Website Performance Optimization – Launch Checklist: Part 2

August 22, 2023 16 min read
Website performance optimization techniques

Website Load Speed

Since Google made page performance one of the major ranking factors in 2022, you can say that “speed is the new black” can be a new philosophy from the technical perspective when it comes to websites.  And if there’s one thing that users and search engines can agree upon, it’s their love for speedy websites. With the evolution of web technology and user expectations, the speed of a website has transcended beyond just being a technical metric. It’s also a crucial part of the user experience.

First impressions matter, and when we talk about websites, the first impression is all about load speed. Before delving into its intricacies, let’s break down some key performance metrics that have emerged as game-changers:

  • First Contentful Paint (FCP): This metric represents the time it takes for the first piece of content to appear on a blank page. It gives users an initial assurance that something is happening. Ideally, you’d want your FCP to be swift, signaling that your site is responsive.
  • Largest Contentful Paint (LCP): Going a step further than FCP, LCP measures the time it takes for the most significant content element to be visible. It’s an indicator of how quickly users perceive your page to be fully loaded.
  • Time to Interactive (TTI): This crucial metric gauges the time taken for a page to become fully interactive, where elements respond to user interactions without delay. Users don’t just want to see a loaded page; they want to interact with it. A short TTI assures them of a responsive, user-friendly experience.
  • First Input Delay (FID): FID measures the time between a user’s first interaction with a page (like clicking a link or tapping a button) and the time the browser responds to that interaction. It’s essentially about how “feelable” the responsiveness of your site is during the early loading phase.

Understanding and optimizing these metrics ensures that users aren’t left waiting, questioning, or worse, leaving. A seamless and fast loading experience is akin to welcoming a guest into a well-prepared home — they instantly feel catered for and valued.

But how does one ensure these metrics are in the green zone? How do you tune your website to the rhythm of these speed indicators? Let’s delve deeper into the influence of server response time and its impact on these vital speed metrics.

Impact of Server Response Time

Server response time, often referred to as Time to First Byte (TTFB), plays an integral role in the performance of any website. Imagine visiting a restaurant: TTFB is akin to the wait-time before the waiter acknowledges your presence. It’s the very first step that sets the tone for your entire digital experience. And just as you’d be frustrated with long wait times at a restaurant, online users get impatient with slow server responses.

Here’s a breakdown of why server response time is so pivotal:

  • First Touchpoint: It represents the initial handshake between the user’s browser and your server. A swift response reassures users that the site is active and ready to serve content.
  • Influence on Other Metrics: A slow TTFB can cascade into delays for the FCP, LCP, TTI, and FID metrics we discussed earlier. It’s the domino that can topple the entire user experience if not optimized.
  • SEO Implications: Search engines, with their commitment to providing the best user experience, factor in server response time when determining rankings. A faster TTFB can lend a competitive edge in the fiercely contested SERPs.
  • Scalability: As your website grows and traffic surges, a server that can maintain optimal response times ensures consistent performance.

Improving server response time isn’t just about upgrading to a faster server. Factors such as web hosting quality, server configuration, resource optimization, and even geographical location of the server vis-à-vis the majority of users can influence it. Therefore, a holistic approach, encompassing both server hardware and software considerations, is paramount for optimal TTFB.

In the journey of website performance optimization, understanding and enhancing server response time serves as a foundational step. It’s the springboard from which all other optimizations can leap and flourish.

Mobile Optimization

More people than ever are using their phones to browse the web. If your site isn’t mobile-friendly, you’re missing out. 

But it’s not only about UX. Google crawling bots are prioritizing crawling for mobile bots, so if you are not prepared for mobile – don’t expect search engines to be willing to crawl desktop versions of your. 

  • User Experience: On a mobile-friendly site, everything is easy to read and navigate without zooming in.
  • Load Time: These sites load faster on phones and tablets. Even a few seconds delay can make someone leave.
  • Better SEO: Google prefers mobile-friendly sites. This can help your site rank higher in search results.
  • More Engagement: Simple features like a call button can boost interactions and sales.

Your site should look and work well on mobile, not just be a smaller version of your desktop site.

Browser Compatibility Testing

People use different browsers to access the web. Your site should work well on all of them.

