Website performance is one of the most important aspects of any site. The better the performance and speed, the less likely users are to bounce before it’s fully loaded. Studies show that users are 32 percent more likely to bounce when it takes three or more seconds for a page to load.  

There are several issues that could cause a website to perform poorly. In this article, we will go over some of the ways that website performance can be improved using the tips and techniques detailed below. Boosting website performance is the first step in ensuring a high-quality user experience.  

Testing Website Performance 

Before beginning to optimize website performance, it is helpful to get a benchmark of how it is currently performing. There are several free tools available for website performance testing including tools created by Google, Cloudflare, and GTMetrix. Common SEO tools like SEMRush and AHRefs also have this capability. 

Once you have found the right tool for the job, there are three important elements to test first: 

  • Largest Content Paint 
  • First Input Delay 
  • Cumulative Layout Shift 

Testing the largest content paint will measure how fast the biggest element on the webpage loads. First Input Delay testing measures the responsiveness of the website to user input. Finally, the Cumulative Layout Shift measures visual stability.  

Testing these Core Web Vital elements can provide insight on what can and needs to be improved. Improving these Core Web Vital elements will improve performance and even cause websites to rank higher on Google as a result.  

Some other important areas to benchmark are DNS Lookup Speed, which measures how fast a DNS translates into an IP address. There is also Time to Interactive testing that can gauge how fast a user can interact with the web page.  

Why Good Website Performance is Important  

For websites, being able to retain the attention of the users is paramount. The average user will lose interest in a site that isn’t loading after only around 3 seconds. The longer a website takes to display the information the user needs, the more likely they are to move on somewhere else.  

Faster websites have much lower bounce rates and rank higher organically in search engines. This coupled with an overall better user experience will ensure higher conversion rates overall. Poorly performing websites can cost money and hurt brand reputation over time, so it is important to make any improvements possible.  

Think about how many times you have been waiting for a webpage to load, got tired of waiting and back clicked to Google to pick the next result.  

Common Issues That Cause Poor Website Performance  

There are several different causes for a website to perform poorly. Some of the most common include: 

  • Browser Compatibility  
  • Images Too Large  
  • Volume of Web Traffic  
  • Slow Network 
  • Too Many Plugins  
  • Bad Server  
  • Too Much CSS/JavaScript 

While it can be difficult to pinpoint exactly what is causing a website to perform slowly, using the benchmarking tests detailed above can help give developers a place to start looking. In the section below, some common troubleshooting methods for improving website performance have been detailed.  

9 Essential Ways to Boost Your Website’s Performance  

The following best practices can help improve website performance and boost speed and reliability for the users.  

Remove Unnecessary JavaScript  

Using an excessive amount of JavaScript and extra code can significantly lower the performance of a website. When a large amount of code is required to load a website, it is often prioritized over important page content.  

This is a common issue with large websites that have code and content added independently of each other. Using the web tools mentioned above can help identify unnecessary JavaScript so it can be removed to improve page performance.  

Limit External Scripts 

Webpage elements loaded in from elsewhere must be loaded each time a user visits a page. This includes chat boxes, Call-to-Action buttons, plugins, and popups. Depending on the size of the script used to load these elements, this can cause a significant slowdown to performance. Limiting the use of these types of scripts on each page will reduce the amount of layout shifting that happens.  

Manage Image Sizes  

Graphics are a necessary element of any high-quality website. That said, if your images have not been compressed and managed properly, your site will load much slower. It is common for web developers to lean towards higher resolution graphics to improve the display for the end user. Of course, not everyone using a webpage has a monitor able to display high resolution images, resulting in wasted bandwidth and increasing load times for the entire userbase.  

Getting familiar with how to use responsive images will make choosing the correct resolution much easier. Responsive images will adapt to the resolution of the screen for the end user.  

Once the correct resolution has been found for all devices, then the images may be scaled appropriately. Using JPEG and PNG images is the standard for websites and can also improve overall performance. 

Use A CDN  

Many websites will outsource the serving of static files to a Content Delivery Network (CDN). A CDN is designed to streamline the delivery of CSS, images, and JavaScript for the end users of a website. Since CDNs utilize distributed servers, users will load content from a server that is located closest to them, lowering load times in the process.  

Typically, when serving these static files on a website’s server, load times will increase dramatically as users from farther away try to access the files. There are several different tools that can be used to monitor CDN performance to see if it is making a significant difference.  

Lower Time to First Byte 

Time to First Byte refers to the time that it takes for browsers to load the first data byte from a server. While this is a server issue, it is still important to make any improvements necessary as it plays a major role in overall website performance.  

On the website side, processing time is the biggest factor that can be influenced. To improve Time to First Byte, a server’s application logic can be optimized. Websites using a server framework may be able to find recommendations for improving Time to First Byte in the framework.  

Migrating to a faster database or improving server queries can also lower the Time to First Byte. In some cases, a simple server hardware upgrade will make a significant difference.  

Choose An Appropriate Hosting Service  

Choosing the right hosting service plan is another major factor in website performance. Websites that use a shared web hosting provider will likely suffer from performance issues over time. Upgrading a website’s hosting plan to a stable and high-performing managed service can be an easy way to speed up performance. There are typically three options for website hosting:  

  • Shared  
  • VPS 
  • Dedicated  

A shared host is the cheapest by far but can cause performance problems. VPS is a virtual private server that can run faster than a shared host but needs multiple machines to run. Dedicated servers are the most expensive but have the best performance. Before making the decision to switch hosts, it’s important to test the website performance to ensure the switch will be beneficial. 

Reduce HTTP Request 

It is common for websites to require multiple HTTP requests to load page assets like scripts, images, and CSS. The more HTTP requests, the longer the page will take to load. Keeping the number of requests down to a minimum can help improve web performance.  

Running a speed test for a website can help determine what HTTP requests take the most time to process and which ones can be removed.  

Use HTTP/2 

HTTP is required for browsers to communicate with remote web servers. All website elements including HTML, images, and stylesheets are transferred using HTTP. If reducing the number of HTTP requests is not viable, then switching the HTTP/2 can help lower some of the overhead.  

Depending on the hosting server, HTTP/2 may be available and has many advantages over standard HTTP. The most important being the ability to process multiple files at once on the same connection. This will reduce overhead and improve website performance without having to remove elements from the site.  

Limit Redirects  

A redirect occurs when a user is forwarded to a different webpage automatically. While redirects are an important and necessary aspect of websites, they are often overused. The more redirects a website has, the longer a page will take to load. Because of this, it's important to only use redirects when necessary and periodically check pages for any redirects that may be unnecessary.