or unnecessary ones.
  • Use triggers and variables efficiently to ensure tags only fire when needed.
  • Keep the number of tags to a minimum and avoid redundancy to maintain optimal performance.

Large Images and Media Files: High-resolution images and videos can dramatically slow down your website. To optimize your media, consider the following: 

  • Compress images to reduce file size without losing quality.
  • Use SVG formats for logos and icons since they are scalable and usually smaller in file size.
  • Avoid PNG files for large photos as they can be unnecessarily large; instead, opt for optimized JPEGs which provide a good balance between quality and file size.
  • Convert images to WebP format, which provides high-quality results with smaller file sizes, aiding in faster loading times. Many CMS’s will have WebP conversion modules available

Unoptimized Code: Bulky code and excessive plugins can severely hinder your site’s performance. Before taking action, it's always advised to speak to your development team to get their perspective on the following potential fixes. 

  • Minify your CSS, JavaScript, and HTML to eliminate unnecessary characters without changing functionality.
  • Remove or deactivate unnecessary plugins that add extra load to your site.
  • Regularly review and refactor your code to keep it as lean and efficient as possible.

Web Hosting: Your choice of hosting can significantly impact your website's speed. Consider the following:

  • Shared hosting might be economical but can lead to slower performance, especially during peak traffic times.
  • Dedicated hosting, although more costly, typically offers better performance and stability.
  • Evaluate your hosting provider’s performance regularly and consider upgrading if your current solution hinders your site's speed.

Excessive Ads and Pop-ups: Ads and pop-ups can be a crucial revenue stream but can also impact site speed and user experience.

  • Limit the number of ads and avoid heavy ad scripts.
  • Use asynchronous loading for ads so they do not interfere with the loading of primary content.
  • Strike a balance to ensure that monetization efforts do not compromise the user experience.

CMS Choice: Your Content Management System (CMS) affects your site’s speed and scalability.

  • Platforms like Drupal and WordPress are known for their flexibility but must be kept updated to run smoothly.
  • Follow best practices for these systems, such as using caching and optimizing databases.
  • Be wary of lesser-known CMS options or website builders that may not provide the same level of performance optimization as more established platforms.

Diagnosing Website Speed Issues

Utilizing the right tools can help you pinpoint problems that may be slowing down your site. Here are some effective tools and key indicators to watch for:

Tools to Use

  1. Google PageSpeed Insights: This tool provides a performance score and actionable insights on how to improve your website speed for both mobile and desktop versions. It highlights issues like render-blocking resources, slow server response times, and opportunities to compress images.
  2. GTmetrix: GTmetrix analyzes your website’s speed performance and generates reports based on key indicators like load time, total page size, and the number of requests made. It offers a detailed breakdown of problem areas and suggests optimizations.
  3. Lighthouse: Integrated into Google Chrome DevTools, Lighthouse provides an in-depth look at your website’s performance, accessibility, progressive web apps, SEO, and more. It’s particularly useful for following modern web development best practices.

KPIs to watch out for

This might feel like geek speak but run these tools and all will become clear:

  1. Time to First Byte (TTFB): This measures the time from the user making an HTTP request to the first byte of the page being received by the browser. A high TTFB can indicate server issues or poor server response time.
  2. First Contentful Paint (FCP): This measures the time it takes from when the page starts loading to when any part of the page's content is rendered on the screen. It’s critical for assessing how quickly a user feels the site is loading.
  3. Largest Contentful Paint (LCP): An essential metric for understanding loading performance, LCP measures the time taken for the largest content element in the viewport to become visible. This helps gauge how long it takes to provide a useful experience to users.
  4. Cumulative Layout Shift (CLS): This metric measures the stability of your site as it loads. A high CLS score indicates that elements on your page move around as it loads, which can be frustrating for users.
  5. Total Blocking Time (TBT): This measures the total amount of time that a page is blocked from responding to user input, such as mouse clicks, screen taps, or keyboard presses.

Overall, improving your website's speed is not just about boosting rankings; it's about providing a superior user experience. By addressing common issues and implementing best practices, you can enhance your site's performance, keep users engaged, and strengthen your brand's online presence. Go forth and make your website experience one to remember.