  • Keep Users: If your site breaks on some browsers, those users might never come back.
  • Look Professional: A site that works everywhere shows you know what you’re doing.
  • More Conversions: When everyone can use your site easily, more people can buy or sign up.
  • Save Time: Fixing issues early means less work later on.

Test your site on different browsers to make sure everyone has a great experience.

Code-Level Optimizations

Behind every sleek, fast-loading website is a set of well-optimized code. While users may never see this code directly, its efficiency directly influences their experience. 

Proper code-level optimizations can significantly boost site speed, improve user experience, and contribute to better search engine rankings. Let’s delve into the specifics to ensure your website’s coding is optimized to its full potential.

JavaScript and CSS Minification

JavaScript and CSS are like the skeleton and skin of your website. They dictate structure and style. However, these files can sometimes become bloated with unnecessary characters and spaces.

  • Speed Boost: Minifying removes unnecessary characters (like spaces and comments) without changing functionality. This results in smaller file sizes and faster load times.
  • Improved User Experience: Faster loading scripts and stylesheets mean users can start interacting with your content sooner.
  • Better SEO: Page speed is a ranking factor. Every millisecond counts in the eyes of search engines.

Regularly check your JavaScript and CSS files, and consider using tools to automatically minify them to keep up with what you may achieve or have already achieved in your website performance optimization metrics.

Reduce Redirects

Redirects send users and search engines to a different URL from the one they initially requested, which can delay the time it takes for them to access content.

  • Direct Access: Each redirect can add precious seconds to your load time. Fewer redirects mean users get to the content faster.
  • Improved Server Performance: Fewer redirects can also reduce the load on your server.
  • Enhanced SEO: Search engines view a site with fewer redirects more favorably.

Regularly review your site for unnecessary redirects and eliminate them wherever possible.

Optimize Web Fonts

Web fonts are essential for creating a consistent and brand-aligned look across your website. However, they can also slow down your site if not optimized.

  • Speed Up Load Time: Only load the styles and weights you need. For instance, if you only use regular and bold, there’s no need to load the entire font family.
  • Local Storage: Consider hosting fonts locally rather than using external sources. It can decrease load times.
  • Universal Access: Ensure your fonts are readable and accessible across all devices and browsers.

Periodically audit your font usage, ensuring you’re using them efficiently while maintaining your site’s aesthetics.

Cache Implementation

The magic of caching lies in its ability to make websites load faster without overburdening the server. Essentially, caching stores frequently used data in a ‘ready-to-go’ state, so when a user requests that data again, it’s served up almost instantly. For WordPress sites, there’s a host of caching solutions available, but one of the most prominent and effective is WP Rocket.

WP Rocket: Propel Your WordPress Site to New Speeds

If we take WordPress platform as example, WP Rocket isn’t just a simple caching plugin; it’s an all-in-one site optimization toolkit. Here’s what makes it stand out:

  • Simple Setup: Unlike some caching solutions that require technical know-how, WP Rocket is plug-and-play. Activate it, and you’ll immediately see improvements in site speed.
  • Page Caching: By creating static HTML files of your pages, WP Rocket serves your users quickly without making them wait for data to load from the database.
  • Browser Caching: WP Rocket ensures that the static resources of your website (like images) are stored in the visitor’s browser. When they revisit, these elements load instantly, making for a smoother experience.
  • Database Optimization: Over time, your WordPress database can become cluttered. WP Rocket cleans it up, removing unnecessary data and streamlining its operation.
  • Lazy Loading: Instead of loading all images and videos when a page is opened, WP Rocket ensures they only load when they’re visible to the user, speeding up initial load times.
  • File Optimization: By minifying CSS, JavaScript, and HTML, WP Rocket reduces file sizes, ensuring quicker page loads.

For anyone serious about their WordPress website performance optimization, implementing caching, especially with a comprehensive solution like WP Rocket, is a game-changer. It not only offers a speed boost but also improves the overall user experience and SEO rankings.

Database Optimization

The heart of any dynamic website is its database. It stores everything from content and user data to settings and metadata. Over time, however, as data accumulates and modifications are made, databases can become bloated and disorganized. Just like a library with books scattered everywhere, an untidy database can significantly slow down your website’s performance, leading to longer load times and frustrated visitors.

