No matter what our clients are looking for when they seek us out, the need for a swift and responsive website is non-negotiable. A fast website can improve user experience, boost search engine rankings, increase conversion rates, and cater to users on slower internet connections or mobile devices, ensuring accessibility and inclusivity for a broad audience. Speed is a factor that cannot be effectively addressed with last-minute apps and plugins, it needs to be considered from the ground up and built into the very foundation of a site. These are just a few ways that Paper Tiger takes speed into account during the build process.
Writing Quality Code
Well-written code is typically more efficient, meaning it requires fewer server resources to execute. This efficiency translates to faster page load times because the server can process requests and generate pages more quickly. Quality code is so important that we dedicated an entire post to it earlier in this series [LINK].
Semantic code itself doesn't directly affect site speed; instead, it influences site speed indirectly by promoting better development practices. Semantic code can lead to faster site speed by enabling developers to write more efficient, maintainable, and optimized code. This, in turn, reduces the potential for performance bottlenecks, simplifies troubleshooting, and allows for more effective implementation of other performance optimization techniques. [Crosspost to post on semantic code]
Minimizing external requests
Minimizing the number of HTTP requests made to external servers or resources when loading a web page reduces latency and the time it takes to load a page. Minimizing these requests requires a delicate balance to be struck between site speed, and client needs.
For example, instead of embedding multiple separate font files from external sources, we could minimize external requests by utilizing a single font file or opting for system fonts to reduce the number of external server calls. However, from a branding perspective, using system fonts for your website reduces your uniqueness and could result in a website that lacks style. This is why we rely on a combination of designers and developers who can balance client needs and build a bespoke solution that works for them.
Employing Smart Resource Management
It’s important to consider how a website will handle resources like images, videos, and scripts. A simple method is to employ techniques like lazy loading or image compression to minimize the impact on page load times. Some platforms (e.g. Shopify) do this by default, whereas others need to leverage a CDN, or an outside service such as IMGX to handle resources efficiently.
Preventing Layout Shifts
Layout shift refers to the unexpected movement of page content during the loading process, causing a disruptive and often frustrating user experience. To prevent layout shifts, we define the dimensions of images, videos, and other elements with specific width and height attributes to reserve space on the page. Additionally, use of the CSS aspect-ratio property to maintain the aspect ratio of elements, ensures they don't suddenly resize and trigger shifts.
Preventing layout shifts is crucial because they can lead to user confusion, mis-clicks, and an overall poor user experience. Google considers layout stability as a ranking factor, so minimizing layout shifts can also positively impact a website's search engine ranking, making it an important factor in SEO.
Encouraging Smart Hosting Choices
Hosting plays a pivotal role in a website's performance and functionality. For example, hosting with HTTP/2 support can significantly accelerate page load times, while keeping server languages updated (e.g. PHP 8+, MySql 8+) ensures compatibility with the latest web technologies and security patches.
Many cheap hosting solutions offer shared servers which come with resource limitations since multiple websites share CPU, RAM, and bandwidth. Additionally, security risks are higher as a vulnerability in one website on the server can potentially impact others. Dedicated servers offer better security, performance and control and are ideal for handling high traffic volumes and complex applications. A well-considered hosting solution that accounts for these specifics can determine whether your website runs smoothly and efficiently or faces performance bottlenecks, security vulnerabilities, and potential user frustration, ultimately influencing its success and reputation.
Building a fast website involves mastering a delicate balance between a site’s look-and-feel, and several important under-the-hood elements. From efficient coding practices, responsive design, and image optimization to effective use of content delivery networks and server-side optimizations, every aspect plays a crucial role in achieving top website speeds. By prioritizing performance from the ground up, you can create swift-loading websites with memorable user experiences that captivate visitors, drive conversions, and reinforce a strong online presence.