Where to Draw the Line Between Features and Page Speed

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Ask any online business owner what their biggest priority is when setting up their website and they’ll probably talk about some aspect of design. Visuals, content and typography can all have a significant impact on a website’s visitors, but what if they never get to experience these things at all?

Slow loading pages have become increasingly problematic over the last decade and are strongly linked with poor user experience.

A strong trend toward data-heavy design features and content has taken the average load speed of a mobile-friendly website up to 15 seconds.

Considering half of mobile users won’t wait longer than three seconds for a page to load and search engines have confirmed that page speed is a ranking factor, it’s easy to see why there is often a trade-off.

In this blog, I’ll outline the three features most responsible for sluggish pages and suggest ways for you to decide where to find balance.

Images

Most of us are visual by nature. We love to tell stories and portray emotions through images. In fact, we tend to remember around 80% of what we see and do compared with only 20% of what we read. So, images are essential.

They set the tone of a website, spark people’s imagination and effortlessly portray brands. But, using too many in a design can take up too much data and slow down a site.

Where to draw the line

If any one page of your website contains over 2MB of data, most free and affordable web hosting plans will struggle to serve it quickly. If you need a lot of images in your design, try:

  • Compressing images with kraken.io or free alternative
  • Combining separate images into a single one using CSS sprites
  • Setting images to defer during loading so they don’t all need to be rendered at once

Dynamic & Interactive Design

interactive design

Dynamic websites are the future. How many online businesses can really still get by using static designs? Probably few.

But, they are inherently slower to load.

Sure, personalized or interactive text, images, form fields and etc. create a much better user experience. But, the psychological effect of waiting for a page to render has been likened to torture, so…

Where to draw the line

Dynamic sites are great, but you can limit the number of interactive or personalized features to only those that actually increase your conversions or add genuine value to your customer. Don’t add something just because it’s cool. Focus on the evidence of impact and then limit the slowdown caused by your chosen features by:

  • Caching (storing copies of) dynamic data that are often used, which will decrease the time needed to serve them
  • Consider compressing your pages using GZIP or PHP
  • Regularly minifying your site’s code to rid it of non-functional elements

Content

creating content

Creating great content is the best way to ensure a positive user experience, which is why Google suggests that it should be every web owner’s primary goal.

But, people increasingly expect long-form, multimedia content and tightly-packed posting schedules. Unfortunately for your website, videos, webinars, images, and other popular content are incredibly data-heavy and will slow it down.

Where to draw the line

Don’t simply keep adding more and more content. Be a bit more crafty:

  • Set up a content re-use schedule where you revamp old posts rather than constantly create new ones
  • Focus on putting together a few pieces of core material that are evergreen, high-quality and highly valuable to your users, and use these as the basis of your link-building efforts
  • Run a regular content audit, removing your least-valuable assets (e.g. lowest number of hits and shares)

Takeaway

It’s easy to get carried away with design features, especially when trends are always evolving and people’s expectations run along with them. But it’s important not to lose sight of what goes on in the background.

To make sure you’re finding the right balance between features and page speed, keep a handle on your data, get clever with your content and only keep what actually works for your business.

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