Why Regular Database Maintenance is Essential

  • Performance Boost: A lean and optimized database ensures faster data retrieval, translating to quicker page loads and improved server response time.
  • Enhanced Stability: Regular maintenance can prevent potential database crashes due to corrupted or redundant data.
  • Storage Management: By purging unnecessary data, you can free up server storage, which can be especially crucial for websites with limited hosting plans.
  • Streamlined Backups: A clutter-free database ensures backups are quicker and occupy less storage space.

Steps for Effective Database Optimization

  • Regular Clean-ups: Regularly remove unnecessary data like spam comments, trashed posts, revisions, and transient options.
  • Optimize Tables: Use tools or plugins to defragment your database tables, reorganizing them for better efficiency.
  • Limit Post Revisions: While post revisions can be useful, having too many can bloat your database. Set a limit or periodically clean older revisions.
  • Use Efficient Database Plugins: Opt for plugins that make fewer database calls or cache their results, thus minimizing the load on the database.
  • Choose Quality Hosting: Your database’s performance is also tied to your web host. Select hosting providers known for their excellent database management and infrastructure.
  • Backup Before Making Changes: Before any optimization or major changes, always take a backup to safeguard against potential data loss.

By keeping the database in top shape, you ensure the foundational layer of your website remains robust. Think of database optimization as a regular health check-up; it might not seem urgent, but it’s vital for the long-term health and speed of your website.

Data Compression

In the fast-paced world of the internet, speed isn’t just a luxury; it’s a necessity. With users expecting websites to load in mere seconds, every kilobyte matters. Data compression acts as a lifesaver in such scenarios, shrinking the size of your website’s resources without sacrificing their quality. 

By ensuring your files are as compact as they can be, you’re paving the way for faster load times and a more efficient website.

The Art of Shrinking Data

Imagine trying to send a massive gift through a mail slot. If you break the gift down, send the components individually, and then reassemble it on the other side, it fits! 

That’s the essence of data compression: breaking down data into a smaller, more manageable form for transmission and then reconstructing it upon receipt.

Benefits of Data Compression

  • Faster Loading Times: Smaller file sizes mean quicker downloads, ensuring your website loads at lightning speed.
  • Reduced Bandwidth Costs: Transmitting less data can lead to significant savings on bandwidth costs, especially if you have a high-traffic website.
  • Enhanced User Experience: A fast-loading website translates to happier users, leading to better engagement and conversion rates.
  • Storage Savings: Compressed files take up less server space, enabling better utilization of storage resources.

Implementing Data Compression for Website Performance Optimization

  • Image Compression: Tools like TinyPNG or JPEGmini can help reduce image file sizes without noticeable quality loss.
  • Gzip Compression: Many web servers support Gzip, a method that compresses web pages and stylesheets before sending them to the browser.
  • Minify Resources: Tools like UglifyJS (for JavaScript) and CSSNano (for CSS) can be used to remove unnecessary characters from code files, making them leaner.
  • Video Compression: For multimedia-rich websites, consider using tools or platforms that automatically compress and optimize video content for the web.
  • Regularly Update and Audit: Old plugins or outdated tools can introduce inefficiencies. Regularly updating and auditing your tools ensures you’re using the latest compression techniques.

Monitoring and Third-party Integrations

In today’s age, no website operates in isolation. We regularly integrate third-party scripts, plugins, and APIs to add functionality, gather analytics, run advertisements, and achieve myriad other tasks. While these integrations offer immense benefits, they also come with potential pitfalls, especially if not monitored and managed correctly. Your site’s performance, security, and user experience can be compromised with a single misbehaving third-party script.

Monitor Third-party Scripts

Integrating third-party scripts is like inviting guests into your home. While most behave well, some can be unruly, consuming more resources than they should. To ensure smooth operations, it’s crucial to monitor these scripts and understand their impact on your website.

