Decreasing Load Times of Your Website

This week I discovered a few client websites were still adding large images to the article posts even though they were taught to optimize them in a way that would be faster to their visitors.

These extra steps to optimize images are very important. So why are they using them? I blame Facebook. Facebook doesn’t give you a size restriction. You can upload an 8K image from your DSLR camera and it will convert it to the size it needs to look great on Facebook and ditch the original. You never have to think about the file size or type. Unfortunately, most website content management systems do not do this. Several content management systems will create smaller alternate copies that can be served from the front end. But, without the addition of costly software, none will convert the images to mobile-friendly versions and ditch the originals. And you want those huge originals deleted so they are not occupying valuable server space.

What is page load time and why is it important?

Load time is the length of time it takes a web page to be downloaded from the hosting server and displayed onto the requesting web browser. It’s the duration between clicking the link and displaying the entire content in your browser.

That number matters because we expect websites to be fast. When pages take longer than expected to load, it negatively impacts our user experience. Google and other search engines factor in loading time into how they rank your website in their search results. Faster sites appear in their search results before slower loading ones.

It’s important to note that your internet speed does not play into load time as a ranking factor. We’re talking about someone who has a perfect connection to the internet.

So, let’s look at some ways to keep our websites loading faster.

1. Optimizing Your Images

The biggest culprit for slow sites is a large volume of unoptimized images. Full-sized images can consume a lot of bandwidth while loading. So, take time to resize your images before you upload them to any website.

The image format that you save in can significantly determine the file size. PNG files are typically 2-4 times larger in file size than JPG files of the same dimensions.

Reduce image quality. This doesn’t mean making your photos look bad. It just means tweaking some simple settings. For JPG images, this is done by directly reducing the quality. There will be no significant changes from the original version if the quality setting is 70 to 80%. Typically, you can go lower depending on the type of image, the detail, and the colors. I start as low as 50% first and drop the value to get a good balance of appearance and file size.

If you have to use GIF or PNG images, then try reducing the quality by choosing a smaller color palate.

Several of our radio station clients import digital content from ABC News. I reached out to their team this week to ask if their authors could only use optimized images. Some of their authors were’ pulling stock images from their files at full resolution and adding them to the feed. So, each website importing their feed was tasked with converting a 4K image 10 megabytes to something usable on the website. Each one takes up valuable server resources that could be used for keeping the website loading fast.

In the coming years, we’ll start hearing about how eco-friendly each website is. If a website uses a significant amount of server resources, which takes energy, then then they will be less eco-friendly. And that will be a rank factor as well.

So, it’s always best to fully optimize your images before uploading them anywhere online.

2. Decrease Displaying Offsite RSS Feeds

RSS feeds are popular because they contain content that you may not have on your website. We highly discourage the display of off-site RSS feeds because they take visitors away from your content and sponsor advertising.

There may be times when you want to display an RSS feed from another website you own. In that case, you’re cross-promoting your brands and that’s a good thing.

However, displaying an external RSS feed means that the web page has to load that content from where it’s getting the information from. If the server sending the information is slow, for any reason, it could slow the completion of your page load.

Let’s use a large image example. Let’s say your news radio station website RSS feed is being displayed on your rock station homepage. This is very common. Each time someone visits the page, the article headlines and images are being fed from your news station website. Let’s say that a news person attaches a large image to one of those articles. It will take the rock station website longer to load because it has to download that large file size from another website – each time some visits the page. So, now that large image is affecting the speed of two of your websites.

3. Limit/Stop the Use of Sliders/Carousels

Sliders and carousels can bring along with it lots of extra code in the background that is needed for them to work properly. Expect horrible load times if you are using a slider with a visual type of admin that allows you to have slides animate in from all directions and each slide has multiple animated elements.

Sliders do not convert well, so consider replacing them with one or multiple static calls to action.

4. Minimize the number of ads on your pages.

An important goal for any radio station website should be to make money. To do that, you’ll need great content and a fast-loading website. If the website is slow, people will not return day after day regardless of how awesome your content is.

We know that large amounts of images that are not optimized are the biggest culprit to slow websites, so it’s only fitting that we try to reduce the number of total images including ads. Examine other ways to add value to your clients like offering pages or feature sponsorships.

Conclusion:

The biggest takeaway from today is to optimize your images. If you have someone on your team that isn’t jumping on board with this, then they need to be a focus. Do not let anyone tell you they do not have the proper tools available to them for optimization. There are several free converter websites and even image editing sites like the pixlr.com editor that can be used to properly size and optimize every image that gets uploaded.

Visitors return to faster websites and those websites get more shares and clicks. That’s a better value to the advertisers that give you money to be included there. So, a faster website will have an impact on your bottom line.

Jim Sherwood serves as the chief creative, brand strategist, lead developer, meticulous project manager, and station collaborator for all Skyrocket Radio sites and projects. Jim is a 30+ year radio veteran with a resume spanning several small, medium, and large markets including roles as Digital Content Manager, Program Director, Production Manager, and Morning Show Host.