I recently wrote about website speed and how you can check it (see Is your website slow?).
Of course, it’s one thing to know your website is slow; it’s another to understand why.
Yet the reason is often all too clear: it’s carrying too much weight.
Whether it’s images, videos, animations, fancy fonts, carousels, Twitter feeds … every element increases the size of a page, and the bigger and heavier a page is, the longer it takes to load.
For most website visitors, their first experience of your site will be the home page and it’s therefore important to make sure that it loads quickly – with the target being less than three seconds for the desktop version.
Although that should be easily achievable for most sites, it’s surprising how many take two or three times longer to load. And they’re the desktop versions: visitors using mobile devices will be waiting even longer.
So here are two things you can do to speed things up …
1 – Drop unnecessary stuff
Don’t think you have to cram everything on to the home page. Yes, it’s the page most people will see first, but if it takes an age to load or to read through and visitors get tired of waiting or scrolling, then the content might not be seen at all.
There is rarely a good argument for packing your home page with stuff. Instead, aim to make it lightweight: keep only the most important content and spread the rest around other pages.
Think, for instance, about issues such as:
- Images: Does that photo carousel really have to be one of the first things that people see? Might it be better being on its own ‘Gallery’ page instead?
- Social media: What advantage do you gain from having your Twitter feed embedded on the home page? Would it not be just as useful to have it on a dedicated ‘Social media’ page or even to just have a link to your Twitter feed? (Anyone visiting your website can then find you on Twitter if they wish to.)
- Videos: Is your home page really the best place to have five talking head videos? How about having just one, with links to the others?
Getting rid of unnecessary content will reduce the weight of the home page, so it will load faster – and people will be able to find what they want elsewhere on your site using the (excellent) navigation.
2 – Make things smaller
Reduce the size of whatever images and videos you still have on your home page (and elsewhere on your site) using compression software.
There are lots of tools available for reducing the size of image files. Searching online for ‘image compression software’ or ‘image optimisation software’ will find plenty of options for you to choose from, both free and paid.
My preferred image compression tool for WordPress is Imagify, which I install (for free) on clients’ sites, so that any images uploaded are automatically compressed.
Amateur v professional
Although using your own images can lend both novelty and authenticity to your site, it’s worth remembering that the files will be relatively large. Depending on the settings, photos taken on my phone can vary from about 3 MB to 10 MB. They’re smaller when compressed by Imagify, but can still be sizeable files and a few of them on a page could make it heavier – and slower – than you’d like.
By contrast, professional images taken from online sources such as Pexels, Unsplash and Shutterstock are already compressed and the files are typically about 200 KB – so far smaller than anything taken by an amateur with a phone!
However, if you’re adamant you want to use your own images, try resizing them using a program such as PaintShop Pro. Taking 25% off an image that’s 4640 x 3472 pixels and 10.9 MB will not only cut it to 1160 x 868 but also reduce the file size significantly (I’ve got it down to just 333 KB!).
You can do similar things with videos. Again, there’s lots of compression utilities to choose from, so try some and see what difference they make to both file size and quality. (I mostly use Movavi Video Converter, which has both free and paid versions.)
If you’re using videos created by a professional videographer (someone you’ve commissioned or whose work you’ve downloaded through Pexels, Shutterstock etc) then – as with images – files should already be optimised for the web.
So there we are: a couple of ideas for making life easier for your visitors by slimming down your home page. Ideally, you’ll be able to try both approaches, but if you don’t like the idea of tweaking files, then focus on page design and see what difference that makes.
Questions? Feel free to mail me: firstname.lastname@example.org