  • Performance Impact: Some scripts, especially those linked to ads or analytics, can significantly slow down your site. Tools like Google’s Lighthouse or WebPageTest can help identify scripts causing delays.
  • Security Concerns: External scripts can sometimes be an entry point for hackers. Regularly audit and update your third-party integrations to minimize vulnerabilities.
  • User Experience: Overloading your site with third-party integrations can lead to a cluttered and confusing user interface. Always prioritize the user experience, ensuring that scripts add value and don’t detract from the site’s main objectives.
  • Regular Audits: Use website monitoring tools to keep tabs on the behavior and performance of third-party scripts. Set benchmarks and alerts for any deviations.
  • Selective Loading: Not all scripts need to be loaded on every page. For instance, a chatbot script is unnecessary on your blog pages. Load scripts only where they’re needed to enhance efficiency.
  • Update Regularly: Just like any other component of your site, third-party scripts and integrations need regular updates. This ensures they function correctly, remain secure, and are compatible with other site elements.

In conclusion, while third-party integrations are indispensable in adding functionality and versatility to your website, they must be handled with care. By continuously monitoring their performance and being selective about their inclusion, you ensure they contribute positively to your site’s performance and security.

Leveraging Modern Web Infrastructure

As the web continues to evolve, so do the technologies and strategies that underpin it. Modern websites are no longer static pages served from a single server. They’re dynamic entities, pulling resources from various locations and delivering content to a global audience. The challenge? Ensuring that this content reaches users quickly, reliably, and securely, irrespective of where they are located. This is where modern web infrastructure, such as Content Delivery Networks (CDN), comes into play.

Content Delivery Network (CDN)

A Content Delivery Network, commonly referred to as a CDN, is a network of servers distributed across various geographical locations. Its primary purpose is to deliver web content, such as HTML, JavaScript, CSS, and images, to users based on their location. Here’s why it’s vital for modern websites:

  • Reduced Latency: The physical distance between the server and the user affects load time. With a CDN, a user in Tokyo can access a US-based website from a local server in Japan, ensuring faster load times.
  • Enhanced Reliability: If one server faces issues, CDNs can automatically reroute user requests to another nearby server. This ensures consistent uptime and reliability.
  • Scalability: Facing a sudden surge in traffic? CDNs can handle the load, distributing requests across its network, preventing any single server from becoming a bottleneck.
  • Enhanced Security: CDNs often come with built-in security features, like DDoS protection and secure sockets layer (SSL) encryption, safeguarding your site from threats.
  • Reduced Hosting Costs: By offloading traffic to the CDN, you can reduce the strain on your primary server, potentially decreasing hosting costs.
  • Real-time Analytics and Reports: Most CDN providers offer insights into traffic patterns, popular content, and potential threats, helping you make informed decisions.

While many CDN providers are available, it’s crucial to choose one that aligns with your site’s needs and audience. Companies like Cloudflare, Akamai, and Fastly are renowned in the industry, but there are numerous options catering to various website sizes and budgets.

Incorporating a CDN into your web infrastructure isn’t just about speed; it’s about ensuring a consistent and reliable user experience, irrespective of global audience distribution. By leveraging this modern web infrastructure, you position your site to thrive in a globally connected world.

Bringing It All Together: The Essence of Website Performance Optimization

Whew! That was quite the journey into the nitty-gritty of website performance optimization. From the very core code-level modifications to leveraging advanced web infrastructures like CDNs, it’s evident that multiple cogs are at play to ensure a website runs like a well-oiled machine.

If you’ve followed us from the beginning, you’ll remember our dive into the world of SEO and crawling in Part 1. There, we laid the foundation, ensuring search engines recognize and appreciate the hard work you put into your website. With this installment, we’ve built upon that base, focusing on making your site efficient, user-friendly, and primed for the best performance scores.

But, as the saying goes, there’s no rest for the wicked (or, in our case, the diligent webmaster!). The journey doesn’t end here. We’re moving forward, and our next stop? Part 3: A comprehensive look at the wordpress integral plugins. In an era where cyber threats loom large, ensuring your website is fortified becomes as essential as making it fast.

Thank you for joining us in Part 2 of the Website Launch Checklist Series. We hope you’re as excited as we are for what’s next. Here’s to making the digital realm a safer, faster, and more optimized space, one website at a time!

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Artur Shepel
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Artur Shepel