Why your website should be fast, and how to do it

3 min read
Watb Team
A Person riding a mountain bike down hill with blurred back ground

Let me start off by saying, I know you have read probably hundreds of articles on how to optimise your site for speed. But whereas most just repeat the same thing, hopefully here will be some genuinely insightful tips that will help you get your sites up to speed.

Why is speed important?

Multiple reasons – but perhaps the most important is your users. We’ve all been there, sitting waiting for a site to load until we give up and take our interest elsewhere. If you run a business, a slow website could therefore be costing you significant business. Furthermore, search engines such as Google use speed as one of their metrics that affect ranking, so if being top of Google is important to you then having a fast website is critical.

Work closely with your designer

Let’s start from the beginning – how fast your websites can be is intrinsically linked to the design. Certain designs lend themselves better to speed, so working with your designer from the off to create an idea that has the potential to be fast is critical. How are they using images? How much scripting will be required to make the design work? You should be thinking about speed right from the beginning, and so should your designer.

Learn how to build your projects

So you’re uploading the bower components folder to your hosting? Uh-oh – this is already a sign that you’re not really quite using your tools and frameworks correctly. The whole point of a task runner such as Grunt is that you can manage your front-end more effectively. Part of the way you can do this is by having separate tasks for different build states.

If you use Foundation, for example, the default Gruntfile does not compile your JS. It won’t even autoprefix your SASS. So to get your site working, you’re uploading a bower components folder of which 95% of the files you’re not using. Either that, or your manually dragging the JS files you need into your JS folder. Neither are a great way to work, and neither will help site performance.

Utilising Concat and Uglify, you can create a build task in your Gruntfile which compiles your JS into one small minified file. This will reduce http requests for your site as well as page size, which should significantly speed up page load times.

Stop loading what you’re not using

It sounds obvious, but so many developers (including on occasion myself) make the mistake of loading various scripts they’re not actually using. At the end of every project when you’re signed off and ready to upload, run through your project and completely ditch everything you’re not using.

For example, if you’re not actually using Modernizr in any capacity, remove it. And with Foundation, you can selectively load only the JS components you need to. As long as you maintain your project on your dev box, you can always add back in what you need if you need to in the future.

Optimise your images

It’s a bit of a sweeping statement, but you shouldn’t be loading any images that are more than a couple hundred or so kb in size. There are dozens of image optimizer tools out there, which are worth a look if you need better performance than Photoshop’s Save for Web.

What to aim for?

Exactly what should you aim for? There isn’t really an answer to this because it depends on the project. However, as a general rule I have for myself, I always aim to get every page to load in about 1 second with a page size of no more than 1mb.There are of course the occasional exceptions, but it’s a good rule to aim for

Social Media Management Software

In order to promote your business and reach consumers that spend an entire 24 hours a week online, you need to make sure that you have a viable social media strategy in place.

By posting unique and interesting content on your social media platforms, and by actively engaging with followers, you can start to turn this into a funnel for generating leads.

In order to stay on top of your social media strategy, it’s important to have some form of social media management software to do some of the heavy lifting. Software such as this is imperative for scheduling, tracking and monitoring social media content.

At its best, social media management software can help you not only plan your content months in advance, but also remain reactive by letting you tune into ongoing news stories or trending topics.

Screenshot of Hootsuite's homepage

We recommend: Hootsuite

There are a whole bunch of social media management companies out there and all of them offer roughly the same sort of package but Hootsuite is the only one that offers an actually free service (as opposed to just a free trial period).

They do try to hide it on their website though so make sure you follow this link in order to get to the right page.

The free version of this software lets you:

  • Manage up to three social media profiles from a choice of channels including Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest and LinkedIn
  • Schedule up to 30 posts in advance at any point in time
  • Track follower growth, likes and comments
  • Integrate two RSS feeds in order to find and share compelling content
  • Access Hootsuite’s online help center and community forum

Of course, there’s also a number of paid-for packages that you can buy from Hootsuite that give you access to a great number of services including higher ad spend budgets, automated post scheduling and custom analytics.

But if you’re a small business looking to get started, the free version of the software should be comprehensive enough to allow you to get your social media strategy in motion.

Website Tracking Software

We’ve said before that the secret to a successful lead generation strategy is to keep analysing and refining your methods. Well, website tracking software is the best way to conduct this analysis.

By digging into the analytics of your visitors’ actions, you can start to gain a better picture of why people come to your site, what they want from it, what they dislike about it and how you can improve upon their experience next time.

There are a wide variety of services that can fall into the category of website tracking software, including heatmaps, funnels, user polls, surveys, visitor recordings and more.

Basically, any kind of software that collects data about the ways in which your visitors interact with your site can be considered website tracking software.

Screenshot of Hotjar's homepage

We recommend: Hotjar

Whereas there are a multitude of smaller software companies that focus in on just one website tracking service, Hotjar offers an array of useful tools.

Hotjar tools include:

  • Click, move, scroll, download and share heatmaps that can also be split by device type
  • Visitor recordings that allow you to replay sessions of real site visitors
  • Conversion funnels that identify on which page and at which step the most visitors are leaving your site
  • Form analysis that can help you to discover which fields take too long to fill, which are left blank and why your visitors abandon your form and page
  • A customizable widget that allows you to create pop-up feedback polls
  • Responsive surveys that can be distributed through web links and emails, or featured your site just before your visitors abandon the page in order to discover what their concerns are
  • The ability to recruit test users in order to get instant feedback on your site

Hotjar’s free service is able to collect data from 2000 page views a day and will give you access to up to 300 visitor recordings and 3 heatmaps, forms, funnels, polls and surveys. Unlimited users can be added to your account and Hotjar will also store your data for a full year.

While we’d normally recommend free services when possible, it’s probably worth paying for Hotjar’s Plus plan to begin with.

For just under £25 a month you can collect data from 10,000 page views a day and have unlimited services and reports. Plus there’s even a 15-day free trial for you to test out whether you like their software or not.

Remember

Lead generation doesn’t have to be an expensive endeavour.

What’s important is that you put real effort into all of your interactions with potential leads - whether that’s through educational and informative blog posts, social media interactions or even just a chat on the phone.

If you believe in your business’ ability to help its customers then all you have to do is let that shine through.

Ultimately, these tools are just there to help you meet potential leads on their level. The rest is up to you.

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